Born: Thomas Betterton, celebrated actor, 1635, Westminster; Dr. Richard Mead, distinguished physician, 1673, Stepney, London; Joseph Nollekens, sculptor, 1737, London; Jean Victor Moreau, French republican general,1763, Morlaix, in Brittany; Viscount Rowland Hill, Peninsular general, 1772, Frees, Shropshire.
Died: General Sir Samuel Auchmuty, captor of Monte Video, 1822; James Wilson, eminent financial statesman, founder of the Economist newspaper, 1860, Calcutta.
Feast Day: St. Tiburtius, martyr, and St. Chromatius, confessor, 286. St. Susanna, virgin and martyr, about 295. St. Gery or Gaugericus, confessor, 619. St. Equitius, abbot, about 540.
DR. MEAD-ROUGH DOCTORS
Although a brief general memoir of Dr. Mead has been presented under the day of his death, February 16, it may be allowable to open so interesting a subject with a few more particulars.
Mead was a stanch Whig of the old school, and was fortunate enough to render his party a most important service, in a very extraordinary manner. When called in to see Queen Anne on her death-bed, he boldly asserted that she could not live an hour. Though this proved not to be literally true -for the queen lived to the next day-it was substantially so. Intentionally on Mead's part or not, it roused the energies of the Whigs, who made immediate preparations for securing the Hanoverian succession; for which important event, according to Miss Strickland, we are mainly indebted to the physician's prognosis.
The immense difference between the habits and feelings of the present and past century, seems like a wide ocean, dividing two continents, inhabited by distinct races. We can, with a little force to our feelings, imagine a courtly physician, like Mead, visiting his patients with a sword by his side; but we are shocked to hear of two medical men, of high standing, drawing their swords upon each other, and fighting like a couple of bravos, in the open street. Yet such a duello actually took place between Mead and Woodward. The latter, making a false step, fell, and Mead called upon him to submit, and beg his life. 'Not till I am your patient,' satirically replied the other. He did next moment yield by laying his sword at Mead's feet. Vertue's engraving of Gresham College, in Ward's Lives of the Professors, commemorates this duel, Woodward being represented on his knees, with his sword dropped, and Mead standing over him, with his sword raised. The admission of these figures into the engraving is a significant sign of the period. Ward, the author of the work, was a protege of Mead, and probably aimed at flattering him in this manner. It may be noted that, many years after the encounter of Mead and Woodward, two London physicians in high practice had a duel-bloodless-in Hyde Park, in consequence of merely some slighting remark by the one regarding the other.
The gulf between the present and the past century is no greater than that between the latter and its predecessor. A celebrated Dorsetshire physician and master of arts, named. Grey, who was buried at Swyre in 1612, is described as 'a little desperate doctor, commonly wearing a pistol about his neck.' Mr. Roberts in his Social History of the People, informs us that, one day, a sheriff's officer, disguised as a pedler, served Grey with a writ. The doctor caught the fellow by both ends of his collar, and, drawing out a great run-dagger, broke his head in three places; so the man slipped his head through his cloak, and ran away, leaving the garment in the doctor's hands. The officer then complained to a magistrate, that Grey had stolen his cloak, which the doctor, being sent for, denied, and tearing the cloak in many pieces, told the fellow to look for his lousy rags in the kennel. Most of the gentlemen in the county who were young, strong, and convivially inclined, were adopted by Grey as his sons. When the sheriff was attending the assizes with sixty men, this desperate doctor came with twenty of his 'sons,' and drank before the sheriff and his men, daring any one to touch them. And then Grey, in bravado, blew his horn (a curious appendage for a physician), and rode away with his friends.
A very rough-living doctor of the seventeenth century was John Lambe, confidential physician to Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. This man had been indicted and found guilty, at Worcester assizes, for being 'a sorcerer and juggling person, absolutely given over to lewd, wicked, and diabolical courses, an invocator and adorer of impious and wicked spirits.' At this assize the jail-fever broke out with fatal effect upon many persons, and the sagacious authorities, suspecting that Lambe, by his magical arts, had caused the pestilence, were afraid to carry his sentence into execution, lest he might, in a spirit of revenge, make matters worse.
They accordingly sent him to London, where he was confined for some time in the King's Bench Prison. He there practised as a doctor, with great success, till, having committed an outrage on a young woman, he was tried at the Old Bailey, but saved from punishment by the powerful influence of his patron and protector, Buckingham. The popular voice accused. Lambe of several grave offences, particularly against women; and on the very same day that the duke was denounced in the House of Commons as the cause of England's calamities, his dependent and doctor was murdered by an infuriated mob in the city of London. The story of his death, from a rare contemporary pamphlet, is worth transcribing, as a sample of the lawless conduct of the people and insecure state of the streets of London at the period.
On Friday, he (Dr. Lambe) went to see a play at the Fortune, where the boys of the town, and other unruly people, having observed him present, after the play was ended flocked about him, and (after the manner of the common people, who follow a hubbub when it is once set on foot) began in a confused manner to assault and offer him violence. He, in affright, made towards the city as fast as he could, and hired a company of sailors that were there to be his guard. But so great was the fury of the people, who pelted him with stones and other things that came next to hand, that the sailors had much to do to bring him in safety as far as Moorgate.
The rage of the people about that place increased so much, that the sailors, for their own sake, were forced to leave the protection of him; and then the multitude pursued him through Coleman Street to the Old Jewry, no house being able or daring to give him protection, though he attempted many. Four constables were there raised to appease the tumult; who, all too late for his safety, brought him to the Counter in the Poultry, where he was bestowed upon command of the lord mayor. For, before he was brought thither, the people had had him down, and with stones and cudgels, and other weapons, had so beaten him that his skull was broken, and all parts of his body bruised and wounded, whereupon, though surgeons in vain were sent for, he never spoke a word, but lay languishing till the next morning, and then died.'
On the day of Lanibe's death, placards containing the following words were displayed on the walls of London: 'Who rules the kingdom?-The king. Who rules the king?-The duke. Who rules the duke?-The devil. Let the duke look to it, or he will be served as his doctor was served.' A few weeks afterwards, the duke was assassinated by Felton.
As a rule, the aristocratic-democratic government of Britain does not favour the rise to high official position of men unendowed with fortune. Clever but poor men, who make their way into prominent political situations, are too much under necessities perilous to their honesty, or at least to their independence, to allow of their usually leading that straight course which alone gives success in public life in England. The men of the upper and wealthy circles, who possess the requisite ability and industry, have an advantage over them against which it seems almost impossible for them to make head. The instances, therefore, of high office attained by such men, and administered worthily, are very few.
Among the exceptions of our own times, there has been none more remarkable than that presented by the career of the Right Hon. James Wilson, who was from 1853 to 1858 Financial Secretary of the Treasury, and died in 1860 in the position of Financial Member of the Council in India. Mr. Wilson-one of the sons of a Quaker manufacturer at Hawick, Roxburghshire, and born there in 1805-commenced life as a hat-manufacturer, first at his native town, and subsequently in London; was prosperous through close application and business talents; gave his mind at leisure time to political economy; in time set up a weekly business paper, The Economist; prospered in that too; and so went on, step by step, till in 1847 he obtained a seat in the House of Commons. Wilson was a serious, considerate, earnest man. Whatever he set his hand to, he did with all his might; every point he gained, he always turned to the best advantage for his further progress.
It would he a great mistake, however, to suppose that he succeeded purely by industry and application. He was a man of penetrating and original mind. Coming forward in public life at the great crisis when protection and hostile tariffs were to yield to free trade, he was able to give his writings on these subjects a character which did not belong to those of any other person. He always held to the practical points: 'What did business-men do in such and such circumstances?' 'Why did they do it?' and 'Why it was right that they should do it?' His mind, at the same time, could grasp great principles; when Mr. Cobden and others, for example, were representing the struggle with protection as a conflict of class with class, and thus making land-lords hold their ground with the most desperate tenacity, Mr. Wilson saw and avowed that it was a system disadvantageous for all classes, since all classes, in reality, have but one interest. He thus added immense force to the cause of free trade; and it is unnecessary to say, that the soundness of his views has been fully proved by the event.
Mr. Wilson might be considered, in 1859, as in the fair way for erelong taking an honoured place in the cabinet. It was a most extraordinary fact in our administrative system; but Mr. Wilson's success in his own affairs had overcome all those obstacles to which we have adverted. He would have been hailed among the immediate advisers of his sovereign, as one who had never sacrificed one point of probity or one jot of consistency on the shrine of ambition. At this juncture, a necessity arose for a finance minister for India, and as the difficulties were great, a man of Mr. Wilson's talents was thought necessary for the position. He was induced to undertake this duty, and for some time he pursued at Calcutta the same career of assiduous application which had given him distinction at home. His health, however gave way, and this remarkable man sank at the comparatively early age of fifty-six, when just about to complete his plans for the regeneration of the Indian revenue.
There are men who will be heard with one breath complaining of the aristocratic character of our institutions, and with another sneering at the rise of a statesman like James Wilson. It is not for us to reconcile their inconsistencies. It may be remarked, however, that an insinuation often made by such persons, to the effect that he had creditors who remained unsatisfied at the time of his taking office, was untrue. On an embarrassment arising in his firm through losses in indigo speculations, he from his own personal means discharged one-half of the obligations, and the plant of the firm was accepted in full satisfaction for the remainder. On this turning out less favourably than was expected, Mr. Wilson devoted a part of the means subsequently acquired to make up for the deficiency; so that, at the time in question, he was entirely free of the slightest imputation of indebtedness. His conduct on this occasion was, indeed, such as to do honour to the place he gained, rather than to detract from it.
On the 11th of August 1755, died John Lord Dalmeny, eldest son of James, second Earl of Rosebery, in the thirty-first year of his age. In the life of this young nobleman there was a romantic circumstance which has been handed down to us by an English provincial newspaper, and appears to be authentic. In London, some years before his death, he casually encountered a lady who made a deep impression on him, and whom he induced to marry him, and accompany him on a tour of the continent. This union was without the knowledge of relations on either side, but it apparently fulfilled all the essential conditions of matrimony, and the pair lived in great harmony and happiness till the lady was overtaken by a mortal illness.
When assured that she was dying, she asked for pen and paper, and wrote the words: 'I am the wife of the Rev. Mr. Gough, rector of Thorpe, in Essex; my maiden name was C. Cannon, and my last request is, to be buried at Thorpe.' How she had happened to desert her husband does not appear; but Lord Dalmeny, while full of grief for her loss, protested that he was utterly ignorant of this previous marriage. In compliance with her last wishes, he embalmed her body, and brought it in a chest to England. Under the feigned name of Williams, he landed at Colchester, where the chest was opened by the custom-house officers under suspicion of its containing smuggled goods. The young nobleman manifested the greatest grief on the occasion, and seemed distracted under the further and darker suspicions which now arose.
The body being placed uncovered in the church, he took his place beside it, absorbed in profound sorrow; the scene reminded a bystander of Romeo and Juliet. At length he gave full explanation of the circumstances, and Mr. Gough was sent for to come and identify his wife. The first meeting of the indignant husband with the sorrow-struck young man who had unwittingly injured him, was very moving to all who beheld it. Of the two, the latter appeared the most solicitous to do honour to the deceased. He had a splendid coffin made for her, and attended her corpse to Thorpe, where Mr. Gough met him, and the burial was performed with all due solemnity. Lord Dalmeny immediately after departed for London, apparently inconsolable for his loss. Kitty Cannon,' says the local narrator, 'is, I believe, the first woman in England that had two husbands to attend her to the grave together.' In the Peerages, Lord Dalmeny is said to have died unmarried.