Higham-on-the-Hill

American interest in Stratford-upon-Avon springs out of a love for the
works of Shakespeare as profound and passionate as that of the most
sensitive and reverent of the poet’s countrymen. It was the father
of American literature, Washington Irving, who in modern times made
the first pilgrimage to that holy land, and set the good example,
which since has been followed by thousands, of worship at the shrine
of Shakespeare. It was an American, the alert and expeditious P. T.
Barnum, who by suddenly proposing to buy the Shakespeare cottage
and transfer it to America startled the English into buying it for
the nation. It is, in part, to Americans that Stratford owes the
Shakespeare Memorial; for while the land on which it stands was given
by that public-spirited citizen of Stratford, Charles Edward Flower,–a
sound and reverent Shakespeare scholar, as his acting edition of the
plays may testify,–and while money to pay for the building of it was
freely contributed by wealthy residents of Warwickshire, and by men of
all ranks throughout the kingdom, the gifts and labours of Americans
were not lacking to that good cause. Edwin Booth was one of the
earliest contributors to the Memorial fund, and the names of Mr. Herman
Vezin, Mr. M. D. Conway, Mr. W. H. Reynolds, Mrs. Bateman, and Mrs.
Louise Chandler Moulton appear in the first list of its subscribers.
Miss Kate Field worked for its advancement, with remarkable energy and
practical success. Miss Mary Anderson acted for its benefit, on August
29, 1885. In the church of the Holy Trinity, where Shakespeare’s dust
is buried, a beautiful stained window, illustrative, scripturally, of
that solemn epitome of human life which the poet makes in the speech
of Jaques on the seven ages of man, evinces the practical devotion of
the American pilgrim; and many a heart has been thrilled with reverent
joy to see the soft light that streams through its pictured panes fall
gently on the poet’s grave.

Wherever in Stratford you come upon anything associated, even remotely,
with the name and fame of Shakespeare, there you will find the gracious
tokens of American homage. The libraries of the Birthplace and of the
Memorial alike contain gifts of American books. New Place and Anne
Hathaway’s cottage are never omitted from the American traveller’s
round of visitations and duty of practical tribute. The Falcon, with
its store of relics; the romantic Shakespeare Hotel, with its rambling
passages, its quaint rooms named after Shakespeare’s characters, its
antique bar parlour, and the rich collection of autographs and pictures
that has been made by Mrs. Justins; the Grammar School, in which no
doubt the poet, “with shining morning face” of boyhood, was once a
pupil; John Marshall’s antiquarian workshop, from which so many of
the best souvenirs of Stratford have proceeded,–a warm remembrance
of his own quaintness, kindness, and originality being perhaps the
most precious of them; the Town Hall, adorned with Gainsborough’s
eloquent portrait of Garrick, to which no engraving does justice; the
Guild chapel; the Clopton bridge; Lucy’s mill; the footpath across
fields and roads to Shottery, bosomed in great elms; and the ancient
picturesque building, four miles away, at Wilmcote, which was the
home of Mary Arden, Shakespeare’s mother,–each and every one of
those storied places receives, in turn, the tribute of the wandering
American, and each repays him a hundredfold in charming suggestiveness
of association, in high thought, and in the lasting impulse of sweet
and soothing poetic reverie. At the Red Horse, where Mr. William
Gardner Colbourne maintains the traditions of old-fashioned English
hospitality, he finds his home; well pleased to muse and dream in
Washington Irving’s parlour, while the night deepens and the clock in
the distant tower murmurs drowsily in its sleep. Those who will may
mock at his enthusiasm. He would not feel it but for the spell that
Shakespeare’s genius has cast upon the world. He ought to be glad and
grateful that he can feel that spell; and, since he does feel it,
nothing could be more natural than his desire to signify that he too,
though born far away from the old home of his race, and separated from
it by three thousand miles of stormy ocean, has still his part in the
divine legacy of Shakespeare, the treasure and the glory of the English
tongue.

[Illustration: _Henry Irving. 1888._]

A noble token of this American sentiment, and a permanent object of
interest to the pilgrim in Stratford, is supplied by the Jubilee
gift of a drinking-fountain made to that city by George W. Childs of
Philadelphia. It never is a surprise to hear of some new instance
of that good man’s constant activity and splendid generosity in
good works; it is only an accustomed pleasure.[45] With fine-art
testimonials in the old world as well as at home his name will always
be honourably associated. A few years ago he presented a superb
window of stained glass to Westminster Abbey, to commemorate, in
Poets’ Corner, George Herbert and William Cowper. He has since given
to St. Margaret’s church, Westminster, where John Skelton and Sir
James Harrington [1611-1677] were entombed, and where was buried the
headless body of Sir Walter Raleigh, a pictorial window commemorative
of John Milton. His fountain at Stratford was dedicated on October 17,
1887, with appropriate ceremonies conducted by Sir Arthur Hodgson, of
Clopton, then mayor, and amid general rejoicing. Henry Irving, the
leader of the English stage and the most illustrious of English actors
since the age of Garrick, delivered an address of singular felicity
and eloquence, and also read a poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes. The
countrymen of Mr. Childs are not less interested in this structure
than the community that it was intended to honour and benefit. They
observe with satisfaction and pride that he has made this beneficent,
beautiful, and opulent offering to a town which, for all of them, is
hallowed by exalted associations, and for many of them is endeared by
delightful memories. They sympathise also with the motive and feeling
that prompted him to offer his gift as one among many memorials of the
fiftieth year of the reign of Queen Victoria. It is not every man who
knows how to give with grace, and the good deed is “done double” that
is done at the right time. Stratford had long been in need of such a
fountain as Mr. Childs has given, and therefore it satisfies a public
want, at the same time that it serves a purpose of ornamentation and
bespeaks and strengthens a bond of international sympathy. Rother
street, in which the structure stands, is the most considerable open
place in Stratford, and is situated near the centre of the town, on
the west side. There, as also at the intersection of High and Bridge
streets, which are the principal thoroughfares of the city, the
farmers, at stated intervals, range their beasts and wagons and hold
a market. It is easy to foresee that Rother, embellished with this
monument, which combines a convenient clock tower, a place of rest
and refreshment for man, and commodious drinking-troughs for horses,
cattle, dogs, and sheep, will soon become the agricultural centre
of the region.

[Illustration: THE STRATFORD FOUNTAIN]

The base of the monument is made of Peterhead granite; the
superstructure is of gray stone, from Bolton, Yorkshire. The height of
the tower is fifty feet. On the north side a stream of water, flowing
constantly from a bronze spout, falls into a polished granite basin.
On the south side a door opens into the interior. The decorations
include sculptures of the arms of Great Britain alternated with the
eagle and stripes of the American republic. In the second story of the
tower, lighted by glazed arches, is placed a clock, and on the outward
faces of the third story appear four dials. There are four turrets
surrounding a central spire, each surmounted with a gilded vane. The
inscriptions on the base were devised by Sir Arthur Hodgson, and are
these:

I

The gift of an American citizen, George W. Childs, of Philadelphia,
to the town of Shakespeare, in the Jubilee year
of Queen Victoria.

II

In her days every man shall eat, in safety
Under his own vine, what he plants; and sing
The merry songs of peace to all his neighbours.
God shall be truly known: and those about her
From her shall read the perfect ways of honour,
And by those claim their greatness, not by blood.

_Henry VIII._, ACT V. SCENE 4.

III

Honest water, which ne’er left man i’ the mire.

_Timon of Athens_, ACT I. SCENE 2.

IV

Ten thousand honours and blessings on the bard who has thus gilded the
dull realities of life with innocent illusions.–_Washington Irving’s
Stratford-on-Avon._

Stratford-upon-Avon, fortunate in many things, is especially fortunate
in being situated at a considerable distance from the main line of
any railway. Two railroads skirt the town, but both are branches, and
travel upon them has not yet become too frequent. Stratford, therefore,
still retains a measure of its ancient isolation, and consequently a
flavour of quaintness. Antique customs are still prevalent there, and
odd characters may still be encountered. The current of village gossip
flows with incessant vigour, and nothing happens in the place that is
not thoroughly discussed by its inhabitants. An event so important as
the establishment of the American Fountain would excite great interest
throughout Warwickshire. It would be pleasant to hear the talk of
those old cronies who drift into the bar parlour of the Red Horse on
a Saturday evening, as they comment on the liberal American who has
thus enriched and beautified their town. The Red Horse circle is but
one of many in which the name of Childs is spoken with esteem and
cherished with affection. The present writer has made many visits to
Stratford and has passed much time there, and he has observed on many
occasions the admiration and gratitude of the Warwickshire people for
the American philanthropist. In the library of Charles Edward Flower,
at Avonbank; in the opulent mansion of Edgar Flower, at the Hill; in
the lovely home of Alderman Bird; at the hospitable table of Sir
Arthur Hodgson, in Clopton; and in many other representative places
he has heard that name spoken, and always with delight and honour.
Time will only deepen and widen the loving respect with which it is
hallowed. In England, more than anywhere else on earth, the record of
good deeds is made permanent, not alone with imperishable symbols, but
in the hearts of the people. The inhabitants of Warwickshire, guarding
and maintaining their Stratford Fountain, will not forget by whom it
was given. Wherever you go, in the British islands, you find memorials
of the past and of individuals who have done good deeds in their time,
and you also find that those memorials are respected and preserved.
Warwickshire abounds with them. Many such emblems might be indicated.
Each one of them takes its place in the regard and gradually becomes
entwined with the experience of the whole community. So it will be
with the Childs Fountain at Stratford. The children trooping home from
school will drink of it and sport in its shadow, and, reading upon
its base the name of its founder, will think with pleasure of a good
man’s gift. It stands in the track of travel between Banbury, Shipston,
Stratford, and Birmingham, and many weary men and horses will pause
beside it every day, for a moment of refreshment and rest. On festival
days it will be hung with garlands, while around it the air is glad
with music. And often in the long, sweet gloaming of the summertimes to
come the rower on the limpid Avon, that murmurs by the ancient town of
Shakespeare, will pause with suspended oar to hear its silver chimes.
If the founder of that fountain had been capable of a selfish thought
he could have taken no way better or more certain than this for the
perpetuation of his name in the affectionate esteem of one of the
loveliest places and one of the most sedate communities in the world.

[Illustration: _Mary Arden’s Cottage._]

Autumn in England–and all the country ways of lovely Warwickshire are
strewn with fallen leaves. But the cool winds are sweet and bracing,
the dark waters of the Avon, shimmering in mellow sunlight and frequent
shadow, flow softly past the hallowed church, and the reaped and
gleaned and empty meadows invite to many a healthful ramble, far and
wide over the country of Shakespeare. It is a good time to be there.
Now will the robust pedestrian make his jaunt to Charlecote Park and
Hampton Lucy, to Stoneleigh Abbey, to Warwick and Kenilworth, to Guy’s
Cliff, with its weird avenue of semi-blasted trees, to the Blacklow
Hill,–where sometimes at still midnight the shuddering peasant hears
the ghostly funeral bell of Sir Piers Gaveston sounding ruefully from
out the black and gloomy woods,–and to many another historic haunt and
high poetic shrine. All the country-side is full of storied resorts and
cosey nooks and comfortable inns. But neither now nor hereafter will it
be otherwise than grateful and touching to such an explorer of haunted
Warwickshire to see, among the emblems of poetry and romance which are
its chief glory, this new token of American sentiment and friendship,
the Fountain of Stratford.

Warwick, August 29, 1889.–It has long been the conviction of the
present writer that the character of King Richard the Third has been
distorted and maligned by the old historians from whose authority
the accepted view of it is derived. He was, it is certain, a superb
soldier, a wise statesman, a judicious legislator, a natural ruler of
men, and a prince most accomplished in music and the fine arts and in
the graces of social life. Some of the best laws that ever were enacted
in England were enacted during his reign. His title to the throne of
England was absolutely clear, as against the Earl of Richmond, and but
for the treachery of some among his followers he would have prevailed
in the contest upon Bosworth Field, and would have vindicated and
maintained that title over all opposition. He lost the battle, and he
was too great a man to survive the ruin of his fortunes. He threw away
his life in the last mad charge upon Richmond that day, and when once
the grave had closed over him, and his usurping cousin had seized the
English crown, it naturally must have become the easy as well as the
politic business of history to blacken his character. England was never
ruled by a more severe monarch than the austere, crafty, avaricious
Henry the Seventh, and it is certain that no word in praise of his
predecessor could have been publicly said in England during Henry’s
reign: neither would it have been wholly safe for anybody to speak for
Richard and the House of York, in the time of Henry the Eighth, the
cruel Mary, or the illustrious Elizabeth. The drift, in fact, was all
the other way. The _Life of Richard the Third_, by Sir Thomas More,
is the fountain-head of the other narratives of his career, and there
can be no doubt that More, who as a youth had lived at Canterbury, in
the palace of Archbishop Morton, derived his views of Richard from
that prelate,–to whose hand indeed, the essential part of the _Life_
has been attributed. “Morton is fled to Richmond.” He was Bishop of
Ely when he deserted the king, and Henry the Seventh rewarded him by
making him Archbishop of Canterbury. No man of the time was so little
likely as Morton to take an unprejudiced view of Richard the Third. It
is the Morton view that has become history. The world still looks at
Richard through the eyes of his victorious foe. Moreover, the Morton
view has been stamped indelibly upon the imagination and the credulity
of mankind by the overwhelming and irresistible genius of Shakespeare,
who wrote _Richard the Third_ in the reign of the granddaughter of
Henry the Seventh, and who, aside from the safeguard of discretion,
saw dramatic possibilities in the man of dark passions and deeds that
he could not have seen in a more human and a more virtuous monarch.
Goodness is generally monotonous. “The low sun makes the colour.” It
is not to be supposed that Richard was a model man; but there are good
reasons for thinking that he was not so black as his enemies painted
him; and, good or bad, he is one of the most fascinating personalities
that history and literature have made immortal. It was with no common
emotion, therefore, that I stood upon the summit of Ambien Hill and
looked downward over the plain where Richard fought his last fight and
went gloriously to his death.

[Illustration: BOSWORTH FIELD]

The battle of Bosworth Field was fought on August 22, 1485. More
than four hundred years have passed since then: yet except for the
incursions of a canal and a railway the aspect of that plain is but
little changed from what it was when Richard surveyed it, on that gray
and sombre morning when he beheld the forces of Richmond advancing past
the marsh and knew that the crisis of his life had come. The earl was
pressing forward that day from Tamworth and Atherstone, which are in
the northern part of Warwickshire,–the latter being close upon the
Leicestershire border. His course was a little to the southeast, and
Richard’s forces, facing northwesterly, confronted their enemies from
the summit of a long and gently sloping hill that extends for several
miles, about east and west, from Market Bosworth on the right, to
the vicinity of Dadlington on the left. The king’s position had been
chosen with an excellent judgment that has more than once, in modern
times, elicited the admiration of accomplished soldiers. His right
wing, commanded by Lord Stanley, rested on Bosworth. His left was
protected by a marsh, impassable to the foe. Sir William Stanley
commanded the left and had his headquarters in Dadlington. Richard
rode in the centre. Far to the right he saw the clustered houses and
the graceful spire of Bosworth, and far to the left his glance rested
on the little church of Dadlington. Below and in front of him all was
open field, and all across that field waved the banners and sounded the
trumpets of rebellion and defiance. It is easy to imagine the glowing
emotions,–the implacable resentment, the passionate fury, and the
deadly purpose of slaughter and vengeance,–with which the imperious
and terrible monarch gazed on his approaching foes. They show, in a
meadow, a little way over the crest of the hill, where it is marked and
partly covered now by a pyramidal structure of gray stones, suitably
inscribed with a few commemorative lines in Latin, a spring of water
at which Richard paused to quench his thirst, before he made that last
desperate charge on Radmore heath, when at length he knew himself
betrayed and abandoned, and felt that his only hope lay in killing
the Earl of Richmond with his own hand. The fight at Bosworth was not
a long one. Both the Stanleys deserted the king’s standard early in
the day. It was easy for them, posted as they were, to wheel their
forces into the rear of the rebel army, at the right and at the left.
Nothing then remained for Richard but to rush down upon the centre,
where he saw the banner of Richmond,–borne, at that moment, by Sir
John Cheyney,–and to crush the treason at its head. It must have been
a charge of tremendous impetuosity. It bore the fiery king a long way
forward on the level plain. He struck down Cheyney, a man of almost
gigantic stature. He killed Sir William Brandon. He plainly saw the
Earl of Richmond, and came almost near enough to encounter him, when
a score of swords were buried in his body, and, hacked almost into
pieces, he fell beneath heaps of the slain. The place of his death
is now the junction of three country roads, one leading northwest to
Shenton, one southwest to Dadlington, and one bearing away easterly
toward Bosworth. A little brook, called Sandy Ford, flows underneath
the road, and there is a considerable coppice in the field at the
junction. Upon the peaceful sign-board appear the names of Dadlington
and Hinckley. Not more than five hundred feet distant, to the eastward,
rises the embankment of a branch of the Midland Railway, from Nuneaton
to Leicester, while at about the same distance to the westward rises
the similar embankment of a canal. No monument has been erected to
mark the spot where Richard the Third was slain. They took up his
mangled body, threw it across a horse, and carried it into the town
of Leicester, and there it was buried, in the church of the Gray
Friars,–also the sepulchre of Cardinal Wolsey,–now a ruin. The only
commemorative mark upon the battlefield is the pyramid at the well, and
that stands at a long distance from the place of the king’s fall. I
tried to picture the scene of his final charge and his frightful death,
as I stood there upon the hillside. Many little slate-coloured clouds
were drifting across a pale blue sky. A cool summer breeze was sighing
in the branches of the neighbouring trees. The bright green sod was all
alive with the sparkling yellow of the colt’s-foot and the soft red of
the clover. Birds were whistling from the coppice near by, and overhead
the air was flecked with innumerable black pinions of fugitive rooks
and starlings. It did not seem possible that a sound of war or a deed
of violence could ever have intruded to break the Sabbath stillness of
that scene of peace.

The water of King Richard’s Well is a shallow pool, choked now with
moss and weeds. The inscription, which was written by Dr. Samuel Parr,
of Hatton, reads as follows:

AQVA. EX. HOC. PVTEO. HAVSTA
SITIM. SEDAVIT.
RICHARDVS. TERTIVS. REX. ANGLIAE
CVM HENRICO. COMITE DE RICHMONDIA
ACERRIME. ATQVE. INGENTISSIME. PRAELIANS
ET. VITA. PARITER. AC. SCEPTRO
ANTE NOCTEM. CARITVRUS
II KAL. SEP. A.D. M.C.C.C.C.LXXXV.

There are five churches in the immediate neighbourhood of Bosworth
Field, all of which were in one way or another associated with that
memorable battle. Ratcliffe Culey church has a low square tower and
a short stone spire, and there is herbage growing upon its tower and
its roof. It is a building of the fourteenth century, one mark of this
period being its perpendicular stone font, an octagon in shape, and
much frayed by time. In three arches of its chancel, on the south side,
the sculpture shows tri-foliated forms, of exceptional beauty. In the
east window there are fragments of old glass, rich in colour and quaint
and singular. The churchyard is full of odd gravestones, various in
shape and irregular in position. An ugly slate-stone is much used in
Leicestershire for monuments to the dead. Most of those stones record
modern burials, the older graves being unmarked. The grass grows thick
and dense all over the churchyard. Upon the church walls are several
fine specimens of those mysterious ray and circle marks which have long
been a puzzle to the archæological explorer. Such marks are usually
found in the last bay but one, on the south side of the nave, toward
the west end of the church. On Ratcliffe Culey church they consist
of central points with radial lines, like a star, but these are not
enclosed, as often happens, with circle lines. Various theories have
been advanced by antiquarians to account for these designs. Probably
those marks were cut upon the churches, by the pious monks of old, as
emblems of eternity and of the Sun of Righteousness.

Shenton Hall (1629), long and still the seat of the Woollastons, stood
directly in the path of the combatants at Bosworth Field, and the
fury of the battle must have raged all around it. The Hall has been
recased, and, except for its old gatehouse and semi-octagon bays, which
are of the Tudor style, it presents a modern aspect. Its windows open
toward Radmore heath and Ambien Hill, the scene of the conflict between
the Red Rose and the White. The church has been entirely rebuilt,–a
handsome edifice, of crucial form, containing costly pews of old
oak, together with interesting brasses and busts, taken from the old
church which it has replaced. The brasses commemorate Richard Coate
and Joyce his wife, and Richard Everard and his wife, and are dated
1556, 1597, and 1616. The busts are of white marble, dated 1666, and
are commemorative of William Woollaston and his wife, once lord and
lady of the manor of Shenton. It was the rule, in building churches,
that one end should face to the east and the other to the west, but
you frequently find an old church that is set at a slightly different
angle,–that, namely, at which the sun arose on the birthday of the
saint to whom the church was dedicated. The style of large east and
west windows, with trefoil or other ornamentation in the heads of the
arches, came into vogue about the time of Edward the First.

Dadlington was Richard’s extreme left on the day of the battle, and
Bosworth was his extreme right. These positions were intrusted to the
Stanleys, both of whom betrayed their king. Sir William Stanley’s
headquarters were at Dadlington, and traces of the earthworks then
thrown up there, by Richard’s command, are still visible. Dadlington
church has almost crumbled to pieces, and it is to be restored. It
is a diminutive structure, with a wooden tower, stuccoed walls, and
a tiled roof, and it stands in a graveyard full of scattered mounds
and slate-stone monuments. It was built in Norman times, and although
still used it has long been little better than a ruin. One of the
bells in its tower is marked “Thomas Arnold fecit, 1763,”–but this
is comparatively a modern touch. The church contains two pointed
arches, and across its roof are five massive oak beams, almost black
with age. The plaster ceiling has fallen, in several places, so that
patches of laths are visible in the roof. The pews are square, box-like
structures, made of oak and very old. The altar is a plain oak table,
supported on carved legs, covered with a cloth. On the west wall
appears a tablet, inscribed “Thomas Eames, church-warden, 1773.” Many
human skeletons, arranged in regular tiers, were found in Dadlington
churchyard, when a much-beloved clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Bourne, was
buried, in 1881; and it is believed that those are remains of men who
fell at Bosworth Field. The only inn at this lonely place bears the
quaint name of The Dog and Hedgehog.

The following queer epitaph appears upon a gravestone in Dadlington
churchyard. It is Thomas Bolland, 1765, who thus expresses his mind, in
mortuary reminiscence:

“I lov’d my Honour’d Parents dear,
I lov’d my Wife’s and Children dear,
And hope in Heaven to meet them there.
I lov’d my Brothers & Sisters too,
And hope I shall them in Heaven view.
I lov’d my Vncle’s, Aunt’s, & Cousin’s too
And I pray God to give my children grace the same to do.”

Stoke Golding church was built in the fourteenth century. It stands
now, a gray and melancholy relic of other days, strange and forlorn yet
august and stately, in a little brick village, the streets of which
are paved, like those of a city, with blocks of stone. It is regarded
as one of the best specimens extant of the decorative style of early
English ecclesiastical architecture. It has a fine tower and spire, and
it consists of nave, chantry, and south aisle. There is a perforated
parapet on one side, but not on the other. The walls of the nave and
the chancel are continuous. The pinnacles, though decayed, show that
they must have been beautifully carved. One of the decorative pieces
upon one of them is a rabbit with his ears laid back. Lichen and grass
are growing on the tower and on the walls. The roof is of oak, the
mouldings of the arches are exceptionally graceful, and the capitals of
the five main columns present, in marked diversity, carvings of faces,
flowers, and leaves. The tomb of the founder is on the north side, and
the stone pavement is everywhere lettered with inscriptions of burial.
There is a fine mural brass, bearing the name of Brokesley, 1633,
and a superb “stocke chest,” 1636; and there is a sculptured font,
of exquisite symmetry. Some of the carving upon the oak roof is more
grotesque than decorative,–but this is true of most other carving to
be found in ancient churches; such, for example, as you may see under
the miserere seats in the chancel of Trinity at Stratford-upon-Avon.
There was formerly some beautiful old stained glass in the east window
of Stoke Golding church, but this has disappeared. A picturesque stone
slab, set upon the church wall outside, arrests attention by its
pleasing shape, its venerable aspect, and its decayed lettering; the
date is 1684. Many persons slain at Bosworth Field were buried in Stoke
Golding churchyard, and over their nameless graves the long grass is
waving, in indolent luxuriance and golden light. So Nature hides waste
and forgets pain. Near to this village is Crown Hill, where the crown
of England was taken from a hawthorn bush, whereon it had been cast,
in the frenzied confusion of defeat, after the battle of Bosworth was
over and the star of King Richard had been quenched in death. Crown
Hill is a green meadow now, without distinguishing feature, except that
two large trees, each having a double trunk, are growing in the middle
of it. Not distant from this historic spot stands Higham-on-the-Hill,
where there is a fine church, remarkable for its Norman tower. From
this village the view is magnificent,–embracing all that section of
Leicestershire which is thus haunted with memories of King Richard and
of the carnage that marked the final conflict of the white and red
roses.

Lichfield, Staffordshire, July 31, 1890.–To a man of letters there is
no name in the long annals of English literature more interesting and
significant than the name of Samuel Johnson. It has been truly said
that no other man was ever subjected to such a light as Boswell threw
upon Johnson, and that few other men could have endured it so well.
He was in many ways noble, but of all men of letters he is especially
noble as the champion of literature. He vindicated the profession of
letters. He lived by his pen, and he taught the great world, once
for all, that it is honourable so to live. That lesson was needed in
the England of his period; and from that period onward the literary
vocation has steadily been held in higher esteem than it enjoyed up to
that time. The reader will not be surprised that one of the humblest
of his followers should linger for a while in the ancient town that is
glorified by association with his illustrious name, or should write a
word of fealty and homage in the birthplace of Dr. Johnson.

[Illustration: _Dr. Johnson._]

Lichfield is a cluster of rather dingy streets and of red-brick and
stucco buildings, lying in a vale, a little northward from Birmingham,
diversified by a couple of artificial lakes and glorified by one of
the loveliest churches in Europe. Without its church the town would be
nothing. Lichfield cathedral, although an ancient structure,–dating
back, indeed, to the early part of the twelfth century,–has been so
sorely battered, and so considerably “restored,” that it presents the
aspect of a building almost modern. The denotements of antiquity,
however, are not entirely absent from it, and it is not less venerable
than majestic. No one of the cathedrals of England presents a more
beautiful front. The multitudinous statues of saints and kings that are
upon it create an impression of royal opulence. The carving upon the
recesses of the great doorways on the north and west is of astonishing
variety and loveliness. The massive doors of dark oak, fretted with
ironwork of rare delicacy, are impressive and are exceptionally
suitable for such an edifice. Seven of the large gothic windows in the
chancel are filled with genuine old glass,–not, indeed, the glass they
originally contained, for that was smashed by the Puritan fanatics,
but a great quantity [no less than at least three hundred and forty
pieces, each about twenty-two inches square], made in Germany, in the
early part of the sixteenth century, when the art of staining glass was
at its summit of skill. This treasure was given to the cathedral by a
liberal friend, Sir Brooke Boothby, who had obtained it by purchase, in
1802, from the dissolved Abbey of Herckenrode. No such colour as that
old glass presents can be seen in the glass that is manufactured now.
It is imitated indeed, but it does not last. The subjects portrayed in
those sumptuous windows are mostly scriptural, but the centre window on
the north side of the chancel is devoted to portraits of noblemen, one
of them being Errard de la Marck, who was enthroned Bishop of Liège in
1505, and who, toward the end of his stormy life, adopted the old Roman
motto, comprehensive and final, which, a little garbled, appears in the
glass beneath his heraldic arms:

“Decipimus votis; et tempore fallimur;
Et Mors deridet curas; anxia vita nihil.”

[Illustration: _Lichfield Cathedral–West Front._]

The father of the illustrious Joseph Addison was Dean of Lichfield from
1688 to 1703, and his remains are buried in the ground, near the west
door of the church. The stately Latin epitaph was written by his son.
This and several other epitaphs here attract the interested attention
of literary students. A tablet on the north wall, in the porch,
commemorates the courage and sagacity of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who
introduced into England the practice of inoculation for the small-pox.
Anna Seward, the poet, who died in 1809, aged sixty-six, and who was
one of the friends of Dr. Johnson, was buried and is commemorated
here, and the fact that she placed a tablet here, in memory of her
father, is celebrated in sixteen eloquent and felicitous lines by Sir
Walter Scott. The father was a canon of Lichfield, and died in 1790.
The reader of Boswell will not fail to remark the epitaph on Gilbert
Walmesley, once registrar of the ecclesiastical court of Lichfield,
and one of Dr. Johnson’s especial friends. Of Chappel Woodhouse it is
significantly said, upon his memorial stone, that he was “lamented
most by those who knew him best.” Here the pilgrim sees two of the
best works of Sir Francis Chantrey,–one called The Sleeping Children,
erected in 1817, in memory of two young daughters of the Rev. William
Robinson; the other a kneeling figure of Bishop Ryder, who died in
1836. The former was one of the earliest triumphs of Chantrey,–an
exquisite semblance of innocence and heavenly purity,[46]–and the
latter was his last. Near by is placed one of the most sumptuous
monuments in England, a recumbent statue, done by the master-hand of
Watts, the painter, representing Bishop Lonsdale, who died in 1867.
This figure, in which the modelling is very beautiful and expressive,
rests upon a bed of marble and alabaster. In Chantrey’s statue of
Bishop Ryder, which seems no effigy but indeed the living man, there
is marvellous perfection of drapery,–the marble having the effect
of flowing silk. Here also, in the south transept, is the urn of
the Gastrells, formerly of Stratford-upon-Avon, to whom was due the
destruction [1759] of the house of New Place in which Shakespeare died.
No mention of the Rev. Gastrell occurs in the epitaph, but copious
eulogium is lavished on his widow, both in verse and prose, and she
must indeed have been a good woman, if the line is true which describes
her as “A friend to want when each false friend withdrew.” Her chief
title to remembrance, however, like that of her husband, is an
unhallowed association with one of the most sacred of literary shrines.
In 1776 Johnson, accompanied by Boswell, visited Lichfield, and Boswell
records that they dined with Mrs. Gastrell and her sister Mrs. Aston.
The Rev. Gastrell was then dead. “I was not informed till afterward,”
says Boswell, “that Mrs. Gastrell’s husband was the clergyman who,
while he lived at Stratford-upon-Avon, with Gothic barbarity cut down
Shakespeare’s mulberry-tree, and as Dr. Johnson told me, did it to
vex his neighbours. His lady, I have reason to believe, on the same
authority, participated in the guilt of what the enthusiasts of our
immortal bard deem almost a species of sacrilege.” The destruction
of the house followed close upon that of the tree, and to both their
deaths the lady was doubtless accessory.

[Illustration: _Lichfield Cathedral–West Front, Central Doorway._]

Upon the ledge of a casement on the east side of the chancel, separated
by the central lancet of a threefold window, stand the marble busts of
Samuel Johnson and David Garrick. Side by side they went through life;
side by side their ashes repose in the great abbey at Westminster;
and side by side they are commemorated here. Both the busts were made
by Westmacott, and obviously each is a portrait. The head of Johnson
appears without his customary wig. The colossal individuality of the
man plainly declares itself, in form and pose, in every line of the
eloquent face, and in the superb dignity of the figure and the action.
This work was based on a cast taken after death, and this undoubtedly
is Johnson’s self. The head is massive yet graceful, denoting a
compact brain and great natural refinement of intellect. The brow is
indicative of uncommon sweetness. The eyes are finely shaped. The nose
is prominent, long, and slightly aquiline, with wide and sensitive
nostrils. The mouth is large, and the lips are slightly parted, as if
in speech. Prodigious perceptive faculties are shown in the sculpture
of the forehead,–a feature that is characteristic, in even a greater
degree, of the bust of Garrick. The total expression of the countenance
is benignant, yet troubled and rueful. It is a thoughtful and venerable
face, and yet it is the passionate face of a man who has passed through
many storms of self-conflict and been much ravaged by spiritual pain.
The face of Garrick, on the contrary, is eager, animated, triumphant,
happy, showing a nature of absolute simplicity, a sanguine temperament,
and a mind that tempests may have ruffled but never convulsed. Garrick
kept his “storm and stress” for his tragic performances; there was no
particle of it in his personal experience. It was good to see those
old friends thus associated in the beautiful church that they knew
and loved in the sweet days when their friendship had just begun and
their labours and their honours were all before them. I placed myself
where, during the service, I could look upon both the busts at once;
and presently, in the deathlike silence, after the last response of
evensong had died away, I could well believe that those familiar
figures were kneeling beside me, as so often they must have knelt
beneath this glorious and venerable roof: and for one worshipper the
beams of the westering sun, that made a solemn splendour through the
church, illumined visions no mortal eyes could see.

Beneath the bust of Johnson, upon a stone slab affixed to the wall,
appears this inscription:

The friends of SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D., a native of Lichfield, erected
this monument as a tribute of respect to the memory of a man of
extensive learning, a distinguished moral writer and a sincere
Christian. He died the 13th of December, 1784, aged 75 years.

A similar stone beneath the bust of Garrick is inscribed as follows:

Eva Maria, relict of DAVID GARRICK, Esq., caused this monument to be
erected to the memory of her beloved husband, who died the 20th of
January 1779, aged 63 years. He had not only the amiable qualities
of private life, but such astonishing dramatick talents as too well
verified the observation of his friend: “His death eclipsed the gayety
of nations and impoverished the publick stock of harmless pleasure.”

This “observation” is the well-known eulogium of Johnson, who, however
much he may have growled about Garrick, always loved him and deeply
mourned for him. These memorials of an author and an actor are not
rendered the more impressive by being surmounted, as at present they
are, in Lichfield cathedral, with old battle-flags,–commemorative
souvenirs of the 80th Regiment, Staffordshire volunteers,–honourable
and interesting relics in their place, but inappropriate to the
effigies of Johnson and Garrick.

[Illustration: _House in which Johnson was born._]

The house in which Johnson was born stands at the corner of Market
street and Breadmarket street, facing the little market-place of
Lichfield. It is an antiquated building, three stories in height,
having a long, peaked roof. The lower story is recessed, so that the
entrance is sheltered by a pent. Its two doors,–for the structure
now consists of two tenements,–are approached by low stone steps,
guarded by an iron rail. There are ten windows, five in each row, in
the front of the upper stories. The pent-roof is supported by three
sturdy pillars. The house has a front of stucco. A bill in one of
the lower windows certifies that now [1890], this house is “To Let.”
Here old Michael Johnson kept his bookshop, in the days of good Queen
Anne, and from this door young Samuel Johnson went forth to his school
and his play. The whole various, pathetic, impressive story of his
long, laborious, sturdy, beneficent life drifts through your mind
as you stand at that threshold and conjure up the pictures of the
past. Opposite to the house, and facing it, is the statue of Johnson,
presented to Lichfield in 1838 by James Thomas Law, then Chancellor
of the diocese. On the sides of its massive pedestal are sculptures,
showing first the boy, borne on his father’s shoulders, listening to
the preaching of Dr. Sacheverell; then the youth, victorious in school,
carried aloft in triumph by his admiring comrades; and, finally, the
renowned scholar and author, in the meridian of his greatness, standing
bareheaded in the market-place of Uttoxeter, doing penance for his
undutiful refusal, when a lad, to relieve his weary, infirm father,
in the work of tending the bookstall at that place. Every one knows
that touching story, and no one who thinks of it when standing here
will gaze with any feeling but that of reverence, commingled with the
wish to lead a true and simple life, upon the noble, thoughtful face
and figure of the great moralist, who now seems to look down with
benediction upon the scenes of his innocent and happy youth. The
statue, which is in striking contrast with the humble birthplace,
points the expressive moral of a splendid career. No tablet has yet
been placed on the house in which Johnson was born. Perhaps it is not
needed. Yet surely this place, if any place on earth, ought to be
preserved and protected as a literary shrine.[47] Johnson was not a
great creative poet; neither a Shakespeare, a Dryden, a Byron, nor a
Tennyson; but he was one of the most massive and majestic characters
in English literature. A superb example of self-conquest and moral
supremacy, a mine of extensive and diversified learning, an intellect
remarkable for deep penetration and broad and generally sure grasp of
the greatest subjects, he exerted, as few men have ever exerted, the
original, elemental force of genius; and his immortal legacy to his
fellow-men was an abiding influence for good. The world is better and
happier because of him, and because of the many earnest characters
and honest lives that his example has inspired; and this cradle of
greatness ought to be saved and marked for every succeeding generation
as long as time endures.

[Illustration: _The Spires of Lichfield._]

One of the interesting features of Lichfield is an inscription that
vividly recalls the ancient strife of Roundhead and Cavalier, two
centuries and a half ago. This is found upon a stone scutcheon, set
in the wall over the door of the house that is No. 24 Dam street, and
these are its words: “March 2d, 1643, Lord Brooke, a General of the
Parliament Forces preparing to Besiege the Close of Lichfield, then
garrisoned For King Charles the First, Received his deathwound on
the spot Beneath this Inscription, By a shot in the forehead from
Mr. Dyott, a gentleman who had placed himself on the Battlements of
the great steeple, to annoy the Besiegers.” One of them he must have
“annoyed” seriously. It was “a long shot, Sir Lucius,” for, standing
on the place of that catastrophe and looking up to “the battlements
of the great steeple,” it seemed to have covered a distance of nearly
four hundred feet. Other relics of those Roundhead wars were shown in
the cathedral, in an ancient room now used for the bishop’s consistory
court,–these being two cannon-balls (fourteen-pounders), and the
ragged and dusty fragments of a shell, that were dug out of the ground
near the church a few years ago. Many of these practical tokens of
Puritan zeal have been discovered. Lichfield cathedral close, in the
time of Bishop Walter de Langton, who died in 1321, was surrounded with
a wall and fosse, and thereafter, whenever the wars came, it was used
as a fortification. In the Stuart times it was often besieged. Sir
John Gell succeeded Lord Brooke, when the latter had been shot by Mr.
Dyott,–who is said to have been “deaf and dumb,” but who certainly was
not blind. The close was surrendered on March 5, 1643, and thereupon
the Parliamentary victors, according to their ruthless and brutal
custom, straightway ravaged the church, tearing the brasses from the
tombs, breaking the effigies, and utterly despoiling beauty which it
had taken generations of pious zeal and loving devotion to create.
The great spire was battered down by those vandals, and in falling
it wrecked the chapter-house. The noble church, indeed, was made a
ruin, and so it remained till 1661, when its munificent benefactor,
Bishop Hackett, began its restoration, now happily almost complete.
Prince Rupert captured Lichfield close, for the king, in April, 1643,
and General Lothian recovered it for the Parliament, in the summer of
1646, after which time it was completely dismantled. Charles the First
came to this place after the fatal battle of Naseby, and sad enough
that picturesque, vacillating, shortsighted, beatific aristocrat must
have been, gazing over the green fields of Lichfield, to know,–as
surely even he must then have known,–that his cause was doomed, if not
entirely lost.

It will not take you long to traverse Lichfield, and you may ramble all
around it through little green lanes between hedgerows. This you will
do if you are wise, for the walk, especially at evening, is peaceful
and lovely. The wanderer never gets far away from the cathedral. Those
three superb spires steadily dominate the scene, and each new view of
them seems fairer than the last. All around this little city the fields
are richly green, and many trees diversify the prospect. Pausing to
rest awhile in the mouldering graveyard of old St. Chad’s, I saw the
rooks flocking homeward to the great tree-tops not far away, and heard
their many querulous, sagacious, humorous croakings, while over the
distance, borne upon the mild and fragrant evening breeze, floated the
solemn note of a warning bell from the minster tower, as the shadows
deepened and the night came down. Scenes like this sink deep into the
heart, and memory keeps them forever.

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