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This fourth book of the Ghost, is at once the most careless as it is the longest of Churchill's compositions. It is also the most obscure and indistinct in its allusions, the minute elucidation of which would not repay the labour either of the investigation or of perusal when the information should have been obtained.
The principal characters are the civic authorities of London, and who ever cared, or now cares beyond the one year of office for the entire staff from my Lord Mayor downwards to Mr. Common Hunt; their dignity is as evanescent as the wit which each successive Mayor facetiously inflicts upon the wretched prisoners in the justice room, eliciting the ready and obedient laughter of the attendant and clerks, and duly recorded, par parenthese, in the report of the interesting 'proceeding of the removal of a pauper, or the conviction of a cab-man.
The coronation of George III. forming a prominent feature of the poem, and several of the incidents which really then occurred, being repeatedly adverted to in it, we have, to save the trouble of particular observations, subjoined an account of the ceremonial, as it appeared in the periodicals of the day in the form of a letter, which is so amusingly graphic as at the time to have been considered, as it purports to be, the genuine epistle of a spectator to his country friends, bearing no slight resemblance to De Foe's familiar style, particularly in his account of the Plague.
LETTER FROM MR. JAMES HEMING TO A FRIEND IN THE
As the friendship of Mr. Rolles, who had procured me a pass ticket, enabled me to be present both in the hall and in the abbey; and as I had a fine view of the procession out of VOL. III.
doors, from a one-pair-of-stairs room, which your neighbour Sir Edward had hired at the small price of one hundred guineas, on purpose to oblige his acquaintance, I will endeavour to give you as minute an account as I can of all the particulars omitted in the public papers. First then, conceive to yourself the fronts of the houses in all the streets, that could command the least point of view, lined with scaffolding, like so many galleries or boxes, raised one above another to the very roofs. These were covered with carpets and cloths of different colours, which presented a pleasant variety to the eye; and if you consider the brilliant appearance of the spectators who were seated in them (many being richly drest) you will easily imagine that it was no indifferent part of the show. The mob underneath made a pretty contrast to the rest of the company. Add to this, that though we had nothing but wet and cloudy weather for some time before, the day cleared up, and the sun shone auspiciously, as if it were in compliment to the grand festival. Had it rained, half the spectators were so exalted, that they could not have seen the ceremony, as a temporary roof put over the platform, on account of the uncertainty of the weather, was exceeding low. This roof was covered with a kind of sail-cloth; which, on orders being given to roll it up, an honest Jack Tar climbed up to the top, and stripped it off in a minute or two; whereas the persons appointed for that service might have been an hour about it. This gave us not only a more extensive view, but let the light in upon every part of the procession. I should tell you, that a rank of foot soldiers were placed on each side within the platform; which was an encroachment on the spectators; for at the last coronation I am informed they stood below it; and it was not a little surprising to see the officers familiarly conversing and walking arm in arm with many of them, till we were let into the secret, that they were gentlemen who had put on the dresses of common soldiers, for what purpose I need not mention. On the outside were stationed, at proper distances, several parties of horseguards, whose horses somewhat incommoded the people, that pressed incessantly upon them, by their prancing and capering; though luckily I do not hear of any great mischief being done. I must confess, it gave me pain to see the soldiers, both horse and foot, obliged most unmercifully to belabour the heads of the mob with their broad-swords, bayonets, and muskets; but it was not unpleasant to observe several tipping the horsesoldiers slily from time to time, some with half-pence, and some with silver, as they could muster up the cash, to let them pass between the horses to get near the platform; after which these unconscionable gentry drove them back again. As soon as it was daybreak (for I chose to go to my place over-night), we were diverted with seeing the coaches and chairs of the nobility and gentry passing along with much ado; and several persons, very richly drest, were obliged to quit their equipages, and be escorted by the soldiers, through the mob to their respective places. Several carriages, I am told, received great damage.
My pass-ticket would have been of no service, if I had not prevailed on one of the guards, by the irresistible argument of half a crown, to make way for me through the mob to the hall-gate, where I got admittance just as their majesties were seated at the upper end, under magnificent canopies.
There seemed to be no small confusion in marshalling the ranks, which is not to be wondered at, considering the length of the cavalcade, and the numbers that were to walk. At length, however, everything was regularly adjusted, and the procession began to quit the hall between eleven and twelve. The platform leading to the west door of the abbey was covered with blue cloth for the train to walk on; but there seemed to be a defect in not covering the upright posts that supported the awning, as it is called, which looked mean and naked, with that or some other coloured cloth. The nobility walked two by two. Being willing to see the procession pass along the platform through the streets, I hastened from the hall, and by the assistance of a soldier, made my way to my former station at the corner of Bridge-street, where the windows commanded a double view at the turning. I shall not attempt to describe the splendour and magnificence of the whole; and words must fall short of that joy and satisfaction which the spectators felt and expressed, especially as their majesties passed by; on whose countenances a dignity suited to their station, tempered with the most amiable complacency, was sensibly impressed. It was observable, that as their majesties and the nobility passed the corner which commanded a prospect of Westminster-bridge, they stopped short, and turned back to look at the people, whose appearance, as they all had their hats off, and were thick planted on the ground, which rose gradually, I can compare to nothing but a pavement of heads and faces.
I had the misfortune not to be able to get to the abbey time enough to see all that passed there; nor, indeed, when I got in, could I have so distinct a view as I could have wished. But our friend Harry Whittaker had the luck to be stationed in the first row of the gallery behind the seats allotted for the nobility, close to the square platform, which was erected by the altar, with an ascent of three steps, for their majesties to be crowned on. You are obliged to him, therefore, for several particulars, which I could not otherwise have informed you of. The sermon, he tells me, lasted only fifteen minutes. The king was anointed on the crown of his head, his breast, and the palms of his hands. At the very instant the crown was placed on the king's head, a fellow, having been placed on the top of the abbey dome, from whence he could look down into the chancel, with a flag in his hand dropped it as a signal, the Park and Tower guns then began to fire, the trumpets sounded, and the abbey echoed with the repeated shouts and acclamations of the people; which, on account of the awful silence that had hitherto reigned, had a very striking effect. As there were no commoners knights of the garter, instead of caps and vestments peculiar to their order, they, being all peers, wore the robes and coronets of their respective ranks. When the queen had received the sceptre with the cross, and the ivory rod with the dove, her majesty was conducted to a magnificent throne on the left hand of his majesty.
I cannot but lament that I was not near enough to observe their majesties performing the most serious and solemn acts of devotion; but I am told that the reverend attention which both paid, when (after having made their second oblations) the next ceremony was their receiving the holy communion, brought to the mind of every one near them, a proper recollection of the consecrated place in which they were.
An hour lost in the morning is not so easily recovered. This was the case in the present instance; for, to whatever causes it might be owing, the procession most assuredly set off too late: besides, according to what Harry observed, there were such long pauses between some of the ceremonies in the abbey as plainly shewed all the actors were not perfect in their parts. However it be, it is impossible to conceive the chagrin and disappointment which the late return of the procession occasioned; it being so late, indeed, that the spectators even in the open air, had but a very dim and gloomy view of it, while to those who had sat patiently in Westminsterhall, waiting its return for six hours, scarce a glimpse of it appeared, as the branches were not lighted till just upon his majesty's entrance. I had flattered myself that a new scene of splendid grandeur would have been presented to us in the return of the procession, from the reflection of the lights, &c., and had, therefore, posted back to the hall with all possible expedition; but I was greatly disappointed. The whole was confusion, irregularity, and disorder.
However, we were afterwards amply recompensed for this partial eclipse, by the bright picture which the lighting of the chandeliers presented to us. Conceive to yourself, if you can conceive what I own I am at a loss to describe, so magnificent a building as that of Westminster-hall, lighted up with near three thousand wax candles in most splendid branches, our crowned heads, and almost the whole nobility, with the prime of our gentry, most superbly arrayed, and adorned with a profusion of the most brilliant jewels, the galleries on every side crowded with company, for the most part elegantly and richly dressed; - but to conceive it in all its lustre, I am conscious that it is absolutely necessary to have been present. To proceed with my narration. - Their majesties' table was served with three courses, at the first of which Earl Talbot, as steward of his majesty's household, rode up from the hall gate to the steps leading to where their majesties sat, and on his returning, the spectators were presented with an expected sight in his lordship's backing his horse, that he