Born: Mahomet, or Mohammed, Arabian prophet, founder of Islamism, 570, Mecca; Martin Luther, German reformer, 1483, Eisleben, Saxony; Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, favourite of Queen Elizabeth, 1567, Netherwood, Herefordshire; Oliver Goldsmith, poet and dramatist, 1728, Pallasmore, Ireland; Granville Sharp, slavery abolitionist and miscellaneous writer, 1734, Durham; Friedrich Schiller, poet and dramatist, 1759, Marbach, Wurtemberg.
Died: Ladislaus VI of Hungary, killed at Varna, 1444; Pope Paul III (Alexander Farnese), 1549; Marshal Anne de Montmorency, killed at St. Denis, 1567; Frederick William III of Prussia, 1797; Gideon Algernon Mantell, geologist, 1852, London; Isidore Geoffrey St. Hilaire, zoologist, 1861.
Feast Day: Saints Trypho and Respicius, martyrs, and Nympha, virgin, 3rd and 5th centuries. Saints Milles, bishop of Susa, Arbrosimus, priest, and Sina, deacon, martyrs in Persia, 341. St. Justus, archbishop of Canterbury, confessor, 627. St. Andrew Avellino, confessor, 1608.
RALPH ALLEN: FIELDING'S 'ALLWORTHY'
For his public usefulness in improving the national means of epistolary correspondence, the name of Ralph Allen is entitled to rank with those of John Palmer and Sir Rowland Hill; yet we may in vain search for his name in the biographical dictionaries. But for the notice which Pope has taken of him in his verses, it almost appears as if we should have known nothing whatever of one of the noblest characters of any age or country.
To give the reader an idea of the services which Allen rendered to the postal institutions of the country, it will only be necessary to state that in the reign of Queen Anne (1710), all previous acts relating to the post-office were abrogated, and the entire establishment was remodelled under what is officially spoken of as 'the act of settlement.' Under this new statute, increased powers were given to the post-office authorities, and the entire service rapidly improved; while each year saw considerable sums added to the available revenue of the country. This progress, however, arose from improvements which had been effected on post-roads alone; and although the new act gave facilities for the establishment of 'cross-posts,' they were not attempted till the year 1720, when a private individual undertook to supply those parts of the country, not on the line of the great post-roads, with equal postal facilities. That individual was Mr. Ralph Allen, who, at the time, filled the office of deputy-postmaster of Bath.
Mr. Allen, who, from his position, must have been well aware of the defects of the existing system, proposed to the government to establish cross-posts between Exeter and Chester, going by way of Bristol, Gloucester, and Worcester; connecting, in this way, the west of England with the Lancashire districts and the mail route to Ireland, and giving independent postal inter-communication to all the important towns lying in the direction to be taken. Previous to this proposal, letters passing between neighbouring towns were conveyed by strangely circuitous routes; for instance, letters from Cheltenham or Bath for Worcester or Birmingham, required to go first to the metropolis, and then to be sent back again by another post-road. This manner of procedure, in those days of slow locomotion, caused serious delays, and frequently great inconvenience.
Mr. Allen's proposition necessitated a complete reconstruction of the mail-routes; but he proved to the Lords of the Treasury that this was a desideratum-that it would be productive to the revenue and beneficial to the country. By his representations, he succeeded in inducing the executive to grant him a lease for life of all the cross-posts that should be established. His engagements bound him to pay a fixed rental of £6000 a year, and to bear all the costs of the new service. In return, the surplus revenue was to belong to him. The enterprise was remunerative from the first. From time to time, the contract was renewed, always at the same rental; each time, however, the government required Allen to include other branches of road in his engagement (the new districts were never burdens to him for more than a few weeks), till at his death the cross-posts had extended to all parts of the country. Towards the last, this private project had become so gigantic as to be nearly unmanageable, and the time was anxiously awaited when it should become merged in the general establishment. Mr. Allen died in 1764, when the post-office authorities absorbed his department, and managed it so as to quadruple the amount of proceeds in two years.
Mr. Allen had reaped golden harvests. In an account which he left at his death, he estimated the net profits of his contract at £10,000 annually-a stun which, during his term of office, amounted, on his own shewing, to nearly half a million sterling! Whilst in official quarters his success was greatly envied, he commanded, in his private capacity, universal respect. In the only short account of this estimable man which we have seen, a contemporary writer states, that he was not more remarkable for the ingenuity and industry with which he made a very great fortune, than for the charity, generosity, and kindness with which he spent it.' It is certain that he bestowed a considerable part of his income in works of charity, and in supporting needy men of letters. He was a great friend and benefactor of Fielding; and in Tom Jones, the novelist has gratefully drawn Mr. Allen's character in the person of Allworthy. He enjoyed the friendship of Chatham; and Pope, Warburton, and other men of literary distinction, were his familiar companions. Pope has celebrated one of his principal virtues, unassuming benevolence, in the well-known lines:
Let humble Allen, with an awkward shame,
Do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame.
Mr. Allen divided his time between the literary society of London and his native city of Bath, near which city stood his elegant villa of Prior Park. A codicil to his will, dated November 10, a short time before his death, contains the following bequest: ' For the last instance of my friendly and grateful regard for the best of friends, as well as for the most upright and ablest of ministers that has adorned our country, I give to the Right Honourable William Pitt the sum of one thousand pounds, to be disposed of by him to any of his children that he may be pleased to appoint.'
THE TIMES TESTIMONIAL
A remarkable instance was afforded, a few years ago, of the power of an English newspaper, and its appreciation by the commercial men of Europe. It is known to most readers at the present day, that the proprietors and editors of the daily papers make strenuous exertions to obtain the earliest possible information of events likely to interest the public, and take pride in insuring for this information all available accuracy and fulness; but it is not equally well known how large is the cost incurred by so doing. None but wealthy proprietors could venture so much, for an object, whose importance and interest may be limited to a single day's issue of the paper.
In 1841, Mr. O'Reilly, the Times correspondent at Paris, received secret information of an enormous fraud that was said to be in course of perpetration on the continent. There were fourteen persons-English, French, and Italian-concerned, headed by a French baron, who possessed great talent, great knowledge of the continental world, and a most polished exterior. His plan was one by which European bankers would have been robbed of at least a million sterling; the conspirators having reaped about £10,000, when they were discovered. The grand coup was to have been this-to prepare a number of forged letters of credit, to present them simultaneously at the houses of all the chief bankers in Europe, and to divide the plunder at once. How Mr. O'Reilly obtained his information, is one of the secrets of newspaper management; but as he knew that the chief conspirator was a man who would not scruple to send a pistol-shot into any one who frustrated him, he wisely determined to date his letter to the Times from Brussels instead of Paris, to give a false scent. This precaution, it is believed, saved his life. The letter appeared in the Times on 26th May. It produced a profound sensation, for it revealed to the commercial world a conspiracy of startling magnitude.
One of the parties implicated, a partner in an English house at Florence, applied to the Times for the name of its informant; but the proprietors resolved to bear all the consequences. Hence the famous action, Bogle v. Lawson, brought against the printer of the Times for libel, the proprietors, of course, being the parties who bore the brunt of the matter. As the article appeared on 26th May, and as the trial did not come on till 16th August, there was ample time to collect evidence. The Times made immense exertions, and spent a large sum of money, in unravelling the conspiracy throughout. The verdict was virtually an acquittal, but under such circumstances that each party had to pay his own costs.
The signal service thus rendered to the commercial world, the undaunted manner in which the Times had carried through the whole matter from beginning to end, and the liberal way in which many thousands of pounds had been spent in so doing, attracted much public attention. A meeting was called, and a subscription commenced, to defray the cost of the trial, as a testimonial to the proprietors. This money was nobly declined in a few dignified and grateful words; and then the committee determined to perpetuate the memory of the transaction in another way. They had in their hands £2700, which had been subscribed by 38 public companies, 64 members of the city corporation, 58 London bankers, 120 London merchants and manufacturers, 116 county bankers and merchants, and 21 foreign bankers and merchants. In November, the committee made public their mode of appropriating this sum: namely, £1000 for a 'Times Scholarship' at Oxford, for boys in Christ's Hospital; £1000 for a similar scholarship at Cambridge, for boys of the city of London School; and the remainder of the money for four tablets, to bear suitable inscriptions-one to be put up at the Royal Exchange, one at Christ's Hospital, one at the City of London School, and one at the Times printing-office.