Born: Ralph Thoresby, antiquary, author of Ducatus Leodiensis, 1658, Leeds; Catharine Cockburn, dramatist and moral writer, 1679, London; Pierre Mechain, mathematician and astronomer, 1744, Laon; Frederick, Duke of York, second son of George III, 1763.
Died: Dr. Thomas Fuller, celebrated divine and author, 1661, Cranford, Middlesex; Jacques Bernouilli, mathematician and natural philosopher, 1705, Basel; Dr. Matthew Tindal, freethinking writer, 1733, London; Bartholomew Joubert, French general, killed at Novi, 1799; John Palmer, post-reformer, 1818.
Feast Day: St. Hyacinth, confessor, 1257. St. Roch, confessor, 14th century.
ST. ROCH OR ROQUE
Was a French gentleman, possessing estates near Montpelier, which, however, he abandoned in order to devote himself to a religious life. The date of his death is stated with some uncertainty as 1327. In consequence of working miraculous cures of the plague, while himself stricken with the disease at Placentia, in Italy, Roque was held as a saint specially to be invoked by persons so afflicted. There were many churches dedicated to him in Germany and other countries, and it seems to have been a custom that persons dying of plague should be buried there.
St. Roch's Day was celebrated in England as a general harvest-home.
TINDAL AND BUDGEL
Dr. Matthew Tindal, a clergyman's son, and a fellow of All Souls' College, Oxford, made himself notable, in the early part of the eighteenth century, by a series of books and pamphlets assailing the pretensions of High Church, and latterly endeavouring to take away the supernatural element from Christianity itself. His writings gave rise to prodigious controversies, which whizzed and sputtered and fumed about the ears of mankind for a good many years, and by and by subsided into the silence of oblivion, in which for fully a hundred years past they have remained.
Tindal cannot be mentioned without some notice of Eustace Budgel, his friend and follower as far as regards religious ideas. Budgel was a relation of Addison, a man of fair talents, and a contributor to the Spectator and Guardian. Through Addison's influence, when secretary of state, Budgel obtained confidential and lucrative political offices, and his abilities as a writer and speaker promised his speedy rise to distinction. But, cursed with an unhappy temper, an irregular ambition, and an inability to control splenetic, revengeful passions, he lost his official position; and the bursting of the South-sea Bubble left him, in the prime of life, ruined alike in fortune and political influence. His reputation was to follow. At Tindal's death, it was found that he had made Budgel his heir, to the exclusion of his nephew. Budgel was accused of forging the will, which was written by an alleged female accomplice, a Mrs. Price; and whether innocent or otherwise, there can be no doubt that he was guilty of dishonesty regarding a considerable sum he had borrowed from Tindal, just previous to his death, and the receipt of which he strenuously denied, till the notes were traced to his possession. The subject was a fruitful one for the wits of the day. Pope writes
Let Budgel charge all Grub Street on my quill,
And write whate'er he please, except my will.
The best epigram on Tindal's will, however, is the following:
Hundreds of years, th' Old Testament and New
By general consent have passed for true;
In this learn'd age, a doctor, 'god-like great!'
By dint of reason proved them both a cheat:
A third he made, which, sinking nature's share,
Gave more than he died worth to Reason's heir.
Mal-practice to prevent, of his last thought,
A female scribe engrossed the genuine draught.
But, oh! 'gainst Testaments such reasons shown,
Have taught the world to question e'en his own.
Those seventeen centuries old he scarce could raze,
His own remained unshook not seventeen days.
Yet all perhaps are true; if none, the third,
Of three forged Testaments, seems most absurd.
Budgel boldly attempted to outface the obloquy of this affair, and for a while seemed to have succeeded; but at length, succumbing to popular indignation, he committed suicide. The evils of undisciplined temper and passions are nowhere more clearly evinced than in the unhappy career of Eustace Budgel.
PALMER, THE POST-REFORMER
Three hundred years ago, travellers had no choice but to ride on horseback or walk. Kings, queens, and gentlefolk all mounted to the saddle. The practice had existed for generations and centuries. Chaucer's ride to Canterbury is made famous by his own lucid account of that celebrated journey. Ladies were accustomed to ride on pillions fixed on the horse, and generally behind some relative or serving-man. In this way Queen Elizabeth, when she rode into the city from her residence at Greenwich, placed herself behind her lord-chancellor. Judges rode the circuit in jack-boots for centuries, and continued to do so long after other means of conveyance were in general use.'
The first improvement consisted in a kind of rude wagon, which was, in reality, nothing but a cart without springs, the body of it resting solidly upon the axle. In such a vehicle did Elizabeth drive to the opening of her fifth parliament. Mr. Smiles, in his interesting Lives of the Engineers, relates that:
that valyant knyght, Sir Harry Sydney, on a certain day in 1583, entered Shrewsbury in his wagon, with his trompeter blowynge, verey joyfull to behold and see.
Bad as these conveyances must have been, they had scarcely fair-play on the execrable roads of the period. Even up to the end of the seventeenth century, the roads in most parts of the country were not unlike broad ditches, much water-worn and carelessly strewn with loose stones. It is on record, that on one occasion eight hundred horses were taken prisoners by Cromwell's forces while sticking in the mud! During the seventeenth century, it was common, when a long journey was contemplated, for servants to be sent on beforehand, to investigate the country, and report upon the most promising tract. In 1640, the road from Dover to London was the best in England, owing, of course, to the amount of continental traffic continually kept up, and yet the journey of Queen Henrietta and household occupied four long weary days over that short distance.
It was not till towards the close of the sixteenth century that the wagon became used as a public conveyance, and only very rarely then. Fifty years after, we find that a string of stage-wagons travelled regularly between London and Liverpool, each one starting from the Axe Inn, Alderman-bury, every Monday and Thursday, and occupying ton days on the road during summer, and generally about twelve days during winter. About the same time, three men started every Friday morning for Liverpool, from Lad's Lane, London, with a gang of horses for the conveyance of light goods and passengers, usually reaching Liverpool on the Monday evening following.
Stage-coaches were great improvements on all the then existing conveyances, and were destined to work great changes in travelling. A kind of stage-coach was first used in London early in the seventeenth century. Towards the middle of the same century, they were generally adopted in the metropolis, and on the better highways around London, travelling at the rate of two or three miles an hour. Before 1698, stage-coaches were placed on three of the principal roads in the kingdom. The original announcement for that between London and York still exists, and runs as follows:
Whoever is desirous of going between London and York or York and London, Let them Repair to the Black Swan in Holboorn, or the Black Swan in Coney Street, York, where they will be conveyed in a Stage Coach if God permits, which starts every Thursday at Five in the morning.
This was only, however, for the summer season; during winter, they did not run at all, but were laid up for the season like ships during arctic frosts. Even in summer, the passengers very frequently got out and walked long distances, the state of the roads in some places compelling them to do so. With the York coach especially, the difficulties were really formidable.
Passing through the low Midland counties was sometimes entirely impracticable, and during the time of floods, it was nothing unusual for passengers to remain at some town en route for days together, until the roads were dry again. Notwithstanding these drawbacks, stage-coaches increased in number and in popularity, and so decidedly was travelling on the increase, that they now became the subjects of grave discussion; news-letters encouraged or reviled them, and pamphlets were written concerning them.
For instance, in one entitled The Grand Concern of England Explained in Several Proposals to Parliament, these same stage-coaches are denounced as the greatest evil that had happened of late years to the kingdom, mischievous to trade, and destructive to the public health. Curious to know in what way these sad consequences are brought about, we read on, and find it stated that 'those who travel in these coaches contracted an idle habit of body; became weary and listless when they rode a few miles, and were then unable or unwilling to travel on horseback, and not able to endure frost, snow, or rain, or to lodge in the field!'
Opinions on even such a subject as this differed most materially. In the very same year that produced the book to which we have just referred, another writer, descanting on the improvements which had been brought about in the postal arrangements of the country, goes on to say, that, 'besides the excellent arrangement of conveying men and letters on horseback, there is of late such an admirable commodiousness, both for men and women, to travel from London to the principal towns in the country, that the like hath not been known in the world, and that is by stage-coaches, wherein any one may be transported to any place, sheltered from foul weather and foul ways; free from endamaging of one's health and one's body by the hard jogging or over-violent motion; and this not only at a low price (about a shilling for every five miles), but with such velocity and speed in one hour, as that the posts in some foreign country's make in a day.'
From the information which we have been able to gather on the subject, it would appear that at first stage-coaches were not regarded as very great improvements upon the old stage-wagons. M. Soubriere, a Frenchman of letters, who landed at Dover in the reign of Charles II, alludes to the existence of stage-coaches, but he would seem to have been well acquainted with their demerits, as we may learn from an account which he has left 'that I might not take post, or again be obliged to use the stage-coach, I went from Dover to London in a wagon. I was drawn by six horses placed in a line, one after another, and driven by a wagoner, who walked by the side of it. He was clothed in black, and appointed in all things like another St. George. He had a brave monteror on his head, and was a merry fellow, fancied he ade a figure, and seemed mightily pleased with himself.'
The speed at which the coaches travelled was a great marvel at that time. In 1700, York was a week distant from the metropolis. Between London and Edinburgh, even so late as 1763, a fortnight was consumed, the coach only starting once a month. The intermediate Sunday was quietly spent at Boroughbridge, in Yorkshire, as much for the sake of relief to exhausted nature as from motives of piety. The first vehicle which plied between Edinburgh and Glasgow was started in 1749. It was called 'The Edinburgh and Glasgow Caravan,' and performed the journey of forty-four miles in two days. Ten years after, another vehicle was started, and called the 'Fly,' because it contrived to perform this same journey in a day and a half. Latterly, it took the daylight of one day. It is a perfectly authentic anecdote that, about 1780, a gentleman, anxious to make favour with a young lady, learning that she was to travel from Glasgow to Edinburgh, on a particular day, took the whole remaining inside-seats, had her all to himself of course, and succeeded in winning her as his wife. Mr. Smiles tells us that, during the last century, the Fly coach from London to Exeter stopped at the latter place the fifth night from town; the coach proceeded next morning to Axminster, and there a woman-barber 'shaved the coach.'
The fact was that, on any of the roads, the difference of half a day, or even a day, was a small matter. Time was of less consequence than safety. The coaches were advertised to start 'God willing,' or about such and such an hour as shall seem good to the majority of the passengers. Thoresby tells us, that he was even accustomed to leave the coach (on the journey from London to York) and go in search of fossil shells in the fields, on either side of the road, while making the journey between these two places. Whether or not the coach was to stop at some favourite inn, was determined, in most cases, by a vote of the passengers, who would generally appoint a chairman at the beginning of the journey.
Under such circumstances, we cannot wonder that disputes, especially about stopping at wayside-inns, should be of frequent occurrence. Perhaps the driver had a pecuniary interest in some particular posting-house, and would exert an influence, some-times tyrannical, to obtain the consent of the passengers to a place of his choosing. In 1760, an action was tried before the Court of King's Bench to recover damages, on the plea that, during a stage-coach journey, the driver wished to compel the passengers to dine at some low inn on the road. They preferred to walk on to a respectable inn at some little distance, and desired the driver to call for them, as he must pass the place. Instead of doing so, he drove past the inn at full speed, leaving them to get up to London as best they could. The jury found for the passengers in £20 damages. On another occasion, a dispute arose, which resulted in a quarrel between the guard and a passenger, the coach stopping to see the two fight it out on the road!
While yet the ordinary stage-coach was found equal to all the requirements on most of the old coach-roads, the speed at which it travelled did not at all satisfy the enterprising merchants of Lancashire and Yorkshire. In 1754, a company of merchants in Manchester started a new vehicle, called the 'Flying Coach,' which seems to have earned its designation by the fact, that it proposed to travel at the rate of four or five miles an hour! The proprietors, at the commencement, issued the following remarkable prospectus: 'However incredible it may appear, this coach will actually (barring accidents) arrive in London in four days and a half after leaving Manchester.' Three years after-wards, the Liverpool merchants established another of these 'flying machines on steel springs,' as the newspapers of the period called them, which was intended to eclipse the Manchester one in the matter of speed. It started from Warrington (Liverpool passengers reaching the former place the night previous to starting), and only three days had to be taken up in the journey to London. 'Each passenger to pay two guineas-one guinea as earnest, and the other on taking coach; 14 lbs. of luggage allowed, and 3d. per pound for all luggage in excess.' About as much more money as was required for the fare was expended in living and lodgings on the road, not to speak of fees to guard and driver. Sheffield and Leeds followed with their respective ' flying coaches,' and before the last century closed, the whole of them had acquired the respectable velocity of eight miles an hour.
These flying-coaches were the precursors of a great reform effected by a man of energetic nature in 1784. John Palmer, a person of substance at Bath, having been pleased to establish and conduct a theatre there, became strongly impressed with a sense of the antiquated system for both sending human beings and letters along the road between his town and the metropolis. He often desired to have occasional assistance from a London star, but was balked by the dilatoriness of the coach-travelling. Even to communicate with the London houses was insufferably tedious, for then the post starting in London on Monday did not reach Bath till Wednesday.
Palmer travelled all over the country, and found everywhere the same insufficiency; he memorialised the government; he took means to inform the public; he clearly shewed how easy it would be to effect vast improvements tending to economise the time and money of the public. As usual, he was set down as a half-crazed enthusiast and bore; the post-office authorities were against him to a man; even those who saw and admitted his data, could not be brought to say more than that, while sure on the whole to fail, his system might give a slight impulse in the right direction. It was only through the enlightened judgment of Pitt, that he was able to commence, in the year mentioned, that system of rapid mail-coaches which lasted up to the days of railways. The first mail-coach in accordance with Mr. Palmer's plan, was one from London to Bristol, which started at eight in the morning of the 8th of August 1784, and reached its destination at eleven at night. The benefits to the public quickly became too manifest to be denied even by the most inveterate of his opponents, and-mark the national gratitude! The government had entered into a regular contract with him, engaging to give him two-and-a-half per cent. upon the saving effected in the transmission of the letters. It was clearly shewn soon after that this saving amounted to £20,000 a year. Parliament, however, would not vote the fulfilment of the bargain, and Mr. Palmer was cheated with a grant of only £50,000.
The history of Palmer's reform was precisely that of Rowland Hill fifty years later-the same enlightened energy in one man, the same official conservatism of antiquated absurdities, the same sluggishness on the part of the public whose benefit was sought-not exactly the same reward, for, apart from taking Mr. Hill into service at a salary which he would have been worthy of in any department of business, public or private, the nation has allowed a quarter of a century to elapse without conferring upon him any reward whatever!
Seldom has there been a robber and murderer, in the middle station of society, unconnected with great political movements, whose life has become the theme both of a novel and a poem. Eugene Aram is among these few. His case has attracted the attention of writers of fiction, both from the extraordinary circumstances connected with it, and the cultivated mind of the man himself.
Eugene Aram was born in Yorkshire. He received a fair school education; then became clerk in a London counting-house; then returned to his native place, set up a school, and married unfortunately. He next lived at Knaresborough, where, by great application, he obtained an extensive knowledge of the Greek, Hebrew, and Latin languages and literature. All this took place before 1744. In that year he came again to London, and was engaged as usher at a school in Piccadilly. Here he worked laboriously, and added a considerable knowledge of Chaldee and Arabic to his previous store of information, intending to apply it to the production of a lexicon. During his subsequent engagement at various other schools, he studied Celtic, and also acquired a very extensive knowledge of botany.
Such a man appeared to be among the last who would commit a robbery and a murder; and hence the intense surprise and pain that followed certain disclosures. In 1758, some workmen, digging about St. Robert's Cave, near Knaresborough, found the remains of a man who appeared to have been murdered. Fourteen years before, a shoemaker, named Daniel Clark, had mysteriously disappeared from Knaresborough, and had not since been seen or heard of. It was recollected that one Richard Housman was the last person seen in his company; and the finding of the dead body (which was believed to be that of Clark) led to the apprehension of Housman. On his examination, Housman stated that the body was not Clark's, but that Clark's body, nevertheless, lay buried at a spot which he named.
This admission led to further inquiries, which implicated Eugene Aram; and about the middle of August, Housman and Aram were committed for trial. The trial, which did not take place till the following year, disclosed a strange history. Clark married in 1744. Aram was living at Knaresborough at the time, poor, and united to a wife with whom he appears to have lived very unhappily. Three needy men-Clark, Aram, and Housman-entered into a conspiracy for borrowing as much valuable property as possible, as if for Clark's wedding, and then dividing the spoil amongst them. Clark was soon afterwards missing, and suspicion fell upon the other two, but nothing definite was found out. Aram deserted his wife, who had some suspicion of what he had done. Housman, at the inquest, stated that Aram murdered Clark, to conceal the evidence about the robbery; but Aram (who owned to the fraud) denied all knowledge of the murder.
At the trial, Housman was acquitted of murder, and was admitted as king's evidence against Aram. Everything told heavily against the unhappy usher. He made a most elaborate defence, which could only have proceeded from an educated man; it was delivered extempore, but was evidently got by heart; and in it he endeavoured to shew that all the facts against him had the usual defect of mere circumstantial evidence. He was found guilty, and condemned to death; he made a partial confession, then attempted to end his existence with a razor, and was finally brought to London, and hanged at Tyburn (August 16, 1759).
This almost inexplicable history has attracted many pens, as we have said. In 1828, the late Thomas Hood wrote The Dream of Eugene Aram, a poem of thirty-six stanzas. In a preface to the poem, Hood described how the subject was suggested to his mind by a horrible dream.
A lifeless body, in love and relationship the nearest and dearest, was imposed upon my back, with an overwhelming sense of obligation, not of filial piety merely, but some awful responsibility, equally vague and intense, and involving, as it seemed, inexpiable sin, horrors unutterable, torments intolerable-to bury my dead, like Abraham, out of my sight. In vain I attempted, again and again, to obey the mysterious mandate; by some dreadful process the burden was replaced with a more stupendous weight of imagination, and an appalling conviction of the impossibility of its fulfilment. My mental anguish was indescribable; the mighty agonies of souls tortured on the supernatural racks of sleep, are not to be penned.
Eugene Aram, it was known, when an usher in a school at Lynn, was accustomed to talk to the boys frequently on the subject of murder - for a reason which they could not understand, but which was probably the result of remorse in his own heart. Hood's horrible dream, and this fact, together suggested the idea of the poem. School-boys are represented at sport in the evening. Near them was the usher, 'a melancholy man,' alternately reading and brooding. He sees a gentle lad reading a book, and asks what it is: The Death of Abel. The usher started, and then said that he himself had dreamed, on the preceding night, that he had committed a murder. He narrated the dream, and a terrible one it is. Once in the course of his narration, he felt that his manner was too intensely earnest, and said
'My gentle boy, remember this
Is nothing but a dream!'
And again he said
'Oh, God! that horrid, horrid dream
Besets me now awake!
Again, again with busy brain,
The human life I take;
And my red right hand grows raging hot,
Like Cranmer's at the stake.
Sir E. B. Lytton (when Mr. Bulwer) published his romance of Eugene Aram in 1831, and dedicated it to Sir Walter Scott. In his preface he said:
During Aram's residence at Lynn, his reputation for learning had attracted the notice of my grandfather-a country gentleman living in the same county, and of more intelligence and accomplishments than, at that day, usually characterised his class. Aram frequently visited at Heydon, my grandfather's house, and gave lessons, probably in no very elevated branches of erudition, to the younger members of the family.' Sir Edward expresses a belief, that though there cannot be much moral doubt of the guilt of Eugene Aram, the legal evidence was not such as would suffice to convict him at the present day. He at first intended his Eugene Aram for the stage, but made it into a romance instead of a drama. Mr. Godwin, author of Caleb Williams, once told Sir Edward that 'he had always thought the story of Eugene Aram peculiarly adapted for fiction, and that he had more than once entertained the notion of making it the foundation of a novel.