Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

“The people, who now walked about the ruins, appeared like men in some dismal desert, or rather in some great city laid waste by a cruel enemy, to which was added the stench that came from some poor creatures' bodies, beds, and other combustible goods. Sir Thomas Gresham's statue, though fallen from its niche in the Royal Exchange, remained entire, when all those of the kings since the Conquest were broken to pieces; also the standard in Cornhill, and Queen Elizabeth's effigies, with some arms on Ludgate, continued with but little detriment; whilst the vast iron chains of the city streets, hinges, bars, and gates of prisons, were many of them melted and reduced to cinders by the vehement heat. Nor was I yet able to pass through any of the narrower streets, but kept the widest. The ground and air, smoke and fiery vapour, continued so intense, that my hair was almost singed, and my feet insufferably surbated. The by-lanes and narrower streets were quite filled up with rubbish, nor could one have possibly known where he was, but by the ruins of some church or hall that had some remarkable tower or pinnacle remaining. I then went toward Islington and Highgate, where one might have seen two hundred thousand people, of all ranks and degrees, dispersed and lying along by their heaps of what they could save from the fire, deploring their loss; and though ready to perish for hunger and destitution, yet not asking one penny for relief, which

[ocr errors]

yet beheld.

to me appeared a stranger sight than any I had

His Majesty and Council, indeed, took all imaginable care for their relief, by proclamation for the country to come in, and refresh them with provisions.”

The manner in which the fire of London originated is still a mystery. The person most likely to throw a light on the subject was Farryner, the baker, in whose house in Pudding Lane it broke out. When examined, however, before a committee of the House of Commons, all he could state was, that, according to his usual custom, he had visited every part of his house at twelve o'clock at night, at which hour everything appeared to be in perfect security. Only in one of the grates, he affirmed, was there any fire, which he raked out, and as the room was paved with bricks, he considered it utterly impossible that the conflagration could have been caused by the smouldering embers.

Prompted by rage and bigotry, general opinion attributed the fire to the Roman Catholics, though for what purpose they should have been the incendiaries does not appear.

The strictest possible scrutiny was subsequently carried on by a parliamentary committee, without in any degree implicating them; and yet, in deference to popular prejudice, the government, after a lapse of fifteen years, most unfairly permitted the following inscription to be engraved on the monument :

[ocr errors]

“ This pillar was set up in perpetual remembrance of that most dreadful burning of this Protestant city, begun and carried on by the treachery and malice of the Popish faction, in the beginning of September, in the year of our Lord, 1666, in order to the carrying on their horrid plot for extirpating the Protestant religion, and Old English liberty, and the introducing Popery and Slavery."

It is needless to remark that it is to the calumny contained in this inscription that Pope, himself a Roman Catholic, alludes in the wellknown couplet which we have already quoted.

At the accession of James the Second, the obnoxious inscription was by his orders effaced. King William, however, permitted it to be restored after the Revolution, but it now no longer disgraces the noble column, having been erased by an act of common council, on the 26th January, 1831.

The total damage which the city sustained by the fire was computed at no less than £10,716,000. Fearful, however, as was the calamity, it proved in the end a blessing. For centuries past, the plague had continued lurking in the obscure and filthy allies of the city, periodically bursting forth from its lurking-places, and committing the most frightful ravages; and accordingly, to obviate this evil, the new streets were made wider, and the inhabitants admitted to the blessings of light and air. The consequence has been the total disappearance of the plague in London since the great fire.

A few words remain to be said respecting the monument on Fish Street Hill. This fine column, which is of the Doric order, measures 202 feet in height, being twenty-four feet higher than Trajan's Pillar at Rome. It was commenced by Sir Christopher Wren in 1671, and completed in 1677, at an expense of £13,700. The staircase in the interior consists of 345 steps. On the west side of the pedestal is a bas-relief, — the work of Caius Gabriel Cibber, the father of the poet, - in which the principal figure is a female, representing the city of London, lamenting over a heap of ruins. Behind her is Time, gradually raising her up; and at her side is the figure of Providence, who gently touches her with one hand, while with a winged sceptre in the other she directs her attention to two goddesses in the clouds, — one holding a cornucopia, the emblem of plenty; the other holding a branch of the palm-tree, the emblem of peace. At her feet is a beehive, denoting that industry is the source of wealth, and that the greatest misfortunes may be overcome by perseverance and application. In another part is a view of the city in flames; the inhabitants being represented in great consternation, lifting up their hands to heaven and invoking its mercy.

On a raised platform, opposite to the burning city, stands the figure of Charles the Second, in a Roman habit, with a truncheon in his hand, invoking Liberty, Architecture, and Science to descend to the aid of

the city.

Behind the king stands his brother, the Duke of York, holding a garland in one hand to crown the rising city, and a sword in the other for her defence. The three other sides of the base of the column contain Latin inscriptions; the one on the north detailing the extent and particulars of the conflagration ; that on the south explaining the measures taken under the auspices of Charles the Second for rebuilding and rebeautifying the city. On the east side are the names of the lord mayors who were in office during the period the column was in course of erection.'

The compliments paid to Charles, both in the bas-relief and in the inscriptions, are not greater than he deserved. His personal exertions during the progress of the conflagration, and the interest which he subsequently took in the sufferings of his subjects, were certainly highly to his credit. Moreover, had the plans been adopted for rebuilding the city which emanated from the genius of Sir Christopher Wren, and which were warmly supported by his royal master, London would unquestionably have been the most stately city in

1“ Six persons have thrown themselves off the monument: William Green, a weaver, June 25, 1750 ; Thomas Cradock, a baker, July 7, 1788; Lyon Levi, a Jew, Jan. 18, 1810; a girl named Moyes, the daughter of a baker in Heminge's Row, Sept. 11, 1839; a boy named Hawes, Oct. 18, 1839; and a girl of the age of seventeen, in August, 1842. This kind of death becoming popular, it was deemed advisable to encage the monument as we now see it."

« ZurückWeiter »