Imágenes de página

appropriateness of his being brought at that juncture to Amen Corner. A few days he lay there, life ebbing away from sheer weakness ; his mind still clear, and divided between making the most careful disposition of his property and fond memories of


that “little boy Ned” who had died, untimely, some years before. It was then he wrote that last poem, the beautiful “As I Laye a-thynkynge,” printed at the end of all editions of the Ingoldsby Legends as “The Last Lines of Thomas Ingoldsby.” There is not, to my mind, anything more exquisitely beautiful and pathetic in the gorgeous roll of English literature than the seven stanzas of the swan-song of this master of humour and pathos. It is wholly for themselves, and not by reason of reading into them the special circumstances under which they were written, that so sweeping a judgment is made. That they have never been properly recognised is due to the Wardour Street antiquity of their spelling, and still more to that strange insistence which ordains that the accepted wit and humourist must always be “funny” or go unacknowledged. It is a strange penalty; one that would seek to deprive the humourist of all human emotions save that of laughter, and so make him that reproach of honest men— a cynic. It was on June 17th, 1845, that Barham died, untimely, before the completion of his fifty-seventh year. He was buried in the vaults of his former church, St. Mary Magdalene, Old Fish Street Hill, one of those half-deserted city churches built by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London. There he might have lain until now, but for the fire of December 2nd, 1886, which destroyed the building. For at least four years the blackened and roofless ruins stood, fronting Knightrider Street, and then they were removed, to make way for warehouses. The contents of the vaults were at the same time dispersed, the remains of Tom Ingoldsby being removed to Kensal Green Cemetery, while the tablet to his memory was appropriately transferred to St. Paul's, where, in the crypt, it may still be seen.



There stands a city, neither large nor small,
Its air and situation sweet and pretty.
It matters very little, if at all,
Whether its denizens are dull or witty;
Whether the ladies there are short or tall,
Brunettes or blondes; only, there stands a city
Perhaps 'tis also requisite to minute,
That there's a Castle and a Cobbler in it.

Thus wrote Ingoldsby of his native city of Canterbury, in “The Ghost,” and “sweet and pretty” its air and situation remain, sixty years since those lines were penned. For the changes that have altered so many other cities and towns have brought little disturbance here. No manufactures have come te to abolish the prettiness of the situation ; the air— the atmospheric air—is sweet and fragrant as of yore, and that other air—the demeanour and deportment— of Canterbury is still, as ever, gravely cheerful, as surely befits the capital city of a Primate whose Church is still a going concern. Ingoldsby was exactly right in his epithetical summing-up, for prettiness and not grandeur is the characteristic of the gentle valley of the Stour, wherein Canterbury is set. Approach it from whatever quarter you will, and you will find prettiness only in the situation. Even when viewed from the commanding heights of Harbledown and St. Thomas's Hill, the only grandeur is that of the Cathedral, and that is extrinsic, a something imported into the picture. Nay, even the uprising bulk of that cathedral church gains in effect from being thus set down in midst of a valley that is almost with equal justness called a plain, and whose features may, without offence, or the suspicion of any thought derogatory from their beauty, be termed so featureless. Unquestionably the best direction whence to enter this ancient capital of the Kentish folk—this Kaintware-bury of the Saxons, the Durovernum of the Romans—is from Harbledown, whence the pilgrims from London, or from the north and west of England, entered. Only thus does the stranger receive a really accurate impression. With emotions doubtless less violent than those of the mediaeval pilgrims to the shrine of the blessed martyr, St. Thomas, but still strongly aroused, he sees the west front of the ‘Cathedral, its two western “towers,” and the great central “Bell–Harry” tower displayed boldly before him, in the level, and may even identify the more prominent of the public buildings. Descending from this hill, he passes through the ancient suburb of Saint Dunstan, and enters the city beneath the frowning portals of the West Gate. If, on the other hand, the modern pilgrim arrives per Chatham and Dover Railway, he will be dumped down in quite a different direction, on the south side of the city, near Wincheap Street, in which thoroughfare he will be able, without any delay, to discover his first Ingoldsby landmark in Canterbury, in the shape of the “Harris's Almshouses,” founded in 1729 by that ancestral Harris whose daughter his great-grandfather had married. They are five quite humble little red-brick houses, with a garden at the back, endowed for the support of two poor parishioners of St. Mary Magdalene, two of Thanington, and one of St. Mildred's. The value is the modest one of about £9 a year. An unassuming tablet on the central house of the row tells this story :

of this City -
Founder of these Five

hath endowed them with

Marly Farm in Kent

for the Maintenance of five
Poor Familys for ever.

Ingoldsby—the Reverend Richard Harris Barham —became a governor of this charity on his attaining his majority, as already alluded to in the sketch of his birth and career.

The district of Wincheap only becomes tolerable after leaving the railway behind. This outlying part, without the city walls, was of old that place of degradation where the scourgings and stripes, the whips and scorpions of mediaeval punishments, were inflicted; where offending books—ay, and the horror of it, the Protestant martyrs—were burnt of yore. In this “Potter's Field” that is not now more than a struggling little suburb where all the littlenesses of life are prominent, and few of its beauties are to be seen, there has of late been erected a great granite memorial pillar, surmounted by the “Canterbury Cross,” on the site of the stake

« AnteriorContinuar »