The Project Gutenberg EBook of Old St. Paul's Cathedral, by William Benham
Title: Old St. Paul's Cathedral
Author: William Benham
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Lesley Halamek and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
Wenceslaus Hollar—to whose engravings of Old St. Paul's we are indebted for our exceptional knowledge of the aspect of a building that has perished—was born in Prague in 1607, and was brought to England by the Earl of Arundel, who had seen some of his work at Cologne. He soon obtained profitable employment, producing engravings both of figures and views in rapid succession, and about 1639 he was appointed drawing-master to the Prince of Wales, afterwards Charles II. On the outbreak of the Civil War he served as a soldier in the Royalist ranks, and was taken prisoner at Basing House, but escaped to Antwerp. Obtaining very poor employment there, he returned to England in 1652, and was engaged upon the plates for Dugdale's
History of St. Paul's
and other works, for which, however, he is said by Vertue to have received very small pay, about fourpence an hour, "at his usual method by the hour-glass."
Some years later the Plague and the Fire again threw him out of employment, and he seems to have sunk deeper and deeper into poverty, dying in 1677, with an execution in his house, "of which he was sensible enough to desire only to die in his bed, and not to be removed till he was buried." He lies in the churchyard of St. Margaret's, Westminster, but there is no stone to his memory.
In the course of his industrious life he is said to have produced more than 2000 engravings and etchings. "He worked," says Redgrave, "with extraordinary minuteness of finish, yet with an almost playful freedom." His engravings of Old St. Paul's, though not entirely accurate, undoubtedly give a true general view of the Cathedral as it was in its last years, after the alterations and additions by Inigo Jones, and nearly a century after the fall of the spire.