Abbildungen der Seite

the stage, established in the reign of Charles the Second, under the auspices of Col. William Legge, groom of the bedchamber to that monarch, and uncle to the first Lord Dartmouth. Dryden speaks of it in his “Mac Flecknoe:

“ Near these a Nursery erects its head,

Where Queens are formed, and future heroes bred;
Where unfledged actors learn to laugh and cry,
Where infant punks their tender voices try,
And little Maximins the gods defy :
Great Fletcher never treads in buskins here,
Nor greater Jonson dares in socks appear."

In Pepys's “ Diary” are the following notices of the Nursery :

“2 Aug., 1664. To the King's Playhouse, and there I chanced to sit by Tom Killigrew, who tells me that he is setting up a Nursery; that is, going to build a house in Moorfields, wherein he will have common plays acted.”

24 Feb., 1667–68. To the Nursery, where none of us ever were before; where the house is better and the music better than we looked for, and the acting not much worse, because I expected as bad as could be ; and I was not much mistaken, for it was so. Their play was a bad one, called Jeronimo is mad again,' a tragedy.”



Smithfield Cattle-market in Former Times the Place for Tour.

naments, Trials by Battle, Executions, and Autos-da-Fe — Tournaments before Edward the Third and Richard the Second — Trials by Duel between Catour and Davy, and the Bastard of Burgundy and Lord Scales — Remarkable Executions — Persons Who Suffered Martyrdom in the Flames at Smithfield - Interview There between Wat Tyler and Richard the Second - Sir William Walworth.

SMITHFIELD, corrupted from Smoothfield, continued to be used for the purposes of a cattle-market for nearly seven centuries. Fitzstephen, in his account of London written before the twelfth century, describes it as a plain field, where, every Friday, a number of valuable horses were exposed for sale. “ Thither," he says, “come to look, or buy, a great number of earls, barons, knights, and a swarm of citizens. It is a pleasing sight to behold the ambling nags and generous colts proudly prancing."

Shakespeare has an allusion to the sale of horses in Smithfield :

Falstaff. Where's Bardolph?

Page. He's gone in to Smithfield to buy your worship a horse.


Falstaff. I bought him in Paul's, and he'll buy me a horse in Smithfield : an I could but get me a wife in the stews, I were manned, horsed, and wived."

- King Henry IV., Part II., Act i. Sc. 2.

With the exception of the Tower and of the old Palace and Abbey of Westminster, there is no spot in London the history of which is so chequered, or which has witnessed scenes of such deep and varied interest as Smithfield. Here, in the days of our Norman sovereigns, the citizens and apprentices contended in their manly exercises. Here were held those gorgeous tournaments, when the vast area was a scene of glittering armour, streaming pennons, and balconies covered with cloth of gold. Here was the Tyburn of London, where the most atrocious criminals expiated their crimes on the gibbet. Here perished the patriot Wallace, and the gentle Mortimer. Here were held the trials by duel so famous in history. Here, at the dawn of the Reformation, took place those terrible autos-da-, at which our forefathers earned their crowns of martyrdom ; and, lastly, from the days of Henry the Second to our own time, here were annually celebrated the orgies and humours of Bartholomew Fair, immortalised by the wit of Ben Jonson and by the pencil of Hogarth.

Many remarkable tournaments are recorded as having taken place at Smithfield, especially during the reign of Edward the Third. Here that war

like monarch frequently entertained with feats of arms his illustrious captives, the Kings of France and Scotland ; and here, in 1374, toward the close of his long reign, the doting monarch sought to gratify his beautiful mistress, Alice Pierce, by rendering her the “observed of all observers" at one of the most magnificent tournaments of which we have any record. Gazing with rapture on her transcendant beauty, he conferred on her the title of “Lady of the Sun," and taking her by the hand in all the blaze of jewels and loveliness, conducted her from the royal apartments in the Tower in a triumphal chariot, in which he took his place by her side. Accompanying them was a procession consisting of the rank and beauty of the land, each lady being mounted on a beautiful palfrey, and having her bridle held by a knight on horseback.

A no less magnificent tournament, to which invitations had been sent to the flower of chivalry at all the courts of Europe, was held at Smithfield in the succeeding reign of Richard the Second. The opening of the festivities, which lasted several days, is graphically painted by Froissart, who was not improbably a witness of the gorgeous scene. At three o'clock on the Sunday after Michaelmas day the ceremony began. Sixty horses in rich trappings, each mounted by an esquire of honour, were seen advancing in a stately pace from the Tower of London. Sixty ladies of rank, dressed in the richest elegance of the day, followed

on their palfreys one after another, each leading by a silver chain a knight completely armed for tilting. Minstrels and trumpets accompanied them to Smithfield amidst the shouting population. There the queen and her fair train received them. The ladies dismounted, and withdrew to their allotted seats, while the knights mounted their steeds, laced their helmets, and prepared for the encounter. They tilted at each other till dark. They all then adjourned to a sumptuous banquet, and dancing consumed the night till fatigue compelled every one to seek repose. The next day the warlike sport recommenced. Many were unhorsed; many lost their helmets, but they all persevered with eager courage and emulation, till night again sum moned them to their supper, dancing, and concluding rest. The festivities were again repeated on the third day.” The court subsequently removed to Windsor, where King Richard renewed his splendid hospitalities, and at their conclusion dismissed his foreign guests with many valuable presents.

Appeals to arms in cases of disputed guilt, or, as they were styled, trials by battle, were, as has been already mentioned, anciently accustomed to take place at Smithfield. The amusing combat between Horner and Peter, in the second part of Henry the Sixth, was borrowed by Shakespeare on a real fact related both by Grafton and Holinshed. A master armourer of the name of William Catour,

« ZurückWeiter »