It has been, for years, the cherished wish of the writer of the following pages, to make the Tower of London—the proudest monument of antiquity, considered with reference to its historical associations, which this country or any other possesses,—the groundwork of a Romance; and it was no slight satisfaction to him, that circumstances, at length, enabled him to carry into effect his favourite project, in conjunction with the inimitable Artist, whose designs accompany the work.
Desirous of exhibiting the Tower in its triple light of a palace, a prison, and a fortress, the Author has shaped his story with reference to that end; and he has also endeavoured to contrive such a series of incidents as should naturally introduce every relic of the old pile,—its towers, chapels, halls, chambers, gateways, arches, and drawbridges—so that no part of it should remain un-illustrated.
How far this design has been accomplished—what interest has been given to particular buildings—and what mouldering walls have been informed with life—is now to be determined:—unless, indeed, it may be considered determined by the numbers who have visited the different buildings, as they have been successively depicted by pen and pencil, during the periodical appearance of the work.
One important object the Author would fain hope his labours may achieve. This is the introduction of the public to some parts of the fortress at present closed to them. There seems no reason why admission should not be given, under certain restrictions, to that unequalled specimen of Norman architecture, Saint John's Chapel in the White Tower,—to the arched galleries above it,—to the noble council-chamber, teeming with historical recollections,—to the vaulted passages—and to the winding staircases within the turrets—so perfect, and so interesting to the antiquary. Nor is there stronger reason why the prison-chamber in the Beauchamp Tower, now used as a mess-room, the walls of which, like a mystic scroll, are covered with inscriptions—each a tragic story in itself, and furnishing matter for abundant reflection—should not likewise be thrown open. Most of the old fortifications upon the inner ballium-wall being converted into private dwellings,—though in many cases the chambers are extremely curious, and rich in inscriptions,—are, of course, inaccessible. But this does not apply to the first-mentioned places. They are the property of the nation, and should be open to national inspection.
It is piteous to see what havoc has already been made by alterations and repairs. The palace is gone—so are many of the towers—and unless the progress of destruction is arrested, the demolition of others will follow. Let us attempt to preserve what remains.
Opposite the matchless White Tower—William of Orange by the side of William the Conqueror,—is that frightful architectural abomination, the Grand Store-House.
When I was a boy, some elderly personages with whom I was acquainted were kind enough to describe to me events connected with Prince Charles's visit to Manchester, and the stories I then heard made a lasting impression upon me. The Jacobite feeling must have been still strong among my old friends, since they expressed much sympathy with the principal personages mentioned in this TaleÑfor the gallant Colonel Townley, Doctor Deacon and his unfortunate sons, Jemmy Dawson, whose hapless fate has been so tenderly sung by Shenstone, and, above all, for poor Tom Syddall. The latter, I know not why, unless it be that his head was affixed on the old Exchange, has always been a sort of hero in Manchester.
For the most part, the persons composing this brilliant troop were young and handsome cavaliers, whose looks and haughty bearing proclaimed their high birth, but there were some veterans among them, whose bronzed visages and martial deportment showed that they had served in many a hard campaign. But all were equally richly attired in the sumptuous livery of their leaderÑblack velvet embroidered with goldÑand their pourpoints and the housings of their steeds bore a princely badge, woven in gold, together with a sword wrought in the same material, which denoted that their lord held the office of Constable, one of the highest military dignities of France.
The leader of the troop, a very striking personage, whom it was impossible to regard without interest, was a man of large stature, with handsome, strongly-marked features, very stern in expression. An ample chest and muscular throat indicated the possession of great personal strength, but his frame, though stalwart, was admirably proportioned, and it was easy to discern, from the manner in which he bestrode his steedÑa powerful block chargerÑthat he was a consummate horseman. His looks and deportment were those of one accustomed to command. If not absolutely young, he was in the very prime of life, being just thirty-three. His complexion was swarthy, his eyes dark and piercing, and his beard, which he wore exceedingly long, black as jet. His firm-set mouth betokened inflexible resolution, while his towering forehead indicated great sagacity. Though he was magnificently arrayed, his bearing showed that he was not one of the silken gallants who thronged the gay and chivalrous court of Fran�ois I., and who delighted in the banquet, the masquerade, or the tournayÑbut a hardy warrior, who had displayed prowess in the field, and could lead hosts to conquest.
Not that the last-adopted denomination had any reference, as might be supposed, to the three huge wooden instruments on the wharf, employed with ropes and pulleys to unload the lighters and other vessels that brought up butts and hogsheads of wine from the larger craft below Bridge, and constantly thronged the banks; though, no doubt, they indirectly suggested it. The Three Cranes depicted on the large signboard, suspended in front of the tavern, were long-necked, long-beaked birds, each with a golden fish in its bill.