Born: Dr. John Pell, mathematician, 1610, Southwick; Caroline, of England, 1683; Dr. David Hogue, Scottish missionary, 1750, Halidown; Sir Samuel Romilly, lawyer and politician, 1757, Marylebone.
Died: Francis Rabelais, French romancist, 1553; Anne, Queen of England, 1619, Hampton Court, Matthias, Emperor of Germany, 1619; Sir Thomas Herbert, 1682, Fork; Leopold II, Emperor of Germany, 1792, Prague; Manuel Johnson, astronomer, 1859, Oxford.
Feast Day: St. David, archbishop of Cærleon, patron of 'Wales, Swibert, of Northumberland, bishop, 713. St. Monan, of 544. St. Albinus, of Angers, 549. St. Swidbert, or Scotland, martyr, 374.
David, popularly termed the titular saint of Wales, is said to have been the son of a prince of Cardiganshire of the ancient regal line of Cunedda Wledig; some, also, state that he was the son of Xanthus, son of Ceredig, lord of Ceredigion, and Non, daughter of Gynyr of Caergawh, Pembrokeshire. St. David has been invested by his legendary biographers with extravagant decoration. According to their accounts, he had not merely the power of working miracles from the moment of his birth, but the same preternatural faculty is ascribed to him while he was yet unborn!
An angel is said to have been his constant attendant on his first appearance on earth, to minister to his wants, and contribute to his edification and relaxation; the Bath waters became warm and salubrious through Iris agency; he healed complaints and re-animated the dead; whenever he preached, a snow-white dove sat upon his shoulder! Among other things,-as pulpits were not in fashion in those times,-the earth on which he preached was raised from its level, and became a hill; from whence his voice was heard to the best advantage. Among these popular legends, the pretended life of St. David, in Welsh, in the Cotton MSS. (D. xxii.), is the most remarkable for its spurious embellishments. His pedigree is here deduced from the Virgin Mary, of whom it makes him the lineal eighteenth descendant! But leaving the region of Fiction, there is no doubt that the valuable services of St. David to the British church entitle him to a very distinguished position in its early annals. He is numbered in the Triads with Teilo and Catwg as one of the 'three canonized saints of Britain.' Giraldus terms him 'a mirror and pattern to all, instructing both by word and example, excellent in his preaching, but still more so in his works. He was a doctrine to all, a guide to the religious, a life to the poor, a support to orphans, a protection to widows, a father to the fatherless, a rule to monks, and a model to teachers; becoming all to all, that so he might gain all to God.'
To this, his moral character, St. David added a high character for theological learning; and two productions, a Boole of Homilies, and a Treatise against the Pelagians, have been ascribed to him.
St. David received his early education at Menevia, (derived from Main-aw, 'a narrow water,' firth or strait), named afterwards Ty Ddewi, 'David's Rouse,' answering to the present St. David's, which was a seminary of learning and nursery of saints. At this place, some years after, he founded a convent in the Vale of Rhos. The discipline which St. David enjoined in this monastic retreat is represented as of the most rigorous nature. After the Synod at Brevy, in 519, Dubricins, or Dyvrig, Archbishop of Caerleon, and consequently Primate of Wales, resigned his see to St. David, who removed the archiepiscopal residence to Menevia, the present St. David's, where he died about the year 544, after having attained a very advanced age. The saint was buried in the cathedral, and a monument raised to his memory. It is of simple construction, the ornaments consisting of one row of four quatrefoil openings upon a plain tomb.
St. David appears to have had more superstitious honours paid to him in England than in his native country. Thus, before the Reformation, the following collect was read in the old church of Sarum on the 1st of March:
'Oh God, who by thy angel didst foretel thy blessed Confessor St. David, thirty years before he was born, grant unto us, we beseech thee, that celebrating his memory, we may, by his intercession, attain to joys everlasting.'
Inscription for a monument in the Vale of Ewias:
Here was it, stranger, that the Patron Saint
Of Cambria passed his age of penitence,
A solitary man; and here ho made
His hermitage, the roots his food, his drink
Of Hodney's mountain stream. Perchance thy youth
Has read, with eager wonder, how the knight
Of Wales, in Ormandine's enchanted bower,
Slept the long sleep: and if that in thy veins
Flow the pure blood of Britain, sure that blood
Hath flowed with quicker impulse at the tale
Of DAVID's deeds, when thro' the press of war
His gallant comrades followed his green crest
To conquest stranger! Hatterill's mountain heights
And this fair vale of Ewias, and the stream
Of Rodney, to thine after-thoughts will rise
More grateful, thus associate with the name
Of David, and the deeds of other days.
Francis Rabelais, the son of an apothecary, was born at Chinon, a town of Touraine, in 1483. Brimming over with sport and humour, by a strange perversity it was decided to make the boy a monk, and Rabelais entered the order of Franciscans. His gaiety proved more than they could endure, and he was transferred to the easier fraternity of the Benedictines; but his high spirits were too much for these likewise, and he escaped to Montpelier, where he studied medicine, took a doctor's degree, and practised with such success, that he was invited to the court at Paris. In the train of an ambassador he went to Rome in 1536, and received absolution from the Pope for his violation of monastic vows. On his return to France he was appointed curé of Meudon, and died in 1553, aged 70.
Wit was the distinction of Rabelais. He was learned, and he had seen much of the world; and for the pedantry of scholars, the cant of priests, and the folly of kings, he had a quick eye and a light-hearted contempt. It was an age of deadly intolerance: to dissent from the church was to burn at the stake, and to criticise governors was mutilation or death on the scaffold. Rabelais had not earnestness for a martyr, but the con-tempt and fun that stirred within him demanded utterance, and donning the fool's cap and bolls, he published the romance of Gargantua and Pantagruel. Gargantua was a giant who lived several centuries and begot a son, Pantagruel, as big and wonderful as himself. Beneath his tongue an army took shelter from the rain, and in his mouth and throat were populous cities. Under the mask of their adventures Rabelais contrived to speak his mind concerning kings, priests, and scholars, just as Swift, following his example, did in Gulliver's Travels. He was accused of heresy and irreligion, but Francis I read and enjoyed the story of Gargantua and Pantagruel, and said he could see no harm in it. Calvin at one time thought he had found in Rabelais a Protestant, and was prepared to number him among his disciples, but gravely censuring him for his profane jesting, Rabelais, in revenge, made Panurge, one of the characters in his romance, discourse in Calvinistic phrases. The obscenity which is inwrought in almost every page of Rabelais prevents his enjoyment by modern readers, although his coarseness gave no offence to the generation for which he wrote.
Coleridge, whose opinion is worth having, says:
'Beyond a doubt Rabelais was among the deepest, as well as boldest, thinkers of his age. His buffoonery was not merely Brutus's rough stick, which contained a rod of gold: it was necessary as an amulet against the monks and legates. Never was there a more plausible, and seldom, I am persuaded, a less appropriate line, than the thousand times quoted 'Rabelais laughing in his easy chair,' of Mr. Pope. The caricature of his filth and zanyism show how fully he both knew and felt the danger in which he stood.. . I class Rabelais with the great creative minds of the world, Shakspeare, Dante, Cervantes, &c.'
LABORIOUS ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATIONS
Mr. Manuel Johnson was for many years 'the Radcliffe observer' at the noble observatory at Oxford, built by the munificence of Dr. Radcliffe. Mr. Johnson was a devoted and disinterested worker, and allowed nothing to interfere with the regular duties of the observatory. Night after night, with not more than a rare periodical break of a week or two, he was at the same task, steadily travelling through the region of the circumpolar heavens which he had marked out for his observation, to which latterly were added the important labours connected with the heliometer. Taking the Groombridge Catalogue as his foundation, he re-observed all the stars-more than 4000-included in that catalogue, and added 1500 other stars not found in Groombridge. The meridian instruments of the Radcliffe observatory were, for several years, almost wholly employed for this work, and volumes 40-53 of the Radcliffe Observatory are filled with observations and special catalogues, all designed for ultimate collection into a large catalogue of circumpolar stars, of which some sheets had already passed through the press at the time of Mr. Johnson's death.
There is surely something affecting in the contemplation of a life devoted with such unslackening zeal to a task of such a nature as this-calculated to prove serviceable, but under such circumstances that the individual worker could never derive any benefit from it.
On the 1st of March 1468-69, William Caxton began, at the city of Bruges, to translate the Recueil of the Histories of Troy from the French, at the command of Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, sister of the English King Edward IV The work was finished on the 19th of September 1471, and formally presented to the Duchess. It was a noted literary undertaking, and by a very notable person. Caxton, a native of the Weald of Kent, supposed to have been born about 1422, and brought up as a mercer in London, had for several years occupied the eminent position of Governor of the English in Bruges, there being at that time many of our countrymen following merchandize in the capital of the Duchy of Burgundy, insomuch, that they required a governor of their own for the maintenance of' order among them, for the preservation of their privileges, and for various diplomatic purposes. (It seems to have been a position like that of Conservator of the Scots Privileges at Campvere, which was kept in force down to the last century.) Caxton was a well-educated man, wealthy, and of great application. It could only be the impulse of his own tastes which led him to take up the pen of an author, and translate the Recueil of Histories. The step, however, once taken, seems to have led to a complete change in the current of his life.
The book being finished was multiplied in the way then customary, by manuscript, and sold at a good price. Books, dear as they necessarily were in the fifteenth century, were in good and increasing demand, for the intellect of Europe was getting into an activity it had never known before. The Recueil was a remarkable and popular book, and we can imagine an author of such a practical turn of mind as the Governor of the English in Bruges feeling a little impatience at the slow means of producing copies which the pen of the copyist supplied. Well, there was an art beginning at that time to be practised for the multiplication of books by printing from blocks and moveable types. It had been obscurely at-tempted by one Coster at Haarlem before the year 1440; afterwards it was brought to a tolerable efficiency at Mentz, in Germany, by three men named Fust, Guttenberg, and Schoeffer; these men had even produced an edition of the Latin Bible, which scarcely could be distinguished from the finest manuscript. Just about this time, one Colard Mansion was beginning or professing to introduce this some-what mysterious art into Bruges. It could scarcely fail to catch the attention of so enterprising a man as Caxton, even if he had not a book of his own to be printed.
An arrangement was made between Caxton and Mansion, whereby the former furnished money, and the latter set up a printing office, of which the first or at least a very early emanation was an impression of The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye. This was a most remarkable time, for it was the first English book that ever was printed:-the first of so many!
The second was a translation by Caxton from a French moral treatise, entitled The Game and Playe of the Chesse, which was finished on the last day of March 1474, and printed under his care, most probably at Bruges, though some consider it as the first issue of his press after he had removed to England. To convey some idea of the style of typography in these early days of the art, we present a facsimile of a passage of the Game and Plaiye of the Chesse, being the dedication to the unfortunate Duke of Clarence.
How it came about we do not know, although it is not difficult to surmise. Caxton is soon after found to have returned to his own country, and commenced business as a printer and publisher, being for certain the first who practised the typographic art in this island. He was wealthy; he had been in a high employment; it looks to us as a descent, that such a man, past fifty years of age, should have gone into such a business, for certainly it was no more dignified then than it is now. We can only suppose that Caxton had all along had strong literary tastes-had prudentially kept them in check while realising an independence, and now felt at liberty to indulge his natural bent, while yet pleasing himself with the idea that he was usefully and not unprofitably occupied. Whatever his motives might be, there we find him practising typography, and also selling books, in a house called the Almonry (i.e. alms-distributing house), near the western door of Westminster Abbey, 'i' and this from about 1476 till 1491, when he died, about seventy years of age. His publications were for their time meritorious, and in some instances he was author as well as printer. They include Dictes and Sayings, 1477, Chronicles of England, 1480; Mirror of the World, 1481; [Gower's]Confessio Amantis, 1483; Æsop, 1484; King Arthur, 1485, &c.
An advertisement of one of his productions is extremely quaint and simple:
'If it pies ony man spirituel or temporel to bye ony pyes [piece] of two and three comemoracids of salisburi vse enpryntid after the forme of this preset lcttre whiche ben wel and truly correct, late hym come to wcstmonester in to the almonesrye at the reed pale, and he shall have them good chep.'
COMMENCEMENT OF THE ' SPECTATOR'
On the 1st of March 1711, appeared the first number of the Spectator, the most popular work that England had up to that time produced,-alike the recreation of the learned, the busy, and the idle. This work was printed daily in the same form, and at the same price, as the Taller, and supported by the same able contributors, but was, altogether, a work of far more elevated pretensions than its predecessor. The Taller and the Spectator were the first attempts made in England, or any other country, to instruct and amuse unlearned readers by short papers, appearing at stated intervals, and sold at a cheap rate. The object of the writers was 'to bring philosophy out of closets and libraries, schools and colleges, to dwell in clubs, and assemblies, at tea-tables and at coffee-houses.'
The Spectator was planned by Addison in concert with Sir Richard Steele, and its success was chiefly owing to the matchless pen of the former. Addison's papers are designated by the letters C.L.I.O., which some have supposed he adopted as composing the name of the muse Clio; but Mr. Nichols thinks, rather as being the initials of the places where the papers were written, Chelsea, London, Islington, and the Office. This supposition is strengthened by transposing the letters (for there is no absolute rule by which their order should be fixed) into the Latin word loci, or 'at the place' where he might have resided. The publication of the Spectator continued regularly to the close of the seventh volume; after an interval of about eighteen months, the eighth volume commenced and terminated December 20, 1714.
The notion of a club in which the Spectator is formed, not only gave the work a dramatic air, but a sort of unity to the conduct of it; as it tied together the several papers into what may be called one work, by the reference they all have to the same common design.
The origin of some of the numbers of the Spectator is not a little curious, and shews with what talent the contributors of the essays converted the most trifling subjects into articles of interest. No. 71, which contains 'the epistle of an enamoured footman in the country to his mistress,' and signed 'James,' originated in the following circumstance. In the year 1711, James Hirst lived as servant with the Hon. Edward Wortley. It happened one day, that in delivering a letter to his master, he, by mistake, gave him one which he had written to his sweetheart, and kept back Mr. Wortley's. He soon discovered his error, and immediately hurried to his master in order to retrieve it, but it happened to be the first that presented itself, and before his return, Mr. Wortley had perused the enamoured footman's love story. James entreated to have it returned; 'No,' said Mr. Wortley, ' No, James; you shall be a great man; this letter shall appear in the Spectator.' It was accordingly communicated to Sir Richard Steele, and published in James's own words, 'Dear Betty,' &c.
THE VICTORIA CROSS
The 1st of March 1857, is one among many days associated with the bestowal of the Victoria Cross upon heroic soldiers and sailors. The affair is in itself a trifle; yet it involves a principle of some importance. England cannot be said to be altogether happy in her modes of rewarding merit. The friendless and the unobtrusive are apt to be pushed aside, and to be supplanted by those who can call boldness and influence to their aid. Such at any rate has been the case in the army and navy; the humble soldiers and sailors have always received their full share of hard knocks, while the officers have carried off the honours and rewards. The nation has often felt and said that this was wrong; and the authorities of the War Office have judiciously yielded to the public sentiment in this among many other matters. It was in the middle of the Crimean war that the War Office undertook to 'consider' the subject; but a period of many months passed before the ' consideration' led to any results. At length on the 8th of February 1856, the London Gazette announced that Her Majesty had under her Royal Sign Manual been pleased to institute a new naval and military decoration entitled the 'Victoria Cross.' Unlike any other decoration recognised in our army and navy, this order is to be conferred for valour only-irrespective of rank or station; and the recipient becomes also entitled to a pension of £10 a year for life. The Victoria Cross is a simple affair as a work of art.
It consists of a bronze Maltese cross with the royal crest in the centre, and underneath it a scroll bearing the words 'FOR VALOUR;' it is suspended by a red ribbon if worn on the breast of a soldier, and by a blue ribbon if worn by a sailor. Trifling as it is, however, the men highly prize it, for hitherto it has been honestly bestowed. The reader will call to mind that remarkable ceremony in the summer of 1857, when the Queen bestowed the Victoria Cross, with her own hand, on sixty-one noble fellows in Hyde-park. Of those thus honoured, twenty-five were commissioned officers, fifteen were warrant and non-commissioned officers, and the remaining twenty-one were private soldiers and common seamen. In every instance there was a distinct recognition in the Official Gazette of the specific act of valour for which the cross was bestowed-whether arising out of the Crimean, the Chinese, or the Indian wars-in order to afford proof that merit, not favour, won the reward. Here we are told that Joseph Trewyas, seaman, 'cut the hawsers of the floating-bridge in the Straits of Genitchi under a heavy fire of musketry;' on which occasion he was wounded. 'The late gallant Captain Sir William Peel,' we are told, 'took up alive shell that fell among some powder cases; the fuse was still burning, and the shell burst as he threw it over the parapet.'
Here is an incident which warms one's blood while we read it: 'In the charge of the Light Cavalry Brigade at Balaklava, Trumpet-Major Crawford's horse fell and dismounted him, and he lost his sword; he was attacked by two Cossacks, when private Samuel Parkes (whose horse had been shot) saved his life by placing himself between them and the Trumpet-Major, and drove them away by his sword. In the attempt to follow the Light Cavalry Brigade in the retreat, they were attacked by six Russians, whom Parkes kept at bay, and retired slowly fighting, and defending the Trumpet-Major for some time.' In spite of the wretched official English of this description (in which 'he' and 'his,' 'they' and 'whose' are hopelessly wandering to find their proper verbs), we cannot fail to take a liking for the gallant trooper Parkes. Then there was Serjeant-Maj or Henry, of the Artillery, who at the terrible battle of Inkermann, 'defended the guns of his battery until he had received twelve bayonet wounds.' During the siege of Sebastopol, a rifle-pit was occupied by two Russians, who annoyed our troops by their fire, whereupon 'Private M'Gregor, of the Rifles, crossed the open space under fire, and taking cover under a rock, dislodged them, and occupied the pit.'
In India some of the Victoria Crosses were given to the gallant fellows by their commanding officers, in the Queen's name; and when those officers were men of tact and good feeling, they contrived to enhance the value of the reward by a few well-chosen remarks. Thus, Brigadier Stidste, in giving Crosses to two men of the 52nd Foot, pointed out to them the difference between the Order of' the Bath and the Order of Valour, adding, in reference to the latter, 'I only wish I had it myself.'
THE EMBLEM OF WALES
Various reasons are assigned by the Welsh for wearing the leek on St. David's Day. Some affirm it to be in memory of a great victory obtained over the Saxons. It is said that, during the conflict, the Welshmen, by order of St. David, put leeks into their hats to distinguish them-selves from their enemies. To quote the Cambria of Rolt, 1759:
Tradition's tale Recounting tells how famed
Menevia's priest Marshalled his Britons, and the Saxon host.
Discomfited; how the green leek his bands
Distinguished, since by Britons annual worn,
Commemorates their tutelary saint.
In the Diverting Post, 1705, we have the following lines:
Why, on St. David's Day, do Welshmen seek
To beautify their hat with verdant leek
Of nauseous smell ? For honour 'tis, hur say,
'Duke et decorum est pro patria'
Right, Sir, to die or fight it is, I think,
But how is't Duke, when you for it stink?'
Shakespeare makes the wearing of the leek to have originated at the battle of Cressy. In the play of Henry V.l Fluellin, addressing the monarch, says:
'Your grandfather, of famous memory, an't please your Majesty, and your great uncle, Edward the Black Prince of Wales, as I have read in the chronicles, fought a most prave pattle here in France.
'King. They did, Fluellin
Fluellin. Your Majesty says very true; if your Majesty is remembered of it, the Welshman did goot service in a garden where leeks did grow; wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps, which your Majesty knows to this hour is an honourable padge of the service; and I do believe your Majesty takes no scorn to wear leek upon St. Tavy's Day.'
The observance of St. David's Day was long countenanced by royalty. Even sparing Henry VII. could disburse two pounds among Welshmen on their saint's anniversary; and among the Household Expenses of the princess Mary for 1544, is an entry of a gift of fifteen shillings to the Yeomen of the King's Guard for bringing a leek to Her Grace on St. David's Day. Misson, alluding to the custom of wearing the leek, records that His Majesty William III. was complaisant enough to bear his Welsh subjects company, and two years later we find the following paragraph in The Flying Post (1699):
Yesterday, being St. David's Day, the King, according to custom, wore a leek in honour of the Ancient Britons, the same being presented to him by the sergeant-porter, whose place it is, and for which. he claims the clothes His Majesty wore that day; the courtiers in imitation of His Majesty wore leeks also.
We cannot say now as Hierome Porter said in 1632, 'that it is sufficient theme for a jealous Welshman to ground a quarrel against him that doth not honour his cap ' with the leek on St. David's Day; our modern head-dress is too ill-adapted for such verdant decorations to allow of their being worn, even if the national sentiment was as vigorous as ever; but gilt leeks are still carried in procession by the Welsh branches of Friendly Societies, and the national badge may be seen decorating the mantelpiece in Welsh houses on the anniversary of the patron saint of the principality.
Whatever may be the conflicting opinions on the origin of wearing the leek in Wales, it is certain that this vegetable appears to have been a favourite dish with Welshmen as far back as we can trace their history. In Caxton's Description of Wales, speaking of the Manors and Bytes of the Welshmen, he says:
They have gruell to potage,
And Leehes kynde to companage.
Atte meets, and after eke,
Her solace is salt and Leeke.
Worlidge mentions the love of the Welsh for this alliaceous food. 'I have seen the greater part of a garden there stored with leeks, and part of the remainder with onions and garlic.' Owen in his Cambrian Biography, 1803, observes that the symbol of the leek, attributed to St. David, probably originated from the custom of Cymhortha, when the farmers, assisting each other in ploughing, brought their leeks to aid the common repast.
Perhaps the English, if not the Welsh reader will pardon us for expressing our inclination to believe that the custom had no romantic origin whatever, but merely sprung up in allusion to the prominence of the lock in the cuisine of the Welsh people.