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At the dissolution Abbot Boston was rewarded for his facile resignation by being made dean of the college which was established in place of the monastery. In 1541 a bishopric of Westminster was formed, with Middlesex as a diocese, but it was of short existence, for Mary refounded the monastery, and Elizabeth turned her attention entirely to the college, which she re-established under a dean and twelve secular canons.
No one can understand Westminster Abbey, and few can realise its beauties, in a single visit. Too many tombs will produce the same satiety as too many pictures. There can be no advantage, and there will be less pleasure, in filling the brain with a hopeless jumble in which kings and statesmen, warriors, ecclesiastics, and poets, are tossing about together. Even those who give the shortest time to their London sightseeing should pay not fewer than three visits to the Abbey. On the first, unwearied by detail, let them have the luxury of enjoying the architectural beauties of the place, with a general view of the interior, the chapter-house, cloisters, and their monastic surroundings. On the second let them study the glorious chapels which surround the choir, and which contain nearly all the tombs of antiquarian or artistic interest. On the third let them labour as far as they can through the mass of monuments which crowd the transepts and nave, which are often mere cenotaphs, and which almost always derive their only interest from those they commemorate. These three visits may enable visitors to see Westminster Abbey, but it will require many more to know it-visits at all hours of the day to drink in the glories of the light and shadow in the one great church of England which retains its beautiful ancient colouring undestroyed by so-called “restoration' -visits employed in learning the way by which the minster has grown, arch upon arch, and monument upon monument; and other visits given to studying the epitaphs on the tombs, and considering the reminiscences they awaken.
Oft let me range the gloomy aisles alone-
And saints, who taught and led the way to heaven.'— Tickell. In approaching the Abbey from Parliament Street, the first portion seen is the richly decorated buttresses of Henry VII.'s Chapel. Then we emerge into the open square which still bears the name of Broad Sanctuary, and have the whole building rising before us.
* That antique pile behold,
The outline of the Abbey is beautifully varied and broken by St. Margaret's Church, which is not only deeply interesting in itself, but is invaluable as presenting the greater edifice behind it in its true proportions. Facing us is the north transept, the front of which, with its niches, rose-window, and its great triple entrance -imitated from French cathedrals—sometimes called Solomon's Porch,' is the richest part of the building externally, and a splendid example of the pointed style. A round window, however, introduced in a recent restoration,' is very destructive to history; though the series of English saints, bishops, abbots of Westminster, and other benefactors to the Abbey, has much interest. Beyond the feeble towers, usually attributed to Wren, though possibly the work of Hawksmoor, is the low line of grey wall which indicates the Jerusalem Chamber.
Facing the Abbey, on the left, are Westminster Hall and the Houses of Parliament, which occupy the site of the ancient palace of our sovereigns. Leaving these and St. Margaret's for a later chapter, let us proceed at once to enter the Abbey.
The nave and transepts are open free; a fee of sixpence (except on Monday and Tuesday) is asked for entering the chapels surrounding the choir.
Hours of divine service, 7.45 A.M., 10 A.M., and 3 P.M. From the first Sunday after Easter till the last Sunday in July there is a special evening service with a sermon in the nave at 7 P.M. Vox quidem dissona, sed una religio,' was the maxim of Dean Stanley in his choice of the preachers for the services.
Three miles of hot water completely warm the Abbey in winter, Behind the rich lacework of Henry VII.'s Chapel, and under one of the grand flying buttresses of the Chapter-House, through a passage hard by which Chaucer lived, we reach the door of the Poet's Corner, where Queen Caroline vainly knocked for admission to share in the coronation of her husband George IV. This is the door by which visitors generally enter the Abbey.
“The moment I entered Westminster Abbey, I felt a kind of awe pervade my mind which I cannot describe; the very silence seemed sacred.'—Edmund Burke.
'On entering, the magnitude of the building breaks fully upon the mind. The eye gazes with wonder at clustered columns of gigantic dimensions, with arches springing from them to such an amazing height. It seems as if the awful nature of the place presses down upon the soul, and hushes the beholder into noiseless reverence. We feel that we are surrounded by the congregated bones of the great men of past times, who have filled history with their deeds, and earth with their renown.'Washington Irving:
'In Westminster Abbey one thinks not of the builder; the religion of the place makes the first impression.'-Horace Walpole.
'How reverend is the face of this tall pile,
'Here, where the end of earthly things
Oh, here let prejudice depart!'-Walter Scott. * This is the consecrated temple of reconciled ecclesiastical enmities. Here the silence of death breathes the lesson which the tumult of life hardly suffered to be heard.'— Dean Stanley.
*No monument has ever been more identified with the history of a people; every one of its stones represents a page in the annals of the country.'--Comte de Moritalembert.
'In the chambers of the dead, in the temple of fame, no less than in the house of our Heavenly Father, there are indeed“, many mansions,” many stages, many degrees. Each human soul that is gifted above its fellows, leaves, as it passes out of the world, a light of its own, that no other soul, whether more or less greatly gifted, could give equally. As each lofty peak in some mountain country is illuminated with a different hue of its own by the setting sun, so also each of the higher summits of human society is lit up by the sunset of life with a different colour, derived, it may be, from the materials of which it is composed, or from the relative position which it occupies, but each, to those who can discern it rightly, conveying a new and separate lesson of truth, of duty, of wisdom, and of hope.'-Dean Stanley, Sermon on the Death of Lord Palmerston.
'Incongruity among things beautiful in themselves is the very first element of the picturesque. As it is, though Westminster Abbey has suffered much, and is suffering more, at the hands of the niodern“ restorer,” its delightsul want of uniformity is not, and can scarcely ever be, overcome.'—W. J. Loftie.
The name Poet's Corner, as applied to the southern end of the south transept, is first mentioned by Goldsmith. The attraction to the spot as the burial-place of the poets arose from its containing the grave of Chaucer, 'the father of English poets,' whose tomb, though it was not. erected till more than a hundred years after his death (1551), is the only ancient monument in the transept. Here, as Addison says, 'there are many poets who have no monuments, and many monuments which have no poets.' Though many of the later monuments are only cenotaphs, they are still for the most part interesting as portraying those they commemorate. That which strikes every one is the wonderful beauty of the colouring in the interior, Architects will pause to admire the Purbeck marble columns with their moulded, not sculptured, capitals; the beauty of the triforium arcades, their richness so greatly enhanced by the wall-surface above being covered with a square diaper; the noble rose-windows; and above all, the perfect proportions of the whole. But no knowledge of architecture is needed for the enjoyment of the colouring, of the radiant hues of the stained glass, which enhances the depth of the shadows amid the time-stained arches, and floods the roof and its beautiful tracery with light.
Few, however, among the hundreds who visit it daily are led to the Abbey by its intrinsic beauty, but rather because it is the silent meeting place of the great dead of eight centuries'—the burial-place of those of her sons whom, at different times of her taste and judgment, England has delighted to honour with sepulture in the great temple of silence and reconciliation, where the enmities of twenty generations lie buried.'1
'Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us. The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through his great power from the beginning. Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding. Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent in their instructions. Such as found out musical tunes, and recited verses in writing : rich men furnished with ability, living peaceably in their habitations. All these were honoured in their generation, and were the glory of their times. Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name liveth for evermore.'-Ecclus. xliv. 1-7, 14.
When I am in a serious humour, I very often walk by myself in Westminster Abbey, where the gloominess of the place, and the use to which it is applied, with the solemnity of the building, and the condition of the people who lie in it, are apt to fill the mind with a kind of melancholy, or rather thoughtfulness that is not disagreeable.
When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tombstone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tomb of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow. When I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates of the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and some six hundred years ago, I consider that great day when we shall all of us be contemporaries, and make our appearance together.'-Addison, ‘Spectator, No. 26.
'Death openeth the gate to good fame, and extinguisheth envy; above all, believe it, when a man hath obtained worthy ends and expectations, the sweetest canticle is “Nunc Dimittis."'-Lord Bacon.
'O eloquent, just, and mighty Death! whom none could advise, thou hast persuaded; what none hath dared, thou hast done; and whom all the world hath flattered, thou only hast cast out of the world and despised; thou hast drawn together all the far-stretched greatness, all the pride, cruelty, and ambition of man, and covered it all over with these two words, Hlic jacet.'-Sir W. Raleigh, “History of the World.'
"The best of men are but men at the best.'-General Lambert.
Those who look upon the tombs of the poets can scarcely fail to observe, with surprise, how very few are commemorated here whose works are now read, how many whose very existence is generally forgotten.?
I have always observed that the visitors to the Abbey remain longest about the simple memorials in Poet's Corner. A kinder and fonder feeling takes the place of that cold curiosity or vague admiration with which they gaze on the splendid monu. ments of the great and the heroic. They linger about these as about the tombs of friends and companions.'-Washington Irving, 'The Sketch-Book.'
2. We look in vain for any monuments to Sir Philip Sidney, Christopher Marlowe, Robert Southwell, John Donne, Thomas Carew, Philip Massinger, Sir John Suckling, George Sandys, Francis Quarles, Thomas Heywood, Richard Lovelace, Robert Herrick, George Wither, Henry Vaughan, Andrew Marvell, Thomas Otway, Izaak Walton, Thomas Parnell, Edmund Waller, William Somerville, William Collins, Edward Moore, Allan Ramsay, William Shenstone, William Falconer, Mark Akenside, Thomas Chatterton, Tobias Smollett, Thomas Wharton, James Beattie, James Hogg, George Crabbe, Felicia Hemans, L. E. Landon, and John Keats Even the far greater memories of Walter Scott, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Walter Savage Landor are unrepresented. Stained windows are supposed to commemorate George Herbert and William Cowper.
Beginning to the right from the entrance, we_find_the_pionuments of
Michael Drayton, author of the 'Polyolbion,' who 'exchanged his laurell for a crowne of glory' in 1631. His bust was erected here by Anne Clifford. 'Dorset, Pembroke, and Montgomery.'
* Doe pious marble ! let thy readers knowe
An everlasting monument to thee.'
"Mr. Marshall, the stone-cutter of Fetter Lane, told me that these verses were made by Mr. Francis Quarles, who was his great friend. 'Tis pity they should be lost. Mr. Quarles was a very good man.'-Aubrey.
“There is probably no poem of this kind in any other language comparable together in extent and excellence to the Polyolbion. Yet perhaps no English poem, known as well by name, is so little known beyond its name.'-Hallam.
Barton Booth, the actor, 1733, with a medallion. Being educated at Westminster, where he was the favourite of Dr. Busby, he was first induced to take to the stage by the admiration he excited while acting when a schoolboy in one of Terence's plays. He was the original 'Cato' in Addison's play.
John Philips, 1708, buried at Hereford, an author whose once celebrated poem, "The Splendid Shilling,' is now almost forgotten. Milton was his model, and 'whatever there is in Milton which the reader wishes away, all that is obsolete, peculiar, or licentious, is accumulated with great care by Philips.'1 The monument was erected by the poet's friend, Sir Simon Harcourt. The epitaph is attributed to Dr. Smalridge. The line, ‘Uni Miltono secundus, primoque paene par,' was effaced under Dean Sprat, not because of its almost profane arrogance, but because the royalist Dean would not allow even the name of the regicide Milton to appear within the Abbey-it was '100 detestable to be read on the wall of a building dedicated to devotion. The line was restored under Dean Atterbury:2. Philip's poem of 'Cyder' is commemorated in the bower of apple entwined with laurel which encircles his bust, and the inscription, ‘Honos erat huic quoque
Pomo.' Geoffrey Chaucer, 1400. A grey marble altar-tomb, with a canopy, which was added by an admirer, one Nicholas Brigham, in the reign of Edward VI. This "Maister Chauce the Flour of Poetes is chiefly known from his 'Canterbury Tales,' by which a company of pilgrims, who meet at the Tabard Inn in Southwark on their way to the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket, are supposed to beguile their journey. The fortunes of Chaucer followed those of John of Gaunt, who married the sister of the poet's wise, Philippa de Rouet, and he was at one time imprisoned for his championship of the followers of Wycliffe. He was buried 'in the Abbey of Westminster, before the chapel of St. Bennet.'3 The window above the tomb was erected to the poet's memory in 1868.
'Chaucer lies buried in the south aisle of St. Peter's, Westminster, and now hath got the company of Spenser and Drayton, a pair royal of poets, enough almost to make passengers' feet to move metrically, who go over the place where so much poetical dust is interred.'— Fuller.
Near the tomb of Chaucer, Robert Browning was buried, 1889, and Alfred Lord Tennyson in 1892.
Abraham Cowley, 1667. The monument stands above the grave of the poet, and was erected by George Villiers, second Duke of Buckingham. Dean Sprat wrote
1 Johnson's Lives of the Poets.
2 Ibid. 3 Çaxton, in his ed, of Chaucer's trans, of Boethius.