Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

To the Middle Temple Gate the following wellknown anecdote attaches a peculiar interest. About the year 1501, when, Cardinal Wolsey, the son of an Ipswich butcher, was merely parson of Lymington—without power and apparently without friends,

- he had been placed in the stocks by Sir Amias Powlet, then a Justice of the Peace, for being drunk and disorderly. Many years afterwards, when Wolsey was in the zenith of his power, he called to mind the indignity to which he had been subjected by the country justice, and accordingly summoning Sir Amias to London, he commanded him not to quit it until further orders. For five or six years the knight resided in apartments over the gate-way. He subsequently rebuilt it at his own expense, and, to gratify the pride of Wolsey, ornamented it with the Cardinal's cap and armorial bearings. This gateway was destroyed by the great Fire of 1666, and in 1684 the present gate was erected by Sir Christopher Wren. The conflagration swept so far westward as to destroy a portion of the buildings of the Temple, but fortunately it spared the stately hall of the Middle Temple, and the still more ancient and interesting church of the Knights Templars. The Inner Temple Gate was erected in 1607.

Let us now turn from the ancient history of the Temple, to recall the names of more than one individual, celebrated in the literary annals of his country, who has lived and laboured within its venerable Courts,

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]



On the 19th of November 1594, we find Sir Julius Cæsar addressing a letter to Sir William More, from the Inner Temple ; and, in Middle Temple Lane, in 1678, was residing Elias Ashmole the antiquary. Anthony Wood mentions that Ashmole's chambers were burnt down in that year, on which occasion his valuable collection of books, coins, and medals, perished in the flames.

In 1683, Thomas Southerne, the dramatic poet, was residing in the Middle Temple, and here he composed his “Disappointment, or, Mother in Fashion,” which was acted at the Theatre Royal in 1684. The gay and handsome dramatist, William Wycherley, was at one period a resident in the Inner Temple; here dwelt another celebrated dramatic writer, Nicholas Rowe; and here also resided, in early life, William Cowper, the poet.

In Paper Buildings, looking towards the garden, were the chambers of the learned John Selden, which were burnt down in the great Fire. . In Elm Court, Lord Keeper Guildford first commenced practice; and in this court the great Lord Somers had chambers. The chambers of John Evelyn, the author of Sylva, were in Essex Court; Lord Thurlow's were in Fig Tree Court; and those of Sir William Jones in Lamb's Buildings.

With the genius and misfortunes of Oliver Goldsmith, the Temple is especially identified. His first residence was in No. 2, Garden Court. The apartments no longer exist, but Nos. 3 and 4 still remain to point out the site of the spot which was once occupied by the poet. From Garden Court, Goldsmith removed to King's Bench Walk, and lastly from thence to No. 2, Brick Court, Inner Temple, where his rooms were on the second floor, on the right-hand side of the staircase. In these apartments he breathed his last, on the 4th of April 1774. In the rooms beneath him lived Sir William Blackstone.

The apartments of Dr. Johnson, in the Temple, were on the first floor in No. 1, Inner Temple Lane, and are associated with more than one anecdote related by his biographer, Boswell. Not the least amusing is the account of the visit which was paid him by the well-known belle-esprit, Madame de Boufflers, in 1763, as related by Topham Beauclerk to Boswell. “ When Madame de Boufflers was first in England,” said Beauclerk, “she was desirous to see Johnson. I accordingly went with her to his chambers in the Temple, where she was entertained with his conversation for some time. When our visit was over, she and I left him, and were got into Inner Temple Lane, when all at once I heard a noise like thunder. This was occasioned by Johnson, who, it seems, upon a little recollection, had taken it into his head that he ought to have done the honours of his literary residence to a foreign lady of quality, and, eager to show himself a man of gallantry, was hurrying down the stair-case in violent agitation. He overtook us before we reached the Temple Gate, and brushing in between me and Madame de Boufflers, seized her hand, and conducted her to her coach. His dress was a dusty brown morning suit, a pair of old shoes by way of slippers, a little shrivelled wig sticking on the top of his head, and the sleeves of his shirt, and the knees of his breeches, hanging loose. A considerable crowd of people gathered round, and were not a little struck by this singular appearance.

Many of our readers, probably, in passing by Dr. Johnson's rooms in Inner Temple Lane, have paused to call to mind the curious scene described by Boswell, when the great philosopher was aroused at night by Beauclerk and Bennet Langton—both of them thirty years younger than himself—and persuaded to join them in a street frolic. “ One night,” says Boswell,“ when Beauclerk and Langton had supped at a tavern in London, and sat till about three in the morning, it came into their heads to go and knock up Johnson, and see if they could prevail on him to join them in a ramble. They rapped violently at the door of his chambers in the Temple, till at last he appeared in his shirt, with his little black wig on the top of his head, instead of a nightcap, and a poker in his hand, imagining, probably, that some ruffians were coming to attack him. When he discovered who they were, and was told their errand, he smiled, and with great good-humour agreed to their proposal ; - 'What is it you, you dogs! I'll have a frisk with you. He was soon dressed, and they sallied forth together into Covent Garden, where the green-grocers and fruiterers were beginning to arrange their hampers, just come in from the country. Johnson made some attempts to help them, but the honest gardeners stared so at his figure and manner, and odd interference, that he soon saw his services were not relished. They then repaired to one of the neighbouring taverns, and made a bowl of that liquor called bishop, which Johnson had always liked: while, in joyous contempt of sleep, from which he had been roused, he repeated the lines,

Short, O short then be thy reign,

And give us to the world again ! * They did not stay long, but walked down to the Thames, took a boat, and rowed to Billingsgate.

Beauclerk and Johnson were so pleased with their amusement, that they resolved to persevere in dissipation for the rest of the day; but Langton deserted them, being engaged to breakfast with some young ladies. Johnson scolded him for • leaving his social friends, to go and sit with a set of wretched un-idea'd girls.' Garrick being told of this ramble, said to him smartly,— I heard of your frolic t'other night. You ’ll be in the Chronicle.' Upon which Johnson afterwards observed,— He durst not do such a thing; his wife would not let him!'' Dr. Johnson appears to have resided in the Temple from about the year 1760 to 1765. According to Murphy, this period of his

* Short, very short, be then thy reign,
For I'm in hasté to laugh and drink again.

LORD LANsDown's Drinking Song to Sleep.

« PreviousContinue »