Born: Virgil, Latin poet, 70 B. C., Andes, near Mantua; Evangelista Torricelli, inventor of the barometer, 1608, Piancaldoli, in Romagna; Allan Ramsay, Scottish poet, 1686, Leadhills, Lanarkshire; Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee, author of Elements of General History, 1747, Edinburgh; Christian, Count Stolberg, poet and dramatist, 1748, Hamburg; Frederick William IV, king of Prussia, 1795.
Died: Lucretius, Latin philosophical poet, 55 B. C.; Andreas Vesalius, eminent anatomist, 1564, Zante; Pope Gregory XIV, 1591; Dr. James Anderson, author of works on political economy, &c., 1808, London; Michael Kelly, composer, 1826, Ramsgate; Letitia Elizabeth Maclean (a/c Landon), poetess, 1838, Cape Coast Castle; Rev. John Foster, celebrated essayist, 1843, Stapleton, near Bristol.
Feast Day: St. Hospicius or Hospis, anchoret, about 580. St. Tecla, virgin and abbess. St. Teresa, virgin, foundress of the Reformation of the Barefooted Carmelites, 1582.
MRS. MACLEAN ('L. E. L.')
On New year's Day morning, 1839, the readers of newspapers were startled by the announcement of the death, at Cape Coast Castle, of Mrs. Maclean, wife of Mr. George Maclean, the governor of that settlement. But a few months before she had quitted the shores of England with all the gay paraphernalia of a bride, proceeding after the nuptial knot had been tied to her future home by the palm clad shores, and amid the tropical vegetation of West Africa. Recollections of the young and enthusiastic 'L. E. L.,' whose contributions to the Literary Gazette had in their youthful days of romance called forth so many juvenile tributes of admiration both in prose and verse, filled with tears the eyes of many staid men of middle age, whilst to those who had enjoyed the privilege of her society, and the vivacity and charm of her conversation, the shock produced by this sad and unexpected intelligence was overwhelming. Other feelings, however, were speedily to be excited those of an intense curiosity and interest, not unmingled with horror, by the report that Mrs. Maclean had died from the effects of a dose of prussic acid, incautiously taken, and, as some did not hesitate to insinuate, with the intention of self destruction.
The whole affair was involved in the deepest mystery, the sole explanation afforded being that between eight and nine o'clock on the morning of Monday, 15th October, a female servant had gone to Mrs. Maclean's room, for the purpose of delivering a note which had just been received. She experienced some difficulty in opening the door, and found that it was occasioned by Mrs. Maclean having fallen with her back against it. The unfortunate lady was lying perfectly senseless, with an empty bottle in her hand, labelled as containing hydrocyanic or prussic acid. Assistance was immediately procured, but all in vain the vital spark had fled. Mr. Maclean, her husband, had been suffering from indisposition for a few days previous, and had been most assiduously tended by his wife, who, on the morning of her death, had risen to administer some refreshment to him, and had then retired to her room to resume repose. The servant also who found her in the condition we have mentioned, had seen her about half an hour previously.
No one had observed anything peculiar in her demeanour, or any indication of depression of spirits, though from her attendance night and day on her husband, she had become very much exhausted, and was besides liable to spasmodic attacks, for the relief of which, it was stated at the inquest, that she was in the habit of taking in a glass of water a few drops, of medicine from the bottle which was found in her hand. The conjecture then come to was, that she had inadvertently taken an overdose, and feeling its effects, had endeavoured to open her door and call for assistance, when she was stricken down helpless. No satisfactory conclusion was ever arrived at, and there the matter rests. It should be stated, however, that all the evidence brought forward went entirely to negative the idea of suicide having been committed. Between Mr. Maclean and herself a strong and sincere affection subsisted; there had never been an unkind word between them; and from the tone of all her communications to her friends at home, it was evident that she looked forward with great complacency and cheerfulness to her future career at Cape Coast.
Previous to her marriage, the life of Letitia Elizabeth Landon had not been diversified by much incident. The greater part of it was spent in London, in the neighbourhood of Chelsea and Brompton, in the former of which localities she was born in 1802. Her father, John Landon, the son of a Herefordshire rector, had in his early days gone to sea, but afterwards settled in London as an army agent. From her earliest years Letitia displayed a most engrossing propensity for reading, and the bent of her genius towards poetry was displayed nearly at as early a date as with Pope and Cowley. When the family resided at Brompton, they happened to have as their near neighbour William Jerdan, the celebrated editor of The Literary Gazette, and an acquaintance having been formed, some of Miss Landon's juvenile pieces were shewn to him, approved of, and inserted in his journal. Public attention was soon attracted by the beauty of these pieces; and the mysterious initials 'L. E. L.,' by which the authoress subscribed herself, came soon to be recognized as belonging to the finest lyrics of the day.
Thus stimulated, she proceeded to more ambitious undertakings, and the poems of The Improvisatrice, The Troubadour, The Golden Violet, and The Venetian Bracelet, procured for her all the fame which their glow and luxuriance of description, with the most melodious harmony of verse, so richly merited. Whether, however, from its essentially artificial character, however natural an appearance it may wear, the poetry of Miss Landon is destined to an abiding immortality, may not unreasonably be questioned. Never was there a poet whose works were less a reflex of his own mind than those of L. E. L. With all the enchanting descriptions of woodland glades, sunny gardens, and flowery meadows, beneath the magic of a Provencal or Italian sky, Miss Landon, like Charles Lamb, had little affection for the country, and found herself nowhere in a more congenial atmosphere than amid the smoke and bustle of London. Neither did her disposition partake of the pensive, melancholy cast, so conspicuous in her poems, being, on the contrary, remarkable for its vivacity and cheerfulness. Those who expected to find in her an embodiment of the feelings portrayed in her works, found themselves generally egregiously mistaken in their anticipations.
It was said of her, 'that she should write with a crystal pen dipped in dew upon silver paper, and use for pounce the dust of a butterfly's wing;' the real fact being, that her locality for invoking the Muses was her bedroom a bare homely-looking room facing the street, where she wrote at an old worn-out desk, placed on a little old dressing table. In person, the impression conveyed was a very pleasing one. Her figure was slight and graceful, and without being artistically beautiful in feature, her face, when she spoke, became handsome in its expressiveness. It is recorded of Hogg the Ettrick Shepherd, that, on being first presented to her at the house of Mrs. Hall, he took her hand, and looking earnestly in her face, exclaimed: 'Oh dear! I hae written and thocht mony a bitter thing about ye, but I'll do sae nae mair; I didna think ye 'd been sae bonny!'
THE WYNYARD GHOST-STORY
No modern ghost story has been more talked of in England, than one in which the seers were two military officers named Sherbroke and Wynyard. The men occupied conspicuous places in society, and were universally known as persons of honour, as well as cool good sense; the reality of their vision was attested by a remarkable circumstance which afterwards took place; and every effort of their own or on the part of others to give an 'explanation' has been vain.
John Cope Sherbroke and George Wynyard appear in the army list of 1785, the one as a captain and the other a lieutenant in the 33d Regiment a corps which, some years after, had the honour to be commanded by the Hon. Arthur Wellesley, subsequently Duke of Wellington. The regiment was then on service in Canada, and Sherbroke and Wynyard, being of congenial tastes, had become friends. It was their custom to spend in study much of the time which their brother officers devoted to idle pleasures. According to a narration resting on the best authority now attainable:
They were one afternoon sitting in Wynyard's apartment. It was perfectly light, the hour was about four o'clock; they had dined, but neither of them had drunk wine, and they had retired from the mess to continue together the occupations of the morning. It ought to have been said, that the apartment in which they were had two doors in it, the one opening into a passage, and the other leading into Wynyard's bedroom. There was no other means of entering the sitting room but from the passage, and no other egress from the bedroom but through the sitting room; so that any person passing into the bedroom must have remained there, unless he returned by the way he entered. This point is of consequence to the story.
As these two young officers were pursuing their studies, Sherbroke, whose eye happened accidentally to glance from the volume before him towards the door that opened to the passage, observed a tall youth, of about twenty years of age, whose appearance was that of extreme emaciation, standing beside it. Struck with the presence of a perfect stranger, he immediately turned to his friend, who was sitting near him, and directed his attention to the guest who had thus strangely broken in upon their studies. As soon as Wynyard's eyes were turned towards the mysterious visitor, his countenance became suddenly agitated. 'I have heard,' says Sir John Sherbroke, 'of a man's being as pale as death, hut I never saw a living face assume the appearance of a corpse, except Wynyard's at that moment'
As they looked silently at the form before them, for Wynyard, who seemed to apprehend the import of the appearance, was deprived of the faculty of speech, and Sherbroke perceiving the agitation of his friend, felt no inclination to address it as they looked silently upon the figure, it proceeded slowly into the adjoining apartment, and, in the act of passing them, cast its eyes with an expression of somewhat melancholy affection on young Wynyard. The oppression of this extraordinary presence was no sooner removed, than Wynyard, seizing his friend by the arm, and drawing a deep breath, as if recovering from the suffocation of in tense astonishment and emotion, muttered in a low and almost inaudible tone of voice, 'Great God! my brother!' 'Your brother!' repeated Sherbroke, 'what can you mean, Wynyard? there must be some deception follow me;' and immediately taking his friend by the arm, he preceded him into the bedroom, which, as before stated, was connected with the sitting room, and into which the strange visitor had evidently entered. It has already been said, that from this chamber there was no possibility of withdrawing but by the way of the apartment, through which the figure had certainly passed, and as certainly never had returned. Imagine, then, the astonishment of the young officers, when, on finding themselves in the centre of the chamber, they perceived that the room was perfectly untenanted. Wynyard's mind had received an impression at the first moment of his observing him, that the figure whom he had seen was the spirit of his brother. Sherbroke still persevered in strenuously believing that some delusion had been practised.
They took note of the day and hour in which the event had happened; but they resolved not to mention the occurrence in the regiment, and gradually they persuaded each other that they had been imposed upon by some artifice of their fellow officers, though they could neither account for the reason, nor suspect the author, nor conceive the means of its execution. They were content to imagine anything possible, rather than admit the possibility of a supernatural appearance. But, though they had attempted these stratagems of self delusion, Wynyard could not help expressing his solicitude with respect to the safety of the brother whose apparition he had either seen, or imagined himself to have seen; and the anxiety which he exhibited for letters from England, and his frequent mention of his fears for his brother's health, at length awakened the curiosity of his comrades, and eventually betrayed him into a declaration of the circumstances which he had in vain determined to conceal.
The story of the silent and unbidden visitor was no sooner bruited abroad, than the destiny of Wynyard's brother became an object of universal and painful interest to the officers of the regiment; there were few who did not inquire for Wynyard's letters before they made any demand after their own; and the packets that arrived from England were welcomed with more than usual eagerness, for they brought not only remembrances from their friends at home, but promised to afford the clue to the mystery which had happened among themselves.
By the first ships no intelligence relating to the story could have been received, for they had all departed from England previously to the appearance of the spirit. At length the long wished for vessel arrived; all the officers had letters except Wynyard. They examined the several newspapers, but they contained no mention of any death, or of any other circumstance connected with his family that could account for the preternatural event. There was a solitary letter for Sherbroke still unopened. The officers had received their letters in the mess-room at the hour of supper. After Sherbroke had broken the seal of his last packet, and cast a glance on its contents, he beckoned his friend away from the company, and departed from the room. All were silent.
The suspense of the interest was now at its climax; the impatience for the return of Sherbroke was inexpressible. They doubted not but that letter had contained the long expected intelligence. After the interval of an hour, Sherbroke joined them. No one dared be guilty of so great a rudeness as to inquire the nature of his correspondence; but they waited in mute attention, expecting that he would himself touch upon the subject. His mind was manifestly full of thoughts that pained, bewildered, and oppressed him. He drew near to the fireplace, and leaning his head on the mantel-piece, after a pause of some moments, said in a low voice, to the person who was nearest him: 'Wynyard's brother is no more!' The first line of Sherbroke's letter was 'Dear John, break to your friend Wynyard the death of his favourite brother.' He had died on the day, and at the very hour, on which the friends had seen his spirit pass so mysteriously through the apartment.
It might have been imagined, that these events would have been sufficient to have impressed the mind of Sherbroke with the conviction of their truth; but so strong was his prepossession against the existence, or even the possibility of any preternatural intercourse with the souls of the dead, that he still entertained a doubt of the report of his senses, supported as their testimony was by the coincidence of vision and event. Some years after, on his return to England, he was walking with two gentlemen in Piccadilly, when, on the opposite side of the way, he saw a person bearing the most striking resemblance to the figure which had been disclosed to Wynyard and himself. His companions were acquainted with the story, and he instantly directed their attention to the gentleman opposite, as the individual who had contrived to enter and depart from Wynyard's apartment without their being conscious of the means. Full of this impression, he immediately went over, and at once addressed the gentleman. He now fully expected to elucidate the mystery. He apologised for the interruption, but excused it by relating the occurrence, which had induced him to the commission of this solecism in manners. The gentleman received him as a friend. He had never been out of the country, but he was the twin brother of the youth whose spirit had been seen.
From the interesting character of this narration the facts of the vision occurring in daylight and to two persons, and of the subsequent verification of likeness by the party not previously acquainted with the subject of the vision it is much to be regretted that no direct report of particulars has come to us. There is all other desirable authentication for the story, and sufficient evidence to prove that the two gentlemen believed and often told nearly what is here reported. Dr. Mayo makes the following statement on the subject: 'I have had opportunities of inquiring of two near relations of this General Wynyard, upon what evidence the above story rests. They told me that they had each heard it from his own mouth. More recently a gentleman, whose accuracy of recollection exceeds that of most people, has told me that he had heard the late Sir John Sherbroke, the other party in the ghost story, tell it much in the same way at a dinner table.
A writer, signing himself COGNATUS states in Notes and Queries (July 3rd, 1858), that the brother (not twin-brother) whose spirit appeared to Wynyard and his friend was John Otway Wynyard, a lieutenant in the 3rd regiment of Foot guards, who died on the 15th of October 1785. As this gentleman writes with a minute knowledge of the family history, we may consider this date as that of the alleged spiritual incident.
In Notes and Queries, July 2nd, 1859, appeared a correspondence, giving nearly the strongest testimony then attainable to the truth of the Wynyard ghost story. A series of queries on the subject, being drawn up at Quebec by Sir John Harvey, adjutant general of the forces in Canada, was sent to Colonel Gore, of the same garrison, who was understood to be a survivor of the officers who were with Sherbroke and Wynyard at the time of the occurrence; and Colonel Gore explicitly replied to the following effect. He was present at Sydney, in the island of Cape Breton, in the latter end of 1785 or 1786, when the incident happened. It was in the then new barrack, and the place was blocked up by ice so as to have no communication with any other part of the world. He was one of the first persons who entered the room after the supposed apparition was seen.
The ghost passed them as they were sitting at coffee [between eight and nine in the evening], and went into G. Wynyard's bed closet, the window of which was potted down.
The next day suggested to Sherbroke the propriety of making a memorandum of the incident; which was done.:
I remember the date, and on the 6th of June our first letters from England brought the news of John Wynyard's death [which had happened] on the very night they saw his apparition.
Colonel Gore was under the impression that the person afterwards seen in one of the streets of London by Sherbroke and William Wynyard, was not a brother of the latter family, but a gentleman named he thought) Hayman, noted for being like the deceased John Wynyard, and who affected to dress like him.
The English newspapers and broadsides of old days preserve to us some curious notices of what have been, from time to time, brought before the public as personal prodigies. We find the grave King William in a novel kind of association in the following account, for example, of a Strong Man. The article is dated, 'London, printed by J. W., near Fleet Street, 1699.'
'THE ENGLISH SAMPSON: HIS STRENGTH PROVED BEFORE THE KING; being an account of the wonderful exploits that Mr. William Joyce performed before his majesty at Kinsington, the 15th of this instant November, 1699.
[After a little prefatory flourish, the advertisement thus continues.] 'Being asked how much he was capable of lifting, he reply'd above a tun weight; whereupon a solid piece of lead was prepar'd according to his desire, being shap'd as convenient as possible for his laying hold of, in order to lift it; and being weigh'd, it contained a tun and fourteen pound and an half, which was more than he at first proposed: notwithstanding which he lifted it up at a considerable heighth from the ground, to the admiration of his majesty and his nobles, who were eyewitnes thereof, supposing such an exploit far beyond the ability of any mortal man to perform after which, at his majesty's command, a rope of incredible thicknes was brought and fastned about his middle, and the other end to an extraordinary strong horse; at which time he told his majesty that the horse could not move him; upon which, to try the experiment, the said horse was order'd to be whip't in order to pull him out of the place; but, notwithstanding all his strength, Mr. Joyce stood as immovable as an oak-tree: whereupon, seeing his majesty and others of the nobility to be seemingly astonish'd at this strange action, he thereupon declared that he could, by meer strength, break the same rope in two; whereupon, tying the same to two postes, he twitch'd it in pieces seemingly as easie as another man does a piece of packthred; and not only so, but afterwards putting his armes about one of the said postes (which was of extra-ordinary magnitude), he at one violent pull broke it down, and in the same manner he served the other also, to the extraordinary wonder of all then present.
At which strange performances his majesty was mightily well pleas'd (and, 'tis said), has ordred him a considerable gratuity, besides an honorable entertainment for both him and his acquaintance. We are credibly inform'd that the said Mr. Joyce pull'd up a tree of near a yard and half circumferance, by the roots, at Hamstead, on Tuesday last, in the open view of some hundreds of people, it being modestly computed to weigh near 2000 weight; these, and several other strange and amazing exploytes, he performs almost every day, even to the wonder of all mankind!'
In some degree in contrast with King William's Strong Man, is the account of a wonderfully small Scotsman, who was subjected to public attention in the same reign.
'A SCOTCH DWARF
'These are to give notice to all persons of quallity, and others, that there is newly come to this place, a little Scotch man, which bath been admired by all that bath yet seen him, he being but two foot and six inches high; and is near upon 60 years of age. He was marry'd several years, and had issue two sons (one of which is with him now). He sings and dances with his son; and has had the honour to be shewn before several persons of note at their houses, as far as they have yet travelled. He formerly kept a writing school; and discourses of the Scriptures, and of many eminent histories, very wisely; and gives great satisfaction to all spectators; and if need requires, there are several persons in this town that will justifie, that they were his schollars, and see him marry'd. He is to be seen at the lower end of Brookfield Market, near the market house.' (Further than this, there is no clue to the name of the town).
Other wonders of the same kind follow:
'A 'CHANGLING' CHILD
'To be seen next door to the Black Raven, in West Smithfield, being a living skeleton, taken by a Venetian galley from a Turkish vessel in the Archipelago: This is a fairy child, suppos'd to be born of Hungarian parents, but chang'd in the nursing, aged nine years and more, not exceeding a foot and a half high. The legs, thighs, and arms are so very small, that they scarce exceed the bigness of a man's thumb, and the face no bigger than the palm of one's hand; and seems so grave and solid, as if it were threescore years old. You may see the whole anatomy of its body by setting it against the sun. It never speaks. And when passion moves it, it cries like a cat. It has no teeth, but is the most voracious and hungry creature in the world, devouring more victuals than the stoutest man in England.' The above is headed by the royal arms, and at the foot are the words Vivant Rex et Regina thus chewing it to be towards the latter end of the seventeenth century.
AN IRISH GIANT
To the annexed there is no date: 'Miracula Natures; or, a miracle of nature. Being that so much-admired giant-like young man, aged twenty-three years last June; born in Ireland, of such a prodigious height and bigness, and every way proportionable; that the like hath not been seen in England in the memory of man. He was shewn to his late and present majesty, and several of the nobility at court, five years ago; and his late majesty was pleased to walk under his arm, and he is grown very much since. And it is generally thought, that if he lives three years more, and grows as he has done, he will be much bigger than any of those giants we read of in story: for he now reaches with his hand three yards and a half, spans fifteen inches, and is the admiration of all that sees him. He is to be seen at Cow-Lane-End, in Bartholomew Fair, where his picture hangs out.
THE PAINTED PRINCE
There is no date to the following, further than that which may be gathered from the style of its typography, which would seem to be of about the period to which most, if not all, of these curious advertisements belong. The one immediately before us runs thus:
'Prince Giolo, Son to the King of Moangis, or Gilolo; lying under the Æquator in the Long. of 152 Deg. 30 Min.; a Fruitful Island abounding with rich spices and other valuable commodities.
'This unfortunate prince sailing towards a neighboring island, with his mother and young sister, to complement the intended marriage betwixt her and the king of that island, a violent tempest surprised them, and drove them on shoar upon the coast of Mindanao, where they were all made prisoners, except the young lady, with whom the king was so enamored, that he took her to wife; yet suffered the prince and his mother Nacatara to be purchased for money. The mother died, but the prince, her son, is arrived in England.
This famous Painted Prince is the first wonder of the age, his whole body (except face, hands, and feet) is curiously and most exquisitely painted or stained, full of variety of invention, with prodigious art and skill performed. Insomuch, that the ancient and noble mystery of painting or staining upon humane bodies seems to be comprised in this one stately piece.
'The pictures, and those other engraved figures copied from him, serve only to describe as much as they can of the foreparts of this inimitable piece of workmanship. The more admirable back parts afford us a lively representation of one quarter part of the world upon and betwixt his shoulders, where the arctic and tropic circles center in the north pole on his neck. And all the other lines, circles, and characters are done in such exact symmetry and proportion that it is astonishing, and surmounts all that has hitherto been seen of this kind.
The paint itself is so durable that nothing can wash it off, or deface the beauty of it. It is prepared from the juice of a certain herb or plant peculiar to that country, which they esteem infallible to preserve humane bodies from the deadly poison or hurt of any venomous creatures whatsoever. This custom they observe that in some short time after the body is painted, it is carried naked, with much ceremony, to a spacious room appointed, which is filled with all sorts of the most venomous, pernicious creatures that can be found; such as snakes, scorpions, vipers, centapees (centipede), &c. The king himself is present. The grandees and multitudes of spectators seeing the naked body surrounded with so many venomous creatures, and unable to wound or do any mischief to it, seem transported and ready to adore him; for none but those of the royal family are permitted to be thus painted.
This excellent piece has been lately seen by many persons of high quality, and accurately surveyed by several learned virtuosi, and ingenious travelers, who have expressed very great satisfaction in seeing of it.
This admirable person is about the age of thirty, graceful, and well-proportioned in all his limbs; extremely modest and civil, neat and cleanly, but his language is not understood, neither can he speak English.
He will be exposed to public view every day from the 16th of this instant June, at his lodgings at the Blew Boar's Head, in Fleet Street, near Water Lane; where he will continue for some time, if his health will permit. But if any persons of quality, gentlemen or ladies, do desire to see this noble person, at their own houses or any other convenient place, in or about this city of London, they are to send timely notice, and he will be ready to wait upon them in a coach or chair any time they may please to appoint, if in the daytime.