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Tales from St. Paul's Cathedral by  Mrs. Frewen Lord
Table of Contents


 

 

MONUMENTS OF ST. PAUL'S

[65] THE north transept is almost entirely filled with monuments of great soldiers and sailors, of whom we have no time to speak; but among them is the statue of a great painter, Sir Joshua Reynolds, who is buried in the crypt. When quite a small boy, Joshua Reynolds spent all his playtime in drawing and painting, much to the disappointment of his father, who wanted him to be a doctor, and who said and thought that the time given to drawing was worse than wasted. There is a little picture made by Joshua when he was about eight years old, on the back of which his father wrote, "Done by Joshua, out of pure idleness." However, as time went on, even his father came to [66] see that it would be no use to make his son a doctor; he would certainly be a very bad one, and possibly he might be a good artist. Joshua was then taught drawing, and so quickly did he learn, that when he was twelve years old he had already painted a portrait. After working hard in London, he went back into Devonshire, where his home was, and set up as a portrait painter. Soon people began to know and talk of this wonderful young Reynolds who painted so many beautiful pictures, and they came to him in such numbers to have their portraits painted that he had as much and more work than he could do. Some of these portraits, as well as many other pictures by him, you will see some day, or perhaps have already seen, in the National Gallery. There is a story about one of them which I must tell you. "One day when I was a child," says the teller of this story, "I accompanied my father in a morning call he was paying to Lady William Gordon (an old lady who lived in a charming house in one [67] of the London parks) . . . When my father rose to take leave, the old lady . . spoke kindly to me, and asked me if I would like to see her little daughter, at the same time leading me up to an alcove (or little recess) at the end of the room. She drew aside a crimson velvet curtain, and displayed, not, as I expected, another child, but a picture representing five beautiful life-sized cherubs' heads, surrounded by clouds, 'That picture,' she said, is all that is left me of my child, now with the angels, as she is represented there. . .  Sir Joshua has given me these five views of the beautiful face, and he remarked how very rare it was to find a head every view of which was equally perfect.' The old lady's voice faltered as she spoke, and the tears were in her eyes." When Lady William died she gave this picture to the National Gallery, and there you will see it. "The Angels' Heads," as it is called, is one of the most beautiful of the many beautiful pictures painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, as he had now [68] been made by George III. A little time before he died, Sir Joshua lost the sight of one eye, and the other became so weak that he was obliged to give up painting. It was a great grief to him, but it was not for long, for soon after he died, and now lies in what is often called "Painters' Corner," in the crypt of St. Paul's, side by side with many other great painters.

One of the many monuments to sailors you must notice before we leave the north transept. It is in memory of two sailors, Captain Mosse and Captain Riou, both of whom were killed while fighting under Lord Nelson in the battle of Copenhagen. Neither of them is buried here, yet they are not forgotten in the cathedral where, many years afterwards, when he too was killed in battle, Lord Nelson was buried.

And now going through the iron gates, which we come to on our left hand, we find ourselves in what is called the north aisle of the choir. [69] These names of the different parts of the church are hard to remember, and I only tell them to you because, if you know them, it is easier to find your way about by yourselves, and see any particular monument or tomb you may wish to.

In this north aisle are no monuments, so we will walk across, at the back of the altar, into the south aisle, and then passing through the other iron gates (just like those by which we went in from the north transept), we come into the south transept. Here in the south aisle of the Choir are monuments to several clergymen, many of them bishops of London, of whom you will hear or read some day. Among them is the statue of Bishop Heber, whose name you may remember, for he it was who wrote many of the hymns which are so often sung in church. One of them—

"From Greenland's icy mountains,

From India's coral strand—"

all of you must certainly know. Bishop Heber [70] was for many years Bishop of Calcutta, in India, and there he died, after spending several years in hard work among the natives of India, for whom he did much.

Not far from this monument to Bishop Heber we come to that of Dr. Donne, who was Dean of old St. Paul's as long ago as 1621, and who, when he died, was buried in the crypt of the church, which was, as I told you, burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666. This monument is the only one of the many with which the old church was filled which was found quite unhurt after the fire; and when the new cathedral was built, it was carefully placed here in the south aisle, and here, in after-times, other monuments to other and later deans of St. Paul's were placed side by side with this one relic of the old church.

For instance, close by is the monument to Dean Milman, of whom we have several times spoken, and who is buried in the crypt. He [71] knew and wrote much that is interesting about this cathedral, of which he was dean for nineteen years. He it was, as I told you, who was present at the funerals of the two greatest men ever buried in St. Paul's, Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington.

And now coming out of the iron gates, we find ourselves in the south transept, and close by the monument to John Howard, the very first monument (except the statue of Dr. Donne from the old cathedral) which was put up in the new St. Paul's. John Howard died more than a hundred years ago, and very likely you have never even heard of him. But as you will be sure to do so one day, I want to tell you a little about him, and why a monument was put up here in his memory, although he was neither a great soldier, nor a great sailor, nor a great statesman. He was a rich man, and for that very reason he used often to say he ought to do his best to leave the world a little [72] bit better than he found it. And so he did. In those days the prisons in England, instead of being, as they are now, large and well-made buildings—where those people who have done wrong are kept in order to prevent them from doing more wrong—were badly built, dark, unwholesome, and so crowded that the prisoners were more like wild beasts in dens than men. Indeed, they were a very great deal worse off than the beasts in the Zoological Gardens—for they are, at least, kept clean and healthy. When John Howard thought over these things, he determined to go to other countries and see whether prisons were everywhere the same. Some he found were much better, some as bad, and some even worse than in England. When he came home he wrote a great book about the prisons and hospitals (for he went to them too) of Europe, and then he set to work to see what he could do toward making our prisons better and getting the prisoners better looked after. At last, thanks [73] to him, laws were made ordering that all prisoners should be kept in clean prisons, and that all that was possible should be done to keep them well. And ever since that time things have gone on improving. But the name of John Howard is always remembered, for he it was who first thought and said that, although it was right to shut up and punish all people who broke laws or injured others, yet it was very wrong to treat them as wild beasts or savages, and do nothing to try to make them better. He himself used to go and visit the prisoners, who became so fond of him that once when two hundred of them banded together to fight the warders (or keepers) of the prison, and every one was afraid to go near them, John Howard was sent for. Quite alone he went into the prison. Directly the men saw him they became quieter, and soon they had promised to obey his wishes, and not to try to escape again. John Howard died in Russia, while he was travelling about there seeing more [74] prisons and hospitals, and was buried in a little village where he had particularly wished to be. "And let me beg of you," he said to a friend who was with him, "as you value your old friend, not to suffer any pomp [or grandeur] to be used at my funeral, nor any monument . . whatever to mark where I am laid,  . . but lay me quietly in the earth, place a sundial over my grave, and let me be forgotten." These were almost his last words, and so he was buried in the far-away little Russian village; but he was not forgotten, and the people of England determined that he never should be, so this monument was put up by them here to help to remind every one who should see it of the great work done for England by John Howard.

Nearly opposite is the great monument to Lord Nelson, who is buried in the crypt. Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington are the two greatest men buried here, and as I [75] told you the story of the Duke of Wellington, so now in the next chapter, to those of you who want to hear it, I will tell the story of Lord Nelson If you do not care to hear it, you must go on to the following and last chapter, where you will find the names of some of the many other great men remembered in the south transept.


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