Ebooks, Fiction, Non-Fiction 1000s of Free books and stories online to read now ~ Main Page




Thackeray's "Gray Friars" by An Old Gown Boy

There is an eloquent passage in one of Victor Hugo's novels in which the writer affectionately apostrophizes the Paris of his youth—those quaint old streets of the Quartier Latin so redolent of the happy associations which cling to the springtide of life. Were Thackeray living now, he would, we fancy, experience emotions very similar to those of his French confrère should he try to find his beloved "Gray Friars," which lives enshrined in the most pathetic scene he ever penned, and is ever and anon coming before us in the pages of his several stories. It is but a few years since the author of Vanity Fair passed away, yet already Gray Friars' surroundings are no longer those with which he was familiar.

Descending Holborn Hill five years ago, you found yourself, when at the foot of that celebrated thoroughfare, at Snow Hill, just at that point where the words, "Here he is, father!" struck upon the parental ears of Mr. Squeers as his son and heir manfully "went for" Smike. Turning to the left, instead of proceeding up Newgate street, a circuitous street took you to Smithfield, so long associated with stakes and steaks. Thence, when half-way through the forest of pens, you turned sharp off to the left, and then, after another hundred yards by a turn to the right, found yourself in a long narrow lane, called Charter-House lane. This brought you presently to some iron gates admitting you to a quaint and not very mathematical quadrangle, such as you would never have dreamed of stumbling upon there. This is Charter-House Square, which, still intensely respectable, was once eminently fashionable. At one corner of it is a little recess known as Rutland Square, for on this site once stood the abode of the dukes of that ilk, and near to it is a stately mansion with a high pitched roof which was in days long gone the residence of the Venetian ambassador. A garden occupies the centre of the square. Everything is neat, orderly and severely dull, the most dissipated tenants of the square being boarding-house keepers of a highly sedate description. The secret of all this tremendous respectability is to be found in the contiguity to the Charter-House itself, a portion of whose buildings abut on the square, which, with many of the streets adjoining, belongs to this wealthy institution. Four years ago the place was so secluded that a stranger to London might have walked around the spot a dozen times without suspecting its existence, and living in one of its comfortable old mansions supposed himself in the cathedral close of a provincial city. The entrance to the Charter-House itself is under an archway through venerable oaken portals, which are said—and there seems no reason to question the statement—to be the identical gates of the monastery which occupied the ground in the time of Henry VIII. This monastery had been a religious house of the Carthusians.2 The order first came to England in 1180, and was seated at a place called Witham Priory3 in Somersetshire, to this day known as Charter-House Witham. There Henry II. founded and endowed a monastery. The London branch of the establishment at Witham was founded by Sir Walter de Manni, seigneur de Manni in Cambrai, France, who was made a knight of the Garter by Edward III., in reward for gallant services. Manni founded the house in pious commemoration of a decimating pestilence, on which occasion not fewer than fifty thousand persons are said to have been buried within the thirteen acres which he bought and enclosed, and a gentle eminence known as the "hill" in the play-ground, separating what was called "Upper Green" from "Under Green," is said to owe its shape to the thousands of bodies buried there. Manni died in 1371: his funeral was conducted with the utmost pomp, and attended by the king and the princes of the blood.

A hundred and fifty years rolled on without aught very momentous to interrupt the daily routine of the monks of Charter-House, who, had there not been a woman in the case, might possibly be the occupants of the ground to this day. When, however, Henry's fancy for Anne Boleyn led him to look with favor on the Reformation, the Charter-House, in common with other such establishments, came in for an ample share of Thomas Cromwell's scrutinizing inquiries. And a sad fate its occupants had. Required to take the oath of allegiance to Henry VIII., they refused. Froude, who gives them an extended notice, says: "In general, the house was perhaps the best ordered in England. The hospitality was well sustained, the charities were profuse. Among many good, the prior, John Haughton, was the best. He was of an old English family, and had been educated at Cambridge. He had been twenty years a Carthusian at the opening of the troubles of the Reformation. He is described as small of stature, in figure graceful, in countenance dignified: in manner he was most modest, in eloquence most sweet, in chastity without stain."

On the 4th of May, 1535, Haughton was executed with all the horrors attending the punishment of death for high treason in those barbarous times. He and his companions, certain monks of Sion Priory, died without a murmur, and Haughton's arm was hung up under the archway of the Charter-House beneath which the visitor drives to-day, to awe his brethren. The remnant never gave in. Some were executed; ten died of filth and fever in Newgate; and thus the noblest band of monks in the country was broken up by Henry's ruthless hand.

The Charter-House was then granted to two men, by name Bridges and Hall, for their lives, after which it was bestowed in 1545 on Sir E. North. North's son sold it to the duke of Norfolk, who resided there, on and off, until decapitated in 1572. The duke was beheaded by Elizabeth for intriguing with Mary queen of Scots, and the papers proving his offence are said to have been found concealed beneath the roof of the stately mansion he had erected for himself at the Charter-House.

Before the duke came to grief that most erratic of sovereigns was a visitor at his house—as indeed where was she not?—coming thence from Hampton Court in 1568, and remaining a day with him; and when her successor, James I., came to take up her English sceptre, he, mindful of what the Howards had suffered for their sympathy with his mother's cause, came straight thither from Theobalds, his halting-place next to London, and remained on a visit of four days.

From the duke of Norfolk the Charter-House passed to his eldest son by his second wife, Lord Thomas Howard, who was created by James I. earl of Suffolk;4 and he about 1609 sold it to Mr. Thomas Sutton.

Sutton's career was remarkable. It was said of the late earl of Derby that even had he been born in a shepherd's cot on Salisbury Plain, instead of in the purple at Knowsley, he would still have proved himself a remarkable man. In local phraseology, he was "bound to get on," and so was Thomas Sutton. The son of a country gentleman at a place called Knaith in Lincolnshire, he inherited early in life a good property from his father, and spent some time in traveling abroad. Then he became attached to the household of the duke of Norfolk, probably as surveyor and manager of that great peer's vast estates, and in 1569, when a serious disturbance broke out in the north of England, he repaired thither, and greatly distinguished himself in aiding to quell it. He then received the appointment of master-general of ordnance for the North for life.

Whilst in the North he found another mode of making hay whilst the sun shone. Soon after his arrival he bought a lease of the bishop of Durham of the manors of Gateshead and Wickham, and worked the collieries on these properties to such good purpose that, on coming up to London in 1580 he brought with him two horse-loads of money, and was reputed to be worth fifty thousand pounds—a great sum in those days.

About 1582 he increased his wealth by marriage, and commenced business as a merchant in London. His large amount of ready money—a commodity especially scarce in those days—soon enabled him to carry on very large commercial operations; and amongst other sources of wealth he probably derived considerable profit from his office of victualer of the navy. In 1590, finding himself without prospect of children, he withdrew from business, and retired to the country, having already invested largely in real estate. Although very frugal, there are sufficient evidences of his liberality to the poor on his property; and it seems not improbable that his charitable schemes now began to take definite form, for after his death a credible witness stated that Sutton was in the habit of repairing to a summer-house in his garden for private devotion, and on one of these occasions he heard him utter the words: "Lord, Thou hast given me a large and liberal estate: give me also a heart to make use thereof."

About 1608, when he had quite retired from the world, he was greatly exercised by a rumor that he was to be raised to the peerage—an honor which it was contemplated to bestow with the understanding that he would make Prince Charles, subsequently Charles I., his heir. This was a court intrigue to get his money, but an urgent appeal to Lord Chancellor Ellesmere and the earl of Salisbury, prime minister, appears to have put an end to trouble in the matter. He died on the 12th of December, 1611, at the age of seventy-nine, leaving immense wealth, and on the 12th of December, 1614, his body was brought on the shoulders of his pensioners to Charter-House Chapel, and interred in a vault ready for it there, beneath the huge monument erected to his memory.

"The death-day of the founder is still kept solemnly by Cistercians. In their chapel, where assemble the boys of the school and the fourscore old men of the hospital, the founder's tomb stands, a huge edifice emblazoned with heraldic decorations and clumsy, carved allegories. There is an old hall, a beautiful specimen of the architecture of James's time. An old hall? Many old halls, old staircases, old passages, old chambers decorated with old portraits, walking in the midst of which we walk as it were in the early seventeenth century. To others than Cistercians, Gray Friars is a dreary place possibly. Nevertheless, the pupils educated there love to revisit it, and the oldest of us grow young again for an hour or two as we come back into those scenes of childhood.

"The custom of the school is that on the 12th of December, the Founder's Day, the head gown-boy shall recite a Latin oration in praise Fundatoris Nostri, and upon other subjects; and a goodly company of old Cistercians is generally brought together to attend this oration; after which5 ... we adjourn to a great dinner, where old condisciples meet, old toasts are given and speeches are made. Before marching from the oration-hall to chapel the stewards of the day's dinner, according to old-fashioned rite, have wands put into their hands, walk to church at the head of the procession, and sit there in places of honor. The boys are already in their seats, with smug fresh faces and shining white collars; the old black-gowned pensioners are on their benches; the chapel is lighted, and Founder's tomb, with its grotesque carvings, monsters, heraldries, darkles and shines with the most wonderful shadows and lights. There he lies, Fundator Noster, in his ruff and gown, awaiting the great Examination Day. We oldsters, be we ever so old, become boys again as we look at that familiar old tomb, and think how the seats are altered since we were here; and how the doctor—not the present doctor, the doctor of our time—used to sit yonder, and his awful eye used to frighten us shuddering boys on whom it lighted; and how the boy next us would kick our shins during service-time; and how the monitor would cane us afterward because our shins were kicked....

"The service for Founder's Day is a special one. How solemn the well-remembered prayers are!... how beautiful and decorous the rite! how noble the ancient words of the supplication which the priest utters, and to which generations of fresh children and troops of bygone seniors have cried Amen under those arches!"6

Having resolved to found a charity which should provide both for young and old, Sutton, who had ample reason fully to appreciate the unprincipled and grasping character of the court, proceeded to take every precaution that sagacity and ingenuity could suggest to keep his money secure from the hands of such harpies as Carr and "Steenie," and hedge it round with every bulwark possible. Perhaps he consulted "Jingling Geordie," then planning his own singular scheme,7 on the point, and got him to persuade the king, always vain of his scholarship, that it would well become him to become patron of an institution having for one of its main objects the education of youth in sound learning. Be this as it may, the fact is certain that a degree of royal and other powerful protection was somehow secured for the institution which for all time prevented its funds from being diverted to other purposes.

Sutton's bequest of the bulk of his estate to charitable uses was not unnaturally viewed with strong disapprobation by his nephew, one Simon Baxter, for whom he had, however, not neglected to provide, who brought a suit to set aside the will. However, notwithstanding that he had Bacon for his counsel, he failed to interfere with his uncle's disposition of his estate; the court holding that the claims of kinship had been sufficiently recognized.8

In the same year, 1614, the institution opened. The rules and orders for its government may yet be seen, bearing the autograph signature of Charles I., then prince of Wales. From that time almost every man in the country, of the first rank of eminence by birth or fortune, has been a governor, and the name of Cromwell may be seen not far from that of Charles on the roll. Up to about 1850 the patronage was vested exclusively in the governors. Amongst these were always included—though not necessarily—the sovereign, the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of London. The remainder were men eminent in Church or State, "the master of the hospital,"9 who must not be confounded with the school-master, being the only official member. The sovereign had two nominations to the other governors' one. Thackeray makes the great marquis of Steyne a governor, and shows how little Rawdon Crawley benefited by that august personage's patronage: "When Lord Steyne was benevolently disposed he did nothing by halves, and his kindness toward the Crawley family did the greatest honor to his benevolent discrimination. His lordship extended his goodness to little Rawdon: he pointed out to the boy's parents the necessity of sending him to a public school; that he was of an age now when emulation, the first principles of the Latin language, pugilistic exercises and the society of his fellow-boys would be of the greatest benefit to the boy.... All objections disappeared before the generous perseverance of the marquis. His lordship was one of the governors of that famous old collegiate institution called the White Friars. It had been a Cistercian convent in old days, when Smithfield, which is contiguous to it, was a tournament-ground. Obstinate heretics used to be brought thither, convenient for burning hard by. Harry VIII., the Defender of the Faith, seized upon the monastery and its possessions, and hanged and tortured some of the monks who could not accommodate themselves to the pace of his reform. Finally, a great merchant bought the house and land adjoining, in which, and with the help of other wealthy endowments of land and money, he established a famous foundation hospital for old men and children. An extern school grew round the old almost monastic foundation, which subsists still with its Middle-Age costume and usages; and all Cistercians pray that it may long flourish. Of this famous house some of the greatest noblemen, prelates and dignitaries of the land are governors; and as the boys are very comfortably lodged, fed and educated, and subsequently inducted to good scholarships at the university and livings in the Church, many little gentlemen are devoted to the ecclesiastical profession from their tenderest years, and there is considerable emulation to procure nominations for the foundation.

"It was originally intended for the sons of poor and deserving clerics and laics, but many of the noble governors of the institution, with an enlarged and rather capricious benevolence, selected all sorts of objects for their bounty. To get an education for nothing, and a future livelihood and profession assured, was so excellent a scheme that some of the richest people did not disdain it, and not only great men's relations, but great men themselves, sent their sons to profit by the chance."

A boy on the foundation received his education entirely free. Whilst within the walls he was clothed in black cloth at the expense of the house, and even had shirts and shoes provided for him. His only expenses were a fee to the matron of twenty-five dollars a year, and the cost of books, stationery, etc., the whole amounting to a sum less than one hundred dollars a year. On leaving school for college he received an allowance—four hundred dollars for three years, and five hundred dollars for the fourth.

There may have been a time when much of the patronage was improperly bestowed, but this certainly was not the case in our day. The majority of the boys on the foundation were the sons of well-born and often distinguished gentlemen of small means, and the sort of perversion of patronage to which Thackeray alludes had ceased to take place. When some of the places on the foundation were thrown open, it was a subject of general remark that several of the boys who got scholarships were those whose parents could perfectly have afforded to give them a first-class education.

Probably there will some day be a reaction in England in this matter. The prevalent present plan is to give every advantage to the clever boy (which means a boy who has a faculty for acquirement, but often lacks those qualities most needed to make him a valuable citizen), and to let those who are not so bright at book-learning, and need every aid, scramble along as they can. It was certainly not the system which Sutton designed, and there are not a few who, without being by any means bigoted conservatives, consider that the utter indifference displayed of late years to the intentions of founders is quite unjustifiable, and offers little encouragement to those who would be disposed to make similar bequests.

At Oxford, for instance, nearly every scholarship is now thrown open to general competition. This sounds very fine, but is in utter disregard of the fact that the founder in most instances was induced to bequeath his money with the view that those who came from the part of the country to which he himself belonged should benefit. Of course, time had rendered necessary certain changes, but these have been sweeping to a degree which is inconsistent with a due regard to the wills of the dead, and meanwhile no one seems disposed to admit that the public schools or universities turn out men one whit better than in days gone by, or indeed do more for the general education of the people.

Recently a sweeping change has been made at the Charter-House, which had seemed to be almost proof against innovation. So far as nominating boys to the foundation, the governors' patronage will, after one more term apiece, be at an end, and the privilege of participating in Button's benefits will be open to all boys who have been for some months members of the school, and are clever enough to beat their fellows in competition. The governors reserve, however, their right of nominating aged or disabled men, whose number now, we believe, amounts to one hundred.

A school-day at Charter-House began at eight, with what we called "first school." Prayers, lasting about five minutes, took place in the large school-room. These were read by a "gown-boy" monitor. The lessons at first school consisted entirely of repetition—repeating Latin poetry, and occasionally prose. As each boy finished his repetition—the boys being taken up in the order in which they were numbered the previous day—he left the school and went to breakfast. Breakfast consisted of an almost unlimited supply of hot rolls and butter and milk, but this was supplemented in the case of almost every boy by edibles purchased with his pocket-money. For those who had the privilege of fagging this was recognized and allowed, and in regard to the rest it was connived at, and marmalades, potted meats and such-like relishes freely circulated, being supplied for the most part by the servants, who drove a lively trade in such comestibles.

Toasting was brought to the very highest perfection. Never before or since have we tasted anything of its kind so good as a buttered roll toasted. It was a French roll buttered all over outside, and then skillfully grilled until the outside was a rich crisp brown. This was brought by the fag to his master "hot and hot," and, being cut open, eaten with butter. The rooms were warmed by immense open fireplaces, there being no limit to the expenditure of coal, which was prodigious.

In our time (1847-1853) there was an immense deal of fagging, which has been, we believe very properly, much diminished. Under boys were called in to perform many menial offices which should have been done by servants. The task-work which by "gown-boys" was most disliked was what was called being basonite. This duty devolved upon the twelve junior boys occupying what was known as "the under bedroom." To this hour we recall with horror how on a gloomy, foggy, wintry Monday morning we remembered on waking that it was our basonite week—for a fresh set of three went to work each Monday morning—and that we must get up and call the monitors. This basonite duty consisted of the most elaborate valeting. Each monitor's clothes were brushed, warm water was fetched and poured out for him, and everything so arranged that he might lie in bed up to the last possible moment, and then one small boy being ready with his coat, another with his waistcoat, and a third with his cap—be able to dress in five minutes and rush into school. At midday, when the monitors washed their hands for dinner, similar work had to be done, and again in the evening, when they washed their hands for supper. The only set-off to all this was that each monitor had been a basonite, and each basonite had a very good chance of becoming a monitor. But it was carrying the fagging system to far too great an extent, and the practice is now greatly modified.

The domestic arrangements were in many respects rough and comfortless, and so intensely conservative were the ruling powers in these respects that complaint or remonstrance scarcely received any attention. On the other hand, the utmost liberality prevailed in most matters. The foundation scholars' dinner, for instance, was provided in a long, low, old-fashioned, oak-paneled hall, admirably adapted for the purpose. The food was excellent in quality, unlimited in quantity, and very comfortably served. The only drawback was want of variety, and the perennial reappearance of raspberry tartlets every Wednesday at length provoked a mutiny against that form of pastry, the order being passed down that no one was to touch it.

An upper boy had two fags, the inferior of the two being called his tea-fag. A good feeling nearly always subsisted between master and fag, inasmuch as the former generally selected a boy he liked; and indeed in many cases the connection engendered a warm and lasting regard between the parties. The fag had access to his master's study, could retreat there to do his lessons in quiet, and not unfrequently was assisted in them by his master.

Those who came off worst were dirty boys: no mercy was shown them. One such we can recall—now a very spruce, well-appointed government official—whose obstinate adherence to dirt was marvelous, seeing what it cost him.

There are always some bullies among a lot of boys, but serious bullying was uncommon, and not unfrequently a hideous retribution befell a bully through some "big fellow" resolving to wreak on him what he inflicted on others. We can recall one very bright, brilliant youth, now high in the Indian civil service, whose drollery when bullying was irresistible, even to those who knew their turn might come next. "Come here, F——," we remember his saying to a fat youth of reputed uncleanness: then dropping his voice to a tone of subdued horror and solemnity, "I was shocked to hear you use a bad word just now." "No indeed, B——," protested the trembling F——. "Ah, well, I'm certain that you are now thinking it; and, besides, at any rate, you look fat and disgusting; so hold down your hands;" and poor F—— retired howling after a tremendous "swinger"—i.e. swinging box on the ear.

The school was divided into six forms, the sixth being the highest. Below the first form were two classes called upper and lower petties. Up to 1850, classics were the almost exclusive study, but the changes then made in the curriculum of studies at Oxford rendered attention to mathematics absolutely necessary. Much less stress was laid upon Latin verses at Charter-House than at Eton, and a Latin prose composition was regarded as the most important part of scholarship, inasmuch as a certain proficiency in it is a sine qua non at Oxford. French was taught twice a week by a master of celebrity, who, however, did not understand the art of dinning learning into unwilling boys. It rarely happens in England that boys acquire any real knowledge of French at school: those who gain the prizes are almost invariably boys who have resided abroad and picked up the language in childhood. Music was taught by Mr. Hullah, and attendance on the part of gown-boys was compulsory. Drawing and fencing were extras.

Very great importance was attached to the annual examination, which was conducted by examiners specially appointed by the governors. The result, which was kept a close secret until "Prize Saturday," was as eagerly looked forward to as the Derby by a betting man. The different forms were divided into classes, as at Oxford, according to merit, and the names printed along with the examination papers in pamphlet form. After this examination boys went up to the form above them, each boy usually remaining a year in each form. The system of punishment was as follows. A book called the "Black Book" was kept by the school monitor of the week, there being four gown-boy—that is, foundation—monitors who took the duty of school monitor in rotation. A boy put down for three offences during the same week was flogged, but the end of each week cleared off old scores. The entries were in this wise:

Name of Boy. Offence. By whom put down.
Robinson 1 Idle Dr. Saunders.
Smith 1, 2 Talking in School Mr. Curtis.

"Go and put your name down," a master would say. "Oh please, sir, I'm down twice." "Then put it down a third time." Then would follow entreaties, which, unless the delinquent had been previously privately marked down for execution, would probably avail. When a flogging offence was committed a boy was put down thus:

Robinson 1, 2, 3 Impertinent Mr.——.

The flogging varied much in severity according to the crime. The process was precisely the same as at Eton. Partially denuded of his nether garments, the victim knelt upon the block, the monitor standing at his head. The birches were kept in a long box which served as a settee, and were furnished periodically by the man who brought the fire fagots. Now and again the box would, by the carelessness of the functionary called "the school-groom," be left open, and it was then considered a point of honor on the part of an under boy to promptly avail himself of the opportunity to "skin" the rods—i.e. draw them through a piece of stuff in such a way as to take the buds off, after which they hurt very much less.

Serious offences, such as insubordination and gross disobedience, were punished by a flogging with two birches, which was too severe a punishment. The degree of pain varied very much according to the delicacy of skin, and no doubt some boys—one of our comrades had been flogged about twenty-five times—did not feel much after many floggings, becoming literally case-hardened; whereas, we have known a boy compelled to stay in bed two or three days from the effects of a flogging which would have left little mark upon the "twenty-fiver." When a victim issued from the flogging-room the questions from an eager throng were, "How many cuts, old fellow? Did it take much? You howled like the devil!"10

The monitors were furnished with small canes, which they were permitted to use with moderation, but nothing like the horrible process of "tunding," as at Winchester, was known. The theory of entrusting this power to monitors is, that if you do not give certain boys the right to punish, might will be right, whilst the monitors, being duly made to feel their responsibility, will only punish where punishment is properly due, and will serve as a protection to the weak.

There was a half-holiday every Wednesday and Saturday. Every Saturday upper boys who had friends might go out from Saturday till Sunday night, and lower boys were allowed to do the same every other Saturday. These events were of course greatly looked forward to from week to week. Not the least agreeable feature was the probable addition to pocket-money, for in England it is the custom to "tip" school-boys, and we have ourselves come back joyous on a Sunday evening with six sovereigns chinking in our pockets. Alas, no one tips us now! Then there was the delight of comparing notes of the doings during the delightful preceding twenty-four hours. Thus, whilst Brown detailed the delights of the pantomime to which Uncle John had taken him on Saturday night, Robinson descanted on the marvels of the Zoological Gardens, with special reference to the free-and-easy life of monkeydom, and Smith never wearied of enlarging on the terrors and glories of the Tower of London. Altogether, there were fourteen weeks' holiday in the year—six weeks in August, five at Christmas and three at Whitsuntide, with two days at Easter.

There were several beds in each bedroom, and there was a very strict rule that the most perfect order should prevail—in fact, lower boys were forbidden to talk; but talk they always did, and long stories, often protracted for nights, were told; and for our part, we must confess that we have never enjoyed any fictions more than those.

Evening prayers took place in the several houses at nine, after which the lower boys went to bed. A junior master—there was one to each house—always attended at prayers, which were read by a monitor. Before prayers names were called over and every boy accounted for.

Although in the midst of brick and mortar, two large spaces, containing several acres, were available for cricket, whilst foot-ball—and very fierce games of it, too—was usually played in the curious old cloisters of the Chartreuse monks which opened on "Upper Green." The grass-plot of Upper Green was kept sacred from the feet of under boys except in "cricket quarter," as the summer quarter was termed. It was rolled, watered and attended to with an assiduity such as befalls few spots of ground in the world. The roof of the cloisters was a terrace flagged with stone, and on the occasion of cricket-matches a gay bevy of ladies assembled here to look at the exploits of the young Rawdon Crawleys and Pendennises of the day. Immediately opposite the terrace, across the green, on the immensely high blank wall, was the word "Crown" rudely painted, and above it what was intended as a representation of that sign of sovereignty. This had a history. It was said to have been written there originally by "the bold and strong-minded Law," commemorated by Macaulay in his Warren Hastings article, who became Lord Ellenborough, and the last lord chief-justice who had the honor of a seat in the cabinet. It was probably put up originally as a goal for boys running races, and for nearly a century was regularly repainted as commemorative of a famous alumnus who was so fondly attached to the place of his early education that he desired to be buried in its chapel, and an imposing monument to his memory may be seen on its walls. Between Upper and Under Greens, on the slight eminence to which we have alluded, stood "School," a large ugly edifice of brick mounted with stone, which derived an interest in the eyes of those educated there from the fact that the names of hundreds of old Carthusians were engraven on its face; for it was the custom of boys leaving school to have their names bracketed with those of friends; and when Brown took his departure his name was duly cut, with a space left for Robinson's name when the time of his departure came.

These stones have now exchanged the murky air of London for that of one of the pleasantest sites in Surrey. Charter-House School has, after passing two hundred and sixty years in the metropolis, changed its location, and must be looked for now on a delightful spot near Godalming in Surrey. The governors very wisely determined about five years ago that boys were much better in country than in town, and, having ample funds, took measures accordingly. Last October the new buildings were ready for the boys' reception, and they met there for the first time. The stones, however, were, with a sentiment most will appreciate, removed, in order to connect the past with the present, for the Charter-House must ever have many tender ties binding it to the site of the old monastery with its rich historic memories; and however famous may be the men who go forth from the new ground which Sutton's famous foundation occupies, it must derive a great part of its fame for a long time to come from the place which sent out into the world Addison, Steele, Thirlwall, Grote, Leech and Thackeray, not to mention a host of names of those who in arms and arts have done credit to the place of their education.11

The home for aged and infirm or disabled men will remain where it has always been. This establishment has indeed been a welcome refuge to thousands who have known better days. Men of all ranks and conditions, who have experienced in the afternoon of life contrary winds too powerful for them to encounter, have here found a haven for the remnant of their days. Some have held most important positions, and a lord mayor of London, who had received emperors at his table, was a few years ago one of Sutton's "poor brethren." The pensioners were always called cods by the boys, probably short for codgers. Each had a room plainly furnished, about one hundred and fifty dollars a year, rations, and a dinner every day in the great hall. The boys, who did not often know their names, gave them nicknames by which they became generally known. Thus three were called "Battle," "Murder" and "Sudden Death;" another "Larky," in consequence of a certain levity of demeanor at divine service. These old gentlemen were expected to attend chapel daily. Every evening at nine o'clock the chapel bell tolled the exact number of them, just as Great Tom at Christ Church, Oxford, nightly rings out the number of the students. Being for the most part aged men, soured by misfortune and failure, they are naturally enough often hard to please and difficult to deal with.

No passage in Thackeray's writings is more deeply pathetic than that in which he records the last scene of one "poor brother," that Bayard of fiction, Colonel Newcome: "At the usual evening hour the chapel-bell began to toll, and Thomas Newcome's hands outside the bed feebly beat time. And just as the last bell struck, a peculiar sweet smile shone over his face, and he lifted up his head a little, and quickly said, 'Adsum!' and fell back. It was the word he used at school when names, were called; and lo, he whose heart was as that of a little child had answered to his name and stood in the presence of the Master."

Footnote 2: (return)

The original seat of the Carthusian order was at Chartreux in Dauphiny, where it was founded by Saint Bruno.

Footnote 3: (return)

Witham, which is not far from Fonthill, became in 1763 the property of Alderman Beckford, the millionaire father of the celebrated author of Vathek.

Footnote 4: (return)

Lord Suffolk probably applied the purchase-money (thirteen thousand pounds) to help build the palace, called Audley End or Inn, he raised in Essex. It stands on abbey-land granted by Henry VIII. to his wife's father, Lord Audley of Walden, near Saffron-Walden in Essex, and was generally regarded as the most magnificent structure of its period, although Evelyn gives the preference to Clarendon House, that grand mansion of the chancellor's which provoked so much jealousy against him, and came to be called Dunkirk House, from the insinuation that it was built out of the funds paid by the French for Dunkirk. Abbey-lands are supposed by many to carry ill-luck with them, and quickly to change hands. Audley End has proved no exception to this hypothetical fate. Only a portion of it now remains, but this, though much marred by injudicious alterations, is amply sufficient to show how grand it was. It has long since passed out of the hands of the Howards, and now belongs to Lord Braybrooke, whose family name is Nevill. A relation of his, a former peer of the name, edited the best edition of Pepys' Diary, in which and in Evelyn is frequent reference to Audley End.

Footnote 5: (return)

The order of proceedings was subsequently inverted.

Footnote 6: (return)

The Newcomers: "Founder's Day at Gray Friars." On one of the last Founder's Days of his life Thackeray came with a friend early in the day, and scattered half sovereigns to the little gown-boys in "Gown-boys' Hall."

Footnote 7: (return)

Heriot's Hospital at Edinburgh.

Footnote 8: (return)

Simon Baxter was his only sister's son. Sutton had left him an estate which in 1615 he sold to the ancestor of the present earl of Sefton for fifteen thousand pounds—equal to about seventy-five thousand pounds now—and a legacy of three hundred pounds.

Footnote 9: (return)

This was a post which Thackeray coveted, and had he lived might possibly have filled. The master's lodge, a spacious antique residence, lined with portraits of governors in their robes of estate, by Lely, Kneller, etc., would in his hands have become a resort of rare interest and hospitality.

Footnote 10: (return)

In what is known as "The Charter-House Play," which describes some boyish orgies and their subsequent punishment, the latter is described in the pathetic lines:

Now the victim low is bending,

Now the fearful rod descending,

Hark a blow! Again, again

Sounds the instrument of pain.

Goddess of mercy! oh impart

Thy kindness to the doctor's heart:

Bid him words of pardon say—

Cast the blood-stained scourge away.

In vain, in vain! he will not hear:

Mercy is a stranger there.

Justice, unrelenting dame,

First asserts her lawful claim.

This is aye her maxim true:

"They who sin must suffer too."

When of fun we've had our fill,

Justice then sends in her bill,

And as soon as we have read it,

Pay we must: she gives no credit.

There is some rather fine doggerel too, in which the doctor—the Dr. Portman Pendennis—apostrophizes a monitor in whom he had believed, but finds to have been as bad as the rest. The Doctor (with voice indicative of tears and indignation):

Oh, Simon Steady! Simon Steady, oh!

What would your father say to see you so?—

You whom I always trusted, whom I deemed

As really good and honest as you seemed.

Are you the leader of this lawless throng,

The chief of all that's dissolute and wrong?

Then with awful emphasis:

Bad is the drunkard, shameless is the youth

Who dares desert the sacred paths of truth;

But he who hides himself 'neath Virtue's pall,

The painted hypocrite, is worse than all!

In acting this play the manner of the real doctor (Mr. Gladstone's old tutor, now dean of Peterborough) was often imitated to the life, which of course brought down the house.

Footnote 11: (return)

In his curious London and the Country, Carbonadoed and Quartered into severall Characters (1632), Lupton writes under the head of


"This place is well described by three things—magnificence, munificence and religious government. The first shows the wealth of the founder; the second, the means to make the good thing done durable; the third demonstrates his intent that thus established it.... This one place hath sent many a famous member to the universities, and not a few to the wars. The deed of this man that so ordered this house is much spoken of and commended; but there's none (except only one—Sion College) that hath as yet either striven to equal or imitate that, and I fear never will."