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called from an earl of that title, who had here a house and extensive pleasuregrounds; the estate was, after his lordship’s death, disposed of to an association, for the purpose of opening to the public an entertainment, of a kind till then unattempted in this country.
The Rotunda, in which concerts were performed, and which answered the purpose to which some of our theatres have been of late years applied, that of promenade concerts, was a spacious building, tastefully decorated, lit up with coloured lamps, and furnished with numerous boxes where the company took refreshment. The concerts commenced about seven o'clock, and were ended about ten ; morning concerts were also given, consisting chiefly of selections from oratorios. Masquerades were also attempted; but this amusement, unsuitable alike to the genius, taste, and feeling of the English, was not attended with any lasting success. The principal amusement of the frequenters of this place, next to hearing the music, would appear to have consisted in walking round and round the circle, conversing and animadverting upon the appearance of each other. There was a fashion in Ranelagh, as in everything else; and, while it lasts, fashion is pleasure. The amusements of fashionable life are not pursued for enjoyment, but for fashion's sake; it is not what there is to be there, but who is to be there, that determines the popularity of such places : if a certain amount of exclusiveness be attained, the pleasure, that is, the fashion, is complete. Ranelagh, however, has long since been deserted by the capricious goddess, and no trace of its former splendour remains.
built in 1772 at an expense of 20,0001., is directed to the village of that name on the left bank of the river. Battersea Church, a conspicuous object, abutting upon the Thames, is a clumsy but commodious structure, rebuilt about twenty years ago. In the east end is a window, in which are three portraits. The first, that of Margaret Beauchamp, ancestress (by her first husband, Sir Oliver St. John,) of the St. Johns, and by her second husband, John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, grandmother to Henry VIII. ; the second a portrait of that monarch; the third that of Queen Elizabeth, placed here by her grandfather Thomas Boleyne, Earl of Wiltshire, father of Queen Anne Boleyne, being great-grandfather of Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas Leighton, and wife of Sir John St. John, the first baronet of the family.
The village of Battersea will always be remembered in connexion with the name of Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, the friend of Swift, Pope, and Gay, author of many political and metaphysical works, and Secretary of State in the reign of Queen Anne; he was born here, and here died in 1751, aged 79. His history may be read in his epitaph, which is as follows:“Here lies HENRY St. John, in the reign of Queen Anne, Secretary of War, Secretary of State, and Viscount Bolingbroke; in the days of King George I. and King George II. something more and better. His attachment to Queen Anne exposed him to a long and severe persecution; he bore it with firmness of mind. He passed the latter part of his life at home, the enemy of no national party, the friend of no faction; distinguished under the cloud of proscription, which had not been entirely taken off, by zeal to maintain the liberty, and to restore the ancient prosperity of Great Britain.”
“In this manner,” says Dr. Goldsmith, in his elegant Life of this distinguished person, "lived and died Lord Bolingbroke; ever active, never depressed, ever pursuing Fortune, and as constantly disappointed by her. In whatever light we view his character, we shall find him an object rather more proper for our wonder than our imitation ; more to be feared than
MONUMENT OF BOLINGBROKE.
esteemed, and gaining our admiration without our love. His ambition ever aimed at the summit of power, and nothing seemed capable of satisfying his immoderate desires, but the liberty of governing all things without a rival.”
Of Lord Bolingbroke's genius as a philosopher, the same author observes, that “his aims were equally great and extensive. Unwilling to submit to any authority, he entered the fields of science with a thorough contempt of all that had been established before him, and seemed willing to think everything wrong, that he might show his faculty in the reformation. It might have been better for his quiet as a man, if he had been content to act a subordinate character in the state; and it had certainly been better for his memory as a writer, if he had aimed at doing less than he attempted. As a moralist, therefore, Lord Bolingbroke, by having endeavoured at too much, seems to have done nothing; but, as a political writer few can equal, and none can exceed him.”
Lord Chesterfield confesses, that until he read Bolingbroke's letters on Patriotism, and his idea of a Patriot King, he “did not know all the extent and powers of the English language. Whatever subject,” continues his lordship, “Lord Bolingbroke speaks or writes upon, he adorns with the most splendid eloquence; not a studied or laboured eloquence, but such a flowing happiness of diction, which (from care perhaps at first) is become so familiar to him, that even his most familiar conversations, if taken down in writing, would bear the press, without the least correction either as to method or style."
Tindal the historian confesses St. John to have been, occasionally, perhaps the best political writer that ever appeared in England.
Unfortunately for him, all that he gained by his talent, or we might say genius, he lost by want of fixed principles of action. Alternately rejected by the advisers of King George I. and of the Pretender, his support seemed dangerous to all parties, and all parties concluded him an unsafe man to meddle with; nor is there perhaps a more lamentable position in which a man of high intellect and spirit can find himself, than when thus neglected, not because of his want of talent, but because of possessing too much. When deprived of power, and persecuted unrelentingly by Walpole, who pursued him with the petty vindictiveness of a little mind, he flattered himself with the hope of finding that pleasure in retirement which ambition could not give; and retired to Dawley, near Uxbridge, where Pope, in a
well-known letter to Swift, playfully describes his mode of passing away
his time. Whenever men fly from business in disgust, and take refuge in a solitude ill adapted to their ideas, habits, and modes of life, we may always conclude a defect in the judgment or the will. A good and wise man, when he finds the paths of ambition closed against him, will content himself with the discharge of his duties in an humbler sphere; spoiled children only refuse food altogether, because they may have once suffered from a surfeit.
The monument to the memory of Lord Bolingbroke in Battersea Church, is from the chisel of Roubilliac.
The manor of Battersea belonged to King Harold, and being exchanged by him with the monks of Westminster for Windsor, came into possession of the St. Johns in the reign of James I., and is now the property of Earl Spencer. By custom of this manor, lands descend to the youngest son, and in default of sons, are divided among the daughters equally. At Battersea was a palace, called York House, of the Archbishops of York. This has been confounded with York House, Whitehall, where Cardinal Wolsey entertained Queen Anne Boleyne. The greater part of Bolingbroke House was pulled down in 1775; but a few of the rooms remained, one wainscotted with cedar, said to have been Lord Bolingbroke's favourite apartment, which were incorporated into the dwelling of a maltster, who built mills upon the site of the ancient dwelling-house. Williams the actor, Astle the antiquary, and Curtis the botanist, were buried in the church-yard. The northern extremity of Clapham Common is called BATTERSEA-RISE, and is a favourite site for suburban villas.
WANDSWORTH, at some distance from the brink of the river, on the left, so called from its situation on the banks of the river Vandal or Wandle, immortalised by Pope, who calls it
“ The blue, transparent Vandalis," next demands our attention. Many French refugees, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, settled in Wandsworth; where, as in other places, they pursued manufactures with spirit and success. The first Presbyterian congregation in England was established at Wandsworth.
GARRAT is a hamlet close to Wandsworth, where took place a mock election after the meeting of every new parliament, when some well-known characters of low life appeared as candidates, and much merriment was the
result. This burlesque is still revived in Foote's popular farce of the Mayor of Garrat, but in practice has been long discontinued.
PUTNEY is now at hand; and as there is much to interest us, the traveller will have the goodness to disembark, while we consider what are the chief objects of note in this place, and in its opposite neighbour, Fulham.
And first, of Putney. This pleasant village, from its situation a place of considerable intercourse, and from its agreeable air, and proximity to the river, a favourite place of resort for the citizens, has had the honour of producing two eminent statesmen : West, Bishop of Ely, a favourite ambassador of Henry VIII., an eminent scholar, and magnificent in his way of living, keeping in his house a hundred servants; to fifty of whom he gave four marks wages, to the other fifty forty shillings, allowing every one four yards of cloth for his winter livery, and three yards and a half for his summer livery. Bishop West was buried in Ely Cathedral.
Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, was the son of a blacksmith of Putney. The place of his birth is yet pointed out by a tradition, which is in some measure confirmed by a survey of Wimbledon manor taken in 1617, describing the spot as “an ancient cottage, called the smith's shop, lying west of the highway leading from Putney to the Upper Gate, and on the south side of the way from Richmond to Wandsworth, being the sign of