London – Staple Inn

It is one of the most delicious things in London. Out of the roar and hurry of Holborn you pass through the old Jacobean gateway with the facade of oaken beams into the tranquil old-world court where the noise suddenly dies away, and you can sit peacefully under the shade of the plane-trees, as far removed from the bustle and racket without the gate as if you had been suddenly transported a hundred miles on a magician’s carpet. From a kindly porter may be bought, for one shilling and sixpence, a delightful little history of this “fayrest Inne of Chancerie,”where Johnson lived after finishing his Rasselas in a week to pay for the expenses of his mother’s funeral.

When you are tired of sitting quietly in this “veriest home of peace,”go across the courtyard to the hall of the Inn and look at the carved oaken roof and the grotesque ornaments, at the Grinling Gibbons clock-case and the old stained glass windows, and before you leave Staple Inn go through the second court and look at the old sunk garden that is so unconcernedly green in the very heart of this big city. At the back of the Patent Offices that make the southern boundary of Staple Inn is Took’s Court-the Cook’s Court where Mr. Snagsby of Bleak House lived-once a place of those curious semi-prisons called sponging-houses that were like debtors’ boardinghouses with the bailiff for the landlord.

Took’s Court is a sordid en ough place now, and some of it may soon disappear, but it has a vicarious interest because Sheridan spent some of the last years of his life in a sponging-house here.