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Among the “Familiar Letters” of James Howell is a stately epistle addressed “To Sir Paul Pindar, Knight,” who is informed to his face that of all the men of his times he is “one of the greatest examples of piety and constant integrity,” and is assured that his correspondent could see his namesake among the apostles saluting and solacing him, and ensuring that his works of charity would be as a “triumphant chariot” to carry him one day to heaven. But Sir Paul Pindar was more than benevolent; he was a master in business affairs and no mean diplomatist.
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His commercial aptitude he put to profitable use during a fifteen years’ residence in Italy; his skill as a negotiator was tested and proved by nine years’ service in Constantinople as the ambassador of James I to Turkey.
At the date of his final return to England, 1623, the merchant and diplomat was an exceedingly wealthy man, well able to meet the expense of that fine mansion in Bishopsgate Street Without which perpetuated his name down to our own day. In its original state Sir Paul Pindar’s house, both within and without, was equal in splendour and extent to any mansion in London.
And, as may be imagined, its owner was a person of importance in city and court life. One of his possessions was a great diamond worth thirty-five thousand pounds, which James I used to borrow for state occasions. The son of that monarch purchased this jewel in 1625 for about half its value and successfully deferred payment for even that reduced sum! Sir Paul, indeed, appears to have been a complacent lender of his wealth to royalty and the nobility, so that it is not surprising many “desperate debts” were owing him on his death.
A century and a quarter after that event, that is in 1787, the splendid mansion of the wealthy merchant and diplomat had become a tavern under the names of its builder, and continued in that capacity until 1890, when railway extension made its demolition necessary. But the beautifully carved front is still preserved in the South Kensington Museum.
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