Born: Philip Melanchthon, reformer, 1497, Bretten; Gaspard de Coligny, Admiral of France, and Protestant leader, 1516, Chatillon; Archbishop (John) Sharp, 1644, Bradford; Baron Trenck, 1726.
Died: Alphonso III. (of Portugal), 1279; Archbishop Henry Deane, 1502, Canterbury; Jolla Stonier, German astronomer, 1531; Dr. Richard Mead, virtuoso, 1754, St. Pancras; Peter Macquer, French chemist, 1784, Paris; Giovan Batista Casti, Italian poet, 1803, Paris; Lindley Murray, grammarian, 1826; Dr. Kane, American Arctic explorer, 1857, Havana.
Feast Day: St. Onesimus, disciple of St. Paul, martyr, 95. Saints Elias, Jeremy, Isaias, Samuel, and Daniel, Egyptian martyrs, 309. St. Juliana, virgin martyr at Nicomedia, about 309. St. lance (or Tatto), of Scotland, bishop, martyr at Verdun, about 815. St. Gregory X. (Pope), 1276.
The career of this extraordinary man presents several remarkable instances of the fatal influence of vanity and ungovernable passion upon a life which, at the outset, was brilliant with good fortune.
Born February 16, 1726, of parents belonging to the most ancient and wealthy houses in East Prussia, the young Baron distinguished himself in his thirteenth year, at his University; one year later he wounded and disarmed in a duel one of the most celebrated swordsmen of Königsberg; and in his sixteenth year, Frederick (afterwards the Great) appointed him a cadet, and soon afterwards the King gave him a cornetcy in his body-guard, then the most splendid and gallant regiment in Europe. Trenck was it great favourite at court; but about two years afterwards an imprudent attachment was formed between him and the Princess Amelia, which had a fatal influence upon his fortunes. During the war between Prussia and Austria, Trenck, being detected in a correspondence with the enemy, was sent prisoner to the fortification of Glatz.
It was at the same time ascertained that large sums of money had been remitted to him by the princess. From that time must be dated Frederick's intense and obdurate hatred of Trenck. Making his escape by bribery, he went to Russia, where he was appointed captain of a troop of hussars: he was in high favour with the empress, and acquired considerable wealth through the legacy of a Russian princess; but the Prussian ambassador left nothing undone to injure him, in accordance, as he pretended, with instructions from the King, his master.
In 1748, Trench returned to Prussia, to visit his family, and at Dantzig he was arrested by a party of hussars, and taken prisoner to Berlin: he was at first treated well, but his intemperate conduct led to his being sent to Magdeburg, and confined in a cell underground, and almost without light: his sufferings may be road in his own memoirs. After two soldiers had suffered death for conniving at his attempts to escape, and other plots were discovered, a prison was built on purpose for him, in which he was chained to the walls with fetters of fifty-six pounds weight. Here he remained four years, when Frederick consented to his release upon condition of his leaving the kingdom. He went first to Vienna, where he was again arrested on account of his violent language against Frederick; but he was soon set free, and advised to retire.
He settled at Aix-la-Chapelle, married, and commenced business as a wine-merchant, but did not prosper, and became bankrupt. He next wrote articles of a democratic tendency for several periodical publications; and in 1787, after the death of Frederick the Great, he published his memoirs, for the copyright of which he received a very large sum. The work was translated into almost all the European languages; the ladies at Paris, Berlin, and Vienna, wore rings, necklaces, bonnets, and dresses à la Trenck, and he was made the hero of seven pieces on the French stage. He subsequently commenced a weekly journal at Aix-la-Chapelle, under the title of LÀmi des Hommes in which he advocated the new French doctrines. In 1792, he went to Paris, joined a Jacobin club, and was afterwards a zealous adherent of the Mountain party, which, nevertheless, betrayed and accused him, and he was thrown into prison. He would, however, have escaped by the fall of Robespierre, had it not been for his restlessness. 'He was,' said. DuRoure, 'the greatest liar I ever knew.'
To that, less favourite propensity, he owed his fate.
'Our hope of escape in the prison was to remain unnoticed by the gaoler, and wait events.'
Upon the least complaint, the order from the authorities was à la mort, sometimes without the ceremony of a trial. The prisoners were numerous, and for some days a rumour had been circulated among them, and continually kept up, as if with fresh information, that the Prussians were marching upon Paris, carrying all before them. We knew of nothing certain that went on outside the prison walls, and were not without hopes that this intelligence was correct. Still, we were puzzled to discover how such information could be promulgated amongst us, as it thus was, early every morning, with some new addition.
This prevalent topic of conversation, it seems, had, with its daily additions, reached. the ears of the gaoler, who caused the gates of the prison to be closed to ingress or egress until the day was far advanced, in order to try whether any fresh news thus circulated came from without, or was concocted within the walls. Trenck that morning circulated some additional particulars about the Prussians' vicinity to Paris, which were traced to him through those to whom he had communicated them, with the addition, that his information was certain, for he had just received which was impossible. He was thus caught in circulating false rumours, complained of by the gaoler, and lost his head by the guillotine, near the Barripre du Trone, on the 20th of July 1791.
On the scaffold, and in his sixty-ninth year, he gave proof of his ungovernable passions. He harangued the crowd, and when his head was on the block, his vehemence was such, that the executioner had to hold him by his silver locks to meet the fatal stroke. He was buried, with the other victims of that sanguinary period, in a spot of ground not more than thirty feet square, in the corner of the garden of the canonesses of St. Augustine, near the ancient village of Picpus, now inclosed in the Faubourg Antoine.'
Baron Trenck was a man of considerable literary talents, and was fully as familiar with English as with French literature. In person he was stout and thick-set, his countenance by no means prepossessing, from a disease which had disfigured it; and he was slovenly in his dress.
DR. MEAD AND HIS MUSEUM
Foremost among the medical men of the last century, for his professional skill, his amiable manners, and princely munificence, ranks Dr. Richard Mead, who was consulted beside the death-bed of Queen Anne, and became physician to George II. He was born at Stepney, near London, in 1675; and after studying in continental schools, and taking the degree of Doctor of Medicine at Padua, he settled at his native village, and there established his reputation. Among his early services were his researches in experimental physiology, for which no small degree of courage was necessary. He handled vipers, provoked them, and encouraged them to seize hold of hard bodies, on which he imagined that he could collect their venom in all its force. Having obtained the matter, he conveyed it into the veins of living animals, mixed it with human blood, and even ventured to taste it, in order to establish the utility of sucking the wounds inflicted by serpents.
Mead was instrumental in promoting inoculation for the small-pox: the Prince of Wales desired him, in 1721, to superintend the inoculation of some condemned criminals, intending afterwards to encourage the practice by employing it in his own family; the experiment amply succeeded, and the individuals on whom it was made recovered their liberty. When the terrible plague ravaged Marseilles, and its contagious origin was discredited, Dr. Mead, after a careful examination of the subject, declared the plague to be a contagious distemper, and a quarantine was enjoined; and he proposed a system of Medical Police, in a tract of which seven editions were sold in one year. Through Dr. Mead's influence, Sutton's invention for expelling the foul and corrupted air from ships was tried, and its simplicity and efficacy proved; a model of Sutton's machine made in copper was deposited in the museum of the Royal Society, and the ships of his Majesty's navy were provided with it. The fact that, in each of these cases, Mead's results have been superseded by more recent discoveries, does not in the least detract from his merit. What he effected was, for his time, wonderful.
Mead was fast approaching the summit of his fortune, when his great protector, Radcliffe, died, and Mead moved into his house in Bloomsbury-square. After the most brilliant career of professional and literary reputation, of personal honour, of wealth, and of notoriety, which ever fell in combination to the lot of any medical man in any age or country, Mead took to the bed from which he was to rise no more, on the 11th of February, and expired on the 16th of the same month, 1754. His death was unaccompanied by any visible signs of pain.
In practice, Dr. Mead was without a rival; his receipts averaging, for several years, between six and seven thousand pounds, an enormous sum in relation to the value of money at that period. He daily sat in Batson's coffee-House, in Cornhill, and at Tom's, in Russell-street, Covent-garden; to inspect written, or receive oral, statements from the apothecaries, prescribing without seeing the patient, for a half-guinea fee. He gave advice gratuitously, not merely to the indigent, but also to the clergy, and all men of' learning.
Dr. Mead had removed into Great Ormond-street, Queen-square, several years before his death: the house is No. 49, corner of Powisplace; behind his house was a good garden, in which he built a gallery and museum, There Mead gave conversazioni, which were the first meetings of the kind. He possessed a rare taste for collecting; but his books, his statues, his medals, were not to amuse only his own leisure: the humble student, the unrecommended foreigner, the poor inquirer, derived almost as much enjoyment from these treasures as their owner; and he constantly kept in his pay several scholars and artists, who laboured, at his expense, for the benefit of the public.
His correspondence extended to all the principal literati of Europe, who consulted him, and sent him many curious presents. At his table might be seen the most eminent men of the age. Pope was a ready guest, and the delicate poet was always sure to be regaled with his favourite dish of sweetbreads. Politics formed no bar of separation: the celebrated physicians, Garth, Arbuthnot, and Freind, were not the less his intimate associates because they were Tories. When Freind was sent to the Tower for some supposed political offence, Mead frequently visited him, and attended his patients in his absence; from Sir Robert Walpole he procured his liberation, and then presented him with a large sum, being the fees which he had received from his brother practitioner's clients. He also persuaded the wealthy citizen, Guy, to bequeath his fortune towards the noble hospital which bears his name.
Although Mead receipts were so considerable, and two large fortunes were bequeathed to him, his benevolence, public spirit, and splendid mode of living, prevented him from leaving great wealth to his family. He whose mansion was a sort of open house for men of genius and talent, who kept a second table for his humbler dependents, and who was driven to his country house, near Windsor, by six horses, was not likely to amass wealth; but he did better: he acted according to his own conviction, that what he had gained from the public could not be more worthily bestowed than in the advancement of the public mind; and he truly fulfilled the inscription which he had chosen for his motto: 'Non sibi, sed toti.'
After Dr. Mead's death, the sale of his library and museum realized between fifteen and sixteen thousand pounds, his pictures alone producing £3400. The printed catalogue of the library contains 6592 separate numbers; Oriental, Greek, and Latin manuscripts forming no inconsiderable part: the greater portion of the library he bequeathed to the College of Physicians. The collection included prints and drawings, coins and medals, marble statues of' Greek philosophers and Roman emperors; bronzes, gems, intaglios, Etruscan and other vases; marble busts of Shakspeare, Milton, and Pope, by Scheemakers; statues of Hygeia and Antinous; a celebrated bronze head of Homer; and an iron cabinet (once Queen Elizabeth's), full of coins, among which was a medal, with Oliver Cromwell's head in profile; legend ' he Lord of Hosts,' the word at Dunbar, 1650; on the reverse, the Parliament sitting.
Of so worthy a man as Dr. Mead memorials are interesting: in the College of Physicians is a fine bust of him, by Roubiliac; and here is his portrait, and the gold-headed cane which he received from Radcliffe, and which was afterwards carried by Askew, Pitcairn, and Matthew Baillie. Among the pictures at the Foundling Hospital is Dr. Mead's portrait, by Allan Ramsay; and in the nave of Westminster Abbey is a monument to our worthy physician.
Dr. Mead was a clever person, but Dr. Wood-ward had the better of him in wit: when they fought a duel under the gate of Gresham College, Woodward's foot slipped, and he fell. 'Take your life!' exclaimed Mead. 'Anything but your phgsie,' replied Woodward. The quarrel arose from a difference of opinion on medical subjects.
As many spoke of Robin Hood who never shot with his bow, so many hear of Lindley Murray who know nothing of him but that he composed a book of English grammar. He was an American-native of Pennsylvania-and realized a competency at New York, partly as a barrister and partly as a merchant. The necessities of health obliged him to remove to England, where he spent the last forty years of his protracted life at Holdgate, near York, a feeble invalid, but resigned and happy. Besides his well-known Grammar, he wrote a book on The Power of Religion on the Mind. Ho was a man of mild and temperate nature, entirely beloved by all connected with him. In a series of auto-biographical letters, he gives a statement as to the moderation of his desires, well worthy of being brought under general notice.
My views and wishes with regard to property were, in every period of my life, contained within a very moderate compass. I was early persuaded that, though 'a competence is vital to content,' I ought not to annex to that term the idea of much property. I determined that when I should acquire enough to enable me to maintain and provide for my family in a respect-able and moderate manner, and this according to real and rational, not imaginary and fantastic wants, and a little to share for the necessities of others, I would decline the pursuits of property, and devote a great part of my time, in some way or other, to the benefit of my fellow-creatures, within the sphere of my abilities to serve them. I perceived that the desire of great possessions generally expands with the gradual acquisition and full attainment of them; and I imagined that charity and a generous application do not sufficiently correspond with the increase of property. I thought, too, that procuring great wealth has a tendency to produce an elated independence of mind, little connected with that humility which is the ground of all our virtues; that a busy and anxious pursuit of it often excludes views and reflections of infinite importance, and leaves but little time to acquire that treasure which would make us rich indeed . . . I was persuaded that a truly sincere mind could be at no loss to discern the just limits between a safe and competent portion and a dangerous profusion of the good things of life. These views of the subject I reduced to practice; and terminated my mercantile concerns when I had acquired a moderate competency.'
There are not many American names that have made a more purely satisfactory impression on European minds than that of Elisha Kent Kane. Born in 1822, and educated as a surgeon, He spent all his youthful years in adventurous explorations, first in the Philippine Islands, afterwards in India, then in Africa: he next took a bold and prominent part in the war which his countrymen waged against Mexico; finally, he accompanied the expedition which American generosity (chiefly represented by Mr. Grinnell) sent in search of Sir John Franklin. All this was over, and Kane had become the historian of the expedition, before he had passed thirty. Another Arctic exploration being determined on, Kane was appointed as its commander, and started on his voyage in May 1853. With indefatigable perseverance he carried his vessel, the Advance, into Smith's Sound, to a point at latitude 78° 43' N., where the thermometer in February was so low as 70° minus Fahrenheit.
Further progress in the vessel being impossible, Kane took to a boat, and made further explorations of a most remarkable kind, finally discovering an iceless sea north of 80° N. The sufferings of the whole party in these movements were extreme; but they became insignificant in comparison with those of a return which was necessitated in open boats to the most northerly Danish Greenland settlement, and which occupied eighty-four days. Immense credit was due to Kane for the skill and energy which enabled him to bring back his people with scarcely diminished number through such unheard-of difficulties and perils. The able and highly illustrated book, in which he subsequently detailed this heroic enterprise, and described the new regions he had explored, must remain an enduring monument to his memory. It is alleged that, after all he had suffered, his constitution was not seriously injured. Yet the melancholy fact is that this extraordinary man sunk into the grave the year after his book was published.