Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

afterward; which at last turned into confusion, consternation, and despair ; people choosing rather by flight to save their goods, than by a vigorous opposition to save their own houses and the whole city.

Thus a small spark, from an unknown cause, for want of timely care, increased to such a flame, that nothing could extinguish, which laid waste the greatest part of the city in three days' time.

The king in his speech to the parliament, says, “God be thanked for our meeting together in this place: little time hath passed since we were almost in despair of having this place left to meet in, You see the dismal ruins the fire hath made: and nothing but a miracle of God's mercy could have preserved what is left from the same destruction.”

When the presumptions of the city's being burnt by design came to be laid before a committee of the House of Commons, they were found of no weight: and the many stories, published at that time with great assurance, were declared void of credibility.

After all, it may perhaps be queried, whether the foregoing rumours and examinations, though incongruous with each other, may not afford some colour to a whisper, that the government itself was not without some ground of suspicion of having been the secret cause of the conflagration ; to afford an opportunity of restoring the capital of the nation, in a manner more secure from future contagion, more generally wholesome for the inhabitants, more safe from fires, and more beautiful on the whole, from the united effect of all these salutary purposes. Such, however, has been the result of that temporary disaster, whether accidental or not; and if intended, a more pardonable instance of doing evil that good may come of it, cannot perhaps be produced,

[blocks in formation]

THE Act of Parliament 19 and 20 Car. II., enacts, that—The better to preserve the memory of this dreadful visitation, a column or pillar of brass or stone be erected on, or as near unto the place where the fire unhappily began, as conveniently may be; in perpetual remembrance thereof: with such inscription thereon as the lord mayor and court of aldermen shall direct. In obedience to which act, the fine piece of architecture, called * Echard, iii. 168.

+ Burnet, Abr. 121.

DESCRIPTION OF THE MONUMENT.

245

The Monument, was erected, at the expense of fourteen thousand five hundred pounds ; it is the design of the great Sir Christopher Wren, and undoubtedly the finest modern column in the world, and in some respects may vie with the most famous of antiquity, being twenty-four feet higher than Trajan's pillar at Rome. It is of the Doric order, fluted; its altitude, two hundred and two feet from the ground ; greatest diameter of the body fifteen feet; the ground bounded by the plinth or lower part of the pedestal, twenty-eight feet square; and the pedestal is in altitude forty feet; all of Portland stone. Within, is a large staircase of black marble, containing three hundred and forty-five steps, ten inches and a half broad, and six inches risers; a balcony within thirtytwo feet from the top, whereon is a spacious and curious gilded flame, very suitable to the intent of the whole column.

On the front or west side of the die of the pedestal of this magnificent column is finely carved a curious emblem of this tragical scene, by the masterly hand of Mr. Gabriel Cibber. The eleven principal figures are in alto, the rest in basso relievo.

At the north end of the plain the city is represented in flames, and the inhabitants in consternation, their arms extended upward, crying for succour. A little nearer the horizon, the arms, cap of maintenance, and other ensigns of the city's grandeur, partly buried under the ruins. On the ruins, lies the figure of a woman crowned with a castle, her breasts pregnant, and in her hand a sword; representing the strong, plentiful, and wellgoverned city of London in distress. The king is represented on a place ascended to by three steps, providing by his power and prudence for the comfort of his citizens and ornament of his city. On the steps stand three women : 1. Liberty, having in her right hand a hat, wherein the word Liberty, denoting the freedom or liberty given those who engaged three years in the work. 2. Ichnographia, with rule and compasses in one hand, and a scroll in the other ; near her, the emblem of Industry, a beehive. 3. Imagination, holding the emblem of Invention. All which intimate, that the speedy re-erection of the city was principally owing to liberty, imagination, contrivance, art, and industry. There is the figure of time raising the woman in distress, and Providence with a winged hand containing an eye, promising peace and plenty, by pointing to those two figures in the clouds. Behind the king, the work is going forward. Under the king's feet appears Envy enraged at the prospect of success, and blowing flames out of his mouth. The figure of a lion, with

a

one fore-foot tied up, and the muzzle of a cannon, denote this deplorable misfortune to have happened in time of war; and Mars, with a chaplet in his hand, is an emblem of approaching peace. Round the cornice are noble enrichments of trophy work, sword, the king's arms, cap of maintenance, &c., at the angles, four very large dragons, the supporters of the city arms.

On this column of perpetual remembrance the lord mayor and court of aldermen have ordered inscriptions to be cut in Latin :

That on the north side, describes the desolation of the city in ashes; and is thus translated :

In the year of Christ 1666, the second day of September, eastward from hence at the distance of two hundred and two feet, (the height of this column) about midnight, a most terrible fire broke out, which, driven by a high wind, not only wasted the adjacent parts, but also places very remote, with incredible noise and fury: it consumed eighty-nine churches, the city gates, Guildhall, many public structures, hospitals, schools, libraries, a vast number of stately edifices, thirteen thousand two hundred dwelling houses, four hundred streets; of twenty-six wards, it entirely consumed fifteen, and left eight others shattered and half burnt; the ruins of the city were four hundred and thirty-six acres, from the Tower by the Thames side to the Temple church, and from the north-east gate of the city wall to Holborn-bridge: to the estates and fortunes of the citizens it was merciless, but to their lives very favourable *; that it might in all things resemble the last conflagration of the world.

The destruction was sudden, for in a small space of time, the the same city, was seen most flourishing, and reduced to nothing.

Three days after, when this fatal fire had baffled all human councils and endeavours, in the opinions of all, as it were by the will of heaven, it stopped, and on every side was extinguished.

The south side describes the glorious restoration of the city, and has been thus translated :

Charles the Second, son of Charles the Martyr, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, a most gracious prince, commiserating the deplorable state of things, while

:

a

* It was a very miraculous circumstance, amidst all this destruction and public confusion, no person was known either to be burnt, or trodden to death in the streets.

INSCRIPTIONS ON THE MONUMENT.

247

the ruins were yet smoking, provided for the comfort of his citizens, and the ornament of his city; remitted their taxes, and referred the petitions of the magistrates and inhabitants to the parliament, who immediately passed an act, that public buildings should be restored to greater beauty with public money, to be raised by an imposition on coats; that churches, and the cathedral of St. Paul's, should be rebuilt from their foundations with all magnificence; that bridges, gates, and prisons should be made new ; the sewers cleansed ; the streets made straight and regular ; such as were steep, levelled, and those too narrow, made wider ; markets and shambles removed to separate places. They also enacted, that every house should be built with party walls, and all in front raised of equal height, and those walls all of square

stone or brick; and that no man should delay beyond the space of seven years. Moreover, care was taken by law to prevent all suits about their bounds. Also, anniversary prayers were enjoined ;* and to perpetuate the memory hereof to posterity, they caused this column to be erected. The work was carried on with diligence, and London is restored ; but whether with greater speed or beauty may be made a question. Three years' time saw that finished which was supposed to be the business of an age.

The east side, over the door, has an inscription, thus Englished :

This pillar was begun, Sir Richard Ford, knight, being lord mayor of London, in the year 1671: carried on in the mayoralties of Sir George Waterman, knight; Sir Robert Hanson, knight; Sir William Hooker, knight ; Sir Robert Vines, knight; Sir Joseph Sheldon, knight; and finished, Sir Thomas Davis, knight, being lord mayor, in the year 1677.

The inscription on the plinth of the lower pedestal is in

page 245.

On a stone in front of the house built on the spot where the fire began, there was (very lately) the following inscription:

* By statute 19 and 20, Cai. II., it is enacted, That the citizens of London, and their successors for the time to come,ma y

retain the memory of so sad a desolation, and reflect seriously on the manifold' iniquities, which are the unhappy causes of such judgments: be it therefore enacted, that the second day of September (unless the same happen to be Sunday, and if so, then the next day following) be yearly for ever hereafter observed as a day of fasting and humiliation within the said city and liberties thereof, to implore the mercy of Almighty God upon the said city; to make devout prayers and supplications unto him, to divert the like calamity for the time to come.

“Here, by the permission of Heaven, hell broke loose on this protestant city, from the malicious hearts of barbarous Papists, by the hand of their agent, Hubert, who confessed, and on the ruins of this place declared his fact, for which he was hanged, viz. :-That he here began the dreadful fire, which is described and perpetuated on and by the neighbouring pillar. Erected 1680, in the mayorality of Sir Patience Ward, knight.”

« ElőzőTovább »