Born: Richard Cumberland, bishop of Peterborough, 1632, Aldersyate, London; Gerard Langbaine, the Younger (bibliography of the English drama), 1656, Oxford.
Died: Anne of Cleves, consort of Henry VIII, 1567, Chelsea; James, Duke of Monmouth, executed on Tower Hill, 1685; John Wilson, botanist, 1751; Cardinal Passionei, librarian of the Vatican, 1761, Rome; Bryan Edwards, author of History of the West Indies, 1800, Southampton; Thomas Dermody, peasant-poet, 1802; William Mackworth Praed (comic poetry), 1839; Prince Adam Czartoryski, Polish patriot, 1861, Paris.
Feast Day: St. Plechelm, bishop and confessor, apostle of Gueiderland, 732; St. Swithin or Swithun, confessor, bishop and patron of Winchester, 862; St. Henry II., emperor of Germany, 1024.
ST. SWITHIN'S DAY
The pranks played by tradition with the memory of various noted individuals, saintly and otherwise, display not unfrequently the most whimsical anomalies both as regards praise and blame. Whilst the sordid and heretical George of Cappadocia has been transformed into the gallant and chivalrous St. George, the patron saint of England, and the mirror of all knightly virtues, it has been the misfortune of the patriotic and virtuous St. Swithin to be associated in the popular mind with drunkenness and excess, and at best to enjoy only a mythical reputation as the hero of a well-known saying in connection with the state of the weather on the anniversary of his so-called translation.
The common adage regarding St. Swithin, as every one knows, is to the effect that, as it rains or is fair on St. Swithin's Day, the 15th of July, there will be a continuous track of wet or dry weather for the forty days ensuing.
St Swithin's Day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain:
St. Swithin's Day, if thou be fair,
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.
The explanation given by Brand in his Popular Antiquities of this saying-an explanation which has been pretty currently received as correct-is as follows. St. Swithin, bishop of Winchester, was a man equally noted for his uprightness and humility. So far did he carry the latter quality, that, on his death-bed, he requested to be buried, not within the church, but outside in the churchyard, on the north of the sacred building, where his corpse might receive the eaves-droppings from the roof, and his grave be trodden by the feet of the passers-by. His lowly request was complied with, and in this neglected spot his remains reposed till about a hundred years afterwards, when a fit of indignation seized the clergy at the body of so pious a member of their order being allowed to occupy such a position; and on an appointed day they all assembled to convey it with great pomp into the adjoining cathedral of Winchester. When they were about to commence the ceremony, a heavy rain burst forth, and continued without intermission for the forty succeeding days. The monks interpreted this tempest as a warning from Heaven of the blasphemous nature of their attempt to contravene the directions of St. Swithin, and, instead of disturbing his remains, they erected a chapel over his grave, at which many astounding miracles were performed. From this circumstance, it is stated, arose the popular belief of the anniversary of the attempted translation of St. Swithin being invested with a prophetic character in reference to the condition of the weather for the ensuing six weeks.
This statement is specious, but unfortunately rests on no authority whatever, and indeed has been traced by an annotator on Brand to no more trustworthy source than a cutting from an old newspaper. So far from the account of the repugnance of the saint to his transference from the churchyard to the church being borne out by the real facts of the case, these are diametrically the other way; and from what has been actually ascertained, the translation of St. Swithin was, instead of being a disastrous failure, accomplished with the utmost eclat and success. For the most recent history of this celebrated personage we are indebted to the Rev. John Earle, professor of Anglo-Saxon in the university of Oxford, who has published a facsimile and translation of a Saxon manuscript of the tenth century-the earliest fragment which we possess regarding St. Swithin-along with an ingenious essay, in which he has collected all the reliable data connected with the saint that can be obtained. These are far indeed from being either numerous or ample, but, such as they are, may be considered as exhaustive on this subject.
Swithin, or Swithun, was born in the neighbour-hood of Winchester, probably about the year 800. He became a monk of the Old Abbey of Winchester, and gradually rose to be prior of that community. He seems to have gained the favour of Egbert, king of Wessex, who intrusted him with the education of his son and successor, Ethelwulf. An authentic record of Swithin at this period is furnished by a charter granted by King Egbert in 838, and bearing the signatures of Elmstan, episcopus, and Swithunus, diaconus. Elmstan dying in 852, Swithin was appointed his successor in the see of Winchester, a situation which he filled with great credit and usefulness. Through his endeavours great improvements were effected on the city, including the erection of several churches, and the spanning of the Itchen by a fine stone bridge, the first of the kind which had been seen in these parts.
After the accession of Ethelwulf, he acted as that monarch's counsellor in all matters relating to religion and the peaceful arts, whilst the charge of military and foreign affairs was assumed by Alstan, bishop of Sher-bourne. It has been imagined that he was chosen by Ethelwulf to accompany his son, the great Alfred, then a boy, on his visit to Rome, and also that he acted as mediator betwixt Ethelwulf and his eldest son, the rebellious Ethelbald. Swithin seems to have died about 862, leaving directions that he should be buried in a vile place, under the eaves-droppings on the north side of Winchester church. Mr. Earle conjectures that he may have chosen this locality for sepulture, to put a stop to the common superstitious prejudices against burial in that part of the churchyard. Whatever may have been his reasons, his request was acceded to, and there he would probably have been permitted to rest undisturbed, had it not suited the policy of Dunstan, more than a hundred years afterwards, to revive the popular veneration for Swithin, in furtherance of his own schemes for the establishment of monastic discipline, for Swithin appears to have been a maintainer of the stricter conventual rule, which Dunstan zealously sought to enforce; and he had, moreover, earned a most enduring mark of distinction, by being the first to get introduced the system of tithes as a provision for the clergy.
This was daring the reign of Ethelwulf, who was induced by Swithin to set apart a tenth of his lands for religious uses, though the payment of tithes as a legal obligation was not introduced till the time of Athelstan, nor finally established till under King Edgar. In addition to the reasons just detailed, the cathedral of Winchester was then rebuilding under Bishop Ethelwold, a confederate of Archbishop Dunstan; and the enrichment of the new temple by the possession of some distinguished relics was a most desirable object. The organised plan was now accordingly put into execution, and ingenious reports were circulated regarding certain miraculous appearances made by Swithin. The account of these forms the subject of the Saxon fragment above referred to, edited by Mr. Earle. According to this, Bishop Swithin appeared one night in a dream to a poor decrepit smith, and requested him to go to a certain priest, named Eadsige, who, with others, had been ejected for misconduct from the abbey of Old-Minster, and desire him, from Swithin, to repair to Bishop Ethelwold, and command him to open his (Swithin's) grave, and bring his bones within the church. The smith, in reply to the orders of his ghostly visitant, stated that Eadsige would not believe him, whereupon Swithin rejoined that he would find the reality of the vision confirmed by going to his stone coffin, and pulling there from an iron ring, which would yield without the least diffuculty. The smith was still unconvinced, and Swithin had to repeat his visit twice; after which the smith went to the bishop's tomb, and withdrew the ring from the coffin with the greatest ease, as had been foretold. He then delivered. Swithin's message to Eadsige, who hesitated for a while, but at last communicated it to Bishop Ethelwold. Contemporaneously, various wonderful miracles took place at Bishop Swithin's tomb, including the cure of a deformed man, who was relieved of his hump, in the most astonishing manner, by praying at the grave; and of another individual, who recovered by the same means from a grievous ailment in his eyes. These preternatural occurrences were all duly reported to King Edgar, who thereupon gave directions for the formal translation of the relics of St. Swithin from the grave in the churchyard to the interior of the cathedral, where they were enclosed in a magnificent shrine, and placed in a conspicuous position.
A few years afterwards, the church, which had previously been dedicated to the apostles Peter and Paul, changed these guardians for St. Swithin, who continued its patron saint till the time of Henry VIII., who ordered the name of the Holy Trinity to be substituted. A splendid ceremonial and feast accompanied the translation, which was effected on 15th July 971, 108 years after the death of Swithin. It ought to be remarked, that, though distinguished by the prefix of Saint, Swithin was never regularly canonised by the pope, a practice not introduced till nearly 200 years after his translation, which is the only ceremony on which he rests his claim to the title. He is thus emphatically what Mr. Earle calls 'a home-made saint.' It will be noticed that the above narrative completely contradicts Mr. Brand's account of a supposed supernatural inter-position on the part of Swithin to prevent his translation.
No event or natural phenomenon, which could be construed into such, is alluded to by any of the various authors-Monk Wolstan and others-who subsequently wrote histories of St. Swithin. On the contrary, the weather seems to have been most propitious, whilst the community at large, so far from regarding these proceedings of their rulers as an unhallowed contravention of the wishes of the holy man, seemed rather to have rejoiced in the honours bestowed on his relics, and to have feasted and revelled to the utmost. How, then, did the popular notion about St. Swithin's Day arise? Most probably, as Mr. Earle remarks, it was derived from some primeval pagan belief regarding the meteorologically prophetic character of some day about the same period of the year as St. Swithin's. Such adaptations, it is well known, were very frequent on the supplanting throughout Europe of heathenism by Christianity. Many of our popular customs and beliefs can indeed be only satisfactorily explained by tracing them to such a source.
In further confirmation of this view, it is to be observed, that in various countries of the European continent the same belief prevails, though differences exist as to the period of the particular day in question. Thus, in France, St. Médard's Day (June 8), and the day of Saints Gervais and Protais (June 19), have a similar character ascribed to them:
S'il pleut le jour de Saint Médard,
Il pleut quarante jours plus tard;
S'il pleut le jour de Saint Gervais et de Saint Protais,
Il pleut quarante jours apre's.
It is a little curious that St. Médard should have the post of a rainy saint assigned him, as the celebrated fĕte at Salency, where the young maiden who has enjoyed the highest reputation during the preceding year for good-conduct receives a prize, and is crowned with a chaplet of roses, takes place on his day, and is said to have been instituted by him. A somewhat ludicrous account is given of the origin of the peculiar characteristic of St. Médard's Day. It is said that, Médard being out with a large party one hot day in summer, a heavy fall of rain suddenly took place, by which all were thoroughly drenched, with the exception of the saint himself, round whose head an eagle kept continually fluttering; and by sheltering him with his wings till his return home, accomplished effectually the purposes of an umbrella. In Belgium they have a rainy saint, named St. Godeliève; whilst in Germany, among others, a character of this description is ascribed to the day of the Seven Sleepers.
The belief in the peculiar characteristics of St. Swithin's Day is thus alluded to in Poor Robin's Almanac for 1697:
In this month is St. Swithin's Day,
On which, if that it rain, they say,
Full forty days after it will,
Or more or less, some rain distil.
This Swithin was a saint, I trow,
And Winchester's bishop also,
Who in his time did many a feat,
As popish legends do repeat:
A woman having broke her eggs,
By stumbling at another's legs,
For which she made a woful cry.
St. Swithin chanced for to come by,
Who made them all as sound or more,
Than ever that they were before.
But whether this were so or no,
'Tis more than you or I do know.
Better it is to rise betime,
And to make hay while sun doth shine,
Than to believe in tales and lies,
Which idle monks and friars devise.
In the next century, Gay remarks in his Trivia
Now if on Swithin's feast the welkin lours,
And every penthouse streams with hasty showers,
Twice twenty days shall clouds their fleeces drain,
And wash the pavement with incessant rain.
Let not such vulgar tales debase thy mind;
Nor Paul nor Swithin rule the clouds and wind!
The question now remains to be answered, whether the popular belief we have been considering has any foundation in fact, and here the observations at Greenwich for the 20 years preceding 1861, must be adduced to demonstrate its fallacy. From these we learn that St. Swithin's Day was wet in 1841, and there were 23 rainy days up to the 24th of August; 1845, 26 rainy days; 1851, 13 rainy days;- 1853, 18 rainy days; 1854, 16 rainy days; and, in 1856, 14 rainy days. In 1842, and following years, St. Swithin's Day was dry, and the result was in 1842, 12 rainy days; 1843, 22 rainy days; 1844, 20 rainy days; 1846, 21 rainy days; 1847, 17 rainy days; 1848, 31 rainy days; 1849, 20 rainy days; 1850, 17 rainy days; 1852, 19 rainy days; 1855, 18 rainy days; 1857, 14 rainy days; 1858, 14 rainy days; 1859, 13 rainy days; and, in 1860, 29 rainy days. It will thus be seen, by the average of the fore-going 20 years, that the greatest number of rainy days, after St. Swithin's Day, had taken place when the 15th of July was dry. It is, indeed, likely enough that a track of wet weather, or the opposite, may occur at this period of the year, as a change generally takes place soon after midsummer, the character of which will depend much on the state of the previous spring. If this has been for the greater part dry, it is very probable that the weather may change to wet about the middle of July, and vice versa''. But that any critical meteorological influence resides in the 15th, seems wholly erroneous.
Hone, in his Everyday Book, quotes an amusing instance of a lady, a stanch believer in St. Swithin, who, on his day one year being fine, expressed her belief in an approaching term of fine weather, but, a few drops of rain having fallen in the evening, changed her tune, and maintained that the next six weeks would be wet. Her prediction was not accomplished, the weather having been remark-ably fine. 'No matter,' she would say, when pressed on the point, 'if there has been no rain during the day, there certainly has been during the night.' Her opinion of St. Swithin's infallibility was in nowise to be shaken. The same author mentions a pretty saying current in some parts of the country when rain falls on St. Swithin's bans: 'St. Swithin is christening the apples.'
It is only to be remarked, in conclusion, that the epithet of the 'drunken saint,' sometimes applied to St. Swithin, is a base slander on the worthy bishop's memory. True, the Saxons were rather noted for their convivial habits, and St. Swithin, doubtless, had no objection to a cheerful glass in moderation. But no aberrations whatever, on the score of temperance, are recorded of him. The charge belongs clearly to the same category as that veracious statement in the popular ditty, by which St. Patrick, the apostle of Ireland, is represented as a lover of potheen, and initiating his converts in the art of manufacturing that liquor.
JAMES, DUKE OF MONMOUTH
Monmouth's tragic history has redeemed from contempt a person who was naturally a mediocrity, and something of a fool. Born in 1650, the eldest natural son of the young exiled Charles II, brought into prominence as a beautiful boy at the Restoration, he was thought to have his fortune made by being married to the girl Countess of Buccleuch, then considered the greatest heiress in the three kingdoms, seeing that her family estates were reckoned at five thousand a year! But there was something horrible and revolting in uniting two mere children in marriage for interested reasons, and nature avenged herself by introducing alienation between them, though not till they had become the direct ancestors of the line of the Dukes of Buccleuch.
There was always a hankering notion that a secret marriage had existed between Charles II and Lucy Waters, the mother of Monmouth. Charles took formal steps for declaring the contrary to be the truth; but, nevertheless, the love the king had for his handsome son, and perhaps a few suspicious facts, kept alive the idea in the young man's heart. The oppressed dissenters took him up as one in whom they might have hopes, if legitimacy could be established. So it was not wonderful, when his essentially weak character is considered, that he should have set up pretensions to the throne against his uncle James II, though nothing could be for himself more ruinously unfortunate.
His ill-starred expedition in June 1685, the rebellion he headed, his defeat at Sedgemore, and the subsequent circumstances, have all been rendered familiar to the present generation by the animated narration of Macaulay. The exact particulars of his capture are less known, and are very interesting. It appears that the duke rode from the field along with Lord Gray, and proceeded to Woodyates, where they quitted their horses, and the duke assumed the clothes of a peasant. He then walked on with the design of reaching Bournemouth, in order, if possible, to get shipping for the continent. An alarm from the appearance of his enemies interrupted this plan, and he fled across the country to a wild tract of ground called Shag's Heath. There was here a patch of cultivated ground, divided by hedges, enclosed by a ditch, and bearing crops of rye and pease in full summer growth. It bore the name of the Island, by reason that it was entirely surrounded by ground in an opposite condition. On the report of a woman, that she had seen a man enter that enclosure, the dragoons surrounded it---'beat' it in all directions-and at length, on the ensuing day, when about to depart in despair, lighted upon the would-be king, skulking in a ditch under fern. The spot is still indicated with precision by a tree, which is popularly called Monmouth's Ash. It was with some difficulty he was identified, so great was the change which the mean attire and three days of personal neglect, starvation, and terror had wrought upon his once graceful form. The woman, Ann Farrant, who had given the information regarding his entering the Island, was considered by the peasantry to have never thriven after her ungracious act.
Amongst the articles found upon Monmouth's person, was a little pocket-book containing notes of various journeys, and a number of charms or spells. This volume, recovered from a book-stall at Paris, was shewn in 1849, at a meeting of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, and is now in the British Museum. The charms are found to be for such purposes as learning how a sickness is to end, and whether a friend will continue faithful; to heal certain maladies, and make gray hair turn black. There are also cabalistic and astrological figures, which have not been explained. The character of this part of the contents, of the book is in conformity with a statement which has come from Colonel William Legge, the officer who conducted Monmouth to London after his capture. This gentleman reported that, on their journey, the duke shewed him several charms he had about his person, which he said he had got when in Scotland, but which he now saw to be only 'foolish conceits.' It must be admitted that Monmouth was not singular in trusting to such conceits. We may here well remember that his truly 'cruel uncle,' James II, a very few years afterwards, was induced to pause in his advance against the Prince of Orange, and to return from Salisbury to London, by a bleeding at his nose!
The name of Praed is one far less familiar to the public than it deserves to be. Some writers with great natural gifts have obstinately stood in their own light-have written so obscurely that the world would not be at the trouble of deciphering their meaning; but the subject of our present notice wrote as clearly as Cowper, and yet remains comparatively unknown on this side of the Atlantic. The Americans, with their usual quickness, long ago perceived his merits, and published his poetical works, but have included in the edition many poems which Praed never wrote, and many which, for his literary fame, he had better not have written. A small volume might, however, be made up of his selected writings, which would, in its line, be without a rival. As an author of Verses of Society -and those not of transitory interest, or on altogether frivolous themes-he is far superior to Thomas Moore, to the Hon. William Spencer (a writer far more widely known than Praed), and indeed to any poet of the class, whom we can call to mind, whether celebrated for those efforts alone, or exercising powerful pinions, as in Moore's case, in such short 'swallow flights of song.' He combined no small portion of the wit of Hood, with an elegance to which Hood could not lay claim; while in his soberer pieces he reminds one of Crabbe dancing that is to say, they have all the naturalness of the Tales of the Hall, mingled with a certain graceful humour. The Vicar is a charming poem of the latter class.
His talk was like a stream which runs
With rapid change from rocks to roses;
It slipped from politics to puns;
It passed from Mahomet to Moses;
Beginning with the laws which keep
The planets in their radiant courses,
And ending with some precept deep
For dressing eels or shoeing horses.
He was a shrewd and sound divine,
Of loud dissent the mortal terror;
And when by dint of page and line,
He 'stablished truth or startled error,
The Baptist found him far too deep;
The Deist sighed with saving sorrow,
And the lean Levite went to sleep
And dreamt of eating pork to-morrow.
He wrote, too, in a quiet way,
Small treatises and smaller verses,
And sage remarks on chalk and clay,
And hints to noble lords and nurses;
True histories of last year's ghost;
Lines to a ringlet or a turban,
And trifles for the Morning Post,
And nothings for Sylvanus Urban.
He did not think all mischief fair,
Although he had a knack of joking;
He did not make himself a bear,
Although he had a taste for smoking.
And when religious sects ran mad
He held, in spite of all his learning,
That if a man's belief is bad
It will not be improved by burning.
And he was kind, and loved to sit
In the low hut or garnished cottage,
And praise the farmer's homely wit,
And share the widow's homelier pottage.
At his approach complaint grew mild,
And when his hand unbarred the shutter,
The clammy lips of fever smiled
The welcome that they could not utter.
He always had a tale for me
Of Julius Caesar or of Venus;
From him I learned the rule of three,
Cat's-cradle, leap-frog, and Qum genus;
I used to singe his powdered wig,
To steal the staff he put such trust in,
And make the puppy dance a jig
When he began to quote Augustine.
That Praed should have gathered so little fame is the more remarkable as, when alive, he had a reputation even superior to his merits. The friend and contemporary of Macaulay at Cambridge, he awakened an equal expectation of future greatness in all who knew them both. He carried off as many university prizes as the embryo historian; 1 he divided with him the applause of the under-graduate audience in the Union; and in the poems which the friendly rivals contributed at that period to Knight's Magazine, Praed (with one glorious exception, The Battle of Naseby) surpassed Macaulay altogether. It is only in the pages of that extinct serial, and here and there in other dead periodicals, that the treasures of Praed's muse can be found. In politics, Praed was a Conservative, and in the Songs of the Civil Wars which Macaulay and he contributed to the pages of Mr. Knight, took the Cavalier side, as will be seen in the following passage from his ballad of Marston Moor.
To horse! to horse! Sir Nicholas, the clarion's note is high!
To horse! to horse! Sir Nicholas, the big drum makes reply!
Ere this hath Lucas marched, with his gallant cavaliers,
And the bray of Rupert's trumpets grows fainter in our ears.
To horse! to horse! Sir Nicholas! White Guy is at the door,
And the Raven whets his beak o'er the field of Marston Moor.
Up rose the Lady Alice from her brief and broken prayer,
Aud she brought a silken banner down the narrow turret-stair;
Oh! many were the tears that those radiant eyes had shed,
As she traced the bright word 'Glory' in the gay and glancing thread;
And mournful was the smile which o'er those lovely features ran.
As she said, 'It is your lady's gift, unfurl it in the van!
It shall flutter, noble wench, where the best and boldest ride,
Midst the steel-clad files of Skippon, the black dragoons of Pride;
The recreant heart of Fairfax shall feel a sicklier qualm,
And the rebel lips of Oliver gave out a louder psalm;
When they see my lady's gewgaw flaunt proudly on their wing,
And hear the loyal soldier's shout, 'For God and for the King!
'Tis noon. The ranks are broken, along the royal line
They fly, the braggarts of the court! the bullies of the Rhine!
Stout Langdale's cheer is heard no more, and Astley's helm is down,
And Rupert sheaths his rapier, with a curse and with a frown,
And cold Newcastle mutters, as he follows in their flight,
'The German boar had better far have supped in York tonight!'
The knight is left alone, his steel-cap cleft in twain,
His good buff jerkin crimson'd o'er with many a gory stain:
Yet still he waves his banner, and cries amid the rout,
'For Church and King, fair gentlemen! spur on, and fight it out!'
And now he wards a Roundhead's pike, and now he hums a stave,
And now he quotes a stage-play, and now he fells a knave.
God aid thee now, Sir Nicholas! thou hast no thought of fear;
God aid thee now, Sir Nicholas! for fearful odds are here!
The rebels hem thee in, and at every cut and thrust,
'Down, down,' they cry, 'with Belial! down with him to the dust!'
'I would,' quoth grim old Oliver, 'that Belial's trusty sword,
This day were doing battle for the Saints and for the Lord!'
The tendencies of Praed induced the Conservative party to entertain great hopes of him in parliament; but in that arena, although he sat for some years, he made no figure. In 1830, he was elected for Truro; in 1835, for Yarmouth, and finally for Aylesbury; he was Secretary of the Board of Control under the Conservative government in 1835. When he died, still young, a lament arose from a large circle of friends that he had done so little, and that little only as a fashionable poet. But a first-rate fashionable poet is surely equal to a second-rate politician, and more than this, there was really no reason to suppose that Praed would ever become. He exercised his talents in the direction for which they were best fitted, and acquitted himself excellently well. He wrote at least half-a-dozen poems which deserve to live as long as the language, and to be popular while humour, elegance, and pathos still command a welcome.
The biography of Winthrop Mackworth Praed is comprised in his poems. They are all he did with which mankind at large has any concern. The darling of a fashionable and intellectual circle, he lived the usual butterfly life of his class, except for the parliamentary experiments above alluded to. His influence upon his contemporaries-clearly traceable, by the by, in Macaulay's early poetic efforts-was doubtless very considerable, but we have no means of estimating it.
There are certain men to whom the public is I not introduced except by proxy-such as Sidney Walker, and Arthur 'H. Hallam-and whose merits we are required to take upon trust. Men of judgment to whom they were justly dear, and who estimated them highly, evidence warmly in their favour; at last, half irritated that we refuse to welcome a shadow, they publish their Literary Remains. In nine cases out of ten, the disappointment of the public thereupon is made rudely manifest, and the reputation that has been sought to be established is blown to the winds. At the head of all authors of this class stands Mackworth Praed, but with this important difference, that his Remains-although no pious British hand has yet collected them-more than bear out all that we hear of his merits from private sources. It is impossible to question the social charms of the man who could write the following poem, which fitly concludes this sketch-'a poem,' says Miss Mitford, 'as truthful as if it had been written in prose by Jane Austen.'
THE BELLE OF THE BALL
Years, years ago, ere yet my dreams,
Had been of being wise or witty;
Ere I had done with writing themes,
Or yawned o'er this infernal ' Chitty,'
Years, years ago, while all my joys,
Were in my fowling-piece and filly,
In short, while I was yet a boy,
I fell in love with Laura Lily.
I saw her at a country ball
There where the sound of flute and fiddle,
Gave signal, sweet in that old hall,
Of hands across and down the middle;
Hers was the subtlest spell by far,
Of all that sets young hearts romancing,
She was our queen, our rose, our star,
And when she danced-Oh, heaven! her dancing!
She talked of politics or prayers,
Of Southey's prose, or Wordsworth's sonnets,
Of daggers, or of dancing bears,
Of battles, or the last new bonnets;
By candle-light, at twelve o'clock,
To me it mattered not a tittle,
If those bright lips had quoted Locke,
I might have thought they murmured Little.
Through sunny May, through sultry June,
I loved her with a love eternal;
I spoke her praises to the moon,
I wrote them for the Sunday journal.
My mother laughed; I soon found out
That ancient ladies have no feeling.
My father frowned; but how should gout
Find any happiness in kneeling?
She was the daughter of a dean,
Rich, fat, and rather apoplectic;
She had one brother just thirteen,
Whose colour was extremely hectic;
Her grandmother, for many a year,
Had fed the parish with her bounty;
Her second-cousin was a peer,
And lord-lieutenant of the county.
But titles and the three-per-cents,
And mortgages and great relations,
And India Bonds, and tithes and rents,
Oh! what are they to love's sensations?
Black eyes, fair foreheads, clustering locks,
Such wealth, such honours Cupid chooses;
He cares as little for the stocks,
As Baron Rothschild for the Muses.
She sketched: the vale, the wood, the beach
Grew lovelier from her pencil's shading;
She botanised: I envied each
Young blossom on her boudoir fading;
She warbled Handel: it was grand,
She made the Catalani jealous;
She touched the organ: I could stand
For hours and hours and blow the bellows.
She kept an album, too, at home,
Well filled with all an album's glories;
Paintings of butterflies and Rome;
Pattern for trimming; Persian stories;
Soft songs to Julia's cockatoo;
Fierce odes to famine and to slaughter,
And autographs of Prince Le Boo,
And recipes for elder-water.
And she was flattered, worshipped, bored,
Her steps were watched, her dress was noted,
Her poodle-dog was quite adored,
Her sayings were extremely quoted.
She laughed, and every heart was glad,
As if the taxes were abolished:
She frowned, and every look was sad,
As if the opera were demolished.
She smiled on many just for fun
I knew that there was nothing in it:
I was the first, the only one,
Her heart had thought of for a minute.
I knew it, for she told me so,
In phrase that was divinely moulded;
She wrote a charming hand, and oh!
How neatly all her notes were folded.
Our love was like most other loves-
A little glow, a little shiver;
A rosebud and a pair of gloves,
And 'Fly not yet,' upon the river;
Some jealousy of some one's heir;
Some hopes of dying broken-hearted;
A miniature; a lock of hair;
The usual vows; and then we parted.
We parted: months and years rolled by,
We met again some summers after;
Our parting was all sob and sigh!
Our meeting was all mirth and laughter!
For in my heart's most secret cell
There had been many other lodgers;
And she was not the ball-room belle,
But only Mistress-something-Rogers!
W. M. Praed was born in 1802 and died in 1839.
THE FIRST HULKS ON THE THAMES
English statesmen, in past days, felt a difficulty which the lapse of time has rendered very little more soluble than before: viz., the best kind of secondary punishment to adopt for offenders against the law-the most effective mode of dealing with criminals, who deserve some punishment less awful than that of death. Whipping, transportation, silent imprisonment, and imprisonment with hard labour, have all had their advocates, as being most effective for the purpose in view; and if the first of these four has given way before the advanced humanity of English society, the other three still form a debatable ground among thinking persons.
Early in the reign of George III, there were so many kinds of crime for which capital punishments were inflicted, that executions used to take place in London nearly every week, giving rise to a very unhealthy tone of feeling among the lower class. It was as a means of devising a severe mode of punishment short of death, that the Hulks on the Thames were introduced, in 1776. 'Hulk' is a nautical name for any old ship, applied to temporary purposes after its sea-going qualities have become impaired; it has often been applied to prison-ships, fashioned out of old men-of-war; but these prison-ships have sometimes been constructed for this special purpose, and yet the term hulk' remains in use as a short and easy designation.
The avowed object in 1776, was 'to employ prisoners in some kind of hard labour for the public benefit;' the severity and the continuance of the labour being made dependent on the good-conduct of each prisoner. Special care was to be taken that the imprisonment, while on the one hand not cruel, should on the other not be comfortable. 'They [the prisoners] are to be employed in as much labour as they can sustain; to be fed with legs and shins of beef, ox-cheek, and such other coarse food; to have nothing to drink but water or small-beer; to be clad in some squalid uniform; never to be visited without the consent of the overseers; and never to be supplied with any gifts from other persons, either in money or otherwise.' The Thames between Woolwich and Barking being much choked with mud, it was deemed a useful work to employ convicts in dredging. A vessel was built, neither a ship, tender, nor lighter, but combining something of all three: on a plan approved by the king in council. Part of the stern was decked in as a sleeping-place for the convicts, part of the forecastle was enclosed for the overseer, and the rest of the vessel was open. There were overhanging platforms, on which the men could stand to work; and on one of these was `a machine called a David, with a wind-lass, for raising the ballast '-which was probably the same thing as sailors now call a davit. The vessel had space for about thirty tons of sand, mud, or ballast, dredged up from the Thames.
Such was the hulk or prison-ship, which was placed under the management of Mr. Duncan Camp-bell, a sort of superintendent of convicts. On the 15th of July, in the above-named year, the first party of convicts, chained two and two by the leg, entered the ship, and commenced their labours off Barking Creek. Many violent encounters took place before the convicts could be brought to understand the reality of the system. On one occasion, several of them attempted to get off their chains; they were flogged, and made to work harder as a consequence. On another occasion, five of them slipped down into a boat, and rowed off; they were pursued, and fired at; two were killed, one wounded, and two recaptured. One day, during a violent north wind, the hulk was driven across from Barking Creek to Woolwich; fourteen of the convicts rose on the keepers, compelled them to keep below, and escaped; a naval officer meeting them on the Greenwich road, persuaded eight of them to return to the vessel; of the six who refused, some were afterwards captured and hanged. In a further instance, eight convicts effectually escaped; they seized the arm-chest, took pistols, intimidated the keepers, and made off in an open boat. This system of working in hulks had a long trial on the Thames, but gradually gave way to other arrangements.