Inner Temple is one of London's loveliest locations. It is a secret enclave that is so, so special.
Well, let's ask the essayist Charles Lamb (1775 - 1834) for his opinion:-
"I was born, and passed the first seven years of my life, in the Temple. Its church, its halls, its gardens, its fountain, its river...it is the most elegant spot in the metropolis. What a transition for a countryman visiting London for the first time -- the passing from the crowded Strand or Fleet-street, by unexpected avenues, into its magnificent ample squares, its classic green recesses...a man would give something to have been born in such places."
Lamb was born at 2 Crown Office Row, one of the Temple buildings that was destroyed in the Second World War, after which a new Crown Office Row was built on the site. This building is, more or less, opposite the entrance to Inner Temple Garden, a truly delightful spot, and one that is open to the public Mondays to Fridays from 12.30pm to 3pm.
If you've never visited this lovely garden, why not? You really are missing out.
If you enter the garden and just keep walking in a straight line towards the Victoria Embankment, the main road that you can see in the distance, you will come to a fountain, next to which is a statue of a naked boy.
The statue dates from 1928, and it was the work of Margaret Wrightson (1877 to 1976), a sculptress who, in the 1920s at least, worked mostly on War Memorials.
However, in this case she created a whimsical effigy that has an almost Peter Pan-ish air about it.
The boy stares across the garden, looking towards the buildings of Inner Temple. He seems absorbed in thought as he gazes intently at some distant object; or perhaps he is pondering a future in which he will ascend to the highest ranks of the law and be able to afford some clothes?
His right hand rests against his hip, whilst an open book, held nonchalantly in his left hand, has been strategically placed in such a way so as to preserve his decency.
Take a close look at the book, and you will see an inscription scrawled onto one of its pages. It reads, "Lawyers I Suppose Were Children Once...", and it is taken from an essay entitled "The Old Benchers Of Inner Temple", written by Charles Lamb under the pseudonym of "Elia".
It was one of a series of "Essays Of Elia", which appeared in The London Magazine between 1820 and 1825, and from which the description of the Inner Temple at the beginning of this article is taken.
I have a very vague memory of once reading that the statue was paid for by an Inner Temple barrister, on the strict understanding that his favourite quote be included on the finished article, but I can find no source for that delightful snippet, so it might just be a childhood memory.
Speaking of childhood memories. Those of us of a certain age might well be familiar with Charles and his sister, Mary Lamb, from their "Tales Of Shakespeare", originally published in 1811, for which they cut out all the profanities and unsuitable bits from the Bard's plays so that they could be read by children, or read to children by their adoring parents.
For many, that book was an introduction to the works of Shakespeare, myself included. Indeed, my mother bought me a copy for my eighth birthday, and that tome still sits proudly on my bookshelf ** years later.
The Inner Temple Garden is one of London's "must do's" - albeit, it is probably best kept for a warm summer day when you can wander at leisure as you enjoy the profusion of the plants, grass and flowers that assail the eye and the nose.
And, as you stroll around, keep a keen eye peeled for any passing lawyer, or gaggle of lawyers, that you might encounter - and there is a good chance you will encounter a few - give her or him or them a solemn look and earnestly observe as they pass, "I suppose you were a child once."