Page images

a merry party to visit the famous ghost in Cock Lane; and on another occasion he gives us a graphic description of an unlucky dinner to which he had the misfortune of being invited at this princely mansion. To the Earl of Hertford he writes on the 7th of April 1765,—“ Now for my disaster: you will laugh at it, though it was woful to me. I was to dine at Northumberland House, and went a little after four. There I found the Countess, Lady Betty Mekinsy, Lady Strafford; my Lady Finlater, who was never out of Scotland before, a tall lad of fifteen, her son; Lord Drogheda and Mr. Worseley. At five arrived Mr. Mitchell, who said the Lords had begun to read the Poor Bill, which would take at least two hours, and perhaps would debate it afterwards. We concluded dinner would be called for, it not being very precedented for ladies to wait for gentlemen :—no such thing. Six o'clock came,--seven o'clock came,-our coaches came,— well! we sent them away, and excuses were we were engaged. Still the Countess's heart did not relent, nor uttered a syllable of apology. We wore out the wind and the weather, the opera and the play, Mrs. Cornely's and Almack's, and every topic that would do in a formal circle. We hinted, represented,—in vain. The clock struck eight: my lady, at last, said she would go and order dinner; but it was a good half-hour before it appeared. We then sat down to a table for fourteen covers ; but instead of substantials, there was nothing but a profusion of plates striped red, green, and yellow, gilt plate, blacks, and uniforms! My Lady Finlater, who had never seen those embroidered dinners, nor dined after three, was famished. The first course stayed as long as possible, in hopes of the Lords ; so did the second. The dessert at last arrived, and the middle dish was actually set on when Lord Finlater and Mr. Mackay arrived. Would

you believe it?—the desert was remanded, and the whole first course brought back again! Stay, I have not done :-just as this second first course had done its duty, Lord Northumberland, Lord Strafford, and Mekinsy came in, and the whole began a third time! Then the second course and the dessert! I thought we should have dropped from our chairs with fatigue and fumes! When the clock struck eleven, we were asked to return to the drawing-room and drink tea and coffee, but I said I was engaged to supper, and came home to bed. My dear lord, think of four hours and a half in a circle of mixed company, and three great dinners, one after another, without interruption ;no, it exceeded our day at Lord Archer’s !”

Northumberland House consisted originally of only three sides of a quadrangle. It was about the middle of the seventeenth century that Algernon the tenth Earl, disliking the noise of the street, erected the south, or river front. Of the original edifice but little now remains.

Close to Northumberland House stood Hungerford House, which, as we have already mentioned, was the residence of the Hungerfords of Fairleigh Castle, in Somersetshire. Its last occupant was Sir Edward Hungerford, created a Knight of the Bath at the coronation of Charles the Second, in whose life-time it was taken down and converted into tenements and a market. Over the old market was a large apartment, called “the French Church,” which was afterwards used as the parish schoolroom of St. Martin's in the Fields.

Perhaps the most interesting of the magnificent mansions in the Strand was York House, originally the inn, or London Residence of the Bishops of Norwich, and during their occupancy known as Norwich House. From the See of Norwich it passed by exchange, into the hands of the monks of St. Bennet Holme, in Norfolk; and in 1535, became the property of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, the husband of Mary, daughter of Henry the Seventh, and widow of Louis the Twelfth of France. After the death of Henry the second and last Duke, Suffolk Place, as it was then styled, passed into the hands of the crown, and, in the reign of Queen Mary, was granted to the Archbishops of York, who, from the time that Henry the Eighth had deprived them of their palace at Whitehall, had possessed no fixed residence in London.

For many years we find York House, the residence of the Keepers of the Great Seal, to whom it was probably leased by the Archbishops of York, Here Sir Nicholas Bacon resided during the time he was Lord Keeper, and under its roof his successor, and here he died in 1597; Lord Chancellor Egerton breathed his last in 1616--17. Here the great Lord Bacon first saw the light; and on his succeeding Egerton, as Lord Chancellor, he again took up his abode in the home of his boyhood. His manner of living at York House appears to have been splendid in the extreme, more especially during the period he was left Regent of the kingdom during the progress of James the First into Scotland. “ The aviary in York House,” says Aubrey, “was built by his lordship and cost 3001. Every meal, according to the season of the year, he had his table strewed with sweet herbs and flowers, which he said did refresh his spirits and memory.

When he was at his house at Gorhambury, St. Albans seemed as if the court had been there, so nobly did he live. His servants had liveries with his crest; his watermen were more employed by gentlemen than even the King's.” Immediately before his disgrace, Lord Bacon celebrated, at York House, the anniversary of his sixtieth year; an event which Ben Jonson commemorated in the following verses :

Hail, happy Genius of this ancient pile !
How comes it all things so about thee smile ?
The fire, the wine, the men ? and in the midst
Thou stand'st, as if some mystery thou didst !
Pardon I read it in thy face, the day
For whose returns, and many,

all these pray ; And so do I. This is the sixtieth

year Since Bacon, and thy lord, was born, and here ; Son to the grave wise Keeper of the Seal, Fame and foundation of the English weal.

What then his father was, that since is he
Now with a little more to the degree-
England's High Chancellor, the destined heir
In his soft cradle to his father's chair,
Whose even thread the Fates spin round and full,
Out of their choicest and their whitest wool-
'Tis a brave cause of joy, let it be known,
For 'twere a narrow gladness, kept thine own,
Give me a deep-crowned bowl, that I may sing

In raising him, the wisdom of my king. Aubrey relates the following anecdote in connexion with Lord Bacon's residence at York House :-“His lordship being in York House garden, looking on fishers as they were throwing their net, asked them what they would take for their draught: they answered so much: his lordship would offer them no more but so much. They drew

up their net, and in it were only two or three little fishes. His lordship then told them, it had been better for them to have taken his offer. They replied, they thought to have had a better draught: but said his lordship, 'Hope is a good breakfast, but an ill supper.

In vain the Duke of Lennox attempted to persuade Lord Bacon to part with York House. “For this you will pardon me,” he said, “York House is the house where my father died, and where I first breathed; and there will I yield my last breath, if so please God and the King.” It was in York House, in May 1621, that Lord Bacon,—a disgraced courtier and cringing penitent,-delivered up the Great Seal to the Committee of Peers, who had been sent to demand it from him. “ It was the King's favour,” he said,



« PreviousContinue »