The 9th June, 1782.
I preached this day at the German church on Ludgate Hill, for the Rev. Mr. Wendeborn. He is the author of "Die statischen Beytrage zur nahern Kentniss Grossbrittaniens." This valuable book has already been of uncommon service to me, and I cannot but recommend it to everyone who goes to England. It is the more useful, as you can with ease carry it in your pocket, and you find in it information on every subject.
It is natural to suppose that Mr. Wendeborn, who has now been a length of time in England, must have been able more frequently, and with greater exactness to make his observations, than those who only pass through, or make a very short stay. It is almost impossible for anyone, who has this book always at hand, to omit anything worthy of notice in or about London; or not to learn all that is most material to know of the state and situation of the kingdom in general.
Mr. Wendeborn lives in New Inn, near Temple Bar, in a philosophical, but not unimproving, retirement. He is almost become a native; and his library consists chiefly of English books. Before I proceed, I must just mention, that he has not hired, but bought his apartments in this great building, called New Inn: and this, I believe, is pretty generally the case with the lodgings in this place. A purchaser of any of these rooms is considered as a proprietor; and one who has got a house and home, and has a right, in parliamentary or other elections, to give his vote, if he is not a foreigner, which is the case with Mr. Wendeborn, who, nevertheless, was visited by Mr. Fox when he was to be chosen member for Westminster.
I saw, for the first time, at Mr. Wendeborn's, a very useful machine, which is little known in Germany, or at least not much used.
This is a press in which, by means of very strong iron springs, a written paper may be printed on another blank paper, and you thus save yourself the trouble of copying; and at the same time multiply your own handwriting. Mr. Wendeborn makes use of this machine every time he sends manuscripts abroad, of which he wishes to keep a copy. This machine was of mahogany, and cost pretty high.
I suppose it is because the inhabitants of London rise so late, that divine service begin only at half-past ten o'clock. I missed Mr. Wendeborn this morning, and was therefore obliged to enquire of the door-keeper at St. Paul's for a direction to the German church, where I was to preach. He did not know it. I then asked at another church, not far from thence. Here I was directed right, and after I had passed through an iron gate to the end of a long passage, I arrived just in time at the church, where, after the sermon, I was obliged to read a public thanksgiving for the safe arrival of our ship.
The German clergy here dress exactly the same as the English clergy--i.e., in long robes with wide sleeves--in which I likewise was obliged to wrap myself. Mr. Wendeborn wears his own hair, which curls naturally, and the toupee is combed up.
The other German clergymen whom I have seen wear wigs, as well as many of the English.
London, June 17th, 1782.
I yesterday dined with the Rev. Mr. Schrader, son-in-law to Professor Foster of Halle. He is chaplain to the German chapel at St. James's; but besides himself he has a colleague or a reader, who is also in orders, but has only fifty pounds yearly salary. Mr. Schrader also instructs the younger princes and princesses of the royal family in their religion.
At his house I saw the two chaplains, Mr. Lindeman and Mr. Kritter, who went with the Hanoverian troops to Minorca, and who were returned with the garrison. They were exposed to every danger along with the troops. The German clergy, as well as every other person in any public station immediately under Government, are obliged to pay a considerable tax out of their salaries.
The English clergy (and I fear those still more particularly who live in London) are noticeable, and lamentably conspicuous, by a very free, secular, and irregular way of life. Since my residence in England, one has fought a duel in Hyde Park, and shot his antagonist. He was tried for the offence, and it was evident the judge thought him guilty of murder; but the jury declared him guilty only of manslaughter; and on this verdict he was burnt in the hand, if that may be called burning which is done with a cold iron; this being a privilege which the nobility and clergy enjoy above other murderers.
Yesterday week, after I had preached for Mr. Wendeborne, we passed an English church in which, we understood the sermon was not yet quite finished. On this we went in, and then I heard a young man preaching, with a tolerable good voice, and a proper delivery; but, like the English in general, his manner was unimpassioned, and his tone monotonous.
From the church we went to a coffee-house opposite to it, and there we dined. We had not been long there before the same clergyman whom we had just heard preaching, also came in. He called for pen and ink, and hastily wrote down a few pages on a long sheet of paper, which he put into his pocket; I suppose it was some rough sketch or memorandum that occurred to him at that moment, and which he thus reserved for some future sermon.
He too ordered some dinner, which he had no sooner ate, than he returned immediately to the same church. We followed him, and he again mounted the pulpit, where he drew from his pocket a written paper, or book of notes, and delivered in all probability those very words which he had just before composed in our presence at the coffee-house.
Oxford, June 25.
This was Sunday, and all the family were in their Sunday-clothes. I now began to be much pleased with this village [Nettlebed], and so I resolved to stop at it for the day, and attend divine service. For this purpose I borrowed a prayer-book of my host. Mr. Illing was his name, which struck me the more, perhaps, because it is a very common name in Germany. During my breakfast I read over several parts of the English liturgy, and could not help being struck at the circumstance that every word in the whole service seems to be prescribed and dictated to the clergyman. They do not visit the sick but by a prescribed form; as, for instance, they must begin by saying, "Peace be to this house," &c.
Its being called a prayer-book, rather than, like ours, a hymn-book, arises from the nature of the English service, which is composed very little of singing, and almost entirely of praying. The psalms of David, however, are here translated into English verse, and are generally printed at the end of English prayer-books.
The prayer-book which my landlord lent me was quite a family piece, for all his children's births and names, and also his own wedding- day, were very carefully set down on it. Even on this account alone the book would not have been uninteresting to me.
At half-past nine the service began. Directly opposite to our house, the boys of the village were all drawn up, as if they had been recruits to be drilled; all well-looking, healthy lads, neat and decently dressed, and with their hair cut short and combed on the forehead, according to the English fashion; their bosoms were open, and the white frills of their shirts turned back on each side. They seemed to be drawn up here at the entrance of the village merely to wait the arrival of the clergyman.
I walked a little way out of the village, where, at some distance, I saw several people coming from another village, to attend divine service here at Nettlebed.
At length came the parson on horseback. The boys pulled off their hats, and all made him very low bows. He appeared to be rather an elderly man, and wore his own hair round and decently dressed, or rather curled naturally.
The bell now rung in, and so I too, with a sort of secret proud sensation, as if I also had been an Englishman, went with my prayer- book under my arm to church, along with the rest of the congregation; and when I got into the church, the clerk very civilly seated me close to the pulpit.
Nothing can possibly be more simple, apt, and becoming than the few decorations of this church.
Directly over the altar, on two tables in large letters, the ten commandments were written. There surely is much wisdom and propriety in thus placing, full in the view of the people, the sum and substance of all morality.
Under the pulpit near the steps that led up to it, was a desk, from which the clergyman read the liturgy, the responses were all regularly made by the clerk; the whole congregation joining occasionally, though but in a low voice; as for instance, the minister said, "Lord, have mercy upon us!" the clerk and the congregation immediately subjoin, "and forgive us all our sins." In general, when the clergyman offers up a prayer, the clerk and the whole congregation answer only, Amen!
The English service must needs be exceedingly fatiguing to the officiating minister, inasmuch as besides a sermon, the greatest part of the liturgy falls to his share to read, besides the psalms and two lessons.
The joining of the whole congregation in prayer has something exceedingly solemn and affecting in it.
Two soldiers, who sat near me in the church, and who had probably been in London, seemed to wish to pass for philosophers, and wits; for they did not join in the prayers of the church.
The service was now pretty well advanced, when I observed some little stir in the desk, the clerk was busy, and they seemed to be preparing for something new and solemn, and I also perceived several musical instruments. The clergyman now stopped, and the clerk then said in a loud voice, "Let us sing to the praise and glory of God, the forty-seventh psalm."
I cannot well express how affecting and edifying it seemed to me, to hear this whole orderly and decent congregation, in this small country church, joining together with vocal and instrumental music, in the praise of their Maker. It was the more grateful, as having been performed, not by mercenary musicians, but by the peaceful and pious inhabitants of this sweet village. I can hardly figure to myself any offering more likely to be grateful to God.
The congregation sang and prayed alternately several times, and the tunes of the psalms were particularly lively and cheerful, though at the same time sufficiently grave, and uncommonly interesting. I am a warm admirer of all sacred music, and I cannot but add that that of the Church of England is particularly calculated to raise the heart to devotion; I own it often affected me even to tears.
The clergyman now stood up and made a short but very proper discourse on this text: "Not all they who say, Lord, Lord! shall enter the kingdom of heaven." His language was particularly plain, though forcible; his arguments were no less plain, convincing, and earnest, but contained nothing that was particularly striking. I do not think the sermon lasted more than half an hour.
This clergyman had not perhaps a very prepossessing appearance; I thought him also a little distant and reserved, and I did not quite like his returning the bows of the farmers with a very formal nod.
I stayed till the service was quite over, and then went out of the church with the congregation, and amused myself with reading the inscriptions on the tombstones in the churchyard, which in general, are simpler, more pathetic, and better written than ours.
There were some of them which, to be sure, were ludicrous and laughable enough.
Among these is one on the tomb of a smith, which on account of its singularity, I here copy and send you.
"My sledge and anvil he declined,
My bellows too have lost their wind;
My fire's extinct, my forge decayed,
My coals are spent, my iron's gone,
My nails are drove: my work is done."
Many of these epitaphs closed with the following quaint rhymes:
"Physicians were in vain;
God knew the best;
So here I rest."
In the body of the church I saw a marble monument of a son of the celebrated Dr. Wallis, with the following simple and affecting inscription:
"The same good sense which qualified him for every public employment Taught him to spend his life here in retirement."
All the farmers whom I saw there were dressed, not as ours are, in coarse frocks, but with some taste, in fine good cloth; and were to be distinguished from the people of the town, not so much by their dress, as by the greater simplicity and modesty of their behaviour.
Some soldiers, who probably were ambitious of being thought to know the world, and to be wits, joined me, as I was looking at the church, and seemed to be quite ashamed of it, as they said it was only a very miserable church. On which I took the liberty to inform them, that no church could be miserable which contained orderly and good people.