Born: Ch. Moutesquieu, 1689; Dr. John Gillies, historian, 1747.
Died: Archangelo Corelli, 1713; Sir Samuel Garth, 1719; J. Baskerville, 1775; Sir John Pringle, 1782.
Feast Day: St. Peter's Chair at Rome. St. Paul and Thirty-six Companions in Egypt. St. Prisca, virgin and martyr, about 275. St. Deicolus, abbot, 7th century. St. Ulfrid, bishop and martyr, 1028.
FESTIVAL OF ST. PETER'S CHAIR
The festival of St. Peter's Chair, annually celebrated at Rome on this day, appears to be meant as an act of gratitude for the founding of the papacy. Butler tells us that it is well evidenced for a great antiquity, being adverted to in a martyrology copied in the time of St. Willibrod, in 720. 'Christians,' he says, 'justly celebrate the founding of this mother church, the centre of Catholic communion, in thanksgiving to God for his mercies on his church, and to implore his future blessing.' The celebration takes place in St. Peter's Church, under circumstances of the greatest solemnity and splendour. It is one of the very few funzioni (functions), as they are called, which are celebrated in that magnificent temple. The affair is thus described by Lady Morgan in her work, Italy:
'The splendidly dressed troops that line the nave of the cathedral, the variety and richness of vestments which clothe the various church and lay dignitaries, abbots, priests, canons, prelates, cardinals, doctors, dragoons, senators, and grenadiers, which march. in procession, complete, as they proceed up the vast space of this wondrous temple, a spectacle nowhere to be equalled within the pale of European civilization. In the midst of swords and crosiers, of halberds and crucifixes, surrounded by banners, and bending under the glittering tiara of threefold power, appears the aged, feeble, and worn-out pope, borne aloft on men's shoulders, in a chair of crimson and gold, and environed by slaves, (for such they look,) who waft, from plumes of ostrich feathers mounted on ivory wands, a cooling gale, to refresh his exhausted frame, too frail for the weight of such honours. All fall prostrate, as he passes up the church to a small choir and throne, temporarily erected beneath the chair of St. Peter. A solemn service is then performed, hosannas arise, and royal votarists and diplomatic devotees parade the church, with guards of honour and running footmen, while English gentlemen and ladies mob and scramble, and crowd and bribe, and fight their way to the best places they can obtain.
At the extremity of the great nave behind the altar, and mounted upon a tribune designed or ornamented by Michael Angelo, stands a sort of throne, composed of precious materials, and supported by four gigantic figures. A glory of seraphim, with groups of angels, sheds a brilliant light upon its splendours. This throne enshrines the real, plain, worm-eaten, wooden chair, on which St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, is said to have pontificated; more precious than all the bronze, gold, and gems, with which it is hidden, not only from impious, but from holy eyes, and which once only, in the flight of ages, was profaned by mortal inspection.'
Her ladyship then narrates how the French, when in occupation of Rome in the days of the first Napoleon, made an examination of the chair, and found upon it the well-known confession of the Mahometan faith: 'There is but one Goal, and Mahomet is his prophet;' whence it was inferred that the chair had been brought from the East in the middle ages, probably among the spoils of the Crusaders. But Lady Morgan here made a mistake, the chair with the Mahometan inscription being in reality one preserved in similar circumstances at Venice.
The saints referred to in the second article of the list for this day appear to have been a group of missionaries, who went at an early but unknown period into Egypt to propagate the faith, and there became martyrs. St. Deicolus or St. Deel was an Irish priest, who spent his best days in France, and whose memory is preserved in Franchecomté, where his name Peel is still frequently given in baptism.
DEATH OF CORELLI
The melancholy end of Archangelo Corelli, founder of the Roman or ancient school of violinists, is thought to have been hastened by the unfeeling treatment which he experienced from the King of Naples, and the successes of inferior Neapolitan artists. Their fiery genius presented a curious contrast to the meek, timid, and gentle character of Corelli, so analogous to the style of his music. He had published his admirable concertos but six weeks, when he fell into a state of melancholy and chagrin, and died. He was buried in the church of Santa Maria della Rotondo, in the ancient Pantheon, where a monument with a marble bust is erected to his memory, near that of Raphael. For many years after the decease of Corelli, a solemn service, consisting of selections from his own works, was performed in the Pantheon, on the anniversary of his funeral; and this solemnity continued so long as any of his immediate scholars survived to conduct the performance. One great point of Corelli's excellence was, the nice management of his band, their bows moving exactly together, so that at rehearsals he would immediately stop the band if he saw an irregular bow. There was little or no melody in instrumental music before Corelli's time; and though his productions have yielded to the superior genius and talents of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Cherubini, the works of Corelli are still admired for their grace and eloquence; and they have continued longer in favour in England than in the great composer's own country, or, indeed, in any other part of Europe.
BASKERVILLE, THE PRINTER
John Baskerville, a native of Worcestershire, having acquired considerable wealth by the japanning business at Birmingham, devoted himself to the perfection of the art of printing, more particularly in the shape of the letters. He is said to have spent six hundred pounds before he could obtain a single letter to please himself, and many thousands before he made a profit of his pursuit, which he prosecuted so ardently that he manufactured his own printing-ink, presses, moulds for casting, and all the apparatus for printing. His typography is extremely beautiful, uniting the elegance of Plantin with. the clearness of the Elzevirs; in his Italic letters he stands unrivalled, such freedom and perfect symmetry being in vain to be looked for among the specimens of Aldus and Colinaeus. He was a man of eccentric tastes; he had each panel of his carriage painted with a picture of his trades. He was buried in his garden; and in 1821, his remains being accidentally disturbed, the leaden coffin was opened, and the body was found in a singular state of preservation-the shroud was perfect and very white, and a branch of laurel on the breast of the corpse was, though faded, entire.
THE PEASANT COUNTESS
Died, on the 18th January 1797, Sarah Countess of Exeter, the heroine of a singular mesalliance. The story has been several times handled in both prose and verse. Tennyson tells it under the title of The Lord of Burleigh, relating how, under the guise of a poor landscape painter, Henry Cecil wooed a village maiden, and gained her hand; how he conducted her on a tour, seeing
Parks with oak and chesnut shady,
Parks and ordered gardens great;
Ancient homes of lord and lady,
Built for pleasure or for state;
until they came to a majestic mansion, where the domestics bowed before the young lover, whose wife then, for the first time, discovered his rank.
All at once the colour flushes
Her sweet face from brow to chin:
As it were with shame she blushes,
And her spirit changed within.
Then her countenance all over
Pale again as death did prove:
But he clasped her like a lover,
And he cheered her soul with love.
So she strove against her weakness,
Though at times her spirits sank:
Shaped her heart with woman's meekness,
To all duties of her rank.
And a gentle consort made he,
And her gentle mind was such,
That she grew a noble lady,
And the people loved her much.
But a trouble weighed upon her,
And perplexed her, night and morn,
With the burden of an honour
Unto which she was not born.
Faint she grew and even fainter,
as she murmured, 'Oh that he
Were once more that landscape painter,
Which did win my heart from me!
So she drooped and drooped before him,
Fading slowly from his side;
Three fair children first she bore him,
Then before her time she died.
The real details of this romantic story are not quite so poetical as Mr. Tennyson represents, but yet form a curious anecdote of aristocratic eccentricity. It appears that Mr. Henry Cecil, while his uncle held the family titles, married a lady of respectable birth, from whom, after fifteen years of wedded life, he procured a divorce. Before that event, being troubled with heavy debts, he put on a disguise, and came to live as a poor and humble man, at Bolas Common, near Hodnet, an obscure village in Shropshire. No one came to inquire after him; be had vanished from the gaze and the knowledge of all his relatives.
He was known to none, and having no ostensible means of living, there were many surmises as to who and what he was. The general belief at one moment was, that he gained his bread as a highwayman. In anticipation of the divorce he paid addresses to a young lady of considerable attractions, named Taylor, who, however, being engaged, declined his hand. He lodged with a cottage labourer named Hoggins, whose daughter Sarah, a plain but honest girl, next drew the attention of the noble refugee. He succeeded, notwithstanding the equivocal nature of his circumstances, in gaining her heart and hand. It has been set forth that Mr. Cecil, disgusted with the character of his fashionable wife, resolved to seek some peasant mistress who should love him for his own sake alone; but the probability is that the young noble was simply eccentric, or that a craving for sympathy in his solitary life had disposed him to take up with the first respect-able woman who should come in his way. Under the name of Mr. John Jones, he purchased a piece of land near Hodnet, and built a house upon it, in which he lived for some years with his peasant bride, who never all that time knew who he really was. It has been stated that he did not appear fastidious about what he did. He on one occasion gratified his father-in-law by carrying a large pig to be given as a present to a neighbouring squire. He took his turn of service in the vestry, in which duty, having occasion to attend the Shrewsbury sessions, he was noticed by a brother magistrate, who had been his school-fellow; but it did not lead to a detection. He disappeared for a short time occasionally, in order, as is supposed, to obtain supplies of money. The marriage took place on the 3rd of October 1791, not long after the divorce of the first Mrs. Henry Cecil was accomplished.
Two years after the marriage (December 27th, 1793), Mr. Cecil succeeded to the peerage and estates in consequence of the death of his uncle; and it became necessary that he should quit his obscurity at Hodnet. Probably the removal of the pair to Burleigh House, near Stamford, was effected under the circumstances described by the Laureate. It is also true that the peasant countess did not prove quite up to the part she had been unwittingly drawn into. Being, as it chanced, a ruddy-faced and rather robust woman, she did not pine away in the manner described by Mr. Tennyson; but after having borne her husband three children (amongst whom was the peer who succeeded), she sickened and died, January 18, 1797. The earl was afterwards created a marquis, married a third wife, the Dowager Duchess of Hamilton, and died in 1804.
DEATH AND FUNERAL OF A SQUAW IN LONDON
Examples of the Red Men of North America-so absurdly called Indians-have at various times visited England. The readers of the Spectator will remember Addison's interesting account of four kings of the nations lying between New York and Canada, who came to London in 1710, and were introduced to Queen Anne. So lately as 1835, a party of the Michigan tribe, including the chief, Muk Coonce (the Little Boar), appeared amongst us, the object being a negotiation for the sale of certain lands. Arrangements were made for their being presented to King William on the 18th of January; but the chief found on that day a very different affair on his hands. His squaw, the Diving Mouse, of only twenty-six years, sickened and on that day died, at the lodging which the party occupied in the Waterloo Road.
When this lady of the wild felt a mortal sickness upon her, she refused all medicine, saying if the Great Spirit intended that she should then die, he would be angry at any attempt on her part to avert the doom. The only thing she would allow to be done for her was the administration of the rite of baptism, and this was only submitted to because she was told there might consequently be more ceremony at her funeral. Loud were the wailings of the chief and his friends round the couch of the dead squaw.
When preparations were necessary for the funeral, he took a pride in making them as handsome as he could. He placed her in a richly ornamented coffin, with a silver plate bearing an inscription. An elaborate shroud was laid over her Indian garments; laurel leaves and a bouquet were placed on her breast; her earrings were laden with ornaments; her cheeks were painted red; and a splendid Indian shawl was thrown over all. The funeral took place at St. John's churchyard, in the Waterloo Road. The clergy-man read the service in the usual English form. The coffin was lowered, a white rose thrown upon it, and then the dull cold earth. Shaw Whash (''Big Sword') pronounced an oration in his native language; and then the funeral cortege returned to the lodgings. The chief, with much. dignity, addressed to the persons assembled a few words, which were translated by his French interpreter, M. Dunord. 'For three years prior to my visit to this country,' he said, 'I rested on the bosom of my wife in love and happiness. She was everything to me; and such was my fear that illness or accident might part us in England, that I wished her to remain behind in our settlements. This she would not consent to, saying, 'That I was all the world to her, and in life or death she would remain with me!' We came, and I have lost her. She who was all my earthly happiness is now under the earth; but the Great Spirit has placed her there, and my bosom is calm. I am not, I never was, a man of tears; but her loss made me shed many.'
This was not the last sorrow of poor Mule Coonee. A few days after the burial of the squaw, another of his companions was taken from him. This was 'Thunder and Lightning,' a young Indian about the same age as the squaw. He, in like manner, was baptized, and was buried in the same churchyard. It was observed that the chief had been looking anxiously around at various times during the ceremony; and it now appeared that he entertained distrust as to whether the grave of his wife had been disturbed. He had in some way marked on or near her grave his totam, or symbol, something which would denote the tribe and rank of the deceased, and which was intended to secure inviolable respect for the sacred spot. Some of the appearances around led the poor fellow to suspect that the grave had been tampered with. Earnest were the endeavours made to assure him that his fears were groundless, and he at length was induced to believe that the grave of the 'Diving Mouse' had not been opened.
The peach (we gather from Dr. Daubeny's Lectures on Roman Husbandry) was brought from Persia, and Columella alludes to the fable of its poisonous qualities. 'Could this mistake arise,' asks Dr. Daubeny, 'from a knowledge of the poisonous properties of the prussic acid existing in the kernels of the peach?' It may be observed that a notion prevailed in Egypt, probably referring to the secret of the Psylli, that a citron eaten early in the morning was an anti-dote against all kinds of poison. Its juice, injected into the veins, would have a similar effect. Blackberries, when perfectly ripe, were eaten by the Romans, and by the Greeks were considered a preventive of gout.