vol II date / index
St. Praxedes. St. Zodicus, Bp., A.D. 204. St. Barhadbesciabas, A.D. 354. St. Victor, of Marseilles. St. Arbogastus, Bp. A.D. 678.
A sensitive plant in a garden grew
And the young winds fed it with silver dew,
And it opened its fanlike leaves to the light,
And closed them beneath the kisses of night.
And the spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the spirit of love felt every where;
And each flower and shrub on earth's dark breast,
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
But none ever trembled and panted with bliss,
In the garden, the field, or the wilderness,
Like a doe in the noontide with love's sweet want,
As the companionless sensitive plant.
The snowdrop, and then the violet,
Arose from the ground with warm rain wet,
And their breath was mixed with fresh odour, sent,
From the turf, like the voice and the instrument.
Then the pied windflowers, and the tulip tall,
And narcissi, the fairest among them all,
Who gaze on their eyes in the stream's recess,
Till they die of their own dear loveliness.
And the naiadlike lily of the vale,
Whom youth makes so fair, and passion so pale,
That the light of its tremulous bells is seen,
Through their pavilions of tender green.
And the hyacinth purple, white, and blue,
Which flung from its bells a sweet peal anew
Of music so delicate, soft, and intense,
It was felt like an odour within the sense.
And the rose, like a nymph to the bath addrest,
Which unveiled the depth of her glowing breast,
Till, fold after fold, to the fainting air
The soul of her beauty and love lay bare.
And the wandlike lilly, which lifted up,
As a Moenad, its moonlight-coloured cup,
Till the fiery star, which is its eye,
Gazed through clear dew on the tender sky.
And the jessamine faint, and sweet tuberose,
The sweetest flower, for scent, that blows;
And all rare blossoms from every clime,
Grew in that garden in perfect prime.
To the Editor of the Every-Day Book.
I read your account of this unfortunate Being, and his forlorn piece of self-history, with that smile of half-interest which the Annals of Insignificance excite, till I came to where he says "I was bound apprentice to Mr. William Bird, an eminent writer and Teacher of languages and Mathematics," &c.—when I started as one does on the recognition of an old acquaintance in a supposed stranger. This then was that Starkey of whom I have heard my Sister relate so many pleasant anecdotes; and whom, never having seen, I yet seem almost to remember. For nearly fifty years she had lost all sight of him—and behold the gentle Usher of her youth, grown into an aged Beggar, dubbed with an opprobrious title, to which he had no pretensions; an object, and a May game! To what base purposes may we not return! What may not have been the meek creature's sufferings— what his wanderings—before he finally settled down in the comparative comfort of an old Hospitaller of the Almonry of Newcastle? And is poor Starkey dead?—
I was a scholar of that "eminent writer" that he speaks of; but Starkey had quitted the school about a year before I came to it. Still the odour of his merits had left a fragrancy upon the recollection of the elder pupils. The school-room stands where it did, looking into a discoloured dingy garden in the passage leading from Fetter Lane into Bartlett's Buildings. It is still a School, though the main prop, alas! has fallen so ingloriously; and bears a Latin inscription over the entrance in the Lane, which was unknown in our humbler times. Heaven knows what "languages" were taught in it then; I am sure that neither my Sister nor myself brought any out of it, but a little of our native English. By "mathematics," reader, must be understood "cyphering." It was in fact a humble day-school, at which reading and writing were taught to us boys in the morning, and the same slender erudition was communicated to the girls, our sisters, &c. in the evening. Now Starkey presided, under Bird, over both establishments. In my time, Mr. Cook, now or lately a respectable Singer and Performer at Drury-lane Theatre, and Nephew to Mr. Bird, had succeeded to him. I well remember Bird. He was a squat, corpulent, middle-sized man, with something of the gentleman about him, and that peculiar mild tone—especially while he was inflicting punishment—which is so much more terrible to children, than the angriest looks and gestures. Whippings were not frequent; but when they took place, the correction was performed in a private room adjoining, whence we could only hear the plaints, but saw nothing. This heightened the decorum and the solemnity. But the ordinary public chastisement was the bastinado, a stroke or two on the palm with that almost absolete weapon now—the ferule. A ferule was a sort of flat ruler, widened at the inflicting end into a shape resembling a pear,—but nothing like so sweet—with a delectable hole in the middle, to raise blisters, like a cupping-glass. I have an intense recollection of that disused instrument of torture—and the malignancy, in proportion to the apparent mildness, with which its strokes were applied. The idea of a rod is accompanied with something ludicrous; but by no process can I look back upon this blister-raiser with any thing but unmingled horror.—To make him look more formidable—if a pedagogue had need of these heightenings—Bird wore one of those flowered Indian gowns, formerly in use with schoolmasters; the strange figures upon which we used to interpret into hieroglyphics of pain and suffering. But boyish fears apart— Bird I believe was in the main a humane and judicious master.
O, how I remember our legs wedged in to those uncomfortable sloping desks, where we sat elbowing each other—and the injunctions to attain a free hand, unattainable in that position; the first copy I wrote after, with its moral lesson "Art improves Nature;" the still earlier pothooks and the hangers some traces of which I fear may yet be apparent in this manuscript; the truant looks side-long to the garden, which seemed a mockery of our imprisonment; the prize for best spelling, which had almost turned my head, and which to this day I cannot reflect upon without a vanity, which I ought to be ashamed of—our little leaden inkstands, not separately subsisting, but sunk into the desks; the bright, punctually-washed morning fingers, darkening gradually with another and another inkspot: what a world of little associated circumstances, pains and pleasures mingling their quotas of pleasure, arise at the reading of those few simple words—"Mr. William Bird, an eminent Writer and Teacher of languages and mathematics in Fetter Lane, Holborn!"
Poor Starkey, when young, had that peculiar stamp of old-fashionedness in his face, which makes it impossible for a beholder to predicate any particular age in the object. You can scarce make a guess between seventeen and seven and thirty. This antique cast always seems to promise ill-luck and penury. Yet it seems, he was not always the abject thing he came to. My Sister, who well remembers him, can hardly forgive Mr. Thomas Ranson for making an etching so unlike her idea of him, when he was a youthful teacher at Mr. Bird's school. Old age and poverty—a life-long poverty she thinks, could at no time have so effaced the marks of native gentility, which were once so visible in a face, otherwise strikingly ugly, thin, and care-worn. From her recollections of him she thinks that he would have wanted bread, before he would have begged or borrowed a halfpenny. If any of the girls (she says) who were my school-fellows should be reading, through their aged spectacles, tidings from the dead of their youthful friend Starkey, they will feel a pang, as I do, at ever having teased his gentle spirit. They were big girls, it seems, too old to attend his instructions with the silence necessary; and however old age, and a long state of beggary, seem to have reduced his writing faculties to a state of imbecility, in those days, his language occassionally rose to the bold and figurative, for when he was in despair to stop their chattering, his ordinary phrase was, "Ladies, if you will not hold your peace, not all the powers in heaven can make you." Once he was missing for a day or two; he had run away. A little old unhappy-looking man brought him back—it was his father—and he did no business in the school that day, but sate moping in a corner, with his hands before his face; and the girls, his tormentors, in pity for his case, for the rest of that day forbore to annoy him. I had been there but a few months (adds she) when Starkey, who was the chief instructor of us girls, communicated to us as a profound secret, that the tragedy of "Cato" was shortly to be acted by the elder boys, and that we were to be invited to the representation. That Starkey lent a helping hand in fashioning the actors, she remembers; and but for his unfortunate person, he might have had some distinguished part in the scene to enact; as it was, he had the arduous task of prompter assigned to him, and his feeble voice was heard clear and distinct, repeating the text during the whole performance. She describes her recollection of the cast of characters even now with a relish. Martia, by the handsome Edgar Hickman, who afterwards went to Africa, and of whom she never afterwards heard tidings,—Lucia, by Master Walker, whose sister was her particular friend; Cato, by John Hunter, a masterly declaimer, but a plain boy, and shorter by the head than his two sons in the scene, &c. In conclusion, Starkey appears to have been one of those mild spirits, which, not originally deficient in understanding, are crushed by penury into dejection and feebleness. He might have proved a useful adjunct, if not an ornament to Society, if Fortune had taken him into a very little fostering, but wanting that, he became a Captain—a by-word—and lived, and died, a broken bulrush.
———The sprightly youth
Speeds to the well-known Pool. Awhile he stands
Gazing th'inverted landscape, half afraid
To meditate the blue profound below;
Then plunges headlong down the circling flood.
His ebon tresses, and his rosy cheek,
Instant emerge; and thro' th' obedient wave,
At each short breathing by his lip repell'd,
With arms and legs according well, he makes,
As humour leads, an easy winding path;
While, from his polish'd sides, a dewy light
Effuses on the pleas'd spectators round.
Coming from the city, on the left-hand side of the City-road, just beyond Old-street, and immediately at the back of St. Luke's hospital, Peerless Pool
And wastes its waters in the silver Thames.
It is a pleasure-bath in the open air, a hundred and seventy feet long, and upwards of a hundred feet wide, nearly surrounded by trees, with an arcade divided off into boxes for privately dressing and undressing; and is therefore, both in magnitude and convenience, the greatest bathing-place in the metropolis. Here the lover of cleanliness, or of a "cool dip" in a hot day, may at all times, for a shilling, enjoy the refreshment he desires, without the offensive publicity, and without the risk of life, attendant on river-bathing; while there is "ample room and verge enough" for all the sports and delights which "swimmers only know." It is no where so deep as five feet, and on one side only three; the experienced and the inexperienced are alike safe. There is likewise a capacious cold-bath in an adjacent building, for the use of those who prefer a termperature below that of the atmosphere.
Peerless Pool is distinguished for having been one of the ancient springs that supplied the metropolis with water, when our ancestors drew that essential element from public conduits; that is to say, before the "old" water-works at London-bridge "commenced to be," or the "New River" had been brought to London by sir Hugh Myddelton. The streams of this "pool" at that time were conveyed, for the convenience of the inhabitants near Lothbury, through pipes terminating "close to the south-west corner of the church."*  Stow speaks of it as a "cleere water, called Perilous Pond, because," says our chronicler, "divers youths, by swimming therein, have been drowned."†  "Upon Saterday the 19 of January, 1633, sixe pretty young lads, going to sport themselves upon the frozen Ducking-pond, neere to Clearkenwell, the ice too weake to support them, fell into the water, concluding their pastime with the lamentable losse of their lives: to the great griefe of many that saw them dying, many more that afterward saw them dead, with the in-expressible griefe of their parents."‡  In consequence of such accidents, and the worthy inhabitants of Lothbury having obtained their water from other sources, Perilous Pond was entirely filled up, and rendered useless, till Mr. William Kemp, "an eminent jeweller and citizen of London," "after ten years' experience of the temperature" of this water, and "the happy success of getting clear of a violent pain of the head by bathing in it, to which he had for many years been subject, was generously led for public benefit" to open the spring in the year 1743, and "to form the completest swimming-bath in the whole world;" and "in reference to the improvements he had made on the ruins of that once Perilous Pond, and by a very natural transition, he changed that disagreeable appellation of Perilous, "that is," says Maitland, "dangerous, or hazardous, to the more agreeable name of Peerless Pool, that is Matchless Bath, a name which carries its own reason with it."
Maitland says, that Kemp "spared no expense nor contrivance to render it quite private and retired from public inspection, decent in its regulation, and as genteel in its furniture as such a place could be made." He added a cold-bath, "generally allowed," says Maitland, "to be the largest in England, being forty feet long, and twenty feet broad; this bath is supplied by a remarkably cold spring, with a convenient room for dressing." The present cold-bath, faced with marble and paved with stone, was executed by sir William Staines, when he was a journeyman mason. He was afterwards lord mayor of London, and often boasted of this, while he smoked his pipe at the Jacob's-well in Barbican, as amongst his "best work."
Kemp's improvements provided an entrance to it across a bowling-green on the south side, through a neat marble pavilion or saloon, thirty feet long, with a large gilt sconce over a marble table. Contiguous to this saloon were the dressing apartments, some of which were open, others were private with doors. There was also a green bower on each side of the bath, divided into other apartments for dressing. At the upper end was a circus-bench, capable of accommodating forty persons, under the cover of a wall twelve feet high, surmounted on one side by a lofty bank with shrubs, and encircled by a terrace-walk planted with lime-trees at the top. The descent to the bath was by four pair of marble stairs, as it still is, to a fine gravel-bottom, through which the springs gently bubbled and supplied, as they do at this time, the entire basin with the crystal fluid. Hither many a "lover and preserver" of health and long life, and many an admirer of calm retreat, resorted "ever and anon:"—
And in hyghe sommer eueriche daye I wene,
Scapyng the hot son's euer bemyng face,
He dyd hym wend unto a pleasaunt place,
Where auncient trees shut owht escorchyng shene;
And in a solempne lyghte, through braunches grene
In quyet, sytting on a lytel stole,
For hys delection he woulde ther' unlace,
Wythin an arbre, where bryddes onlie bene
And goe, and bayn hym in the waters cool
That alway wellyd there, and made a peerless pool.
The most remarkable feature of Peerless Pool, to the public eye, was a noble fish-pond, constructed by Kemp, due east and west. It was three hundred and twenty feet long, ninety-three feet broad, and eleven feet deep, stocked with carp, tench, and great variety of the finny tribe, wherein subscribers and frequenters of either the pleasure or the cold-bath were privileged to angle. On each side was a high slope or bank, with thousands of variegated shrubs, terminated at the top by a gravelled walk between stately lime-trees:—
These beautiful plantations shadow'd all;
And flung their beauteous greens so deep and full,
Into the surface of the quiet lake,
That the cool water seem'd an open mirror
Reflecting patterns of all liveries
The gentle seasons give the constant earth
Wherein to wait on man; or rather seem'd
An open portal to the great abyss
At the head of the fish-pond, westward, stood the house that Kemp built for his own residence, with a garden and orchard of pears and apple-trees, and walled round. It was a handsome old-country-'squire-like building, very similar to the present parsonage-house of St. Luke's in Helmet-row; the back-front looked upon the water, and had an arch in the embankment on that side, beneath which two boats, kept for the accommodation of gentlemen of the rod and line, were drawn in at night.
Mr. Kemp expired before his lease; but he left property to his family, and his son in possession of the "Pool," and of his lease. He was not so successful as his father; and after him the premises were held by a person named Taylor, and subsequently by one Crewe. At the expiration of his lease, a new lease upon building terms was obtained of St. Bartholomew's hospital, at a rental of 600l. per annum, by Mr. Joseph Watts, the present occupier and proprietor of the baths, who, to remunerate himself, set about "improving," by draining the fish-pond, pulling down Kemp's house, and felling the trees. He built Baldwyn-street on the site of the fish-pond; Bath-buildings on the ground of Kemp's orchard; and erected other adjoining streets; preserving the baths as he found them, and in many respects improving them. The pleasure-bath is still a pleasant spot, and both that and the cold-bath retain their ancient capabilities. Indeed, the attractions to the pleasure-bath are undiminished. Its size is the same as in Kemp's time, and trees enough remain to shade the visitor from the heat of the sun while on the brink, irresolute whether to plunge gloriously in, or ignobly walk down the steps. On a summer evening it is amusing to survey the conduct of the bathers: some boldly dive; others "timorous stand," and then descend step by step, "unwillingly and slow." Choice swimmers attract attention by divings and somersets, and the whole sheet of water sometimes rings with merriment. Every fine Thursday and Saturday afternoon in the summer, columns of blue-coat boys, more than three score in each, headed by their respective beadles, arrive, and some half-strip themselves ere they reach their destination; the rapid plunges they make into the pool, and their hilarity in the bath, testify their enjoyment of the tepid fluid.
Mr. John Cleghorn, of Chapman-street, Islington, the architectural draftsman and engraver, was resident near Peerless Pool many years. There being no representation of the fish-pond and house, as they remained within the recollection of himself and the editor of the Every-Day Book, this gentleman, whose taste and knowledge of perspective have by the pencil and the graver exquisitely and accurately illustrated Mr. Rutter's "Description of Fonthill," has supplied the drawing from whence the subjoined engraving has been made. Mr. Cleghorn also made the drawing of the pleasure-bath, as it now is, for the engraving at the commencement of this article.
The old Fish-pond at Peerless Pool.
To the Shepherd and Shepherdess then they go
To tea with their wives, for a constant rule;
And next cross the road to the Fountain also,
And there they all sit, so pleasant and cool,
And see, in and out,
The folks walk about,
And gentlemen angling in Peerless Pool.
The great earthquake, on the first of November, 1755, which destroyed seventy thousand human beings at Lisbon, and swallowed up the greatest part of the city, affected Peerless Pool. Dr. Birch, then secretary to the Royal Society, authenticated the fact, and records it in the "Philosophical Transactions." It appears, that on reports that the agitation of the waters observed in many parts of England, Ireland, Scotland, Holland, &c. on that day, had likewise been noticed in Peerless Pool, Dr. Birch, being desirous of as accurate and circumstancial an account as possible of a fact which he had not heard to have been remarked in any other part of London or its suburbs, himself went thither, on Saturday, December the 6th, 1755, and there took down the particulars from the mouth of one of the two waiters, who were eyewitnesses of it. This waiter said, that having been engaged, between ten and eleven in the morning, with his fellow-waiter, near the wall which enclosed the ground of the fish-pond, he accidentally cast his eye on the water, and was surprised to see it greatly moved without the least apparent cause, as the air was quite calm. He called to his companion to take notice of it, who at first neglected, but being urged to attend to so extraordinary an appearance, he was equally struck with the sight of it. Large waves rolled slowly to and from the bank near them for some time, and at last left the bed of the pond dry for several feet, and in their reflux overflowed the bank ten or twelve feet, as they did the opposite one, which was evident from the wetness of the ground about it. This motion having continued for five or six minutes, the two waiters stepped to the cold-bath near the fish-pond, to see what passed there; but no motion was observed in it by them, or by a gentleman who had been in it, and was then dressing himself, and who, on being told of the agitation in the fish-pond, went directly thither with the waiters, and was a third witness of it. On the ceasing of it, they all three went to the pleasure-bath, between which and the fish-pond the cold-bath was situated; they found the pleasure-bath then motionless, but to have been agitated in the same manner with the fish-pond, the water having left plain marks of its having overflown the banks, and risen to the bushes on their sides. The motion in the fish-pond had also been observed by some persons in Mr. Kemp's house.
Philadelphian Lily. Lilium Philadelphicum.
Dedicated to St. Praxedes.
Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:
1. Maitland. [return]
2. Stow's Survey, edit. 1633, p. 11. [return]
3. Ibid. p. 782. [return]