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   Chapter 7 THE INNS OF COURT

Highways and Byways in London By Emily Constance Baird Cook Characters: 46297

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"The perplexed and troublous valley of the shadow of the law."-Dickens.

"those bricky towers,

The which on Thames' broad aged back doe ride,

Where now the studious lawyers have their bowers,

There whilom wont the Templar knights to bide,

Till they decayed through pride."-Spenser.

Among the by-ways that open suddenly out of the highways of London, are there any more attractive than the Inns of Court? which, in an almost startling manner, bring into the whirl of Holborn, and the din of Fleet Street, something of the charm of an older and more peaceful world. No parts of London are more delightful, and few call up more interesting historic associations. Picturesque and charming old enclosures,-full of that mysterious and intangible "romance of London" that appealed so strongly to writers such as Lamb, Dickens, and Nathaniel Hawthorne,-the Inns of Court have in their time sheltered many great men. How strange and how unexpected, in the very heart of busy London, are these quiet old-world quadrangles, of calm, collegiate aspect, of infinite peace; a peace that seems perhaps more intense in contrast with the outside, just as the London "close" of greenery seems all the greener for its being set amid the surrounding grime, shining "like a star in blackest night." Historic houses, indeed, in every sense, are these old Inns, with their worm-eaten wooden staircases, worn into holes by the passage of countless feet; their panelled walls inscribed with many names; their floors often crazy and slanting as the decks of a ship in mid-ocean. Even the so-called "laundresses" who act as caretakers and servants in these establishments, seem as though they belonged to former centuries, and were, in a manner, impervious to the flight of time. Many have been the noted residents in the Inns; the most noted, perhaps, of those in the Temple are Fielding, Charles Lamb, and the poet Cowper; Dr. Johnson lived once in Staple Inn, writing Rasselas there "in the evenings of a week," to defray his mother's funeral expenses. Surely, if ghosts ever walk, they must walk in these historic abodes. It was my lot lately to search for rooms in one of the Inns (I will not invidiously specify which). The rooms were romantic enough, at a cursory glance; further investigations revealed, I regret to say, the fact that romance was depressingly dark, as well as unduly favourable to rats, mice, and the unholy black-beetle; to say nothing of a general and indescribable musty smell.

"How long have these rooms been vacant?" I inquired, with some faint show of cheerfulness, of the frowsy "laundress," a Dickensy lady with an appalling squint and a husky voice suggestive of the bottle.

"W'y, not to say long, 'm. On'y a year come nex' Wensday. Though not to deceive you 'm, the larst gempleman as lived 'ere, 'e give the place a bad name."

"What did he do?" I inquired, startled.

"W'y, 'e had the 'orrors dreadful; 'e did away with 'isself; that's where it is" (with increased huskiness).

I looked tremblingly at the panelled walls, the blackened ceiling, the faded carpet. Was it fancy, or did I see a darker patch in the threadbare web, and the shadow of a dusky Roman pointing from the ceiling (as in Dickens's murder of Mr. Tulkinghorn) threateningly at that darker stain? "'Orrors"! I thought; and no wonder! Romance, rats, and old panelling are, no doubt, beautiful in their way; but hardly suitable to prosaic, everyday life.

It is, perhaps, in these old Inns, that, more than anywhere else in London, the past is linked with the present. Much the same did they look, their red brick perhaps a trifle less charmingly darkened by time, in the days when fair ladies and gallant gentlemen walked in their green plots, the ladies in the quaint clinging dresses of the Georgian era, the gentlemen in the gay lace ruffles and knee-breeches of that picturesque period in dress. If London stones could speak, what stories could they tell! The old elm trees, planted by Bacon (Lord Verulam) that shade so charmingly the cool green sward of Gray's Inn, were comparatively youthful when Mr. Pepys walked with his lady-wife in that historic enclosure "to observe the fashions of the ladies, because of my wife making some clothes." Time enough, surely, for the trees to have developed a quite Wordsworthian seriousness! There were many rooks in these gardens; but these have lately disappeared, owing, thinks Mr. Hare, "to the erection of a corrugated iron building near them some years ago"! Possibly Mr. Hare credits the rooks with an ?sthetic feeling for beauty!

Charles Lamb, that "small, spare man in black,"-who, with his saddest of life-histories, his patient devotion and fortitude, ill deserved Carlyle's crude vituperation,-was a great devotee of the Inns, and especially of the Temple, his birthplace. It was in Little Queen Street, off Holborn, that the early tragedy happened that saddened all his life; the murder of his mother by the hand of his dearly-loved sister, in a fit of insanity. After this terrible occurrence, the brother took his sister Mary into his charge, never after to part from her, except only for her occasional necessary periods of restraint in an asylum. In Colebrook Row, Islington, where Lamb retired on his emancipation from the India Office, was the last abode of this devoted couple; and here occurred the pathetic incident recorded by a friend, that of the brother and sister walking across the fields towards the safety of the neighbouring asylum, hand-in-hand, like two children, and weeping bitterly.

Pepys and his Wife.

The Temple, so beloved of Charles Lamb, is the most widely known of all the Inns; being the largest, and in some ways the most attractive. Its garden-lawns slope gently and pleasantly towards the river; and its quaint, time-honoured, and beautiful old squares have the added charm of a long and romantic history. For here once was the stronghold of the Knights Templars, that powerful fraternity, so masterful in the picturesque Middle Ages; and, though the only substantial relic of them that yet exists here is the old Temple Church, their memory still lingers about these courts and gateways, adorned with their arms. And Charles Lamb,-the real child of the Temple,-has, though born at a later time, invested the place with a double charm. Born in 1775, in Crown Office Row, his father servant to a Bencher of the Inner Temple, the boy, from his earliest years, breathed in the poetry and romance of his surroundings. Has not his touching description of a childhood spent here almost the dignity of a classic?

"I was born" (he says), "and passed the first seven years of my life, in the Temple. Its church, its halls, its gardens, its fountain, its river, I had almost said-for in those young years, what was this king of rivers to me but a stream that watered our pleasant places?-these are my oldest recollections.... What an antique air had the now almost effaced sun-dials, with their moral inscriptions, seeming coevals with that Time which they measured, and to take their revelations of its flight immediately from heaven, holding correspondence with the fountain of light! How would the dark line steal imperceptibly on, watched by the eye of childhood, eager to detect its movement, never catched, nice as an evanescent cloud, or the first arrests of sleep!

"Ah, yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand,

Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived!"

In the Temple Gardens, which, mercifully enough, have never yet been threatened with being built over, the famous annual flower-shows are held. To these gardens, where the Red Cross Knights walked at eve, where the gallants of Tudor and Stuart times paraded their powder and ruffles, are now yearly brought all the English flowers that skill can grow. In May and June, the wide green expanse becomes a bower of roses; in late autumn it is the chrysanthemums, the special flowers of the Temple, that have their turn. Chrysanthemums are London's own flowers, and care little for soot; as for the roses, they are brought hither in masses from the country, "to make a London holiday." And, surely, never were seen such blooms as at these annual rose-shows! A Heliogabalus would indeed be in his glory. Every year new flowers, new combinations of colour, of shape are invented; and garden-lovers congregate, compare, and copy. Roses will not now deign to grow in London soot and smoke; yet the Temple Gardens once were famed for their own roses, and here, where now the flower-shows are held, once grew, according to Shakespeare, in deadly rivalry, the fatal white and red roses of York and Lancaster. He makes Warwick say, in King Henry VI.:

"This brawl to-day,

Grown to this faction in the Temple Garden,

Shall send, between the red rose and the white,

A thousand souls to death and deadly night."

There are many sun-dials in the Temple Gardens, a fact which seems to suggest that the average amount of sunshine yearly registered in the City was considerably greater in the old days, when, also, possibly, for belated roysterers too often

"The night was senescent,

And star-dials pointed to morn,

And the star-dials hinted of morn,"

as in Poe's mystic poem. That occasion, for instance, commemorated in the Quarterly Review for 1836, when, on some festival held at the Inner Temple, less than seventy students consumed among them thirty-six quarts of richly-flavoured "sack," a potent beverage, only supposed to be "sipped" once by each!

The mottoes on the Temple sun-dials are varied and curious. "Pereunt et imputantur," is inscribed on one in Temple Lane; in Brick Court it is "Time and Tide tarry for no man"; in Essex Court, "Vestigia nulla retrorsum"; and opposite Middle Temple Hall, "Discite justitiam moniti."

The Middle Temple, divided from the Inner Temple by Middle Temple Lane, is the more picturesque of the two Inns. Among its labyrinthine courts and closes, the most charming is "Fountain Court," well known to lovers of Dickens. The great writer has caught the spirit of the place; where in London, indeed, has he not done so? He is, par excellence, the novelist of the city in all its aspects, human, topographical, artistic, historical. In a few lines, with magic touch, he gives you a lasting impression. He makes Ruth Pinch come to meet her brother in this court:

"There was a little plot between them, that Tom should always come out of the Temple by one way; and that was, past the fountain. Coming through Fountain Court, he was just to glance down the steps leading into Garden Court, and to look once all round him; and if Ruth had come to meet him, then he would see her; ... coming briskly up, with the best little laugh upon her face that ever played in opposition to the fountain, and beat it all to nothing.... The Temple fountain might have leaped up twenty feet to greet the spring of hopeful maidenhood, that in her person stole on, sparkling, through the dry and dusty channels of the Law; the chirping sparrows, bred in Temple chinks and crannies, might have held their peace to listen to imaginary skylarks, as so fresh a little creature passed."

Then, when the lover, John Westlock, comes one day:

"Merrily the fountain leaped and danced, and merrily the smiling dimples twinkled and expanded more and more, until they broke into a laugh against the fountain's rim and vanished."

In this court, too, is Middle Temple Hall, a fine Elizabethan edifice of 1572, with a handsome oak ceiling, its windows emblazoned with the armorial bearings of the Templar Knights. This Hall was already in Tudor times famous for its feasts, masques, revelries; here Shakespeare's Twelfth Night was performed in 1601, before the queen and her splendid court; "the only locality remaining where a play of Shakespeare's was listened to by his contemporaries." Even in winter Fountain Court is pretty, and its ivied trellises and arches are well kept and tended; a lovely view, too, may be enjoyed from it, down over the verdant grass slopes of "Garden Court" towards the silvery river far below. Lucky, one thinks, are those fortunate beings who have "chambers" in Garden Court! poetically named, and the reality still more charming than the name! More ornate and less attractive, though delightfully placed, are the modern buildings of "Temple Gardens."

Bits of old London, unchanged for centuries, crop up continually in the Temple precincts, and recall the time when this was a city of timbered houses of tortuous, overhanging, insanitary alleys and lanes, easily burned, almost impossible indeed to save when once threatened by fire. Small wonder, indeed, that the great fire of 1666 destroyed so much of the Temple! Middle-Temple-Lane, narrow, crooked, dark, is one of these relics of the past. Here are some picturesque old houses of lath and plaster, with overhanging upper floors, and shops beneath stuffed with law stationery and requirements; the houses somewhat crumbling and dilapidated, and "with an air," like Krook's shop in Bleak House, "of being in a legal neighbourhood, and of being, as it were a dirty hanger-on and disowned relation of the law." Every now and then, about the Temple, in odd and unexpected nooks and corners, you come upon the arms of the Knights Templars; in the Middle Temple it is the Lamb bearing the banner of Innocence, and the red cross, the original badge of the order; in the Inner Temple,-the winged Pegasus,-with the motto, "Volat ad astra virtus." This winged horse has a curious history; for, when the horse was originally chosen as an emblem, he had no wings, but was ridden by two men at once to indicate the self-chosen poverty of the brotherhood; in lapse of years the figures of the men became worn and abraded, and when restored were mistaken for wings!

Middle-Temple-Lane is entered from Fleet-Street, just beyond the Temple-Bar Griffin and the imposing mass of the New Gothic Law-Courts, by a dull red-brick gateway, erected by Wren in 1684; and the Inner Temple by an archway under a hairdresser's shop, which shop is inscribed somewhat romantically as "the palace of Henry VIII. and Cardinal Wolsey." (As a matter of fact it was built in James I.'s time, and belonged to Henry, Prince of Wales; it subsequently became "Nando's Coffee-House.") These picturesque, unassuming archways bear the special arms of each Inn, and here, by the winged horse, a wit once wrote the following "pasquinade:"

"As by the Templar's hold you go,

The horse and lamb displayed

In emblematic figures show

The merits of their trade.

"The clients may infer from thence

How just is their profession:

The lamb sets forth their innocence,

The horse their expedition."

But the main interest of the Temple lies in its ancient church, St. Mary's, where in the Middle Ages the Knights Templars worshipped in their strength, and where their effigies, stiff and mailed and cross-legged, as befits returned crusaders, lie until the judgment day. The soldier-monks are gone, their place knows them no more; yet, like their more peaceful brethren and neighbours, the Carthusians, their spirit still inspires their ancient haunts. The Temple Church, begun in 1185, was one of the four round churches built in England in imitation of the Round Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, after the Templars' return from the first and second crusades; mercifully escaping the Great Fire, it has not entirely escaped the hardly less dangerous ravages of the "restorer." Through a fine Norman arch, under the western porch, the Round Church of 1185 is entered. In architecture it is Norman, with a leaning to the Transition style, and very rich in decoration. Hence, through groups of Purbeck marble columns, you look into the choir, a later addition of 1240, in the Early English style, with lancet-headed windows and a groined roof. "These two churches," says Mr. Hare, "built at a distance of only fifty five years from each other, form one of the most interesting examples we possess of the transition from Norman to Early English architecture."

In the Round Church are nine monuments of Templars, of the 12th and 13th centuries, sculptured out of freestone, recumbent, with crossed legs, and in complete mail, except one, who wears a monk's cowl. They are probably the "eight images of armed knights" mentioned by Stow in 1598: some few are thought to be identified. Strange, unearthly objects! relics of a bygone order and a vanished faith,-silent witnesses of centuries' changes,-figures ghostly in the twilight of a London winter's day:-effigies of warriors, faithful in the life and unto the death that they knew, recalling Spenser's lines:

"And on his breast a bloudie cross he bore,

The deare remembrance of his dying Lord,

For whose sweet sake that glorious badge he wore,

And dead, as living, ever Him adored.

Upon his shield the like was ever scored,

For sovereign hope which in his help he had."

Records of the severity of the Order are not wanting. Here, opening upon the stairs leading to the triforium, is the "penitential cell" (of such painful abbreviation that the prisoner could neither stand nor lie in it), with slits towards the church so that mass might still be heard. Here the unhappy Walter le Bacheler, Grand Preceptor of Ireland,-for disobedience to the all-powerful Master,-was starved to death, and hence also, most likely, culprits were dragged forth naked to be flogged publicly before the altar. Priests, in the robust Middle Ages, did not always err on the side of mercy or humanity!

The preacher at the Temple Church is still named "the Master," as being the successor of the Masters of the Templars. Hooker and Sherlock both held the office, and now Canon Ainger is the most modern representative of the "Grand Master," that dread medi?val potentate. During the Protectorate, however, the order of succession must, one thinks, have fallen into some contempt; for the church became greatly dilapidated, and the painted ceilings (according to the usual Puritan barbarism) were whitewashed, though the effigies themselves mercifully escaped destruction. Lawyers, also, used formerly to receive their clients in the Round Church (as it was their custom to do at the pillars in St. Paul's), occupying their special posts like merchants on 'Change. And thus, that thorough restoration of the church in 1839-42, which antiquaries so deplore, was no doubt very necessary.

Long might one linger over the Temple and its many associations. Even the names of its mazy courts recall old stories, as well as their sometime dwellers. Johnson's Buildings where the old Doctor lived at one time; Brick Court, where poor, improvident Goldsmith lived, and died, as he had lived in debt and difficulties: Inner-Temple-Lane, where Charles Lamb lodged, and wrote: "The rooms are delicious, and Hare's Court trees come in at the window, so that it's like living in a garden." Garden Court (now rebuilt), where Dickens's "Pip" lived; "Lamb Court," with the shades of Thackeray's Warrington, Pen, and Laura. Tanfield Court, less pleasantly, recalls a murder, that of old Mrs. Duncomb, killed by a Temple laundress; the murderess sitting, dressed in scarlet, to Hogarth for her portrait, two days before her execution. Then there is King's Bench Walk, where Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, came as client, and was so disgusted at finding her legal adviser absent: "I could not tell who she was," said the servant, reporting the visit to her master, "for she would not tell me her name, but she swore so dreadfully that I am sure she must be a lady of quality."

But the Temple sundials are sternly marking the time, and we must tear ourselves away from the historic precincts. The day is waning, and all too soon Embankment and gardens, river and sky, will have changed, by some mysterious alchemy, to a "nocturne" of silver and gold. Let us hasten back into the din of Fleet Street and the Strand.

Holywell Street, with its tempting book-shops, is now a thing of the past; and, for the constant Londoner, the bearings of the Strand world have changed much of late. But Wych Street still remains, and behind it is the archway into New Inn, a quaint and forsaken place, resembling, not merely a backwater, but a stagnant pool, really forgotten by the busy tide of life around it. New Inn lies in that curious and debatable region between the Strand and the district of Clare-Market; but it is so secluded that one might well live in London all one's life and never know of it. There is a certain not unpicturesque squalor about New Inn and its purlieus; it has, like so many of these places, a pathetic air as of having seen better days. Possibly, New Inn sees only too well the fate that awaits it, in the towering red-brick offices close by, that once were old Clement's Inn! "Will they 'talk of mad Shallow yet' in Clement's Inn? Alas! I fear that the dwellers in the new mansions will read little of the old traditions of the site"! "To New Inn," says Seymour (in his Summary of London, 1735), "are pleasant walks and gardens;" and still a few sickly patches of grass survive, as well as a saddened greenhouse, relic of a happier time! Yet the "dusty purlieus of the Law" still, in spite of the builder, keep up, in a manner, their gardening traditions. Even the massive new "Record Office" does not disdain its little strip of garden, and makes praiseworthy attempts to grow turf and ground-ivy borders, to refresh the wanderer down Chancery Lane.

In and about Chancery Lane are several more of these small Inns, both past and present. "Symond's Inn," so sympathetically described by Dickens in Bleak House, as the lair of Mr. Vholes, the grasping Chancery lawyer, is typical of many of these rusty and decaying nests. Symond's Inn, indeed, no longer exists. "Chichester Rents," west of Chancery Lane, marks its forgotten site; but the portrait,-slightly caricatured, like all Dickens's sketches,-is very suggestive:

"The name of MR. VHOLES, preceded by the legend GROUND FLOOR, is inscribed upon a doorpost in Symond's Inn, Chancery Lane: a little, pale, wall-eyed, woebegone inn, like a large dust-bin of two compartments and a sifter. It looks as if Symond were a sparing man in his day, and constructed his inn of old building materials, which took kindly to the dry rot and to dirt and all things decaying and dismal, and perpetuated Symond's memory with congenial shabbiness. Quartered in this dingy hatchment commemorative of Symond, are the legal bearings of Mr. Vholes.... Mr. Vholes's office, in disposition retiring and in situation retired, is squeezed up in a corner, and blinks at a dead wall. Three feet of knotty-floored dark passage bring the client to Mr. Vholes's jet-black door, in an angle profoundly dark on the brightest midsummer morning, and encumbered by a black bulkhead of cellarage staircase, against which belated civilians generally strike their brows. Mr. Vholes's chambers are on so small a scale, that one clerk can open the door without getting off his stool; while the other,

who elbows him at the same desk, has equal facilities for poking the fire. A smell as of unwholesome sheep, blending with the smell of must and dust, is referable to the nightly (and often daily) consumption of mutton fat in candles, and to the fretting of parchment forms and skins in greasy drawers. The atmosphere is otherwise stale and close. The place was last painted or whitewashed beyond the memory of man, and the two chimneys smoke, and there is a loose outer surface of soot everywhere, and the dull, cracked windows in their heavy frames have but one piece of character in them, which is a determination to be always dirty, and always shut, unless coerced."

Indeed, the whole region of the law, in its by-ways, and smaller Inns, is altogether suggestive of Bleak House. Dickens, a kind of Sam Weller himself in his knowledge of London, knew all the Inns well, living in several of them. He is a faithful chronicler, with this reservation, that he has no eye for the picturesque interest, but is all eye for the human. Were these places dirtier in Dickens's time? That can hardly be. Why, one reflects, is there a kind of tradition in such things? even as regards the eternal cats and the equally eternal "laundresses"? (called so, presumably, because they never seem to wash!) Why are the window panes, apparently, never, never, cleaned? Has never any one come here with a love of cleanliness for its own sake, or with a yearning for clean windows, to these Inns?

See, for instance, the corner of old Serjeants' Inn, where it joins Clifford's Inn! It positively caricatures even Dickens. Black, suggestively gruesome as a picture by Hogarth; yet, amid all its dirt, still picturesque; everywhere neglect, rust, grime; windows suggestive of anything but light, broken and stuffed with dirty paper; no sign of life (it being Saturday afternoon), but one old half-starved tabby cat, moved out of her wonted apathy by hearing the welcome voice of the cats' meat boy in neighbouring Chancery Lane! Is she the aged pensioner of some departed inhabitant, and does she, perchance, hope to steal, unperceived, some scrap from that unsavoury basket? As she slinks along the outer railings of the Clifford's Inn enclosure, and across the irregular cobble-stones of the court, one notices that what is by courtesy termed a "garden" is merely a cat walk. It is a railed-in garden of desolation, its turf long ago forgotten, its gravel-paths even obliterated, a dingy strip of earth under a few mangy trees. Surely, nobody can have entered that rusty gate for at least a hundred years! It might be the garden of the "Sleeping Beauty," or at least a London edition of that lady. Poor, deserted closes! bits of vanishing London! The tide of progress will remove you altogether ere long, and build huge blocks of clean, if unromantic, "Chicago" edifices in your place. Yet, their dirt and desolation notwithstanding, can we not almost find it in our hearts to regret these London byways of a past age?

Perhaps Clifford's Inn may yet maintain some transmitted gloom from the fact that here used to live the six attorneys of the Marshalsea Court, "which rendered," says a chronicler, "this little spot the fountain-head of more misery than any whole county in England." A grimy archway, piercing the buildings of Clifford's Inn, and adorned (?) by a ramshackle hanging lamp, leads through another tiny courtyard to the adjoining Fleet Street. In such crowded city byways, "businesses," and things, and people, are often in the strangest juxtaposition. It seems as if every possible trade and profession had made up its mind to live, in deadly rivalry, within the same few cubic feet of mother earth. Here, for instance, a smart kitchen, well-appointed, with shining pots and pans, looks straight into the windows of a dirty law-stationer's; there, a printing-press rumbles, cheek-by-jowl with a Fleet Street tea-shop; here a theatre stage-door ogles, at a convenient distance, the inviting back entrance of a pawnshop (both of them discreetly placed in a retiring side-alley); and there, the much populated "model" looks across, somewhat yearningly, to some cat-ridden and rusty desolation, that has got, somehow or other, "into Chancery," or some such equivalent for oblivion and decay. And, between the Fleet Street entrance to Clifford's Inn and Chancery Lane, rises, in strangest medley of all, the blackened height of St. Dunstan's in-the-West, a rebuilding of 1831, by J. Shaw, on an ancient site. Its tall tower is effective, but the body of the church has a somewhat abbreviated air, being tightly sandwiched in between the new buildings of "Law Life Assurance" on one side, and the Dundee Advertiser, &c., on the other.

The two famous wooden giants on the old church of St. Dunstan's, that used to strike the hours, are now removed to a villa in Regent's Park.

Between Chancery Lane and Holborn, many important rebuildings and extensions have been made of recent years; imposing new edifices have been raised, and, in some places, building, with the obliteration of old landmarks, is still going on, so that those who knew it in old days would hardly now recognise the locality. A new Record Office, palatial and imposing, in the Tudor style, now extends from Chancery Lane across to Fetter Lane, covering what used to be Rolls Yard; and the old Rolls Chapel is now incorporated in the newer building. In this massive structure, this fire-proof fortress, are kept all the documentary treasures of the kingdom, beginning with the famous "Domesday Book," of the Conqueror's time. The Records and State Archives of England, so long neglected, have at length found a suitable home.

Lincoln's Inn.

Lincoln's Inn, however, is less altered. The New Hall of the Inn, built only in 1845, nevertheless wears a sober and respectable look of antiquity; and the new buildings are already less garish. Perhaps, at first, in contrasting the new houses of Lincoln's Inn with the old, where they rise side by side, one is tempted for a moment to cry out against the modern taste in variegated brick-work; till on closer examination one finds it to be a faithful copy of the older style, only not yet darkened by age! So true is it, as Millais has said, that "Time is the greatest of the old Masters." And the smoke of London ages buildings quickly; this is one of its advantages. The real innovation in the newer style is in the windows; for, where narrow lozenges pierced the wall, now are tall, imposing bay windows, a wealth of glass before undreamed of. The great modern cry is ever, "Let there be light!" But then, we, in our day, do not have to pay window tax.

The fine Gatehouse of Lincoln's Inn, that opens upon Chancery Lane, has a delightful look of medi?valism; it is in the Hampton Court style, and was built in 1518 by Sir Thomas Lowell, whose arms it bears, as well as the date of its erection. Here, tradition says, "Ben Jonson, a poor bricklayer, was found working on this gate with a Horace in one hand and a trowel in the other, when some gentlemen, pitying him, gave him money to leave 'so mean a calling' and pursue his studies."

Here in Lincoln's Inn are again quiet, picturesque courts; sundials with Latin mottoes; calm enclosures of quiet amidst the surrounding racket. At No. 24, "Old Buildings," is a tablet recording the residence here of John Thurloe, Cromwell's secretary. An interesting story is told of these chambers. The Protector is said to have visited his secretary here one day, and disclosed to him a plot for seizing the young princes, sons of Charles I. The plans had been discussed, when Thurloe's clerk was discovered, apparently asleep, in the room. Cromwell was for killing him, but this Thurloe dissuaded him from doing, and, passing a dagger repeatedly over his face, thought to prove that he was really asleep. The clerk, however, had merely been shamming, and he subsequently found means to warn the princes of their danger. Such a dramatic story certainly deserves to be true!

Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, though perhaps hardly rural, is still the largest and shadiest square in London. It had in old days a bad reputation for thieves and footpads, for the pillory, and also, more tragically, as a place of execution. Here the conspirators in Mary Queen of Scots' cause were hanged and quartered; and here gallant Lord William Russell died for alleged treason, "his whole behaviour a triumph over death."

The tall substantial houses around Lincoln's-Inn-Fields bear a look of bygone state, an ancient grandeur well described in Bleak House. Here is an account of the mansion inhabited by the astute Mr. Tulkinghorn, in this square:

"Here, in a large house, formerly a house of state, lives Mr. Tulkinghorn. It is let off in sets of chambers now; and in those shrunken fragments of its greatness, lawyers lie like maggots in nuts. But its roomy staircases, passages, and antechambers still remain; and even its painted ceilings, where Allegory, in Roman helmet and celestial linen, sprawls among balustrades and pillars, flowers, clouds, and big-legged boys, and makes the head ache-as would seem to be Allegory's object always, more or less. Here ... lives Mr. Tulkinghorn.... Like as he is to look at, so is his apartment in the dusk of the afternoon. Rusty, out of date, withdrawing from attention, able to afford it."

The house thus described by Dickens was that of his friend Forster, and, no doubt, he knew it well. Very few private houses exist, I imagine, in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields to-day: and poor "Allegory" is now there for ever at a discount. The fine mansions, with their paved forecourts and massive gate-posts, have had their day, and have now ceased (for the larger world, that is) to be. Yet it is an imposing square still, and, seen in the sunshine of a May morning, is distinctly attractive.

Very attractive, too, is Staple Inn, so well known to Londoners by its old gabled Holborn front. This, in some ways the most charming of all the Inns, is kindly preserved to us by the altruism of the Prudential Assurance Company, whose property it is, and who at considerable expense have repaired and saved from destruction this historical "bit" of Old London. The picturesque gables of Staple Inn, its well-known lath-and-plaster front, would, indeed, be sadly missed if they disappeared from the line of Holborn. Nothing so well gives the idea of the London of the Tudors, of the early Stuarts, as this time-honoured edifice. Staple Inn, though generally supposed to be earlier, is really of the time of James I: and its crumbling and insecure walls, during the recent (and still continuing) building operations near it, have required much "underpinning."

Entering under the archway of Staple Inn, we find ourselves suddenly in a quiet old court set about with plane trees, and in the middle a rustic seat placed, in countrified fashion, round a tree trunk; the old Hall of the Inn forming the background. It is a charming spot enough, with a most collegiate and secluded air; an air so strange, indeed, in this neighbourhood as to have struck many writers, among others Nathaniel Hawthorne:

"I went astray" (he says) "in Holborn, through an arched entrance, over which was 'Staple Inn' ... but in a court opening inwards from this was a surrounding seclusion of quiet dwelling houses, with beautiful green shrubbery and grass-plots in the court, and a great many sunflowers in full bloom.... There was ... not a quieter spot in England than this. In all the hundreds of years since London was built, it has not been able to sweep its roaring tide over that little island of quiet."

And Dickens thus writes of it:

"Behind the most ancient part of Holborn, where certain gabled houses some centuries of age still stand looking out on the public way ... is a little nook composed of two irregular quadrangles, called Staple Inn. It is one of those nooks, the turning into which out of the clashing street imparts to the relieved pedestrian the sensation of having put cotton in his ears and velvet soles on his boots. It is one of those nooks where a few smoky sparrows twitter in smoky trees, as though they called to one another, 'Let us play at country.'"

Dickens made this the abode of his kindly lawyer of Edwin Drood (Mr. Grewgious). The chambers where that gentleman is supposed to have dwelt are marked on a stone above the doorway, with initials, and a date-1747.

Beyond the first square, through another archway, a garden-plot is reached, the garden of the Hall. Very picturesque is this old Hall, long and low, with gabled lanthorns,-one large, one small,-and high timber roofs. The garden plot is bright even in winter, with variegated laurels and a privet hedge; these, with the darkened red-brick of the old Hall, make a charming picture. Opposite the garden-court extends the new and very attractive modern building of 1843, on a raised terrace: designed in early Jacobean style, and of a simple dignity that does not quarrel with its surroundings. This line of buildings is continued towards Chancery Lane by the new "Government Patent Office," an admirable structure as yet untouched by the mellowing London smoke. The buildings of the "Birkbeck Bank" opposite, which, in their turn, tower over the little Staple Inn Hall and garden, show,-in painful contrast both to their unobjectionable Holborn front, and to the fine simplicity of the Patent Office,-a very ornate medley of terra-cotta and Doulton-ware; a chaos of bluish-green pillars and aggressive plaques and tiles, for which, indeed, some covering of London soot is greatly to be wished. One might almost think that one had got into Messrs. Spiers and Pond's refreshment-rooms or a "Central-Railway-station" by mistake. Disillusions, however, are frequent in this semi-chaotic region of new and old buildings, and it must be confessed that the back of the Patent Office (in "Quality Court") is somewhat disappointing after its front view; it resembles, with its old, blackened pillars, a disused dissenting chapel; and Quality Court itself seems, like so many of the purlieus of the smaller Inns, mainly redolent of charwomen, cats, and orange-peel. Nevertheless, even in dingy "Quality Court" there are some respectable houses with quaint old doorways, as well as some good iron-work in the upper balconies.

Fetter Lane.

Some of the neighbouring courts are, however, far more unsavoury. See, for instance, "Fleur-de-Lis" Court, off Fetter Lane, a miserable, dilapidated flagged alley. The last time I visited this place, I found a few dirty children dancing to a poor cripple's playing of a kind of spinet or portable piano (some of the "music" of these peripatetic street-players is of a weird kind). Fleur-de-Lis Court!-charmingly named, but, like all courts with such romantic appellations, particularly grimy and squalid. Further up, away from Fetter Lane, where the "court" or narrow alley becomes even more wretchedly ruinous, is a barn-like place labelled "Newton Hall." It seems at a first glance to be the very abomination of desolation; its rusty door padlocked, with an air, too, of never-being-opened. Is there anything, I wondered at a first glance, more dismal in all London? Yet, on looking nearer, I seemed to see something comparatively clean shining on the wall of "Newton Hall," amid the surrounding grime. Can it be,-yes, it is,-a label,-and apparently affixed there within the memory of man: "Positivist Society." Surely, I reflected, the Positivist Cause must be in a bad way, if the dilapidation of the buildings be any guide to the state of the persuasion itself! It is, however, unfair to judge the state of Positivism from Fleur-de-Lis Court, for the whole neighbourhood has, evidently, but a short span of life remaining, and the court and its purlieus will soon be things of the past. Positivism is already removing or removed; and Newton Hall, till Fleur-de-Lis Court is transmogrified in the march of progress into offices or model-dwellings, will rust for some few years in peace.

The neighbourhood in which the old Hall stands is full of historic memories. As is ever the case in crowded Central London, the past, the many pasts, are strangely involved and blended, buried one beneath the other. Dryden and Otway are said to have once lived-and quarrelled-on and near this site. Then, in 1710, Sir Isaac Newton, the then President of the Royal Society, induced that body to buy a house and garden here from Dr. Barebones, a descendant of the "Praise-God-Barebones" of Puritan times. Sir Christopher Wren concurred in the purchase, and £1,450 was paid for the freehold. In this house the Royal Society held their meetings till they removed to Somerset House in 1782; and they built on its garden the present "Newton Hall,"-which hall, some say, is really from the designs of Wren. In 1818, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, unhappy son of genius, gave his last public lectures here; later, it was used as a chapel, and then the Positivist Society made it their home. It is strange to reflect that the chief reason advanced by Sir Isaac Newton to the Royal Society for the purchase of this site, was that it was "in the middle of the town and out of noise."

At the Holborn end of Fetter Lane there are still some fine old gabled houses, which must soon vanish; several little Inns of Chancery, byways out of Holborn and the Strand, have already been swept away: Thavies' Inn for instance, where Dickens, surely by an intentional anachronism, places Mrs. Jellyby's untidy home; Lyon's Inn, near Wych Street, destroyed in 1863; Old Furnival's Inn, on the opposite side of Holborn, where Dickens lived when he was first married, has been replaced by the offices of the Prudential Assurance Company, the saviours of Staple Inn, in intense red-brick. Lastly, Barnard's Inn (originally Mackworth's Inn), a charming little Holborn Inn on a tiny scale, with small courts, trees, a miniature hall and lanthorn, has been bought up by the Mercers' Company and is used by them as a school. This Inn is therefore not now accessible to the casual visitor; its Holborn entrance may, indeed, easily be missed; "Mercers' School," in big gilt letters, adorns its narrow doorway. What a delightful private residence, one thinks, for some rich man, would such a little Inn as this have made! Strange that no rich man has ever thought so! the rich, like sheep, flock ever towards the less interesting West End. Dickens, as I have suggested, had little eye for the purely picturesque; and of this little Inn, compared by Loftie to one of De Hooghe's pictures, he merely says (in Great Expectations,) that it is "the dirtiest collection of shabby buildings ever squeezed together in a rank corner as a club for tom-cats!" So much, indeed, is Beauty in the eye of the seer! Barnard's Inn is also remarkable for having been, in the last century, the abode of the last of the alchemists.

A gateway on the north side of Holborn leads to Gray's Inn, the most northerly of the four big Inns of Court. The gardens of Gray's Inn are green and spacious, and its courts and quadrangles have a sober solidity that is very attractive. This Inn affords a welcome retreat from two of the noisiest and most unpoetic thoroughfares in London,-Gray's Inn Road and Theobald's Road.

Here is Hawthorne's description of Gray's Inn Gardens:

"Gray's Inn is a great quiet domain, quadrangle beyond quadrangle close beside Holborn, and a large space of greensward enclosed within it. It is very strange to find so much of ancient quietude right in the monster City's very jaws, which yet the monster shall not eat up-right in its very belly, indeed, which yet, in all these ages, it shall not digest and convert into the same substance as the rest of its bustling streets. Nothing else in London is so like the effect of a spell, as to pass under one of these archways, and find yourself transported from the jumble, rush, tumult, uproar, as of an age of week-days condensed into the present hour, into what seems an eternal Sabbath."

And Charles Lamb also said of them:

"These are the best gardens of any of the Inns of Court-my beloved Temple not forgotten-have the gravest character, their aspect being altogether reverend and law-breathing. Bacon has left the impress of his foot upon their gravel walks."

Bacon (Lord Verulam) planted here not only the spreading elm-trees, but also a catalpa in the garden's north-east corner. In Gray's Inn is also "Bacon's Mount," which answers to the recommendation in the "Essay on Gardens"; "A mount of some pretty height, leaving the wall of the enclosure breast high, to look abroad into the fields." Gray's Inn Walks were, in Stuart times, very rural as well as very fashionable; in 1621 we find them mentioned by Howell as "the pleasantest place about London, with the choicest society"; and the Tatler and Spectator alike confirm this statement.

But, alas! Gray's Inn Walks are curtailed, and its gardens deserted enough, at the present day! No more does Fashion walk there, unless it be the "fashion" of the Gray's Inn Road. Many of the solid brick squares are fallen, like Mr. Tulkinghorn's haunt of "Allegory," into comparative decay; others, perhaps, are still more or less substantial; but the grime of many unpainted years of occupation must, one thinks, be more or less conducive to midnight gloom, or even to the before-mentioned complaint of "the 'orrors!" And yet, with all these drawbacks, do not the suites of rooms in the Inn emanate a semi-historic charm, a charm that the newer "flats" can never, never possess? Even apart from mere history, places where people have lived and experienced and suffered, always, I think, breathe a certain humanity.... And I would rather, for my part, have a dinner of herbs in Gray's Inn, in a low-roofed panelled parlour, with windows open on to the green enclosure below, than enjoy all the dainties of the clubs in a "Palace Mansions," with all the newest electric appliances.... I would rather hear the dim echoes of the past in the rustle of the Gray's Inn elm-trees, or the plash of the Temple Fountain, than boast of a theatre agency next door, or live in a West End street of ever so desirable people.... I would rather breathe the sweet and solitary content of a City quadrangle, than the fevered and stormy dissipation of Mayfair ... I would rather....

But the day darkens, and reminds me that I have wandered long enough in these City closes. Farewell, old Inns! haunts of ancient peace, goodnight! You will, surely, not always remain as you have been in the past. For some of you, that all-invading iconoclast, the builder, will alter and destroy old landmarks; for others, but few springs, maybe, will return to awake and gladden you into green beauty of plane and elm. Yet, even then, the memories of past glories will haunt the sacred place, and fill it with "a diviner air"; even then, will surely never wholly be abolished or destroyed those traditions of former greatness that

"-like the actions of the just,

Smell sweet, and blossom in the dust."

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