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Landmarks of Foreigners in England


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England for many centuries kept open house for strangers. Some came among us attracted by our life and institutions; many to flee from religious or political persecution. These immigrants materially modified the characteristics of the old Saxon and Norman types and produced the composite cosmopolitan we know as the Briton of to-day.

In early Tudor times the English were an agricultural and military race, good farmers, sailors and fighting men, but not skilled in manufactures or in finance. The English farmer grew the wool which the Flemish artisan dyed and turned into cloth. British metal was transformed into finely tempered steel in the armouries of northern France. The Tudor kings and their advisers sought to remedy this by inviting continental artisans to settle here, but at first only succeeded to a small degree.

The Lombard merchants, and later the Spanish Jews who fled from the terrors of the Inquisition, laid the foundations of many of our great banking and merchant families. Then the religious wars in northern Europe, between Protestant and Catholic, accomplished what the Tudor kings had so far failed to effect and established this country as a manufacturing centre. England had become Protestant, and when the Low Countries and northern France were torn asunder by religious wars, tens of thousands of Protestants from these parts fled to England. The towns in and around the Low Countries had been famous for centuries as the homes of some of the most skilled craftsmen of the world. Cloth workers of Antwerp and Bruges, lace makers of Vaknciennes, cambric makers from Cambrai, weavers of stuff goods from Ypres, Arras and a score of towns like them, shipwrights and merchants from Rouen and pottery makers from Delft, all came to England to make this land their home.

The Flemings began to arrive in the reign of King Edward VI, and the king gave them a church of their own in Austin Friars. They continued to come in great numbers in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth herself, when she heard of the landing of one large group at Sandwich, wrote to the mayor, bidding him give them opportunity to settle there and carry on their trades, particularly the manufacture of cloth, "which hath not been used to be made in this our realme of England."

All around the south-east coast, at Sandwich, Rye and Dover, and northwards to Yarmouth, they set foot on shore, and going inland, established new industries in a hundred centres. The silk weavers of Canterbury, the Delft potters at Sandwich, the gardeners who turned the suburbs of south-east London into rich fields of products, the tanners of Bermondsey, the felt makers of Wandsworth, the clock-makers of Clerkenwell, the dye makers of Bow, all arrived in this invasion. The Walloon refugees established the Kentish hop industry. The makers of cloth travelled as far as Yorkshire, the lace makers went to Bedfordshire, and some even to Devonshire. They started iron and steel industries at Sheffield, glass works at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and in Yarmouth the trade in dried fish.

Following them came the flood of Huguenots, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. St. Bartholomew's Eve was a dark night for France, but a stroke of good fortune for England. The Huguenot merchants and artisans, hardworking, sober, skilled folk, settled in London and in the south-east of England, and soon rewarded England manifold for the shelter she had given them. In London two of their main centres were Soho in the west and Spitalfields in the east. In Church Street one can still see the homes of these old weavers, with their big first-floor windows in the rooms where the hand looms were placed.

Humbler Huguenots lived mostly in Soho, and the more prosperous in and around Berners Street, off Oxford Street, and in Marylebone. They had numerous churches in London, and one of the most interesting, close to New Oxford Street, has been closed only within the last few years. In the course of centuries the Huguenots have been absorbed into our life. Only by their names can we trace many of their families, Labouchere, Du Cane (Duquesne), Courtauld, Martineau, Unwin, to mention only a few. It is significant that the leading firm in the new artificial silk industry in this country bears a Huguenot name.

The coming of King William III brought a host of Dutchmen here. Many of these were politicians and soldiers, who, under the royal patronage, obtained titles and estates, and whose descendants form an appreciable section of our hereditary rulers to-day. In due course the flight of the French Protestants to this country was followed by the coming of a large number of French Catholics, the aristocracy and merchants who sought escape from the horrors of the first French Revolution. They, however, did not put their stamp on our life like the others, and most of them returned in due course to their own country.

Among the noted foreigners who have made some stay among us there is no more famous figure than Erasmus, the greatest scholar of the Middle Ages, who came to England in the spring of 1499, at the invitation of one of his old pupils, Lord Mountjoy. and spent a time at Oxford. Here, he and John Colet, Dean of S. Paul's, who was the outstanding figure in the University, came in touch, and Colet in vain tried to induce Erasmus to remain among them Erasmus went back to Paris, but he had come to love the English fresh air and rural peace, and returned to London time after time. He made a stay in Sir Thomas More's house in Bucklersbury. He went to Cambridge, where he lectured and completed some of his best known writings.

In Maiden Lane, Strand, you can find to-day a prosperous inn, the Bedford Head, a favourite resort of actors and film players. Its proprietor can boast that in 1912 he and Charlie Chaplin played together. Two hundred years ago the landlord of this same Bedford Head was able to boast that he had among his regular patrons the greatest intellectual figure of his time, Voltaire. Voltaire came to London in 1726, and lived for part of his visit at an old French perruquier's in Maiden Lane. He was busy on his History of Charles the Twelfth, and found this a convenient house of call for his meals. For about a hundred and fifty years afterwards the portrait of Voltaire was among the treasures of this inn.

Mention of Voltaire brings naturally the name of another famous Frenchman to mind. Rousseau visited England early in 1766, at the invitation of David Hume. London society made much of him, the king agreed to grant him a pension, and the leaders of the arts paid open homage. Garrick gave a special performance in his honour, but Mrs. Garrick, who sat in the box with Rousseau during the performance, had anything but a happy time, for the author was so anxious to display himself and hung over the box so much that she had to catch hold of the skirt of his coat to prevent him from falling into the stalls below. Rousseau lived for a time at the house of Dr. Rose at Chiswick, where he sat in the shop learning English words and attracting many customers. Then he went to the home of a friend of Hume at Wootton, in Derbyshire, where he wrote the greater part of his "Confessions." His vanity and temper rather tired the patience of his English acquaintances, and nobody was very sorry when he returned to France in the spring of 1767, having lived at Wootton Hall for just over a year.

Close to the Tower of London you will still find a public house bearing the name of the Czar's Head.

Here the most amazing monarch who ever visited our shores loved to amuse himself by drinking great draughts of brandy, well peppered. Peter the Great came to England in January, 1698, from Holland and lived at first in a house at the bottom of Buckingham Street, Strand. His visit was semi-public. Such crowds came to gaze in at the windows that he had to keep to the back rooms to avoid them King William the Third visited him, and the authorities did everything they could to help him. After a time he went to Deptford to study the methods in the royal dockyard there and to learn shipbuilding.

Running parallel with Buckingham Street is York Buildings, once known as George Street, a quiet thoroughfare leading down to the river, which had for a time, if tradition speaks truly, an even more famous resident than Peter the Great. Napoleon Buonaparte is supposed to have lived here for a short time in the days when he was an unknown and poor young officer.

Napoleon III was a refugee in London before he mounted the throne, and he died outside London, again a refugee, after he had lost the throne. He came first on a visit with his mother, Queen Hortense, in May 1831, but did not settle in England until May 1846. Prince Louis Napoleon, to give him the title he then bore, lived in King Street, St. James's, until 1848, in what he and his friends subsequently regarded as comparative poverty. But he had expensive tastes. He gambled heavily on the turf, he was a collector of costly trifles, he lived in very good style, and if his rich friends had sometimes to come to his aid, it was nobody's fault but his own. He was very popular socially, and at one time during his stay was on the point of being married to an English girl.

The flight of Louis Philippe gave him his chance, and brought him in due course to the Imperial throne. When he again returned to London, with the Empress Eugenie, it was to be received with splendour fitting for one who regarded himself as the most powerful ruler in the world. On this visit, when the Emperor and Empress were being driven in state to the Guildhall for a Lord Mayor's banquet, people noticed that as the procession moved through St. James's Napoleon pointed out to the Empress the house in King Street where he had once lived.

The Bourbons long found refuge in England, but they made little or no impress on our life. The Due d'Orleans, heir to the throne of France, lived in Twickenham, and others of the Orleans family had great estates in Warwickshire, but they kept entirely to themselves. Visitors to north London will note with interest Kenwood, where the Grand Duke Michael, uncle of the Czar, lived in luxurious exile, until the revolution took his wealth from him.

George Street, Hanover Square, was one of the homes of Madame De Stael, who came here first when she was exiled by the Republican leaders during the French Revolution, and afterwards when exiled by Napoleon. Mirabeau, the famous revolutionist, lived for a time in Hatton Garden. Ugo Foscolo, in his day a very famous Italian author, who led a revolt against Napoleonic tyranny, found refuge in Chiswick. His stay among us was not altogether happy. At first he was a popular hero, and very much was done to help him: then he was less noticed, and he did not like it. In his letters he ranged from the most extreme praise to the bitterest blame of the British people. Foscolo's tomb was for many years after his death a place of pilgrimage for leaders of Italian freedom. In 1872 the body was disinterred and taken to Florence, where it was buried in the church of Sante Croce, with great honour.

The removal of the Foundling Hospital from Bloomsbury has broken many historic traditions. This building was specially associated with Handel, the composer. Handel first visited England in 1710, and liked the country so much that he returned again and again, and ultimately became a naturalised Englishman. He presented the Foundling Hospital with its very fine organ. He arranged concerts to help its fund, raising considerable sums of money. He had a fair copy of the original score of "The Messiah" made and gave it to the governors of the Foundling. The governors, by some stupid misunderstanding, thought that Handel had presented them with the copyright of the oratorio, and even proposed to apply to Parliament to legalise their claim. When the deputation waited on him to obtain his consent, he turned on them angrily, "Te deivel! For vat sal de Foundling put mein oratorio in de Parlement? Te deivel! Mein music sal not go to de Parlement!"

Handel made a considerable stay at Canons, the palace of the Duke of Chandos, at Edgware, where he was chapel master. Fashionable London came out to hear him and princesses were among his pupils. Canons has disappeared, but its chapel still survives as the church of S. Lawrence, Whitchurch, and on the organ there is an inscription telling that Handel was organist there for three years, and composed the oratorio "Esther" on it. Handel's body lies to-day in Westminster Abbey.

The list of foreign musicians who have made their home in England is a very long one. Mendelssohn, on the occasion of his first visit, lived in Great Portland Street, at the corner of Ridinghouse Street. He was overwhelmed by what he saw in London, "the greatest and most complicated monster in the world." He returned to England again and again.

Jenny Lind, the "Swedish nightingale," during the days of her triumphs on the British concert platform lived in a detached cottage in Old Brompton, Clairville cottage, no longer to be found. Adelina Patti, Spanish born, chose Wales as her home when she retired from the triumphs of the stage.

Of many revolutionists who made their home in England, it is only possible to mention the names of a few. Thaddeus Kosciusko, the great Polish patriot general, who fought and died for his country, lived for a time at 30 Leicester Square. Most people remember him by the line, "Then freedom shrieked when Kosciusko fell." General Paoli, the Corsican patriot, lived in exile in West London and was buried in old St. Pancras church. His body was later removed to Corsica. Mazzini, the father of new Italy, came to England in 1837. From here he maintained his attacks on the foreign rule, and his activities were subjects of great controversy. After the fall of the French Commune, many of the leaders came across the Channel.

Bartolozzi, the immortal Florentine engraver, lived at North End, Fulham. Angelica Kaufmann made her home in Golden Square. Roubillac, the French sculptor, many of whose monuments are to-day in Westminster Abbey, had a home two hundred years ago in St. Peter's Court, St. Martin's Lane. Vandyke made his home at Eltham in summer and Blackfriars in winter.

Heinrich Heine, the German poet, came during his wander years to London, at Craven Street, Strand, He was horrified to find the cost of living here more than a guinea a day. He spoke little or no English and no one he met spoke German. He found it damp and cold. He wrote to a friend:

"I have seen the most remarkable phenomenon that the world has to show to the amazed mind of man. I have seen it and am still amazed . . . Send a philosopher to London, but, on pain of my life, not a poet! Send a philosopher thither and set him at the corner of Cheapside and he will learn more there than from all the books of the last Leipzig fair . . . He will hear with his ears and see with his eyes the beating pulse of the world - for if London is the right hand of the world . . . then that street which leads from the Exchange to Downing Street must be regarded as the pulse of the world."


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Pictures for Landmarks of Foreigners in England

THE WEAVERS' HALL IN CANTERBURY, THE PICTURESQUE CENTRE OF THE FLEMISH SETTLEMENT
THE WEAVERS' HALL IN CANTERBURY, THE PICTURESQUE CENTRE OF THE FLEMISH SETTLEMENT >>>>
A HALF-TIMBERED COTTAGE AT SMARDEN, KENT, A HOME OF FLEMISH WORKERS
A HALF-TIMBERED COTTAGE AT SMARDEN, KENT, A HOME OF FLEMISH WORKERS >>>>
QUEEN'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE, WHERE STAYED THE MOST DISTINGUISHED SCHOLAR OF THE RENAISSANCE
QUEEN'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE, WHERE STAYED THE MOST DISTINGUISHED SCHOLAR OF THE RENAISSANCE >>>>
TWO MEMORIES OF HANDEL, THE GREAT MUSICIAN WHO MADE ENGLAND HIS COUNTRY
TWO MEMORIES OF HANDEL, THE GREAT MUSICIAN WHO MADE ENGLAND HIS COUNTRY >>>>
THE HARMONIOUS BLACKSMITH'S GRAVE
THE HARMONIOUS BLACKSMITH'S GRAVE >>>>
PETER THE GREAT AS SHIPBUILDER AT WORK IN DEPTFORD DOCKYARD
PETER THE GREAT AS SHIPBUILDER AT WORK IN DEPTFORD DOCKYARD >>>>
S. ANNE'S, SOHO
S. ANNE'S, SOHO >>>>
A FLEMING CHURCH
A FLEMING CHURCH >>>>

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