YORK, AND ITS MEMORIES.
(from The Sunday at Home, annual edition,
The Religious Tract Society.)
in the crypt when the South Transept
IT has been
playfully said that there are some places which many of us associate
chiefly with a mail or a meal! They are somewhat passed over,
because they are so much passed through. Among such we may
indicate Marseilles, Inverness and York.
As compared with the countless multitudes who know its
railway station, few, indeed, know York though every one is familiar
with its fame as a city. In past times when the north and
south of England were practically far apart, York was the northern
capital. The Roman invaders settled and fortified themselves
there, even as they did in London. They gave it the name of
Eboracum, which has reached its present brief form of York through
Anglo-Saxon and Danish modification.
York plays a distinct part in the Roman occupation. It
was the headquarters of the sixth legion. The capable,
unscrupulous Emperor Severus, born in Africa, died in this bleak
garrison, his body being burned there and his ashes carried to Rome.
When the Empire was divided between Galerius and Constantius Chlorus,
Britain fell to the share of the latter, who took up his abode in
York, where he died two years later. Here the army proclaimed
his son and successor, who was afterwards known as Constantine the
From that time, or soon after, the Empire, distracted within
itself, gradually withdrew its troops, and the Roman rule faded out
of Britain. Yet not before it had left well-nigh indelible
marks upon York, in walls, roads, and urns, and in the curious
multangular tower in the Museum gardens beside the Lendal Bridge,
where we may also see the fine ruins of St. Mary's Abbey. This
multangular tower, with its nine obtuse angles, has been undoubtedly
heightened during the Middle Ages, but its plan and its lower part
are as the Romans left it.
The city of York bore full share of the subsequent struggles
between Britons, Saxons and Danes. One happier legend,
emerging from the clouds of that stormy time, tells us that it was
in York early in the sixth century, A.D., that the half-mythical
King Arthur kept the first Christmas that was ever celebrated in
In this connection we may mention that there was a strange
old Christmas custom in Yorkshire. It is not long since it
became extinct—if indeed it is wholly so. Poor women, crooning
a carol, used to carry round what was called the "Advent image"—a
figure of Jesus, placed in a box with evergreens and any flowers
obtainable. It was thought unlucky to refuse a trifling gift
to the image-bearer, and those who bestowed this were at liberty to
take a leaf from the floral decorations to be stored as a sovereign
remedy for toothache. People were uneasy if they did not get a
call from the image-bearer before Christmas Eve. Indeed, there
was a Yorkshire saying "As unhappy as the man who has seen no
About a hundred years after Arthur's Christmas festival, the
famed Paulinus arrived in the north of England, a missionary from
Rome to win the country from heathendom. He baptised the King
of Northumbria and many of his subjects on Easter day, in a little
wooden church on the spot where the minster now stands.
This original and primitive building was replaced by another
of stone, which, however, lay incomplete till it was taken in hand
by Archbishop Wilfrid, who roofed it with lead, and put glass in the
windows "to keep out the birds." His influence was not
confined to York, but extended to religious foundations in Ripon and
Hexham, and even in the south, for it is said that "he taught the
men of Sussex to fish while he won their souls to God." When
one reads a description of him as "a quick walker, expert in all
good works, with never a sour face," one seems to know the man.
Wilfrid's building was destroyed by fire during the Norman
William the Norman having suffered a severe check at York, exacted
such fearful reprisals, that an old authority declares that "there
perished in Yorkshire on this occasion, above 100,000 human beings."
It was William the Norman and his followers who built York
Castle with the grim keep called Clifford's Tower. They are,
indeed, very typical of what a plaintive Saxon chronicle recounts of
the conquerors. "They grievously oppressed the poor people by
building castles, and when they were built they filled them with
wicked men, or rather devils, who seized both men and women who they
imagined had any money, threw them into prison, and put them to more
cruel tortures than the martyrs ever endured."
It must be admitted that the same period saw the foundation
of many religious houses, such as those of Jervaulx, Rievaulx,
Bridlington, romantic Bolton, stately Beverley, and secluded
Fountains, which served at that time as refuge for those men who
loved quiet and study, and furnished a safe retreat for noble maids
and matrons, who, in the words of Walter Scott (in "Ivanhoe ")
desired "to assume the veil and take shelter in convents . . .
solely to preserve their honour from the unbridled wickedness of
Perhaps the darkest day in the history of York Castle was in
the beginning of the reign of the crusading Richard I. (1190), when
a body of armed men attacked the Jews resident in the city.
Five hundred Jews carrying with them what they could, flew to the
castle. All who did not reach there soon enough were massacred
outside the gate. The Jews held the castle till famine itself
invaded it; then, on the advice of an old rabbi, they fired the
building, killing their wives and children with their own hands to
spare them from worse horrors. All perished together. A
few hoped to save their lives by "professing Christianity." It
was all in vain. As soon as the last was despatched, the mob
went to the cathedral, seized the register of money lent by the Jews
and burned it in the nave.
This detail serves to explain that financial bitterness was
blent with "religious" and racial hatred. The Jews had all the
unpopular virtues, thrift, industry, surpassing capacity in
handicraft, and a mysterious skill in drugs and medicaments.
Besides, were they not usurers? The rude populace did not heed
that these Jews were, in the end, but the unwilling collectors for
the Norman lords, who when they chose, extorted their wealth from
them by torture and violence. Still less could they consider
that usury was well-nigh forced on the Jews, by the "Christian"
fanaticism which had barred every avenue for Hebrew aspiration, save
that of money-making.
The present minster was begun about twenty-five years after
this scene of violence. As it was not finished till 1472, it
must have been far indeed from completion, when Edward III. was
there married to Philippa of Hainault, their nuptials filling York,
says Froissart, "with jousts and tournament in the daytime, and
songs and dances in the evening, for weeks together." Yet
these festivities ended in funerals—as festivities so often do!
The Flemings attendant on the bride's relations quarrelled with the
citizens, set fire to part of the city and finally had a regular
battle, in which nearly eight hundred people (of both sides) were
The royal pair maintained an intimate association with York.
Sixteen years after their marriage, a little son of theirs died
there, and lies buried in the minster. A year or two later,
the same queen rode from York to repel an invading army of Scots
whom she defeated near Durham.
All through the Plantagenet period York stood as the capital
of the north. Besides receiving the official presence of
royalty, twelve parliaments were held in the city, and the Courts of
Chancery and the King's Bench actually sat there, for some months.
The importance and the large population of York at this time may be
inferred from the fact that a single epidemic is said to have
carried off no fewer than eleven thousand of the citizens.
The minster does not stand secluded among soft green lawns
and noble trees. Though of late years, good work has been done
in opening up its approaches, still it stands quite in the town.
Its plan—the form of a cross, and its proportions, are of the
simplest. In the height of its roofs, it excels every other
English cathedral. It is particularly distinguished for its
exquisite old stained glass—the Five Sisters' Window, so called from
the mythical legend that the pattern was designed by a family of
ladies—the great "rose" window in the south transept, the noble west
window dating from 1330-1350, and considered one of the finest
decorated windows in England, and the great east window, "the
largest window in England or probably the world, still containing
its original glazing." The contract for this window, drawn up
between the dean and chapter and one John Thornton of Coventry is
dated 1405. John Thornton was to receive for his own share of
the work four shillings a week, and was to complete his task within
three years. We will try to arrive at the "purchasing value"
of this sum at that period. Assuming that one intrusted with
such a work is likely to have been the head of a household, we find
that he could have bought as follows:—
|Half-quarter of wheat
|Half a sheep
which would have left him half his income for the purchase of milk,
small beer, fuel, clothing, the payment of rent and dues, and any
saving necessary or possible. Thus, allowing for all the
difference of money value, we see that "John Thornton" did his
beautiful work without any thought of luxury, though it is equally
true that these greatest luxuries of all, quiet, pure air, and open
country, were his without money or price.
Few of the monuments in the minster are of great interest. In
the south aisle, we see the sculptured figure of Archbishop Sterne,
who had played a prominent part on the Royalist side during the
disaster which befel King Charles' army in the north. The
chief interest of this grave is with one who is not buried in it.
For this Archbishop Sterne was grandfather of that master humorist
and unworthy man, the Rev. Laurence Sterne, who enriched English
literature by his creation of the matchless "Uncle Toby." His
own virtues and vices alike belonged essentially to the camp (where
for the first eleven years of his life he followed the fortunes of
his father, the archbishop's son and his mother, a "suttler's
daughter"), and were scarcely suited to dignities and preferments,
yet family influence secured him a Yorkshire parish, and made him a
prebendary before he was twenty-five. The general frivolity of
his life but deepens the pathos of its close. He died (his
death hastened, it is said, by chagrin over a rebuke) in a London
lodging attended only by a hireling who drew the rings from the dead
man's stiffening fingers. He was followed to his grave in a
Bayswater burying grave by mere formal mourners, while from that
resting-place (so runs tradition) his corpse presently found its way
to a dissecting table from which, however, it appears to have been
finally rescued. The only mark his grave ever received was put
up by strangers—said to belong to a tippling fraternity! In
all his life, Sterne seems to have had but one sincere affection—an
intense love for his little daughter, who afterwards perished on the
Parisian scaffold during the Great French Revolution.
Stored away in the minster vestry, is a curiously carved horn, which
dates almost from the time of Canute the Dane. It belonged
originally to his son-in-law Ulph, who seems to have had reason to
fear that his sons would quarrel over the division of his wealth.
He vowed he would make them equal, but was shrewd enough to know
that nothing can be made to seem equal in the eyes of the covetous
and jealous. So he took down his horn, went to the altar of
the cathedral, filled the horn with wine and drank it off,
dedicating all he had to the service of God, and leaving his sons
with the indisputable equality of nothing!"
The ancient chapter house of York Minster deserves especial
attention, even apart from its singular architectural beauty.
Above the stalls, we find a series of beads and figures—the latter
grotesque—the former generally of a pitiless realism.
Evidently the artist-workmen of the Middle Ages had their eyes open
to see how human nature underlies all conventional sanctities.
For here, we find the faces of monk and nun, lady abbess and lord
bishop, set forth plainly as those of mere men and women, often
mean, sensual, haughty, sly, covetous, or commonplace, but
occasionally simple, pure and patient. As for the grotesque
figures, it is not always easy to grasp their symbolism. We
puzzled long over one setting forth a monkey and a lamb. The
impression one carries away is that the mediæval ecclesiasticism
permitted a full share of unconventionality! These are, as
Ruskin says, "the signs of the life and liberty of every workman who
struck the stone."
As we pass out of the cathedral we notice the following
appeal to the crowds of sightseers who constantly pass through it,
as well as to the work people and other functionaries employed about
"Whosoever thou art that enterest here,
Wilt thou not offer before thou leavest
a prayer to God for
For those who worship, and those who
minister before Him in this, His House;
For His Holy Church throughout all the
If thou speakest thine own words here, let
thy voice (hushed to a whisper) show that
thou knowest this to be the House of God.
If thou workest with thy hands in this
Let thy quiet and reverent demeanour
testify that thou art in the House of the
King of kings and the Lord of lords."
Leaving the minster, and walking down ancient Stonegate, with
its picturesque gables, we see on our right hand the restored old
church of St. Michael-le-Belfry. In its parish was born Guy
Faux, the hero of that abortive and mysterious "Gunpowder Plot"
which sank so deeply into the fears and prejudices of the populace
that the street-boys still exhort us to "remember, remember, the
fifth of November!"
Another native of York who also attained a sinister
reputation, though of another kind, was Henry Hudson, the so-called
"Railway King," whose tale points a very modern "moral."
Hudson was born at York at the beginning of this century, and
started in life as a shopkeeper. But when quite a young man, a
sudden accession of wealth—a fortune of £30,000—drew him from the
paths of industry to those of speculation. The then recent
establishment of railways offered him a field for his money-making
energy. New lines were recklessly projected, and financed.
Hudson was elevated to the dictatorship of railway speculation.
It seemed as if everything he touched turned to gold for him and
those who trusted him. The multitude ever ready (from the time
of the golden calf!) to worship any idea clad in precious metal,
actually raised their favourite money-maker into a hero, and £25,000
was collected to rear him a statue, a matter worthy of all the
powers of invective which Carlyle poured upon it in the seventh of
his Latter Day Pamphlets. He pertinently says:—
"To give our approval aright—to do
every one of us what lies in him, that the honourable man
everywhere, and he only, have honour; that the able man everywhere
be put into the place which is fit for him, which is his by eternal
right: is not this the sum of all social morality for every citizen
of this world?"
"Who is to have a statue? means,
whom shall we consecrate and set apart as one of our sacred men?
Sacred, that all men may see him, be reminded of him, and by new
example added to old perpetual precept, be taught what is real worth
in man. Whom do you wish us to resemble?"
Of such as Hudson and other mere money-makers Carlyle asks:—
"Are these your Pattern Men?
Great men? They are lucky (or unlucky) gamblers swollen big. . . .
How much could one have wished that the making of our British
railways had gone on with deliberation; that these great works had
made themselves, not in five years but in fifty and five! . . .
Hudson's 'worth' to railways, I think, will mainly resolve itself
into this. That he got them carried to completion within the
former short limit of time:—that he got them made,—in extremely
improper directions, I am told, and surely with endless confusion to
innumerable passive victims, and likewise to innumerable active
scrip-holders, a widespread class, once rich, now coinless—hastily
in five years, not deliberately in fifty-five. His worth, I
take it, to English railways, much more to English men, will turn
out to be extremely inconsiderable—to be incalculable damage
Even before Carlyle penned that article the collapse had
begun. In 1845 it was discovered that the sum required for the
mere "deposit" of the capital which was to start upwards, of twelve
hundred new railways, actually exceeded by twenty millions the whole
amount of English gold and notes in circulation! This blow not
only extinguished more than eleven hundred of the new schemes, but
dealt a heavy shock to the already existing companies.
Wide-spread ruin was the result, and Hudson, suspected of having
"cooked" companies' accounts and paid dividends out of capital,
eventually disappeared into the penury and obscurity wherein at last
he died. The trouble might have been saved, if only heed had
been given to the ancient warning that he who maketh haste to be
rich, poverty shall come upon him."
But York has brighter associations. It was the
birthplace of John Flaxman, the sculptor. Though he left York
for London when he was but a boy, yet, as his father was a maker of
images, "it seems probable that both hereditary and early impression
went to quicken the sense of beauty in one whose genius was to give
form to exquisite visions of the antique world. Flaxman
himself has expressed a keen appreciation of the mission of the
artist-workman who had given England her cathedrals. So we may
feel sure he did not repine when for many years he himself wrought,
as in their ranks, furnishing designs for the pottery of Wedgwood.
Indeed, it was by these, and by his designs to illustrate the Iliad,
Odyssey, and other classic works, that he secured what modest
competency and what quiet fame fell to his share during his life.
Still, as a sculptor he did splendid work. The rewards of
fortune did not fall heavily on this gentle, modest man, with his
turn for mysticism, and his winning face. But he was happy in
his home life, happy in his work, happiest of all because it seems
quite true, as is stated on his grave in St. Giles-in-the-Fields,
London, that "his mortal life was a preparation for a blessed
York and its minster had not suffered much at the
Reformation. But most of the abbeys of Yorkshire were thrown
in ruin, and the "religious houses" swept away. After the
wreck of the "Old Order," there was an interval of moral chaos.
The most spiritual and earnest men of both churches had been weeded
out by the alternating persecutions. As a thoughtful writer
says, it was in the main the ignorant, the luke-warm, the
time-serving or the weak, who kept their stations, and performed the
old service or the new with equal obedience; many, indeed, with
equal indifference. "The number of the secular (or parish)
clergy was about nine thousand and four hundred, and of these
scarcely two hundred were deprived by the establishment of the
Church under Queen Elizabeth; the rest 'conformed' again as they had
already done under Queen Mary." This state of things, while it
probably gave rise to much of the wilder fanaticisms of the brief
Puritan rule, was scarcely bettered by them. At the
restoration the Church's property for educational and charitable
purposes was utterly misappropriated. Her learning, too, was
at a low ebb, and her personal holiness at a lower, though at the
same period she could boast of exceptional men of great piety and
The Church of that period was unable to awaken the educated
classes from worldly pursuits and vanities, and it entirely failed
to reach the greater part of the nation, who remained totally
ignorant, rude, and brutal. Changes of "creed" had generally
been a mere matter of politic submission, and real Christianity was
unknown. We need not go farther than the art and literature of
the period for confirmation of all this. What then was likely
to be the state of matters in the then well-nigh savage solitudes of
It was not wonderful, therefore, that Yorkshire was one of
the places which yielded rich fruit to the devoted labours of
Whitefield and Wesley. It is scarcely fair to lay upon those
preachers the onus of the extravagances into which some of their
early followers fell. Rather such may be attributed to the
dense ignorance and animalism in which the bulk of the population
had been left, so that their minds and hearts could scarcely be
reached without producing some morbid psychological paroxysm.
As Shakespeare says:—
"Diseases, desperate grown,
By desperate appliances are relieved,
Or not at all."
It is significant that abnormal manifestations seldom
attended the spiritual awakening of those who had been well
brought-up, surrounded by good influences, and fairly amenable to
them. Many such, rather readily responsive to the new teaching
than startled by it, were found among the Yorkshire converts.
One of these was George Story, whose boyish nature had been so
tender that he awoke o' nights regretting a stone he had thrown at a
bird, who devoted his youth to self-improvement, and who had the
keen insight to ask himself at Doncaster Races, "What is all this
vast multitude assembled here for? To see a few horses gallop
two or three times round the course as if the devil, were both in
them and the riders! Certainly, we are all mad if we imagine
that the Almighty made us for no other purpose but to seek happiness
in such senseless amusements."
York Minster from the walls.
Yet all the while he had been aware of a sense of spiritual
loneliness. He did not know his Divine Father, still less was
he at one with Him. Yet he was in that mood of diligent search
for the haven of peace, when any ugly thing will serve to warn off
the rocks, even if it can scarcely point to the harbour. The
life of Eugene Aram, executed for murder in Yorkshire (the story of
whose "Dream" has been told
by Thomas Hood), came to Story's band in the ordinary course of his
printing business, and he took to heart that Eugene Aram's
intellectual acquirements, such as he himself was seeking, had not
sufficed to save him from theft and murder, and that therefore such
matters, however desirable, were no end in themselves. It is
pleasant to know that it was at his mother's request that Story
began to attend the Methodist meetings, at which he resolved to
devote himself and his life to God's service. In his humility,
he was rather troubled and fearful to find he did not pass through
the throes and ecstacies he saw in so many about him. But in
the end he entered into "an ever-permanent peace which kept his
heart in the knowledge and love of God."
There is rather more stir and romance in the story of another
Yorkshireman, one of Wesley's earliest lay-preachers. John
Nelson heard the great preacher, while in London, engaged as a mason
on the building of the Exchequer. John was evidently an
emotional and impressible man, and he felt as if Wesley had made a
direct appeal to him. He said to himself "This man can tell
the secrets of my heart." A change in Nelson was soon manifest
to his acquaintances, though as a biographer says "in all his inward
conflicts there was in his outward actions a coolness and steadiness
of conduct which is the proper virtue of an Englishman." The
following incident may illustrate how John's change was manifest.
"He risked his employment by
refusing to work at the Exchequer on a Sunday, when his master's
foreman told him that the King's business required haste, and that
it was common to work on the Sunday for his Majesty (George II.)
when anything was upon the finish. But John stoutly averred
that he would not work upon the Sabbath for any man in England,
except it were to quench fire, or something that required the same
immediate help. 'Religion,' said the foreman, 'has made you a
rebel against the King.' 'No, sir,' he replied, 'it has made
me a better subject than ever I was. The greatest enemies the
King has, are the Sabbath-breakers, swearers, drunkards, and
whoremongers, for these pull down God's judgment both upon King and
country.' He was told that he should lose his employment if he
would not obey his orders. His answer was, 'he would rather
want bread than wilfully offend God.' 'What hast thou done?'
asked the foreman, 'that thou needest to make so much ado about
salvation? I always took thee for as honest a man as any I had
in the work, and could have trusted thee with £500.' 'So you
might,' answered Nelson, 'and not have lost one penny by me.'
'I have a worse opinion of thee now.' said the foreman.
'Master,' he replied, 'I have the odds of you, for I have a much
worse opinion of myself than you can have.' But the end was,
that the work was not pursued on the Sunday, and that John Nelson
rose in the good opinion of his employer."
But it is not always thus, and those who stand on any
principle must do so prepared to pay the price. John was not
called to any martyrdom then nor even when he returned to his
Yorkshire home and opened his new views to his own household.
Indeed, the first great trouble of his religious life seems to have
been the mandate which made him a lay preacher. He said he
would rather have been hanged on a tree, and once, when a great
congregation awaited him he ran away to the fields. John
Wesley soon recognized his value, and indeed it is likely that
Nelson's success decided the scheme of Methodist lay-preachers.
But John was soon to suffer tribulation enough. In his
native village, an ecclesiastic and the publicans, indignant that he
drew away the congregation of the one and the customers of the
other, agreed that he should be pressed for a soldier, according to
then existing methods of involuntary enlistment. He had to
learn what it is to have one's protests ignored and snubbed by those
in authority, what it is to have to sleep in dungeons though not
without such consolations, divine and human, as may have attended
the early Christians themselves.
He was led captive through the stately streets of York
itself, where the predjudice against Methodism was then running
high. Nelson tells us: "The streets and windows were filled
with people who shouted and huzzaed as if I had been one that had
laid waste the nation. But the Lord made my brow like brass,
so that I could look on there grasshoppers, and pass through the
city as if there had been none in it, but God and myself."
John was certainly nothing daunted; for he rebuked the officers for
swearing, and told them that the only way to silence such rebukes,
was not to swear in his hearing. He told them that he would
never fight, because it was against his way of thinking. If
they forced him to bear arms, he would bear them "as a cross," but
that nevertheless unless he were discharged lawfully, they might be
sure he would not run away.
St. Mary's Abbey.
In short, they presently found that all they had done was to
secure Methodist preaching for the regiment! When the ensign
told him with an oath that he would have no preaching or praying
there, John replied: "Then surely, sir, you ought to have no
swearing or cursing either: surely I have as much right to pray and
preach as you have to curse and swear." This ensign annoyed
John in every way he could. One cannot like the stalwart
Yorkshire mason less because he candidly confesses:—
"It caused a sore temptation to
arise in me to think that an ignorant, wicked man should thus
torment me—and I able to tie his head and heels together! I
found an old Adam-bone in me: but the Lord lifted up a standard,
when anger was coming on like a flood: else I should have wrung his
neck to the ground, and set my foot upon him."
In the end, Nelson's discharge was secured through the
influence of the Countess of Huntingdon. And his work went on.
York takes an honourable place in another movement, this time
of direct social amelioration (which, important in itself, is still
more important as signifying an uplifting of the general moral
standpoint), to wit, the humane and scientific treatment of
insanity. The pioneer in this movement was a French doctor
Pinel, and all credit must be given to the National Assembly of
France, who amid the heat and frenzy of the Great Revolution, gave
him every encouragement and furtherance. Almost
simultaneously, the same movement was made by William Tuke, a member
of the Society of Friends in York. We may mention that George
Fox was once a prisoner in York castle, and his Society has always
been, and still is, an active power in the city, having a large
meeting-house in Clifford-street, and adult Sunday-schools and other
agencies in the poorer parts of the city.
Previous to the time of Pinel and Tuke, therefore up to the
very end of the last century, society had recognised no duty towards
the insane. The unfortunate lunatic was unnoticed, unhelped
and unguarded, until such time as his state had become hopeless and
dangerous, when he was loaded with chains and flung into a madhouse
dungeon. Even there his misery was exposed to the heartless
mirth and cruel baiting of the public. While the last scene of
Hogarth's Rake's Progress shows what the interior management of a
madhouse used to be, partial convalescents were turned out of doors,
labelled, to wander and beg. The very "medical treatment" of
these unfortunates consisted of exasperations which might well have
driven the sane into frenzy. So many "lashes" were prescribed,
or "surprise baths" or "rotating chairs." The attendants, few
in number, were generally the lowest and worst of mankind.
In Great Britain, therefore it was William Tuke of York who
inaugurated an order of things at once more scientific and more
humane. It was he who began to show that insanity in itself is
a disease and not a crime, and that all the patient needs is the fit
regimen and the proper amount of seclusion calculated either to
bring about his cure, or to prevent him from being a torment or a
risk to society. In learning to regard insanity as an
affliction to be assuaged and not a crime to be punished, people
ceased to conceal it, and it became, at least in its acuter
manifestations, more amenable to treatment.
The "Retreat," Tuke's Asylum, which thus has the honour of
being the first in which the humaner principles were applied, is on
the Neslingden Road, outside Walmgate Bar. Returning to the
heart of the city we pass under the Walmgate and follow a long,
irregular old street, now in somewhat "reduced circumstances," but
still rich in fine old churches. We notice a quaint and
picturesque Merchants' Hall, approached through an archway,
surmounted by a brilliantly-coloured coat of arms and bearing the
motto "God give us good adventure." Out of the old streets,
branch many narrow passages opening into little courts, some
surrounded by tidy family dwellings, and others by the little
almshouses of some of the charitable foundations with which York
Indeed, though the minster will always remain the crowning
glory of York, yet it has many other interests and is full of
picturesque "bits." Besides the Walmgate its other four old
gates still stand—the Monk Gate, "most perfect specimen of this sort
of architecture in the kingdom, the Mickle Gate, ending an old
street of noble proportions, and many stately houses," Fishergate,
dating from the fourteenth century, and Bootham Bar, beside which we
find the quaint old Manor House, where kings have lodged and where
the blind are now sheltered and trained, while hard by stands the
Yorkshire Fine Art and Industrial Institution, with a good permanent
gallery, and excellent accommodation for loan collections.
Before we passed Bootham Bar we had noticed a Girls' Training
Home. We had not passed it far before we came on the buildings
of the Salvation Army, and in the same street we saw a boy in the
uniform of the newspaper brigade. The Christian Associations
of young men and young women are also in full evidence.
The churches of York are numerous, and most of them are
interesting for their antiquity, their architecture and for the
delightfully restful old-world air which surrounds them. Every
dissenting denomination seems represented in the city, and generally
by large and handsome houses of worship. The chief municipal
buildings, including the fine old Guildhall, are to be found in
Coney Street which is the favourite shopping promenade. Almost
all the streets of old York can delight the eye of the artist and
the heart of the dreamer. They have some old mansions too,
which seem the ideal dwellings of "merchant princes." But,
alas, in the newer and humbler outskirts we find too much of the
petty monotonous uniformity which seems the special architectural
feature of the present century.
Still, the memory we carry from York is of turret and tower,
gable and gate, as we beheld them, either from her old walls, or
when resting under the stately trees beside the quiet Ouse.
ISABELLA FYVIE MAYO.
Fire has seemed to be the evil genius of York Minster. Even in
the present century it has suffered severely. One
conflagration, the work of a maniac, cost £65,000 to repair.
Another arose from the carelessness of a workman.
(from The Sunday at Home, annual edition, 1898-99,
The Religious Tract Society.)
THERE are certain
corners of England, quiet enough now, whose quietness makes us
realise how the course of national life may change, and how it seems
to be mercifully inevitable that battle-grounds shall blossom into
cornfields and meadows, and that the peaceful ploughshare shall turn
up the rusted weapons of the forgotten warrior.
There is perhaps no part of England that is to-day more
peaceful in aspect than those rich agricultural counties often
grouped together under the name of the "Fen Country." Two of
the most sympathetic poets of our time, Alfred Tennyson and
Jean Ingelow, have been laureates
of this land, and have stored our consciousness with imagery of
"haunts of ancient peace," and of "cowslip time when hedges sprout."
Even the tragedies of these poets are but of the silent heart-agony
of "Mariana" in the lonely grange with its shivering poplar, where
"For leagues no other tree did mark
The level waste, the rounding gray,"
or of the great unmalicious forces of Nature, as when the "High
Tide" comes up—
"And boats adrift in yonder towne
Go sailing up the market-place."
Yet these peaceful fields have been the scene of battles as
fierce and wild as any; and these placid lowland agriculturists must
mingle in their veins the blood of forefathers of varied and warlike
races, who, each in its turn, surrendered the land to a new invader.
From the very beginning of British history this Fen country
had been a point where stand was made against invasion. There
the ancient Britons rallied against the Romans long after the rest
of the country was subdued. Here, when the Roman power was
fading, the British made another stand against the Saxons; and
again, when the Saxons were incorporated with the native race, it
was here they withstood the onslaught of the Danes, and when the
Danes in their turn had settled down in the land, had intermarried
with Angles and Saxons, and rebuilt the stately abbeys which their
sires had destroyed, here, once more, was the last unavailing stand
made against the haughty Norman conquerors.
In its natural aspects the fen country is very different from
what it was in those dark and stormy days, and indeed it had passed
through changes even then. The Romans found it a great swampy
jungle within the compass of whose marshes and quagmires lay many
veritable inland islets—as the Isle of Ely itself—slight elevations
often surrounded by water, but never covered by it, and so offering
favourable situation for camps or temples. The Romans seem to
have cut down much of the forest, and they drove one of their great
roads through the heart of the country, probably on the line of some
rude British highway. They raised certain embankments to
protect this from the waters, but when the Romans went away the
waters reasserted themselves despite such efforts as the successive
Saxons and Danes might make in those distracted times, and in due
course the whole district lapsed back into morass. No
effectual method of dealing with it by drainage seems to have been
attempted till the reign of Charles I., and even then the work
proceeded with many interruptions, and was not perfected till
comparatively recent times [Ed.—see Samuel Smiles on
Before this, locomotion in the fens was often accomplished on
stilts; and the fens boys still love to play at walking on these—the
necessity of their forefathers having become their pastime. A
local authority says that the only piece of "real old fen" existing
at the present day "is is found near Burwell, south of Ely and east
of the Cam."
The traditions of the early British fen dwellers are lost in
the mist of the past, and our first defined knowledge of the place
belongs to the Saxon period. It was a Saxon princess
Etheldreda, who founded the first conventual church of Ely.
Etheldreda was twice married, and the "Isle of Ely" came to her
through her first husband. She spent many of the last years of
her life in the cloisters which she attached to her foundation,
numerous servants and retainers following her to its retirement.
Undoubtedly the site of Etheldreda's conventual establishment
had been originally selected from the same considerations which
afterwards directed the foundation of the neighbouring establishment
of Ramsey, concerning which the antiquarian Sharon Turner gives us
many interesting particulars in his "History of the Monk of Ramsey."
To ecclesiastical promptings that a monastery should be founded in
the district, the Saxon "ealdorman," the elder of the local tribe,
commended a site on Ramsey, in the following terms (most of which,
it will be seen, would have been equally applicable to Ely).
He had, he said, "some hereditary land surrounded with marshes, and
remote from human intercourse. It was near a forest of various
sorts of trees, which had several open spots of good turf, and
others of fine grass for pasture. No buildings had been upon
it save some sheds for his herds who had manured the soil."
The bishop and the landed proprietor went together to view the land.
"They found that the waters made it an island. It was so
lonely and yet had so many conveniences for subsistence and secluded
devotion that the bishop decided it to be an advisable station.
Artificers were collected. The neighbourhood joined in the
labour. Twelve monks came from another cloister to form the
new fraternity. Their cells and a chapel were soon raised.
In the next winter they provided the iron and timber and utensils
that were wanted for a handsome church. In the spring amid the
fenny soil a firm foundation was laid. The workmen laboured as
much for devotion as for profit."
This circumstantial account of the growth of Ramsey would
doubtless serve equally well for that of its earlier neighbour at
Ely, and of many another religious establishment of that time and
district. Some of these have totally passed away, while others
linger in ruin, and only a few, like Ely, have cast roots so strong
that they can adapt themselves to changed conditions and still hold
their own in our national life.
The tomb of one of Etheldreda's attendants, Ovin her steward,
is now to be seen in Ely Cathedral. It was found, some years
ago, in a neighbouring village where it had been used as a horse
block. As it is now it shows the lower portion of a stone
cross with a pedestal round which runs a Latin inscription in Roman
characters (save for the Saxon E). Translated it reads,
"Grant, O God, to Ovin Thy light and rest." It appears that
Ovin is a "Welsh" name, which means a name of aboriginal Britain,
and it is likely that when Ovin followed his mistress to Ely, he, or
at least some immediate ancestor, was not a stranger there, since
aboriginal Britons had held Ely long after the Saxons had taken hold
of most of England.
Bede tells us that Etheldreda was in the habit of spending
her nights in prayer; that she took only one meal daily; and among
other proofs of her sanctity he mentions that she never wore linen,
but only woollen. It is significant that nineteenth century
sanitary wisdom would certainly recommend this attire in the damp
climate of the Fens, where in winter, or wet seasons, the rivers
still overflow the "Wastelands" and give the local people
opportunity to become the fleetest skaters of the land. There,
too, in the olden days the blue lights of the "Will o' the Wisp,"
flitting over the marshes, must often have added the superstitious
horror of fiendish presence to all the other miseries of poor
fugitives, plashing in the damp earth, and hiding from their foe
amid dank reeds and rushes, or at best groping in their little round
huts, scarcely yet modified from those of the ancient
Britons—beehive in shape, windowless, with a hole in the roof to let
out the smoke.
What havens of light and warmth and safety the great monastic
houses must have seemed in such times! In their imperfect way
they stood as outward signs of the spiritual shelter to be found in
the church of the living God, as well as of the strength and purpose
of the Saxon lawgivers. For whatever the limitations
inevitable to their period, and whatever the practical shortcomings
common to human nature, these had at least an ideal. The dawn
was with them. Even the Saxon kingship, though commonly
assigned within one family, was, within that range, subject to
election, the original purpose for which a king was chosen being
always kept in sight— to wit, that he should be a person capable of
carrying on the government and of conducting the enterprises of the
nation. Large tracts of land remained public property—the
"folks-land"—the few "common-lands" of the England of to-day being
the poor remnants of this, the remainder having been converted into
"crown-land " under the feudal spirit of Norman conquest.
Saxon legislation, as traced to the time of Alfred, was laid
down, theoretically, on such lines as these: "Ever as any one shall
be more powerful here in the eyes of the world, or through dignities
higher in degree, so shall he the more deeply make compensation for
his sins, and pay for every misdeed the more dearly, because the
strong and the weak are not alike and cannot raise a like burthen."
And again, "Let every deed be carefully distinguished, and doom ever
be guided justly according to the deed, and be modified according to
its degree before God and before the world; and let mercy be shown
for dread of God, and kindness be willingly shown, and those be
somewhat protected who need it, because we all need that our Lord
oft and frequently grant His mercy to us."
It must be owned, however, that the Saxons frankly admitted a
mercenary spirit into their code. Almost every offence, even
murder, could be expiated by money. In the case of the death
or injury of a freeman, this "compensation" was paid to his
relatives; if the sufferer were a slave, to his master. It was
a more "costly" offence to deprive a man of his beard than of his
leg! Any offender who failed to duly "compensate" could be
made a slave. Anglo-Saxons could become slaves only in this
way, or by being sold in infancy by their parents. Also
anybody over thirteen years of age was free to sell himself.
Most of the slaves, however, were conquered Celts—aboriginal
Etheldreda died, in 679, of an affection of the throat, which
tradition says she regarded as a "judgment" on her youthful fondness
for necklaces! It is surely a much more significant "judgment
"that her stately name of Etheldreda or "Noble Strength" has been
vulgarised into "Awdrey," and that her memory has been familiarly
perpetuated to more modern times by "St. Awdrey's Fair," at
which—possibly in remembrance of her feminine weakness—pilgrims used
to buy chains of lace or silk which had been laid upon her shrine
and which were called "St. Audrey's Chains." In time their
flimsy texture and gaudy colouring gave rise to the word "tawdry" an
attribute indeed at the opposite pole from "noble strength!"
Etheldreda, who had been the first abbess on her own
foundation, was succeeded by her sister and then by other Saxon
princesses. The district lay in peace, except for petty feuds
and minor incursions of Northmen, for nigh two hundred years.
Then in 870 came that awful Danish invasion which desolated England
early in the reign of the great Alfred. At that period the
Isle of Ely and its abbey fell into the hands of the fierce sea
warriors. The fare was burnt, and the inhabitants of the
establishment put to the sword.
After that no restoration was attempted for fully a hundred
years. Indeed, the Saxon kings who succeeded Alfred employed
the revenues of Ely for their own private purposes, some of them
still having Danish incursions to contend with. At last, in
970, the Bishop of Winchester, by direction of King Edgar, restored
the monastery. This King Edgar's character seems to have
gained a false gloss of sanctity through the mercenary gratitude of
his monkish chroniclers. For this "builder of churches," as he
was dubbed, was a thoroughly bad man, who did not scruple to violate
convents and to forcibly carry away unwilling women—a terrible crime
at any period of the world's history, but of appalling significance
at a period when the generally recognised sanctity of these retreats
made them the last and only hope of unguarded innocence or helpless
The abbey, as built at this Saxon period, is said to have
been a stately stone edifice crowned by a tower and a steeple to
guide wayfarers among the meres and swamps. It was put under
the rule of the Benedictine order, and from this time dates the
abbey's character for boundless hospitality, which was so extended
that during the troubles of the next century its demesne gained the
honourable name of the "Camp of Refuge."
Not long after King Edgar's death the new building at Ely
received a visit from his widowed Queen Elfrida (stepmother to his
son and successor Edward). She was accompanied by her own
little child Ethelred. The little prince, probably instigated
by his mother, vowed a special devotion to Ely's patron saint St.
Etheldreda, and doubtless there were many solemn services and much
stately pageantry. But all the time, two awful crimes were
crystallising in the breast of the dowager-queen, though she, as the
widowed mother of an only son, seemed doubtless rather a touch of
pathos on the brilliancy.
Elfrida's stepson Edward had succeeded to his father's crown
when he was thirteen. Ere he was seventeen he was dead,
stabbed in the back by one of his stepmother's servants while she
herself held him in courteous parley and gave him a cup to drink.
She was already guilty of the murder of Brithnoth, the first abbot
of Ely, which she had brought about with such diabolic cunning that
his corpse bore no trace of violent death, and her wicked deed would
have gone unsuspected but that when remorse finally overtook her for
her treacherous dealing with her light-hearted, loving step-son, she
confessed this crime also.
It is said that this traitor-like method of despatching
enemies or "obstacles," by stabbing them in the back while offering
them a friendly cup, became so common among the Anglo-Saxons as to
give rise to the custom of each one requiring another of the company
to be his "pledge," who, when he stood up to drink, should stand up
also, facing him drawn sword in hand, to protect him if required.
Such was the origin of a drinking practice which, in modified form,
persists to this day—which is, indeed, incarnated in the "loving
cup." For as each person rises and takes this in his hand to
drink the man seated next to him rises also, and when the latter
takes the cup in his turn the individual next to him does the same.
Alas! were we to search out the origin of many of the so-called
"fine manners and customs of the olden time" we should find them
rooted in the grim needs of elemental savagery!
Violent and cruel blood therefore mingled in the veins of
Elfrida's own son Ethelred, when his mother's crime thus set him on
the throne. When he could not succeed in buying off the
invading Danes, who perpetually harassed his coasts, he resolved to
massacre any of the race found throughout his kingdom. This
only drew down the invasions of the Danish King Sweyn and his son
Canute. The conflict ended in Canute's great victory in Essex
when "all the English nation fought against him," and all the
"nobility of the English race was there destroyed." Canute
soon found himself in almost undisputed dominion. But he
proved a conqueror of rare calibre for those days—perhaps for any.
For though he taxed the English people heavily to reward his Danish
followers, yet, on the human and social side, he proved himself a
wise prince, for he determined to reconcile the English to his rule,
and to this end sent back to Denmark as many Danes as he could
spare, restored and upheld Saxon customs, made no distinction
between Danes and English in the distribution of justice, but sought
to protect the lives and goods of all alike. He had his reward
in finding that presently his English troops went against his
enemies not only honestly but with loyalty and zeal. In those
days, when the king checked his flatterers by his famous object
lesson on the Sussex beach, or bade his rowers lift their oars while
he listened to the Ely psalm-singing, it seems as if English life
really had happier auguries than it had had since the later years of
Alfred the Great, or was to have again for many a long year
Another pleasant incident connects Canute and Ely. It
appears that he went to visit the abbey at the beginning of February
in a hard winter when all the waters were frozen. The
courtiers, probably afraid for themselves, protested against the
monarch trusting himself on the treacherous ice. But Canute
declared that if only one bold fenner would go ahead to point the
way, he himself would be the next to follow. Such a fenner was
found in the person of one Brithmer, a serf, nicknamed the Pudding,
because he was so fat. When Canute, who was a small light man,
saw him, he said, "If the ice can bear thy weight, it can well bear
mine. Go on and I follow." And so they did, and so one
by one the courtiers plucked up heart and advanced also. Then
King Canute made the serf Brithmer a free man, and gave him some
land, which Brithmer's posterity held for many generations.
King Canute seems to have had a particular kindness for the
great church at Ely, for he brought his wife Queen Emma to visit it,
and she made rich offerings of jewelled embroideries at the shrines
of St. Ethelreda and the other saints.
A chequered and troubled life had this Queen Emma, and it may
serve as a type of many that must have been like it, more or less,
among humbler folk, in those difficult times. Emma was a
Norman princess, who, in due time, numbered among great-nephews no
less a personage than William the Conqueror himself. She had
been married in her youth to the cruel King Ethelred, who arranged
the massacre of the Danes. She was the mother of his children.
She must have had little sympathy indeed with her first husband, for
she seems to have had no hesitancy in becoming the second wife of
his triumphant conqueror Canute. She saw the sons of her Saxon
spouse set aside for her Danish son, in whose interest she
stipulated that her stepson, Canute's own eldest-born, should be
passed over also. Such a state of things could only lead to
fratricidal quarrel. After Canute's death, her eldest Saxon
son coming to claim his rights, was taken to prison and blinded, and
soon died in the monastery of Ely, in reach of the rich offerings
presented by his unnatural mother. Her own Danish son
eventually succeeding his Danish half-brother, loaded his
stepbrother's dead body with ignominy and hastened to oppress his
Saxon subjects. His speedy death made way for Edward the
Confessor, Emma's remaining Saxon son, who, resenting her treatment
of himself and his dead brother, deprived the queen of the enormous
wealth she had amassed, and obliged her to pass the rest of her life
in conventual seclusion.
Among her other strange experiences, she underwent a trial by
the ordeal of walking among hot ploughshares. By doing this
she was supposed to prove her innocence of whatever charge was
brought against her. But, as the test was in the hands of the
clergy, whose favour she had won by her immense benefactions, there
is little doubt that they had skill and cunning to arrange the
Such was the royal family history and one woman's career in
that stormy period. Yet terrible as were the deeds enacted,
these people were probably weak rather than wicked, and became great
criminals only by the strange complication of circumstances
surrounding them. To some of them their closing days in the
convent cell, even as prisoners, may often have been welcomed as a
quiet rest and a sure retreat, where they might at last enjoy
"A peace above all earthly dignities. . . ."
The next epoch in the history of Ely was the gallant stand
made by the English squire Hereward against William the Conqueror.
Kingsley's story of "Hereward the Wake" gives a graphic picture of
the times and their struggle, though it has been shown that the
noble lineage which he assigns to Hereward, and the domestic
circumstances with which he surrounds him, have no foundation in
historic fact. The abbey was finally surrendered to the
Conqueror by Abbot Thurstan, the capitulation being hastened, it is
whispered, by monkish impatience under the short rations imposed by
a state of siege. Hereward himself, with his men, had
previously succeeded in marching out, and eventually made peace with
William. The resistance of Ely, however, had been so stout
that the Conqueror dealt severely with it, stripping it of its
jewels and furniture, and dividing its lands among the Norman
nobles. In this matter, however, he soon met with an
unexpected check. The Norman monk whom he presently appointed
Abbot of Ely, insisted on the restoration of all the gold and
precious things. Norman knights and soldiers were quartered in
the abbey, sharing the refectory with the Saxon monks. It is
one more commentary on the little hatred which really exists between
races (save as promoted by ambitious leaders or evil governments)
that, despite all that had so recently passed, the Saxon monks and
their Norman visitors grew so friendly that when, by-and-by, the
Norman soldiery were withdrawn to fight the Conqueror's battles
against his own contumacious sons, the Saxon monks accompanied them
on their way with solemn song and procession, and they all parted
with mutual expressions of regret and goodwill.
The foundation of the present cathedral was laid at this
period, and parts of the Norman work still remain. In the
reign of Henry I. the first Bishop of Ely was appointed.
The cathedral, as it stands now, is said to completely
illustrate the history of Church architecture in England from the
Conquest to the Reformation. It is most interesting to note
the child-like simplicity with which some of the earlier builders
went about their work, caring nothing for the "symmetry and finish"
for which so much is sacrificed nowadays. Its special features
are its wonderful octagon tower, the "only Gothic dome in
existence," and its "lady chapel," both the work of the famous
ecclesiastic architect, Alan de Walsingham, who for some reason was
prevented by the Pope from becoming Bishop of Ely as the monks
desired. The "lady chapel," now known and used as Trinity
Church, is but the very wreck of its former self. Of the
innumerable careen figures which once adorned it, all suffered
damage at the hands of Cromwell's soldiery. One only remains
entire. The sacrist said it represented Philippa, queen of
Edward III., and that other effigies of hers elsewhere had likewise
escaped injury. This chapel was once as gorgeous in colouring
as in carving, but as Cromwell's troopers chipped it, so somebody
else has whitewashed it!
Another object of great interest is an old Norman doorway,
formerly the prior's entrance from the cloisters. It is richly
decorated on the exterior. Above the door are figures of the
Saviour with two angels, while at each side are three pilasters
covered with running foliage and with medallions containing figures
of flowers, birds, animals, and even scenes of human life, in some
of which the old-world sculptor has indulged a sense of humour, as
in the one near the ground, where a man and a woman in a boat are
rowing different ways!
The cathedral contains memorials of many people, especially
ecclesiastics, famous in their day, but whose names mean little now.
Among the bishops of Ely, however, are two of whom it is worthy of
remark that words of theirs have grown familiar to millions who have
never heard of the men themselves. Thomas Goodrich, who was a
zealous promoter of the Reformation, and was Bishop of Ely from 1534
to 1554, was the compiler of those two statements as to our duty to
God and our duty to our neighbour, which give such a practical and
universal value to the English Church Catechism. He seems to have
been devoted to the labours of his see. He built a gallery
between the cathedral and the bishop's palace opposite the west end
of the cathedral, so that he might readily pass to and fro.
The gallery no longer exists, though it has given its name to the
road that it crossed. The front of the palace still bears the
arms of Bishop Goodrich, supported on either side by panels carved
respectively "Duty towards God," and "Duty towards our neighbour."
It seems but appropriate that the exquisite prayer "for all
sorts and conditions of men" was composed by a bishop of the
district which had been the "camp of refuge" for Briton, Saxon,
Dane, and Norman. The large charity which commends to God's
fatherly goodness "all those who are in any ways afflicted or
distressed, in mind, body, or estate," makes Bishop Gunning seem as
a personal friend, to each of us, since all of us are folded in his
The precincts of the cathedral are full of interesting
buildings, of which the most remarkable is a little Norman chapel
dating from about 1321. For many years it was left neglected,
choked by three floors which were inserted to be used as
store-places. It has now been put in order and carefully
preserved, though its windows have been filled with stained glass
containing figures so heroic in size that they seem to crowd up its
tiny dimensions. It is used as the Chapel of the Cathedral
Grammar School, to whose purposes other of the monastic buildings
are now devoted, among these the stately old porter's lodge, dating
from a hundred years later than the little Norman chapel.
Ely itself is a quiet sleepy place; all its life, wealth, and
culture, are evidently concentrated in its glorious cathedral, which
dominates the landscape. Beyond the little green opposite the
west front we find the parish church of St. Mary, almost as old as
the cathedral, though it does not seem to have been allowed to
gather to itself the softening graces of antiquity.
As we wandered in the rather dreary churchyard, we caught
sight of a tablet outside the church, whereon we read the following
"Here lye interred in one grave, the bodies of
William Beamiss, George Crow, John Dennis, Isaac Henley, and Thomas
South, who were all executed at Ely on the 28th June, 1816, having
been convicted at the special assizes holden there, of divers
robberies during the riots at Ely and Littleport in the month of May
in that year. May their awful fate be a warning to others."
That slab serves a good purpose for which it was not
intended. It is a milestone to show us how far both
legislation and public feeling have advanced in the course of the
century. We have ceased to hold life forfeit for theft of any
kind. Nor can we help remembering that at the date in
question, the necessitous classes were driven well-nigh to despair.
For, owing to continental wars and unfavourable seasons, food was at
its very dearest. Trade was bad, and the number of unemployed
was increased by discharged soldiers and sailors, already trained in
deeds of violence. Machinery had just appeared on the
industrial stage, to the further bewilderment of the worker, who
could see in it only a mysterious entity which snatched from his
mouth the bread which was already but too scanty. The country
was lit by incendiary fires, and the manufacturing towns resounded
with the smashing of machines yet such crimes were little more than
the inarticulate expression of unutterable misery. Says a
popular song of that day:—
"Father clemmed thrice a week,
God's will be done!
Long for work did he seek,
Work he found none.
Tears on his hollow cheek
Told what no tongue could speak:
Why did his master break?
God's will be done!"
But apart from the capital punishment for robbery—and apart
from the evidently entire lack of consideration of the dire need and
bitter oppression which "drives men mad"—let us dwell for a moment
on the spirit which could put up such a "warning " to meet the eyes
of those who approached to worship God—gentle old folks, happy
children; perhaps some woeful creatures akin in blood or love to the
men who had perished on the scaffold! But no; for how could
such come near that slab? God's house would be henceforth
closed to those who most sorely needed its shelter and its rest.
Did the people who put up that awful monument—well-intentioned
people, probably—ever think of the closing scenes of the Master's
life? Did they remember that His latest words to humanity were
spoken to a dying thief, and that the thief, guilty as he was, could
understand and love Jesus, when the priest and the Pharisee saw in
Him but a pernicious destroyer of public peace?
The thought of "man's inhumanity to man," casts its shadow
over us, as we wander down among the soft green meadows till we
reach the riverside, whence the cathedral looks fairest and
stateliest as it lifts its noble towers above the red-roofed
housetops. We have been spending time among memories and
monuments of storm and struggle, of the darkest passions and keenest
agonies. We see that even the very "Camp of Refuge," blessed
as it must have seemed to many a poor wanderer, could offer no
sanctuary from all the worst evils that beset human life and
character. But after all, God knew them all and each—each of
those poor fugitives, each of those hunted, bewildered women.
He could "comfort and relieve them, according to their several
necessities He could give them patience under their sufferings, and
a happy issue out of all their afflictions." Sitting there in
the spring sunlight with the silver waters spreading wide around, we
"Remembering others as we have to-day
In their great sorrows, let us live alway
Not for ourselves alone, but have a part
Such as such frail and erring spirits may
In Love which is of Thee, and which indeed Thou art!"