Born: Robert Herrick, English poet, 1591; George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, favourite of James I and Charles I, 1592, Brookesley, Leicestershire; Louis Bourdaloue, celebrated preacher, 1632, Bouryes; Thomas Simpson, distinguished mathematician, 1710, Market-Bosworth, Leicestershire; George Eden, Earl of Auckland, governor general of India, 1784.
Died: Count Ricimer, celebrated Roman general, 472; Pope John XIV, 984; St. Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux, 1153; Jerome 0sorio, Portuguese prelate and author, 1580, Tavila; Martin Opitz, poet and philologist, 1639, Dantzic; Edward, Lord Herbert, of Cherbury, philosophical writer, 1648, London; Sir Charles Sedley, poet and dramatist, 1701, Haverstock Hill, London; Joseph Spence, critic, drowned at Weybridge, 1768; Pope Pius VII, 1823; William Maginn, LL.D., miscellaneous writer, 1842, Walton on Thames; John Thomas Quekett, eminent microscopist, 1861, Panybourne, Berkshire.
Feast Day: St. Oswin, king of Deira and martyr, 651. St. Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux, 1153.
St. Bernard, often styled by Catholics 'the last of the Fathers,' was unquestionably one of the greatest men of the middle ages. He was the son of a knight, and was born at the castle of Fontaines, in Burgundy, in 1091. His mother was a pious woman, who encouraged his inclination for religious thought and study, and he had scarcely passed out of boy-hood, when he formed the resolution to be a monk. His capacity for leadership displayed itself very early. He drew thirty companions, including his brothers, after him into the Cistercian monastery of Citeaux; and such was his persuasive eloquence, that mothers hid their sons, and wives their husbands, lest he should steal them from them. The discipline of the Cistercians was very severe, but it did not reach the mark of Bernard's ardour. He determined not only to extirpate the desires of the flesh, but the sense of enjoyment itself. He seldom ate except to save himself from fainting, and passed whole days iii ecstatic contemplation, 'so that seeing he saw not, and hearing he heard not.'
To escape the worldly talk of friends who visited him, he stopped his ears with flax, and burying his head in his cowl, allowed them to go on as they chose, every now and then addressing them in some sentence of admonition. When he worked, he selected the most menial occupations, such as digging, hewing wood, and carrying burdens. In spite of these austerities, his mind found comfort and relaxation in nature. He was accustomed to say, that whatever knowledge he had of the Scriptures, he had chiefly acquired in the woods and fields, and that beeches and oaks had ever been his best teachers in the Word of God. By centuries anticipating Wordsworth, the wrote to a pupil:
Trust to one who has had experience. You will find something far greater in the woods than you will find in books. Stones and trees will teach you that which you will never learn from masters. Think you not you can suck honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock? Do not the mountains drop sweetness, the hills run with milk and honey, and the valleys stand thick with corn?
A capable man like Bernard was not to be lost in privacy. As Citeaux became crowded with devotees, the abbot, a shrewd judge of character, selected Bernard, and sent him into the wilderness at the head of twelve companions to found a new settlement. After wandering northwards for ninety miles, they fixed their abode in a woody valley, called Wormwood, in Champagne, and erected a lob hut, which, under Bernard's genius, grew into the renowned Abbey of Clairvaux. This was in 1115, when Bernard was a young man of twenty-four.
The saintly rigour of his life, his eloquence as a preacher, and his courage in attacking civil and ecclesiastical wrongdoers, gradually raised Bernard into European fame, and letters and visitors from far and near drifted to Clairvaux. The force of his influence became especially manifest in 1130, when, on the death of Pope Honorius II, two popes-Innocent II and Anacletus II-each claimed to be the true and only vicar of Christ. The rulers of Europe were at a loss to decide between the rivals. Louis VI of France convened a council to consider the question, to which Bernard was invited. The assembly waited with awe for his opinion, believing that the Holy Spirit would speak through his mouth. He declared for Innocent, and the council at once broke up perfectly satisfied. Henry I of England he convinced as easily. 'Are you afraid,' said Bernard, 'of incurring sin if you acknowledge Innocent? Bethink you how to answer for your other sins to God, that one I will take and account for.' Henry accepted the offer, and yielded supremacy to Innocent.
Bernard troubled himself less with errors of opinion than errors of conduct, and though he had many contests with heretics, they appear to have been prompted by others rather than under-taken from choice. One of his most notable controversies was with Abelard, the Rationalist of the twelfth century, who was accused of unsound doctrine, and dangerous speculation on the mystery of the Trinity. Abelard challenged Bernard to a public logical disputation. Bernard hesitated, and refused. 'When all fly before his face,' said Bernard, 'he selects me, the least, for single combat. I refuse, because I am but a child, and he a man of war from his youth.' These fears were overcome by his friends, and a council was called at Sens, to which the king of France and a crowd of nobles and ecclesiastics repaired. Abelard came with a troop of disciples; Bernard, with two or three monks, as it behoved a Cistercian abbot to travel. Abelard seems to have discovered that he had made a mistake. He was used to address the reason of scholars, and the gathering at Sens was made up of men on whose minds his logic would have slight effect, whilst his adversary's impassioned oratory would be irresistible. Bernard had scarcely opened his discourse, when, to the speechless astonishment of all, Abelard rose up, said he refused to hear more, or answer any questions. He appealed to Rome, and at once left the assembly. The council, nevertheless, proceeded to condemn Abelard, and the pope affirmed the decree. Two years afterwards, in 1142, Abelard died.
Perhaps the greatest business of Bernard's life was the preaching-up of the second Crusade. He was fifty-five, and worn and old for his years, and thought his time for rest had come, when an order arrived from Rome, that he should bestir himself and raise the spirit of Europe against the Turks. Pale and attenuated to a degree which seemed almost super-natural, he made a tour among the towns of France and Germany, preaching with a success so prodigious that in some districts scarcely one man was left to seven women.
The times of crusade fever were usually sad times for the Jews. Simultaneously with the growth of the passion for fighting and slaughtering the infidels abroad, hatred was developed against the Jews at home. Following in the wake of Bernard's preaching, a monk named Rodolph travelled through the towns on the Rhine inciting the people to the massacre of the Jews. Bernard, hearing of the atrocities committed in the name of Christ, with a humanity far in advance of his age, at once intervened. 'Does not the church,' he inquired, 'triumph more fully over the Jews by convincing or converting them from day to day, than if she, once and for ever, were to slay them all with the edge of the sword?' Rodolph he denounced as a child of the devil, and meeting him at Mayence, managed to send him home to his monastery. A Jewish contemporary attests Bernard's service, saying: 'Had not the tender mercy of the Lord sent priest Bernard, none of us would have survived.'
Miracles without end are related of Bernard, with an amount of minute and authentic testimony which it is puzzling to deal with. 'His faithful disciples,' writes Gibbon, 'enumerate twenty or thirty miracles wrought by him in a day, and appeal to the public assemblies of France and Germany, in which they were performed. At the present hour, such prodigies will not obtain credit beyond the precincts of Clairvaux; but in the preternatural cures of the blind, the lame, and the sick, who were presented to the man of God, it is impossible for us to ascertain the separate shares of accident, of fancy, of imposture, and of fiction.'
He died in 1153, and was canonised in 1174. The Roman Church celebrates his festival on the 20th of August. St. Bernard's writings have been repeatedly published, and contain passages of great vigour, eloquence and pathos, and abound in interesting references to the modes of life in the fierce and gloomy century in which his lot was cast.
No one makes himself familiar with the merry, melancholy Robin Herrick without loving him. It is better not to analyse the feeling: perhaps we should find in it more elements of love than either respect or admiration.
Robert Herrick, Errick, Heyrick, or, as he himself wrote his name, Hearick, was the son of a goldsmith, and born in Cheapside. Very little is known of him, though his poems gained him, in his own time, considerable reputation. He seems to have been educated at Westminster, and undoubtedly entered as a Fellow-Commoner of St. John's College, Cambridge-the college of Wordsworth. Ultimately taking holy orders, he received from Charles I. the living of Dean Priors, in Devonshire, from which he was ejected in 1648, but to which he was afterwards restored by Charles II.
We ought to accept the general dissoluteness of morals in Herrick's day as some sort of excuse for certain tendencies of his which he naively denominates 'jocund.' Facts have handed down nothing to his discredit, and it is but charitable to receive his own testimony:
To his book's end this last line he'd have placed:
Jocund his muse was, but his life was chaste.
So sings Ovid, so Martial, so Catullus. Muretus justly comments: 'Whoever is like Catullus in his poems, is seldom like Cato in his morals.' Herrick lived to be over eighty, in celibacy, and his maid 'Prue' seems to have gained his affection by taking excellent care of him. In his hearty, indolent, little verses he does not forget to praise her.
While residing occasionally in London, he became one of Ben Jonson's famous clique, and seems almost to have worshipped the burly demigod. Indeed he has canonised him in twelve honest lines, with his usual poet's love of rites and forms.
HIS PRAYER TO BEN JONSON
When I a verse shall make,
Know I have prayed thee,
For old religion's sake,
Saint Ben, to aid me.
Make the way smooth for me,
When I, thy Herrick,
Honouring thee, on my knee
Offer my lyric.
Candles I'll give to thee,
And a new altar:
And thou, Saint Ben,
shall be Writ in my psalter.
Herrick's poetry was for more than a century in complete oblivion, and much of it was worthy of no better fate; but a selection of it ought not to be wanting in any library of English literature. His Nuptial Song is inferior to none; and his Fairy Land is full of the daintiest thoughts, fresh coined by an exquisite fancy. Saint Ben was far behind him in pathos and simple tenderness: his Charms and Ceremonials are a storehouse of quaint old English customs; and Wordsworth could not have written a sweeter epitaph than this:
Here a solemn fast we keep,
While all beauty lies asleep.
Hush'd be all things; no noise here,
But the toning of a tear:
Or a sigh of such as bring
Cowslips for her covering.
TALENT WITHOUT CONDUCT: THE LIFE OF WILLIAM MAGINN, LL.D.
Amid the many melancholy instances of genius and talent impeded and finally extinguished by the want of a little ordinary prudence and circimspectness of conduct, Dr. William Maginn is prominently conspicuous. Possessed of one of the most versatile of minds, which enabled him to pass with the utmost ease from grave to gay, from the rollicking fun of 'The Story without a Tail,' and 'Bob Burke's Duel,' to the staidness and delicate discrimination of the Shakspeare Papers,' and the classic elegance of the 'Homeric Ballads,' he yet found himself incompetent to the proper husbanding and turning to account of these gifts, and, after enduring the last miseries of a debtor's prison, fell a victim soon afterwards to consumption. The leading events of his biography are few and soon told.
He was a native of Cork, and born there in 1794. His father was proprietor of a school of considerable reputation in that city, to the management of which the son succeeded when little more than twenty, having previously passed with distinguished reputation through a course of study at Trinity College, Dublin. He continued to discharge the duties of this office with much credit for some years till he abandoned it to devote himself entirely to a literary life. Some of his first essays were trifles and jeux d'esprit, written in connection with a literary society in Cork, of which he was a member. They excited a good deal of local attention.
In 1816, he obtained the degree of LL.D., and soon after became a contributor to the Literary Gazette, then under the management of Mr. William Jerdan, who says that Maginn was in the habit of sending him 'a perfect shower of varieties; classic paraphrases, anecdotes, illustrations of famous ancient authors, displaying a vast acquaintance with, and fine appreciation of them.' It is principally, however, with Blackwood's and Fraser's Magazines that his name is associated, being a contributor to the former almost from its commencement, whilst the latter owed mainly its existence to him, being projected by him in company with Mr. Hugh Fraser.
A characteristic anecdote is related of his first meeting with Mr. Blackwood. He had already contributed to the Magazine several biting papers, which had excited a considerable ferment both in Edinburgh and Cork; but the intercourse between him and his publisher had as yet been wholly epistolary, the latter not even knowing the name of his correspondent. Determined now to have an interview with Mr. Blackwood, Maginn set out for Edinburgh, where he arrived on a Sunday evening, and on the ensuing forenoon he presented himself in the shop in Princes Street, where the following conversation took place. It must be observed, in passing, that Mr. Blackwood had received numerous furious communications, more especially from Ireland, demanding the name of the writer of the obnoxious articles, and he now believed that this was a visit from one of them to obtain redress in propria personâ..
'You are Mr. Blackwood, I presume?'
I have rather an unpleasant business, then, with you regarding some things which appeared in your magazine. They are so and so' (mentioning them); 'would you be so kind as to give me the name of the author?'
'That requires consideration, and I must first be satisfied that'
'Your correspondent resides in Cork, doesn't he? You need not make any mystery about that.'
'I decline at present giving any information on that head, before I know more of this business-of your purpose-and who you are.'
'You are very shy, sir. I thought you corresponded with Mr. Scott of Cork' (the assumed name which he had used).
'I beg to decline giving any information on that subject.'
'If you. don't know him, then, perhaps you could know your own handwriting' (drawing forth a bundle of letters from his pocket). 'You 'need not deny your correspondence with that gentleman -I am that gentleman.'
Such, as related by Dr. Moir, was Dr. Maginn's introduction to the proprietor of this noted periodical, the pages of which, for several years after-wards, continued to be enriched with some of his most original and piquant articles. A disagreement, however, in process of time, took place between him and Mr. Blackwood, and led him to the projection of Fraser's Magazine, to which, amid innumerable other articles, he supplied nearly all the letter-press of the celebrated 'Gallery of Literary Portraits.' One of his articles, a review of the novel entitled Berkeley Castle, led to a duel with the Hon. Grantley Berkeley, which, after three rounds of shots had been exchanged without doing further damage than grazing the heel of Dr. Maginn's boot and the collar of Mr. Berkeley's coat, ended in the parties quitting the ground, on the interference of the seconds, without speaking a word, or making any explanation.
Notwithstanding the many sources of livelihood which our author's prolific and versatile genius opened up to him, his improvident habits kept him constantly in difficulties, which at last so thickened upon him, that he repeatedly became the inmate of a jail; and in the spring of 1842, the misery and depression of spirits which he had undergone, terminated in a rapid decline. In the vain hope of re-establishing his health, he retired from London to Walton-on-Thames, where, however, his disease gradually gained strength; his frame wasted to a shadow; and in the month of August 1842, he expired.
To the last he retained almost undiminished his wonderful flow of humour and animal spirits, and talked and jested with his friends as far as his reduced strength and emaciated frame would permit. He complained bitterly of the neglect with which he had been treated by his party (the Tories); and there can be no doubt that, to a certain extent, the reproach was well founded, though the generosity of Sir Robert Peel was liberally displayed a few days before Maginn's death, on his unfortunate situation being brought under the notice of the premier.
Maginn's character presents much of the conventional characteristics of the Irishman - warmhearted, generous, and impulsive, freely imparting of his substance to his friends in their need, and as readily borrowing from them to supply his wants in his own. The reckless conviviality of his nature disposed him not unfrequently to excesses which ultimately shattered and destroyed his constitution. Such a vein, however, of bonhommie and real kindliness of heart was perfectly irresistible. His conversation is described as a jumble of incongruous subjects, theology, politics, and general literature, all cemented together in an overpowering style of drollery, which, however, not unfrequently left the listeners at a loss whether to surrender themselves unconditionally to the influence of the ludicrous or admire the great common-sense and profound vein of philosophy conspicuous in all his remarks. The ease and rapidity with which he wrote were astonishing.
Jumping out of bed, he would seat himself in his shirt at his desk, and run off in an hour one of his brilliant papers for Blackwood or Fraser. Not unfrequently, it must be added, he composed with the pen in one hand and a glass of brandy-and-water in the other. Much of what he wrote was necessarily of an ephemeral character, and his works will therefore, probably, in a succeeding generation, be comparatively little read; whilst his memory, like that of Samuel Foote, is preserved as that of a brilliant wit and conversationalist. Yet he was far from being a mere droll or after-dinner talker. His 'Shakspeare Papers' contain some of the most delicately appreciative touches which have ever been presented on the subject of our great national dramatist; and his 'Homeric Ballads' will fairly rival in vigour and classic genius the Lays of Ancient Rome of Macaulay.
The following epitaph was written for Magian by his friend, John G. Lockhart:
WALTON-ON-THAMES, AUGUST 1842
Here, early to bed, lies kind WILLIAM ,
Who, with. genius, wit, learning, life's trophies to win,
Had neither great lord nor rich cit of his kin,
Nor discretion to set himself up as to tin;
So, his portion soon spent-like the poor heir of Lynn-
He turned author ore yet there was beard on his chin,
And, whoever was out, or whoever was in,
For your Tories his fine Irish brains he would spin;
Who received prose and rhyme with a promising grin
Go ahead, you queer fish, and more power to your fin,'
But to save from starvation stirred never a pin.
Light for long was his heart, though his breeches were thin,
Else his acting, for certain, was equal to Quin;
But at last he was beat, and sought help of the bin
(All the same to the doctor, from claret to gin),
Which led swiftly to jail, and consumption therein.
It was much, when the bones rattled loose in the skin,
He got leave to die here, out of Babylon's din.
Barring drink and the girls, I ne'er heard a sin:
Many worse, better few, than bright, broken Magian.