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"Heroes and kings, your distance keep;
There are a good many other monuments of persons of more or less celebrity in Twickenham church, but they must remain without record here. Pope's is the dominant name at Twickenham, and no lesser one is worth mention after it.
Else there is plenteous subject in the list of Twickenham worthies for a goodly gossip. There are the noble, and the fair, and the learned, whose names we have read in Walpole's ' Parish Register;' and several others that have flourished since his day. There have also been painters, to notice whom would lead one at all acquainted with the history of English art into some curious speculations. Here lived Sir Godfrey Kneller; of whom Pope endorsed on his tomb, that
"Living, great Nature fear'd he might outvie
And his contemporaries seem almost to have credited it. Jervas too, a worse painter, yet equally popular, had a house here: so had Hudson, also the first in his day, though now only remembered as the instructor of Sir Joshua Reynolds. That three such artists should have been successively the leading and fashionable portrait-painters is a sufficient comment on the taste of the first half of the eighteenth century. Twickenham has been honoured as the residence of landscape as well as portrait painters. In our own time, Holland—to us of course especially dear as a true lover and admirable painter of our own delightful English river scenery—lived Iiere; and so did Turner, who may have learnt on Twickenham Meads to value and represent those fitful, vague, yet brilliant effects of haze and mist, and loaded vapoury atmosphere, which he is so fond of throwing upon the canvas.
A very few words must suffice for the village. The church, which is the most noticeable edifice, is a common-place brick building, erected early in the eighteenth century, with the exception of the tower, which is ancient and timeworn. Twickenham itself is a good-sized, respectable village, with something of antiquity as well as respectability in its appearance. In the last century, it was one of the most fashionable places in the neighbourhood of London: but all that is changed now. Only the stately old houses remain to testify to its former prosperity. Even humbler folks have ceased to come hither as they once were wont. Upon the ait just off Twickenham is the " Eel-pie House," to which of old those " sober citizens" who, like John Gilpin, of worthy memory,
"Although on pleasure they were bent,
used to come in the summer season, by boat, to partake of an inexpensive luxury, after a cheerful row on their own dear river.
On again turning to our river, the attention is caught by a large brick mansion having its frontage extended by corridors, and rendered rather singular by an octagonal projection, evidently more recent than the main building, though still not belonging to the present age or taste. The house was standing in the reign of William III.; when the Princess of Denmark, afterwards Queen Anne, occupied it for a short period. The building is probably not of a much earlier date. But it owes its present appearance to Secretary Johnstone, who enlarged and altered the old house; the octagon room he erected especially for an entertainment which he gave to Queen Caroline, wife of George II. "Macky, whose tour through England was published in 1720, says that Secretary Johnstone had in his gardens the best collection of fruit of most gentlemen in England; that he had slopes for his vines, from which he made some hogsheads of wine a year; and that Dr. Bradley, in his 'Treatise on Gardening,' ranked him among the first gardeners in the kingdom." (Lysons.) It is not at all unusual to meet in local histories of the southern and midland counties with notices of vineyards—especially in connexion with the sites of monasteries—and of the quantity of wine made from them; while traditions are still more common. But this is probably one of the latest accounts of wine being made in any quantity in the vicinity of London. The gardens here are now, however, not what give the house its local celebrity—which, by the way, recent events may have somewhat lessened. It was the residence of Louis-Philippe during good part of his former exile; whence its present name of Orleans House. The remembrance of the abode of the Duke of Orleans is (or was) cherished in Twickenham.
The stately stone mansion which we see some little way farther on, has been celebrated by Pope and Swift—who, like most of the other wits of that day, paid earnest but mistaken court to its mistress. Marble Hill was built by George II. for the Countess of Suffolk. The Earl of Pembroke, it is said, was the architect; and Pope laid out the grounds. The Countess of Suffolk is the lady, as will be recollected, whose task Horace Walpole, in the ' Parish Register,' represents to have been that of "pleasing one not worth the pleasing." He probably had in mind the words of Madame Maintenon; but there is a passage in one of the Countess's letters to Swift, which shows pretty plainly the bitterness of her employment. "I have been," she says, writing in 1727, "a slave these twenty years, without ever receiving a reason for any one thing I was obliged to do." Lord Hervey's Memoirs sufficiently corroberate the assertion; while they show also that the wife was no better off than the mistress. "The Queen was at least seven or eight hours tete-a-tete with the King every day, during which time she was generally saying what she did not think, assenting to what she did not believe, and praising what she did not approve." Marble Hill, like Strawberry Hill, has its minor. Little Marble Hill was once noted as the residence of Lady Diana Beauclerk, a lady celebrated for her talents, and for some other matters also. Her ladyship was the wife of Topham Beauclerk, the friend of Johnson; both the lady and her husband will be remembered by the reader of Boswell. And this reminds me that the house seen on the rising ground just beyond, ought also to be mentioned. It is " the beautiful villa on the banks of the Thames near Twickenham," which belonged to Owen Cambridge, the friend of both Johnson and Boswell. It was on one of his journeys to this hospitable roof that his admiring disciple was, as he expresses it, "struck with wonder" to hear "the stately moralist" apply to himself "the epithet fellow." As they were riding along in Sir Joshua Reynolds's coach, Johnson had been lamenting the rareness of good-humour in the world. Boswell named some four or five of their acquaintances, who he thought possessed that quality, but not one of them would the Doctor "allow to be goodhumoured. One was acid, another was muddy," and so on. "Then, shaking his head and stretching himself at ease in the coach, and smiling with much complacency, he turned to me," says the faithful chronicler, and said, "' I look upon myself as a good-humoured fellow.'" That is a picture worth imagining.
Owen Cambridge was author of the 'Scribleriad;' and a very learned, able, and worthy man; his successor here, Archdeacon Cambridge, was "of worthy father worthy son." Both of them enjoyed a considerable social reputation, and the Twickenham villa attracted a large circle of literary and political notables during the life of both.