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period a little later than Leland's visit, when these “beggars of Bath were called into existence by the “ pauper-making Act now described, and made Holloway their headquarters.
The origin of the “Beggars of Bath” is peculiar. Three centuries ago it was more difficult for needy and poor invalids to travel to Bath from distant parts of the country than it would be now for ordinary travellers to reach the centre of Africa. Hence, to enable the former class of travellers to come to Bath for the benefit of the mineral waters, an Act of a most mischievous character was passed in the year 1597. This Act provided, that a right to the free use of the Baths of Bath be given to the diseased and impotent poor of England ; and the sum of money which they were entitled to carry with them, to defray the cost of their journey, was limited, and they were, also, forbidden to beg on their way. Previously, however, to this date, Justices of the Peace, in the several counties, were empowered to license such persons to travel to the healing springs of Bath, for the cure of their ailments. These Acts caused the city to be inundated with beggars, of whom, many, though ostensibly frequenting it for the use of the waters, were more intent upon the alms which fortune might grant them from the purses of the charitable and opulent, who congregated at the springs, than upon anything else. Thus, the mineral waters of Bath became a focus of attraction to the beggars of various characters, insolent, vociferous, and sturdy, who were generalized, and are still commemorated in the proverb, Beggars of Bath.” The Act of 1597 was repealed in 1714 ; but, as we have shown, the beggars continued to flourish for a good century afterwards.
The chapel, a neat little Gothic building, once elegantly hooded with ivy, is described with the churches. Cluse to the church is a “Judas-Tree,” of great antiquity, which blossomed in the year of grace, 1887. (See Churches.)
On emerging from Holloway, to the heights above, the city of Bath presents itself to the eye, magnificent from the grandeur of its buildings and the disposition of its streets, and striking from the materials made use of in their erection. These materials are exhibited to us on each side of the road, as we further proceed, in the large and inexhaustible quarries which either have been worked or are now working, and which stretch in every direction round the city, the rich repositories of fossils and spars, of great variety and equal beauty. The hills by which Bath is encircled consist of limestone, each varying from the other, indeed, in some degree, with respect to the texture of its stone and the disposition of its strata ; but the whole exhibiting an oolite, or granulated egg-like stone, soft and easily worked when cut from the bed, but gradually indurating, and admirably calculated for the purposes of architecture ; an incalculable advantage to the inhabitants of Bath, who by these means are enabled to execute their building speculations with an article incomparably more beautiful and durable than brick, at less expense than the builders of other places must hazard in carrying on their works with that inferior material.
A part of the Lyncombe estate was formerly the property of Ralph Allen. After his death it devolved upon Capt. Tucker, a nephew of Mrs. Allen, and remained in that family for some years, until it came by remainder to the late George Edward Allen, and then to his sisters, after whose decease it was inherited by the late Major R. S. Allen, from whom it devolved upon his eldest son, Lieut.-Col. Ralph Allen. The estate has been divided into building sites, picturesque villas and mansions gradually covering the whole estate, on which thirty years ago not a stone was to be seen.
[We have given, with few alterations, and with only slight abridgment, Warner's account of Prior Park and Ralph Allen. In those portions in which we have reason to think Warner erred, we have given our own opinions in foot-notes. Moreover, we have added certain information of our own, both with regard to the mansion in its early days, as well as since Warner's time.]
PRIOR PARK' (as it was in Warner's time). Prior Park is so called from the circumstance of its having been built on land which formerly belonged to the prior of Bath, who had a grange or farm at a short distance from it, and a park that supplied the monastery with venison. It was erected by the celebrated Ralph Allen, in 1743, on a slope of land 100 ft. below the summit of Combe Down, and 400 ft. above the city of Bath ; and is certainly one of the most magnificent freestone mansions, with respect to its outside, in the kingdom. A noble house forms the centre; from the extremities of which stretch two sweeping arcades, connecting with the main body, as many wings of offices, terminated by elegant pavilions, and forming a continued line of building of nearly 1,300 ft. in front. The style is Corinthian, raised on a rustic basement, and surmounted by a balustrade. From the plane of the centre part an extremely grand portico projects, supported by six large and elegant columns. But all the majesty of the building is without. Within, everything (if we except the Chapel, which is neat and elegant, and adorned with an altar-piece by Van Deest,) is little, dark, and inconvenient; and seldom has so much money been so injudiciously applied, as the enormous sum expended in the comfortless palace of Prior Park.
1 See frontispiece.
Fielding—who, as we before observed, laid the scene of the early years of Tom Jones at this place—has also, in his work, which (for knowledge of the human heart, nice touches of nature, appropriate description, and uninterrupted corruscations of genuine wit) may be considered the first English composition extant, given a picture of the beautiful situation of Mr. Allen's house, the Allworthy of his novel. Making allowances for the fancy of an author, in an imaginary river, sea, distant island, and ruined abbey, the description is tolerably correct ; at least, many of its most agreeable features are real.
He has omitted, however, the splendid Palladian bridge, at the bottom of the pleasure grounds, and the striking view of Bath caught behind this structure, which before the additions to the city must have formed a very interesting feature in the prospect. The character which Fielding has given us of his patron, is of so exalted a nature, that we should be tempted to believe the anticipation of the rich remuneration he received for his eulogium, £500, had made him paint “ beyond the reach of nature,'
,"? did not general report and local tradition confirm
This tradition may be well founded, because between the completion of Prior Park, in 1743, and the publication of “ Tom Jones," in 1749, Fielding had enjoyed the most ample opportunities of studying the character and disposition of Allen at his grand mansion, and under conditions different from those under which he first knew him. We confess that the Squire Allworthy of Fielding, interesting and noble as it is, scarcely realises the man as he was in actual life. He would, perhaps, have been more than human if he had not accepted the portrait thus presented to himn. Not that it was flattered, but that it was essentially attractive to the original. To our judgment it presented the weaker side of Allen's disposition, and left out the more vigorous, and, in a sense, the more striking attributes of his character. It was always easy and pleasing to him to give, and a genuine tale of woe and distress he could not resist; but he could and did habitually watch against imposture and the demoralizing effect of indiscriminate charity. He presented
the account of the novelist to its fullest extent; and unite
; in assuring us, that Mr. Allen was one of the best as well as the most fortunate of men. Born in 1692, of humble' parents, Allen inherited little from his ancestors, except a decent country-village education ; but nature had given him a clear head and an excellent heart. With these endowments he came to Bath early in the 18th century, and was appointed a clerk in the Post Office there. The diligence and fidelity which he manifested in his employment were rewarded in 1715, when having obtained information of a waggon-load of arms coming from the West of England, to be secretly dispersed among
those who favoured the cause of the Pretender in the neighbourhood of Bath, he communicated the intelligence to General Wade,' quartered at that time in the city.
Fielding with £500 as a mark of his appreciation of the merits of a book destined to immortal fame, in which he himself stands out as one of the noblest types of humanity; and who shall say that the gift was not well bestowed? We have a rather scarce print of Fielding when he was about 30. He was, without doubt, a very handsome man, with oval features, singularly good, aquiline nose, large and expressive mouth, and a well-moulded chin. His later portraits, after he had lost his teeth, are well known.
Here we use Allen's own word; for it is recorded that Pope having called him, in one of his poems, the low-born Allen ; the latter was displeased at the epithet, and, at the suggestion of Warburton, desired it to be softened to humble.
2 This is one of many other stories, all more or less conjectural. It seems most unlikely that Allen would have opened letters on his own responsibility. Wade was likely to be well informed upon the rising that was in contemplation, and no doubt empowered Allen to watch the correspondence, which at that time ust have passed through the Bath Post Office. The influence of Allen was supreme in and out of the Corporation, but his services were so eminent, and his conduct so prudent, that he never for a moment ceased to possess the absolute confidence of the whole city.