It will be admitted that, tho in general effect there is nothing in the same style of architecture which exceeds the exterior of St. Paul’s, it has not a single detail deserving of attention, except the Phenix over the south portico, which was executed by Cibber, and commemorates the curious fact narrated in the “Parentalia,” that the very first stone which Sir Christopher Wren directed a mason to bring from the rubbish of the old church to serve as a mark for the center of the dome in his plans was inscribed with the single word Resurgam I shall rise again. The other ornaments and statues are chiefly by Bird, a most inferior sculptor. Those who find greater faults must, however, remember that St. Paul’s, as it now stands, is not according to the first design of Wren, the rejection of which cost him bitter tears. Even in his after work he met with so many rubs and ruffles, and was so insufficiently paid, that the Duchess of Marlborough, said, in allusion to his scaffold labors, “He is dragged up and down in a basket two or three times in a week for an insignificant £200 a year.” .
The interior of St. Paul’s is not without a grandeur of its own, but in detail it is bare, cold, and uninteresting, tho Wren intended to have lined the dome with mosaics, and to have placed a grand baldaechino in the choir. Tho a comparison with St. Peter’s inevitably forces itself upon those who are familiar with the great Roman basilica, there can scarcely be a greater contrast than between the two buildings. There, all is blazing with precious marbles; here; there is no color except from the poor glass of the eastern windows, or where a tattered banner waves above a hero’s monument. In the blue depths of the misty dome the London fog loves to linger, and hides the remains of some feeble frescoes by Thornhill, Hogarth’s father-in-law. In St. Paul’s, as in St. Peter’s, the statues on the monuments destroy the natural proportion of the arches by their monstrous size, but they have seldom any beauty or grace to excuse them. The week-day services are thinly attended, and, from the nave, it seems as if the knot of worshipers near the choir were lost in the immensity, and the peals of the organ and the voices of the choristers were vibrating through an arcaded solitude. .
The most interesting portion of the church is the Crypt, where, at the eastern extremity, are gathered nearly all the remains of the tombs which were saved from the old St. Paul’s. Here repose the head and half the body of Sir Nicholas Bacon (1579), Lord Keeper of the Great Seal in the reign of Elizabeth, and father of Francis, Lord Bacon. Other fragments represent William Cokain, 1626; William Hewit, 1597; and John Wolley and his wife, 1595. There are tablets to “Sir Simon Baskerville the rich,” physician to James I. and Charles I., 1641; and to Brian, Bishop of Chester, 1661. The tomb of John Martin, bookseller, and his wife, 1680, was probably the first monument erected in the crypt of new St. Paul’s. .
In the Crypt, not far from the old St. Paul’s tombs, the revered Dean Milman, the great historian of the church (best known, perhaps, by his “History of the Jews,” his “History of Latin Christianity,” and his contributions to “Heber’s Hymns”), is now buried under a simple tomb ornamented with a raised cross. In a recess on the south is the slab of Sir Christopher Wren, and near him, in other chapels, Robert Mylne, the architect of old Blackfriars Bridge, and John Rennie, the architect of Waterloo Bridge. Beneath the pavement lies Sir Joshua Reynolds (1742), who had an almost royal funeral in St. Paul’s, dukes and marquises contending for the honor of being his pallbearers. Around him are buried his disciples and followersLawrence (1830), Barry (1806), Opie (1807), West (1820), Fuseli (1825) ; but the most remarkable grave is that of William Mallord Turner, whose dying request was that he might be buried as near as possible to Sir Joshua.
Where the heavy pillars and arches gather thick beneath the dome, in spite of his memorable words at the battle of the Nile”Victory or Westminster Abbey”is the grave of Lord Nelson. Followed to the grave by the seven sons of his sovereign, he was buried here in 1806, when Dean Milman, who was present, “heard, or seemed to hear, the low wail of the sailors who encircled the remains of their admiral.” They tore to pieces the largest of the flags of the “Victory,” which waved above his grave; the rest were buried with his coffin.
The sarcophagus of Nelson was designed and executed for Cardinal Wolsey by the famous Torregiano, and was intended to contain the body of Henry VIII. in the tomb-house at Windsor. It encloses the coffin made from the mast of the ship “L’Orient,” which was presented to Nelson after the battle of the Nile by Ben Hallowell, captain of the “Swiftsure,” that, when he was tired of life, he might “be buried in one of his own trophies.” On either side of Nelson repose the minor heroes of Trafalgar, Collingwood (1810) and Lord Northesk; Picton also lies near him, but outside the surrounding arches.
A second huge sarcophagus of porphyry resting on lions is the tomb where Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, was laid in,1852, in the presence of 15,000 spectators, Dean Milman, who had been present at Nelson’s funeral, then reading the services. Beyond the tomb of Nelson, in a ghastly ghost-befitting chamber hung with the velvet which surrounded his lying in state at Chelsea, and on which, by the flickering torchlight, we see emblazoned the many Orders presented to him by foreign sovereigns, is the funeral car of Wellington, modeled and constructed in six weeks, at an expense of £13,000, from guns taken in his campaigns.
In the southwest pier of the dome a staircase ascends by 616 steps to the highest point of the cathedral. No feeble person should attempt the fatigue, and, except to architects, the undertaking is scarcely worth while. An easy ascent leads to the immense passages of the triforium, in which, opening from the gallery above the south aisle, is the Library, founded by Bishop Compton, who crowned William and Mary, Archbishop Seeker refusing to do so. It contains the bishop’s portrait and some carving by Gibbons.
At the corner of the gallery, on the left, a very narrow stair leads to the Clock, of enormous size, with a pendulum 16 feet long, constructed by Lang-ley Bradley in 1708. Ever since, the oaken seats behind it have been occupied by a changing crowd, waiting with anxious curiosity to see the hammer strike its bell, and tremulously hoping to tremble at the vibration.
Returning, another long ascent leads to the ‘Whispering Gallery, below the windows of the cupola, where visitors are requested to sit down upon a matted seat that they may be shown how a low whisper uttered against the wall can be distinctly heard from the other side of the dome. Hence we reach the Stone Gallery, outside the base of the dome, whence we may ascend to the Golden Gallery at its summit. This last ascent is interesting, as being between the enter and inner domes, and showing how completely different in construction one is from the other. The view from the gallery is vast, but generally, beyond a certain distance, it is shrouded in smoke. Sometimes, one stands aloft in a clear atmosphere, while beneath the fog rolls like a sea, through which the steeples and towers are just visible “like the masts of stranded vessels.” Hence one may study the anatomy of the fifty-four towers which Wren was obliged to build after the Fire in a space of time which would only have properly sufficed for the construction of four. The same characteristics, more and more painfully diluted, but always slightly varied, occur in each. Bow Church, St. Magnus, St. Bride, and St. Vedast are the best.
The Great Bell of St. Paul’s (of 1716), which hangs in the south tower, bears the inscription, “Richard Phelps made me, 1716.” It only tolls on the deaths and funerals of the royal family, of Bishops of London, Deans of St. Paul’s, and Lord Mayors who die in their mayoralty.