London in the Time of the Stuarts

By Walter Besant | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
SANCTUARY

THERE is a somewhat dreary allegory of a voyage called "The Floating Island, or a New Discovery relating the. Strange Adventure on a late Voyage from Lambethana to Villa Franca, alias Ramallia, to the eastward of Terra del Templo."

It was published in the year 1673, and it contains an account of certain parts of London which give it some interest. The humour of the piece is that places described are mentioned as new discoveries lying at the distance of many days' voyage from one to the other. Thus, to take a single example, the following is the description of the Savoy. The sanctuary of this quarter is, of course, Alsatia:--

"The Palace is a very stately Fabrick, and hath been formerly employed for charitable uses, and still serves as an excellent Refuge and Sanctuary for such who are either forced by banishment, or voluntary Exile, to desert their native or long lov'd habitations, where they may live obscurely, and yet take their pleasure abroad in the Countries round about, by the means of those several convenient Avenues belonging thereunto, viz. for sporting on a brave River, the Stairs; for the Land, the Great Gate butting Norwards and separated but by a very small channel from Excestria. To the eastward there is an outlet which leadeth two ways, the one on the left into the Dutchy, the other turning a little on the right, into Somersetania; by the first you have a conveyance into the Country called Maypoli, and so have the whole Country before you to make choice of by the last a safe passage by water, or a conduct short and commodious through the Provinces of White-Hart into Hortensia (vulgarly called Covent Garden), from whence you may travail through the whole kingdom.

The Slavonian women supplied us with Fish and fruits of all sort, which they bring down in abundance from the Upland Countries; insomuch that we could not fear want of Provision so long as we had Money; nor question our security, whilst we did put ourselves under the Protection of this place or of the Dutchy Liberty."

The sanctuary was for debtors, but not for felons or traitors, and bailiffs occasionally effected an entrance by pretending to have a warrant for the arrest of the latter. But on the cry of "Arrest, Arrest," the whole of the residents flew to arms and drove out the offenders, perhaps with the loss of their ears. There were punishments inflicted on those who invaded the rights of sanctuary.

Not far from the Savoy the adventurous voyagers discover a floating island, called the Summer Island, or Scoti Moria, viz. "There were two Ports or landing Places, one guarded by 'Knights of the Blue Aprons,'" i.e. waiters, who wore aprons of that colour; and the other by a woman with a white apron. They landed; they

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