Charles G. (Charles George) Harper.

The Ingoldsby Country online

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form of Fisher. This is good news for Fishers anxious to assume long
descent, even if they have to date from a murderer. Time throws an
historic condonation over such things, and many an ambitious person who
would not willingly kill a fly, and who would very naturally shrink
from owning any connection with a homicidal criminal now on his trial,
would glow with pride at an attested family tree springing from that
blood-thirsty knight.

Another tales gives the Italian name of Orsini as a variant of
FitzUrse. If there be anything in it, then assuredly the notorious
Orsini of the infernal machine, who attempted the life of Napoleon
III., was a reversion to twelfth century type.

Other Barhams there are known to fame: Henry, surgeon and natural
history writer, who died in 1726, and was one of the family of Barhams
of Barham Court; and Nicholas Barham, lawyer, of Wadhurst, Sussex,
who died in 1577, and was descended from the Barhams of Teston,
near Maidstone. Nicholas was ever a favourite Christian name with
all branches of the family, and Tom Ingoldsby so named his youngest
son - the "Little Boy Ned" of the Legends.

The witty and mirth-provoking Reverend Richard Harris Barham, destined
to bear the most distinguished name of all his race, was fourth in
descent from the peculiarly fortunate John Barham who wedded the Harris
hopfields and the Harris daughter. His father, himself a "Richard
Harris" Barham - was that alderman of capacious paunch of whom mention
has already been made. He resided at 61, Burgate Street, Canterbury, a
large, substantial house of pallid grey brick, plain almost to ugliness
outside, but remarkably comfortable and beautifully appointed within,
standing at the corner of Canterbury Lane. A brick of the garden wall
facing the lane may be observed, scratched lightly with "M. B. 1733."

To this house he had succeeded on the death of his father, Richard
Barham, in 1784. He did not very long enjoy the inheritance.

_From a drawing by his son, the Rev. Richard Harris Dalton Barham._]

The alderman was of truly aldermanic proportions, for he weighed
nineteen stone. Existing portraits of him introduce us to a personage
of a more than Falstaffian appearance, and the tale is still told how
it was found necessary to widen the doorway at the time of his funeral.
For eleven years he lived here; and here it was, December 6th, 1788,
that the only child of himself and his housekeeper, Elizabeth Fox, was

Elizabeth Fox came from Minster-in-Thanet. A miniature portrait of her
shows a fair-haired, bright-eyed woman, with abundant indications of
a sunny nature, rich in wit and humour. It is quite clear that it was
from his mother Ingoldsby derived his mirthful genius, just as in a
companion miniature of himself, painted at the age of six, representing
him as a pretty, vivacious little boy with large brown roguish eyes, he
bore a striking likeness to her.

It is singular to note that the future rector of St. Mary Magdalene in
the City of London was as an infant baptised at a church of precisely
the same dedication - that of St. Mary Magdalene in Burgate Street, a
few doors only removed from his birthplace. The tower only of that
church is now standing, the rest having been pulled down in 1871. It is
still possible to decipher some of the tablets fixed against the wall
of the tower, but exposed to the weather and slowly decaying. There is
one to Ingoldsby's grandfather, Richard, who died December 11th, 1784,
aged 82, and to his grandmother, Elizabeth Barham, who died October
2nd, 1781, aged 81; and other tablets commemorate his aunts Eliza and
Sarah, who died September 26th, 1782, and December 16th, 1784, aged
respectively forty-six and forty-four years.



Ingoldsby was only in his seventh year when a very serious thing
befell, for his father, the alderman, died in 1795. Those who love
their Ingoldsby and everything that was his, as the present writer
does, will be interested to know that he was buried at Upper Hardres
("Hards," in the Kentish speech), a small and lonely village, four
miles from Canterbury, on the old Stone Street, as you go towards
Lympne and Hythe. There, in the village church, high up on the south
wall of the nave, the tablet to his memory may be found. What became
of Elizabeth Fox is beyond our ken. We are told, in the _Life and
Letters of Richard Harris Barham_, by his son the Reverend Richard
Dalton Barham, that she was at the time a confirmed invalid.

[Illustration: WESTWELL.]


To three guardians had been given the administration of the
comfortable patrimony of the boy, and by them he was sent to St.
Paul's School, then in the City of London. Thence he went to
Brasenose, Oxford, leaving the university with a modest B.A., degree
in 1811. Meanwhile the villain of the piece had been at work, in
the person of a dishonest attorney, one of his guardians, by whose
practices his fortune was very seriously reduced. Returning to
Canterbury, he seems to have contemplated studying for the law, but
quickly relinquished the idea, and prepared himself for the Church.
He was admitted to holy orders, and in 1813, in his twenty-fifth year
obtained a curacy at Ashford. This was exchanged in the following year
for the curacy of the neighbouring village of Westwell. Thus he was
fairly launched on his professional career, becoming successively
Rector of Snargate and Curate of Warehorne, Minor Canon of St. Paul's
and Rector of the united parishes of St. Mary Magdalene with St.
Gregory-by-St.-Paul's, and finally, by exchange in 1842, Rector of
St. Faith-by-St.-Paul's - a fine mid-nineteenth century specimen of
the "squarson." A competent genealogist, an accomplished antiquary,
a man of letters, he, by force of his sprightly wit, welded the
fragmentary legends of the country - but largely those of his native
county of Kent - into those astonishing amalgams of fact and fiction
which, published first, from time to time, in _Bentley's Miscellany_,
were collected and issued as the _Ingoldsby Legends_. It is not the
least among the charms of those verses that fact and fiction are so
inextricably mixed in them that it needs the learning of the skilled
antiquary to sift the one from the other; and so plausible are many of
his ostensible citations from old Latin documents, and his fictitious
genealogies so interwoven with the names, the marriages and descents
of persons, real and imaginary, that an innocent who wrote some years
ago to _Notes and Queries_, desiring further particulars of what
he thought to be genuine records, is surely to be excused for his
too-ready faith.

The assumed name of "Ingoldsby" is stated by his son to be found in
a branch of the family genealogy, but inquiry fails to trace the
name in that connection, and it may be said at once that the Kentish
Ingoldsbys are entirely figments of Barham's lively imagination.
Yorkshire knows a family of that name, of whom Barham probably had
never heard anything save their name. He was a man of property, and
modestly proud of the descent he claimed, and though by no means
rich, his place was among -

The _élite_ of the old county families round,
Such as Honeywood, Oxenden, Knatchbull and Norton,
Matthew Robinson, too, with his beard, from Monk's Horton,
The Faggs, and Finch-Hattons, Tokes, Derings, and Deedses,
And Fairfax (who then called the castle of Leeds his).

He was, in fact, "armigerous", as heralds would say, and the arms of
his family were - not those lioncels of the Shurlands impaled with the
saltire of the Ingoldsbys, of which we may read in the Legends - but as
pictured here. It may be noted that another Barham family - the Barhams
of Teston, near Maidstone - bore the three bears for arms, without the
distinguishing fesse; and that they are shown thus on an old brass
plate in Ashford church, which Ingoldsby must often have seen during
his early curacy there.

[Illustration: THE BARHAM COAT-OF-ARMS.]

When, however, he talks of the escutcheons displayed in the great hall
of Tappington, charged with the armorial bearings of the family and
its connections, he does more than to picturesquely embroider facts.
He invents them, and the "old coat" "in which a _chevron between
three eagles' cuisses sable_ is blazoned quarterly with the _engrailed
saltire_ of the Ingoldsbys" - which Mr. Simpkinson found to be that
of "Sir Ingoldsby Bray, _temp._ Richard I." - is one not known to the
Heralds' College.

Behind that farcical "Mr. Simpkinson, from Bath," lurks a real person,
and one not unknown to those who have read Britton and Brayley books
on Cathedral antiquities. John Britton, the original of Simpkinson,
was, equally with his contemporary Barham, an antiquary and genealogist
of accomplishment, and a herald of repute. Barham would not have
allowed as much, for there was, it would seem, a certain amount of
ill-feeling between the two, which resulted in the satirical passages
relating to "Mr. Simpkinson" to be met with in the pages of the
_Ingoldsby Legends_. They tell us that he was, among other things,
"an influential member of the Antiquarian Society, to whose 'Beauties
of Bagnigge Wells' he had been a liberal subscriber"; and that "his
inaugural essay on the President's cocked-hat was considered a miracle
of erudition; and his account of the earliest application of gilding
to gingerbread a masterpiece of antiquarian research." In all this one
finds something of that rapier-thrust of satire, that mordant wit which
comes of personal rivalry; and the heartfelt scorn of a man who loved
architecture, and was, indeed, a member of the first Archæological
Institute, but who whole-heartedly resented the introduction of picnic
parties into archæological excursions, and revolted at popularising
architecture and antiquarian research by brake parties, in which
the popping of champagne corks punctuated the remarks of speakers
holding forth on the architectural features of buildings in a style
sufficiently picturesque and simple to hold the attention of the
ladies. Those who have found how unconquerable is the indifference of
the public to these things will appreciate to the fullest extent the
feelings of Tom Ingoldsby, while yet reserving some meed of admiration
for John Britton's labours, which did much to advance the slow-growing
knowledge of Gothic architecture in the first half of the century.
His work may halt somewhat, his architectural knowledge be something
piecemeal and uninformed with inner light; but by his labours many
others were led to pursue the study of ecclesiastical art.

But the humour with which Barham surrounded "Mr. Simpkinson's" doings
took no count of his accomplishments, as may be seen in the excursion
to "Bolsover Priory", narrated in "The Spectre of Tappington".
"Bolsover Priory", said Mr. Simpkinson, "was founded in the reign of
Henry VI. about the beginning of the eleventh century. Hugh de Bolsover
had accompanied that monarch to the Holy Land, in the expedition
undertaken by way of penance for the murder of his young nephews in
the Tower. Upon the dissolution of the monasteries, the veteran was
enfeoffed in the lands and manor, to which he gave his own name of
Bolsover, or Bee-Owls-Over (by corruption Bolsover) - a Bee in chief
over Three Owls, all proper, being the armorial ensigns borne by this
distinguished crusader at the siege of Acre."

Thus far Simpkinson. Now Barham turns, with good effect, on the
ignorant sightseers to whom ruins are just a curiosity and nothing

"'Ah! that was Sir Sidney Smith,' said Mr. Peters; 'I've heard tell of
him, and all about Mrs. Partington, and - '

"'P., be quiet, and don't expose yourself!' sharply interrupted his
lady. P. was silenced, and betook himself to the bottled stout.

"'These lands,' continued the antiquary, 'were held in grand sergeantry
by the presentation of three white owls and a pot of honey - - '

"'Lassy me! how nice!' said Miss Julia. Mr. Peters licked his lips.

"'Pray give me leave, my dear - owls and honey, whenever the king should
come a-rat-catching in this part of the country.'

"'Rat-catching!' ejaculated the Squire, pausing abruptly in the
mastication of a drum-stick.

"'To be sure, my dear sir; don't you remember that rats once came under
the forest laws - a minor species of venison? "Rats and mice, and such
small deer," eh? - Shakespeare, you know. Our ancestors ate rats; and
owls, you know, are capital mousers - - '

"'I seen a howl,' said Mr. Peters."

"Bolsover Priory" is one of those few places mentioned by Ingoldsby
that have not been identified with any real place in Kent. It might
have been taken to mean the ruins of the Preceptory at Swingfield
Minnis, some two miles from Tappington, had not Barham expressly said,
in his prefatory notes to the "Witches' Frolic," that they were not the

[Illustration: NO. 4, ST. PAUL'S CHURCHYARD, DEMOLISHED 1901.]

The literary landmarks associated with Barham's residence in London
are readily traced. On leaving Kent in 1821 to take up his residence
in London, he, for a time, rented the upper part of the house, still
standing, No. 51, Great Queen Street, Holborn. There his eldest
surviving daughter, Caroline Frances Barham, afterwards Lady Bond,
was born, July 22nd, 1823. In 1824, following his appointment to
the rectorship of St. Mary Magdalene, the family removed to a house
numbered "4" on the south side of St. Paul's churchyard, and there
remained until 1839, when an exchange was made to a house in Amen
Corner, Paternoster Row - the first house through the gateway - by
arrangement with Sydney Smith, who was leaving it to reside in Green
Street, Mayfair.

He describes the garden at the back of this house as "containing three
polyanthus roots, a real tree, a brown box border, a snuff-coloured
jessamine, a shrub which is either a dwarf acacia or an overgrown
gooseberry bush, eight broken bottles, and a tortoise-shell tom-cat
asleep in the sunniest corner, with a wide and extensive prospect of
the back of the 'Oxford Arms,' and a fine _hanging_ wood (the 'new
drop' at Newgate) in the distance."


But the sprightly wit, the sound common-sense, the good-natured satire,
were doomed to early extinction. It was in the prime of life, and
when he might well have looked forward to further consolidating and
extending the fame his genius had already brought, that the blow fell
which laid him low. He had already, some twenty years earlier, suffered
some slight temporary trouble with a sensitive throat, and although
in general a robust man, was in that respect peculiarly liable to the
weather. It happened, unfortunately, that he was present as a spectator
at the opening by the Queen of the new Royal Exchange, October 28th,
1844. It was a bleak day, and, sitting at an open window in Cheapside
placed at his disposal by a friend, he caught a chill from whose
effects he never recovered. The evil was a stubborn inflammation of
the throat, which clung to him throughout the winter, and by degrees
reduced the strong man to an alarmingly weak condition. In the February
of 1845 he was induced to visit Bath, in the hope of recovery in that
mild atmosphere, but an imprudent return to London in the treacherous
month of March, in order to attend a meeting of the Archæological
Association, aggravated the malady. Still, that strong physique
struggled against illness, and he once more partly recovered, only to
be again laid low by a cold caught at an April vestry meeting in St.
Paul's. It was, however, not merely an exaggerated susceptibility to
cold that by this time dogged his every excursion into the open air,
but the grossly mistaken treatment of his medical man, who had inflamed
the malady by applying caustic to the uvula. At the beginning of May,
although reduced almost to the condition of a helpless child by his
sufferings, he was taken again to the west; this time to Clifton, near
Bristol. Unhappily, the local practitioner who was called in to attend
him was by no means a properly qualified man, and on hearing of the
mistaken treatment already followed, could think of nothing better than
to continue it. It is not remarkable, under the circumstances, that he
experienced no relief from the climate of Clifton, but grew steadily
weaker. It was a sad time, for his wife was simultaneously laid low
with illness. Everything devolved upon his daughter, Frances, then only
in her twentieth year, for his son Dick was away in Cambridgeshire,
doing duty as a clergyman.

The dying man - for the truth could be no longer disguised - kept a
spirit of the supremest cheerfulness and Christian courage. His
humorous verses on the incidents of his distressing illness - originally
composed as replies to the inquiries of anxious friends and afterwards
published in the collection of _Ingoldsby Lyrics_ as "The Bulletin,"
are no whit inferior to the productions of his careless health.


When recovery at Clifton seemed hopeless, he was removed again to
London, to the house he had occupied for the last six years, and made a
grim joke as they assisted him into the house, on the appropriateness
of his being brought at that juncture to Amen Corner. A few days he lay
there, life ebbing away from sheer weakness; his mind still clear, and
divided between making the most careful disposition of his property and
fond memories of that "little boy Ned" who had died, untimely, some
years before. It was then he wrote that last poem, the beautiful "As I
Laye a-thynkynge," printed at the end of all editions of the _Ingoldsby
Legends_ as "The Last Lines of Thomas Ingoldsby." There is not, to my
mind, anything more exquisitely beautiful and pathetic in the gorgeous
roll of English literature than the seven stanzas of the swan-song of
this master of humour and pathos. It is wholly for themselves, and not
by reason of reading into them the special circumstances under which
they were written, that so sweeping a judgment is made. That they have
never been properly recognised is due to the Wardour Street antiquity
of their spelling, and still more to that strange insistence which
ordains that the accepted wit and humourist must always be "funny" or
go unacknowledged. It is a strange penalty; one that would seek to
deprive the humourist of all human emotions save that of laughter, and
so make him that reproach of honest men - a cynic.

It was on June 17th, 1845, that Barham died, untimely, before the
completion of his fifty-seventh year. He was buried in the vaults of
his former church, St. Mary Magdalene, Old Fish Street Hill, one of
those half-deserted city churches built by Sir Christopher Wren after
the Great Fire of London. There he might have lain until now, but for
the fire of December 2nd, 1886, which destroyed the building. For at
least four years the blackened and roofless ruins stood, fronting
Knightrider Street, and then they were removed, to make way for
warehouses. The contents of the vaults were at the same time dispersed,
the remains of Tom Ingoldsby being removed to Kensal Green Cemetery,
while the tablet to his memory was appropriately transferred to St.
Paul's, where, in the crypt, it may still be seen.



There stands a city, neither large nor small,
Its air and situation sweet and pretty.
It matters very little, if at all,
Whether its denizens are dull or witty;
Whether the ladies there are short or tall,
Brunettes or blondes; only, there stands a city!
Perhaps 'tis also requisite to minute,
That there's a Castle and a Cobbler in it.

Thus wrote Ingoldsby of his native city of Canterbury, in "The Ghost,"
and "sweet and pretty" its air and situation remain, sixty years
since those lines were penned. For the changes that have altered so
many other cities and towns have brought little disturbance here. No
manufactures have come to abolish the prettiness of the situation; the
air - the atmospheric air - is sweet and fragrant as of yore, and that
other air - the demeanour and deportment - of Canterbury is still, as
ever, gravely cheerful, as surely befits the capital city of a Primate
whose Church is still a going concern.

Ingoldsby was exactly right in his epithetical summing-up, for
prettiness and not grandeur is the characteristic of the gentle valley
of the Stour, wherein Canterbury is set. Approach it from whatever
quarter you will, and you will find prettiness only in the situation.
Even when viewed from the commanding heights of Harbledown and St.
Thomas's Hill, the only grandeur is that of the Cathedral, and that
is extrinsic, a something imported into the picture. Nay, even the
uprising bulk of that cathedral church gains in effect from being thus
set down in midst of a valley that is almost with equal justness called
a plain, and whose features may, without offence, or the suspicion of
any thought derogatory from their beauty, be termed so featureless.

Unquestionably the best direction whence to enter this ancient capital
of the Kentish folk - this Kaintware-bury of the Saxons, the Durovernum
of the Romans - is from Harbledown, whence the pilgrims from London,
or from the north and west of England, entered. Only thus does the
stranger receive a really accurate impression. With emotions doubtless
less violent than those of the mediæval pilgrims to the shrine of the
blessed martyr, St. Thomas, but still strongly aroused, he sees the
west front of the Cathedral, its two western "towers," and the great
central "Bell-Harry" tower displayed boldly before him, in the level,
and may even identify the more prominent of the public buildings.
Descending from this hill, he passes through the ancient suburb of
Saint Dunstan, and enters the city beneath the frowning portals of the
West Gate.

If, on the other hand, the modern pilgrim arrives per Chatham and
Dover Railway, he will be dumped down in quite a different direction,
on the south side of the city, near Wincheap Street, in which
thoroughfare he will be able, without any delay, to discover his
first Ingoldsby landmark in Canterbury, in the shape of the "Harris's
Almshouses," founded in 1729 by that ancestral Harris whose daughter
his great-grandfather had married. They are five quite humble little
red-brick houses, with a garden at the back, endowed for the support of
two poor parishioners of St. Mary Magdalene, two of Thanington, and one
of St. Mildred's. The value is the modest one of about £9 a year. An
unassuming tablet on the central house of the row tells this story:

Mr. Thomas Harris
of this City
Founder of these Five
hath endowed them with
Marly Farm in Kent
for the Maintenance of five
Poor Familys for ever.

Ingoldsby - the Reverend Richard Harris Barham - became a governor of
this charity on his attaining his majority, as already alluded to in
the sketch of his birth and career.

The district of Wincheap only becomes tolerable after leaving the
railway behind. This outlying part, without the city walls, was of old
that place of degradation where the scourgings and stripes, the whips
and scorpions of mediæval punishments, were inflicted; where offending
books - ay, and the horror of it, the Protestant martyrs - were burnt of
yore. In this "Potter's Field" that is not now more than a struggling
little suburb where all the littlenesses of life are prominent, and few
of its beauties are to be seen, there has of late been erected a great
granite memorial pillar, surmounted by the "Canterbury Cross," on the
site of the stake at which forty-one victims of the Marian persecution
perished. Shackle and stake, faggot and gyve, rivet and torch, how busy
they were! It is a beautiful sentiment that rears this monument on the
spot where they suffered who testified for Jesus; but it should stand,
plain for all men to see, in the Cathedral Close itself.

Our course from this point into the city leads up to the Castle,
mentioned in the Legends, and especially in that early one, "The
Ghost," in whose stanzas are found many exquisitely apposite local

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Online LibraryCharles G. (Charles George) HarperThe Ingoldsby Country → online text (page 2 of 16)