Page images

to Oldys, he was on one occasion imprisoned here for three years. "No wonder," says Mr. Campbell, "that poor Dekker could rise a degree above the level of his ordinary genius in describing the blessings of Fortunatus's inexhaustible purse: he had probably felt but too keenly the force of what he expresses."

Two other literary characters, whose misfortunes led to their being immured in the Queen's Bench Prison, were John Rushworth, the historian, and Christopher Smart, the poet. Rushworth, as is well known, devoted a long life in enriching the literature of his country, and in adding to its historical stores, and thus missed many opportunities of amassing an ample fortune. Neglected by an ungrateful country, in 1684 the venerable old man was arrested for debt and dragged to the King's Bench, within the rules of which he died, six years afterwards (1690), of a broken heart, at the age of eighty-three.


The fate of Smart was scarcely a less melancholy With the proverbial improvidence of a poet, it is said that he would often bring his friends home to dinner, when his wife and family had not a meal to eat, and when he himself had not a shilling in his pocket. His inoffensive character, however,— his sweetness of disposition, and engaging manners, --had secured him many friends; and, among other instances of kindness which he received, Garrick gave him a free benefit at Drury Lane Theatre, and Johnson wrote several papers for him in one of his periodical publications. When he was ill and was

recommended to take more exercise, his customary walk is said to have been to an ale-house, from whence, according to Dr. Johnson, he was usually carried back. For some time he was confined as a lunatic. "I did not think," says Johnson, "that Smart ought to be shut up. His infirmities were not noxious to society. He insisted on people praying with him; and I'd as lief pray with Kit Smart as with any one else. Another charge was, that he did not love clean linen: and I have no passion for it." Poor Smart, whose distresses continued to the last, died within the rules of the Queen's Bench Prison, on the 12th of May 1771.

In the preceding century, we find Richard Baxter, the nonconformist divine, a prisoner in the Queen's Bench. He was committed in 1685, by a warrant from the infamous Judge Jefferies, on account of some passages in his "Commentary on the New Testament," which were supposed to reflect upon Episcopacy. His trial took place at Guildhall on the 18th of May following, on which occasion Jefferies even out-Heroded his usual brutal insolence and tyranny. Putting aside the irregular means by which he endeavoured to secure the conviction of the prisoner, we can scarcely conceive the possibility of a judge addressing an accused man in such language as the following:-" Richard, Richard,” said Jefferies, interrupting him in his defence, “dost thou think we will hear thee poison the court? Richard, thou art an old fellow, an old knave. Thou hast written books enough to load a cart,

every one as full of sedition, I might say of treason,
as an egg is full of meat. Hadst thou been whipped
out of thy writing trade forty years ago, it had been
happy. Thou pretendest to be a preacher of the
gospel of peace, and thou hast one foot in the grave:
'tis time for thee to begin to think what account
thou intendest to give. But leave thee to thyself,
and I see thou wilt go on as thou hast begun; but,
by the Grace of God, I will look after thee. I know
thou hast a mighty party, and I see a great many of
the brotherhood in corners, waiting to see what will
become of their mighty Don, but, by the Grace of
Almighty God, I'll crush you all." Having been
found guilty, the venerable divine was sentenced to
find security for his good behaviour for seven years,
to pay a fine of five hundred marks, and to be im-
prisoned till it should be paid. He was accordingly
reconducted to the King's Bench Prison, where he
remained till the 24th of November 1686, when
the kind interference of Lord Powys obtained his

Within the walls of the Queen's Bench, Haydon painted his well-known performance, the "Mock Election," and here William Combe wrote the “Adventures of Dr. Syntax."

Within a short distance from the Queen's Bench Prison is the Marshalsea Court, originally under the control of the Earl Marshal of England, and established for trying the servants of the King's household. In ancient times, this court had also cognizance over all offences committed within the

[ocr errors]

precincts of the royal palace: among which may be mentioned the crime of striking a blow, which was punishable with the loss of the offending hand. At a later period, the Marshalsea was set apart as a prison for debtors and defaulters, and more especially for persons convicted of piracy and other offences committed on the high seas. It existed in Southwark at least as early as the reign of Edward the Third, and was destroyed by the followers of Wat Tyler in 1381.

We have already mentioned that the infamous Bishop Bonner was a prisoner in the Marshalsea for nearly ten years; this place having been selected from its great strength, as being better calculated to secure him from the fury of the people. "He was deprived and secured," says Fuller, "in his castle ; I mean the Marshalsea in Southwark; for as that prison kept him from doing hurt to others, it kept others from doing hurt to him: being so universally odious, he had been stoned in the streets if at liberty."—" Bonner," says Southey, "was committed to the Marshalsea, where he had the use of the garden and orchards, and lived as he liked, without any other privation than that of liberty; for though he was allowed to go abroad, he dared not, because of the hatred of the people. He never betrayed the slightest shame or compunction for the cruelties which he had committed, but maintained to the last the same coarse and insolent temper; indeed, it was rumoured and believed, that he looked for no life but the present, and therefore had no hope

or fear beyond it." Bishop Bonner expired in the Marshalsea, on the 5th of September 1569.

In 1613, George Wither, the poet, was committed to the Marshalsea on account of his celebrated satires, "Abuses Stript and Whipt;" and within its walls, two years afterwards, he composed his charming poem, "The Shepherd's Hunting."

On the banks of the Thames, extending from Blackfriars Bridge beyond Southwark Bridge, is that interesting locality, Bankside. Here Beaumont and Fletcher lived together, and composed their celebrated joint-productions; and on Bankside Philip Massinger breathed his last.

Aubrey, speaking of Beaumont, observes, "There was a wonderful consimility of fancy between him and Mr John Fletcher, which caused that dearness of friendship between them. I think they were both of Queen's College in Cambridge. They lived together on the Bankside, not far from the playhouse; both bachelors lay together; had one wench in the house between them, which they did so admire; the same cloaths and cloak, &c., between them." Oldwit, also, in Shadwell's "Bury Fair," is made to say, "I myself, simple as I stand here, was a wit in the last age. I was created Ben Jonson's son, in the Apollo. I knew Fletcher, my friend Fletcher, and his maid Joan; well, I shall never forget him; I have supped with him at his house on the Bankside; he loved a fat loin of pork of all things in the world." Close to the Clink Prison, from whence the present Clink


[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »