Story type: Essay
Tuesday, March 18, 1712. Addison.
Ire tamen restat, Numa quo devenit et Ancus.
My friend Sir ROGER DE COVERLEY told me tother Night, that he had been reading my Paper upon Westminster Abby, in which, says he, there are a great many ingenious Fancies. He told me at the same time, that he observed I had promised another Paper upon the Tombs, and that he should be glad to go and see them with me, not having visited them since he had read History. I could not at first imagine how this came into the Knights Head, till I recollected that he had been very busy all last Summer upon Bakers Chronicle, which he has quoted several times in his Disputes with Sir ANDREW FREEPORT since his last coming to Town. Accordingly I promised to call upon him the next Morning, that we might go together to the Abby.
I found the Knight under his Butlers Hands, who always shaves him. He was no sooner Dressed, than he called for a Glass of the Widow Trueby’s Water, which he told me he always drank before he went abroad. He recommended me to a Dram of it at the same time, with so much Heartiness, that I could not forbear drinking it. As soon as I had got it down, I found it very unpalatable; upon which the Knight observing that I [had] made several wry Faces, told me that he knew I should not like it at first, but that it was the best thing in the World against the Stone or Gravel.
I could have wished indeed that he had acquainted me with the Virtues of it sooner; but it was too late to complain, and I knew what he had done was out of Good-will. Sir ROGER told me further, that he looked upon it to be very good for a Man whilst he staid in Town, to keep off Infection, and that he got together a Quantity of it upon the first News of the Sickness being at Dautzick: When of a sudden turning short to one of his Servants, who stood behind him, he bid him call [a ] Hackney Coach, and take care it was an elderly Man that drove it.
He then resumed his Discourse upon Mrs. Trueby’s Water, telling me that the Widow Trueby was one who did more good than all the Doctors and Apothecaries in the County: That she distilled every Poppy that grew within five Miles of her; that she distributed her Water gratis among all Sorts of People; to which the Knight added, that she had a very great Jointure, and that the whole Country would fain have it a Match between him and her; and truly, says Sir ROGER, if I had not been engaged, perhaps I could not have done better.
His Discourse was broken off by his Man’s telling him he had called a Coach. Upon our going to it, after having cast his Eye upon the Wheels, he asked the Coachman if his Axeltree was good; upon the Fellows telling him he would warrant it, the Knight turned to me, told me he looked like an honest Man, and went in without further Ceremony.
We had not gone far, when Sir ROGER popping out his Head, called the Coach-man down from his Box, and upon his presenting himself at the Window, asked him if he smoaked; as I was considering what this would end in, he bid him stop by the way at any good Tobacconists, and take in a Roll of their best Virginia. Nothing material happened in the remaining part of our Journey, till we were set down at the Westend of the Abby.
As we went up the Body of the Church, the Knight pointed at the Trophies upon one of the new Monuments, and cry’d out, A brave Man, I warrant him! Passing afterwards by Sir Cloudsly Shovel, he flung his Hand that way, and cry’d Sir Cloudsly Shovel! a very gallant Man! As we stood before Busby’s Tomb, the Knight utter’d himself again after the same Manner, Dr. Busby, a great Man! he whipp’d my Grandfather; a very great Man! I should have gone to him myself, if I had not been a Blockhead; a very great Man!
We were immediately conducted into the little Chappel on the right hand. Sir ROGER planting himself at our Historians Elbow, was very attentive to every thing he said, particularly to the Account he gave us of the Lord who had cut off the King of Moroccos Head. Among several other Figures, he was very well pleased to see the Statesman Cecil upon his Knees; and, concluding them all to be great Men, was conducted to the Figure which represents that Martyr to good Housewifry, who died by the prick of a Needle. Upon our Interpreters telling us, that she was a Maid of Honour to Queen Elizabeth, the Knight was very inquisitive into her Name and Family; and after having regarded her Finger for some time, I wonder, says he, that Sir Richard Baker has said nothing of her in his Chronicle.
We were then convey’d to the two Coronation-Chairs, where my old Friend, after having heard that the Stone underneath the most ancient of them, which was brought from Scotland, was called Jacob’s Pillar, sat himself down in the Chair; and looking like the Figure of an old Gothick King, asked our Interpreter, What Authority they had to say, that Jacob had ever been in Scotland? The Fellow, instead of returning him an Answer, told him, that he hoped his Honour would pay his Forfeit. I could observe Sir ROGER a little ruffled upon being thus trepanned; but our Guide not insisting upon his Demand, the Knight soon recovered his good Humour, and whispered in my Ear, that if WILL. WIMBLE were with us, and saw those two Chairs, it would go hard but he would get a Tobacco-Stopper out of one or tother of them.
Sir ROGER, in the next Place, laid his Hand upon Edward the Thirds Sword, and leaning upon the Pummel of it, gave us the whole History of the Black Prince; concluding, that in Sir Richard Bakers Opinion, Edward the Third was one of the greatest Princes that ever sate upon the English Throne.
We were then shewn Edward the Confessors Tomb; upon which Sir ROGER acquainted us, that he was the first who touched for the Evil; and afterwards Henry the Fourths, upon which he shook his Head, and told us there was fine Reading in the Casualties in that Reign.
Our Conductor then pointed to that Monument where there is the Figure of one of our English Kings without an Head; and upon giving us to know, that the Head, which was of beaten Silver, had been stolen away several Years since: Some Whig, Ill warrant you, says Sir ROGER; you ought to lock up your Kings better; they will carry off the Body too, if you don’t take care.
THE glorious Names of Henry the Fifth and Queen Elizabeth gave the Knight great Opportunities of shining, and of doing Justice to Sir Richard Baker, who, as our Knight observed with some Surprize, had a great many Kings in him, whose Monuments he had not seen in the Abby.
For my own part, I could not but be pleased to see the Knight shew such an honest Passion for the Glory of his Country, and such a respectful Gratitude to the Memory of its Princes.
I must not omit, that the Benevolence of my good old Friend, which flows out towards every one he converses with, made him very kind to our Interpreter, whom he looked upon as an extraordinary Man; for which reason he shook him by the Hand at parting, telling him, that he should be very glad to see him at his Lodgings in Norfolk-Buildings, and talk over these Matters with him more at leisure.