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nesday here were Doctor Aldrigge, Doctor Curvene, Doctor Bawghe, and Doctor Morgan, sent by the King's grace for that purpose, but they nothing profited. I hammered Whitford after that in the garden, both with fair words and with foul, and showed him that through his obstinacy he should be brought to the great shame of the world for his irreligious life, and for his using of bawdy words to divers ladies at the time of their confession, whereby (I said) he might be the occasion that frost shall be laid down through England; but he hath a brazen forehead and shameth at nothing." In this same letter Bedyll hints at a matter that may at this time have weighed with the King. He says he has ordained the confessionals to be walled up, "for that hearing of outward confessions hath been the cause of much evil, and of much treason, which hath been sowed abroad in this matter of the King's title, and also in the King's grace*s matter of his succession and marriage." And this reminds me that John Hall, after having been vicar of Isleworth for fourteen years, was hung at Tyburn, in 1535, for refusing to acknowledge the King's supremacy.
Instead of being dismantled and the materials sold, as was the case with most of the monasteries, Sion was retained by the King in his own hands; and it remained in his possession till his death. It served as the prison of his unhappy wife Katherine Howard till her execution; and it was at Sion that his own corpse rested on the night when it was carried from London towards its final resting-place at "Windsor. Sion was given by Edward VI. to the Protector Somerset, who erected a mansion for himself on the site of the monastery. After the fall of Somerset, it was transferred to the Duke of Northumberland. It was at Sion that poor Lady Jane Gray was forced to accept the crown.
Sion was one of the monasteries restored to its original use by Queen Mary. Her successor of course again annexed it to the crown. In 1604 it was granted to the Earl of Northumberland. This unlucky nobleman was prosecuted for being concerned in the Gunpowder Plot, and condemned to pay a fine of 30,000/. to the king. He remained for fifteen years a prisoner in the Tower, before he was able to raise the money; yet he found means to greatly improve his mansion. The children of Charles I. were for some time confined at Sion, in the custody of the Earl of Northumberland, who obtained of the Parliament permission for them to have interviews with their father.
The history of the nuns since the dissolution of the monastery at Sion is somewhat remarkable. Some returned to their families, but several remaining in community, migrated to Dermont in Flanders. There Cardinal Pole saw them on his way to England, after the accession of Mary to the throne. By his mediation, they were recalled and reinstated at Sion, where several of the survivors among those who had stayed in England rejoined their superior. When Elizabeth became queen, the restored monasteries were again suppressed; and the nuns of Sion again took refuge on the Continent. At first they went to France, afterwards to Germany and Flanders, but they finally took refuge in Portugal. After a while, Isabella de Azevedo gave them a house and grounds in Lisbon; where they formed themselves into a community, under the title of the Sisters of Sion House. They continued to replenish their numbers from time to time with English ladies, and they continued to prosper—cherishing, meanwhile, the anticipation of a recall to their ancient home—till 1808, when, on the approach of the French to Lisbon, the monastery was broken up. Many of the nuns, with their superior, took refuge in England. They were kindly treated, but getting after a time involved in debt, they were unable to continue in community, and became dispersed. Those who had remained in Lisbon suffered great hardships, but on the fall of Napoleon they were restored to their house ; several of the old nuns returned to them from England; and the convent was once more re-established. The Sisters of Sion are still in existence in Lisbon—being the only one of all the ancient English convents which now remains.
Mr. Aungier, quoting from Churton's Lives of Smith and Sutton, says, that on the "second dissolution of the monastery by Queen Elizabeth, the nuns took away with them not only what treasure they could carry, but likewise the keys of Sion House and the iron cross from the top of the church, by way of keeping up their claim to this their ancient possession. These they conveyed with them in all their changes of habitation, and still retain at their present house of Sion at Lisbon." The late Duke of Northumberland, he adds, visited their convent, and presented the nuns with a silver model of their lost Sion House. They told him that they still had the keys of Sion House; "I dare say," said he, "but we have altered the locks since then I" Very small, indeed, is the chance that their keys will ever again unlock the doors of Sion.
Of Sion Monastery not a vestige is visible. But there is a tradition that two subterranean passages exist: the one leading from Sion, under the bed of the river, to the site of the old monastery at Sheen; the other to the Dairy Farm-house close to the present large corn-mill at Isleworth. "I am unable," writes a kind correspondent at Isleworth, to whom I am indebted for this and other information, " to ascertain with certainty whether these passages ever did exist, or remain in part, but the belief in there having been such passages is generally prevalent." We need trouble ourselves little about them. Such traditions prevail by nearly all old monasteries and castles, and many old manor-houses, and, as was said when we were at Wraysbury, with about equal foundation. The general prevalence of traditions of the existence of these extensive subterraneous and subaqueous passages may be thought to render it highly probable that some such tunnels did exist; but then, on the other hand, how does it happen that none of them have been traced to any distance? There are under-ground passages, but no one has been followed far from the place where it commenced; much less under the bed of a river.
Sion House is too well known to be described here. The frame-work of the present mansion is believed to be that constructed by the Protector Somerset. But there have been many alterations. Inigo Jones is said to have had the remodelling of it; but its present appearance is due to the artistic taste and skill of Adams. It is, from its size and simplicity of form, a stately and imposing pile, but it displays no marked architectural merit. The interior I have not seen, but it is described as being very splendid; and it contains many valuable works of art and articles of taste. The conservatories are famous among horticulturists. The grounds are remarkably fine; they contain various noble trees, and afford some delightful views. The lawns are so hollowed towards the river, that from the windows of the mansion Kew Gardens appear to be a part of the grounds, and the Thames to flow through the midst of them.
Proceeding onwards we soon reach
"Brentford's tedious town, For dirty streets and white-legged chickens known."
The first part of this celebrity, such as it is, the good town has long possessed, yet retains, and is likely to preserve. George I., in the course of his frequent journeys between Hampton Court and the Metropolis, used, when he arrived at Brentford, to have his coach driven through the long narrow street at an extremely slow pace, in order that he might enjoy as much as possible of its filth and its fragrance: it reminded him so much, he used to say, of his dear Hanover. His son and successor is reported to have had the same penchant for it. James I., there can be little doubt, held it in like esteem for a similar resemblance to Auld Reekie. Within the last twenty years, however, there has been a wonderful improvement; it is now tolerably decent in parts; though still, on the whole, the least clean and most inodorous town on the banks of the Thames—I had nearly said in (South) Britain, but I luckily bethought myself in time, or I should have had the good folks of Brentford setting on me, with faces as red as their own Red Lion.
VOL. II. I