The return in mid-September to the London which we left at the end of July, implicates a dramatic effect more striking than any possible in the mere tourist's experience. In the difference between this London and that you fully realize the moral and physical magnitude of the season. The earlier London throbbed to bursting with the tide of manifold life, the later London lies gaunt, hollow, flaccid, and as if spent by the mere sense of what it has been through. The change is almost incredible, and the like of it is nowhere to be witnessed with us. It seems a sort of bluff to say that a city which still holds all its six millions except a few hundred thousands, is empty, but that is the look a certain part of London has in September, for the brilliant and perpetual movement of those hundred thousands was what gave it repletion.
The fashion that fluttered and glittered along Piccadilly and the streets of shops is all away at country-houses or at the sea-side or in the mountains of the island or the continent. The comely young giants who stalked along the pavement of Pall Mall or in the paths of the Park are off killing grouse; scarcely a livery shows itself; even the omnibus-tops are depopulated; long rows of idle cabs are on the ranks; the stately procession of diners-out flashing their white shirt-fronts at nightfall in interminable hansoms has vanished; the tormented regiments of soldiers are at peace in their barracks; a strange quiet has fallen on that better quarter of the town which is really, or unreally, the town. With this there is an increase of the homelike feeling which is always present, with at least the happy alien, in London; and what gayety is left is cumulative at night and centralized in the electric-blazing neighborhoods of the theatres. There, indeed, the season seems to have returned, and in the boxes of the playhouses and the stalls fashion phantasmally revisits one of the scenes of its summer joy.
One day in Piccadilly, in a pause of the thin rain, I met a solitary apparition in the diaphanous silks and the snowy plumes of hat and boa which the sylphs of the church parade wore in life through those halcyon days when the tide of fashion was highest. The apparition put on a bold front of not being strange and sad, but upon the whole it failed. It may have been an impulse from this vision that carried me as far as Hyde Park, where I saw not a soul, either of the quick or the dead, in the chilly drizzle, save a keeper cleaning up the edges of the road. In the consecrated closes, where the vanished children of smartness used to stand or sit, to go and come like bright birds, or flowers walking, the inverted chairs lay massed together or scattered, with their legs in the air, on the wet grass, and the dripping leaves smote damply together overhead. Another close, in Green Park the afternoon before, however, I saw devoted to frequenters of another sort. It had showered over-night, and the ground must still have been wet where a score of the bodies of the unemployed, or at least the unoccupied, lay as if dead in the sun. They were having their holiday, but they did not make me feel as if I were still enjoying my outing so much as some other things: for instance, the colored minstrelsy, which I had heard so often at the sea-side in August, and which reported itself one night in the Mayfair street which we seemed to have wholly to ourselves, and touched our hearts with the concord of our native airs and banjos. We were sure they were American darkies, from their voices and accents, but perhaps they were not as certainly so as the poor little mother was English who came down the place at high noon with her large baby in her arms, swaying it from side to side as she sang a plaintive ballad to the skies, and scanned the windows for some relenting to her want.
The clubs and the great houses of Mayfair, which the season had used so hard, were many of them putting themselves in repair against the next time of festivity, and testifying to the absence of their world. One day I found the solitude rather more than I could bear without appeal to that vastly more multitudinous world of the six millions who never leave London except on business. I said in my heart that this was the hour to go and look up that emotion which I had suspected of lying in wait for me in St. Paul's, and I had no sooner mounted an omnibus-top for the journey through Piccadilly, the Strand, and Fleet Street, than I found the other omnibus-tops by no means so depopulated as I had fancied. To be sure, the straw hats which six weeks before had formed the almost universal head-covering of the 'bus-top throngs were now in a melancholy minority, but they had not so wholly vanished as they vanish with us when September begins. They had never so much reason to be here as with us, and they might have had almost as much reason for lingering as they had for coming. I still saw some of them among the pedestrians as well as among the omnibus-toppers, and the pedestrians abashed me by their undiminished myriads. As they streamed along the sidewalks, in a torrent of eager life, and crossed and recrossed among the hoofs and wheels as thickly as in mid-July, they put me to shame for my theory of a decimated London. It was not the tenth man who was gone, nor the hundredth, if even it was the thousandth. The tremendous metropolis mocked with its millions the notion of nobody left in town because a few pleasurers had gone to the moors or the mountains or the shores.
Yet the season being so dead as it was in the middle of September, the trivial kodak could not bear to dwell on the mortuary aspects which the fashionable quarters of London presented. It turned itself in pursuance of a plan much cherished and often renounced, to seek those springs or sources of the American nation which may be traced all over England, and which rather abound in London, trusting chances for the involuntary glimpses which are so much better than any others, when you can get them. In different terms, and leaving apart the strained figure which I cannot ask the reader to help me carry farther, I went one breezy, cool, sunny, and rainy morning to meet the friend who was to guide my steps, and philosophize my reflections in the researches before us. Our rendezvous was at the church of All Hallows Barking, conveniently founded just opposite the Mark Lane District Railway Station, some seven or eight hundred years before I arrived there, and successively destroyed and rebuilt, but left finally in such good repair that I could safely lean against it while waiting for my friend, and taking note of its very sordid neighborhood. The street before it might have been a second-rate New York, or, preferably, Boston, business street, except for a peculiarly London commonness in the smutted yellow brick and harsh red brick shops and public-houses. There was a continual coming and going of trucks, wagons, and cabs, and a periodical appearing of hurried passengers from the depths of the station, all heedless, if not unconscious, of the Tower of London close at hand, whose dead were so often brought from the scaffold to be buried in that church.
Our own mission was to revere its interior because William Penn was baptized in it, but when we had got inside we found it so full of scaffolding and the litter of masonry, and the cool fresh smell of mortar from the restorations going on that we had no room for the emotions we had come prepared with. With the compassion of a kindly man in a plasterer's spattered suit of white, we did what we could, but it was very little. I at least was not yet armed with the facts that, among others, the headless form of Archbishop Laud had been carried from the block on Tower Hill and laid in All Hallows; and if I had known it, I must have felt that though Laud could be related to our beginnings through his persecution of the Puritans, whom he harried into exile, his interment in All Hallows was only of remote American interest. Besides, we had set out with the intention of keeping to the origins of colonies which had not been so much studied as those of New England, and we had first chosen Penn as sufficiently removed from the forbidden ground. But we had no sooner left the church where he was baptized, to follow him in the much later interest of his imprisonment in the Tower, than we found ourselves in New England territory again. For there, round the first corner, under the foliage of the trees and shrubs that I had been ignorantly watching from the church, as they stiffly stirred in the September wind, was that Calvary of so many martyr-souls, Tower Hill.
It is no longer, if it ever was, a hill, or even a perceptible rise of ground, but a pleasant gardened and planted space, not distinguishable from a hundred others in London, with public offices related to the navy closing it mostly in, but not without unofficial public and private houses on some sides. It was perhaps because of its convenience for his professional affairs that Admiral Penn had fixed such land-going residence as an admiral may have, in All Hallows Barking parish, where his great son was born. "Your late honored father," his friend Gibson wrote the founder of Pennsylvania, "dwelt upon Great Tower Hill, on the east side, within a court adjoining to London Wall." But the memories of honored father and more honored son must yield in that air to such tragic fames as those of Sir Thomas More, of Strafford, and above these and the many others in immediate interest for us, of Sir Harry Vane, once governor of Massachusetts, who died here among those whom the perjured second Charles played false when he came back to the throne of the perjured first Charles. In fact you can get away from New England no more in London than in America; and if in the Tower itself the long captivity of Sir Walter Raleigh somewhat dressed the balance, we were close upon other associations which outweighed the discovery of the middle south and of tobacco, a thousandfold.
Perhaps Tower Hill has been cut down nearer the common level than it once was, as often happens with rises of ground in cities, or perhaps it owed its distinction of being called a hill to a slight elevation from the general London flatness. Standing upon it you do not now seem lifted from that grade, but if you come away, Tower Hill looms lofty and large, as before you approached, with its head hid in the cloud of sombre memories which always hangs upon it. The look of the Tower towards it is much more dignified than the theatrical river-front, but worse than this even is the histrionic modern bridge which spans the Thames there as at the bottom of a stage. We took an omnibus to cross it, and yet before we were half-way over the bridge, we had reason to forget the turrets and arches which look as if designed and built of pasteboard. There, in the stretch of the good, dirty, humble Thames, between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, was the scene of the fatally mistaken arrest of Cromwell, Hampden, and their friends, by Charles I., when they were embarking for New England, if indeed the thing really happened. Everybody used to think so, and the historians even said so, but now they begin to doubt: it is an age of doubt. This questionably memorable expanse of muddy water was crowded, the morning I saw it, with barges resting in the iridescent slime of the Southwark shoals, and with various craft of steam and sail in the tide which danced in the sun and wind along the shore we were leaving. It is tradition, if not history, that just in front of the present custom-house those mighty heirs of destiny were forced to leave their ship and abide in the land they were to ennoble with the first great republican experiment of our race, after the commonwealth failed to perpetuate itself in England, perhaps, because of a want of imagination in both people and protector, who could not conceive of a state without an hereditary ruler. The son of Cromwell must follow his father, till another son of another father came back to urge his prior claim to a primacy that no one has ever a right to except the direct and still renewed choice of the citizens. It is all very droll at this distance of time and place; but we ourselves who grew up where there had never been kings to craze the popular fancy, could not conceive of a state without one for yet a hundred years and more, and even then some of us thought of having one. The lesson which the English Commonwealth now had set itself, though lost upon England, was at last read in its full meaning elsewhere, and the greatest of American beginnings was made when Cromwell was forced ashore from his ship in front of the Custom-house, if he was. There is a very personable edifice now on the site of whatever building then stood there, and it marks the spot with sufficiently classical grace, whether you look down at it from the Tower Bridge, as I did, first, or up at it from London Bridge, as I did, last.
We were crossing into Southwark at the end of Tower Bridge that we might walk through Tooley Street, once a hot-bed of sedition and dissent, which many of its inhabitants made too hot to hold them, and so fled away to cool themselves in different parts of the American wilderness. It was much later that the place became famous for the declaration of the three tailors of Tooley Street who began, or were fabled to have begun, a public appeal with the words: "We, the people of England," and perhaps the actuality of Tooley Street is more suggestive of them than of those who went into exile for their religious and political faith. In the former time the region was, no doubt, picturesque and poetic, like all of that old London which is so nearly gone, but now it is almost the most prosaic and commonplace thoroughfare of the newer London. It is wholly mean as to the ordinary structures which line its course, and which are mainly the dwellings of the simple sort of plebeian folks who have always dwelt in Tooley Street, and who so largely form the ancestry of the American people. No grace of antiquity remains to it, but there is the beauty of that good-will to men which I should be glad to think characteristic of our nation in one of the Peabody tenements that the large-hearted American bequeathed to the city of his adoption for better homes than the London poor could otherwise have known.
Possibly Baptists and Independents like those whom Tooley Street sent out to enlarge the area of freedom beyond seas still people it; but I cannot say, and for the rest it is much crossed and recrossed by the viaducts of the London and South Eastern Railway, under which we walked the length of the long, dull, noisy thoroughfare. We were going to the church of St. Olave, or Olaus, a hallowed Danish king from whose name that of Tooley was most ingeniously corrupted, for the sake of knowing that we were in the parish that sweet Priscilla Mullins, and others of the Plymouth colony came from. The church is an uninteresting structure of Wrennish renaissance; but it was better with us when, for the sake of the Puritan ministers who failed to repent in the Clink prison, after their silencing by Laud, came out to air their opinions in the boundlessness of our continent. My friend strongly believed that some part of the Clink was still to be detected in the walls of certain water-side warehouses, and we plunged into their labyrinth after leaving St. Olave's or St. Tooley's, and wandered on through their shades, among trucks and carts in alleys that were dirty and damp, but somehow whitened with flour as if all those dull and sullen piles were grist-mills. I do not know whether we found traces of the Clink or not, but the place had a not ungrateful human interest in certain floury laborers who had cleared a space among the wheels and hoofs, and in the hour of their nooning were pitching pennies, and mildly squabbling over the events of their game. We somehow came out at Bankside, of infamous memory, and yet of glorious memory, for if it was once the home of all the vices, it was also the home of one of the greatest arts. The present filthy quay figuratively remembers the moral squalor of its past in the material dirt that litters it; but you have to help it recall the fact that here stood such theatres as the Paris Garden, the Rose, the Hope, the Swan, and, above all, the Globe.
Here, Shakespeare rose up and stood massively blocking the perspective of our patriotic researches, and blotting out all minor memories. But if this was a hardship it was one which constantly waits upon the sympathetic American in England. It is really easier to stay at home, and make your inquiries in that large air where the objects of your interest are placed at ample intervals, than to visit the actual scene where you will find them crowding and elbowing one another, and perhaps treading down and pushing back others of equal import which you had not in mind. England has so long been breeding greatness of all kinds, and her visionary children press so thick about her knees, that you cannot well single one specially out when you come close; it is only at a distance that you can train your equatorial upon any certain star, and study it at your ease. This tremendous old woman who lives in a shoe so many sizes too small more than halves with her guests her despair in the multitude of her offspring, and it is best to visit her in fancy if you wish their several acquaintance. There at Bankside was not only Shakespeare suddenly filling that place and extending his vast shadow over the region we had so troublesomely passed through, but now another embarrassment of riches attended us. We were going to visit St. Saviour's Church, because John Harvard, the son of a butcher in that parish was baptized in it, long before he could have dreamed of Emanuel College at Cambridge, or its outwandering scholars could have dreamed of naming after him another college in another Cambridge in another world. Our way lay through the Borough Market, which is for Southwark in fruits and vegetables, and much more in refuse and offal, what Covent Garden Market is for the London beyond Thames; and then through a wide troubled street, loud with coming and going at some railway station. Here we suddenly dropped into a silent and secluded place, and found ourselves at the door of St. Saviour's. Outside it has been pitilessly restored in a later English version of the Early English in which it was built, and it has that peculiarly offensive hardness which such feats of masonry seem to put on defiantly; but within much of the original architectural beauty lingers, especially in the choir and Lady Chapel. We were not there for that beauty, however, but for John Harvard's sake; yet no sooner were we fairly inside the church than our thoughts were rapt from him to such clearer fames as those of Philip Massinger, the dramatist; Edmund Shakespeare, the great Shakespeare's younger brother; John Fletcher, of the poetic firm of Beaumont and Fletcher; the poet Edward Dyer; and yet again the poet John Gower, the "moral Gower" who so insufficiently filled the long gap between Chaucer and Spencer, and who rests here with a monument and a painted effigy over him. Besides these there are so many actors buried in it that the church is full of the theatre, and it might well dispute with our own Little Church Round the Corner, the honor of mothering the outcast of other sanctuaries; though it rather more welcomes them in their funeral than their nuptial rites. Among the tablets and effigies there was none of John Harvard in St. Saviour's, and we were almost a year too early for the painted window which now commemorates him.
One might leave Southwark rather glad to be out of it, for in spite of its patriotic and poetic associations it is a quarter where the scrupulous house-keeping of London seems for once to fail. In such streets as we passed through, and I dare say they were not the best, the broom and the brush and the dust-pan strive in vain against the dirt that seems to rise out of the ground and fall from the clouds. But many people live there, and London Bridge, by which we crossed, was full of clerks and shop-girls going home to Southwark; for it was one o'clock on a Saturday, and they were profiting by the early closing which shuts the stores of London so inexorably at that hour on that day. We made our way through them to the parapet for a final look at that stretch of the Thames where Cromwell as unwillingly as unwittingly perhaps stepped ashore to come into a kingdom.
[Footnote: While the reader is sharing our emotion in the scene of the problematical event, I think it a good time to tell him that the knowledge of which I have been and expect to be so profuse in these researches, is none of mine, except as I have cheaply possessed myself of it from the wonderful hand-book of Peter Cunningham, which Murray used to publish as his guide to London, and which unhappily no one publishes now. It is a bulky volume of near six hundred pages, crammed with facts more delightful than any fancies, and its riches were supplemented for me by the specific erudition of my friend, the genealogist, Mr. Lothrop Withington, who accompanied my wanderings, and who endorses all my statements. The reader who doubts them (as I sometimes do) may recur to him at the British Museum with the proper reproaches if they prove mistaken.]
We were going from St. Saviour's in Southwark where Harvard was baptized to St. Catherine Cree in the city where Sir Nicholas Throgmorton's effigy lies in the chancel, and somewhat distantly relates itself to our history through his daughter's elopement with Sir Walter Raleigh. But now for a mere pleasure, whose wantonness I shall not know how to excuse to the duteous reader, we turned aside to the church of St. Magnus at the end of the bridge, and I shall always rejoice that we did so, for there I made the acquaintance of three of the most admirable cats in London. One curled herself round the base of a pillar of the portico, which was formerly the public thoroughfare to London Bridge; another basked in the pretty garden which now encloses the portico, and let the shifting shadows of the young sycamores flicker over her velvet flank; the third arched a majestic back and rubbed against our legs in accompanying us into the church. There was not much for us to see there, and perhaps the cat was tired of knowing that the church was built by Wren, after the great fire, and has a cupola and lantern thought to be uncommonly fine. Certainly it did not seem to share my interest in the tablet to Miles Coverdale, once rector of St. Magnus and bishop of Exeter, at which I started, not so much because he had directed the publication of the first complete version of the English Bible, as because he had borne the name of a chief character in The Blithedale Romance. I am afraid that if the cat could have supposed me to be occupied with such a trivial matter it would not have purred so civilly at parting, and I should not have known how to justify myself by explaining that the church of St. Magnus was more illustriously connected with America through that coincidence than many more historical scenes.
The early closing had already prevailed so largely in the city, that most of the churches were shut, and we were not aware of having got into St. Catherine Cree's at the time we actually did so. We were grateful for getting into any church, but we looked about us too carelessly to identify the effigy of Sir Nicholas, who was, after all, only a sort of involuntary father-in-law of Virginia. That was what we said to console ourselves afterwards; but now, since we were, however unwittingly, there, I feel that I have some right to remind the reader that our enemy (so far as we are of Puritan descent) Archbishop Laud consecrated the church with ceremonies of such high ecclesiastical character that his part in them was alleged against him, and did something to bring him to the block. That Inigo Jones is said to have helped in designing the church, and that the great Holbein is believed to be buried in it, and would have had a monument there if the Earl of Arundel could have found his bones to put it over, are sufficiently irrelevant details.
The reader sees how honest I am trying to be with him, and I will not conceal from him that Duke Street, down a stretch of which I looked, because the wife of Elder Brewster of Plymouth Colony was born and bred there, was as dull a perspective of mean modern houses as any in London. It was distinctly a relief, after paying this duty, to pass, in Leadenhall Street, the stately bulk of India House, and think of the former occupying the site, from which Charles Lamb used to go early in compensation for coming so late to his work there. It was still better when, by an accident happier than that which befell us at St. Catherine Cree's, we unexpectedly entered by a quaint nook from Bishopsgate Street to the church of St. Ethelburga, which has a claim to the New-Yorker's interest from the picturesque fact that Henry Hudson and his ship's company made their communion in it the night before he sailed away to give his name to the lordliest, if not the longest of our rivers, and to help the Dutch found the Tammany régime, which still flourishes at the Hudson's mouth. The comprehensive Cunningham makes no mention of the fact, but I do not know why my genealogist should have had the misgiving which he expressed within the overhearing of the eager pew-opener attending us. She promptly set him right. "Oh, 'e did mike it 'ere, sir. They've been and searched the records," she said, so that the reader now has it on the best authority.
I wish I could share with him, as easily as this assurance, the sentiment of the quaint place, with its traces of Early English architecture, and its look of being chopped in two; its intense quiet and remoteness in the heart of the city, with the slop-pail of its pew-opener mingling a cleansing odor with the ancient smells which pervade all old churches. But these things are of the nerves and may not be imparted, though they may be intimated. As rich in its way as the sentiment of St. Ethelburga was that of the quiescing streets of the city, that pleasant afternoon, with their shops closed or closing, and the crowds thinned or thinning in their footways and wheelways, so that we got from point to point in our desultory progress, incommoded only by other associations that rivalled those we had more specifically in mind. History, of people and of princes, finance, literature, the arts of every kind, were the phantoms that started up from the stones and the blocks of the wood-pavement and followed or fled before us at every step. As I have already tried to express, it is always the same story. London is too full of interest, and when I thought how I could have gone over as much ground in New York without anything to distract me from what I had in view, I felt the pressure of those thick London facts almost to suffocation. Nothing but my denser ignorance saved me from their density, as I hurried with my friend through air that any ignorance less dense would have found impassable with memories.
As it was I could draw a full breath unmolested only when we dropped down a narrow way from Bishopsgate Street to the sequestered place before the church of the Dutch refugees from papal persecutions in France and the Netherlands. Here was formerly the church of the Augustine Friars, whose community Henry VIII. dissolved, and whose church his son Edward VI. gave to the "Germans" as he calls the Hollanders in his boyish diary. It was to our purpose as one of the beginnings of New York, for it is said that New Amsterdam was first imagined by the exiles who worshipped in it, and who planned the expedition of Henry Hudson from it. Besides this historic or mythic claim, it had for me the more strictly human interest of the sign-board in Dutch, renewed from the earliest time, at both its doorways, notifying its expatriated congregation that all letters and parcels would be received there for them; this somehow intimated that the refugees could not have found it spiritually much farther to extend their exile half round the world. Cunningham says that "the church contains some very good decorated windows, and will repay examination," but, like the early-closing shops all round it, the Dutch church was shut that Saturday afternoon, and we had to come away contenting ourselves as we could with the Gothic, fair if rather too freshly restored, of the outside. I can therefore impartially commend the exterior to our Knickerbocker travellers, but they will readily find the church in the rear of the Bank of England, after cashing their drafts there, and judge for themselves.
Philadelphians of Quaker descent will like better to follow my friend with me up Cheapside, past the Bowbells which ring so sweet and clear in literature, and through Holborn to Newgate which was one of the several prisons of William Penn. He did not go to it without making it so hard for the magistrates trying him and his fellow-Quakers for street- preaching that they were forced to over-ride his law and logic, and send him to jail in spite of the jury's verdict of acquittal; such things could then be easily done. In self-justification they committed the jury along with the prisoners; that made a very perfect case for their worships, as the reader can find edifyingly and a little amusingly set forth in Maria Webb's story of The Penns and the Penningtons. As is known, the persecution of Penn wellnigh converted his father, the stiff old admiral, who now wrote to him in Newgate: "Son William, if you and your friends keep to your plain way of preaching, and your plain way of living, you will make an end of the priests to the end of the world … Live in love. Shun all manner of evil, and I pray God to bless you all; and He will bless you."
Little of the old Newgate where Penn lay imprisoned is left; a spic-and- span new Newgate, still in process of building, replaces it, but there is enough left for a monument to him who was brave in such a different way from his brave father, and was great far beyond the worldly greatness which the admiral hoped his comely, courtly son would achieve. It was in Newgate, when he was cast there the second time in three months, that he wrote The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience, and three minor treatises. He addressed from the same prison a letter to Parliament explaining the principles of Quakerism, and he protested to the sheriff of London against the cruelties practised by the jailors of Newgate on prisoners too poor to buy their favor. He who was rich and well-born preferred to suffer with these humble victims; and probably his oppressors were as glad to be rid of him in the end as he of them.
One may follow Penn (though we did not always follow him to all, that Saturday afternoon), to many other places in London: to the Tower, where he was imprisoned on the droll charge of "blasphemy," within stone's throw of All Hallow's Barking, where he was christened; to Grace Church Street, where he was arrested for preaching; to Lincoln's Inn, where he had chambers in his worldlier days; to Tower Street, where he went to school; to the Fleet, where he once lived within the "rules" of the prison; to Norfolk Street, where he dwelt awhile almost in hiding from the creditors who were pressing him, probably for the public debt of Pennsylvania.
We followed him only to Newgate, whence we visited the church of St. Sepulchre hard by, and vainly attempted to enter, because Roger Williams was christened there, and so connected it with the coming of toleration into the world, as well as with the history of the minute province of Rhode Island, which his spirit so boundlessly enlarged. We failed equally of any satisfactory effect from Little St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, possibly because the Place was demolished a hundred and five years before, and because my friend could not quite make out which neighboring street it was where the mother of the Wesleys was born. But we did what we could with the shield of the United States Consulate-General in the Place, and in an adjoining court we had occasion for seriousness in the capers of a tipsy Frenchman, who had found some boys playing at soldiers, and was teaching them in his own tongue from apparently vague recollections of the manual of arms. I do not insist that we profited by the occasion; I only say that life likes a motley wear, and that he who rejects the antic aspects it so often inappropriately puts on is no true photographer.
After all, we did not find just the street, much less the house, in which Susannah Annesley had lived before she was Mrs. Wesley, and long before her sons had imagined Methodism, and the greater of them had borne its message to General Oglethorpe's new colony of Georgia. She lies in Bunhill Fields near Finsbury Square, that place sacred to so many varying memories, but chiefly those of the Dissenters who leased it, because they would not have the service from the book of Common Prayer read over them. There her dust mingles with that of John Bunyan, of Daniel de Foe, of Isaac Watts, of William Blake, of Thomas Stothard, and a multitude of nameless or of most namable others. The English crowd one another no less under than above the ground, and their island is as historically as actually over-populated. As I have expressed before, you can scarcely venture into the past anywhere for a certain association without being importuned by a score of others as interesting or more so. I have, for instance, been hesitating to say that the ancestor of Susannah was the Reverend Samuel Annesley who was silenced for his Puritanism in his church of St. Giles Cripplegate, because I should have to confess that when I visited his church my thoughts were rapt from the Reverend Samuel and from Susannah Annesley, and John Wesley, and the Georgian Methodists to the far mightier fame of Milton, who lies interred there, with his father before him, with John Fox, author of The Book of Martyrs, with Sir Martin Frobisher, who sailed the western seas when they were yet mysteries, with Margaret Lucy, the daughter of Shakespeare's Sir Thomas. There, too, Cromwell was married, when a youth of twenty-one, to Elizabeth Bowchier. Again, I have had to ask myself, what is the use of painfully following up the slender threads afterwards woven into the web of American nationality, when at any moment the clews may drop from your heedless hands in your wonder at some which are the woof of the history of the world? I have to own even here that the more storied dead in Bunhill Fields made me forget that there lay among them Nathaniel Mather of the kindred of Increase and Cotton.
That is a place which one must wish to visit not once, but often, and I hope that if I send any reader of mine to it he will fare better than we did, and not find it shut to the public on a Sunday morning when it ought to have been open. But the Sabbatarian observances of England are quite past the comprehension of even such semi-aliens as the Americans, and must baffle entire foreigners all but to madness. I had already seen the Sunday auctions of the poor Jews in Petticoat Lane, which are licit, if not legal, and that Sunday morning before we found Bunhill Fields fast closed, we had found a market for poor Christians wide open in Whitecross Street near by. It was one of several markets of the kind which begin early Saturday evening, and are suffered by a much-winking police to carry on their traffic through the night and till noon the next day. Then, at the hour when the Continental Sunday changes from a holy day to a holiday, the guardians of the public morals in London begin to urge the hucksters and their customers to have done with their bargaining, and get about remembering the Sabbath-day. If neither persuasions nor imperatives will prevail, it is said that the police sometimes call in the firemen and rake the marketplace with volleys from the engine-hose. This is doubtless effective, but at the hour when we passed through as much of Whitecross Street as eyes and nose could bear, it was still far from the time for such an extreme measure, and the market was flourishing as if it were there to stay indefinitely.
Everything immediately imaginable for the outside or inside of man seemed on sale: clothing of all kinds, boots and shoes, hats and caps, glassware, iron-ware; fruits and vegetables, heaps of unripe English hazelnuts, and heaps of Spanish grapes which had failed to ripen on the way; fish, salt and fresh, and equally smelling to heaven; but, above all, flesh meats of every beast of the field and every bird of the barn- yard, with great girls hewing and hacking at the carnage, and strewing the ground under their stands with hoofs and hides and claws and feathers and other less namable refuse. There was a notable absence among the hucksters of that coster class which I used to see in London twenty odd years before, or at least an absence of the swarming buttons on jackets and trousers which used to distinguish the coster. But among the customers, whose number all but forbade our passage through the street, with the noise of their feet and voices, there were, far beyond counting, those short, stubbed girls and women as typically cockney still as the costers ever were. They were of a plinth-like bigness up and down, and their kind, plain, common faces were all topped with narrow-brimmed sailor-hats, mostly black. In their jargoning hardly an aspirate was in its right place, but they looked as if their hearts were, and if no word came from their lips with its true quality, but with that curious soft London slur or twist, they doubtless spoke a sound business dialect.
When we traversed the dense body of the market and entered Roscoe Street from Whitecross, we were surprisingly soon out of its hubbub in a quiet befitting the silent sectaries, who once made so great a spiritual clamor in the world. We were going to look at the grave of George Fox, because of his relation to our colonial history in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, and we thought it well to look into the Friends' Meeting-house on the way, for a more fitting frame of mind than we might have brought with us from Whitecross Street. A mute sexton welcomed us at the door, and held back for us the curtain of the homely quadrangular interior, where we found twoscore or more of such simple folk as Fox might have preached to in just such a place. The only difference was that they now wore artless versions of the world's present fashions in dress, and not the drabs of out-dated cut which we associate with Quakerism. But this was right, for that dress is only the antiquated simplicity of the time when Quakerism began; and the people we now saw were more fitly dressed than if they had worn it. We sat with them a quarter of an hour in the stillness which no one broke, the elders on the platform, with their brows bowed on their hands, apparently more deeply lost in it than the rest. Then we had freedom (to use their gentle Quaker parlance) to depart, and I hope we did so without offence.
Cunningham says that Fox was buried in Bunhill Fields, but he owns there is no memorial of him there; and there is a stone to mark his grave in the grassy space just beyond the meeting-house in Roscoe Street. If that is really his last resting-place, he lies under the shadow of a certain lofty warehouse walls, and in the shelter of some trees which on that sunny First Day morning stirred in the breeze with the stiffness by which the English foliage confesses before the fall it drops sere and colorless to the ground. Some leaves had already fallen about the simple monumental stone, and now they moved inertly, and now again lay still.
I will own here that I had more heart in the researches which concerned the ancestral Friends of all mankind, including so much American citizenship, than in following up some other origins of ours. The reader will perhaps have noticed long before that our origins were nearly all religious, and that though some of the American plantations were at first the effect of commercial enterprise, they were afterwards by far the greater part undertaken by people who desired for themselves, if not for others, freedom for the forms of worship forbidden them at home. Our colonial beginnings were illustrated by sacrifices and martyrdoms even among the lowliest, and their leaders passed in sad vicissitude from pulpit to prison, back and forth, until exile became their refuge from oppression. No nation could have a nobler source than ours had in such heroic fidelity to ideals; but it cannot be forgotten that the religious freedom, which they all sought, some of them were not willing to impart when they had found it; and it is known how, in New England especially, they practised the lessons of persecution they had learned in Old England. Two provinces stood conspicuously for toleration, Rhode Island, for which Roger Williams imagined it the first time in history, and Pennsylvania, where, for the first time, William Penn embodied in the polity of a state the gospel of peace and good-will to men. Neither of these colonies has become the most exemplary of our commonwealths; both are perhaps, for some reasons, the least so in their sections; but, above all the rest, their earlier memories appeal to the believer in the universal right to religious liberty and in the ideal of peaceful democracy which the Quakers alone have realized. The Quakers are no longer sensibly a moral force; but the creed of honest work for daily bread, and of the equalization of every man with another which they lived, can never perish. Their testimony against bloodshed was practical, as such a testimony can still be, when men will; their principle of equality, as well as their practise of it was their legacy to our people, and it remains now all that differences us from other nations. It was not Thomas Jefferson who first imagined the first of the self-evident truths of the Declaration, but George Fox.
We went, inappropriately enough, from where George Fox lay in his grave, level with the common earth, to where, in Finsbury Pavement, the castellated armory of the Honourable Artillery Company of London recalls the origin of the like formidable body in Boston. These gallant men were archers before they were gunners, being established in that quality first when the fear of Spanish invasion was rife in 1585. They did yeoman service against their own king in the Civil War, but later fell into despite and were mocked by poets no more warlike than themselves. Fletcher's "Knight of the Burning Pestle" was of their company, and Cowper's "John Gilpin" was "a train-band captain." Now, however, they are so far restored to their earlier standing that when they are called out to celebrate, say, the Fourth of July, or on any of the high military occasions demanding the presence of royalty, the King appears in their uniform.
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