Born: John Wesley, founder of the sect of Methodists, 1703, Epworth; Andrew Crosse, electrician, 1784; Ferdinand Freiligrath, German poet, 1810.
Died: John Sobieski (John III of Poland), 1696, Warsaw; Joseph Addison, poet, miscellaneous writer, 1719, Holland House; Louis Hector, Duke de Villars, illustrious French commander, 1734, Turin; Claude-Prosper Joliot de Crebillon, French poet, 1762; Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, 1791; Lord William Bentinck, statesman, 1839; Richard H. Barham, comic poet, 1845, Amen Corner, London; Madame Sontag, vocalist, 1854, Mexico.
Feast Day: Saints Nicander and Marcian, martyrs, about 303; St. Prior, hermit in Egypt, 4th century; St. Avitus, or Avy, abbot, near Orleans, about 530; St. Botulph, abbot of Ikanho, 655; St. Molingus, or Dairchilla, bishop and confessor in Ireland, 697.
The founder of Methodism was, as is well known, the son of a clergyman of the Established Church, and became such himself, attaining his thirty-fifth year without doing anything remarkable, beyond a missionary excursion to the American Indians. Being in London on the 24th of May 1738, he went, 'very unwillingly' to a meeting in Aldersgate Street where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. Listening to the reader, 'at about a quarter before nine o'clock,' light flashed upon his mind, and he was converted. Until that evening, he used to say, that although a teacher of others, he had never known what Christianity really was.
Following the example of Whitefield, he commenced preaching in the open air, and his life henceforward was consecrated to religious labours among the people. His early efforts were directed to supplement the services of the Church of England, but gradually he superseded them. He built chapels, organized a ministry and worship, allowed laymen to preach, and at last found himself at the head of a great and independent religious community, which in 1790 numbered 76,000 in Great Britain and 57,000 in America. Wesley died in London on the 2nd of March 1791, in his 88th year, and the 65th of his ministry, and was buried in the yard of the Methodist chapel in the City Road.
It would be difficult to find in the whole circle of biography a man who worked harder and longer than John Wesley. Not an hour did he leave unappropriated. For fifty years he rose at four in the morning, summer and winter, and was accustomed to preach a sermon at five, an exercise he esteemed 'the healthiest in the world.' This early devotion, he said, 'is the glory of the Methodists. Whenever they drop it they will dwindle away to nothing.' Travelling did not suspend his industry. 'Though I am always in haste,' he says of himself, 'I am never in a hurry, because I never undertake any more work than I can go through with perfect calmness of spirit. It is true I travel 4000 or 5000 miles in a year, but I generally travel alone in my carriage, and am as retired ten hours a-day as if I were in a wilderness. On other days, I never spend less than three hours, and frequently ten or twelve, alone.' In this way he found time to read much and to write voluminously. In eating and drinking he was very abstemious. Suppers he abhorred, and sometimes for years he never tasted animal food. Once for three or four years he lived almost exclusively on potatoes. From wine, beer, and spirits he habitually abstained, preferring water.
Throughout his long life he enjoyed nearly uninterrupted health. He could sleep at will, and he owns that he never lost a night's sleep from his childhood. His fine health he attributed to his regular habits, his temperance, and to the frequent changes of air he experienced in travelling; also to his serene temper; he had a thousand cares resting upon him, but they never worried him. 'I feel and grieve,' he writes, 'but by the grace of God I fret at nothing.' To the end of his life his complexion was fresh, his walk agile, his eye keen and active. A curious and pleasant picture he left in the memory of many who saw him in the street in his old age, and noted his lithe little figure, his long hair, white and bright as silver, his radiant countenance, his active pace and energetic air. He died painlessly, not of disease, but healthily worn out.
Order and method pervaded all his doings. At the middle of 1790 he closed his cash-book with. these words written in a tremulous hand:
For upwards of seventy-six years I have kept my accounts exactly: I will not attempt it any longer, being satisfied that I save all I can and give all I can; that is, all I have.
This was strictly true. From his youth up he lived on a trifle yearly, and gave the balance of his income away. When at Oxford he had £30 one year; he lived on £28, and gave £2 away. Next year having £60, he lived on £28, and gave away £32. The third year he had £90, and the fourth £120, yet he still limited himself to £28, and made alms of the rest. It is said that in the course of his life he gave away not less than £30,000. This great sum was chiefly derived from the sale of his writings. He was his own printer and bookseller, and managed his trade with economy and success.
Marvellous were Wesley's powers as a leader and administrator. Never general drilled a more heterogeneous army, and never was general more reverentially obeyed. He exacted no service which he did not in his own person exceed. Who could work more than he worked? who spare himself less? His example gave life and inspiration to all who came near him. His strong will and his quick, decisive intellect naturally raised him to kingship, and gathered around him willing and joyful subjects. The constructive force and order of his own mind were reflected in the organization of Methodism, and in the increase and permanence of that community we discern the highest testimony to the vigour and sagacity of his character.
His failures usually arose from the misapplication of those qualities by which he triumphed. As instances we may take Kingswood school and his marriage. At Kingswood, near Bristol, he set up a boarding-school for the sons of his preachers, who, being seldom at home, could not supervise the education of their children. Wesley devised the discipline of the school, and ordered that each day should be divided into three parts; eight hours for sleep, from eight at night to four in the morning, eight hours for study, and eight for meals and-play, no, play John Wesley could see no use for; amusement was proscribed at Kingswood. The hours not spent in sleep and study were to be used for prayer, self-examination, singing, and working in the garden in fine, and in the house in wet weather. The boys were never to be left alone, but always under the eye of a master who was to keep them busy and from idle talk. There were no holidays, and no vacations allowed, because a week from school might undo the good habits they were forming. It is needless to say that Kingswood school would not work, and gave Wesley endless trouble. He changed masters, and expelled some scholars for 'incorrigible wickedness,' but in vain. The rules were perpetually broken, and he never appears to have had a glimpse of the fact that he was striving after the impossible.
Of the nature of boyhood he had no conception, and why he could not turn out rows of juvenile Wesleys, caring for nothing but work and devotion, was by him set down to any cause but the right one. In his forty-eighth year he married Mrs. Vizelle, a widow with four children and a fortune. Her money Wesley would not touch, but had it settled upon her. Some time before he had published Thoughts on a Single Life, in which he extolled celibacy, and advised the unmarried, who found it possible, to remain single; alleging that he was a bachelor because he thought he could be more useful in that state. It was a sad day when he changed his mind, and fell in love with Mrs. Vizelle. He stipulated with her that he should not preach one sermon nor travel one mile the less after marriage than before; 'if I thought I should,' said he, 'well as I love you, I should never see your face more.' With these views, what could a wife be to him but an incumbrance?
At first she conformed to his ascetic habits and travelled with him, but soon she grew tired of his rigid and restless life, and of the society of the humble Methodists to whom she was introduced. She began to grumble, but Wesley was far too busy to attend to her wails; then she grew jealous, opened his letters, followed him from town to town as a spy, and plagued him in every way, openly and secretly, that her malice could contrive. 'By her outrageous jealousy and abominable temper,' says Southey, 'she deserves to be classed in a triad with Xantippe and the wife of Job, as one of the three had wives.' Wesley, however, was not a man to be henpecked. 'Know me,' said he, in one of his letters to her, 'and know yourself. Suspect me no more, asperse me no more, provoke me no more: do not any longer contend for mastery, for power, money, or praise: be content to be a private insignificant person, known and loved by God and me. . . . Of what importance is your character to mankind? If you were buried just now, or if you had never lived, what loss would it be to the cause of God?' After having been a thorn in his flesh for twenty years, she left his house, carrying off his journals and papers, which she never returned. He simply states the fact in his diary, saying he knew not what the cause had been, and adds, 'Non eam reliqui, non dimisi, non revocabo,-I did not forsake her, I did not dismiss her, I will not recall her.' She lived ten years after her flight, and, in 1781, died at Camberwell, where a stone in the churchyard attests that 'she was a woman of exemplary virtue, a tender parent, and a sincere friend,' but it mercifully says nothing of her conjugal life.
THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL
On a hill eighty-seven feet high, once called Breed's Hill, but now known as Bunker Hill, on the peninsula of Charlestown, north of Boston, Massachusetts, rises a granite obelisk 220 feet in height, built to commemorate the first important battle in the American War of Independence.
Three distinguished generals. Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne, with 12,000 veteran British troops, and a formidable fleet, occupied Boston. They were besieged by an undisciplined crowd of colonists, without arms, ammunition, supplies, or organization. On the morning of the 17th of June 1775, the British officers in Boston, and on the ships in the harbour, saw to their astonishment a breastwork on Bunker Hill, which had been thrown up in the night, and was every moment growing stronger, so as to threaten their position in a serious manner. This was the work of about fifteen hundred Yankees, under Colonel Prescott.
No time was to be lost. The ships in the harbour and a battery on Copp's Hill opened fire; but those were not the days of Armstrong artillery. General Howe took 3000 infantry, and crossed over to Charlestown in boats to storm the works. It was a fine summer day, and the hills, spires, and roofs of the city were covered with spectators. Soon a fire, bursting from the wooden houses of the village of Charlestown, added to the grandeur of the spectacle.
General Howe was too proud of British valour to turn the works, but, forming his troops in two columns, marched to the assault. The Americans, who had little artillery, and no ammunition to waste, waited in silence until the British were within ten rods, and preparing to charge, when a sheet of fire broke out along their breastworks with such deadly aim, that whole ranks were cut down, and those not killed or wounded fled precipitately to the water-side. They were rallied, and advanced a second time with a like result. General Clinton, who had watched the progress of the battle from the heights of Boston, now came with reinforcements; some gunboats enfiladed the works, and a third attack, aided by a flank diversion, and the fact that the Americans had expended their small store of ammunition, was successful. The rebels were driven from their works at the point of the bayonet. Having no bayonets themselves, they fell sullenly back, fighting with the butts of their muskets. The British loss was about 1000 killed and wounded, out of a force of 3000; that of the Americans, 400 or 500. It was a British victory which gave hope and confidence to the Americans, and has been celebrated by them as one of the most glorious events of their War of Independence.
THE ROXBURGHE CLUB
This fraternity-the parent of the whole tribe of book-printing clubs which have occupied so broad a space in the literary system of our age-was formed on the 17th of June 1812. The plant shot forth from a hot-bed of bibliomania, which had been created by the sale of the Duke of Roxburghe's library. On that occasion Earl Spencer, the youthful Duke of Devonshire, the Marquis of Blandford, and a whole host of minor men, lovers of old and rare books, were brought together in a state of high excitement, to contend with each other for the rarities exposed under the hammer of Mr. Evans, in the Duke of Roxburghe's mansion in St. James's Square. On the 16th of June, a number of them had chanced to dine together in the house of Mr. Bolland (afterwards Justice Bolland), on Adelphi Terrace. They had to look forward to the exposure on the ensuing day of a most rare and remarkable volume, a folio edition of Boccaccio, printed by Valdarfer of Venice in 1471. They agreed to meet again at dinner on the ensuing evening, at the St. Alban's tavern, in order to talk over the fight which would by that time have taken place over the body of Valdarfer; and they did so.
Earl Spencer, the unsuccessful candidate for the volume (which had sold at £2260), occupied the chair; Dr. Dibdin acted as croupier. There were sixteen other gentlemen present, all of them possessors of choice libraries, and all keen appreciators of scarce and curious books. The lively Dibdin tells us that they drank toasts which. were as hieroglyphical characters to the public, but' all understood and cordially greeted by those who gave and those who received them.' We may presume that the immortal memory of William Caxton was one of the most prominent; that sundry illustrious booksellers, and even notable binders (bibliopegists they called them), were not forgotten. The club was constituted by the persons there assembled; but by the time they had had two annual assemblages, the number was swelled to thirty-one, at which it was fixed.
It was by an after thought that the club commenced its system of printing and reprinting, each member fixing upon some precious article, of which only as many copies were thrown off as afforded one to each, presented gratuitously. By this happy plan the friendly spirit of the brethren was of course promoted, at the same time that some valuable examples of ancient literature were rescued from oblivion. In the Scottish imitative societies-the Bannatyne Club, Maitland Club, &c.-the same plan was adopted; while in others of later institution the reprints have been effected by an equal annual subscription.