The most favourable point of view for an artist who is desirous of obtaining a
general view of Dover, is certainly that portion of the Ramsgate Road of which Mr.
Bartlett has availed himself on the present occasion. Placed at a sufficient elevation
to enable him to embrace a wide extent of land and water, he is still sufficiently near
the town to secure that distinctness of detail which adds so much to the effect of a
landscape. One of the chief points of attraction in Dover must always be the Castle, but
as we shall have another opportunity of referring to that structure, in connection with our
view of Dover from the Beach, we purpose now to devote our attention to the town itself.
At the period of the Conquest, Dover was unquestionably a place of considerable
note. It is mentioned, with Sandwich and Romney, in the Domesday-book, as a
privileged port; and is said to have enjoyed, from an earlier period, sundry privileges
and immunities in common with those two towns, on consideration of supplying a
certain number of ships and mariners for the defense of the adjacent coast. In the
reign of King John, Dover received a charter as one of the Cinque Ports; and in several
succeeding reigns, its shipping and mariners were frequently employed in the fleets
assembled to convey English armies to France. As it was considered the key of
England, it was surrounded with walls and strongly fortified; and as it was the principal
port in the kingdom for persons taking shipping in proceeding to France, acts were
passed in the reign of Edward III. and Richard II., appointing the rate of passage. Henry
VIII. expended large sums in the improvement of the harbour, the entrance of which
had been much choked up by shingle washed in by the sea. A pier was commenced,
and carried on at a great expense, but he died before it was completed; and in the
reign of his successor, the work appears to have been almost wholly suspended. In the
reign of Elizabeth, further attempts were made to improve the harbour; and in 1606 an
act was passed appointing eleven commissioners, who were empowered to receive
certain rates, and employ the money in repairing the pier and improving the harbour.
In succeeding times various plans have been tried to prevent the increase of the bar,
which, after a gale of wind from the seaward, is sometimes increased so much, as to
prevent all vessels, except those that are of very light draught of water, from entering
or leaving the port. It is high water at Dover pier at sixteen minutes past eleven on the
full and change of the moon; and the rise of the water at spring-tides is about twenty
feet. Dover is much frequented in summer as a watering-place; and for the convenience
which it affords, and the beautiful and interesting scenery in its neighbourhood, it is
surpassed by no other town on the coast.
At a short distance from the entrance to Dover Castle is mounted the long brass
gun, usually called Queen Elizabeth’s pocket-pistol, which was presented to her Majesty
by the United Provinces. It is twenty-four feet long; but is so much “honey-combed,”
that, were it fired, it would De certain to burst. Popular tradition says that it contains an
inscription to this effect: —
“Sponge me well, and keep me clean,
And I’ll throw a ball to Calais green.”
There is, indeed, an inscription on it in the Dutch language, but though it
commemorates the destructive power of this long piece of ordnance, it says nothing
which implies that its range was so extraordinary. The distance from Dover Castle the
church of Notre- Dame, at Calais, is rather more than twenty-six miles This gun was
cast at Utrecht in 1544, by James Tolkys, and the verses inscribed on its breech have
been translated as follows: —
“O’er hill and dale I throw my ball;
Breaker, my name, of mound and wall.”
About a mile to the southward of the town is the celebrated cliff which is
supposed to have been described by Shakespeare in King Lear.
“Gloster. — Dost thou know Dover!
Edgrr. — Ay, master.
Gloster. — There is a cliff, whose high and bending head
Looks fearfully in the confined deep:
Bring me to the very brim of it.
• • • • • •
Edgar. — Come on, sir; here’s the place: — stand
Still. — How fearful
And dizzy ’tis, to cast one’s eye so low!
The crows, and choughs, that wings the midway air.
Show scarce so gross as beetles: halfway down
Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade I
Methinks he seems no bigger than his head:
The fishermen that walk upon the beach
Appear like mice; and yon tall anchoring bark,
Diminished to her cock; her cock, a buoy
Almost too small for sight: the murmuring surge.
That on the unnumber’d idle pebbles chafes.
Cannot be heard so high. I’ll look no more,
Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong.”