Saturday, 5 January 2013

From The Barbican to Waseda

St. Giles Cripplegate

Last July, I went to an early evening concert given by Ben Johnson, tenor and James Baillieu, piano at St. Giles Cripplegate.  It was called Postcards from Paris and comprised songs by Poulenc, Faure, Duparc, Hahn and Lennox Berkeley.  Berkeley was not French but, if I need mention, studied with Nadia Boulanger and spent some time in Paris.  
It was a delightful concert which introduced me to lots of unfamiliar music which I will continue to explore.  Before the concert I looked around the church and found several things of great interest one of which led me to Waseda University in Japan.

St. Giles Cripplegate (as it was built outside the city walls actually St.Giles without Cripplegate), now surrounded by the Barbican redevelopment, is a medieval church which dates from the 12th century.   It was completely rebuilt in 1390.  There was a fire in 1545:
The xii day of September at iiii of cloke in the mornynge was sent Gylles church at Creppyl gatte burnyd, alle hole save the walles, stepull, belles and alle, and how it came God knoweth.
Following the fire there was another rebuilding, though some of the 14th century fabric survives in the walls and base of the tower.

St. Giles Cripplegate

The red brick section of the tower with pinnacles was added in the 17th century.  The cupola above it was added as part of postwar restoration, though one of similar design appears in a picture of the church from 1830.

The church is situated to the north of the area devastated by the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was unaffected by it; maps of the area overwhelmed by the fire, indicate that the city wall close to St. Giles acted as a firebreak.

There was further restoration both before and after damage caused by the Cripplegate fire of 1897.  But worse was to come.  Only the shell of the building survived enemy bombing raids in 1940 in which almost all the furnishings were destroyed as well.  The church has published a picturegallery * showing the building before and after this catastrophe.

John Milton (1608 - 1674), who lived nearby for most of his life was buried in the church. 
Sometime later, in 1793, a bust by John Bacon the elder was installed.  Paradise Lost is remembered in the carving under the pedestal. 

Bacon has been called the first great sculptor of the industrial revolution.  He established a factory-like studio with a large output.  In 1771 The Daily Advertiser stated that (Bacon’s) merit as an artist was too well known to need any encomiums.
Milton does not look at his best in my photograph of the bust.  This may be because the picture was taken with an unsophisticated camera using a basic flash, or because Bacon was no republican.  When invasion from revolutionary France threatened, he provided his apprentices with weapons and subjected them to military drill.  He berated a clergyman for mentioning equality.

In 1903 this memorial was joined by a statue of the poet. (The bust to the left in this photo is of John Speed (1552 – 1629), “Citizen and Merchant Taylor” who is also buried in the church.)  I read that the statue of Milton was added as part of a campaign to drum up interest in St.Giles during a fund raising drive.

Paradise Lost

When I visited, Milton had been provided with a copy of the Penguin edition of Paradise Lost; and other photos on Flickr show that in the preceding months he had held a bunch of yellow flowers and at Christmas, a Santa Claus doll. In  2009 he held a toy rabbit linking him with another literary person, Beatrix Potter.
 The frivolity is a new development.  When the statue was first proposed the church Vestry noted that no statue had yet been erected of “one of the greatest poets of this or any other country ...” and looking to “... a suitable public memorial to mark local appreciation of his fame.
The statue was made by Horace Montford.  Details of his life are hard to find.  He was the father of Paul Raphael Montford (1868 - 1938), also a sculptor, who travelled to Australia and made many well known statues in Melbourne.    Maurice Grant wrote that Horace was “equally known as (Paul), he was of equal merit and equal industry showing more than 50 works in the galleries from 1860 to early in the XXth century”.  These works included some subjects taken from Milton.  At the time of his Milton commission he was best known for a statue of Charles Darwin at Shrewsbury.
The statue originally stood on a pedestal designed by E. A. Rickards with reliefs illustrating some of Milton’s works. The bombing raid which devastated the church knocked the statue off this pedestal and it has never been restored.  Milton’s right hand was damaged and has since been replaced in fibre glass.

The Plinth remains outside the church in a much deteriorated condition.

All attempts to restore the statue to the plinth or a replacement have failed, apparently due to an arcane dispute about the ownership of the statue and plinth.

As damage to the church and statue occurred in the first Nazi raid on the City of London, Milton’s fall was reported around the world. 
In Australia, Ralph E Robson of Mosman wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald:

Sir-The bombing of this statue in London makes one wonder whether Hitler was contemplating revenge on the author of “Paradise Lost", realising that London (his coveted Paradise) can never be captured and is therefore lost to him. Hitler will do well to ponder over the words of the blind poet who said:-
When God wants a hard thing done in the world.
He tells it to His Englishmen
A prophetic utterance now in course of fulfilment.
I am. etc..

It’s not uncommon for bursts of enthusiasm for the famous dead to result in the erection of statues and memorials; sometimes long after the death of their subject.  In this case, however, Milton’s own opinion was not consulted.  He wrote of Shakespeare:

What needs my Shakespeare for his honored bones
To labor of an age in piled stones,
Or that his hallowed relics should be hid
Under a star-ypointing pyramid?
Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
What need'st thou such weak witness of thy name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thyself a livelong monument.
For, whilst, to the shame of slow-endeavouring art,
Thy easy numbersflow, and that each heart
Hath from the leaves of thy unvalued book
Those Delphic lines with deep impression took,
Then thou our fancy of itself bereaving,
Dost make us marble with too much conceiving,
And so sepĂșlchred in such pomp dost lie
That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.

A fascinating Elizabethan, EdwardAlleyn (1566–1626) is  commemorated in a modern stained glass window in St. Giles.   The window was made by JohnLawson (1932 – 2009) of Goddard and Gibbs. 

Edward Allyen
Alleyn was an actor who at 17 was performing with a touring company the Earl of Worcester's Men.  By his mid twenties, he was performing with Lord Strange’s men at the Rose theatre.  He then became leader of the Admiral's Men and is best known for his performances in Marlowe’s plays.  In, The World of Christopher Marlowe, David Riggs writes that “ performing the role of Tamburlaine, Edward Alleyn became the first matinee idol in English Drama.”

He became part owner of The Rose theatre, and later built  The Curtain, situated in the parish of St. Giles. By about 1597 had ceased to act on the stage altogether.   Together with his father in law Philip Houslow he pursued these and other investments.
In particular, Alleyn and Henslowe attempted, at first without success, to gain the official post of master of the bears, bulls, and mastiff dogs.  This carried with it a lucrative monopoly in animal baiting.  In 1604 they purchased the patent and between them held the position for many years.  They became proprietors of The Beargarden, a long standing arena on Bankside near the Rose and Globe theatres.   It is said that Alleyn himself took part in the baiting of bears.

The past is indeed another country.  These cruel and disgusting spectacles were popular with the same crowd who first saw Shakespeare’s plays.

From this and other investments, Alleyn accumulated significant wealth.  He purchased Dulwich Manor which included large areas of land in and around Dulwich.  His philanthropy included the foundation of  College of God's Gift at Dulwich,  gifts to the poor in the parish of St. Giles and  bequests to enable the building of  ten almshouses in the parishes of St Saviour's Southwark (now Southwark Cathedral ) and St Botolph without Bishopsgate.

The design of the window incorporates a portrait of Alleyn taken from one by an unknown artist held by the Dulwich Picture Gallery.  Above is the family coat of arms in which I think I can recognise a chevron between three cinquefoils gules.  In his hands we see a representation of the alms houses.  The Fortune theatre is depicted to his right and to his left, the church of St Luke Old Street.  

On its face, this is peculiar as St Luke’s Old Street did not exist in Alleyn’s day.  It was built in 1733 to relieve St. Giles but later fell into disrepair and was deconsecrated.  It has now been redeveloped as a music centre by the London Symphony Orchestra.  The distinctive tower of St. Luke’s was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor. The LSO attributes the whole building to him.   Some of the furnishings of St. Luke’s, including the organ case, were used to replace those destroyed in the bombing of St. Giles.  It seems that almshouses founded by Alleyn and destroyed in the war were administered by the St. Luke’s parish council, and this provides the reason for the appearance of that church in the window.

I wonder, however, how closely the people who commissioned and designed the window looked at the history of St. Luke’s and of The Fortune.   The Fortune was built in 1600 over the objection of the Parish of St. Giles which prevented work on the building proceeding until the Parish was defeated by a warrant issued by the Privy Council at the behest of Alleyn and the patron of his troupe the Earl of Nottingham, the Lord Admiral.  The building and licensing of theatres was a contentious activity at the time not the least because theatres of any kind were opposed by the puritan element.

The machinations of Edward Alleyn would be a fascinating study: his acts of charity in the Parish were not entirely disinterested.  When seeking the warrant of the Privy Council for the construction of The Fortune,”by offering ‘to give a very liberal portion of money weekly’ towards the relief of ‘the poor in the parish of St. Giles,’ he persuaded many of the inhabitants to sign a document addressed to the Privy Council, in which they not only gave their full consent to the erection of the playhouse, but actually urged ‘that the same might proceed.’"

The link between his philanthropy and The Fortune is preserved in the window.

The original Fortune theatre was destroyed by fire in December 1621 and replaced by a new building.     Although no image of the original theatre has been found, detailed building plans survive which have permitted the construction of modern replicas and models.

I was happy to find that one of these is in the grounds of Waseda University Tokyo.   The Tsubuchi Theatre Museum is named for Dr. Shoyo Tsubouchi (1859 –1935)   and was opened in 1928 to mark both his seventieth birthday and the completion of his translation of the complete works of Shakespeare into Japanese.

I always seem to get lost in Waseda.  This time I searched “from ... to “directions from Waseda station and, not having a printer, attempted to memorise the map.  I headed away from the station in what proved to be the wrong direction.  I blame google maps which mischievously inverted the map when plotting the route.  After going too far and finding nothing, I sought help from an elderly couple waiting for customers in one of those shops selling mysterious ironmongery.  The husband kindly came with me back into the street and waving in the direction I had come, told me that I must retrace my steps.  I did, but still having a faint memory of the inverted map it took me some time to reach the theatre museum.
A portrait bust of Dr. Tsubouchi stands outside the museum.  I wish I was more refined, but I still experience surprise when I come across someone who challenges  national stereotypes.  

As well as translating the whole of Shakespeare, Dr Tsubouchi was a Chickamatstu scholar, directed productions of contemporary European drama  including Ibsen, and founded the Literature Department at what is now Waseda University.

Tsubouchi Shouyou (1859 - 1935)

The building itself is a cutaway version of the original with a covered stage but no rear section or galleries.


Inside there are rooms devoted to Shakespeare and the various genres of Japanese theatre as well as film.   I found the most fascinating room to be the Shoyo Memorial Room, where Dr. Tsubouchi worked during his lifetime and which contains memorabilia of his life and work.  He was born in the year of the sheep and there are depictions of sheep on the ceiling.  There is also a collection of model sheep on display: “It is said that he grew very fond of sheep as symbols of ‘bookworms’ who like to read books, linking to sheep the paper eaters”.  Near the sheep is a collection of small busts of Shakespeare and similar items from the souvenir shops 
of Stratford-upon-Avon. 


* to reach the picture gallery from this link click on "heritage" on the top bar, then "archive material" then "we have a page..."  It does not seem possible to link to the pictures directly.

Most of the information about The Fortune (and the quote) comes from: Shakespearean Playhouses A History of English Theatres from the Beginnings to the Restoration by Joseph Quincy Adams an excellent and thorough account of Elizabethan and Jacobean theatres which is available at the Gutenberg project and as a free Kindle book.

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