Tales from St. Paul's Cathedral - Mrs. F. Lord

Stories from the Crypt

Not far from the Nelson monument in the south transept is one to Lord Collingwood. He and Lord Northesk were both of them with Nelson at Trafalgar, and are buried, one on each side of him, in the crypt. About Cuthbert Collingwood (afterwards made Lord Collingwood) I must tell you just a little, because he and Nelson had been great friends for thirty years. Lord Collingwood was in command of the Royal Sovereign, which led the way at the beginning of the battle of Trafalgar, and when Nelson was wounded, he sent an officer, so Collingwood said, "to tell me of it and give his love to me." After Nelson died, Lord Collingwood took the chief command. He himself was struck by a splinter, but not badly wounded, though it was, as he said, "a pretty severe blow." He went on to tell his wife, to whom he was writing, that "I had a great many thumps one way and another—one in the back."

He died five years after the battle of Trafalgar—not during a fight, though on board ship. He was on his way home from Minorca, where he was stationed, and where he was very ill, and died before he reached England. On the 11th of May, 1810, he was buried close by his old friend in St. Paul's Cathedral.

Then there is the monument to Sir Ralph Abercromby, who was killed in the battle of the Nile. There is a story told that after he was wounded he was carried on board the Foudroyant, and hoping to make him more comfortable in the crowded cabin, some one fetched a soldier's blanket, which was rolled up and made into a pillow for him. So great a comfort was it that he asked what it was. "It's only a soldier's blanket," was the reply. "Whose  blanket is it?" he asked, half lifting himself up. "Only one of the men's." "I wish to know," insisted Sir Ralph, "the name of the man whose blanket this is." "It is Duncan Roy's of the 42nd, Sir Ralph," said the man who was looking after him. "Then see that Duncan Roy gets his blanket this very night," he replied; and even in the midst of his terrible pain he thought less of his own comfort than of seeing his order carried out, and the blanket taken back to the man who might need it as much as he did. This story of Sir Ralph Abercromby is very like the story you have all often heard of Sir Philip Sidney giving up the cup of cold water to the dying soldier; and it is specially interesting to remember these two stories of two great soldiers here in St. Paul's. For it was in the old cathedral of St. Paul that Sir Philip Sidney was buried, when his body was brought back from Zutphen, where he was killed; and it was in the new St. Paul's Cathedral that this monument was put up, more than two hundred years afterwards, in memory of this other soldier, as unselfish and as brave as Sir Philip Sidney.

Of the many other monuments in the south transept I have no time to speak, for this little book has already grown to be rather long; but when you go there and walk round, you must not forget to see, on the right-hand side of the south transept door, the monument to Sir John Moore, who was killed more than ninety years ago in the battle of Corunna, in Spain, when the English and French were at war there.

Perhaps some of you may have learnt a little poem, written by Charles Wolfe, beginning—

"Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note—"

and which describes the way in which Sir John Moore was buried, close to the field of battle, almost before the cannons had ceased to roar, and how there was no time to put any stone or mark to show where his grave was.

"We carved not a line, we raised not a stone

But we left him alone with his glory,"

are the last words of the last verse, but although there was no remembrance of him on the spot where he died, he is, as you see, not forgotten in St. Paul's Cathedral.

On the left-hand side of this same door stands the statue of Joseph Mallord Turner, who has been called the greatest English painter, and who is buried in the crypt side by side with Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Edwin Landseer, and many other great painters, who all lie together in what is called Painters' Corner. Many of the pictures painted by Turner are in the National Gallery, and when you see them there—as you will be sure to do some day—you will remember having seen his monument and his grave in this great cathedral.

And now we have at last come to the end of these tales from St. Paul's. As we walk about a great cathedral such as this or Westminster Abbey, we are everywhere reminded of those men and women who gave all their strength and their time and their talents to make and keep their country what England still is—the first country in the world. And when we look at all these monuments and tombs, and think of the great deeds done by the men who are remembered here—the great battles fought and dangers braved by the soldiers and sailors, the great pictures painted and books written by the artists and authors, and the great work done by such men as John Howard—we feel proud to know that the men who did these things were Englishmen and our fellow-countrymen.

We cannot all be great soldiers or sailors, or artists or statesmen, but something of what these men were every English person—man, woman, or child—may be. We may all be, as were these men who will not be forgotten as long as St. Paul's Cathedral stands, loyal and true and brave—loyal to our Queen and country; true as the great Duke of Wellington, of whom it was said, "Truth-lover was our English Duke;" and brave in dangers and troubles and difficulties, as were the great men whose stories I have been just telling to you.