Born: William Congreve, poet and dramatist (baptized), 1670, Bardsey; Aaron Hill, poet, 1685, Strand; Dr. Benjamin Hoadly, 1706, Broad-street, London; James Smith, comic poet, 1775, London; Rev. Dr Henry H. Milman, historian, 1791, London.
Died: Sir William Dugdale, historian and antiquary, 1686, Shustoke; Isaac Vossius, scholar, of Leyden, 1689, Windsor; Thomas Chubb, Wiltshire divine, 1747, Salisbury; Montesquieu, French jurist, 1755, Paris; Dr. James Nares, musical composer, 1783, Westminster; Samuel Prout, painter in water-colours, 1852.
Feast Day: St. Soteris, virgin-martyr, 4th century. St. Scholastics, virgin, 543. St. Erlulph, of Scotland, bishop, martyr at Verdun, 830. St. William of Maleval, 1157.
LENT - ASH WEDNESDAY
It is an ancient custom of the Christian church to hold as a period of fasting and solemnity the forty days preceding Easter, in commemoration of the miraculous abstinence of Jesus when under temptation. From leaglen-tide, a Saxon term for spring (as being the time of the lengthening of the day), came the familiar word for this period-LENT. Originally, the period began on what is now the first Sunday in Lent; but, it being found that, when Sundays, as improper for fasting, were omitted, there remained only thirty-six days, the period was made by Pope Gregory to commence four days earlier namely, on what has since been called Ash Wednesday. This name was derived from the notable ceremony of the day in the Romish church. It being thought proper to remind the faithful, at commencement of the great penitential season, that they were but dust and ashes, the priests took a quantity of ashes, blessed them, and sprinkled them with holy water.
The worshipper then approaching in sack-cloth, the priest took up some of the ashes on the end of his fingers, and made with them the mark of the cross on the worshipper's forehead, saying, Memento, hemo, quia cinis es, et in pulverem reverleris (Remember, man, that you are of ashes, and into dust will return). The ashes used were commonly made of the palms consecrated on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. In England, soon after the Reformation, the use of ashes was discontinued, as 'a vain show,' and Ash Wednesday thence became only a day of marked solemnity, with a memorial of its original character in a reading of the curses denounced against impenitent sinners.
The popular observances on Ash Wednesday are not of much account. The cocks being now dispatched, a thin scare-crow-like figure or puppet was set up, and shied at with sticks, in imitation of one of the sports of the preceding day. The figure was called a Jake-a-lent, a term which is often met with in old literature, as expressive of a small and insignificant person. Beaumont and Fletcher, in one of their plays, make a character say:
If I forfeit,
Make me a Jack o' Lent and break my shins
For untamed points and counters.
Boys used to go about clacking at doors, to get eggs or bits of bacon wherewith to make up a feast among themselves; and when refused, would stop the keyhole with dirt, and depart with a rhymed denunciation. In some parts of Germany, the young men gathered the girls into a cart, and drove them into a river or pool, and there 'washed them favouredly,'-a process which shews that abstinence from merriment was not there held as one of the proprieties of the day.
'Among the ancient customs of this country which have sunk into disuse, was a singularly absurd one, continued even to so late a period as the reign of George I. During the Lenten season, an officer denominated the 'King's Cock Crones' crowed the hour each night, within the precincts of the Palace, instead of proclaiming it in the ordinary manner of watchmen.' On the first Ash, Wednesday after the accession of the House of Hanover, as the Prince of Wales, afterwards George II, sat down to supper, this officer abruptly entered the apartment, and according to accustomed usage, proclaimed in a sound resembling the shrill pipe of a cock, that it was 'past ten o'clock.' Taken by surprise, and imperfectly acquainted with the English language, the astonished prince naturally mistook the tremulation of the assumed crow, as some mockery intended to insult him, and instantly rose to resent the affront: nor was it without difficulty that the interpreter explained the nature of the custom, and satisfied him, that a compliment was designed, according to the court etiquette of the time. From that period we find no further account of the exertion of the imitative powers of this important officer: but the court has been left to the voice of reason and conscience, to remind them of their errors, and not to that of the cock, whose clarion called back Peter to repentance, which this fantastical and silly ceremony was meant to typify.'-Brady
ISAAC VOSSIUS: A STRANGE CANON
This eccentric Dutch scholar, a son of Gerard Vossius, a still more learned man, died on the 10th of February, 1688-9, in Windsor Castle, where Charles II had assigned him apartments fifteen years previously, when he came to England from Holland, and the king made him a canon of Windsor. Never did a man undertake the clerical office who was more unfit for it. Although a canon of Windsor, he did not believe in the divine origin of the Christian religion, and he treated religious matters with contempt, although in all other things he was exceedingly credulous. Charles, on one occasion, said, 'This learned divine is a strange man: he will believe anything except the Bible.'
When he attended divine service in the chapel at Windsor, it is said that he used to read Ovid's Are Amandi instead of the prayer-book. He knew all the European languages, without being able to speak one of them correctly. He was familiar with the manners and customs of the ancients, but profoundly ignorant of the world and the affairs of ordinary life. On his death-bed he refused the sacrament, and was only prevailed upon to take it by the remark of one of his colleagues, that if he would not do it for the love of God, he ought to do it for the honour of the chapter to which he belonged.
Vossius took an odd delight in having his hair combed in a measured or rhythmical manner. He would have it done by barbers or other persons skilled in the rules of prosody. A Latin treatise on rhythm, published by him at Oxford in 1673, contains this curious passage: 'Many people take delight in the rubbing of their limbs, and the combing of their hair: but these exercises would delight much more, if the servants at the baths, and of the barbers, were so skilful in this art, that they could express any measure with their fingers. I remember that more than once I have fallen into the hands of men of this sort, who could imitate any measure of songs in combing the hair: so as sometimes to express very intelligibly iambics, trochees, dactyles, &c., from whence there arose to me no small delight.'
RIOT AT OXFORD ON St. SCHOLASTICA'S DAY
On the 10th of February 1354, in the reign of Edward III, a dire conflict took place between the students of the University of Oxford and the citizens. The contest continued three days. On the second evening, the townsmen called into their assistance the country people: and thus reinforced, completely overpowered the scholars, of whom numbers were killed and wounded. The citizens were, consequently, debarred the rites and consolations of the church: their privileges were greatly narrowed: they were heavily fined: and an annual penance for ever was enjoined that on each anniversary of St. Scholastica, the mayor and sixty-two citizens attend at St. Mary's Church, where the Litany should be read at the altar, and an oblation of one penny made by each man.
HISTORY OF THE UMBRELLA
The designation of this useful contrivance (from umbra, shade) indicates the earliest of its twofold uses. Johnson describes it as 'a screen used in hot countries to keep off the sun, and in others to bear off the rain: 'and Kersey, many years before (1708), had described it as 'a kind of broad fan or screen, commonly used by women to shelter them from rain; also, a wooden frame, covered with cloth, to keep off the sun from a window.' Phillips, in his New World of Words, edit. 1720, describes the umbrella as 'now commonly used by women to shelter them from rain.'
As a shade from the sun, the umbrella is of great antiquity. We see it in the sculptures and paintings of Egypt, and Sir Gardner Wilkinson has engraved a delineation of an Ethiopian princess, travelling in her chariot through Upper Egypt to Thebes, wherein the car is furnished with a kind of umbrella fixed to a tall staff rising from the centre, and in its arrangement closely resembling the chaise umbrella of the present time. The recent discoveries at Nineveh show that the umbrella (or parasol) 'was generally carried over the king in time of peace, and even in war. In shape,' says Layard, 'it resembled very closely those now in common use, but it is always seen open in the sculptures. It was edged with tassels, and was usually adorned at the top by a flower or some other ornament. On the later basreliefs, a long piece of linen or silk, falling from one side, Elio a curtain, appears to screen the king completely from the sun. The parasol was reserved exclusively for the monarch, and is never represented as borne over any other person. On several bas-reliefs from Persepolis, the king is represented under an umbrella, which a female slave holds over his head.'
From the very limited use of the parasol in Asia and Africa, it seems to have passed, both as a distinction and a luxury, into Greece and Rome. The Skiadeion, or day-shade of the Greeks, was carried over the head of the effigy of Bacchus: and the daughters of the aliens at Athens were required to bear parasols over the heads of the maidens of the city at the great festival of the Panathenea. We see also the parasol figured in the hands of a princess on the Hamilton vases in the British Museum. At Rome, when the veil could not be spread over the roof of the theatre, it was the custom for females and effeminate men to defend themselves from the sun with the umbrella or umbraculum of the period: and this covering appears to have been formed of skin or leather, capable of being raised or lowered, as circumstances might require.
Although the use of the umbrella was thus early introduced into Italy, and had probably been continued there as a vestige of ancient Roman manners, yet so late as 1608, Thomas Coryat notices the invention in such terms as to indicate that it was not commonly known in his own country. After describing the fans of the Italians, he adds:
'Many of them do carry other fine things, of a far greater price, that will cost at least a ducat (5s. 6d.), which they commonly call, in the Italian tongue, umbrellaes: that is, things that minister shadow unto them, for shelter against the scorching heat of the sun. These are made of leather, something answerable to the form of a little canopy, and hooped in the inside with divers little wooden hoopes, that extend the umbrella into a pretty large compasse.
They are used especially by horsemen, who carry them in their hands when they ride, fastening the end of the handle upon one of their thighs; and they impart so long a shadow unto them, that it keepeth the heate of the sun from the upper part of their bodies.'
It is probable that a similar contrivance existed, at the same period, in Spain and Portugal, whence it was taken to the New World. Defoe, it will be remembered, makes Robinson Crusoe describe that he had seen umbrellas employed in the Brazils, and that he had constructed his own umbrella in imitation of them. 'I covered it with skins,' he adds, 'the hair outwards, so that it cast off the rain like a penthouse, and kept of the sun so effectually, that I could walk out in the hottest of the weather with greater advantage than I could before in the coolest.' In commemoration of this ingenious production, one species of the old heavy umbrellas was called 'The Robinson.'
The umbrella was used in England as a luxurious sun-shade early in the seventeenth century. Ben Jenson mentions it by name in a comedy produced in 1616: and it occurs in Beaumont and Fletcher's Rule a Wife and Hare a Wife, where Altea says:
Are you at ease.? Now is your heart at rest?
Now you have got a shadow, an umbrella,
To keep the scorching world's opinion
From your fair credit.
In those days, as we may infer from a passage in Drayton, the umbrella was composed exteriorly of feathers, in imitation of the plumage of water-birds. Afterwards, oiled silk was the ordinary material. In the reign of Queen Anne, the umbrella appears to have been in common use in London as a screen from rain, but only for the weaker sex.. Swift in the Tatler, October 17, 1710, says, in 'The City Shower:'
The tuck'd up seamstress walks with hasty strides,
While streams run down her oiled umbrella's sides.
Gay speaks of it in his Trivia; or, the Art of Walking the Streets of London:
Good housewives all the winter's rage despise,
Defended by the riding-hood's disguise:
Or underneath th' umbrella's oily shed,
Safe through the wet on clinking pattens tread.
Let Persian dames th' umbrella's ribs display,
To guard their beauties from the sunny ray:
Or sweating slaves support the shady load,
When Eastern monarchs shew their state abroad:
Britain in winter only knows its aid,
To guard from chilly showers the walking maid.
This passage, which points to the use of the umbrella exclusively by women, is confirmed by another passage in the Trivia, wherein the surtout is recommended for men to keep out 'the drenching shower:
By various names, in various countries known,
Yet held in all the true surtout alone,
Be thine of korsey firm, though small the cost;
Then brave unwet the rain, unchill'd the frost.
At Woburn Abbey is a full-length portrait of the beautiful Duchess of Bedford, painted about 1730, representing the lady as attended by a black servant, who holds an open umbrella to shade her. Of about the same period is the sketch engraved on the next page, being the vignette to a song of Aaron Hill's, entitled. The Generous Repulse, and set to a tolerable air by Carey:
Thy vain pursuit, fond youth, give o'er.
What more, alas! can Flavia do?
Thy worth I own, thy fate deplore,
All are not happy that are true.
But if revenge can ease thy pain,
I'll soothe the ills I cannot cure,
Tell thee I drag a hopeless chain,
And all that I inflict endure.
Flavia, as will be observed, administers this poorish consolation, seated on a flowery bank, and keeping off the sunshine with a long-stalked umbrella, or what we should now call a parasol, while the 'fond youth' reclines hare-headed by her side.
The eighteenth century was half elapsed before the umbrella had even begun to be used in England by both sexes, as we now see it used. In 1752, Lieutenant-Colonel (afterwards General) Wolfe, writing from Paris, says:
'The people here use umbrellas in hot weather to defend them from the sun, and something of the same kind to save them from the snow and rain. I wonder a practice so useful is not introduced in England.'
Just about that time, a gentleman did exercise the moral courage to use an umbrella in the streets of London. He was the noted Jonas Hanway, newly returned from Persia, and in delicate health, by which, of course, his using such a convenience was justified both to himself and the considerate part of the public. 'A parapluie,' we are told, 'defended Mr. Hanway's face and wig.' For a time, no others than the dainty beings then called Macaronies ventured to carry an umbrella. Any one doing so was sure to be hailed by the mob as 'a mincing Frenchman.' One John Macdonald, a footman, who has favoured the public with his memoirs, found as late as 1770, that, on appearing with a fine silk umbrella which he had brought from Spain, he was saluted with the cry of 'Frenchman, why don't you get a coach?' It appears, however, as if there had previously been a kind of transition period, during which an umbrella was kept at a coffee-house, liable to be used by gentlemen on special occasions by night, though still regarded as the resource of effeminacy.
In the Female Tatler of December 12, 1709, there occurs the following announcement:
'The young gentleman belonging to the Custom House, who, in the fear of rain, borrowed the umbrella at Will's coffee-house, in Cornhill, of the mistress, is hereby advertised that to be dry from head to foot on the like occasion, he shall be welcome to the maid's pattens.'
It is a rather early fact in the history of the general use of umbrellas, that in 1758, when Dr. Shebbeare was placed in the pillory, a servant stood beside him with an umbrella to protect him from the weather, physical and moral, which. was raging around him.
Much of the clamour which was raised against the general use of the umbrella originated with the chairmen and hackney-coachmen, who, of course, regarded rainy weather as a thing especially designed for their advantage, and from which the public were entitled to no other protection than what their vehicles could afford.
In all the large towns of the empire, a memory is preserved of the courageous citizen who first carried an umbrella. In Edinburgh, it was a popular physician named Spens. In the Statistical Account of Glasgow, by Dr. Cleland, it is related that, about the year 1781, or 1782, the late Mr. John Jameson, surgeon, brought with him an umbrella, on his return from Paris, which was the first seen in the city, and attracted universal attention. This umbrella was made of heavy wax-cloth, with cane ribs, and was a ponderous article. Cowper mentions the umbrella twice in his Task, published in 1784.
The early specimens of the English umbrella made of oiled silk, were, when wet, exceedingly difficult to open or to close: the stick and furniture were heavy and inconvenient, and the article generally very expensive: though an umbrella manufacturer in Cheapside, in 1787, advertised pocket and portable umbrellas superior to any kind ever imported or manufactured in this kingdom: and 'all kinds of common umbrellas prepared in a particular way, that will never stick together.' The substitution of silk and gingham for the oiled silk, however, remedied the above objection.
The umbrella was originally formed and carried in a fashion the reverse of what now obtains. It had a ring at top, by which it was usually carried on the finger when furled (and by which also it could be hung up within doors), the wooden handle terminating in a rounded point to rest on the ground. The writer remembers umbrellas of this kind being in use among old ladies so lately as 1810. About thirty years ago, there was living in Taunton, a lady who recollected when there were but two umbrellas in that town: one belonged to a clergyman, who, on proceeding to his duties on Sunday, hung up the umbrella in the church porch, where it attracted the gaze and admiration of the towns-people coming to church.
ANECDOTE PRESERVED BY DUGDALE
The laboriously industrious antiquary, Sir William Dugdale, to whom we owe a large proportion of what has been preserved of the ecclesiastical antiquities of England, died at the ripe age of eighty-six. His son, Sir John Dugdale, preserved from his conversation some brief anecdotes, and among the rest a merry tale regarding the Scotch covenanting minister, Patrick Gillespie. This esteemed leader having fallen into a grievous sin, the whole of his party felt extremely scandalised, and 'nothing less would serve them than to hold a solemn convention, for seeking the Lord (as their term was) to know of him wherefore he allowed this holy brother to fall under the power of Satan, That a speedy solution might he given them, each of them by turn vigorously wrestled with God, till (as they pretended) he had solved their question: viz.: that this fall of their preacher was not for any fault of his own, but for the sins of his parish laid upon him. Whereupon the convention gave judgment that the parish should be fined for public satisfaction, as was accordingly done.'-Life of Dugdale, 4to, 1827, p. 60, note.