Royal Armouries

Samuel Richardson describes a young woman’s first visit to the Tower of London

Images

watercolour detail showing the figure of a king in armour on a horse

Figure of William the Conqueror, detail from a watercolour of the Line of Kings. Early 19th century (I.69 )

  • watercolour detail showing the figure of a king in armour on a horse

    Figure of William the Conqueror, detail from a watercolour of the Line of Kings. Early 19th century (I.69 )

  • watercolour of a line of armoured figures on horseback

    Horse Armoury, Tower of London by Rowlandson and Pugin, 1809

  • monochrome pencil and ink sketch of a line of armoured figures on horseback

    The Horse Armoury, by an unknown artist, early 19th century

  • Grand Storehouse

    Engraving entitled 'The Royal Armoury in the Tower of London' showing visitors to the Grand Storehouse. British, dated 1822

Samuel Richardson describes a young woman’s first visit to the Tower of London

Description

Samuel Richardson (1689-1761) was a writer, publisher and printer best remembered as the author of the novels Pamela (1740) and Clarissa (1748). However, his first novel was inspired by his involvement in 1739 in the production of a help-book which contained examples of well-composed and morally sound letters. While inventing letters to fit a variety of circumstances for inclusion in a book proposed by the booksellers John Osborn and Charles Rivington, Richardson created the character Pamela Andrews.

He wrote what has been termed the first novel, Pamela, in the form of the young woman’s letters to her parents. Having quickly finished and published his novel, Richardson returned to the letter book which he completed and published in 1741 under the title Letters written to and for particular Friends, on the most important Occasions. Directing not only the requisite Style and Forms to be observed in writing Familiar Letters; but how to think and act justly and prudently, in the common Concerns of Human Life.

In one of these letters a young woman who has recently arrived in London describes how some of her relatives have taken her to see the attractions at the Tower of London. Like many other sources, Richardson implies that the Tower is one of the first sites that a visitor to London ought to see. The letter also makes an interesting contrast to some other accounts in that this writer is more impressed by the elaborate displays of weapons in the Grand Storehouse than by the Line of Kings in the Horse Armoury. Like many real-life visitors, Richardson’s fictitious young lady is impressed by the sights at the Tower and rates it better than anything else she has yet seen in the City.

Letter CXLIX From a young Lady in Town to her aunt in the Country:

‘To begin then, my Aunt and Cousins carried me, in the first Place, to see the Tower of London, which we have heard so much Talk of in the Country; and which no one that visits this great Town, omits seeing… The Horse-Armoury is a fine sight; for here they shew fifteen of our English Monarchs on Horseback, all in rich Armour, attended with Guard: But I think this Sight not comparable to the small Armoury; for here Pikes, Muskets, Swords, Halberds, and Pistols, (now, as they told us, for threescore thousand Men), are all placed in such beautiful Order, and such various Figures, representing the Sun, Star and Garter, Half-moons, and such-like, that I was greatly delighted with the Sight, all the Arms being bring and shining.
We saw the Train of Artillery, in what they call the grand Storehouse; filled with Cannon and Mortars, all very fine, a Diving-bell, and other Curiosities; and I thought, upon the Whole, that this great Magazine of Curiosities and Stores was the most worthy of the Notice of a Stranger to London, of anything I had been shewn’.

Related Objects

‘Jacky Curious’ explores the Tower Armouries Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dr William King’s ‘Monsieur Sorbeir’ prefers the Menagerie to the Tower Armouries, 1698 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Ned Ward’s Humorous Account of the Tower as a Visitor Attraction Click on the title link above to find out more.

Laurence Sterne: the Horse Armoury and Tristram Shandy Click on the title link above to find out more.

Jonathan Swift on a visit to the Tower, Bedlam and a Puppet Show Click on the title link above to find out more.

Themes Menu

Line of Kings