REVD. SIR Having seen in the Standard of yesterday a notice of a gathering to dinner of Old Canterbury King’s Scholars, I fancy it may interest you to receive a letter from (perhaps) the oldest now existing. Before the Battle of Waterloo I was already fourth of the then four monitors, and then took leave of the officers of the 15th Hussars (of which regiment my father was one), who were killed in that great battle. One Sunday evening I saw General Sir Thomas Picton at dinner in the Fountain Inn, and on that Sunday fortnight I saw his coffin on the same dining-table.
The then head master, Naylor (80 years of age, as I am now), had been tutor to the Prime Minister Perceval, who was shot in the House of Commons. I was also under Dr. Birt, his successor, who, though a good and much loved man, had the bad taste to abolish the royal purple M.A. gown of the King’s Scholars, in favour of the hideous, heavy, black cloth Westminster gown, and comfortless knee-breeches!
The then Dean Andrews, a friend of my parents and grand-parents, was the most popular preacher of the Chapter. I well remember his frowning at me, in my place in the choir, when disfigured with black eyes, &c., after a battle of fifty minutes (in the Follens) with a lad named Southey, whom I beat, because although stronger and heavier than me, his nose bled profusely after the first round all the time. The then second master was good old Francis, whose son-in-law Broughton (afterward Bishop of Sydney, Australia) often heard me my lessons.
One of my senior schoolfellows and bed-room partner was afterwards the Rev. Charles Plater, the originator of Marlborough College; and one senior to him was the late Rev. George Gilbert, Master of Grantham Grammar School. I still possess two prize books given by Dean Andrews, for my Greek – namely, Locke on the Understanding, and Milton’s works. I also got great credit for reciting Shakespeare’s version of Mark Antony’s oration over Caesar’s dead body, before a crowd of school visitors, after repeated practice in the cloisters in company with my dear friend John Harvey, who, when at Wadham College, Oxford, was drowned while boating. His elder brother Richard has been during many years rector of Hornsey, near London.
Sad, as well as sweet, is memory! I know not if the modern “boys” are allowed to risk their lives, as I did then, by running round the narrow ledging midway up the Cathedral choir, and then getting up the bell-frames in the belfry, when a sudden commencing of the chimes kept me there at see-saw till the chiming stopped, meditating over the depth and darkness below. I remember the Rev. Hugh Percy being inducted as Junior Prebend; he was son-in-law to Archbishop Sutton, and brother to the officer who brought Napoleon’s eagles to England, and he was afterwards Bishop of Carlisle. Alas! All of that generation have passed away, and “sic” most truly, “transit gloria mundi.”
Pray forgive me – a garrulous old man and his memories, which may, perchance, amuse-and allow me to subscribe myself a well-wisher to the old School and to yourself.
William Henry Henslowe (1802-90) was the son of an officer in the 15th Hussars. He joined King’s in 1814. He then went to Jesus College, Cambridge and was ordained. He held several curacies before becoming Perpetual Curate of Wormegay from 1840 to 1886. These reminiscences, in a letter to the Headmaster, were published in the first issue of The Cantuarian in November 1882.