Abbildungen der Seite

interest in public events, excited in every class by the threatened invasion of Spain, gave rise to the introduction, into this country, of one of the most important inventions of social life, that of newspapers. Previous to this period, all articles of intelligence had been circulated in manuscripts; and all political remarks, which the government had found itself interested in making to the people, had issued from the press in the shape of pamphlets; of which, many had been composed during the administration of Burleigh, either by himself, or under his direction. But the peculiar convenience, at such a juncture, of uniting the two objects in a periodical publication, becoming obvious to the ministry, there appeared, some time in the month of August, 1558, the first number of the English Mercury, a paper resembling the present London Gazette, which must have come out almost daily; since the number 50, the earliest specimen of the work now extant, is dated July 23rd of the same year. This interesting manuscript is preserved in the British Museum. But (said Mr. Wilmot, turning to Susan and Ann) I think that you both know the Royal Exchange."

"Yes, Sir," they replied; "but we do not know who built it."

"It was built," answered Mr. Wilmot, "by Thomas Gresham, a merchant. Born of a family at once enlightened, commercial, and wealthy, he had not only imbibed their spirit and their virtues; but, fortunately for himself, neither the advantages of the education he had received at Cambridge, nor his own superior attainments, tempted him to quit the walk of life for which he was intended, and in which he afterwards so eminently distinguished himself.

"His father, Sir Richard Gresham, bad been agent to Henry the Eighth, for negociations of loans with the merchants of Antwerp; and the abilities of young Gresham were soon discovered, by the eminent services he rendered, when in a similar capacity to Edward the Sixth, by redeeming the credit of the king, then sunk to the lowest ebb by the mismanagement of his father's immediate successor. Under Elizabeth he enjoyed the same appointment, to which was added that of queen's merchant; and it appears, by the official letters of the times, that he was occasionally consulted in political as well as pecuniary affairs. He was a spirited promoter of the infant manufactures of his country, several of which owed their origin to him.

"By his assiduity and commercial talents,

be rendered himself one of the most opulent merchants in the kingdom; and the queen showed her sense of his merit, by bestowing on him the office of knighthood.

"Gresham had heen always liberal and patriotic; but the death of his only son, in 1564, determined him to render his country his principal heir.

"Hitherto the citizens of London had been unprovided with any building in the shape of a Burse, or an Exchange, such as Gresham had been accustomed to see abroad, in the commercial cities of Flanders; and he now munificently offered, if the city would give him a piece of ground, to build one at his own expence.

"The edifice was begun accordingly, in 1566, and finished within three years. It was a quadrangle of bricks, with walks on the ground-floor for merchants, (who now ceased to transact their business in the middle aisle of St. Paul's Cathedral,) with vaults for warehouses beneath, and a row of shops above; from the rent of which the proprietor sought some remuneration for his great charges. But the shops did not immediately find customers; and it was partly with a view of bringing them into vogue, that the queen promised to give her countenance to the undertaking, in January, 1571. Holinshed gives the following particulars of this visit. On the twenty-third of January, the queen, accompanied by her nobility, came from Somerset House, and entered the city by Temple Bar, Fleet-street, and by the north side of the Burse, to Sir Thomas Gresham's in Bishopsgate-street, where she dined. After dinner, her grace, returning through Cornhill, entered the Burse on the south side; and, after she had viewed every part thereof, above the ground, especially the Pawne, which was richly furnished with all sorts of the finest wares in the city, she caused proclamation to be made by the sound of trumpet, that it should henceforth be called the Royal Exchange.

"Gresham offered the shops rent-free, for a year, to such as would furnish them with wares and wax-lights, against the coming of the queen; and the proposal produced a very sumptuous display. Afterwards, the shops of the Exchange became the favourite resort of the fashionable of both sexes. The building was destroyed by the fire of 1666; and the divines of that day, according to their custom, pronounced this catastrophe a judgment on the avarice and unfair dealing of the merchants, and the pride, prodigality, and luxury of the purchasers and idlers, by which it was frequented and maintained."

"Then the present Exchange is not the building erected by Sir Thomas V said Ann.

"No, my dear," replied Mr. Wilmot: "the first stone of the second fabric was laid by Charles the Second, who rode in state into the city for this purpose, in 1667. It bears the original title, and was erected in about three years, at the expence of iP.80,000."

Mrs. Spencer remarked, that Gresham was a splendid benefactor to the city of London; for, besides the Royal Exchange, he left his magnificent residence in Bishopsgate-street, as a college for the benefit of the citizens of London. He thought that, as the inhabitants of that city possessed much money, a proportionate quantity of knowledge and learning should be diffused among them. He bequeathed annuities for public lectures in divinity, law, physic, and astronomy, geometry, music, and rhetoric: his house was appointed for the residence of the lecturer, and there the lectures were to be read. But Gresham College is now turned into the Excise Office.

"Did I understand you, Sir," said Susan, "that the aisle of St. Paul's was formerly used

« ZurückWeiter »