Born: Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, minister to Elizabeth and James I, 1560; Nicolas Poussin, painter, 1594, Andely, in Normandy; Secretary John Thurloc, 1616, Abbots Riding, Essex; Sir John Dugdale, antiquary, 1628, Shustoke; John Tweddell (Eastern travels), 1769, Threepwood, near Hexham.
Died: Henry Dandolo, doge of Venice, 1205, buried in St. Sophia, Constantinople; Jerome of Prague, religious reformer, burnt at Constance, 1416; Christopher Marlowe, dramatist, 1593; James Gillray, caricaturist, 1815, London; Sir David Wilkie, artist, died at sea off Gibraltar 1841; Pope Gregory XVI, 1846.
Feast Day: St. Justin, the philosopher, 167; St. Pamphilius, priest and martyr, 309; St. Caprias, abbot, 430; St. Wistan, Prince of Mercia, martyr, 849; St. Peter of Pisa, founder of the Hermits of St. Jerome, 1435.
In the churchyard of St. James, Piccadilly, there is a flat stone, bearing the following inscription:
IN MEMORY OF Mr. JAMES GILLRAY, CARICATURIST, WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE 1ST JUNE, 1815, AGED 58 YEARS
Gillray was the son of a native of Lanarkshire, a soldier in the British army, who lost an arm at the fatal field of Fontenoy.
Like Hogarth, Gillray commenced his career as a mere letter engraver; but, tiring of this monotonous occupation, he ran away, and joined a company of wandering comedians. After experiencing the well-known hardships of a stroller's life, he returned to London, and became a student of the Royal Academy and an engraver. Admirably as many of his engravings, particularly landscapes, are executed, it is as a caricaturist that he is best known. In this peculiar art he never had even a rival, so much have his works surpassed those of all other practitioners. The happy tact with which he seized upon the points in manners and politics most open to ridicule, was equalled only by the exquisite skill and spirit with which he satirically portrayed them. By continual practice he became so facile, that he used to etch his ideas at once upon the copper, without making a preliminary drawing, his only guides being sketches of the characters he intended to intro-duce made upon small pieces of card, which he always carried in his pocket, ready to catch a face or form that might be serviceable.
The history of George III may be said to have been inscribed by the graver of Gillray, and sure never monarch had such an historian. The unroyal familiarity of manner; awkward, shuffling gait, undignified carriage, and fatuous countenance; the habit of entering into conversation with persons of low rank; the volubility with which he poured out his pointless questions, without waiting for any other answer than his own 'hay? hay? hay? 'his love of money, his homely savings; have all been trebly emphasized by the great caricaturist of his reign; and not less ably because the pencil of the public satirist was pointed by private pique. Gillray had accompanied Loutherbourg into France, to assist him in making sketches for his grand picture of the siege of 'Valenciennes. On their return, the king, who made pretensions to be a patron of art, desired to look over their sketches, and expressed great admiration of Loutherbourg's, which were plain landscape drawings, sufficiently finished to be intelligible. But when he saw Gillray's rude, though spirited sketches of French soldiers, he threw them aside with contempt, saying, 'I don't understand caricatures,' an action and observation that the caricaturist never forgot or forgave.
Gillray's character affords a sad example of the reckless imprudence that too frequently accompanies talent and genius. For many years he resided in the house of his publisher, Mrs. Humphrey, by whom he was most liberally supplied with every indulgence; during this time he produced nearly all his most celebrated works, which were bought up with unparalleled eagerness, and circulated not only over all England, but most parts of Europe. Though under a positive engagement not to work for any other publisher, yet so great was his insatiable desire for strong liquors, that he often etched plates for unscrupulous persons, cleverly disguising his style and handling. The last of his works is dated 1811. In that year he sank into a state in which imbecility was only enlivened by delirium, and which continued till his death.
The accompanying illustration, not a bad specimen of Gillray's style, is taken from a popular caricature on the peace concluded between Great Britain and France in 1802, entitled The First Kiss these Ten Years; or, the Meeting of Britannia and Citizen Francois. Britannia appears as a portly lady in full dress, her shield and spear leaning neglected against the wall. The Frenchman expresses his delight at the meeting in warm terms, saying, 'Madame, permittez me to pay my profound esteem to your engaging person; and to seal on your divine lips my everlasting attachment.' The lady, who is blushing deeply, replies-'Monsieur, you are truly a well-bred gentleman! And though you make me blush, yet you kiss so delicately that I cannot refuse you, though I were sure you would deceive me again.' On the wall, just behind these two principal figures, are framed portraits of George the Third and Bonaparte fiercely scowling at each other. This caricature became as popular in France as it was in England. Immense quantities of impressions were sent to, and sold on the Continent, and even the great Napoleon himself expressed the high amusement he derived from it.
THE 'GLORIOUS FIRST OF JUNE'
We should need to bring back the horrors of the first French Revolution to enable us to understand the wild delight with which Lord Howe's victory, in 1794, was regarded in England. A king, a queen, and a princess guillotined in France, a reign of terror prevailing in that country, and a war threatening half the monarchs in Europe, had impressed the English with an intense desire to thwart the republicans. Our army was badly organized and badly generalled in those days; but the navy was in all its glory. In April 1794, Lord Howe, as Admiral-in-chief of the Channel fleet, went out to look after the French fleet at Brest, and a great French convoy known to he expected from America and the West Indies. He had with him twenty-six sail of the line, and five frigates. For some weeks the fleet was in the Atlantic, baffled by foggy weather in the attempt to discover the enemy; but towards the close of May the two fleets sighted each other, and a great naval battle became imminent. The French admirals had often before avoided when possible a close contest with the English; but on this occasion Admiral Villaret Joyeuse, knowing that a convoy of enormous value was at stake, determined to meet his formidable opponent. The two fleets were about equal in the number of ships; but the French had the advantage in number of gulls, weight of metal, and number of men. On the 1st of June, Howe achieved a great victory over Villaret Joyeuse, the details of which are given in all the histories of the period.
The English valued this victory quite as much for the moral effect it wrought in Europe generally, as for the immediate material injury it inflicted on the French. They had long been anxious concerning Lord Howe's movements; and when they learned that he had really captured or destroyed a large part of the French fleet, the joy was great. In those days it took a considerable time to bring any news from the Bay of Biscay to London; insomuch that it was not till the 10th that the admiral's despatches reached the Government. On the evening of that day the Earl of Chatham made known the news at the opera; and the audience, roused with excitement, called loudly for 'God save the king' and 'Rule Britannia,' which was sung by Morichelli, Morelli, and Rovedicco, opera stars of that period. Signora Banti, a greater star than the rest, being seen in one of the boxes, was compelled to go down to the stage, and join her voice to the rest in a second performance of these songs. The Duke of Clarence went and told the news to the manager of Covent Garden Theatre; Lord Mulgrave and Colonel Phipps did the same at Drury Lane Theatre; Mr. Suett and Mr. Incledon made the announcement on the stage to the audiences of the two theatres; and then ensued the most lively expressions of delight.
Of course there was much ringing of bells and firing of guns to celebrate the victory; and, in accordance with English custom, there was some breaking of windows during the illumination saturnalia in the evenings. The conduct of Earl Stanhope on this occasion was marked by some of the eccentricity which belonged to his character. He was among those statesmen (and they were not a few) who deprecated any interference with the internal affairs of France; and who, though not approving of regicide and the reign of terror, still saw something to admire in the new-born but misused liberty of that country. The earl, in spite of his own rank, had concurred with the French in regarding an 'ristocrat' as necessarily an enemy to the well-being of the people. On the 13th, he inserted the following singular advertisement in the newspapers- 'Whereas a mixed band of ruffians attacked my house in Mansfield Street, in the dead of the night between the 11th and 12th of June instant, and set it on fire at different times: and whereas a gentleman's carriage passed several times to and fro in front of my house, and the aristocrat, or other person, who was in the said carriage, gave money to the people in the street to encourage them: this is to request the friends of liberty and good order to send me any authentic information they can procure respecting the name and place of abode of the said aristocrat, or other person, who was in the carriage above-mentioned, in order that he may be made amenable to the law.' The words 'aristocrat' and 'liberty' were then more terrible than they are now.
ST. PATRICK'S PURGATORY
Three legendary stories excited the minds of the people in the middle ages-that of the Wandering Jew, that of Prester John, and that of St. Patrick's Purgatory. The two former were insignificant in comparison with the last. It was about the middle of the twelfth century that a Benedictine monk, named Henry of Saltrey, established the wondrous and widespread reputation of an insignificant islet in a dreary lake, among the barren morasses and mountains of Donegal, by giving to the world the Legend of the Knight. This legend, extravagant in our eyes, but in perfect accordance with the ideas of that age, was a sort of composition out of various previous notions, including one which held that the land of departed souls lay in the west.
It represented its hero, Sir Owen, as an Irishman, who with courage and fidelity had served in the wars of King Stephen of England. Returning to Ireland to see his parents, he was seized with sudden remorse for his many sins; for he had lived a life of bloodshed and rapine, and had not scrupled to plunder churches, maltreat nuns, and apply the most sacred things to his own profane use and benefit. In this penitent mood he determined to visit St. Patrick's Purgatory, with the view of washing away the guilt of so many misdemeanours.
Respecting the origin of the Purgatory, the legend states that when St. Patrick was endeavouring to convert the Irish by telling them of the torments of the infernal regions, the people cried, 'We cannot believe such things, unless we see them.' So, the saint, miraculously causing the earth to open, showed them the flaming entrance of the place of punishment; and the unbelieving heathens were at once converted to the true faith. St. Patrick, then placed a gate on the cave, and building an abbey near it, entrusted the key to the prior, so that he had the privilege of admitting pilgrims. The penitent who wished to enter had to pass a probation of fifteen days in prayer and fasting; and, on the sixteenth, having received the sacrament, he was led in solemn procession to the gate. Having entered, the gate was locked by the prior, and not opened till the following day. If the pilgrim were found when the gate was re-opened, he was received with great joy; if not, he was understood to have perished in the Purgatory, and his name was never after mentioned.
The knight, having duly performed the preliminary ceremonies, entered the cave, and travelled till he came to a spacious hall, where he was kindly received by fifteen venerable men, clothed in white garments, who gave him directions for his future guidance. Leaving the old men, and travelling onwards, he was soon attacked by troops of demons, whom he successfully resisted by earnest prayer. Still pushing on, he passed through four 'fields' of punishment, by fire, ice, serpents, Ste., that need not be too particularly described. He ascended a lofty mountain, from whence he was blown by a hurricane into a horribly filthy river; and, after many adventures, surrounded by millions of demons, and wretched souls in dreadful tortures, he succeeded in crossing a narrow bridge, and found his troubles over, the malignant demons not daring to follow him farther. Pursuing his journey, he soon arrived at a wall as bright as glass, and entering a golden gate, found himself in the garden of Eden among those happy souls who had expiated their sins, and were now waiting to be received into the celestial Paradise. Here, Owen wished to remain, but was told that he must again return to the world, there to die and leave his corporeal fabric. As he was forever exempt from the punishment of Purgatory, he was shown a short and pleasant road back to the mouth of the cave; where he was received with great joy by the prior and monks of the abbey.
The legend, in its original Latin prose, soon spread over all Europe, and was repeated by Matthew Paris as a historical and geographical fact. It was also rendered into several metrical versions in the vulgar tongues. It was introduced into an Italian romance of chivalry, Don Quixote's favourite work, entitled Guerrino it Meschino; and later still it was dramatised by Calderon, the celebrated Spanish poet. It was introduced even into a Dutch romance, founded on the story of Fortunatus, and in the forms of a chap-book and broadside, is current in Spain and Italy at the present day.
The earliest authentic record of a visit to Lough Derg is in the form of letters testimonial, granted, in 1358, by Edward III to Ungarus of Rimini and Nicholas of Beccaria, in proof of their having faithfully performed the pilgrimage to St. Patrick's Purgatory. There are some documents of a similar description in the archiepiscopal archives of Armagh; and in 1397 Richard II granted a safe conduct pass to Raymond, Viscount Perilhos, and Knight of Rhodes, to visit the Purgatory with a retinue of twenty men and thirty horses. Raymond wrote an account of his pilgrimage, which is little more than a paraphrase of the Legend of the Knight, interspersed with personal history and political matters.
There is yet another account of a pilgrimage by one William Staunton in 1409, preserved among the Cottonian MSS. in the British Museum. Staunton's story differs slightly from that of the knight. He was fortunate enough to meet with a countryman in the Purgatory, one St. John of Bridlington, who protected him from the demons. He also had a romantic and affecting interview with a predeceased sister and her lover there; and was ultimately rescued by a fair woman, who drew him out of the fiery gulf with a rope that he had once charitably given to a beggar.
Later, however, in the fifteenth century, doubts began to be expressed regarding the truth of the marvelous stories of the Purgatory; and these, with the increasing intelligence of the age, led to its suppression, as thus recorded in the annals of Ulster, under the date 1497:
The Cave of St. Patrick's Purgatory, in Lough. Derg, was destroyed about the festival of St. Patrick this year, by the guardian of Donegal and the representatives of the bishop in the deanery of Lough Erne, by authority of the Pope; the people in general having understood from the history of the knight and other old books that this was not the Purgatory which St. Patrick obtained from God, though the people in general were visiting it.
The learned Jesuit, Bolandus, in the Acta Sanctorum, ascribes the suppression of the Purgatory to the inordinate rapacity of its custodians. The story is exceedingly amusing; but want of space compels us to curtail it. A pious Dutch monk, having obtained permission to visit holy places as a religious mendicant, came to Lough Derg, and solicited admission to the Purgatory. The prior informed him that he could not be admitted without a license from the bishop of the diocese. The monk went to the bishop; but, as he was both poor and poor-like, the prelate's servants uncourteously shut the door in his face. The monk was a man of energy and perseverance; so he waited till he saw the bishop, and then, falling on his knees, solicited the license. 'Certainly,' said the bishop, 'but you must first pay me a sum of money, my usual fee.' The monk replied boldly, to the effect that the free gifts of God should not be sold for money; hinted that such a proceeding would be tainted with the leprosy of simony; and, by dint of sturdy solicitation, succeeded in obtaining the license. The bishop then told him that was not all: he must next obtain permission from Magrath, the hereditary ecclesiastical tenant of the territory in which the Purgatory was situated.
The monk went to Magrath, who in turn demanded his fee; but at last, wearied with importunity, and seeing he could not receive what the other had not to give, conceded the required permission. The monk then returned to the prior, fortified with the licenses of the bishop and Magrath, but was most ungraciously received. The prior could in nowise understand how the monk could have the audacity to come there without money, when he knew that the convent was supported solely by the fees of pilgrims. The undaunted Dutchman spoke as boldly to the prior as he had to the bishop; and at last, but with a very bad grace, he was permitted to go through the prescribed ceremonies, and enter the Purgatory. In a high state of religious excitement and expectation, the monk was shut up in the cave; but neither heard nor saw anything during the whole twenty-four hours. Some, probably, would have taken a different view of the matter; but the disappointed and enthusiastic monk, implicitly believing the marvellous legends, considered that the miracle had ceased on account of having been made a source of profit. So going to Rome, the monk represented the whole affair to the sovereign pontiff, and the result was the suppression of the Purgatory, as above related.
The ancient renown of Lough Derg was thus destroyed; but an annual pilgrimage of the lowest classes commenced soon afterwards, and occasioned such scenes of licentious disorder, that in 1623 the Lords Justices commanded that all the buildings on the island should be utterly demolished. Bishop Spottiswood, who superintended this demolition, describes the 'Cave' as 'a poor beggarly hole, made with stones laid together with men's hands, such as husbandmen make to keep hogs from the rain.'
The annual pilgrimage has never been completely abolished, and continues to the present day, commencing on the 1st of June, and lasting to the 15th of August; during which time from about eight to ten thousand persons-all, with a very few exceptions, of the lowest class of society-visit the island. The penitential style is entirely done away with, the word purgatoryis abandoned, and a chapel called 'the prison' serves instead. The pilgrims, now termed 'stationers,' enter 'prison' at seven o'clock in the evening, the men ranging themselves on one side of the edifice, the women on the other. Here they remain without food or sleep for twenty-four hours; but they are allowed to drink water, and under certain restrictions may occasionally pass in and out of the building during that time. The rest of their penance consists in repeating a mechanical routine of prayers, painfully perambulating with bare feet, and crawling on bare knees over certain rocky paths, denominated saints' beds.
The tourist visitor to Lough Derg, during pilgrimage time, will meet with nothing to charm the eye or gratify the mind. The spot, once so celebrated, is as squalid and commonplace as can well be conceived. All romantic ideas will speedily be put to flight by the visitor observing the business word TICKETS, painted up over a hutch, made in railway-office style, in the shed which serves as a ferry-house. Here the pilgrim pays for his passage over to the island-one shilling, or as much more as he pleases, for the first-class, in the stern of the boat; or sixpence for the second-class, in the bow. Arrived on the island he again pays one shilling, or as much more as he can afford (it being well understood that the more he pays the greater spiritual advantages he will gain,) to the prior, for which he receives a ticket entitling him to the privilege of confession. Thus, though pilgrims are expected to disburse according to their means, the poor man need not pay more than eighteen-pence. There are two chapels on the island, one named St. Patrick's, is used as the 'prison,' the other, St. Mary's, as the confessional. There is also a house for the prior and his four assistant priests, and five lodging-houses for the use of pilgrims. All these are common whitewashed buildings, such as may be seen in any Irish village, without the slightest pretension to even simple neatness; and Mr. Otway has not unaptly described them as filthy, dreary, and detestable.
Still, the degrading penance performed at this place is flavoured by a certain spice of romantic interest, arising from the real or mythical dangers the pilgrims are supposed to incur. In 1796 the ferry-boat, when conveying pilgrims to the island, upset, and seventy persons were drowned. Tradition states that a similar accident happened once before that period, and prophecy asserts that the boat 'is to be lost' a third time. Again, it is freely reported, and currently believed, that if any one of the pilgrims should chance to fall asleep when in 'prison,' the great enemy of mankind would be entitled to fly off in the twinkling of an eye with the whole number; a truly horrible event, which it is said has twice occurred already, and, of course, must happen a third time. To prevent such a very undesirable catastrophe, each woman takes a large pin into prison with her, the point of which she freely employs upon the person of any of her neighbours who seem likely to be overcome by sleep. For a like purpose a few long sticks are distributed among the men, to tap the heads of drowsy sinners. And it not unfrequently happens that those who are the least sleepy, and consequently the most busy in tapping their brother pilgrims' heads at the commencement of the twenty-four hours' imprisonment, become sleepy sinners themselves towards the latter part of the time; and then, as may readily be supposed, the taps are returned with compound interest.
The island is very small, not measuring more than three hundred paces in any direction, and contains about three roods of barren rocky ground. For this small space the Protestant proprietor receives a rental of £300 per annum.