excerpt from 'Letter from John Newbolt, Esq. to Lady Harriot Strangways, 20 December 1797' pp. 95–98 (588 words)

excerpt from 'Letter from John Newbolt, Esq. to Lady Harriot Strangways, 20 December 1797' pp. 95–98 (588 words)

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Letter from John Newbolt, Esq. to Lady Harriot Strangways, 20 December 1797

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My dear Lady Harriot,—Though my account of the procession will come what you call a day after the fair, yet as I promised I should give a little account of our own, you shall have it upon the maxim of ‘better late than never,’ for I was so thoroughly jaded yesterday upon my return, it was out of my power to do any one thing; and I feel it so much to-day I am not much better, but I can with truth assure you that it was in my opinion one of the finest spectacles ever seen in this country.* The day was beautiful, and from the doors of St. Paul’s to the House of Lords the streets and houses were so completely filled that the only manner of computing the numbers present on the occasion would be to calculate how many men could stand in the streets, and how many people the houses—taking in the tops—could contain. 


The streets the whole way were lined with soldiers of different regiments of Guards till you got to Temple Bar, and within the City were guarded by the different Volunteer Companies; and the different dresses, manners, &c., of these various corps I assure you afforded a very complete military spectacle, and tended to enliven the scene very much, particularly from their having divided their bands so as to have music at an interval of every five minutes in the procession, who played all sorts of loyal and military tunes. 


The inside of St. Paul’s presented so magnificent a coup-d’œil that upon my entrance—to compare small things with great—I was affected in the same manner as Lord Somerville described himself to have been affected when he first saw his famous Lincolnshire bull, that is, I could scarce draw my breath from admiration and surprise. 

We entered at the west door, and commanded the whole length of the aisle, which was at that time so completely filled we could scarcely make our way along; the sides were lined with detachments from several regiments of Guards, and between their line we saw the procession of the Peers in their fine robes, judges in their great wigs, and in short all the magistracy of the realm. In the centre of the dome there was a circular scaffolding above completely filled with well-dressed ladies, and below were the sailors with Admiral Duncan and his officers holding the colours taken at the three great victories. 

The moment the King’s carriage arrived at the west door the commanding officer ordered the troops in the church to rest arms, and instantly three or four bands of martial music struck up ‘God save the King.’ 

The effect produced by this I shall remember the longest day I have to live. 

The applauses and huzzas of the ill-dressed mob without and well-dressed mob within, mixed with the sound of the ‘spirit-stirring drum and ear-piercing fife,’ and the greatness of the space in which this scene was passing, was in character with the magnificence of the whole thing. 


* [Editor's fn]: The 19th of December, 1797, was appointed for a General Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s for the three great naval victories by her (sic) Majesty’s fleets under the command of Lords Howe, St. Vincent, and Duncan. A grand procession of the Royal Family and the two Houses of Parliament took place.

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excerpt from 'Letter from John Newbolt, Esq. to Lady Harriot Strangways, 20 December 1797' pp. 95–98 (588 words)


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