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AMPTHILL. writings, will be heightened to the friends of virtue, by the reflection, that excellent as they appear, they were surpassed by the gentleness, the benevolence, and the sanctity of his life.” To you, my dear young friend, this mention of CowPER calls for no apology. When under my care, you well recollect reading the effusions of his Muse with delight. I then pointed him out to you as the poet of Freedom and of Christianity.
In reaching Newport I should have mentioned that I left on the right the little town of Ampthill, noted for having been the residence of Catherine, wife of Henry the Eighth, during the time her unjust divorce was in agitation. This event is commemorated by the following inscription on a column, where the old castle stood. The column itself cost above one hundred pounds, and the lines were written by Horace Walpole;
In days of old here Ampthill's towers were seen,
About seven in the evening we reached Northampton, passing by a fine Gothic edifice called Queen's Cross, within a mile of the town. It was erected by King Edward the First, to the memory of his beloved Queen Eleanor: who, when her husband was wounded by a Moor, in his expe
165 dition to the Holy Land, (1272,) she sucked the venom out of the wound, by which Edward was cured, and she escaped unhurt! The Queen died at Herdley, Lincolnshire, Nov. 29, 1290. The body was carried for interment to Westminster Abbey, and at every place where the procession had rested, King Edward caused one of these pillars or crosses to be erected.
It is pleasing to observe the tender affections operating on the higher classes of society. Amidst the pageantry of their station, they remain susceptible of mutual attachments, and when broken by death, are obliged to have recourse to the elegy and sepulchral column in order to assuage the common sorrows of mortality! In Woodward's Eccentric Excursions, travellers plodding knee-deep in the Wooburn sands, as well as antiquarians, &c. peeping at this cross, are represented in an attitude calculated to excite our risibility!
Northampton is a neat town, situated on the banks of the Nen: The market-place is spacious, and is reckoned one of the handsomest in Europe. All Saints church stands in the centre of the town, making a prominent appearance, the portico being supported by twelve columns of the Ionic order; and a statue of King Charles the Second ornaments the ballustrade. The interior of the church is neat, and decorated with several monuments. The figures of Moses and Aaron, near the altar, are entitled to attention.
To the church of All Saints, already mentioned, attaches an humorous anecdote of Cowper the
NORTHAMPTON. poet, told by himself in a letter to a friend, in these words. It is here introduced, because it displays the cheerfulness of his temper, though at other times awfully depressed by derangement: « On Monday morning last, Sam brought me word that there was a man in the kitchen who desired to speak with me. I ordered him in. A plain decent elderly figure made its appearance, and, being desired to sit, spoke as follows:- Sir, I am clerk of the parish of All Saints, Northampton, brother of Mr. C. the upholsterer. It is customary for the person in my office to annex to a bill of mortality which he publishes at Christmas a copy of verses—you would do me a great favour, Sir, if you would furnish me with one.' To this I replied, “Mr. C. you have several men of genius in your town, why have you not applied to some of them? There is a namesake of yours in particular, C the statuary, who, every body knows, is a first-rate maker of verses; he surely of all the world is the man for your purpose.' • Alas! Sir, I have heretofore borrowed help from him; but he is a gentleman of so much reading, that the people of our town cannot understand him.' I confess to you, my dear Sir, that I felt all the force of the compliment implied in this speech, and was almost ready to answer, Perhaps, my good friend, they may find me unintelligible too for the same reason. But on asking him whether he had walked over to Weston on purpose to implore the assistance of my Muse, and on his replying in the affirmative, I felt my mortified
167 vanity a little consoled, and pitying the poor man's distress, which appeared to be considerable, promised to supply him;—the waggon has accordingly gone this day to Northampton, loaded in part with my effusions in the mortuary style. A fig for poets who write epitaphs upon individuals, I have written one that serves two hundred persons !” These famous lines may be seen subjoined to an edition of Cowper's Poems, lately published.
St. Sepulchre's church, at the northern extremity of the town, close to the road which leads to Market Harborough, is worthy of examination. It is very ancient, and built after the form of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. A singular circumstance took place there a few years ago. During the service one morning, a noise was heard beneath a pew, which increasing, the people rushed out of the church, and the good parson coming down from the pulpit, ran after them! The bottom of the pew was taken up, but nothing was to be seen: some thought the disturbance was raised by the spirit of a gentleman buried near the spot - whilst others were of opinion, that Satan had hit upon this wicked trick to put an end to their devotions! Probably some vermin wanted the riot act read to them; though it is singular that they should have been troublesome only on this occasion.
The County Infirmary, also, is entitled to attention. The wards are so neat and convenient, the whole building so clean and airy, that it deserves a high degree of commendation. The common
NORTHAMPTON. hall, where the assizes are held, is spacious and well adapted for the purpose. The prison being adjoining, the culprit reaches the bar by means of a subterraneous communication. Upon the bar is à species of iron machinery resembling an handcuff, which is used for inflicting the punishment of burning the hand! On the instrument is this motto -Come not here again-an admonition one would think scarcely necessary for an individual who had once undergone so painful an operation. It seems, indeed, to intimate, either that the punishment itself was not adapted to answer its end, or that human depravity is seldom eradicated. Besides the churches already mentioned, there are two others; one with a handsome square tower, the other with an antique appearance; there are likewise two Independent Meeting-houses, and one belonging to the Baptists.
A little out of the town is Becket' s well, a fine spring of water; but I could not ascertain why it was thus denominated. Close to it is a beautiful walk, overlooking the meadows, through which the river Nen winds itself in gentle evolutions. The streets of Northampton are regular, and the houses possess uniformity. In one of the streets was shewn me an old edifice, where the original of Richardson's Pamela once lived, for novelists of ability generally draw their portraits from nature, and hence their admirable fidelity. · In the reign of Henry the Third several discontented students from Oxford and Cambridge came and erected a little academy here for every branch