Born: Bishop W. Thomas, 1613, Bristol; William Borlase, D.D., 1696, Cornwall; John Nichols, 1744, Islington.
Died: Sir Owen Tudor, 1461; Baldassarre Castiglione, 1529; Giovanni di Palestrina, 1594; Archbishop John Sharp, 1714; Pope Clement XIII, 1769; Francis Hayman, painter, 1776; James Stuart, 1788; Dr. Olinthus G. Gregory, mathematician, 1841.
Feast Day: St. Lawrence, Archbishop of Canterbury, 619.
DR. BORLASE, THE CORNISH ANTIQUARY
This accomplished gentleman was born at Pendeen, in the parish of St. Just, in Cornwall, where his family had been settled from the reign of King William Rufus. He was vicar of St. Just, and rector of Ludgvan; and by collecting mineral fossils in the rich copperworks of the latter parish, he was encouraged to investigate the natural history of his native county. Its numerous monuments of remote antiquity, which had till then been nearly neglected, next led him to study the religion and customs of the ancient Britons. He wrote a Natural History of Cornwall, as well as illustrated its Antiquities, historical and monumental, and he contributed many curiosities to the Ashmolean Museum. He was equally attentive to his pastoral duties; he greatly improved the high roads of St. Just, which were more numerous than in any parish in Cornwall. He was the friend of Pope, whom he furnished with the greater part of his materials for forming his grotto at Twickenham. Pope acknowledged the gift, in a letter to Dr. Borlase, in which he says, I am much obliged to you for your valuable collection of Cornish diamonds. I have placed them where they may best represent yourself, in a shade, but shining.'
Over one of the arches of the entries to Pope's grotto-which in reality was a passage to his garden under the adjacent public road - is fixed, among other notable objects, a large ammonite; over a corresponding arch, balancing this object, is the cast of the fossil. One feels it to be a curious circumstance that the great poet should have thus become familiar with an example of the huge ecphalopoda of the primitive world, long before any one knew that singular history which geology now assigns them. It must be matter of conjecture whether Pope got his ammonite and its cast from Dr. Borlase or some other naturalist.
From a very early, indeed unknown date in the Christian history, the 2nd of February has been held as the festival of the Purification of the Virgin, and it is still a holiday of the Church of England. From the coincidence of the time with that of the Februation or purification of the people in pagan Rome, some consider this as a Christian festival engrafted upon a heathen one, in order to take advantage of the established habits of the people; but the idea is at least open to a good deal of doubt. The popular name Candlemass is derived from the ceremony which the Church of Rome dictates to be observed on this day; namely, a blessing of candles by the clergy, and a distribution of them amongst the people, by whom they are afterwards carried lighted in solemn procession. The more important observances were of course given up in England at the Reformation; but it was still, about the close of the eighteenth century, customary in some places to light up churches with candles on this day.
At Rome, the Pope every year officiates at this festival in the beautiful chapel of the Quirinal. When he has blessed the candles, he distributes them with his own hand amongst those in the church, each of whom, going singly up to him, kneels to receive it. The cardinals go first; then follow the bishops, canons, priors, abbots, priests, &c., down to the sacristans and meanest officers of the church. According to Lady Morgan, who witnessed the ceremony in 1820:
'When the last of these has gotten his candle, the poor conservatori, the representatives of the Roman senate and people, receive theirs. This ceremony over, the candles are lighted, the Pope is mounted in his chair and carried in procession, with hymns chanting, round the ante-chapel; the throne is stripped of its splendid hangings; the Pope and cardinals take off their gold and crimson dresses, put on their usual robes, and the usual mass of the morning is sung.'
Lady Morgan mentions that similar ceremonies take place in all the parish churches of Rome on this day.
It appears that in England, in Catholic times, a meaning was attached to the size of the candles, and the manner in which they burned during the procession; that, moreover, the reserved parts of the candles were deemed to possess a strong supernatural virtue:
This done, each man his candle lights,
Where chiefest seemeth he,
Whose taper greatest may be seen;
And fortunate to be,
Whose candle burneth clear and bright:
A wondrous force and might
Both in these candles lie, which if
At any time they light,
They sure believe that neither storm
Nor tempest cloth abide,
Nor thunder in the skies be heard,
Nor any devil's spide,
Nor fearful sprites that walk by night,
Nor hurts of frost or hail,' &c.
The festival, at whatever date it took its rise, has been designed to commemorate the churching or purification of Mary; and the candle-bearing is understood to refer to what Simeon said when he took the infant Jesus in his arms, and declared that he was a light to lighten the Gentiles. Thus literally to adopt and build upon metaphorical expressions, was a characteristic procedure of the middle ages. Apparently, in consequence of the celebration of Mary's purification by candle-bearing, it became customary for women to carry candles with them, when, after recovery from child-birth, they went to be, as it was called, churched. A remarkable allusion to this custom occurs in English history. William the Conqueror, become, in his elder days, fat and unwieldy, was confined a considerable time by a sickness. 'Methinks,' said his enemy the King of France, 'the Ring of England lies long in childbed.' This being reported to William, he said, 'When I am churched, there shall be a thousand lights in France I' And he was as good as his word; for, as soon as he recovered, he made an inroad into the French territory, which he wasted wherever he went with fire and sword.
At the Reformation, the ceremonials of Candlemass day were not reduced all at once. Henry VIII proclaimed in 1539:
'On Candlemass day it shall be declared, that the bearing of candles is clone in memory of Christ, the spiritual light, whom Simeon did prophesy, as it is read in. the church that day.'
It is curious to find it noticed as a custom down to the time of Charles II, that when lights were brought in at nightfall, people would say-' God send us the light of heaven!' The amiable Herbert, who notices the custom, defends it as not superstitious. Some-what before this time, we find. Herrick alluding to the customs of Candlemass eve: it appears that the plants put up in houses at Christmas were now removed.
Down with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the mistletoe;
Instead of holly now upraise
The greener box for show.
The holly hitherto did sway,
Let box now domineer,
Until the dancing Easter day
Or Easter's eve appear.
The youthful box, which now hath grace
Your houses to renew,
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.
When yew is out, then birch comes in,
And many flowers beside,
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin',
To honour Whitsuntide.
Greeu rushes then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments,
To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift;
each thing in turn does hold;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.
The same poet elsewhere recommends very particular care in the thorough removal of the Christmas garnishings on this eve:
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch left there behind;
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected there, maids, trust to me,
So many goblins you shall see.
He also alludes to the reservation of part of the candles or torches, as calculated. to have the effect of protecting from mischief:
Kindle the Christmas brand, and then
Till sunset let it burn,
Which quenched, then lay it up again,
Till Christmas next return.
Part mast be kept, wherewith to tend
The Christmas log next year;
And where 'tis safely kept, the fiend
Can do no mischief there.
There is a curious custom of old standing in Scotland, in connection with Candlemass day. On that day it is, or lately was, an universal practice in that part of the island, for the children attending school to make small presents of money to their teachers. The master sits at his desk or table, exchanging for the moment his usual authoritative look for one of bland civility, and each child goes up in turn and lays his offering down before him, the sum being generally pro-portioned to the abilities of the parents. Six-pence and a shilling are the most common sums in most schools; but some give half and whole crowns, and even more. The boy and girl who give most are respectively styled King and Queen. The children, being then dismissed for a holiday, proceed along the streets in a confused procession, carrying the King and Queen in state, exalted upon that seat formed of crossed hands which, probably from this circumstance, is called the King's Chair. In some schools, it used to be customary for the teacher, on the conclusion of the offerings, to make a bowl of punch and regale each urchin with a glass to drink the King and Queen's health, and a biscuit. The latter part of the day was usually devoted to what was called the Candlemass bleeze, or blaze, namely, the conflagration of any piece of furze which might exist in their neighbourhood, or, were that wanting, of an artificial bonfire.
Another old popular custom in Scotland on Candlemass day was to hold a football match, the east end of a town against the west, the unmarried men against the married, or one parish against another. The 'Candlemass Ba', as it was called, brought the whole community out in a state of high excitement. On one occasion, not long ago, when the sport took place in Jedburgh, the contending parties, after a struggle of two hours in the streets, transferred the contention to the bed of the river Jed, and there fought it out amidst a scene of fearful splash and dabblement, to the infinite amusement of a multitude looking on from the bridge.
Considering the importance attached to Candlemass day for so many ages, it is scarcely surprising that there is a universal superstition throughout Christendom, that good weather on this day indicates a long continuance of winter and a bad crop, and that its being foul is, on the contrary, a good omen. Sir Thomas Browne, in his Vulgar Errors, quotes a Latin distich expressive of this idea:
Si sol splendescat Maria purificante,
Major erit glacies post festum quam fait ante;
which maybe considered as well translated in the popular Scottish rhyme:
If Candlemass day be dry and fair,
The half o' winter's to come and mair;
If Candlemass day be wet and foul,
The half o' winter's gave at Yule.
In Germany there are two proverbial expressions on this subject: 1. The shepherd would rather see the wolf cuter his stable on Candlemass day than the sun; 2. The badger peeps out of his hole on Candlemass day, and when he finds snow, walks abroad; but if he sees the sun shining, he draws back into his hole. It is not improbable that these notions, like the festival of Candlemass itself, are derived from pagan times, and have existed since the very infancy of our race. So at least we may conjecture, from a curious passage in Martin's Description of the Western Islands. On Candlemass day, according to this author, the Hebrideans observe the following curious custom:
The mistress and servants of each family take a sheaf of oats and dress it up in women's apparel, put it in a large basket, and lay a wooden club by it, and this they call Brύd's Bed.; and then the mistress and servants cry three times, 'Brύd is come; Brύd is welcome!' This they do just before going to bed, and when they rise in the morning they look among the ashes, expecting to see the impression of Brad's club there; which, if they do, they reckon it a true presage of a good crop and prosperous year, and the contrary they take as an ill omen.
THE PURIFICATION FLOWER
Our ancestors connected certain plants with certain saints, on account of their coming into blossom about the time of the occurrence of those saints' days. Thus the snowdrop was called the Purification Flower (also the Fair Maid of February), from its blossoming about Candlemass; the crocus was dedicated to St. Valentine; the daisy to St. Margaret (hence called by the French La belle Marguerite); the Crown Imperial to St. Edward, king of the West Saxons, whose day is the 18th of March; the Cardamine, or Lady's Smock, to the Virgin, its white flowers appearing about Lady-day. The St. John's Wort was connected, as its name expresses, with the blessed St. John. The roses of summer were said to fade about St. Mary Magdalen's Day. There were also the Lent Lily or Daffodil, the Pasque-flower or Anemone, Herb Trinity, Herb Christopher, St Barnaby's Thistle, Canterbury Bell (in honour of St. Augustine of England), Huh St. Robert, and Mary Wort.
COINS CUT INTO HALVES AND QUARTERS
The discovery of Silver Pennies cut into halves and quarters, though not uncommon in England, is apt to be overlooked by numismatists. In the great find of coins which took place at Cuerdede, in Lancashire, in 1840, were several pennies of Alfred and Edward the Elder so divided. The same was the case with coins of Edward the Confessor, found at Thwaite, in Suffolk; and with those of William the Conqueror, discovered at Benworth, in Hampshire, in 1833. On the latter discovery, Mr. Hawkins has remarked that the halves and quarters were probably issued from the mints in that form, as the whole collection had evidently been in circulation. The great find of silver pennies (mostly of Henry II) at Worcester, in 1854, comprised a half coin of Eustace, Count of Boulogne, and about thirteen halves and as many quarters of Henry's pennies. The collections in the British Museum contain specimens of divided coins of nearly every monarch from Alfred to Henry III, with whose reign they cease. The practice of dividing the coins no doubt arose from the scarcity of small change, which was in part remedied under the reign of Edward I by the coinage of halfpence and farthings. -A. W. Frank; Archaelogia, vol. xxxviii. part 1.