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THE SPELL OF THE TEMPLE AND INNS OF COURT
THE Temple lies between Fleet Street and the river, with Essex Street on the west and Whitefriars on the east. It is a wide area of quaint buildings, strange windings and uncertain by-ways relieved by unexpected open spaces and magnificent gardens—a place to wander in if you are fond of wandering, and to get lost in if you make up your mind to wander and do not mind getting lost. For hundreds of years this has been hallowed ground in sacred history. It was the quarters of the Knights Templars, a religious order founded in the twelfth century to protect the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and the recruiting point for Crusaders. When the Order was dissolved in 1313 the Temple became Crown property. In 1346 it was leased to the professors of common law and since then has been a school of law, and a great centre of learning in England.
There are two divisions of the Temple, the eastern or Inner Temple; the western or Middle Temple. The Inner Temple came by its name being nearest the City; the Middle Temple because it was between the Inner and Outer Temples. The Outer Temple vanished long ago. In 1609, James I. conveyed the Temple property by grant to the benchers of the Inner and Middle Temple—two of the Inns of Court.
The Inns of Court are four—the Inner Temple, the Middle Temple, Lincoln's Inn and Gray's Inn. These are societies formed for the study of law and custom has given them the exclusive privilege of deciding who may be called to the bar. Their quarters were called Inns of Court originally because as students of law they belonged to "the King's Court." In the 15th century there were ten other Seminaries called Inns of Chancery offshoots from the four parent societies. In the Inns of Chancery fees were low and suited to the middle classes—the Inns of Court being patronized by the aristocracy.
The inner Temple gateway in the Strand opposite Chancery Lane leads after a few yards directly to the Temple Church, literally buried here close to the busiest street in London. This is the famous Round Church, the chapel of the Inner Temple in which the Knights Templars worshipped, and is the only real relic left of the Knights Templars. It has stood here since 1185, one of the four round churches of England, built in imitation of the Round Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. In early days lawyers received their clients in this church. It was arranged in the manner of an exchange, each lawyer having his regular standing place.
To the north of the Temple Church is a plain slab recording that Oliver Goldsmith author of the "Vicar of Wakefield," lies buried here.
William Cowper the poet lived for years in the Inner Temple, where he several times tried to commit suicide but failed in each attempt.
Charles Lamb was born in 1775 at No. 2 Crown Office Row in rooms overlooking the Temple Garden.
In Temple Garden, best seen from Crown Office Row, you look upon the spot where Shakespeare had the partisans first choose the red rose or the white as the badge of the houses of York or Lancaster. In "King Henry VI.," this picking is stirringly told of and the Earl of Warwick exclaims:
And here I prophesy, the brawl to-day Grown to this faction, in the Temple Gardens, Shall send, between the red rose and the white, A thousand souls to death and deadly night.
Middle Temple is entered from Fleet Street close by Temple Bar Memorial, by way of Middle Temple Lane, through a brick gateway designed by Wren and built in 1684. Middle Temple Lane divides Middle from Inner Temple. It is narrow, crooked and dark, a survival of the long past. Here are houses with overhanging upper floors, and law stationers' shops on the lane level or below it. Off from the thoroughfare are dingy nooks and odd courts. In one such, Brick Court, at No. 2, were Oliver Goldsmith's last lodgings and here he died in 1774. The learned Blackstone lived in the same building on the floor below Goldsmith and complained that he was much disturbed on occasions when the author of the "Vicar of Wakefield" and the "Deserted Village" gave supper parties that were "filled with roaring comic songs."
The turning beyond Brick Court opens on the Hall of the Middle Temple, a perfect example of Elizabethan architecture, and where Shakespeare's charming comedy of "Twelfth Night" was first performed. In the Hall is preserved a table made of wood from one of the ships of the Great Armada on which the death warrant of Mary Queen of Scots was signed by Elizabeth.
Before the Hall of Middle Temple is Fountain Court, a spot seeming far away from London. In it is the Temple Fountain. The doves that drink of the water here are as tame and as faded as the dusty foliage and the skeletons of trees hereabouts. Here Ruth Pinch the sweet girl of Dickens' "Martin Chuzzlewit" came often to meet her brother Tom and afterwards her lover John Westlock.
From Fountain Court at the north is New Court and then on a few steps further is Devereux Court where may be seen a bust of Lord Essex by Colley Cibber, put here to mark the site of the Grecian Coffee House, sacred to the legal profession.
The house in Fleet Street forming the east corner of the entrance to Inner Temple Lane was the famous coffee-house called Nando's, in the 18th century. This house was built for the convenience of Henry, Prince of Wales, in the reign of James I.
Obscured in dust and gloom the Sergeants' Inn, one of the original ten Inns of Chancery, still stands in Fleet Street at Chancery Lane.
A grimy and narrow passage in Fleet Street, a few steps east of St. Dunstan's-in-the-West, so insignificant that it would easily pass unnoticed, is really an entrance to Clifford's Inn, one of the original ten Inns of Chancery. Clifford's is now completely hidden by the church and other buildings but reveals a mine of quaint corners and romantic associations to one fortunate enough to stumble upon it in a day's ramble.
It was in winding Chancery Lane that the dean of anglers Izaak Walton kept a linen draper shop in the years from 1627 to 1647.
In Bishop's Court off Chancery Lane Dickens, in "Bleak House," saw fit to place the rag and bottle shop of Crook, where that strange old man died a death due to spontaneous combustion. Mr. Vholes the lawyer of the Chancery Court also in "Bleak House," had his offices in Symond's Inn on the other side of Chancery Lane where Chichester Rents is now.
Lincoln's Inn, one of the Inns of Court, was built in 1310 and there remains no trace of the original. The front on Chancery Lane and the gatehouse there were designed in 1518. Through an odd little pathway from Chancery Lane the Stone Buildings are easily reached. These were set up in the hope of rebuilding the entire Inn but this was not done. Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, here maintained a town house in the 13th century and the grounds extended all about the present site and have taken his name as their own.
The gardens of Lincoln's Inn Fields were laid out by the great architect Inigo Jones. Up to the first quarter of the 18th century Lincoln's Inn Fields was a favorite duelling ground. Here also Babington and others who conspired for the freedom of Mary Queen of Scots were executed in 1586. Lord William Russell was also executed here in 1683 because he was supposed to have been concerned in the Rye House Plot. Altogether the gardens may be said to have many gory associations of which their present appearance gives no hint.
Inigo Jones the celebrated English architect has left the mark of his genius on many London structures. He was born in London in 1576 and during the reign of James I., when the main amusement of the Court was the putting on of the masques of Ben Jonson he designed the scenery for them. During this reign, too, he held the post of surveyor-general of royal buildings. Long before his death in 1653 he was known to be the first architect of England.
Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre stood where is now the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons on the south side of the gardens. In this playhouse Congreve's "Love for Love," with Mrs. Bracegirdle as Angelica, was first produced in 1695. "The Beggar's Opera" was also first seen here, when Lavinia Fenton afterwards Duchess of Bolton was the Polly Peacham. This is the theatre which Pepys visited so often that, as he himself said, he made his wife "as mad as the devil."
Facing Lincoln's Inn Fields on the west side is still to be seen a stone built house numbered 58, with Doric columns, quite grimy in appearance, where once lived John Forster the biographer of Dickens. In this house, Forster began the library which had grown to 18,000 volumes when he bequeathed it to the nation. Here, too, he often entertained Dickens and here heard him read in manuscript "The Chimes." Dickens made this the home of Tulkinghorn the lawyer of "Bleak House," and killed him here. There is no sign of the fore-shortened allegory on the first floor ceiling now though from appearance it might well have been there once. "Boz," writing of this first floor room declared that you might once have heard "a sound at night, as of men laughing, together with a clinking of knives and forks and wineglasses." The house was built by Robert Bertie, Earl of Lindsey, a general of King Charles I.
In Great Queen Street at No. 56 not far from Lincoln's Inn Fields, Boswell lived and wrote the greater part of the "Life of Johnson."
Where Gray's Inn Road touches Holborn is the old quaint gabled Staple Inn, one of the original ten Inns of Chancery harking back to the days of James I. An arched gateway gives entrance to the interior court where flourish plane trees that look to be as old as the inn itself- It was here that Mr. Grewgious of Dickens' "Bleak House," had his chambers, and over a doorway of the court is a stone with the lettering:
This seemingly cabalistic reference stands for Principal John Thompson who presided over the inn for two terms in 1747. Dickens made fun of it in "Bleak House." Dr. Samuel Johnson moved into Staple Inn March 22, 1757, from Gough Square, Fleet Street, and during his residence here the great lexicographer wrote "Rasselas" in the evenings of a week, to pay the funeral expenses of his mother!
The large red brick insurance building opposite Staple Inn on the north side of Holborn is on the site of Furnival's, one of the original ten Inns of Chancery, where Dickens lived when he was first married and where he began the writing of "Pickwick Papers."
A narrow alley between the Holborn houses east of Fetter Lane and having over its entrance a jarring gilt sign leads to the smallest of the ten original Inns of Chancery—Barnard's Inn. Its ancientness is evidenced by its dwarfed courts and tiny Hall. Since 1874 it has been used by the Mercers' Company for their schools. Herbert Pocket in Dickens' " Great Expectations " had rooms here in which Pip slept on his arrival in London.
STAPLE INN, LOOKING TOWARD HOLBORN GATEWAY
Gray's Inn one of the four Inns of Court with its spacious gardens and its sober courts is a reminder of the reign of King Edward III. The Hall was built in 1560 and the gardens were laid out three centuries ago, the walks being planned by Francis Bacon.
In Fox Court, which is off Gray's Inn Road close by Holborn, the Countess of Macclesfield lived, and here, on the south side, her famous son Richard Savage the poet was born in 1697. His father was Lord Rivers, but Savage was never cared for by him and was treated with gross neglect by his mother. His life was a dissipated one and he once killed a man in a drunken brawl for which he was sentenced to death but afterwards pardoned. His best poem is "The Bastard," in which he execrated his own mother the Countess for the illegitimacy of his birth. He died in 1743 in a Bristol jail to which he had been sent for debt.
Close by, at the Gray's Inn Road corner of Holborn, is the crossing that was swept by the poor Jo of Dickens' "Bleak House."
In Brooke Street, near at hand, the house No. 39, is famous as standing on the site of the lodging house where Thomas Chatterton ended his brief and remarkable career. Chatterton was born in Bristol, the son of a poor widow. He received some education at a charity school but otherwise was self-taught. In the few years of his life he developed a poetic quality wonderful even in an age noted for literary excellence. He was seventeen years old when in 1769 he came to London where he met great discouragement. He lived in the garret of the obscure Brooke Street lodging and here on August 24th, 1770, in dire want, among strangers, literally starving, he died of poison self-administered. He was buried in the pauper burial ground adjoining a workhouse in Shoe Lane.
Since 1688 the present church of St. Andrew's has stood at the western end of Holborn Viaduct. It is a Wren building set up where an older church was once. The poet Richard Savage was baptised here, and Hazlitt the essayist was here married having for best man Charles Lamb.
Quaint and quiet and fascinating in its strong old age the cloister of St. Etheldreda's just beyond the busy roar of Holborn Circus is a survival of the famous palace of the bishops of Ely. This cloister is in part the same as that in which Henry VIII. first met Cranmer, and here John of Gaunt father of Henry IV. died in 1399. Ely Place of to-day is named for the old palace.
In narrow Mitre Court, connecting Ely Place with Hatton Gardens, set in the wall of a public house is the "Sign of the Mitre," bearing date of 1546. The present house stands on the site of the main entrance to the palace.
Bleeding Heart Yard of picturesque name and fame, at the head of Ely Place, is written of by Dickens in "Little Dorrit," as the home of Plornish the plasterer, and it was here that the honest Daniel Doyce had his factory.