The Oliver Goldsmith Window, designed by John Lisle for C. E. Kempe & Co., seventh window in the north nave aisle in Southwark Cathedral, 1910. Below a roundel portrait of Oliver Goldsmith is a nativity scene, to go with the lines from "The Deserted Village" which appear in its right-hand corner: "O luxury! thou curst by Heaven's decree / How ill exchanged are things like these for thee!" As in the other windows in this series, the author celebrated here had a connection with Southwark. Goldsmith, indeed he lived in Southwark and for a while practised "medicine among the poor" there (Monroe 60).

The lower part of the window.

Goldsmith was Irish, hence the appearance of St Patrick, holding three shamrocks, and assailed by or treading on three fearsome snakes, in the lower part of the window: St Patrick was reputed to have driven snakes from Ireland after having been attacked once. The inscription reads, "To the Glory of God, in honour of Oliver Goldsmith, author of 'The Deserted Village' and other works in prose and poetry, and in memory of William Thompson DD, last Chaplain and first Rector of S. Saviour's Parish, and Canon and Chancellor of this Cathedral Church many parishioners and friends dedicated this window AD 1910.

Adrian Barlow finds the use of the Nativity scene here "unexpected" (90), and compares it unfavourably with earlier ones executed during Charles Eamer Kempe's lifetime. In particular he complains about the rudimentary nature of the stable, the absence of the shepherds, the appearance of two bystanders, the distinctly sturdy (not ruined) arch through which they are looking, and the sentimentalised chubby-cheeked angels (see p. 90). It is good to be aware of changes in the style and even standards of the firm which was set up after Kempe's death, but some of these criticisms are a little hard. The scene nicely illustrates the nostalgic longing for simple rural life in "The Deserted Village," and the choice of bystanders, rather than shepherds, suggests the inclusion of the "bold peasantry" that, Goldsmith fears, is being swept away by industry.

Photographs by Colin Price, text and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use the images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit Colin Price and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Related Material


Barlow, Adrian. Espying Heaven: The Stained Glass of Charles Eamer Kempe and His Artists. Cambridge: Lutterworth, 2019. [Review]

Eberhard, Robert. "Stained Glass Windows at the Cathedral, Southwark, Inner London." Church Stained Glass Windows. Web. 23 February 2019.

Monroe, Horace. The Story of Southwark Cathedral. London: Raphael Tuck, 1933.

Created 23 February 2019