Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

fering both of the king and church, being seventeen years. This was also his birth-day, and with a triumph of above 20,000 horse and foot, brandishing their swords, and shouting with inexpressible joy; the ways strewed with flowers, the bells ringing, the streets hung with tapestry, fountains running with wine; the mayor, aldermen, and all the companies in their liveries, chains of gold, and banners ; lords and nobles, clad in cloth of silver, gold, and velvet; the windows and balconies all set with ladies; trumpets, music, and myriads of people flocking, even so far as from Rochester, so as they were seven hours in passing the city, even from two o'clock in the afternoon till nine at night.

I stood in the Strand and beheld it, and blessed God; and all this was done without one drop of bloodshed, and by that very army which rebelled against him! but it was the Lord's doing, for such a rebellion was never mentioned in any history, ancient or modern, since the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity; nor so joyful a day, or so bright ever seen in this nation; this happening when to expect or effect it was beyond all human policy. The eagerness of men, women, and children, to see his majesty, and kiss his hands, was so great, that he had scarce leisure to eat for some days, coming as they did from all parts of the nation; and the king being as willing to give them that satisfaction, would have none kept out, but gave free access to all sorts of people.

Evelyn's Diary. TOUCHING FOR THE EVIL. One of Charles the Second's public acts was touching for the evil. July 6, 1660, his majesty first began to touch for the evil according to custom thus : his majesty sitting under his state in the banquetting-house, the chirurgeons cause the sick to be brought or led up to the throne, where they kneeling, the king strokes their faces or cheeks with both his hands at once, at which instant a chaplain in his formalities says, “ He put his hands upon them, and he healed them.This is said to every one in particular. When they have been all touched, they come up again in the same order, and the other chaplain kneeling, and having angel gold strung on white ribbon on his arm, delivers them one by one to his majesty, who puts them about the necks of the touched as they pass, whilst the first chaplain repeats, “ that it is the true light who came into the world ;" then follows an epistle (as at first a gospel), with the liturgy prayers for the sick, with some alterations ; lastly, the blessing; and then the Lord Chamberlain and Comptroller of the Household bring a basin, ewer, and towel, for his majesty to wash. In this manner his majesty touched above six hundred, and such was his princely patience and tenderness to the poor afflicted creatures, that, though it took up a very long time, his majesty, without betraying weariness, was pleased to make inquiry whether there were any more that had not yet been touched. Evelyn's Diary.

To my lord's lodgings, where Tom Gay come to me, and there stayed to see the king touch people for the king's evil, but he didn't come at all, it rained so, and the poor people were forced to stand all the morning in the rain in the garden ; afterwards he touched them in the banquetting house. Pepy's Diary, rob i., p. 110.

CHANGE OF MANNERS AND MORALS. The restoration of the Stuarts may be considered a new era in English history; the nation which for so many years had been harrassed by civil war, excessive taxation, and arbitrary military government, now began to taste the blessings of peace. Rich harvests were reaped in the fields on which contending armies encamped or fought; the cities and cathedrals which had been pillaged and battered by the soldiers of Cromwell and Fairfax were fast recovering their wealth, and increasing in magnitude and importance. The government, although still arbitrary, was less violent and oppressive; and the people, who were no longer compelled to wear a mask of sanctity, and forego all sports and recreations, hailed the restoration of their exiled monarch as the epoch of their return to happiness and freedom. The interdicts against May-poles and morrice-dances, puppet-shows, wrestling matches, bowls, horse racing, rope dancing, playhouses, and Christmas festivities, which, under the rule of the Puritans, had been strictly forbidden as deadly sins, being now removed, the whole nation flew to them with frantic eagerness. The laxity of morals, and the luxurious extravagance of Charles, were imitated by the people at large ; vice and profligacy receiving no check from high example were openly practised by all classes ; the most flagrant crimes passed unpunished; in short, so complete was the state of moral degradation, that virtue was considered a jest, chastity a scoff, prudence a bugbear, religion a cloak, honour a romance, and honesty but the resource of the ignorant. The wily Louis the Fourteenth of France, taking advantage of the indolence of the king, and the national love for pageantry and pleasures, contrived by secret loans of large sums of money, which Charles required to support the extravagance of his mistresses and his personal pomp, so to entangle him with contracts and promises to support him in his wars, that had not the death of Charles overthrown his almost matured plans, the pope's supremacy would have been acknowledged, and our country again deluged with blood.

Kings of England, p. 152.

THE PLAGUE. This great calamity broke out in the beginning of May, 1665. The week in which it was first discovered it carried off nine persons, and spread an universal dread through every rank in the metropolis, but in the week after, the sufferers being reduced to three, the fears of the citizens abated. In the succeeding week, however, the number progressively increased, and in time the deaths were not less than $70 a week. The royal family, the no

bility, gentry, and principal citizens, now fled with precipitation, and in July, the number increasing to 2010, the civil authorities divided the parishes into districts, and allotted to each distriet a competent number of officers, under the denomination of examiners, searchers, nurses, and watchmen. They ordered that the existence of the disease, wherever it might penetrate, should be made known to the public by a red cross, one foot in length, painted on the door, with these words, Lord have mercy upon us!"

ed above it. From that moment the house was closed ; all egress for the space of one month was inexorably refused; and the wretched inmates were doomed to remain under the same roof, communicating death one to the other; of these many sunk under the horrors of their situation; others, driven by despair, eluded the vigilance or corrupted the fidelity of the watchmen, and by their escape, instead of avoiding, served to disseminate the contagion. Provision was also made for the speedy interment of the dead. In the day time officers were always on the watch to withdraw from public view the bodies of those who expired in the streets ; during the night the tinkling of a bell, accompanied with the glare of links, and the awful call of “ Bring out your dead," announced the approach of the pest-cart making its round to receive the victims of the last four-and-twenty hours. No coffins were prepared ; no funeral service was read; no mourners were permitted to follow the remains of their relatives or friends. The cart proceeded to the nearest cemetery, and shot its burden into the common grave, a deep and spacious pit, capable of holding some scores of bodies, and dug in the church-yard, or, when the church-yard was full, in the outskirts of the parish. Of the hardened and brutal conduct of the men to whom this duty was committed, men taken from the refuse of society, and lost to all sense of morality or decency, instances are related to which it would be difficult to find a parallel in the annals of human depravity. The sufferings of the patients often threw them into paroxysms of phrenzy. They burst the bonds by which they were confined to their beds; they precipitated themselves from the windows ; they ran naked into the streets, and plunged into the river. Men of the strongest minds were lost in amazement when they contemplated this scene of woe and desolation; the weak and credulous became the dupes of their own fears and imagination, Tales the most improbable, and predictions the most terrific, were circulated: numbers assembled at different cemeteries to behold the ghosts of the dead walk round the pits in which their bodies had been desposited ; and crowds believed that they saw in the heavens a sword of flame, stretching from Westminster to the Tower. To add to their terrors came the fanatics, who felt themselves inspired to act the part of prophets. One of these, in a state of nudity, walked through the city, bearing on his head a pan of burning coals, and denouncing the judgments of God on its sinful inhabitants; another assuming the character of Jonah, proclaimed aloud as he passed, Yet forty days, and London shall be

destroyed;" and a third' might be met, sometimes by day, sometimes by night, advancing with a hurried step, exclaiming with a deep sepulchral voice, " Oh, the great and dreadful God!" During the months of July and August the weather was sultry, the heat more and more oppressive. The eastern parishes, which at first had been spared, became the chief seat of the pestilence; and the more substantial citizens, whom it had hitherto respected, sutfered in common with their less opulent neighbours. * In many places the regulations of the magistrates could no longer be enforced the night did not suffice for the burial of the dead, who were now borne in coffins to their graves at all hours of the day; and it was inhuman to shut up the houses of the infected poor, whose families must have perished through want, had they not been permitted to go and seek relief. London presented a wide and heart-rending scene of misery and desolation. Rows of houses stood tenantless and open to the winds; others in almost equal numbers exhibited the red cross flaming on the doors. The chief thoroughfares, so lately trodden by the feet of thousands, were overgrown with grass. The few individuals who ventured abroad walked in the middle, and, when they met, declined on opposite sides to avoid the contact of each other. But if the solitude and stillness of the streets impressed the mind with awe, there was something yet more appalling in the sounds which occasionally burst upon the ear. At one moment were heard the roarings of delirium, or the wail of woe, from the infected dwelling ; at another, the merry song, or the loud and careless laugh issuing from the wassailers at the tavern. Men became so familiarised with the form, that they steeled their feelings against the terrors of death. They waited each for his turn with the resignation of the christian or the indifference of the stoic. Some devoted themselves to exercises of piety; others sought relief in the riot of dissipation, and the recklessness of despair. September came; the heat of the atmosphere began to abate; but, contrary to expectation, the mortality increased (the return for the week ending September the 5th was 8,252.) Formerly a hope of recovery might be indulged ; now infection was the certain harbinger of death, which followed, generally, in the course of three days, often within the space of twenty-four hours. The privy councií ordered an experiment to be tried, which was grounded on the practice of former times. To dissipate the pestilential miasm, firess of sea-coal, in the proportion of one fire to every twelve houses, were kindled in all the streets, courts, and alleys of London and Westminster. They were kept burning three days and nights, and were at last extinguished by a heavy and continuous fall of rain. The next bill exhibited a considerable reduction in the amount of deaths, and the survivors congratulated each other on the cheering prospect.† But the cup was soon dashed from their

* The weekly returns of the dead for these months were 1,006, 1,268, 1,731, 2,785, 3,014, 4,000, ,312, 5,568, :,496.

The return tell to 7,690.

lips, and in the following week more than ten thousand victims, a number hitherto unknown, sank under the augmented violence of the disease. * Yet even now, when hope had yielded to despair, their deliverance was at hand. The high winds which usually accompany the autumnal equinox, cooled and purified the air; the fever, though equally contagious, assumed a less malignant form, and its ravages were necessarily more confined, from the diminu. tion of the population, on which it had hitherto fed. The weekly burials successively decreased from thousands to hundreds, and, in the beginning of December, seventy-three parishes were pronounced clear of the disease.f The intelligence was hailed with joy by the emigrants, who returned in crowds to take possession of their houses, and to resume their usual occupations. In February the court was once more fixed at Whitehall, and the nobility and gentry followed the footsteps of the sovereign. Though more than one hundred thousand individuals are said to have perished, yet in a short time the chasm in the population was no longer discernible. The plague continued, indeed, to linger in particular spots, but its terrors were forgotten or despised ; and the streets, so recently abandoned by the inhabitants, were again thronged with multitudes in the eager pursuit of profit, or pleasure, or crime.

Lingard, vol. xi., p. 282. THE FIRE OF LONDON. The plague had scarcely ceased, or those who had fled returned to their habitations, when the city was visited by another calamity, still more summary in its ravages. This was the Fire of London, which broke out on Sunday, September 2, 1666. This terrible conflagration began about one in the morning, in Pudding-lane, near New Fish-street; which being in a quarter of the town closely built with wooden pitched houses, spread itself so far before day-light, that it became too powerful to be mastered by any engines or other means of extinction. A violent easterly wind spread the flames up Gracechurch-street, and downwards from Cannon-street to the water-side. It raged in a bright flame all Monday and Tuesday; but on the evening of the latter day, the fire meeting with brick buildings at the Temple, it was

* The number returned was 8,297, but it was generally acknowledged that the bills were very incorrect, and seldom gave more than two-thirds of the real number.

+ The decrease was as follows 6,560, 5,720, 5,068, 1,806, 1,388, 1,787, 1,359, 905, 544.

Pepys, in his Diary, vol. iii., p. 157, relates that the people had become so familiar with death," they would go in sport to one another's burials; and in spite, too, ill people would breathe in the faces, out of their windon's, of well people going by."

Many of the “plague pits," both in London and the country, remain untouched to this day, a superstitious feeling existing that to open the ground would cause a return of the pestilence. In Stepney old church yard there is one surrounded with iron railings, and several others in different parts of the city and in Westminster, all of which are held inviolate to the spade and pickaxe. In Bristol the large plot of ground on which the fair is held has never been built upon, the inhabitants fear. ing to break the earth which covers the great pis, where the plague is buried.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »