Born: Henry Cornelius Agrippa, alchemist and author, 1486, Cologne; Browne Willis, antiquary, 1682, Bland-ford, Dorsetshire; Alexander Baron von Humboldt, celebrated traveller and natural philosopher, 1769, Berlin; Lord William Charles Cavendish Bentinck, governor-general of India, 1774.
Died: St. Cyprian, archbishop of Carthage, Christian writer and martyr, 258, Carthage; St. Chrysostom, renowned preacher and writer, 407, near Comana; Dante Alighieri, great Italian poet, 1321, Ravenna; John Plantagenet, Duke of Bedford, English commander in France, 1435, Rouen; Pope Adrian VI, 1523; Robert, Earl of Essex, parliamentary general, 1646; John Dominic Cassini, astronomer, 1712; Charles Rollin, historian, 1741, Paris; Louis Joseph de Montcalm, French commander, 1759, Quebec; James Fenimore Cooper, American novelist, 1851, Cooperstown, New York; Arthur, Duke of Wellington, illustrious British commander, 1852, Walmer Castle, Kent; Augustin W. N. Pugin, ecclesiastical architect, 1852, Ramsgate.
Feast Day: The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, 629. St. Cormac, bishop of Cashel, 908. St. Catherine of Genoa, widow, 1510.
EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS - HOLYROOD DAY
The discovery of the cross on which Christ was supposed to have suffered, by the Empress Helena (see under May 3), led to the sacred relic being raised or exalted in view of the people, in a magnificent church built by her son the Emperor Constantine, at Jerusalem; and this ceremony of the exaltation of the holy cross, which took place on the 14th September 335, was commemorated in a festival held on every recurrence of that day, by both the Greek and Latin churches. The cross was afterwards (anno 614) carried away by Chosroes, king of Persia, but recovered by the Emperor Heraclius, and replaced amidst circumstances of great pomp and expressions of the highest devotion.
Many churches in Britain were dedicated to the Holy Rood or Cross. One at Edinburgh 'became the nucleus of the palace of the Scottish kings. Holyrood Day was one of much sacred observance all through the middle ages. The same feeling led to a custom of framing, between the nave and choir of churches, what was called a rood-screen or rood-loft, presenting centrally a large crucifix, with images of the Holy Virgin and St. John on each side. A winding stair led up to it, and the epistle and gospel were often read from it. Some of these screens still remain, models of architectural beauty; but numbers were destroyed with reckless fanaticism at the Reformation, the people not distinguishing between the objects which had caused what they deemed idolatry and the beautifully carved work which was free from such a charge.
One of the most famous of these roods or crucifixes was that at the abbey of Boxley, in Kent, which was entitled the Rood of Grace. The legend is, that an English carpenter, having been taken prisoner in the French wars, and wishing to employ his leisure as well as obtain his ransom, made a very skilful piece of workmanship of wood, wire, paste, and paper, in the form of a cross of exquisite proportion, on which hung the figure of our Saviour, which, by means of springs, could bow down, lift itself up, shake its hands and feet, nod the head, roll its eyes, and smile or frown. The carpenter, getting permission to return and sell his work, put it on a horse, and drove it before him; but stopping near Rochester at an alehouse for refreshment, the animal passed on, and missing the straight road, galloped south to Boxley, and being driven by some 'divine furie,' never stopped until it reached the church-door, when it kicked so loudly with its heels, that the monks ran out to see the wonder. No sooner was the door opened, than the horse rushed in, and stood still by a pillar. The monks were proceeding to unload, when the owner appeared, and claimed his property; but in vain did he try to lead the horse from the sanctuary; it seemed nailed to the spot. He next attempted to remove the rood, but was equally unsuccessful; so that in the end, through sheer weariness and the entreaties of the monks to have the image left with them, he consented to sell it to them for a piece of money.
The accounts transmitted to us by the Reformers -although to be taken as one-sided-leave us little room to doubt that, in the corrupt age preceding the great change in the sixteenth century, many deceptions practices had come to be connected with the images on the rood-galleries. '
If you were to benefit by the Rood of Grace, the first visit to be paid was to one of the priests, who would hear your confession and give you shrift, in return for a piece of money. You must next do honour to another image of St. Rumwald or Grunnbald, a little picture of a boy-saint, which, by means of a pin of wood put through a pillar behind, made certain contortions, by which the monks could tell whether all sins had been atoned for in the previous confession. Those who stretched their purse-strings, and made liberal offerings, gained St. Rumwald to their side, and were pronounced to he living a pure life. If the poor pilgrim had done all this with sufficient honour to himself and the saints, he was prepared to go to the holy rood and gain plenary absolution.
At the dissolution of the abbeys, Cromwell and his associates laid their ruthless hands on Boxley; and Nicholas Partridge, suspecting some cheat in the Rood of Grace, made an examination, and soon discovered the spring which turned the mechanism. It was taken to Maidstone, and there exposed to the people; from thence to London, where the king and his court laughed at the object they had once deemed holy; and, finally, it was brought before an immense multitude at St. Paul's Cross, by Hilsey, bishop of Rochester, on Sunday, the 24th of February 1538, when it was broken to pieces and buried, the bishop preaching a sermon on the subject.
AN ANTIQUARY OF THE OLDEN TYPE
In the early part of the eighteenth century, when few were paying any attention to antiquities, and ancient remains were consequently exposed to reckless damage and neglect, there arose in England a quaint, uncouth sort of country gentleman, who, to the scorn of his neighbours, devoted himself, with an Old-Mortality-like zeal, to the study and care-taking of old churches.
Browne Willis, so was he hight, inherited a competent fortune from his grandfather, Dr. Thomas Willis, the celebrated physician. While a boy at Westminster School, by frequently walking in the adjacent abbey, he acquired a taste for ecclesiastical and architectural antiquities, which formed the sole pursuit and pleasure of his blameless life. For many years, he constantly employed himself in making pilgrimages to the various cathedrals and churches in England and Wales; always endeavouring, if possible, to visit each on the festival-day of the saint to which it was dedicated. As an amusing instance of his veneration for saints' days, it may be mentioned that he dedicated to St. Martin a chapel, which he gratefully erected, at Fenny-Stratford, in honour of his grandfather, who was born in St. Martin's Lane, upon St. Martin's Day, placing the following inscription on a conspicuous part of the building:
In honour to thy memory, blessed shade!
Were the foundations of this chapel laid.
Purchased by thee, thy son and present heir
Owes these three manors to thy sacred care.
For this may all thy race thanks ever pay,
And yearly celebrate St. Martin's Day.
Though succeeding to an income of £4000 per annum, our amiable antiquary almost impoverished himself; by the extreme ardour with which he gave himself to his favourite pursuits. He expended large sums in beautifying and restoring ancient edifices of an ecclesiastical character, sometimes, indeed, with greater enthusiasm than good taste.
He erected an ornamental tower on Buckingham Church, without first correctly estimating the supporting capabilities of the substructure; and, not long after, the tower fell, utterly demolishing the sacred edifice which it was intended to decorate. A curious instance of the not uncommon insensibility to danger, which arises from habit, is told of the downfall of this tower. A person who worshipped in the church, and whose architectural knowledge enabled him to foresee the impending fall, being asked if he had ever taken any precautions, or notified to his neighbours the probability of such a catastrophe, replied. that he always had desired his family and friends to shut their pew-doors as softly as possible!
The personal appearance of Mr. Willis has been described as resembling that of a beggar more than a country gentleman of fortune. He wore three, sometimes four, coats, surmounted by an old blue cloak, the whole bound round his body by a common leathern girdle. His boots were covered with patches, as they well might be after a wear of forty years; and his carriage, being painted black, and studded with brass plates, on which were incised the various armorial bearings of the Willis family, was frequently mistaken for a hearse. Antiquarian pilgrimages in this guise could scarcely fail to give rise to many amusing mistakes. Mr. Willis, one day, when passing an old building that had been converted into a farmhouse, stopped his carriage, and cried to a female he saw engaged in domestic occupations: 'Woman, have ye any arms in this house?'-meaning coats of arms painted or carved on the walls or windows. But, the period being the eventful year of 1745, when the English peasantry were terrified by the most absurd rumours, the woman, thinking that arms of a different description were required, barricaded her door, and. replied to the question with a volley of vulgar abuse from an upper window. On another occasion, Mr. Willis, observing a building that exhibited appearances of better days, asked the good woman: 'Has this ever been a religious house?' 'I don't know what you mean by a religious house,' was the reply of the enraged matron, 'but I know it is as decent and honest a house as any that a dirty old rascal like you could have.'
While incessantly engaged in repairing churches, Mr. Willis as earnestly insisted upon clergymen fulfilling their particular duties. This spirit led to many disputes and. references to courts of law, where antiquarian lore invariably gained the day; the defeated parties generally revenging themselves by satirical squibs on the enthusiastic antiquary. From the best of these, embodying the principal peculiarities of a worthy, though eccentric man, we extract the following verses:
Whilome there dwelt near Buckingham,
That famous county town,
At a known place, hight Whaddon Chase,
A squire of odd renown.
A Druid's sacred form he bore,
His robes a girdle hound:
Deep versed he was in ancient lore,
In customs old, profound.
A stick, torn from that hallowed tree
Where Chaucer used to sit,
And tell his tales with leering glee,
Supports his tottering feet.
No prophet he, like Sydrophel,
Could future times explore;
But what had happened, he could tell,
Five hundred years and more.
A walking almanac, he appears,
Stepped from some mouldy wall,
Worn out of use through dust and years
Like scutcheons in his hall.
His boots were made of that cow's hide,
By Guy of Warwick slain;
Tine's choicest gifts, aye to abide
Among the chosen train.
His car himself he did provide,
To stand in double stead;
That it should carry him alive,
And bury him when dead.
By rusty coins, old kings he 'd trace,
And know their air and mien;
King Alfred he knew well by face,
Though George he ne'er had seen.
This wight th' outside of churches loved,
Almost unto a sin;
Spires Gothic of more use he proved
Than pulpits are within.
Whene'er the fatal day shall come,
For come, alas! it must,
When this good squire must stay at home,
And turn to ancient dust,
The solemn dirge, ye owls, prepare,
Ye bats more hoarsely shriek,
Croak, all ye ravens, round the bier,
And all ye church-mice squeak!
ROLLIN AND HIS ANCIENT HISTORY
Charles Rollin, born in Paris in 1661, the son of a cutler, rose to be, at thirty-three, rector of the university of Paris, a position of the highest dignity, which he adorned by the sweetness of his character, his learning, probity, and moderation. He is now chiefly memorable for a work, entitled Ancient History, in which he gave such information regarding the Egyptians, Assyrians, Carthaginians, and other ancient nations, as was obtainable in his day, in a style distinguished by its purity and elegance. The English translation of this work was a stock-book in the English market down to about thirty years ago, when at length it began to be neglected, in consequence of the many discoveries giving a new cast to our knowledge of ancient history. Voltaire praises the work highly, though he alleges that it would have been better if the author had been a philosopher, able to distinguish better the false from the true, the incredible from the probable, and to sacrifice the useless. It is the best compilation, he says, in any language, because compilers are seldom eloquent, and Rollin was.
THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON
On the 14th of September 1852, died Arthur, Duke of Wellington, the most illustrious English-man of his time, at the age of eighty-three. He had performed the highest services to his country, and indeed to Europe, and the honours he had consequently received were such as would tire even a Spaniard. While so much honoured, the duke was a man of such simplicity of nature, that he never appeared in the slightest degree uplifted. His leading idea in life was the duty he owed to his country and its government, and with the performance of that he always appeared perfectly satisfied. He was the truest of men, and even in the dispatches and bulletins which he had occasion to compose amidst the excitements of victory, there is never to be traced a feeling in the slightest degree allied to vapouring or even self-complacency. It was not in respect of stricken fields alone, that he proved himself the superior of Napoleon. He was his superior in every moral attribute.
The duke was the younger son of an Irish peer remarkable only for his musical compositions. To a clever and thoughtful mother, early left a widow, it is owing, that two men so remarkable as Richard, Marquis Wellesley, and Arthur, Duke of Wellington, were included in one family. Arthur entered the army in 1787, as an ensign of foot. He passed through various regiments of foot and horse, and at four-and-twenty had attained the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 33d Regiment of infantry. His first conspicuous appearance in our military history is as the chief of a little British army, which (September 23, 1803) overthrew a large Mahrattas force at Assaye, in the Deccan, by which the British power was established in that part of India. It is not required here that we should recite the series of campaigns in Spain and Portugal, extending between April 1809 and November 1813, by which he expelled the superior armies of Napoleon from the Peninsula, and enabled his troops to bivouac in unopposed triumph on the soil of France. Neither is it necessary here to repeat the particulars of his Belgian campaign of 1815, ending in his triumph over Napoleon in person at Waterloo. All of these transactions are already written deeply in the hearts of his countrymen.
When Arthur Wellesley completed his military career in 1815, with the title of Duke, and a multitude of other marks of the public gratitude, he was only forty-six years of age. Throughout the remainder of his long life, he devoted himself to the service of his country, as a member of the House of Peers and occasionally as a minister. It cannot be said that he shone as a politician, and his sagacity, for once, made a dismal failure in the estimate he formed of the necessity for parliamentary reform in 1830. Yet no one ever for a moment hesitated to admit, that the duke was perfectly honest and unselfish in his political, as he had been in his military career.
The death of this eminently great man was the result of natural decay, taking finally the form of a fit of epilepsy. He was interred with the highest public honours in St. Paul's Cathedral.
THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON AT WALMER
The death of the Duke of Wellington was associated with much of that soldierly simplicity which marked his character generally. From 1829 till 1852, he was accustomed to pass two months of each autumn at Walmer Castle, away from the turmoil of parliamentary and official life in the metropolis. As Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, Walmer was one of his official residences. Those ports have long survived the state of affairs which once gave them celebrity as a naval fraternity; but still the title of Lord Warden is kept up, with a few unimportant duties-Dover being the head-quarters, but Walmer the official residence.
The castle, built in the time of Henry VIII, is one of three which defend the low coast near Walmer and Deal; it has had alterations made in it from time to time, to adapt it as a domestic residence. Here the Great Duke, as we have said, passed a portion of each year. His apartments were furnished in the simplest possible way; especially his bedroom, which besides an iron military bedstead and a coverlet, contained very few articles. The one window of that room looked out upon the sea; while a door, in an adjoining apartment, gave access to the ramparts of the castle, where the duke was accustomed to walk at an early hour every morning -a few guns around him, but a very lovely prospect in front.
His habits were as plain and simple as his rooms. On many of the doors in the passages and apartments was written, in intelligible letters, 'SHUT THIS DOOR,' a command likely to be the more scrupulously obeyed in being issued in this uncompromising way. The Queen, and some of the most illustrious persons in the kingdom, visited the great general here; but whoever it might be, and at whatever time, all felt a desire to fall in with (or, at least, not to interrupt) his daily mode of life. From morning until night, every hour was apportioned with the utmost regularity. That faculty for order and organization, which had enabled him, in earlier years, to manage large armies, still remained with him till his death, when he was in his eighty-fourth year.
On Monday the 13th of September 1852, the duke rode and walked out as usual, dined as usual, and retired to rest at his usual hour. On Tuesday the 14th, his valet called him at the customary hour of six o'clock. Half an hour afterwards, hearing a kind of moaning, the valet entered the room, and found his master ill. The duke requested that his apothecary, Mr. Hulke of Deal, should be sent for Lord and Lady Charles Wellesley, the son and daughter-in-law of the duke, happened to be stopping at the castle at the time, and they were at once apprised that something was wrong. When the apothecary arrived between eight and nine o'clock, the duke was in an epileptic fit, something similar to one from which he had suffered. a few years before. The apothecary went back to Deal to prepare some medicines; but while he was gone, the symptoms became worse, and Dr. Macarthur of Walmer attended. As the day advanced, the urgency of the case led to the despatching of telegrams to London, summoning any one of three eminent physicians; two were in Scotland, and the third did not arrive at Walmer till all was over. The veteran suffered much during the day; he spoke frequently, but his words could not be understood. At four o'clock on that same afternoon, he breathed his last. So little did he or any one anticipate that his end was near, that he had appointed to meet the Countess of Westmoreland at Dover on that day, to see her off by a steam-packet to Ostend. Thus the Duke of Wellington died, with nobody near him, among all his crowd of illustrious and distinguished friends, except one son, one daughter-in-law, a physician, an apothecary, and the ordinary domestics of the castle.
When all the glitter of a lying-in-state and a public funeral were occupying men's thoughts, the simplicity of the duke's life at Walmer was well-nigh forgotten; but many facts came to light by degrees, illustrative of this matter. He made his little bedroom serve also for his library and his study. His iron-bedstead was only three feet wide, and had a mattress three inches thick; he had one coverlet, but no blankets, and was accustomed to carry his pillow with him when he travelled. He rose between six and seven, walked on the ram-parts, and at nine breakfasted on plain tea and bread and butter. 'When the Queen and Prince Albert visited the veteran in 1842, the only changes he made in the apartments appropriated to them were-to put a plate-glass window where the Queen could have a better view of the sea, and to get a common carpenter to make a deal stand for a time-piece in the Prince's room. The Queen was so delighted with the simplicity of the whole affair, that she begged permission to stop for a week longer than the time originally intended-a compliment, of course, flattering to the duke, but possibly regarded by him as a departure from order and regularity.
The duke's death suggested to Mr. Longfellow a subject for the following stanzas:
THE WARDEN OF THE CINQUE PORTS
A mist was driving down the British Channel,
The day was just begun,
And through the window-panes, on wall and panel,
Stream'd the red autumn sun.
It glane'd on flowing flag and rippling pennon,
And the white sails of ships;
And from the frowning rampart the black cannon
Hail'd it with fev'rish lips.
Sandwich and Romney, Hastings, Hythe, and Dover,
Were all alert that day,
To see the French war-steamer speeding over,
When the fog clear'd away.
Sullen and silent, and like couchant lions,
Their cannon through the night,
Holding their breath, had watch'd in grim defiance
The sea-coast opposite.
And now they roar'd at drum-beat from their stations,
On every citadel;
Each answ'ring each with morning salutations
That all was well.
And down the coast, all taking up the burden,
Replied the distant forts;
As if to summon from his sleep the Warden
And Lord of the Cinque Ports.
Him shall no sunshine from the fields of azure,
No drum-beat from the wall,
No morning gun from the black fort's embrasure,
Awaken with their call.
No more surveying with an eye impartial
The long line of the coast,
Shall the gaunt figure of the old field-marshal
Be seen upon his post.
'For in the night, unseen, a single warrior,
In sombre harness mailed,
Dreaded of man, and surnamed the Destroyer,
The rampart-wall had scaled.
He passed into the chamber of the sleeper,
The dark and silent room;
And as he enter'd, darker grew and deeper
The silence of the gloom.
He did not pause to parley or dissemble,
But smote the warder hoar:
Ah, what a blow! that made all England tremble,
And groan from shore to shore.
Meanwhile, without the surly cannon waited,
The sun rose bright o'erhead;
Nothing in nature's aspect intimated.
That a great man was dead.
THE DUKE'S COOLNESS
'Lord Aylmer,' says Mr. Larpent in his Journal, 'gave me two striking instances of Lord Wellington's coolness: one, when in a fog in the morning, as he was pursuing the French, he found a division of our men, under Sir William Erskine, much exposed in advance, and nearly separated from the rest of the army, and the French in a village within a mile of where he was standing. He could see nothing. But, on some prisoners being brought in, and being asked what French division, and how many men were in the village, they, to the dismay of every one except Wellington, said that the whole French army were there. All he said was, quite coolly: 'Oh! they are all there, are they? Well, we must mind a little what we are about, then.'
Another time, soon after the battle of Fuentes d'Onoro, and when we were waiting in our position near them to risk an attack, to protect the siege of Almeida, one morning suddenly and early, Lord Aylmer came in to him, whilst he was shaving, to tell him 'the French were all off, and the last cavalry mounting to be gone;' the consequence of which movement relieved him entirely, gave him Almeida, and preserved Portugal. He only took the razor off for one moment, and said: 'Ay, I thought they meant to be off; very well,' and then another shave, just as before, and not another word till he was dressed.'
'Of the duke's perfect coolness on the most trying occasions,' so said. Mr. Rogers, 'Colonel Gurwood gave me this instance. He was once in great danger of being drowned at sea. It was bedtime, when the captain of the vessel came to him, and said: 'It will soon be all over with us.' 'Very well,' answered the duke, 'then I shall not take off my boots.' - Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers.
'His coolness in danger,' says the Edinburgh Review in an article on Brialmont's Life of the Duke of Wellington, 'and his personal escapes, are as striking attributes of the individual man as his tactics are attributes of the general. During the battle of Talavera, Albuquerque sent him, by a staff-officer, a letter, informing him that Cuesta, the commander of the Spanish army in the action, was a traitor, and was actually playing into the enemy's hands. He was intently watching the progress of the action as the dispatch reached him; he took the letter, read it, and turning to the aid-de-camp, coolly said: 'Very well, colonel, you may go back to your brigade.'
On another occasion, just before the siege of Rodrigo, when the proximity of the allies to Marmont's army placed them in considerable danger by reason of the non-arrival of their flank divisions, a Spanish general was astonished to find the English commander lying on the ground in front of his troops, serenely and imperturbably awaiting the issue of the peril. 'Well, general,' said the Spaniard, 'you are here with two weak divisions, and you seem to be quite at your ease; it is enough to put one in a fever.' 'I have done the best,' the duke replied, 'that could be done according to my own judgment, and hence it is that I don't disturb myself, either about the enemy in my front, or about what they may say in England.'
On several instances he very narrowly escaped being taken prisoner. Once at Talavera, in the midst of the action; once, just before the battle of Maya, being surprised by a party of French while looking at his maps; once at Quatre Bras, again during the battle. In the latter action, as he was carried away on the tide of a retreating body of young troops, the French lancers suddenly charged on its flank, and his only chance was in his horse's speed. 'He arrived,' Mr. Gleig writes, 'hotly pursued, at the edge of a ditch, within which the 92d Highlanders were lying, and the points of their bayonets bristled over the edge. He called out to them as he approached, 'Lie down, men!' and the order was obeyed, whereupon he leaped his horse across the ditch, and immediately pulled up with a smile on his countenance.'
The duke's success no doubt was largely owing to his special mastery of details. In camp and on the march, equally methodical, he relied for victory on the preparations he had made. From the smallest incident to the greatest, he made himself acquainted. with all that could affect the organisation of his army, and the comfort of his men individually. Even the cooking of mess-dinners was his constant care; in the Crimea, he would almost have supplanted Soyer.
Upon the first publication of his Dispatches, one of his friends said to him, on reading the records of his Indian campaigns: 'It seems to me, duke, that your chief business in India was to procure rice and bullocks.' 'And so it was,' replied Wellington 'for if I had rice and bullocks, I had men, and if I had men, I knew I could beat the enemy.' Like Napoleon, though with a vast difference in scale, his army was the work of his own hands. 'Its staff,' Mr. Gleig writes, 'its commissariat, its siege apparatus, its bridge equipment, its means of transport, its intelligence department, its knowledge of outpost and other duties, were all of his creation.'
This mental activity, of course, widened the range of his achievements. Like Caesar, who is said to have written an essay on Latin rhetoric as he was crossing the Alps, Wellington passed the night previous to one of his battles in devising a scheme for a Portuguese bank.'