Imatges de pàgina




denial and contempt of the world, which they were so ready to condemn in the monks. They made laws and ordinances to support a new religion, when they could enrich themselves by suppressing the old.“But," continues this able writer," the bright examples of the bishops and clergy who submitted to the flames at that time, will appear more illustrious when it is seen how just and rational was their opposition to the worship then in use, as well as to the doctrine; the first having in it as little of true piety and devotion, as the latter had of reason and revealed truth. It was the blood of those men who could die for the truth, that gave the new Establishment a firm and solid foundation, when neither the will of the Prince nor the laws of his Parliaments could have been able, without that cement, to effect a new construction and edifice."*

The Abbey of St. Albans has the credit of having introduced a printing press soon after the invention of types; and may thus truly be said to have fostered within itself the elements of its own dissolution. One of the first works issued was by the lady prioress of the adjacent nunnery of Sopwell, Dame Juliana Berners, who composed several treatises on hawking, hunting, and heraldry, which were so well received that two editions were printed at St. Albans, between 1481 and 1486.

The local scenery around St. Albans is pleasing, occasionally picturesque, and, owing to its including the ancient Verulam, is never without deep interest to all who have a knowledge of ancient history, and a taste for antiquarian research.

The finest point of view is that which was chosen by the artist for the steel engraving, namely—from the south near the walls of the ancient city; the streets of which are still discernible in the green field, by the thin short grass that covers them, and under which the Roman brick yet retains its original bed. A great portion of the ancient substructure, matted with weeds and shaded with trees and brushwood, still invites the curious stranger, and offers him every facility for investigation. But, except the horizontal layers of brick, mortar, and shingle—the brick generally carbonized in the centre—there is nothing left to repay investigation. The soil has been ransacked too effectually by the antiquaries of monastic times to encourage further research; but the situation will please every one who delights in classic associations, while the Abbey, which crowns the adjoining eminence, gives a rich hallowing interest to the whole scene :

• The Rev. Peter Newcome, Rector of Shenley, Herts, whose history of St. Albans is compiled from that of Matthew Paris and Walsingham (both monks of this Abbey, and men of undoubted veracity), and

from numerous MSS. in the Cotton Library, Harleian Collection, &c. &c. London, printed for the author, 1793, 4to. pp. 547.

" Whose Norman tower lifts its pinnacled spire:

Where the long Abbey-aisle extends,
And battled roof o'er roof ascends;
Cornered with buttresses shapely and tall,

That sheltered the Saint in canopied stall.” There is no single object, however, after the Abbey, half so attractive as the old church of St. Michael's, the sacred repository of the great

Lord Bacon. It is built within the precincts of the ancient city, and, crowning a gentle undulation of the surface, forms a beautiful feature in the landscape. The interior still preserves its simple antique appearance, and is rich in sepulchral objects. It was founded about

the middle of the tenth century, by Abbot Ulsinus ; and its massive piers and plain semicircular arches still show unquestionable evidence of the original Saxon architecture. It is kept remarkably neat, and has, what we have rarely observed in other churches, small fire-places in several of the family pews.

But the tomb and statue of Bacon soon arrest the eye, and claim, for a time, the stranger's undivided attention. The statue we need not describe ; it speaks for itself in the beauty of the sculpture, and in the classic elegance of the inscription. But how appropriate are these lines :

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


• Unfit to stand the civil storm of state,
And through the rude barbarity of courts,
With firm but pliant virtue, forward still
To urge his course; him for the studious shade
Kind nature form'd, deep, comprehensive, clear,
Exact and elegant; in one rich soul,
Plato, the Stagyrite, and Tully joined.
The great deliverer he! who, from the gloom
Of cloister'd monks, and jargon-teaching schools,
Led forth the truc Philosophy, there long
Held in the magic chain of words and forms.”—THOMSON.

Lord Bacon, “the illustrious subject of the following inscription, was the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, lord-keeper of the great seal under Elizabeth, who




was married to Anne, daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, a lady of the most profound erudition and brilliant talents. Francis, the illustrious son of such distinguished parents, was born in the year 1560, and even in his infancy gave indications of the most uncommon abilities, united with the greatest and most unwearied assiduity in the pursuit of knowledge and investigation of truth; his cleverness gained him, even in his earliest youth, the admiration of Elizabeth. At Cambridge, where he completed his education, his talents obtained universal applause. While prosecuting his studies at the university, he detected the fallacies of the then customary mode of philosophizing, which at a more mature age he published to the world, and laid down those laws which opened the way to all the brilliant and surprising discoveries of modern days. His university education being completed, he commenced his travels, from which the unexpected death of his father suddenly recalled him; upon which he applied himself to the study of the common law, at Gray's Inn, and soon elevated him- NOTIORIBUS TITULIS. SCIENTIARUM LUMEN. FACUNDIE LEX. BIO self to the highest dignities of his profession. But his character was not without a blemish — humanum est errare;' and even the illustrious Bacon fell from the giddying height he had so proudly attained. After his disgrace, he applied himself wholly to literary and philosophical pursuits, enriching the world with his discoveries, and enlightening it by his reasonings. His love for philosophy was the immediate cause of his death, of which the following narrative is given by Aubrey, in his MSS., which are now deposited in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford :

“The cause of his lordship's death was trying an experiment as he was taking the aire in the coach with Dr. Witherborne, a Scotchman, physitian to




H. P. *

• Sir Thomas Meautys, who erected the monument, faithful services to him through all his troubles, and at was Lord Bacon's private secretary. He continued his his death inherited as next heir the family possessions.


the king, towards Highgate : snow lay upon the ground, and it came into my lord's thoughts, why flesh might not be preserved in snow, as in salt. They were resolved they would try the experiment presently. They alighted out of the coach, and went into a poor woman's house at the bottome of Highgatehill, and bought a hen, and made the woman exenterate it, and then stuffed the body with snow; and my lord did help to do it himself. The snow so chilled him he immediately fell so ill, that he could not return to his lodgings (I suppose then at Gray's Inn), but went to the Earl of Arundell's house at Highgate, where they put him into a good bed, warmed with a panne; but it was a damp bed, that had not been lain in for about a yeare before, which gave him such a cold, that in two or three days, as I remember he told me, he died of suffocation.”—Topographical Library, page 113-5.

Sopwell Nunnery is thus described in the History of the Abbey. It was founded by “Abbot Geoffry about 1140, on his observing two poor women dwelling there in a wretched hut of their own constructing, and living a most austere life on bread and water, and in regular devotion to God. Their piety induced him to build a house for their comfortable living; and to bestow on them some possessions. He appointed also a chapel and a church-yard; ordaining that none should be buried there except the nuns; none to be admitted into that house but maidens; and the number not to exceed thirteen.

“Henry de Albini or Albeney, of the house of Todenei, gave to this house two hides of land, with his wife's consent, in their manor of Cotes, in Beaulieu. His son Robert, and his mother Cicely, gave a rood more, in the same manor. Richard de Tany, or Todenei, gave them the land called Black hides in Ridge parish.

“ Abbot Michael, about 1338, ordained certain rules for the regulation of this house, and enjoined a better order and observance than they had before practised. They are as follows: 1. That the commemoration of St. Alban should be kept as usual. 2. That no more than three nuns should sit in the chapter. 3. That silence be observed, as by the rule of St. Benedict, in the church or chapel, in the cloister, in the refectory, and the dormitory. 4. That a little bell do ring in the morning, as notice to rise and appear; and that none leave the dormitory before the bell rings. 5. That the garden door be not opened (for walking) before the hour of prime, or first hour of devotion; and in summer, that the garden and the parlour doors be not opened until the hour of none (nine) in the morning; and to be always shut when the corfue rings. 6. That no sister hold conversation in the parlour without her cowl on, and her face covered with her veil. 7. That tailors, or other artists, be persons of good character, but to work in some place assigned them without the monastery; and never to be admitted into chambers or other private places.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

8. That if any sister be under a sentence of penance, this shall not exclude her from the duties of the church. 9. The sick to be kept in the infirmary. 10. No nun to lodge out of the house; and no guest within it. 11. All the sisters to be present at the mass of our Lady.”—History of St. Albans, page 468.


Returning from the ruins of Sopwell, we take a parting view of the great west entrance to the Abbey Church, the principal features of which we have already noticed, page 94. The ground in front of the porch is entirely occupied as a public cemetry; but none of its sepulchral antiquities are of a character to demand particular notice as works of art.

The ceremony represented in the woodcut is the “distribution of alms,” which usually took place at the church door, on particular festivals, when "giveale” and the “dole” drew together the neighbouring poor. The "give-ale,” so called, was distributed on anniversaries, often with bread and other dole, to the poor, for which purpose land had been left to the church by the person whose birth-day, saint's-day, or burial-day, was to be commemorated. Anniversaries were sometimes kept on the birth-day of a donor, during his life-time, or on the saint's-day of the church where it was appointed. The doles of money and bread were distributed at some altar in the church, or at the tomb of a deceased benefactor. The "give-ale,” being chiefly allotted to great festivals, was usually distributed in the church-porch, where the people assembled, and where they sometimes remained wassailing in the church-yard till it became a scene of merriment and tumult. Some of these anniversaries, as it is well

« AnteriorContinua »