Page images

one of her favourite places of residence. In her reign Eric IV., king of Sweden, was lodged there. Queen Elizabeth ended her days at Richmond Palace, on the 24th March, 1603.

“In the autumn of that year, the Court of Exchequer, the Court of Chancery, and other public courts, were removed to Richmond, on account of the plague. The same precaution was taken in 1625. Henry, prince of Wales, resided there in 1605. It is probable that Charles I. was frequently at this palace, where he formed a large collection of pictures. In the year 1636, a masque was performed before the king and queen at Richmond, by Lord Buckhurst and Edward Sackville. When the king was in Scotland in 1641, the Parliament ordered that the young prince should be sent to Richmond with his governor, probably Bishop Duppa, who is said to have educated Charles II. at this place. In the month of June 1647, Richmond was prepared by order of Parliament for the king's reception, but he refused to go thither. A newspaper of the 29th August in that year mentions, that the Prince Elector was then at Richmond, and that the king, with the Duke of York and the lords, hunted in the New Park, and killed a stag and a buck; ‘his Majesty was very cheerful, and afterwards dined with his children at Syon.””

About a quarter of a mile to the north-west of the old palace, which was described by Holinshed as “perspicuous to all the country round about,” Henry V. endowed a convent of Carthusians. Within the walls of this priory Perkin Warbeck sought an asylum, entreating the prior to beg his life of the king. He was afterwards executed for attempting to break out of the Tower.

The body of the king of Scots, brought from Flodden Field by the victorious Earl of Surrey, was said to have been conveyed to the monastery at Sheen, where it lay for a considerable time unburied. Stow says that he saw a body wrapped in lead, and thrown into a lumber room, which he was informed was the Scottish king.

Robert Dudley, son to the Earl of Leicester by Lady Douglas, who assumed the title of Duke of Northumberland, and is remarkable as having been the projector of the port of Leghorn, was born at East Sheen; the earl being then suitor to the Countess of Essex, concealed the birth of his son with great secrecy, and ever afterwards refused to acknowledge him.

The priory of East Sheen was granted by Charles I. to James Duke of Lennox.


“Sir William Temple appears to have been an under-tenant of these premises before he obtained the lease from the crown. In the year 1666, his lady appears to have been resident at Sheen, during his absence at Brussels. Writing from that place to Lord Lisle the same year he says, that perhaps he may end his life in a corner at Sheen, but he knows his lordship will leave it for some of the great houses that await him. Many of his letters express in the most lively terms, the pleasure which he took in this favourite retirement: 'My heart,' says he, writing to Lord Lisle, August 1667, ‘is so set upon my little corner at Sheen, that while I keep that, no other disappointment will be very sensible to me; and because my wife tells me she is so bold as to enter into talk of enlarging our dominions there, I am contriving this summer how a succession of cherries may be compassed from May to Michaelmas, and how the riches of Sheen vines may be improved by half-adozen sorts which are not known there, and which I think much beyond any that are.' In a letter to his father, November 22, 1670, he thanks him for a present of 5001. towards his intended improvements at Sheen, and tells him, that as he had before resolved to lay out 10001., his present will enable him to extend his improvements to ornament as well as convenience. In the short intervals between his foreign negotiations, this was his constant retreat. 'I spend all the time I possibly can at Sheen,' says he in one of his letters, and never saw anything pleasanter than my garden. Here, in 1672, he wrote his observations on the Netherlands. In the year 1680, he began to reside wholly at Sheen, having retired from public business. After years


gave up this house to his son, and went himself to Moor Park in Surrey. Upon the arrival of the Prince of Orange in England, that place being thought unsafe as lying between the two armies, Sir William returned to Sheen. It was about this time that Swift was taken into his family as an amanuensis. King William, who had known Sir William Temple on the Continent, and had a great esteem for his talents and character, frequently visited him at this place, and pressed him to become his Secretary of State. When his patron was lame with the gout, Swift usually attended his Majesty in his walks round the gardens. The king is said on one of these occasions to have offered to make him a captain of horse, and to have taught him to cut asparagus in the Dutch manner. Here Swift became acquainted with the beautiful and accomplished Stella, who was born at this place, and whose father was Sir William Temple’s steward. She is

a few

said by most writers to have been in her sixteenth year when she first went to Ireland, in 1699: but Deane Swift, the biographer of his relation, says she was eighteen. As her name is not to be found in the parish register, which begins 1682, he probably is right. Sir William Temple left Sheen finally in 1689, and returned to Moor Park.”

The village of Richmond contains nothing worthy of particular observation, if we except the multiplicity of inns for which this place is famous.

Perhaps we ought not to omit the only manufacture of consequence in this village, that of "maids of honour.The tourist will not fail to observe a sign, with the inscription in large letters, “Original shop for maids of honour." These are little round chubby cheesecakes, of a very delicate flavour ; and are said to be prepared after a receipt communicated by one of the maids of honour, in those happy days when ladies of the court had a genius for confectionary; and, instead of cultivating barren accomplishments, such as music or painting, found distinction in the composition of a savoury pie, or employed their fair hands in amalgamating the exquisite ingredients of “ maids of honour."

The church contains a monument with a whimsical epitaph, to the memory of Robert Lawes, Esq., who, though a barrister, “was so great a lover of peace, that when a contention arose between Life and Death, he immediately yielded up the ghost to end the dispute.” This pacific gentleman would appear to have chosen the wrong profession.

In the new buryingground was interred Dr. Moore, author of Zeluco, father of the brave and lamented General Sir John Moore. The Lady Diana Beauclerc, wife of Topham Beauclerc, the friend of Dr. Johnson, a talented and accomplished lady, lies buried here.

In Richmond Church, James Thomson, poet of the Seasons, was buried. Few whose steps are hither led will fail to look upon







The particulars of the life of James Thomson are few and generally known: we need, therefore, only dwell upon them so far as to recall a few particulars concerning him, whose grave we are plating, and whose fame is so widely spread, so permanent, and so well deserved.

James Thomson was the son of a minister of the Established Church of Scotland, and was born in September 1700, at Ednam in Roxburghshire, hard by that pastoral country and that classic river, which have been nursing mothers, as it were, of a long line of poets, from Thomas the Rhymer to Sir Walter Scott.

His early education he received at the town of Jedburgh, not far distant from his birthplace: hence he was removed to Edinburgh, being intended for the church. “He lived at Edinburgh,” says Johnson, “without distinction or expectation, till, at the usual time, he performed a probationary exercise by explaining a psalm. His diction was so poetically splendid, that Mr. Hamilton, the Professor of Divinity, reproved him for speaking language unintelligible to a popular audience. He easily discovered that the only stage on which a poet could appear, with any hope of advantage, was London ; a place too wide for the operation of petty competition and private malignity, where merit might soon become conspicuous, and would find friends as soon as it became reputable to befriend it.”

At his arrival he found his way to a countryman, Mallet the poet, then tutor to the children of the Duke of Montrose. “He had recommendations to several persons of consequence, which he had tied up carefully in his handkerchief ; but as he passed along the street, with the gaping curiosity of a new-comer, his attention was upon everything rather than his pocket, and his magazine of credentials was stolen from him."

Such was the inauspicious entrance of the future eminent author of the “Seasons" into the great metropolis. His first want was, it appears, the want of a pair of shoes, an unpoetical privation, to say the least. To supply this and his other wants, his only resource was his poem of “Winter," which was sold to Millar at a low price. As was his custom, which it will be only charitable to attribute to the man's necessity, and not to any inherent servility of nature, the poet prefixed an abject dedication to Spenser Compton, Earl of Wilmington, who, with proper feeling, took no notice of flattery, which he probably well knew himself to be unworthy, and most likely

would never have troubled himself to inquire whether the author of those fulsome lines were living or dead, if Aaron Hill, a literary Mæcenas of that day, had not acted as his lordship’s “flapper," and gently hinted that the poet had not praised so great a man without the hope of getting something

by it.

Thomson gave the following account of his reception by the great


“I hinted to you in my last that on Saturday morning I was with Sir Spenser Compton. A certain gentleman, without my desire, spoke to him concerning me: his answer was, that I had never come near him. Then the gentleman put the question, if he desired that I should wait on him ? He returned, he did. On this, the gentleman gave me an introductory letter to him. He received me in what they commonly call a civil manner, asked me some commonplace questions, and made me a present of twenty guineas. I am very ready to own that the present was larger than my performance deserved; and shall ascribe it to his generosity, or any other cause, rather than the merit of the address."

The “Winter” made, it would appear, “ glorious summer” of the fortunes of the bard : through the influence of one of his warm admirers, he procured a recommendation to the Lord Chancellor Talbot, with whose son he was sent to travel on the Continent.

His political principles, as evidenced in his poems of Britannia and Liberty, would appear to have been in opposition to the Court, and the minister of the day, Sir Robert Walpole.

The latter poem was dedicated to Frederic, Prince of Wales, with the lavish panegyric of which the poet was so profuse upon all occasions.

The patronage of Lord Chancellor Talbot, who conferred upon Thomson the post of Secretary of the Briefs, gave the poet a decent competence; but at his patron's death, the succeeding Chancellor, not having the consideration to continue unsolicited, the office to a man so deserving, and who had so over-paid in instruction and delight the value of his place, he relapsed once again into his former indigence. Through the influence of Lord Lyttleton, he was now introduced to the Prince of Wales. Having pleasantly told His Royal Highness, in answer to his inquiries as to his circumstances, that "they were in a more poetical posture than formerly,” he had a pension allowed him on the Prince's establishment of a hundred pounds a year.

« PreviousContinue »