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splendid plumage of royalty. Oliver, like Napoleon, in our own times," loved the arts," not for their own sake, but because he looked forward to a time when the skill of the artist might be necessary to support and perpetuate the splendour of his usurpations: there is always much more of cunning than of courage in these mock monarchs; of whom, however, fortunately the modern world has not had many examples. Would to God that he may be the last who has now come to the end of his career, a prisoner in that very country which he had so often sworn to annihilate ; whose inhabitants he had designated as every thing base, sordid, and vile" a nation of shop-keepers," unfit to exist in the presence of great, enlightened, all victorious France; but on whose honour, generosity, and mercy he has now cast himself, after having violated every engagement; every sacred as well as political obligation, and by the madness of his ambition, and the faithlessness of his character, been the willing cause of the destruction of millions! May no other Cromwells, no other Bonaparte-rise to foster the arts," and destroy and demoralize mankind *
From the roof of the Northern Tower of Westminster Abbey the eye may distinctly trace the ancient Isle of Thorney. Following the winding of the Thames round Milbank, we perceive it ends in a marsh, filled with reeds and aquatic plants, at the extremity of Ranelagh Gardens. From that place to Chelsea Water-Works is equally low and wet, exclusive of the creek, or canal
*The reader need not be informed, that Napoleon Bonaparte, the ExEmperor of France, is above alluded to. I would not let this opportu nity escape me, of being the first to record, in a work of magnitude, and I may, perhaps, venture to add, of some national importance, in which whatever concerns the history and greatness of our country is necessary and appropriate, the final subjugation of one of the greatest generals, the most powerful of tyrants, and most successful of warriors the world ever was fated to witness. Perhaps at the moment I am writing this, Bonaparte is on his way from Torbay to the Island of St. Helena, probably destined, during the remainder of his wretched life, to be an exile and outcast on that remote rock, July 26th, 1815.
for barges. This brings the eye almost to the gates of St. James's Park, where a valley, nearly in a line with the marsh contains the canal. Allowing these probabilities, and for filling inequalities in the streets, an angular island is formed.
But a question naturally occurs whence was made the embankment, known by the name of Milbank? And where would high-water mark be found, supposing it away? It is to be feared the Island of Thorney would be reduced to a very narrow compass. Possibly the tide passed, in very ancient times across Parliament Street, through the Park, and over all the ground south-west of the abbey, leaving on its return the whole a mass of filth. Such, generally, are the observations and conjectures of an antiquary to whom I have before been frequently indebted. The necessity of thus endeavouring minutely to ascertain the situation and boundaries of the little Island of Thorney arises from the ancient assertion that the Abbey of Westminster was erected on this real, or imaginary insulated spot of ground, which was called the Island of Thorns, or Thorney Island, on account of its being overspread with thorns.
After all, however, much is left to conjecture on this subject, and as much to the imagination, in support of this ancient tradition concerning Thorney Island.
But if the site of the City of Westminster is involved in almost impenetrable obscurity, what antiquary or historian shall remove the thicker veil that hangs over the date of its erection?
Its name certainly imports a time subsequent to the building of the original St. Paul's Cathedral; but the true period of its erection probably will not ever be discovered, and very little, indeed, is known of it previous to the reign of Edward the Confessor.
Widmore, who had access to all the records belonging to the Abbey, and who was, moreover, a man of learning, fixes the foundation of this venerable pile between the years 730 and 740; but he does not inform us who was the founder. The monk Sulgardus resided in this building, and devoted all his leisure time to writing a history of it; but nothing authentic concerning him
him now remains. If, however, Widmore is correct, the tradi tions concerning Sebert, king of the East-Saxons, are all erroneous. Pennant, and almost every other modern writer, have given the honour of its erection to this pious monarch; but Sebert died in 616, the same year, or shortly after his uncle, Ethelbert, King of Kent, who, about the year 604, erected a cathedral church on the site of St. Paul's.*.
The account which has been given us respecting Sebert, as the founder of this abbey, is nearly as follows:-About the year 610, King Sebert founded this church on the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, which was flung down by an earthquake. The king dedicated his new church to St. Peter, who descended in person, with a host of heavenly choristers, to save the Bishop, Miletus, the trouble of consecration. The saint descended on the Surrey side, in a stormy night; but prevailing on Edric, a fisherman, to waft him over, performed the ceremony; and, as a proof, left behind him the chrisms, and precious droppings of the wax candles by which the astonished fisherman saw the church illuminated. He conveyed the saint safely back, who directed him to inform the bishop that there was no farther need of consecration. He likewise directed Edric to fling out his nets, who was rewarded with a miraculous draught of salmons: the saint also promised to the fisherman and his successors, that they would never want plenty of salmon, provided they presented every tenth to his church. This custom was observed till at least the year 1382. The fisherman that day had a right to sit at the same table with the prior; and he might demand of the cellarman ale and bread; and the cellarman again might take of the fishes' tail as much as he could, with four fingers and his thumb erect.+ From such ridiculous mummery and barbarous practices the Reformation has in a great measure delivered us; but such fabulous stories as this are very often the only records of the primitive monasteries and their usages.
Bede, Eccles. lib. II. c. 3.
One of our best writers on this subject continues the history of the Abbey in nearly the following terms:-having found the ground for the monastery, alluding to the Thorney Island, and supposed a founder, though we know him not, and fixed a date when it was probably built; we must imagine it to have been destroyed by the Danes, rebuilt through the influence of St. Dunstan with King Edgar, and appropriated to the order of St. Benedict, and twelve monks, with endowments sufficient for their maintenance.
The monastery continued unmolested till Edward the Confessor piously resolved to thoroughly renovate and improve it, which he did, probably entirely in the Norman style, as would appear from the fragments a few years ago standing, and comparing them with the buildings still extant at that period.
Edward began the work in the year 1049, completed it, in a most magnificent manner, in 1066, and endowed it with the utmost munificence. But, as Pennant observes, an abbey is nothing without reliques: accordingly, here were found the veil and some of the milk of the Blessed Virgin. In this latter relic behold a triple miracle: Virgin's milk; milk that lost not its humidity during ten centuries and a half; and, lastly, the milk of a woman who never travelled beyond the boundaries of the Holy Land found in the City of Westminster! The other relics were the blade-bone of St. Benedict; the finger of St. Alphage; the head of St. Maxilla; and half the jaw-bone of St. Anatasia.
A more substantial and less dubious relic which afterwards honoured this church, was the body of the pious Edward himself. William the Conqueror bestowed on his tomb a rich pall: and, in 1663, Henry II. lodged his body in a costly ferretery, translating it from its original resting place.
In addition to the munificent gifts of the king, the courtiers, following his example, endowed the monastery with large reve
Subsequent to the year 1159, in the time of Abbot Lawrence,
the cut-buildings of the monastery, being greatly decayed, were repaired, and their roofs covered with lead.
Or the site of the present Henry VII.'s chapel, once stood a chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, the first stone of which was laid by Henry III. on the Whitsun-eve of the year 1220.
Three years after this the monastery was considerably damaged, and the steward's house entirely pulled down by an infuriated rabble of London citizens, who had a quarrel with the people of the abbey about who was the winner at a wrestling
Henry III. with a great shew of piety and zeal for the interests of the church and the priesthood, as would appear by his gifts to the abbot and convent, by his will, and by the translation of Edward the Confessor's body, was, nevertheless, most artful, rapacious, and tyrannical to the priests in general. He instigated or encouraged the most shameful exactions from the priests, by the legates and nuncios for the Pope. Honorius III. demanded that a tax, amounting to the sum of the portions. of two prebends and two monks, should be paid by every cathedral and monastery to the holy see. To these most enormous exactions the Parliament strongly objected; yet the king, who so often stood in need of the Pope's protection, encouraged the legates in their demands; and this monastery suffered considerably. While, however, Henry allowed the monastery to be drained of its revenues, he resolved, in the year 1245, to take the abbey down and rebuild it. The king died in the year 1272; and it is not known what progress had been made in the church at that time. Fabian informs us, that the choir was not completed till thirteen years afterwards. This much, however, is certain, that Henry lived long enough to attend divine service in this church; and himself actually assisted the king of the Romans, and other great personages, to remove the coffin of Edward the Confessor to its present situation. Mr. Malcolm, on whose authority I have stated this, but who does not inform us whence his authority was derived, imagines, as well he might,