Born: Godfrey Bidloo, anatomist, 1649, Amsterdam; John Thomas Desaguliers, philosophical writer, 1683, Rochelle; Bishop G. Berkeley, philosopher, 1684, Kilcrin, Kilkenny; John Frederick Daniell, chemist and meteorologist, 1790, Essex-street, Strand.
Died: Caesar Borgia, killed, 1508, Castle of Vicuna; Alexander Piccolomini, Italian miscellaneous writer, 1578, Siena; Ludovick Muggleton, sectarian (Muggletonians), 1697; the Rev. Dr. George Gregory, editor of the Ness Annual Register, 1808, West Ham; Rev. It. Polwhele, topographer and poet, 1838.
Feast Day: St Maximilian of Numidia, martyr, 296. St. Paul of Cornwall, bishop of Leon, about 573. St. Gregory the Great, Pope, 604.
ST. GREGORY THE GREAT
There have been Popes of every shade of human character. Gregory the Great is one distinguished by modesty, disinterestedness, and sincere religious zeal, tempered by a toleration which could only spring from pure benevolence. The son of a Roman senator, with high mental gifts, and all the accomplishments of his age, he was drawn forward into prominent positions, but always against his will. He would have fain continued to be an obscure monk or a missionary, but his qualities were such that at length even the popedom was thrust upon him (on the death of Pelagius II in 590). On this occasion he wrote to the sister of the Emperor:
Appearing to be outwardly exalted, I am really fallen. My endeavours were to banish corporeal objects from my mind, that I might spiritually behold heavenly joys. I am come into the depths of the sea, and the tempest hath drowned me.
The writings of Pope Gregory, which fill four folio volumes, are said to be very admirable. The English King Alfred showed his appreciation of one treatise by translating it. In exercising the functions of his high station, Gregory exhibited great mildness and forbearance. He eagerly sought to convert the heathen, and to bring heretics back to the faith: but he never would sanction the adoption of any harsh. measures for these purposes. One day-before he attained the papal chair-walking through the market in Rome, he was struck by the beauty of a group of young persons exposed to be sold as slaves. In answer to his inquiry of who they were, and whence they came, he was told they were Angli, from the heathen island of Britain. 'Verily, Angeli,' he said, punning on the name: 'how lamentable that the prince of darkness should be the master of a country containing such a beautiful people! How sad that, with so fair an outside, there should be nothing of God's grace within! 'His wish. was immediately to set out as a missionary to England, and it was with difficulty he was prevented. The incident, however, led to a mission being ere long sent to our then benighted country, which thus owed its first reception of Christian light to Gregory.
Almsgiving, in such Protestant countries as England, is denounced as not so much a lessening of human suffering as a means of engendering and extending pauperism. Gregory had no such fears to stay his bountiful hand. With him to relieve the poor was the first of Christian graces. He devoted a large proportion of his revenue and a vast amount of personal care to this object. He in a manner took the entire charge of the poor upon his own hands. 'He relieved their necessities with. so much sweetness and affability, as to spare them the confusion of receiving alms; the old men among them he, out of deference, called his fathers. He often entertained several of them at his own table. He kept by him an exact catalogue of the poor, called by the ancients Matriculae; and he liberally provided for the necessities of each. In the beginning of every month he distributed to all the poor corn, wine, pulse, cheese, fish, flesh, and oil; he appointed officers for every street, to send every day necessaries to all the needy sick: before he ate, he always sent off meats from his own table to some poor persons.' There may be some bad moral results from this wholesale system of relief for poverty, but certainly the motives which prompted it must be acknowledged to have been highly amiable.
Gregory was a weakly man, often suffering from bad health, and he did not get beyond the age of sixty-four. We owe to him a phrase which has become a sort of formula for the popes-'Servant of the servants of God.' His name, which is the same as Vigilantius or Watchman, became, from veneration for him, a favourite one: we find it borne, amongst others, by a Scottish prince of the eighth century, the reputed progenitor of the clan M'Gregor. It is curious to think of this formidable band of Highland outlaws of the seventeenth century as thus connected by a chain of historical circumstances with the gentle and saintly Gregory, who first caused the lamp of Christianity to be planted in England.
Dr. George Berkeley, better known as Bishop Berkeley, the mathematician and ideal philosopher, graduated at Trinity College, Dublin, which he entered as a pensioner at the early age of fifteen. Very different opinions prevailed about him at College: those who knew little of him took him for a fool, while those who were most intimate with him considered him a prodigy of learning. His most intimate friends were the best judges in this case, for before he reached his twenty-third year he competed for and obtained a fellowship. Within the next three years he published his Theory of Vision, a work of remarkable sagacity, and the first of its kind. Its object may be roughly stated to be an attempt, and a successful one, to trace the boundary line between our ideas of sight and touch. He supposed that if a man born blind could be enabled to see, it would be impossible for him to recognise any object by sight which he had previously known by touch, and that such a person would have no idea of the relative distance of objects.
This supposition was confirmed in a very surprising manner in the year 1728, eighteen years after the publication of Mr. Berkeley's book by a young man who was born blind and couched by Mr. Cheseldon. He said that all objects seemed to touch his eyes: he was unable to distinguish the dog from the cat by sight, and was so sorely puzzled between his newly-acquired sense and that of touch that he asked which was the lying sense. In the next year Berkeley published his Principles of Human Knowledge, in which he set forth his celebrated system of immaterialism, attempting to prove that the common notion of the existence of matter is false, and that such things as bricks and mortar, chairs and tables, are nonentities, except as ideas in the mind. A further defence of this system, in Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, established his reputation as a writer, and his company was sought even where his opinions were rejected. Through Dean Swift he was introduced to the celebrated Earl of Peter-borough, whom he accompanied to Italy in the capacity of chaplain.
His first piece of preferment was the Deanery of Derry. And no sooner was he settled in this than he conceived and carried out to the utmost of his power a project which entitles him to the admiration of posterity. It was nothing less than a scheme for the conversion of the savage Americans to Christianity. He proposed to erect a college in Bermuda as a missionary school, to resign his deanery, worth £1,100 a year, and to go out himself as its first president, on the stipend of £100 a year. His plan was approved by parliament, and he set out, taking with him three other noble and kindred spirits. For seven years Sir R. Walpole delayed him with various excuses, and at last gave him to under-stand that the promised grant would not be paid till it suited 'public convenience,' thus rendering the whole scheme abortive.
In 1733, he was appointed to the bishopric of Cloync. The rest of his life was devoted to the earnest discharge of his episcopal duties and the further prosecution of his studies. His custom was to rise between three and four o'clock, summon his family to a music lesson, and spend the rest of the morning in study. In this part of his life, he published The Analyst, which was followed by several other works, among which was a letter to the Roman Catholics of his diocese, entitled A Word to the Wise, for which in the Dublen Journal of November 18, 1749, they returned 'their sincere and hearty thanks to the worthy author, assuring him that they are deter-mined to comply with every particular recommended in his address to the utmost of their power.'
Suffering a good deal from a nervous colic towards the end of his life, and finding relief from tar-water, he wrote a treatise on its virtues, which, with its sequel, Further Thoughts on Tar-water, was his last work for the press. He died at Oxford, suddenly, in the midst of his family, on Sunday evening, January 14, 1753, while listening to a sermon of Dr. Sherlock's which Mrs. Berkeley was reading to him. He was interred in Christ Church, Oxford.
A time of extraordinary religious fervour is sure to produce its monsters, even as the hot mud of the Nile was fabled to do by Lucretius. Several arose amidst the dreadful sectarian contendings of the period of the civil war, and scarcely any more preposterous than Ludovick Muggleton, who is said to have been a working tailor, wholly devoid of education. About 1651, when this man was between forty and fifty years of age, he and a brother in trade, named Reeves, announced themselves as the two last witnesses of God that would ever be appointed on earth: professed a prophetic gift, and pretended to have been invested with an exclusive power over the gates of heaven and hell. When Reeves died, Muggleton continued to set himself forth in this character, affecting to bless those who respectfully listened to him, and cursing all who scoffed at him, assuming, in short, to have the final destiny of man, woman, and child entirely in his own hand.
By ravings in speech and print, he acquired a considerable number of followers, chiefly women, and became at length such a nuisance, that the public authorities resolved, if possible, to put him down. His trial at the Old Bailey, January 17th, 1677, ended in his being sentenced to stand in the pillory on three days in three several parts of London, and to pay a fine of £500, or be kept in jail in failure of payment. His books were at the same time ordered to be publicly burnt. All this severity Muggleton outlived twenty years, dying at length at the age of ninety, and leaving a sect behind him, called from him Muggletonians.
It would serve to little good purpose to go farther into the history of this wretched fanatic. One anecdote, however, may be related of him. It happened on a day, when Muggleton was in his cursing mood, that he very energetically devoted to the infernal deities a gentleman who had given him some cause of offence. The gentleman immediately drew his sword, and placing its point at the cursing prophet's breast, demanded that the anathemas just pronounced should be reversed upon pain of instant death. Muggleton, who had no relish for a martyrdom of this kind, assumed his blessing capacity, and gave the fiery gentleman the fullest satisfaction.
There is no mention of Muggletomans in the official report of the census of 1851, though it included about a dozen small sects, under various uncouth denominations. As late as 1846, some of Muggleton's incomprehensible rhapsodies were reprinted and published, it is sincerely to be hoped for the last time.
THE TRAFFIC OF WOMEN'S HAIR
As a rule, the women of England do not sell their hair. There is, however, in England, a large and regular demand for this article, to make those supposititious adornments which one sees in every hair-dresser's window. It is stated that a hundred thousand pounds' weight of human hair is required to supply the demand of the English market. It is mainly brought from the continent, where women of the humbler rank may be said to cherish their hair with a view to selling it for money. Light hair comes mostly from Belgium and Germany, dark from France and Italy. There is a Dutch company, the agents of which make annual visits to the towns and villages of Germany, buying the tresses of poor women.
In France the trade is mostly in the hands of agents, sent out by large firms at Paris. These agents, going chiefly to the Breton villages, take with them a supply of silks, laces, ribbons, haberdashery, and cheap jewellery, which they barter with the peasant women and girls for their tresses. Mr. Trollope, while travelling in Brittany, saw much of this singular hair-cropping going on; as the women in that province all wear close-fitting caps, the difference between the cropped and the uncropped was not so perceptible as it otherwise would have been. The general price is said to vary from about one franc to five francs for a head of hair half a pound to a pound in weight: but choice specimens occasionally command more than their weight in silver, owing to the eager competition of buyers to obtain them.
In England, something of this kind is going on in country villages, but not (it is supposed) to any great extent. A feeling of womanly pride rebels against it. Occasionally, however, evidence peeps out to show that poor Englishwomen know that there is a market for such a commodity. One instance of a ludicrous kind occurred at a metropolitan police-court some years ago. On March 12th, 1825, the court was thronged by a number of poor women, who seemed excited and uncomfortable, and who whispered among themselves as to who should be the spokeswoman to tell the tale which all evidently desired should be told. At length one of them, with a manner half ashamed, told the magistrate that one Thomas Rushton, a barber, called at her poor abode one day, and asked politely to look at her hair. Whether she guessed his errand, is not clear: but she took off her cap at his bidding. He professed to be in raptures with the beauty of her hair, and offered her a guinea for it. Being in straitened circumstances she accepted the offer. The rogue at once took out his scissors, and cut off the whole of her hair. 'See, your worship,' said she, 'what he has done.' His worship did see, and found that there were only little stumps of hair left like pig's bristles. The fellow put her hair in his hat, put the hat on his head, and ran off without giving her a single coin. All the other women in the court had been defrauded of their tresses in a similar way, and probably all on the same day-for the rogue could not afford to wait until the exploit got wind. The poor women declared that they had been rendered quite miserable when they came to show their husbands their cropped heads-which may well be imagined.
It may be added that, about a hundred years ago, when false hair was perhaps more in use than it is now, a woman residing in a Scotch burgh used to get a guinea from time to time for her tresses, which were of a bright golden hue.