Immagini della pagina

from the Berners' family,” of whom the most distinguished individual was John Bourchier, the last lord Berners, and “the fifth writer in order of time among the nobility.” He was author of “a comedy usually acted in the great church of Caais after vespers,” of which town he held the command by appointment of king Henry VIII.;+ he also translated several works, and particularly “Froissart's Cronycles, oute of Frenche into our maternale Englysshe tongue.” West of Barnesbury-park, and close to the footpath from thence to Copenhagenhouse, are the supposed remains of a Roman encampment. It is a square of about one hundred and twenty feet, surrounded by a ditch, with a high embankment or breast work to the west. This is presumed to have been a position occupied by Suetonius, the Roman general, when he destroyed eighty thousand of the Britons under Boadicea, in a memorable engagement presumed to have been fought from this place in the fields of Pentonville, and terminating in the plain at Battlebridge, from whence that place is said to have been so named.

From Battle-bridge up Maiden-lane, and from Barnesbury-park, there are still footways to Copenhagen-house,which,from standing alone on an eminence, is visible from every open spot for many miles round. To the original edifice is attached a building at the west end, with a large parlour below for drinking and smoking, and beyond it is a billiard-room; above is a large tea-room. The engraving represents its present appearance, from a drawing made for that purpose.

About the year 1770, this house was kept by a person named Harrington; at his decease the business was continued by his widow, wherein she was assisted for several years by a young woman who came from Shropshire. This female assistant afterwards married a person named Tomes, and kept the Adam and Eve at Islington; she is now a widow; and from her information the editor of the Every-Day Book gathers, that at the time of the London riots in the year 1780, a body of the rioters passed Copenhagenhouse on their way to attack the seat of

* Mr. Nelson’s History of Islington. t Mr. Utterson's Preface to his edition of Lord Berners' Froissart, 2 vos. 410.

lord Mansfield, at Caen-wood: happily, they did not sack Copenhagen; but Mrs. Harrington and her maid were so alarmed, that they despatched a man to justice Hyde, who sent a party of soldiers to garrison this important place, where they remained till the riots were quelled. From this spot the view of the nightly conflagrations in the metropolis must have been terrific, Mrs. Tomes says, she saw nine large fires at one time. On new-year's day previous to this, the house was broken into after the family had retired to rest. The burglars forced the kitchen window, and mistaking the saltbox in the chimney corner for a man's head, fired a ball through it. They then ran up stairs with a dark-lantern, tied the man and the woman servant, burst the lower pannel of Mrs. Harrington's roomdoor, while she secreted fifty pounds between her, bed and the mattress, and three of them rushed to her bedside, armed with a cutlass, crowbar, and pistol, while a fourth remained on the watch outside. They demanded her money; and as she denied that she had any, they wrenched her drawers open with the crow. bar, refusing to use the keys she offered to them. In these they found about ten pounds belonging to her daughter, a little child, whom they threatened to murder unless she ceased crying, while they packed up all the plate, linen, and clothes, which they carried off. They then went to the cellar, set all the ale-barrels running, broke the necks off the wine-bottles, spilt the other liquors, and slashed a round of beef with their cutlasses. From this wanton spoil they reserved sufficient to carouse with in the kitchen, where they ate, drank, and sung, till they resolved to “ pinch the old woman, and make her find more money.” On this, they all ran up stairs again, where she still lay in bed, and by their threats and violence soon obtained from her a disclosure of the hidden fifty pounds. This rather appeared to enrage than !". them, and they seriously proposed cutting her throat for the deception; but that crime was not perpetrated,and they departed with their plunder. Rewards were offered, by government and the parish of Islington, for the apprehension of the felons: in May following, one of them, named Clarkson, was discovered, and hopes of mercy tendered to him if he o discover his accomplices. This man was a watch-maker in Clerkenwell, the other three were trades

men; his information led to their discovery; they were tried and executed, and Clarkson was pardoned ; though, some time afterwards, he, also, suffered death, for obtaining a box of plate from the White-horse, in Fetter-lane, upon pretence that it had been sent thither by mistake. The robbery at Copenhagen-house, was so far fortunate to Mrs. Harrington, that she obtained a subscription considerably more in amount than the value of the money and property she had lost. Mr. Leader, the coachmaker, in Longacre, who was her landlord, remitted to her a year's rent of the premises, which at that time was 30l. The notoriety of the robbery increased the visitors to the house, and Mr. Leader built the additional rooms to the old house, instead of a wooden room, to accommodate the new influx of custom; and soon afterwards the house was celebrated for fives-playing. This last addition was almost accidental. “I made the first fives-ball,” says Mrs. Tones, “ that was ever thrown up against Copenhagen-house. One Hickman, a butcher at Highgate, a countryman of mine, “used’ the house, and seeing me country, we talked about our country sports, and amongst the rest fives ; I told him we'd have a game some day: I laid down the stone in the ground myself, and, against he came again, made a ball. I struck the ball the first blow and he gave it the second, and so we played; and as there was company they liked the sport, and it got talked of. This was the beginning of the fives-play, which has since become so famous at Copenhagen-house.”

A word or two on ball-play. Fives was our old hand-tennis, and is a very ancient game. In the fourteenth century there was a game at ball, where a line, called the cord, was traced upon the wall, below which the stroke was faulty. Some of the players were on foot; others had the two hands tied together, or played in a hollow cask.” Hand-ball was before the days of Homer. He introduces the princess Corcyra, daughter of Alcinous, king of Phoeacia, amusing herself, with her maidens, at hand-ball:—

“O'er the green mead the sporting virgins play; .

Their shining veils unbound, along the skies,

Tost and re-tost, the ball incessant flies.”

It is related of St. Cuthbert, who lived in the seventh century, that “whan he was viii yere old, as he played at the ball with other chyldren, sodeynly there stode amonge them a fayre yonge chylde,” who admonished , Cuthbert against “vayne É. and seeing Cuthbert take no eed, he fell down, wept sore and wrung his hands; “and than Cuthbert and the other chyldren lefte their playe and comforted hym; and than sodeynly he vanyshed away; and than he knewe veryly that it was an angel; and, fro than forth on, he lefte all such vayne playes, and never used them more.” + Ball-play was formerly played at Easter in churches, and statutes passed to regulate the size of the ball. The ceremony was as follows: the ball being received, the dean, or his representative, began an antiphone, or chant, suited to Easterday; then taking the ball in his left hand, he commenced a dance to the tune, others of the clergy dancing round, hand in hand. At intervals the ball was handed or tossed by the dean to each of the choristers, the organ playing according to the dance and sport: at the conclusion of the anthem and dance, they went and took refreshment. . It was the privilege of the lord, or his locum tenens, to throw the ball, and even the archbishop did it.: The French palm-play consisted in receiving the ball and driving it back again with the palm of the hand, Anciently they played with the naked hand, then with a glove, which, in some instances, was lined; afterwards they bound cords and tendons round their hands, to make the ball rebound more forcibly; and hence, says St. Foix, the racket derived its origin. In the reign of Charles V., palm-play, which, Strutt says, may properly enough be denominated hand-tennis, or fives, was exceedingly fashionable in France, being played by the nobility for large sums of money; and when they had lost all that they had about them, they would sometimes pledge, a part of their wearing parel rather than give up the game. The •luke of Bourbon having lost sixty francs at Po. with M. William de Lyon, and M. Guy de la Trimouille, and not having money enoughto pay them, gave his girdle as a pledge for the remainder. A damsel, named Margot, who resided at Paris in 1424, played at hand-tennis with the palm, and also with the back of her hand, better than any man; and what is most surprising, says St. Foix, at that time the game was played with the naked hand, or at least with a double glove. Hand-tennis still continues to be played, though under a different name, and probably a different modification of the game: it is now called fives, which denomination, perhaps, it might receive from having five competitors in it, as the succeeding passage shews : When queen Elizabeth was entertained at Elvetham, in Hampshire, by the earl of Hertford, “after dinner about three o'clock, ten of his lordship's servants, all 3omersetshire men, in a square greene court before her majesties windowe, did hang up lines, squaring out the forme of a tennis court, and making a cross line in the middle; in this square they, being stripped out of their dublets, played five to five with hand-ball at bord and cord as they tearme it, to the great liking of her highness.”

* Mr. Fosbroke's Dict. of Antiquities.

* Pope's Homer
+ Golden Legend.
t Mr. Fosbroke's Dict. of Antiquities.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

one else in the world, which so many others are trying to do well, it leaves a gap in society. It is not likely that any one will now see the game of fives played in its perfection for many years to come— for Cavanagh is dead, and has not left his peer behind him. . It may be said that there are things of more importance than striking a ball against a wall—there are things indeed that make more noise and do as little good, such as making war and peace, making speeches and answering them, making verses and blotting them, making money and throwing it away. But the game of fives is what no one despises who has ever played at it. It is the finest exercise for the body, and the best relaxation for the mind. The Roman poet said that “Care mounted behind the horseman, and stuck to his skirts.” But this remark would not have applied to the fives-player. He who takes to playing at fives is twice young. He feels neither the past nor future “in the instant.” Debts, taxes, “domestic treason, foreign levy, nothing can touch him further.” He has no other wish, no other thought, from the moment the game begins, but that of striking the ball, of placing it, of making it! This Cavanagh was sure to do. Whenever he touched the ball, there was an end of the chase. His eye was certain, his hand fatal, his presence of mind complete. He could do what he pleased, and he always knew exactly what to do. He saw the whole game, and played it; took instant advantage of his adversary's weakness, and recovered balls, as if by a miracle and from sudden thought, that every one gave for lost. He had equal power and skill, quickness and judgment. He could either outwit his antagonist by finesse, or beat him by main strength. Sometimes, when he seemed preparing to send the ball with the full swing of his arm, he would, by a slight turn of his wrist, drop it within an inch of the line. In general, the ball came from his hand, as if from a racket, in a strait horizontal line; so that it was in vain to attempt to overtake or stop it. As it was said of a great orator, that he never was at a loss for a word, and for the properest word, so Cavanagh always could tell the degree of force necessary to be given to a ball, and the precise direction in which it should be sent. He did his work with the greatest ease; never took more pains than was necessary, and while others were fagging themselves to death, was as cool and collected as if he had just entered the court. His style of play was as remarkable as his power of execution. He had no affectation, no trifling. He did not throw away the game to show off an attitude, or try an experiment. He was a fine, sensible, manly player, who did what he could, but that was more than any one else could even affect to do. He was the best up-hill player in the world; even when his adversary was fourteen, he would play on the same or better, and as he never flung away the game through carelessness and conceit, he never gave it up through laziness, or want , of heart. The only peculiarity of his play was that he never volleyed, but let the balls hop; but if they rose an inch from the ground, he never missed having them. There was not only no body equal, but nobody second to him. It is supposed that he could give any other player half the game, or beat them with his left hand. His service was tremendous. He once played Woodward and Meredith together (two of the best players in England) in the Fives-court, St. Martin'sstreet, and made seven and twenty aces following by services alone—a thing unheard of. He another time played Peru, who was considered a first-rate fivesplayer, a match of the best out of five games, and in the three first games, which of course decided the match, Peru got only one ace. Cavanagh was an Irishman by birth, and a house-painter by profession. He had once laid aside his working-dress, and walked up, in his smartest clothes, to the Rosemary Branch to have an afternoon's pleasure. A person accosted him, and asked him if he would have a game. So they agreed to play for half-a-crown a game, and a bottle of cider. The first game began—it was seven, eight, ten, thirteen, fourteen, all. Cavanagh won it. The next was the same. They played on and each game was hardly contested. “There,” said the unconscious fives-player, “there was a stroke that Cavanagh could not take; I never played better in my life, and yet I can't win a-game. I don't know how it is.” However, they played on, Cavanagh winning every game, and the byestanders drinking the cider and laughing

all the time. In the twelfth game, when Cavanagh was only four, and the stranger thirteen, a person came in, and said, “What are you here, Cavanagh " The words were no sooner pronounced than the astonished player let the ball drop from his hand, and saying, “What! have I been breaking my heart all this time to beat Cavanagh 7" refused to make another effort. “And yet, I give you my word,” said Cavanagh, telling the story with some triumph, “I played all the while with my clenched fist.” He used frequently to play matches at Copenhagen-house for wagers and dinners. The wall against which they play is the same that supports the kitchen-chimney, and when the wall resounded louder than usual, the cooks exclaimed, “Those are the Irishman's balls,” and the joints trembled on the spit! Goldsmith consoled himself that there were places where he too was admired : and Cavanagh was the admiration of all the fives-courts where he ever played. Mr. Powell, when he played matches in the court in St. Martin's-street, used to fill his gallery at half-a-crown a head, with amateurs and admirers of talent in whatever department it is shown. He could not have shown himself in any ground in England, but he would have been immediately surrounded with inquisitive gazers, trying to find out in what part of his frame his unrivalled skill lay. He was a young fellow of sense, humour, and courage. He once had a quarrel with a waterman at Hungerford-stairs, and they say, “served him out” in great style. In a word, there are hundreds at this day, who cannot mention his name without admiration, as the best fives-player that perhaps ever lived (the greatest excellence of which they have any notion)—and the noisy shout of the ring happily stood him instead of the unheard voice of posterity. The only person who seems to have excelled as much in another way as Cavanagh did in his, was the late John Davies, the racket-player. It was remarked of him that he did not seem to follow the ball, but the ball seemed to follow him. Give him a foot of wall, and he was sure to make the ball. The four best racket-players of that day were Jack Spines, Jem Harding, Armitage, and Church. Davies could give any one of these two hands a time, that is, half the

game, and each of these at their best, could give the best player now in London the same odds. Such are the gradations in all exertions of human skill and art. He once played four capital players together, and beat them. He was also a first-rate tennis-player, and an excellent fives-player. In the Fleet or King's Bench, he would have stood against Powell, who was reckoned the best open-ground player of his time. This last-mentioned player is at present the keeper of the Fives-court, and we might recommend to him for a motto over his door, “Who enters here, forgets himself, his country, and his friends.” And the best of it is, that by the calculation of the odds, none of the three are worth remembering ! Cavanagh died from the bursting of a

blood-vessel, which prevented him from

laying for the last two or three years.

his, he was often heard to say, he thought hard upon him. He was fast recovering, however, when he was suddenly carried off to the regret of all who knew him.

Jack Cavanagh was a zealous Catholic, and could not be persuaded to eat meat on a Friday, the day on which he died. We have paid this willing tribute to his memory. “Let no rude hand deface it, And his forlorn “Hic Jacet.'”

Fives-play from the year 1780 was a chief diversion at Copenhagen-house, particularly while Mrs. Harrington remained the landlady. She was careless of all customers, except they came in shoals to drink tea in the gardens and long room up stairs, or to play at fives, skittles, and Dutch pins, and swill and smoke. The house was afterwards kept by a person named Orchard, during whose time the London Corresponding Society, in 1795, held meetings in the adjacent fields." In 1812, it was proposed by a company of projectors to bring sea-water through iron pipes “from the coast of Essex to Copenhagen fields,” and construct baths, which, according to the proposals, would yield twelve and a half per cent. on a capital of 200,000l.; but the subscription was not filled up, though the names of several eminent physicians sanctioned the undertaking, and the project failed.t

* Mr. Nelson's History of Islington. + ibid.

After Orchard's tenancy, Copenhagenhouse was kept by one Tooth, who encouraged brutal sports for the sake of the liquors he sold. On a Sunday morning the fives-ground was filled by bull-dogs and ruffians, who lounged and drank to intoxication; so many as fifty or sixty bull-dogs have been seen tied up to the benches at once, while their masters boozed and made match after match, and went out and fought their dogs before the house, amid the uproar of idlers attracted to the “bad eminence” by its infamy. This scene lasted, throughout every Sunday forenoon, and then the mob dispersed, and the vicinity was annoyed by the yells of the dogs and their drunken masters on their return home. There was also a common field, east of the house, wherein bulls were baited; this was called the bull-field. These excesses, although committed at a distance from other habitations, occasioned so much disturbance, that the magistrates, after repeated warmings to Tooth, refused him a license in 1816, and granted it to Mr. Bath, the E. landlord, who abated the nuisance y refusing to draw beer or afford refreshment to any one who had a bull-dog at his heels. #. bull-field has since been P. and occupied by a great coweeping landlord in the neighbourhood, though by what title he holds it is not known, certainly not by admission to it as waste of the manor. This field is close to the mud cottage hereafter mentioned in Hagbush-lane, an ancient way to Highgate-hill.

Near the spot at which Hagbush-lane comes out into the Holloway-road to Highgate, the great lord Bacon met with the cause of his death, in a way not generally known. He was taking an airing in his coach, on a winter-day, with Dr. Witherborne, a Scotchman, physiciar to James I., and the snow laying on the ground. It occurred to lord Bacor. that flesh might be preserved in snow as well as in salt; resolving to try the experiment, they alighted from the carriage, and going into a poor woman's cottage at the foot of Highgate-hill, they bought a hen; his o to stuff the body with snow, which so chilled him that he fell ill, and could not return to his lodgings; he therefore went to the earl of Arundel's house at Highgate, where a bed was warmed for him with a pan of coals;

« IndietroContinua »