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sages of State, Weighty Matters in Law, and Remarkable Proceedings in Parliament," and then nearly eighty years old, was sent to this gaol for debt, where he lingered for six years, and then died. Here, too, Richard Baxter was confined for eighteen months, under a sentence passed by the infamous Judge Jefferies. Baxter was too much a man of conscience to find favour with the dark and sullen spirit of James II. Charles had treated the great Puritan in a wiser and juster spirit: he had even offered him a bishopric, which was refused on a scruple of conscience. But his brother was the narrowest of bigots, and the most impolitic of tyrants ; and so, after minor persecutions, Baxter was arrested by virtue of a warrant from the lord chief justice, on a charge of sedition and nonconformity of doctrine, founded on his “Paraphrase of the New Testament.” At the trial, Jefferies, forgetting his position, loaded his victim with insult, refused to hear his witnesses, overruled his counsel, and showed the rancour of his feelings by openly declaring his regret that the Act of Indemnity took it out of his power to hang him! As it was, Baxter was sentenced to pay a fine of five hundred marks, to lie in gaol until it was paid, and to find securities for his good behaviour for seven years after. The solitude of his prison was relieved by the presence of his wife, who, of her own free will, chose to share it with him. Poor Kit Smart, author of the Hilliad, and prose translator of Horace—the friend of Johnson and Garrick—was sent hither for debt, that last infirmity
of noble minds, and died within the rules, poor, abandoned, and deranged in his intellect! It was while confined in this place that William Crome wrote the “ Adventures of Dr. Syntax;" and it was likewise here that poor dear Haydon painted his fine picture of the “Mock Election.” Hard-working Tobias Smollett, too, was here for a time : here he wrote his “Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves,” in imitation of Don Quixotte, which he had already translated from the Spanish. Sir Launcelot experienced the fate of all imitators and imitationspublic neglect. A prison is not the best sort of birth-place for a work of fancy.
We have spoken of the Queen's Bench. We must correct the term. The Queen's Bench belongs to history. It is no more. The site remains; the old walls are there still ; the buildings are the same ; but in truth it is a different place; all is changed within the last few years. The charm is gone. There is not now much of the buffoonery, scoundrelism, riot, and confusion, which formerly made it picturesque-striking to the artistic eye-suggestive to the poetic mind. There is little now to court the brush, or to reward the pen : the surface, at least, has grown common-place and prosaic to a degree of repulsion. One sees more now of the tragic aspect of the place-less of the humour, the variety, and the character. There is, of course, interest in this a deeper interest than in the externals at any time, however grotesque ; but such interest is hardly for the mere looker-on. Not a man here but has a tale of sorrow and distress to tell—some of these, could you believe them literally true, would make the heart bleed—and is only too willing to confide it to the first listener he can pick up. It is one of the sad curiosities of the prison world, to see how it relaxes and breaks down the mind. Men who, in the world, would be close, prudent, disposed to keep their own counsel, after going through a course of idleness and maudlin thought, will decline into mere drivellers and gossips. Their minds become relaxed-loose, weak, childish. This effect of idleness and seclusion is not equally apparent in all persons : some minds will, of course, bear up against more dissolving force than others; but the tendency is the same in all. Idleness always weakens and vitiates ; if combined with personal restraint, the evil work is so much the more rapidly done.
What was formerly the Queen's Bench, and is popularly still known as such, is now called the Queen's Prison. By the act 5 & 6 Victoria, the Marshalsea and the Fleet Prisons were abolished, and their functions transferred to the Bench, under its new name and character. It is no part of our present plan to write a connected history of these old prisons, with all their world of sin and crime ; but, since the past has been referred to in the case of the Queen's Bench, it may be as well, by two or three examples, to indicate the kind of historical and literary interest which connects itself with the others. No one needs to be told that the Fleet was at one time the prison of the infamous Star Chamber : under its regime, it was not unfrequently made the scene of punishments, not only unknown to the law of England, but in wanton outrage of every feeling of human nature. But our social and political history is not more intimately blended with the records of the Fleet than the history of our poets and men of letters. Let us name a few only of its more illustrious victims.
The unfortunate poet, Lord Surrey, was confined here twice : the first time, in consequence of his quarrel with John à Leigh ; the second, for eating flesh in Lent, roystering about the streets at night, and breaking windows with a cross-bow. A year or two after this, John Hooper, the venerated martyr of Protestantism, was confined—by his friends, one may say—in the Fleet, in consequence of his refusal to wear the canonical dress; he remained in prison several months before the matter was decided. In Mary's reign he was in the Fleet again—this time for having a wife—and only left it for the stake at Gloucester. The Fleet was filled, by the iniquitous courts of Star Chamber and High Commission, with religious victims.
The venerable Cartwright lay here till he was worn out with age and close confinement. Leighton was kept here, for conscience sake, ten doleful years. Burton was another of its illustrious tenants; also Bastwick. These are names in which the history of that period is summed up: the drama was the struggle between authority and conscience; and these men were the chief actors in it. How they played their parts is well known. Poor Nash, himself his own “ Pierce Penniless," was sent here, not for debt, but for writing “The Isle of Dogs.” Another poet, Sir John Harington, narrowly escaped the Fleet on his return from Ireland with his patron, the Earl of Essex, for whom he had commanded a company of horse ; but his wit saved him from imprisonment. The queen, with her usual vehemence, threatened to commit him ; but the poet meekly observed, that having been so lately in her majesty's land service, he hoped he should not be so suddenly pressed into the Fleet. His royal mistress laughed, and relented; and Sir John lived, and died, a courtier. Quaint and racy old Dr. Donne was not so fortunate ; instead of offending a mistress, he had married a wife, for which great crime he was sent hither, and allowed “learned leisure” to ponder over his odd conceits. When secretary to Lord Elsinore, Donne had had the audacity to fall in love with his master's niece, the daughter of Sir George More; and, the lady consenting, to marry her.
very head and front of his offending
Had this extent-no more.” But it was quite enough. Lord Elsinore dismissed his aspiring secretary, Sir George took his wife from him, and cast him into the Fleet. By a lawsuit, which ruined him, poor Donne got back his wife, but no jointure with her. Prynne, the Puritan, was sent hither, for the offence given to the court by his “ Histrio-Mastix, or a Scourge for Stage-players.” The queen had played in a pastoral at Somersethouse ; the court thought fit to consider the pamphlet levelled against its amusements; and so the