At one end rose the Tower - itself a city - with a wood of masts behind it; and at the other Westminster Abbey with its steeples. There I beheld, clad in smiles, those beautiful green hills that skirt the environs of Paddington and Islington; here, on the opposite bank of the Thames, lay Southwark; the city itself it seems to be impossible for any eye to take in entirely, for with all my pains I found it impossible to ascertain either where it ended, or where the circumjacent villages began; far as the eye could reach, it seemed to be all one continued chain of buildings.
I well remember how large I thought Berlin when first I saw it from the steeple of St. Mary, and from the Temple Yard Hills, but how did it now sink and fall in my imagination, when I compared it with London!
It is, however, idle and vain to attempt giving you in words, any description, however faint and imperfect, of such a prospect as I have just been viewing. He who wishes at one view to see a world in miniature, must come to the dome of St Paul's.
The roof of St. Paul's itself with its two lesser steeples lay below me, and as I fancied, looked something like the background of a small ridge of hills, which you look down upon when you have attained the summit of some huge rock or mountain. I should gladly have remained here sometime longer, but a gust of wind, which in this situation was so powerful that it was hardly possible to withstand it, drove me down.
Notwithstanding that St. Paul's is itself very high, the elevation of the ground on which it stands contributes greatly to its elevation.
The church of St. Peter at Berlin, notwithstanding the total difference between them in the style of building, appears in some respects to have a great resemblance to St. Paul's in London. At least its large high black roof rises above the other surrounding buildings just as St. Paul's does.
What else I saw in this stately cathedral was only a wooden model of this very edifice, which was made before the church was built, and which suggests some not unpleasing reflections when one compares it with the enormous building itself.
The churchyard is enclosed with an iron rail, and it appears a considerable distance if you go all round.
Owing to some cause or other, the site of St. Paul's strikes you as being confined, and it is certain that this beautiful church is on every side closely surrounded by houses.
A marble statue of Queen Anne in an enclosed piece of ground in the west front of the church is something of an ornament to that side.
The size of the bell of St. Paul's is also worthy of notice, as it is reckoned one of those that are deemed the largest in Europe. It takes its place, they say, next to that at Vienna.
Everything that I saw in St. Paul's cost me only a little more than a shilling, which I paid in pence and halfpence, according to a regulated price, fixed for every different curiosity.
On a very gloomy dismal day, just such a one as it ought to be, I went to see Westminster Abbey.
I entered at a small door, which brought me immediately to the poets' corner, where the monuments and busts of the principal poets, artists, generals, and great men, are placed.
Not far from the door, immediately on my entrance, I perceived the statue of Shakespeare, as large as life; with a band, &c., in the dress usual in his time.
A passage out of one of Shakespeare's own plays (the Tempest ), in which he describes in the most solemn and affecting manner, the end, or the dissolution of all things, is here, with great propriety, put up as his epitaph; as though none but Shakespeare could do justice to Shakespeare.
Not far from this immortal bard is Rowe's monument, which, as it is intimated in the few lines that are inscribed as his epitaph, he himself had desired to be placed there.
At no great distance I saw the bust of that amiable writer, Goldsmith: to whom, as well as to Butler, whose monument is in a distant part of the abbey, though they had scarcely necessary bread to eat during their life time, handsome monuments are now raised. Here, too you see, almost in a row, the monuments of Milton, Dryden, Gay, and Thomson. The inscription on Gay's tombstone is, if not actually immoral, yet futile and weak; though he is said to have written it himself:
"Life is a jest, and all things shew it,
'I thought so once but now I know it."
Our Handel has also a monument here, where he is represented as large as life.
An actress, Pritchard, and Booth, an actor, have also very distinguished monuments erected here to their memories.
For Newton, as was proper, there is a very costly one. It is above, at the entrance of the choir, and exactly opposite to this, at the end of the church, another is erected, which refers you to the former.
As I passed along the side walls of Westminster Abbey, I hardly saw any thing but marble monuments of great admirals, but which were all too much loaded with finery and ornaments, to make on me at least, the intended impression.
I always returned with most pleasure to the poets' corner, where the most sensible, most able, and most learned men, of the different ages, were re-assembled; and particularly where the elegant simplicity of the monuments made an elevated and affecting impression on the mind, while a perfect recollection of some favourite passage, of a Shakespeare, or Milton, recurred to my idea, and seemed for a moment to re-animate and bring back the spirits of those truly great men.