« PreviousContinue »
until the middle of the eighteenth century, by which time it had become a mark of ill breeding to empty it at the first essay, to blow out the cheeks in drinking, to gurgle loudly, or to set the beaker down with a snort of satisfaction.
Lastly, the Civilite exhorts the man of polish not to scratch himself in company, not to snuff the candle with his fingers, not to blow in his soup, not to return the meat to the dish after smelling it, not to talk with his mouth full, and not to pocket the fruit at dessert.-Tighe Hopkins in Literature.
Let us take a walk, gentle reader, up and down that ancient street known indifferently as Paternoster Row, Paternoster Lane, or Paternostre't, any time since the 13th century, and, for all I know, long before.
'Wherever there was a cathedral, a monastic house, a place of pilgrimage, or a shrine with an image, a holy rood, or relics of saints, there must needs arise, close beside it, a quarter or a street occupied by the humble craftsmen who made and sold rosaries and beads for the use of those who were faithful according to their lights-that is to say, for the whole people. In what we call early days all the folk of the same trade occupied the same quarter; this partly for the convenience of the craft, as for the general use of furnace, anvil, or tools, the purchase of raw materials, the regulation of production and that of price; partly, also, for the convenience of buyers, who, in this way, always knew where to go for what they wanted. In London, therefore, the Paternostrers, as they were called, settled down in a convenient place close to the Cathedral, and on its north side; here they established their workshops and their stalls, at first without any attention to order and align ment, but gradually settling down into a narrow lane of shops, and here they remained until the Reformation destroyed their trade. I want you to visit this lane at a time before the scattering of the people who made the Paternosters.
It is five or six hundred years ago; we are in the 14th century- the century of the three Edwards. Look around you-we are standing at the east end of the row; behind is Chepe-we must not stop to look back, for there are many admirable things in Chepe. A narrow lane stretches out before us; on either side stand small houses built as to the lower part with stone walls, but having upper chambers of wood and roofs of wooden tiles. These are the houses of the Paternostrers; the ground floor contains the shop where the craftsman with his 'prentices works and sells his wares, while his wife is engaged
among the pots and pans behind. The houses, as I have stated, are not regularly in line; they stand at different angles, according to the fancy of the builders; the shop is protected from the weather by a narrow pent-house, while glass covers the upper part, and the lower half lies open to the wind, if not to the rain. There is a "pentice" in case of very bad weather. The sound of work rolls and echoes from house to house, but not unpleasantly, along the narrow way; the tap of light hammers, the roar of a furnace, the grinding of a saw, the voices of those who speak when they must, not for pleasure or for discourse.
The street is wholly without pavement; one walks upon the bare earth, covered only with the refuse, and offal, and sweepings of all the houses. There are ordinances, it is true, which forbid the throwing of things into the street; every one is told to keep the front of his house clean, on penalty of half a mark; there are to be no pigsties in the street, and no pigs are to run about loose. You sniff? Humph! Unless our senses greatly deceive us, those wise regulations of the late Edward, first of the name, have been forgotten, or the Alderman of the Ward has not visited the row of late. But we are not without street scavengers, for the kites are at work undisturbed while they turn over the heaps of rubbish and carry away the offal. I fear that you find the atmosphere oppressive; it is a common complaint with strangers. They complain of the smell and the closeness of the streets. There are, in fact, lanes such as Stinking Lane by the Shambles, or Thames Street by the River, where the air is charged much more heavily than this with decaying evidences that man lives not alone on bread, but also on fish, and flesh and fowl. Perhaps, also, Paternoster Row hath a purer air than those other quarters where they make soap and tallow candles, or those where they tag and dress leather. I assure you that you might in those streets remember with regret even the air of Paternoster Row. Our trade, at least, doth not offend the nose. Come here on an evening in June, when the furnaces are out and the anvils are silent; come when a soft summer rain has carried the contents of the swimming down Ave Maria Lane, and so by the slope of Ludgate Hill to the Fleet below, and you will be astonished to find the place as clean and sweet almost as any country lane.
The houses, you think, are small. As yet the tall frame houses of the Tudors have not come in; we have not yet learned to make bricks; rather, the craft has been forgotten. Even the greater houses, unless they are castles, as Bayard Castle, are low in elevation; besides, you are looking at a street of craftsmen; there are no nobles
in the Row, though many have their houses close beside it. Within these small and mean houses you would be astonished to find amount of comfort which you would hardly, perhaps, expect. These people are rich in feather beds, pillows, blankets, curtains, fur-lined caps and gowns, the wife has her hood lined with lambskin, and even with gros vair, as if she was a gentlewoman, in spite of the sumptuary laws; the husband has his arms and armor, his haketon and his headpiece, his bow and arrows and his dagger, besides his fur gown for winter, and his cape and hood and doublet of warm burrell.
They work all day long, but you must not think that they have no holidays; they keep their Saturday afternoons. In our time we have only restored the Saturday half holiday which all the crafts enjoyed up to the Reformation; they also keep many holidays, including the great day of their Gild. Their wages would seem small to you, but then a penny goes farther than a shilling in your time, child of the nineteenth century. If you looked behind the shop you would find an array of cooking vessels which would surprise you-pots and pans, iron spits and ovens, couvrefeus, wooden cups and wooden trenchers; they mean for every day meals-substantial mealsdinners and suppers of the plenty and solidity for which the London craftsman has always been. famous. On the shop bulk and hanging from the pentice are the wares for which the Row is famous; the "paternosters" in pairs; the rosaries, beads and crucifixes, even, but these are shown; the charms and the amulets; the little silken bag, which, worn round the neck, will save a girl's sweetheart from the murderous flight of the arrow; the ring which is sovereign against fever and plague; the bracelet which preserves the traveler among robbers; the caul which saves the sailor from shipwreck. But these things are sold secretly, because the Bishop lives but a short step from the Row, and it is well known how he treats those who have to do with magic and spells: the men he drags on hurdles to Smithfield, where he hangs them; the women, more miserable still, he carries in carts to the same place, where he burns them.
These craftsmen live in the very heart of the city; they sleep under the shadow of the great church; their work is for the church; and the church, not the workshop, is the very heart and life of the city. It is as yet a time of profound faith. Lollardry has not yet begun; no invidious comparisons have yet been drawn between the profession and the practice of Franciscan or of Benedictine; there is no question yet as to doctrine; the church rules all, compels all, directs all, for these craftsmen and their families.
At the east end, opposite to the north entrance
into the Precinct of St, Paul's, which was then walled round, with gates west, north, south and east, there stood a cross called Broken Cross, erected on this spot by the Duke of Gloucester in the reign of Henry III. The great Cross of Chepe stood farther east. Round these crosses were "stations" or stalls, hired chiefly by women, who sold here small articles. Towards the end of the 14th century this cross--I suppose because it was broken-was taken down, and the "stationers" removed their stalls into Paternoster Row. The narrow street then became like the lane of an oldfashioned fair, with stands and booths down the middle, and its stalls along the side; or like a modern street market, say that of Whitecross street in the evening, with a continuous babble of many voices, and the never-ending noise of sellers and customers chaffering and bargaining.
We can catch glimpses, here and there, of the actual residents of this street, the place where they made the rosaries. They should have been a quiet and God-fearing folk, but they were not. In 1381, one Godfrey de Belstred was assaulted by three "Paternosters" of this parish, whether for purposes of robbery or in a quarrel does not appear, he was picked up wounded and carried off to die. In the same century we find persons owning houses in this street; one William de Ravenstone, almoner of St. Paul's, leaves by will a house in Paternoster Row. Did his functions permit him to live outside the precinct which sheltered such a goodly company of ecclesiastics? About the same time William Russell-surely the earliest mention of that illustrious name-bequeaths his house in the Row; Garter King-atarms has a house there; John de Pykenham, Paternostrer, leaves various tenements to his wife, who claims as one of them a house in the Row. William le Marble, a vintner, has a house there; the name shows that a man might by this time leave the trade of his father and take to another without changing his surname, just as the name of Chaucer, who never belonged to the "gentle craft," means shoemaker. There are other instances of "Paternostre rs," all of whom belong to the parish, if not to the Row, which formed the most important part of it.
The street, in fact, belonged to two parishes; one of these was the Parish of St. Faith under Paul's, a church whose services were held in the four aisles immediately below the choir of Old St. Paul's. The crypt of the modern Cathedral is still called St. Faith's, but the parish church is now St. Augustine's, Watling street. St. Faith's parish includes Paternoster Square, the Row, and Ivy lane, with little fringes, or strips, on the north and south. The east end of the Row is in the parish of St. Michael le Quern. This little parish, whose church is now St. Vedast's, Foster lane, in
cluded no more than 250 feet of the Row with that part of Chepe west of Foster lane, and the buildings on the northwest of the Cathedral precinct. If you stand now on the site of the church, you will find it difficult to understand how there could be room for a parish church and a graveyard on the little space between the Row and the west end of Cheapside. By measurement, however, you will ascertain that a line drawn from the end of the Row to the corner of Cheapside is 130 feet in length, while a line drawn perpendic ular to the buildings is 110 feet. Now, the mediaval builders were ingenious in cramming churches and halls into small areas. I have described the church as it might have been; and I put the present statue of Peel at the crossing of the transepts if it was a cruciform church. I do not think, however, that it was cruciform, but that it consisted of a nave and chancel only, with a small burial ground on the north, and a tower on the east side. The fire of 1666 left it roofless, broke its windows, melted its glass, calcined its marbles, and destroyed its woodwork. It also burned up the coffins with their contents in the vaults. The parish was poor and small; the "Paternostrers" existed no longer; the parishioners decided not rebuild the church; they amalgamated their parish with another; they widened the way that led from Newgate street into Cheapside; and the bones of the dead, which were now so much gray powder, were trampled in the mud and dust of the
Perhaps the most characteristic feature of old London, as distinguished from other cities, was that the princes and nobles who had town houses in the centuries before the 16th made no separate quarter for themselves. It was a most fortunate accident, if it was an accident. Nothing could contribute more forcibly to the breakdown of castes or to the prevention of castes. London was a city of palaces, without a street of palaces; the nobles built their houses among the craftsmen; they planted among a community of families, all working at the same trade, and belonging to the same Gild, and separated from the rest of the citizens, because all crafts were exclusive, a great house with courts, halls, stables, refectories, kitchens, cellars, and dormitories, capable of holding hundreds of followers. There is nothing to show, beyond an occasional brawl, that there was any jealousy or ill-feeling between my Lord's followers and the craftsmen around them. Thus, at the other end of the Row, Warwick lane ran into it from Newgate street. In Warwick lane stood the inn of the great King Maker, who rode into London when he came there with 600 men at arms following in his livery. This was a very great house. If you want to know what Warwick's Inn was like, and how great it was, visit Trinity
College, Cambridge, or Christ Church, Oxford. Beyond Warwick is a modern building which might be a monastery, or a college, or a close, so quiet, retired and venerable it is. At this place the Row formerly came to a sudden end with a house built against London wall. On the south side, however, there was here another great house, built originally by the Earl of Richmond, brother of Edward II and grandson of Henry III. From him it passed to John Hastings, .Earl of Pembroke; thence to the Nevilles, Earl of Abergavenny, from whom it went to the Stationers' Company. It fell in the great fire, and was rebuilt as it now stands.
Again, in Lovell's Court, now a narrow and dingy place, once stood the Inn of the Lovels. In a time when fidelity and loyalty were everywhere conspicuous by their absence, where the leaders changed their sides and the lesser men followed for private gain or imaginary wrong, when perjury was a practice regarded almost as honorable, the last of this house remained faithful to a king whose hands were as red with the blood of the innocent as those of his brother Edward. Viscount Lovel, Chamberlain of the Household to Richard III, fought for that king at Bosworth Field, where he had the good fortune to escape with his life. He found an asylum with Margaret Duchess of Burgundy, the sister of Richard. He came over again, however, unfortunately for himself, joined the Earl of Lincoln, fought at the battle of Stoke, and once more escaped with his life. What became of him afterwards was never learned with certainty. According to Lord Bacon, he was drowned in trying to cross a river; but there is another story about him. According to this version, he made his way to a place of concealment in his own house of Minster Lovel! (not the house of Lovell's Court), and there, either by neglect or by treachery, he was starved to death. In 1726 a subterranean chamber was discovered in the house, where they found a man sitting at a table with a book, pen and paper before him. This was supposed to be the skeleton of Lord Lovel.
We have seen that the "Stationers" migrated from the stalls of Broken Cross to Paternoster Row. With the Reformation came a great many changes to the city of London, apart from those changes of doctrine and teaching which the Ritualists of the present day so strenuously try to minimize. They are changes which have been generally disregarded as unworthy the attention of the historian, involving only the ruin of thousands of poor folks. Among other things, the whole population of the Row went out of work. What became of their piles of rosaries and beads one knows not. The people who secretly remained in the old faith kept their own, no doubt,
St. Paul's-but the greater number had their shops, being booksellers as well as publishers, in the Row. No longer did the coaches rumble along the narrow street; posts placed across forbade the passage of coach or cart; it became the most quiet street in all London. Gradually another change. fell upon the place; the booksellers' shops disappeared, and with them the throng of scholars who had been wont to meet and talk among the books. The Row became a wholesale place, whither the "trade" came to buy; printers, bookbinders, and paper-makers came, hat in hand, in the hope of picking up a guinea.
I have before me a book called "Travels in Town," written in the year 1839. The author, speaking of the output of books, boldly states that they had all to pass through Paternoster Rowcertainly an exaggeration, but by far the greater number had to do so. He says that the output of books, which he places at an annual average of 150 in the 17th century, had in the 18th actually decreased to the annual average of 100, and had again in 1839 mounted to 1500-a fourth part of the number issued every year at the present day. He says that in 1800 the number of new books averaged about 350; that in 1810 it was 500; in 1828 it was 842: rising rapidly, as we have seen, 1,500. The busiest day in the month was Magazine Day, when the new magazines were sold to the trade. About 400,000 copies left the Row that morning. When we consider the nature of these magazines-the Gentleman, Tait's, the New Monthly, the Metropolitan, Blackwood's, Fraser's, -there can be no doubt that among the better class of readers the magazine occupied a much more important place than it does at present. If we take the modern magazines, about a dozen in number, corresponding to these old favorites, I do not think that more than an eighth part of that number is now taken up by the trade on the day of issue. On the other hand, of the cheap literature which is now so plentiful and sometimes so good and wholesome, and, good or bad, so widely read that its circulation is now numbered, week by week, or month by month, by millions, there was in 1840 none at all, or very little.
which they treasured; but new rosaries were no longer in demand. What the unfortunates took up for their livelihood under the changed conditions is one of the many insoluble questions which. we put to ourselves and then pass over.
However, the next stage in the history of the Row shows it to have been occupied by mercers, silkmen and lacemen. It was the principal market for those merchants in the early 15th century; the street was so thronged by coaches that footpassengers were unable to walk through. After the fire, according to Strype, the mercers migrated to Covent Garden, Henrietta Street, and King Street. According to Defoe, the Row was rebuilt after the fire for the convenience of these trades; "the spacious shops, back warehouses, skylights, and other conveniences made on purpose for their trade are still to be seen." He goes on to say that the other trades were then dependent on the more important shops; lacemen were in Ivy lane, button shops at the Cheapside end, shops for crewel and fringe in Blowbladder street. He says that this continued for 20 years after the fire, and that the mercers began to migrate then to Covent Garden, where, however, they did not remain many years. They then returned to the city and established themselves on Ludgate Hill.
In 1720 again, according to Strype, a great mixture of trades existed in the Row, including some mercers and silkmen, and many tire-women; "at the upper end some stationers and large warehouses for booksellers, well situated for learned. and studious men's access thither, being more retired and private."
This is the first mention of the Row in connection with the sale of books. The book trade, like all others, had its favorite quarters. At first booksellers, stationers and printers found a place in St. Paul's Churchyard, where many first editions of sundry poems and plays of Shakespeare were printed.
After the fire many of the booksellers, whose stocks had been consumed in that disaster, removed to Little Britain, where they flourished for nearly 80 years. At the end of that time they began to take up their quarters in Paternoster Row. A few, however, were left both in St. Paul's Churchyard and in Little Britain. One of the former, Newberry, published Oliver Goldsmith's "Vicar of Wakefield; another, Johnson, published Cowper's "Task" in 1784.
From the manufacture of paternosters to the publication and sale of books is a long step. The Row, however, gradually lost all its mercers, lacemen and silkmen, and became the home of books, old and new. Other booksellers there were in other parts, but not many-Dodsley, for instance, in Pall Mall, Murray in Fleet Street, Newberry in
The Row kept up its character as the headquarters of the book trade for many years. When the Edinburgh publishers came to LondonChambers and Blackwood-they took offices in the Row. Murray, it is true, was never tempted within the sacred lane; on the contrary, he exchanged Fleet street for Albemarle street. But other changes have set in. There now are as many outside the Row as in it; we find publishers about Covent Garden and Charing Cross; booksellers there are, of course, everywhere. The "Directory" gives a list of over 400 publishers, of
whom not more than forty or fifty need be taken into account. Of the 400, however, the Row still numbers thirty; while of booksellers, stationers, and other persons connected with the book trade there are another thirty in the Row. So the old literary atmosphere hangs about the place and, though most of the great publishers are gone, there are enough left to keep up the traditions of the past. And north of the Row, in Paternoster Square and the courts and lanes, other publishers and booksellers are found who lend their name to make the Row and its vicinity still the headquarters of new books.
Let me add a note on the social side of the Row. It once boasted two places of resort where men could meet and dine, or sit and talk. The first of them was Dolly's Chop House. This house was built in the time of Queen Anne for a certain cook named Dolly. It is said to have stood on the site of an ordinary kept by Tarleton, the Elizabethan mime. If this is true, there was probably, according to the conservative habits of the people, a tavern kept up on the spot continuously. It was not the custom in the early years of the 18th century to create a new tavern, but to carry on an old one. However, Dolly's remained a place of great resort for more than a hundred years. It seems to have been famous for its beefsteaks. wish they had suffered the place to stand.
The other, a more important place, was the Chapter Coffee House. This place was in the 18th century the resort of the booksellers; here they met for the sale among themselves of copyrights, and for the sharing of any new enterprise in new books. Here also met many of the wits and writers during the last half of that century— Goldsmith, Johnson, Lloyd, Churchill, and many others came here to sup and to talk. Chatterton found his way here, sitting in a corner and thinking himself already admitted among the acknowledged poets of the day. One wonders what they thought of the boy. In the early part of this century the coffee house was frequented by a knot of writers of some importance in their own day. I wonder how many of their names will be recognized by the readers of these pages. For example, there was Alexander Stevens, Dr. Buchan, the Rev. W. Murray, the Rev. Dr. Berdmore, Walker "the rhetorician"-you remember him, of course-Dr. Towers, Dr. Fordyce, Johnson, called in his day "king of the booksellers," Phillips, editor of the Monthly Magazine, Alexander Chalmers, Macfarlane, and others whose names are well-nigh forgotten, who yet thought themselves no mean citizens, and formed a group which came here every night and talked. They all sat together; people came to hear them talk; it was a literary center. They considered themselves great lights of literature, and perhaps
already among the immortals. There are such circles at this day; they form groups and coteries; they lay down the law; they are severe, contemptuous and supreme. Sad it is to think that to these circles, as well as to that of the Chapter Coffee House, Time will apply the sponge and efface their names and their sayings from the memory of the world. Yet while they live they have their imaginary importance, which is their solace and their reward. The poet who is destined to live, mostly sits apart and is silent; the writers who have neither imagination nor fancy, who have no message, and are but workers by rule of thumb, mostly make the noise. Let us leave the Chapter and the Row, closing the door upon the contentious Walker, "the rhetorician," and the great Alexander Chalmers, and Johnson, the "king of booksellers."
THE FAILING BOOKS. They say our books will disappear That ink will fade and paper rot— I sha'n't be here
So I don't care a jot.
The Best of them I know by heart,
May well be fired.
Oh, what a hipocritic show
Will be the bibliomaniac's hoard! Cheat as hollow
As a backgamon board.
Just think of Lamb without his stuffing, And the iconoclastic Howells,
Who, spite of puffing,
Is destitute of bowels.
'Twould make me laugh to see the stare Of mousing bibliomaniac fond At pages bare
As Overreach's bond.
Those empty titles will displease
The earnest student seeking knowledge—, Barren degrees
Like those of Western college.
That common stuff, "Excelsior,"
In poetry so lacking,
I care not for
'T'is only fit for packing.
IRVING BROWNE-"Ballads of a Bookworm." *
Like those of old who wove the Gobelin,
The seeming tangled web! Whose work shall be in palaces, most careful art must ply.
Not lost his pains, though he may never see The woof's right side. He leaves, though Fame may die, A perfect fabric to Futurity.
-CHARLES ELMER JENNEY.