15th February

Born: Galileo Galilei, astronomer, 1564, Pisa; Louis XV. (of France), 1710.

Died: Oswy (of Northumbria), 670: John Philips, poet, 1708, Hereford; Anthony Earl of Shaftesbury, author of Cearacteristics, 1713, Naples; Bishop Francis Atterbury, 1732: John Hadley, inventor of the sextant, 1744; Charles Andrew Vanloo, historical painter, 1765.

Feast Day: Saints Faustinns and Jovita, martyrs at Brescia, about 121. St. Sigefride of York, apostle in Sweden, 1002.


John Philips, the artificial poet who parodied the style of Milton in the Splendid Shilling, is better known. by his poem upon Cider, 'which continued long to be read as an imitation of Virgil's Georgics, which needed not shun the presence of the original.' Johnson was told by Miller, the eminent gardener and botanist, that there were many books written on cider in prose which do not contain so much truth as Philips's poem. ' The precepts which it contains,' adds Johnson, 'are exact and just; and it is, therefore, at once a book of entertainment and science.' It is in blank verse, and an echo of the numbers of Paradise Lost. 'In the disposition of his matter, so as to intersperse precepts relating to the culture of trees, with sentiments more generally alluring, and in easy and graceful transitions from one subject to another, he has very diligently imitated his master: but he unhappily pleased himself with blank verse, slid supposed that the numbers of Milton, which impress the mind with veneration, combined as they are with subjects of in-conceivable grandeur, could be sustained by images which at most can only rise to eloquence. Contending angels may shake the regions of heaven in blank verse: but the flow of equal measures, and the embellishment of rhyme, must recommend to our attention the art of en-grafting, and decide the merit of the 'redstreak' and 'pearmain.' '-Johnson.

Philips was cut off by consumption, when he had just completed his thirty-second year. He was buried in the cathedral of Hereford; and Sir Simon Harcourt, afterwards Lord Chancellor, gave him a monument in Westminster Abbey, which bears a long inscription, in flowing Latinity, said by Johnson to be the composition of Bishop Atterbury, though commonly attributed to Dr. Freind.


Among the many remarkable marriages on record, none are more curious than those in which the bridegroom has proved to be of the same sex as the bride. Last century there lived a woman who dressed in male attire, and was constantly going about captivating her sisters, and marrying them! On the 5th of July 1777, she was tried at a criminal court in London for thus disguising herself, and it was proved that at various times she had been married to three women, and 'defrauded them of their money and their clothes.' The fair deceiver was required by the justices to give the daughters of the citizens an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with her features by standing in the pillory at Cheapside: and after going through this ordeal, she was imprisoned for six months. In 1773 a woman went courting a woman, dressed as a man, and was very favourably received. The lady to whom these not very delicate attentions were paid was much older than the lover, but she was possessed of about a hundred pounds, and this was the attraction to her adventurous friend. But the intended treachery was discovered; and, as the original chronicler of the story says, 'the old lady proved too knowing.'

A more extraordinary case than either of these was that of two women who lived together by mutual consent as man and wife for six-and-thirty years. They kept a public-house at Poplar, and the 'wife,' when on her death-bed, for the first time told her relatives the fact concerning her marriage. The writer in the Gentleman's Magazine (1776) who records the circumstances, states that 'both had been crossed in love when young, and had chosen this method to avoid further importunities.' It seems, however, that the truth was suspected, for the 'husband' subsequently charged a man with extorting money from her under the threat of disclosing the secret, and for this offence he was sentenced to stand three times in the pillory, and to undergo four years' imprisonment.

It is usually considered a noteworthy circumstance for a man or woman to have been married three times, but of old this number would have been thought little of St. Jerome mentions a widow that married her twenty-second husband, who in his turn had been married to twenty wives-surely an experienced couple! A woman named Elizabeth Masi, who died at Florence in 1768, had been married. to seven husbands, all of whom she outlived. She married the last of the seven at the age of 70. When on her death-bed she recalled the good and bad points in each of her husbands, and having impartially weighed them in the balance, she singled out her fifth spouse as the favourite, and desired that her remains might be interred near his. The death of a soldier is recorded in 1784 who had had five wives; and his widow, aged 90, wept over the grave of her fourth husband. The writer who mentioned these facts naively added: 'The said soldier was much attached to the marriage state.' There is an account of a gentleman who had been married to four wives, and who lived to be 115 years old. When he died he left twenty-three 'children' alive and well, some of the said children being from three to four score. A gentleman died at Bordeaux in 1772, who had been married sixteen times.

In July 1768 a couple were living in Essex who had been married eighty-one years, the husband being 107, and the wife 103 years of age. At the church of St. Clement Danes, in 1772, a woman of 85 was married to her sixth husband.

Instances are by no means rare of affectionate attachment existing between man and wife over a period longer than is ordinarily allotted to human life. In the middle of the last century a farmer of Nottingham died in his 107th year. Three days afterwards his wife died also, aged 97. They had lived happily together upwards of eighty years. About the same time a yeoman of Coal-pit Heath, Gloucestershire, died in his 104th year. The day after his funeral his wife expired at the age of 115: they had been married eighty-one years.

The announcements of marriages published in the Gentleman's Magazine during the greater part of last century included a very precise statement of the portions brought by the brides. Here are a few of such notices:

'Mr. N. Tillotson, an eminent preacher among the people called Quakers, and a relative of Arch-bishop Tillotson, to Miss with £7000.'
'Mr. P. Bowen to Miss Nicholls, of Queenhithe, with £10,000.'
'Sir George C. to the widow Jones, with £1000 a-year, besides ready money.'

The following announcement follows the notice of a marriage in the Gentleman's Magazine for November 1774:-'They at the same time ordered the sexton to make a grave for the interment of the lady's father, then dead.' This was unusual: but a stranger scene took place at St. Dunstan's church on one occasion, during the performance of the marriage ceremony. The bridegroom was a carpenter, and he followed the service devoutly enough until the words occurred, 'With this ring I thee wed.' He repeated these, and then shaking his fist at the bride added, 'And with this fist I'll break thy head.' The clergyman refused to proceed, but, says the account, 'the fellow declared he meant no harm,' and the confiding bride 'believed he did but jest,' whereupon the service was completed.

A still more unpleasant affair for the lady once happened. A young couple went to get married, but found on their arrival at church that they had not money to pay the customary fees. The clergyman not being inclined to give credit, the bridegroom went out to get the required sum, while the lady waited in the vestry. During his walk the lover changed his mind, and never returned to the church. The young girl waited two hours for him, and then departed, - 'Scot free,' dryly remarks one narrator. A bridegroom was once arrested at the church door on the charge of having left a wife and family chargeable to another parish, ' to the great grief and shame of the intended bride.'

In Scotland, in the year 1749, there was married the 'noted bachelor, W. Hamilton.' He was so deformed that he was utterly unable to walk. The chronicler draws a startling portrait of the man: 'His legs were drawn up to his ears, his arms were twisted backwards, and almost every member was out of joint.' Added to these peculiarities, he was eighty years of age, and was obliged to be carried to church on men's shoulders. Nevertheless, his bride was fair, and only twenty years of age! A wedding once took place in Berkshire' under remarkable circumstances: the bridegroom was of the mature age of eighty-five, the bride eighty-three, and the bridesmaids each upwards of seventy - neither of these damsels having been married. Six grand-daughters of the bridegroom strewed flowers before the 'happy couple,' and four grandsons of the bride sang an epithalamium composed by the parish clerk on the occasion. On the 5th February, in the eighteenth year of Elizabeth (corresponding to 1576), Thomas Filsby, a deaf man, was married in St. Martin's parish, Leicester. Seeing that, on account of his natural infirmity, he could not, for his part, observe the order of the form of marriage, some peculiarities were introduced into the ceremony, with the approbation of the Bishop of Lincoln, the commissary Dr. Chippendale, and the Mayor of Leicester. The said Thomas, for expressing of his mind, instead of words, of his own accord used these signs: first he embraced her [the bride, Ursula Russet] with his arms; took her by the hand and put a ring on her finger; and laid his hand upon his heart, and held up his hands towards heaven; and, to shew his continuance to dwell with her to his life's end, he did it by closing his eyes with his hands, and digging the earth with his feet, and pulling as though he would ring a bell, with other signs approved.' At the more recent marriage of a deaf and dumb young man at Greenock, the only singularity was in the company. The bridegroom, his three sisters, and two young men with them were all deaf and dumb. There is a case mentioned in Dodsley's Annual Register of an ostler at a tavern in Spilsby who walked with his intended wife all the way to Gretna Green to get married-240 miles.

Some of the most remarkable marriages that have ever taken place are those in which the brides came to the altar partly, or in many cases entirely, divested of clothing. It was formerly a common notion that if a man married a woman en chemisette he was not liable for her debts; and in Notes and Queries there is an account by a clergyman of the celebration of such a marriage some few years ago. He tells us that, as nothing was said in the rubric about the woman's dress, he did not think it right to refuse to perform the marriage service. At Whitehaven a wedding was celebrated under the same circumstances, and there are several other instances on record.

A curious example of compulsory marriage once took place in Clerkenwell. A blind woman, forty years of age, conceived a strong affection for a young man who worked in a house near to her own, and whose 'hammering' she could hear early and late. Having formed an acquaintance with him, she gave him a silver watch and other presents, and lent him £10 to assist him in his business. The recipient of these favours waited on the lady to thank her, and intimated that he was about to leave London. This was by no means what the blind woman wanted, and as she was determined not to lose the person whose industrial habits had so charmed her, she had him arrested for the debt of £10 and thrown into prison. While in confinement she visited him, and offered to forgive him the debt, on condition that he married her. Placed in this strait, the young man chose what he deemed the least of the two evils, and married his ' benefactress,' as the writer in the Gentleman's Magazine calls her. The men who arrested him gave the bride away at the altar. In 1767 a young blacksmith of Bedford was paying his addresses to a maiden, and upon calling to see her one evening was asked by her mother, what was the use of marrying a girl without money? Would it not be better for him to take a wife who could bring £500 P The blacksmith thought it would, and said he should be 'eternall obliged' to his adviser if she could introduce him to such a prize. ' I am the person, then,' said the mother of his betrothed, and we are told that ' the bargain was struck immediately.' Upon the return of the girl, she found her lover and parent on exceedingly good terms with each other, and they were subsequently married. The bride was sixty-four years of age, and the bridegroom eighteen. This disparity of years is comparatively trifling. A doctor of eighty was married to a young woman of twenty-eight; a blacksmith of ninety (at Worcester, 1768) to a girl of fifteen; a gentleman of Berkshire, aged seventy-six, to a girl whom his third wife had brought up. The husband had children living thrice the age' of his fourth wife. At Hill farm, in Berkshire, a blind woman of ninety years was married to her ploughman, aged twenty; a gentleman of Worcester, upwards of eighty-five, to a girl of eighteen; a soldier of ninety-five, ' who had served in King William's wars, and had a ball in his nose,' to a girl of fifteen. In 1769 a woman of Rotherhithe, aged seventy, was married to a young man aged twenty-three-just half a century difference between their ages. A girl of sixteen married a gentleman of ninety-four-but he had £50,000.


In the Life of Alfred the Great, by Asserius, we read that, before the invention of clocks, Alfred caused six tapers to he made for his daily use; each taper, containing twelve pennyweights of wax, was twelve inches long, and of proportionate-breadth. The whole length was divided into twelve parts, or inches, of which three would burn for one hour, so that each taper would. be consumed in four hours; and the six tapers, being lighted one after the other, lasted for twenty-four hours. But the wind blowing through the windows and doors, and chinks of the walls of the chapel, or through the cloth of his tent, in which they were binning, wasted these tapers, and, consequently, they burnt with no regularity: he therefore designed a lantern made of ox or cow horn, cut into thin plates, in which he enclosed the tapers; and thus protecting them from the wind, the period of their burning became a matter of certainty.

This is an amusing and oft-quoted story, but, like many other old stories, it lacks authenticity. The work of Asser, there is reason to believe, is not genuine. See the arguments in Wright's Biog. Brit. Lit. vol. i. pp. 408 412. It moreover appears that some of the institutions popularly ascribed to Alfred, existed before his time.-Kernble's Saxons in England.

Still, there is nothing very questionable in this mode of Alfred's to measure time; and, possibly, it may have suggested an 'improvement,' which was patented so recently as 1859, and which consists in making marks on the side or around the sides of candles either by indentation or colouring at intervals, and equal distances apart, according to the size of the candle, to indicate the time by the burning of the candle. The marks are to consist of hours, half-hours, and if necessary quarter-hours, the distance to be determined by the kind of candle used; the mark or other announcement may be made either in the process of manufacture or after.


In a large under room, in the castle or palace of the Princes Palatine of the Rhine at Heidelberg, the eccentric traveller Thomas Coryat found this vast vessel, in its original form, of which he has given a picture representing himself as perched on its top, with a glass of its contents in his hands. To him it appeared the greatest wonder he had seen in his travels, fully entitled to rank with those seven wonders of the world of which ancient authors inform us.

Its construction was begun in the year 1589 and finished in 1591, one Michael Warner being theprincipal fabricator. It was composed of beams twenty-seven feet long, and had. a diameter of eighteen feet. The iron hopping was eleven thousand pounds in weight. The cost was eleven score and eighteen pounds sterling. It could hold a hundred and thirty-two fuders of wine, a fader being equal to four English hogs-heads, and the value of the Rhenish contained in it when Coryat visited Heide]. berg (1608) was close upon two thousand pounds.

'When tie cellarer,' says Coryat, 'draweth wine out of the vessel, he ascendeth two several degrees of wooden stairs made in the form of a ladder, and so goeth up to the top; about the middle whereof there is a hung-hole or venting orifice, into the which he conveyeth a pretty instrument of some foot and a half long, made in the form of a spout, wherewith he draweth up the wine and so potmeth it after a pretty manner into a glass.'

The traveller advises visitors to beware lest they be inveigled to drink more than is good for them.

Murray's Handbook of the, Rhine represents the present tun as made in 1751, as thirty-six feet long an twenty-four in height, and as capable of containing 800 hogsheads, or 283,200 bottles. It has been disused since 1760.