Born: Richard III of England, 1452, Fotheringay Castle; Cardinal Charles Barroom, editor of the Noctes Vaticance, 1538, Arena; The Chevalier d'Eon, celebrated adventurer and pretended female, 1728, Tonnerre, Burgundy; Joseph Ritson, antiquary, 1752, Stockton.
Died: Aristotle, great Greek philosopher, 322 B. C., Chalcis; Major John Andre, hanged by Washington as a spy, 1780; Admiral Augustus Keppel, 1786; Dr. W. E. Channing, Unitarian divine, 1842, Burtinagton, Vermont, United States; Miss Biffin, painter, without hands or arms, 1850, Liverpool; Thomas Thomson, legal and literary antiquary, 1852, Edinburgh.
Feast Day: The Feast of the Holy Angel-Guardians. St. Leodegarius or Leger, bishop and martyr, 678. St. Thomas, bishop of Hereford, confessor, 1282.
SPAIN BEQUEATHED TO THE BOURBONS
On 2nd October 1700, Charles II of Spain executed his last will and testament, by which he conveyed his dominions to Philip, Duke of Anjou, second son of the French dauphin, and grandson of Louis XIV. Perhaps no mortuary bequest has excited greater commotions than this celebrated document, occasioning, as it did, the celebrated War of Succession in Spain, and the no less famous campaigns of Marlborough and Prince Eugene in Germany and Italy, in connection with the same cause. The circumstances attending its execution possess both a curious and painful interest, and exemplify strikingly the extremes of priestly machination and political unscrupulousness on the one hand, and of regal misery and helplessness on the other.
Feeble alike in body and mind, wasted by disease, and a prey to the most depressing melancholy and superstition, the unfortunate Charles II was evidently hastening to the end of his career. Throughout life he had been kept in a state of perpetual tutelage, and had scarcely ever been permitted to have a will of his own. He was the only child of the old age of Philip IV, by that monarch's marriage with his niece, and of two unions which Charles himself had successively contracted, there had never been any issue. The legal right to the Spanish crown now devolved on the descendants of his grandfather Philip III, one of whose daughters was the mother of Louis XIV, and another of the Emperor Leopold.
The sympathies of Charles were all in favor of the House of Austria, but he was surrounded by a powerful and unscrupulous faction in the French interest, who left no means untried for the accomplishment of their ends. Working on the superstitions fears of the dying monarch, his ghostly advisers held up before him the terrors of eternal perdition if he failed to make a will in favor of France as the legitimate heir. 'I am partial to my own family,' said poor Charles, when thus badgered, 'but my salvation is dearer to me than the ties of blood.' To relieve in some degree his perplexity, he despatched one of the noblemen of his house-hold to Pope Innocent XII., to request his advice relative to the disposal of the Spanish dominions. The aged pontiff, himself on the brink of the grave, was surrounded by cardinals devoted to the French interest, and he returned a reply that he had no doubt that the rightful heir to the Spanish monarchy was the dauphin; but that to prevent the union of the two crowns of France and Spain, the succession should be vested in his second son, Philip, Duke of Anjou. Yet Charles still clung to his Austrian relatives, and was supported in his predilections by his queen, a sister-in-law of Leopold, who is said sometime previously to have been ineffectually tempted by France to abandon the interests of her family, by the bait held out to her, of marrying the dauphin on Charles's death, and thus continuing to share the Spanish throne.
The palace was converted into a bear-garden by the squabbles and uproars which resounded through every quarter, and the noise of which even reached the chamber of the dying king. Intrigues for the post of confessor to the miserable sovereign were eagerly carried on between the partizans of the respective claimants of the succession; and both, as they from time to time gained the ascendency, sought to influence, in opposite directions, the weak and vacillating mind of Charles. Can any condition be imagined more wretched than that of the latter, emaciated with disease and suffering, conscious of his approaching and inevitable end being made the subject of the most calculating and acrimonious discussion, and yet denied the boon, which every Spanish peasant enjoyed, of dying in peace, and even threatened with the vengeance of Heaven in another world if he refused to do violence to his own feelings by gratifying the aspirations of an ambitious court?
The victory between the contending factions at last remained with the French, and under the superintendence of Cardinal Portocarrero, the whole armory of priestly influence and supernatural terror was brought to bear successfully on the mind of the king. He had already been frightened by statements of his being bewitched, and requiring to be exorcised to have the cause of his illness removed. Then it was suggested that his health would be benefitted, and the prayers of departed spirits stimulated on his behalf, were he to gaze on and touch the remains of his ancestors, mouldering in the funeral vaults of the Escurial. Urged by his spiritual directors, Charles descended with them to these abodes of the dead, and there witnessed the opening of the marble and jasper coffins which enclosed the relics of royalty.
The first opened was that of his mother, for whom he had never entertained any great affection, and at the sight of whose remains he displayed no special emotion. It was different, however, when the tomb of his first queen, Louise of Orleans, was unclosed. The body presented scarcely any traces of dissolution, and the countenance seemed nearly as fresh and blooming as when in life. Charles gazed long and earnestly on the lifeless face, and at last exclaiming, 'I shall soon be with her in heaven!' rushed, in an agony of grief and horror, from the place.
Another trial to which he was subjected arose from an insurrection of the Madrid mob, who had been persuaded by the French faction that a famine from which they were suffering had been brought about by the Austrian ministers and their partizans. The rabble destroyed all the bakers' shops, and presenting themselves before the palace, demanded a sight of the king. 'His majesty is asleep,' said one of the courtiers. 'He has slept too long already, and must now awake,' was the angry response. It was judged prudent to gratify the populace in their demand, and the poor king, pale and trembling, and unable to stand on his feet from sickness and fear, was brought out to the balcony in the arms of his attendants. As a cap-stone to all his sufferings, the last will and testament, appointing Philip of Anjou as his successor, was presented to him for his signature by Cardinal Portocarrero. Coerced and importuned on every side, Charles, with great reluctance, appended his name to the document, and then, bursting into tears, exclaimed: 'I now am nothing!' Immediately on signing it he fainted, and remained for a long time in that condition, inducing the belief that he was dead. He recovered, however, from this fit, and survived for a month longer, expiring on 1st November.
The contents of the will were carefully concealed from the queen, the Austrian party, and Europe in general. When the testament came to be read after the king's death, it is said that Blécourt, the French ambassador, aware of its being in favor of his court, advanced confidently towards the Duke of Abrantes, whose office it was to declare the successor to the crown. Rather to the astonishment of the former, the duke, after looking composedly at him, turned aside his head. Then all at once, as if he had not observed Count Harrach, the imperial ambassador, he joyously embraced the latter, saying: 'It is with great pleasure, my lord' (then pausing to give him a closer hug), 'yes, any lord, it is with an extreme joy, and the utmost degree of satisfaction, that I withdraw myself from you, and take leave of the most august House of Austria!'
The success thus attending French diplomacy may, after all, be regarded as of a very dubious kind. Though the grandson of Louis XIV.succeeded ultimately in establishing himself on the Spanish throne, which had been obtained for him by so questionable means, it was only after the expenditure of a vast amount of blood and treasure on the part of his native country, such as rendered the latter years of the reign of the Grand Monarque a period of the utmost weakness and misery. The whole circumstances connected with the celebrated will of Charles II exhibit strikingly the notions then prevalent regarding the relations of sovereigns to their kingdoms, which were considered to be those of hereditary proprietors rather than of responsible first magistrates. Two Spanish nobles, during the discussion in council on the subject of a successor, did indeed suggest a reference of the question at issue to the decision of the national cortes, but such a proposition was at once superciliously negatived as dangerous and disloyal.
The peculiar tastes and pursuits of the antiquary frequently give him a strong individuality, which, with a little exaggeration, may produce caricature. He seldom appears in the pages of the novelist or dramatist in other than a ridiculous light, being depicted generally either as a foolish collector of despicable trifles, or a half-witted good-natured twaddler. That all this is unjust, will be readily conceded in the present day, when archaeological studies have become 'fashionable,' and soirees are given in rooms filled with antiquities as an extra attraction. Among the numerous antiquaries, who, by their labors, have rendered important services to the literature of their country, none has surpassed Joseph Ritson, who was himself an excellent sample of the painstaking and enthusiastic scholar, but unfortunately disfigured by eccentricity and irritability, which ' point a moral' in his otherwise useful career.
Ritson was born October 2, 1752, at Stocktonupon-Tees, Durham, and was bred to the legal profession; he ultimately came to London, entered Gray's Inn, and was called to the bar by the society there in 1789. He appears to have restricted himself to chamber-practice, and to have neglected in a great degree that calling also, that he might indulge in the more congenial study of our older poets. In his readings at the Bodleian Library and elsewhere, he quietly garnered a multitude of facts-a scrupulous accuracy regarding which was one of his distinguishing characteristics, and an absence of it in any work was deemed by him as little inferior to a moral delinquency. His first appearance in the literary arena, was an attack on Warton's History of English Poetry, in which he proved himself a most formidable antagonist. His ' observations' were printed in a quarto pamphlet in 1782, uniform with Warton's volumes, because, as he remarks with a grim jocularity, 'they are extremely proper to be bound up with that celebrated work.' The boldness of his invective, and the accuracy of his objections, at once stamped him as no contemptible critic. But he was unfortunately wanting in temper and charity-errors were crimes - with him, and treated accordingly.
No better illustration of his mode of criticism could be given than the passage on the death of Marlow, who died in a fray, from a wound given by his own dagger turned against him by his adversary. Warton, in describing the wound, says it was in his bosom. Ritson at once fires up because he finds no authority for the exact spot, and thus addresses Warton:
Your propensity to corruption and falsehood seems so natural, that I have been sometimes tempted to believe you often substitute a lie in the place of a fact without knowing it. How else you came to tell us that Marlow was stabbed in the bosom I cannot conceive.
In other instances, Ritson had more justice on his side, and really combated serious error, for Warton by no means understood old English so well as he did; thus, where the sultan of Damascus is described as riding to attack Richard Cur de Lion, the romance tells us:
A faucon brode in hand he hare;
which means, that he came equipped with a broad falchion or sabre. Warton, unfortunately, interprets the import of the passage to be that the sultan carried a falcon on his fist, to spew his contempt for Richard. Ritson, upon this, bursts forth into unmeasured invective:
such unparalleled ignorance, such matchless effrontery, is not, Mr. Warton, in my humble opinion, worthy of anything but castigation or contempt.
To Dr. Percy and his Reliqes of Ancient English Poetry, he is no whit more civil; and, in subsequent publications, he continued his attacks, until the good bishop heartily regretted over having concocted a work that has given, and will continue to give, pleasure to thousands, and has aided in spreading a knowledge of the beauties of our old ballad-poetry, before comparatively unknown. Percy, unfortunately, worked from an ill-written and imperfect manuscript, and he did not scruple to draw upon his own invention to supply what was wanting. This was a crime not to be forgiven in the eyes of Ritson, who would have walked from London to Oxford to collate a manuscript, or correct an error.
Percy desired to make his work popular, an object in which he certainly succeeded, but Ritson's attacks embittered his triumph; and were carried by the antiquary so far, as to heedlessly annoy the worthy prelate, for he ultimately denied the existence of the manuscript from which Percy professed to obtain his originals. Ritson had no patience for looseness of diction or assertion; and an amusing anecdote of this is given by Sir Walter Scott, who was intimate with him. He had visited Sir Walter at his cottage near Lasswade, and, in the course of conversation, spoke of the remains of the Roman Wall in the border counties as not above a foot or two in height, on the authority of some friend at Hexham. Sir Walter assured him, that near Gilsland 'it was high enough for the fall to break a man's neck.' Ritson took a formal note, visited the spot afterwards, and then wrote to say he had tested the assertion, and thought it accurate. ' I immediately saw,' says Sir Walter, 'what a risk I had been in, for you may believe I had no idea of being taken quite so literally.'
Ritson's Select Collection of English Songs appeared in 1783, and in after-years he published a series of volumes on our Robin-Hood ballads, and ancient popular literature. These were far superior in character to anything of the kind that had before appeared in the literary world, being remarkable alike for their erudition and accuracy. His volumes are elegantly printed, and the few illustrations in them are among the most graceful productions of the pencil of Stothard. It is sad to remember that Ritson lost money by these admirable works. He was too painstaking and accurate for general appreciation, and the public could read easier the books of looser compilation. His last days were clouded by further pecuniary losses, arising from unfortunate speculations, and being obliged to sell his books, he naturally became more irritable than ever. His opinions underwent important changes, and from being a decided Jacobite, he became a liberal in the widest sense of the French Revolution, whose heroes he worshipped, and whose unfortunate religious ideas he also adopted.
Sir Walter Scott said of Ritson, 'he had a honesty of principle about him, which, if it went to ridiculous extremities, was still respectable from the soundness of the foundation. I don't believe the world could- have made Ritson say the thing he did not think.' Surtees adds, 'that excessive aspiration after absolute and exact verity, I verily believe, was one cause of that unfortunate asperity with which the treated some most respectable contemporaries.' In Ritson, then, we may study the evil effects of a narrowed view of truth itself; when combined with an irritable temper. Hated as a critic, while respected as a scholar, he rendered himself unnecessarily an object of dislike and aversion, whilst with a little more suavity he might have fulfilled his mission equally well. To him we are undoubtedly indebted for a more exact rendering of our ancient authors, which has guarded them from that loose editorship which was Ritson's abomination. His name and works, therefore, take an important place in literary history. His personal errors, and their consequences, should also be a warning to such critics as needlessly turn their pens to poniards, and their ink to gall.
THE DUKE OF CUMBERLAND'S MARRIAGE
On October 2, 1771, Henry Frederic, Duke of Cumberland, younger brother of George III, married the Honorable Mrs. Horton, a daughter of Lord Irnham, and widow of Christopher Horton of Catton, a Derbyshire gentleman. She was also the sister of the famous Colonel Luttrel, whom the court-party put forward as the legal possessor of the seat for Middlesex in the House of Commons, in opposition to the claims of Wilkes. The match occasioned the utmost displeasure to George III, who was only informed of it about a month after the event by a letter which he received from his brother, saying that he was married to Mrs. Horton, and had gone off with her to Calais.
In conjunction with the mésalliance, avowed shortly after by the Duke of Gloucester, another of the king's brothers, with the Dowager Countess of Waldegrave, this marriage of the Duke of Cumberland occasioned the passing in parliament, by the king's direction, of the well-known Royal Marriage Act, which subsequently rendered null the unions of George IV and the Duke of Sussex. The bridegroom had, the previous year, made himself unpleasantly conspicuous by figuring as co-respondent in a criminal trial, in which the wife of Earl Grosvenor was the principal party implicated. It is hinted, also, that he had only married Mrs. Horton after having failed in endeavoring to win her on easier terms. The lady is described by Horace Walpole as a young widow of twenty-four, extremely pretty and well made, and remarkable for the great length of her eyelashes, which veiled a pair of most artful and coquettish eyes. In the opinion of that prince of letter-writers, she had no great reason to plume herself on having conquered a man so intellectually weak as the duke. The latter for many years was rigidly excluded from court, as was also his brother, the Duke of Gloucester. He died in 1790, without leaving issue of the marriage. It ought to be remarked that his wife is not to be confounded with a Mrs. Anne, or Annabella Horton, better known by the name of Nancy Parsons, who at one period lived with the Duke of Grafton as his mistress, and ultimately became the wife of Lord Maynard.
STRANGE HISTORY OF THE CHEVALIER d'EON
Of all the ambassadors or diplomatists who ever served a sovereign, the most extraordinary, perhaps, was the Chevalier d'Eon, who occupied a large space in the public mind at certain periods during the last century: extraordinary, not for his political abilities or services, but for his personal history.
d'Eon first became known in England in 1761, the year after George III ascended the throne. England and France, after many years of war, had made and received overtures of conciliation; and the Duke de Nivernois was sent by Louis XV as ambassador extraordinary to negotiate the terms of peace. The chevalier, who accompanied him as secretary, won general favour at court; he was of prepossessing appearance, managed the duties of his position with much ability, and displayed a wide range of accomplishments. When the duke had completed the terms of peace, d'Eon had the honour of communicating the fact from the one sovereign to the other. The court-journal of those days announced as follows, early in 1763:
M. d'Eon de Beaumont, secretary to the embassy from France, returned this day to London, and was received by the Duke de Nivernois as Knight of the Royal Military Order of St. Louis: his Most Christian Majesty having invested him with that order, when he presented to him the ratification of the definitive treaty of peace with England.
Madame de Pompadour, who held an equivocal but influential position at the court of Versailles, wrote about the same time to the Duke de Nivernois, noticing the chevalier in the following terms: 'This M. d'Eon is, I am told, a very good sort of man, who has served the king in more countries than one: and the English have been very polite in giving him the treaty to bring. This, I doubt not, will be of some advantage to him.' When the duke returned to France in 1763, on the completion of his mission, he strongly recommended d'Eon as the temporary representative of France in England, until a permanent ambassador could be appointed. So well had the chevalier conducted himself, that both monarchs assented to this; and soon afterwards we read of the three distinguished French sevens, Lalande, La Condamine, and Camus,being introduced to George III by the Chevalier d'Eon, as French envoy or representative.
These were the only three brilliant years of d'Eon's life passed in England; they were followed by a period of disgrace. Louis XV appointed the Count de Guercy his permanent ambassador in England, and directed d'Eon to resume his former position as secretary of embassy, with additional honors as a reward for his services. d'Eon, disappointed in his ambition, or angered in some other way, refused to submit, and published letters exposing a number of diplomatic secrets relating to the court of France, including an accusation very damaging to the Count de Guercy. The French courtiers were very uneasy at this; and the count brought an action against him in the Court of King's Bench for libel. d'Eon made neither an appearance nor a defence, and a verdict was given against him. The French authorities were very anxious to get hold of him, and even sanctioned a forcible entry into a house in Scotland Yard, where he was supposed to be residing; but he remained for a time hidden. Towards the close of 1764, he applied for a bill of indictment against the Count de Guercy, for a conspiracy to murder or injure him; the count, instead of rebutting the charge, claimed his privileges as a foreign ambassador; and the public remained of opinion that the charge was not wholly without foundation.
Now ensued a strange portion of d'Eon's career. He remained in England several years, little known except by his frequent attendance at fencing-matches, in which art he was an adept. At length, in July 1777, an action was brought in the Court of King's Bench, the decision of which, would depend on the sex of d'Eon. One man, on evidence which seemed to him conclusive, betted a wager that the chevalier was a woman, and brought an action to recover the amount of the bet. Without touching upon the evidence adduced, or the judge's comments, it will suffice to say that d'Eon from that time became regarded as Madame d'Eon, and assumed female attire.
A memoir of her was published, from which it appeared that she was born at Tonnerre, in Burgundy, of parents who occupied a good station in society. For the purpose, as is stated, of advancing her prospects in life, she was, with her own consent, treated as a boy, and received the multifarious names of Charles-Genevieve-Louis-Auguste-Andre-Timothe d'Eon de Beaumont. She was sent to Paris, and educated at the College Mazarin, where she went through the same physical and mental exercises as the other pupils. She became a well-educated person. When past the age of schooling, she became successively doctor in civil law, doctor in canon law, and avocat before the tribunals of Paris; and wrote several books which attracted attention. She was introduced to the Prince de Conti, who introduced her to Louis XV. Louis at that time wished Russia to form a league with France instead of with Prussia; but as this could not be accomplished without a little preliminary intrigue, some secret agent Was needed; and d'Eon was selected for this delicate position. The memoir implies, if not directly asserts, that Louis was made acquainted with the real sex of d'Eon. Be this as it may, d'Eon made two distinct visits to Russia, in or about the year 1755; the first time dressed as a woman, the second time as a man, and not known by any one as the same person in the two capacities. So well did d'Eon succeed, that presents and rewards followed-rich gifts from the Empress Elizabeth; and a pension, together with a lieutenancy of dragoons, from Louis. d'Eon served in the campaigns of the Seven Years' War; and then occurred the events in England between 1761 and 1777, already noticed.
The end of d'Eon's life was as strange as the beginning. In woman's dress, d'Eon was in France for a time in 1779, but he resided mostly in England. It was supposed by many that he was largely interested in bets, amounting in various quarters to the enormous sum of £70,000, depending on the question of sex; but a positive denial was given to this insinuation. At length, in 1810, the news-papers announced that the 'celebrated Chevalier d'Eon' died, on the 22nd of May, in Millman Street, Foundling Hospital; and then, and not until then, was it decisively known that he was really and properly Chevalier d'Eon, who had so often, and for reasons so little to be comprehended, passed himself off as a woman.
THE STORY OF MAJOR ANDRE
There are few monuments in Westminster Abbey which have attracted more attention than that which commemorates the sad fate of Major Andre. Perhaps no event of the American revolution made more aching hearts on both sides of the Atlantic. Great Britain lost two armies, and thousands of her brave soldiers were slain upon the field of battle, but it may he doubted if so many tears were shed for them all, as for this young soldier, who died upon the gallows.
John Andre was born in London, the son of a Genevese merchant, in 1751. He was sent to Geneva to be educated, but returned to London at the age of eighteen, and, his talents having introduced him to a literary coterie, he became enamored of Miss Honora Sneyd, a young lady of singular beauty and accomplishments. As both were very young, the marriage was postponed, and Andre was induced to engage in trade; but he was ambitious, and, at the age of twenty, entered the army. At the outbreak of the American war he was sent to Canada, and taken prisoner at St. John's; but being exchanged, he became the favourite of that gay and gallant officer, General Sir Henry Clinton, who appointed him his aid-de-camp, and soon after adjutant-general.
Young, handsome, clever, full of taste and gaiety, an artist and a poet, he was the life of the army, and the little vice-regal court that was assembled around its chief. The British occupied the American cities, and while the troops of Washington were naked and starving at Valley Forge, Sir Henry was holding a series of magnificent revels in Philadelphia, which were planned and presided over by the gallant Major Andre.
Philadelphia was evacuated; Sir Henry returned to New York; and Major Andre, who had known the wife of the American general, Arnold, in Philadelphia, entered into a correspondence with him, and was the agent through whom the British general bargained, under promise of a large reward, for the surrender of Westpoint, the key of the highlands of the river Hudson. Andre visited Arnold within the American lines, to carry out this treachery; he was captured on his return by three American farmers, who refused his bribes; the papers proclaiming Arnold's treason were found upon him, and, by his own frank confession, he was convicted as a spy, and sentenced to be hanged.
Arnold, by the blunder of an American officer, got warning, and escaped on board the Vulture. Sir Henry Clinton, by the most urgent representations to General Washington, tried to save his favorite adjutant, but in vain. There was but one way-the surrender of Arnold, to meet the fate decreed to Andre. That was impossible; and the young adjutant, then in his twenty-ninth year, after a vain appeal to Washington, that he might die a soldier's death, was hanged on the west bank of the Hudson, almost in sight of the city held by the British army, October 2nd, 1780. If his life had been undistinguished, he died with heroic firmness. The whole British army went into mourning, and, after the close of the war, his body was deposited near his monument in Westminster Abbey. Even in America, where the name of Arnold is a synonym of treason, the sad fate of Major Andre excited, and still excites, universal commiseration.