Born: Camille, Duke de Tallard, 1652, Dauphiné; Archdeacon Waterland, eminent theologian, 1683, Wasely.
Died: Pope Innocent I, 417; Richard II, King of England, murdered, 1400; Lord Chancellor Talbot, 1737; Captain James Cook, killed at Owhyhee, 1779 Sir William Blackstone, author of the Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1780, Wallingford.
Feast Day: St. Valentine, priest and martyr, circ. 270. St. Abraames, bishop of Carres, 422. St. Mare, abbot in Syria, 433. St. Auxentius, hermit, of Bithynia, circ. 470. St. Conran, bishop of Orkney, 7th century.
The career of James Cook-son of a farm servant-originally a cabin-boy and common sailor, rising to command and to be the successful conductor of three great naval expeditions for discovery in seas heretofore untraversed, presents an example of conduct rarely matched and it is not wonderful that scarcely the name of any Englishman is held in greater respect.
It was on a second visit to the Sandwich Islands in the Pacific Ocean, that Cook's life was abruptly ended by an unfortunate collision with the natives, February 14, 1779, when he had just turned his fiftieth year.
The squabble which led to this sad event arose from a miserable cause, the theft of a pair of tongs and a chisel by a native on board one of the ships. One now-a-days hears with surprise that the sailors, pursuing this man towards the shore, fired at him. All might have been ended amicably if an English officer had not attempted to seize the boat of another native, by way of guarantee that the thief would be given up. These high-handed proceedings naturally created a hostile feeling, and during the night an English boat was taken away. Cook went ashore at seven o'clock on a Sunday morning, to secure the person of the king, as a means of obtaining justice, and before eight he was a dead man on the beach, with the natives over his body cutting it to pieces.
Cook was a man of extraordinary natural sagacity, fortitude, and integrity. He was extremely kind-hearted; yet, as often happens with such persons, somewhat hasty and irritable. He was very modest and unassuming; not forward in discourse, yet always affable. In personal respects, he was chiefly remarkable for a tall and vigorous frame of body; his head is described as small, but in his portraits the forehead seems a large expanse, and what the phrenologists call the 'knowing organs' are well advanced. He had one peculiarity of great consequence o him: in the most critical circumstances, when he had given all proper directions, he could take sleep with perfect calmness. His death through the paltry squabble just described, was the more remarkable, as his benevolence of disposition led him in general to look mildly on the depredations of the natives.
Cook's widow, née Elizabeth Batts, who had been married to him in 1762, survived him fifty-six years, dying in 1835.
LADY SARAH LENNOX
Lady Sarah Lennox-born 14th February 1745-is an interesting figure of a subordinate class in modern English history. Her father, the second Duke of Richmond of his creation (grandson of King Charles II), had made, in early life, not exactly a romantic marriage, but a marriage which was followed by romantic circumstances. The bride was Lady Sarah Cadogan, daughter of Marlborough's favourite general.
'Their union was a bargain to cancel a gambling debt between the parents, and the young Lord March was brought from college, the lady from the nursery, for the ceremony. The bride was amazed and silent, but the bridegroom exclaimed-'Surely you are not going to marry me to that dowdy?' Married he was, however, and his tutor instantly carried him off to the Continent ... Three years afterwards, Lord March returned from his travels an accomplished gentleman, but having such a disagreeable re-collection of his wife that he avoided home, and repaired on the first night of his arrival to the theatre. There he saw a lady of so fine an appearance that he asked who she was. 'The reigning toast, the beautiful Lady March.' He hastened to claim her, and they lived together so affectionately, that, one year after his decease in 1750, she died of grief.'
Lady Sarah, one of the numerous children of this loving pair, grew up an extraordinary beauty. Of this we get some testimony from the great domestic chronicler of the last century,
Horace Walpole, who had occasion, in January 1761, to write to his friend George Montagu, regarding some private theatricals which he had witnessed at Holland House. By what appears to us a strange taste, the play selected to be performed by children and very young ladies was Jane Shore; Lady Sarah Lennox enacting the heroine, while the boy, afterwards eminent as Charles James Fox, was Hastings. Walpole praises the acting of the performers, but particularly that of Lady Sarah, which he admits to have been full of nature and simplicity. Lady Sarah,' he says, 'was more beautiful than you can conceive .. . in white, with her hair about her ears, and on the ground, no Magdalen by Correggio was half so lovely and expressive.'
The charms of this lovely creature had already made an impression on the heart of George III, then newly come to the throne at two and twenty. There seems no reason to doubt that the young monarch formed the design of raising his lovely cousin (for such she was) to the throne. The idea was of course eagerly embraced by her ladyship's relations, and particularly by her eldest sister's husband, Mr. Fox, who held the office of Paymaster of the Forces, and was anxious to strengthen the party to which he belonged. Any such project was, on the other hand, calculated extremely to offend the King's mother, the Princess of Wales, who, for the support of her power over her son, was desirous that his future wife should be beholden to herself for her brilliant position. Early in the winter 1760-1, the King took an opportunity of speaking to Lady Sarah's cousin, Lady Susan Strangeways, expressing a hope at the drawing-room, that her ladyship was not soon to leave town. She said she should. 'But,' said the King, 'you will return in summer for the coronation.' Lady Susan answered that she did not know-she hoped so. 'But,' said the King again, 'they talk of a wedding. There have been many proposals: but I think an English match would do better than a foreign one. Pray tell Lady Sarah Lennox I say so.' Here was a sufficiently broad hint to inflame the hopes of a family, and to raise the head of a blooming girl of sixteen to the fifth heavens.
It happened, however, that Lady Sarah had already allowed her heart to be pre-occupied, having formed a girlish attachment for the young Lord Newbottle, grandson of the Marquis of Lothian. She did not therefore enter into the views of her family with all the alacrity which they desired. According to a narrative of Mr Grenville:
'She went the next drawing-room to St. James's, and stated to the King, in as few words as she could, the inconveniences and difficulties in which such a step would involve him. He said, that was his business: he would stand them all: his part was taken, he wished to hear hers was likewise.'
'In this state it continued, whilst she, by advice of her friends, broke off with Lord Newbottle, very reluctantly on her part. She went into the country for a few days, and by a fall from her horse broke her leg. The absence which this occasioned gave time and opportunities for her enemies to work; they instilled jealousy into the King's mind upon the subject of Lord Newbottle, telling him that Lady Sarah still continued her intercourse with him, and immediately the marriage with the Princess of Strelitz was set on foot: and, at Lady Sarah's return from the country, she found herself deprived of her crown and her lover Lord Newbottle, who complained as much of her as she did of the King. While this was in agitation, Lady Sarah used to meet the King in his rides early in the morning, driving a little chaise with Lady Susan Strangeways: and once it is said that, wanting to speak to him, she went dressed like a servant-maid, and stood amongst the crowd in the Guard-room, to say a few words to him as he passed by.'
Walpole also relates that Lady Sarah would sometimes appear as a haymaker in the park at Holland House, in order to attract the attention of the King as he rode past but the opportunity was lost. The habit of obedience to his mother's will carried the day, and he allowed an emissary to go on a mission to obtain a bride for him in the Protestant courts of Germany.
It is believed that lady Sarah was allowed to have hopes till the very day when the young sovereign announced to his council that he had resolved on wedding the Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg Strelitz. She felt ill-used, and her friends were all greatly displeased. With the King she remained an object of virtuous admiration,-perhaps also of pity. He wished to soften the disappointment by endeavouring to get her established in a high position near his wife: but the impropriety of such a course was obvious, and it was not persisted in.
Lady Sarah, however, was asked by the King to take a place among the ten unmarried daughters of dukes and earls who held up the train of his queen at the coronation: and this office, which we cannot help thinking in the circumstances derogatory, she consented to perform. It is said that, in the sober, duty-compelled mind of the sovereign, there always was a softness towards the object of his youthful attachment. Walpole relates that he blushed at his wedding service, when allusion was made to Abraham and Sarah.
Lady Sarah Lennox in 1764 made a marriage which proved that ambition was not a ruling principle in her nature, her husband being 'a clergyman's son,' Sir Thomas Charles Bunbury, Bart. Her subsequent life was in some respects infelicitous, her marriage being dissolved by Act of Parliament in 1776. By a subsequent marriage to the Hon. Major-General George Napier, she became the mother of a set of remarkable men, including the late Sir Charles James Napier, the conqueror of Scinde, and Lieut.-General Sir William Napier, the historian of the Peninsular War. Her ladyship died at the age of eighty-two, in 1826, believed to be the last surviving great grand-daughter of Charles II.
ST. VALENTINE'S DAY
Valentine's Day is now almost everywhere a much degenerated festival, the only observance of any note consisting merely of the sending of jocular anonymous letters to parties whom one wishes to quiz, and this confined very much to the humbler classes. The approach of the day is now heralded by the appearance in the print-sellers' shop windows of vast numbers of missives calculated for use on this occasion, each generally consisting of a single sheet of post paper, on the first page of which is seen some ridiculous coloured caricature of the male or female figure, with a few burlesque verses below. More rarely, the print is of a sentimental kind, such as a view of Hymen's altar, with a pair undergoing initiation into wedded happiness before it, while Cupid flutters above, and hearts transfixed with his darts decorate the corners. Maid-servants and young fellows interchange such epistles with each other on the 14th of February, no doubt conceiving that the joke is amazingly good: and, generally, the newspapers do not fail to record that the London postmen delivered so many hundred thousand more letters on that day than they do in general. Such is nearly the whole extent of the observances now peculiar to St. Valentine's Day.
At no remote period it was very different. Ridiculous letters were unknown: and, if letters of any kind were sent, they contained only a courteous profession of attachment from some young man to some young maiden, honeyed with a few compliments to her various perfections, and expressive of a hope that his love might meet with return. But the true proper ceremony of St. Valentine's Day was the drawing of a kind of lottery, followed by ceremonies not much unlike what is generally called the game of forfeits. Misson, a learned traveller, of the early part of the last century, gives apparently a correct account of the principal ceremonial of the day.
'On the eve of St. Valentine's Day,' he says, 'the young folks in England and Scotland, by a very ancient custom, celebrate a little festival. An equal number of maids and bachelors get together: each writes their true or some feigned name upon separate billets, which they roll up, and draw by way of lots, the maids taking the men's billets, and the men the maids': so that each of the young men lights upon a girl that he calls his valentine, and each of the girls upon a young man whom she calls hers. By this means each has two valentines: but the man sticks faster to the valentine that has fallen to him than to the valentine to whom he is fallen. Fortune having thus divided the company into so many couples, the valentines give balls and treats to their mistresses, wear their billets several days upon their bosoms or sleeves, and this little sport often ends in love.'
In that curious record of domestic life in England in the reign of Charles II, Pepys's Diary, we find some notable illustrations of this old custom. It appears that married and single were then alike liable to be chosen as a valentine, and that a present was invariably and necessarily given to the choosing party. Mr. Pepys enters in his diary, on Valentine's Day, 1667: 'This morning came up to my wife's bedside (I being up dressing myself) little Will Mercer to be her valentine, and brought her name written upon blue paper in gold letters, done by himself, very pretty; and we were both well pleased with it. But I am also this year my wife's valentine, and it will cost me £5: but that I must have laid out if we had not been valentines.' Two days after, he adds:
'I find that Mrs. Pierce's little girl is my valentine, she having drawn me: which I was not sorry for, it easing me of something more that I must have given to others. But here I do first observe the fashion of drawing mottoes as well as names, so that Pierce, who drew my wife, did draw also a motto, and this girl drew another for me. What mine was. I forget: but my wife's was 'Most courteous and most fair,' which, as it maybe used, or an anagram upon each name, might be very pretty.'
Noticing, soon afterwards, the jewels of the celebrated Miss Stuart, who became Duchess of Richmond, he says: 'The Duke of York, being once her valentine, did give her a jewel of about £800: and my Lord Mandeville, her valentine this year, a ring of about £300.' These presents were undoubtedly given in order to relieve the obligation under which the being drawn as valentines had placed the donors. In February 1668, Pepys notes as follows:
'This evening my wife did with great pleasure shew me her stock of jewels, increased by the ring she hath made lately, as my valentine's gift this year, a Turkey-stone set with diamonds. With this, and what she had, she reckons that she hath above one hundred and fifty pounds' worth of jewels of one kind or other: and I am glad of it, for it is fit the wretch should have something to content herself with.'
The reader will understand wretch to be used as a term of endearment. Notwithstanding the practice of relieving, there seems to have been a disposition to believe that the person drawn as a valentine had some considerable likelihood of becoming the associate of the party in wedlock. At least, we may suppose that this idea would be gladly and easily arrived at, where the party so drawn was at all eligible from other considerations. There was, it appears, a prevalent notion amongst the common people, that this was the day on which the birds selected their mates. They seem to have imagined that an influence was inherent in the day, which rendered in some degree binding the lot or chance by which any youth or maid was now led to fix his attention on a person of the opposite sex. It was supposed, for instance, that the first unmarried person of the other sex whom one met on St. Valentine's morning in walking abroad, was a destined wife or a destined husband. Thus Gay makes a rural dame remark:
Last Valentine, the day when binds of kind
Their paramours with mutual chirping', find,
I early rose just at the break of day,
Before the sun had chased the stars away:
A-field I went, amid the morning clew,
To milk my kine (for so should housewives do).
Thee first I spied-and the first swain we see,
In spite of Fortune shall our true love be.
A forward Miss in the Connoisseur, a series of essays published in 1751-6, thus adverts to other notions with respect to the day:
Last Friday was Valentine's Day, and the night before, I got five bay-leaves, and pinned four of them to the four corners of my pillow, and the fifth to the middle: and then, if I dreamt of my sweetheart, Betty said we should be married before the year was out. But to make it more sure, I boiled an egg hard, and took out the yolk, and filled it with salt: and when I went to bed, ate it, shell and all, without speaking or drinking after it. We also wrote our lovers' names upon bits of paper, and rolled them up in clay, and put them into water; and the first that rose up was to be our valentine. Would you think it?-Mr. Blossom was my man. I lay a-bed and shut my eyes all the morning, till he came to our house: for I would not have seen another man before him for all the world.'
St. Valentine's Day is alluded to by Shakspeare and by Chaucer, and also by the poet Lydgate (who died in 1440). One of the earliest known writers of valentines, or poetical amorous addresses for this day, was Charles Duke of Orleans, who was taken at the battle of Agincourt. Drayton, a poet of Shakspeare's time, full of great but almost unknown beauties, wrote thus charmingly:
TO HIS VALENTINE
Muse, bid the morn awake,
Sad winter now declines,
Each bird cloth choose a mate,
This day's St. Valentine's :
For that good bishop's sake
Get up, and let us see,
What beauty it shall be
That fortune us assigns.
But lo! in happy hour,
The place wherein she lies,
In yonder climbing tower
Gilt by the glittering rise;
Oh, Jove! that in a shower,
As once that thunder did,
When he in drops lay hid,
That I could her surprise!
Her canopy I'll draw,
With spangled plumes bedight,
No mortal ever saw
So ravishing a sight:
That it the gods might awe,
And powerfully transpierce
The globy universe,
Out-shooting every light.
My lips I'll softly lay
Upon her heavenly cheek,
Dyed like the dawning day,
As polish'd ivory sleek:
And in her ear I'll say,
'Oh thou bright morning-star
'Tis I that come so far,
My valentine to seek.
Each little bird, this title,
Doth choose her loved peer,
Which constantly abide
In wedlock all the year,
As nature is their guide:
So may we two be true
This year, nor change for new,
As turtles coupled were.
Let's laugh at them that choose
Their valentines by lot:
To wear their names that use,
Whom icily they have got.
Such poor choice we refuse,
Saint Valentine befriend;
We thus this morn may spend,
Else, Muse, awake her not
Donne, another poet of the same age, remarkable for rich though scattered beauties, writes an epithalamium on the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth to Frederick Count Palatine of the Rhine-the marriage which gave the present royal family to the throne--and which took place on St. Valentine's Day, 1614. The opening is fine
Hail, Bishop Valentine! whose day this is:
All the air is thy diocese,
And all the chirping choristers
And other birds are thy parishioners:
Thou marryest every year
The lyric lark and the grave whispering dove:
The sparrow that neglects his life for love,
The household bird with the red stomacher:
Thou mak'st the blackbird speed as soon
As cloth the goldfinch or the halcyon--
This day more cheerfully than ever shine,
This day which might inflame thyself, old Valentine!
The origin of these peculiar observances of St. Valentine's Day is a subject of some obscurity. The saint himself, who was a priest of Rome, martyred in the third century, seems to have had nothing to do with the matter, beyond the accident of his day being used for the purpose. Mr. Douce, in his Illustrations of Shakspeare, says:
'It was the practice in ancient Rome, during a great part of the month of February, to celebrate the Lupercalia, which were feasts in honour of Pan and Juno. whence the latter deity was named Februata, Februalis, and Februlla. On this occasion, amidst a variety of ceremonies, the names of young women were put into a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. The pastors of the early Christian church, who, by every possible means, endeavoured to eradicate the vestiges of pagan superstitions, and chiefly by some commutations of their forms, substituted, in the present instance, the names of particular saints instead of those of the women: and as the festival of the Lupercalia had commenced about the middle of February, they appear to have chosen St. Valentine's Day for celebrating the new feast, because it occurred nearly at the same time.
This is, in part, the opinion of a learned and rational compiler of the Lives of the Saints, the Rev. Alban Butler.
It should seem, however, that it was utterly impossible to extirpate altogether any ceremony to which the common people had been much accustomed-a fact which it were easy to prove in tracing the origin of various other popular superstitions. And, accordingly, the outline of the ancient ceremonies was preserved, but modified by some adaptation to the Christian system. It is reasonable to suppose, that the above practice of choosing mates would gradually become reciprocal in the sexes, and that all persons so chosen would be called Valentines, from the day on which the ceremony took place.'