Born: Mean Francois de la Harpe, miscellaneous writer (Lycée ou Cours de is Littérature); Thomas Chatterton, poet, 1752, Bristol; Louis Alexandre Berthier, Prince of Wagram, general of Napoleon, 1753, Versailles.
Died: Sir Christopher Hatton, statesman and courtier of Queen Elizabeth, 1591; Caroline, queen of George II of England, 1737; Cardinal de Polignac, statesman and man of letters, 1741, France; Abraham Tucker, author of The Light of Nature Pursued, 1774, Betchworth. Castle, near Dorking; Roger Payne, celebrated bookbinder, 1797; Mountstuart Elphinstone, Indian diplomatist, &c., 1859, Hookward Park Surrey.
Feast Day: St Maxentia, virgin and martyr. St. Edmund, king and martyr, 870. St. Humbert, bishop of the East Angles, martyr, 9th century. St. Bernard, bishop of Hildesheim, confessor, 1021. St. Felix of Valois, confessor, 1212.
THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE DOUBLED BY VASCO DA GAMA
The doubling of the Cape of Good Hope by Vasco da Game, on the 20th of November 1497, was a notable event in the world's history not on account of the actual discovery of that cape, which had been made some years earlier, but from the solution of an important question, whether or not India could be reached from Europe by sea. Columbus, we know, sought to reach that far famed land of gold and diamonds, perfumes and spices, by a western route across the Atlantic. He discovered America instead, and those islands, which we now call the West Indies, owe their name to the geographical error which formerly prevailed regard their position. The Spanish monarchs, who first fostered and then neglected Columbus, countenanced those projects which led to the discovery, conquest, and settlement of various parts of America; but the kings of Portugal were the great promoters of the enterprises by which South Africa and India were laid open to Europeans.
With the assistance of a map of Africa, the reader can easily trace the steps by winch these discoveries were effected. In the year 1412, Prince Henry of Portugal, a man gifted far beyond the average intelligence of his age, determined to send out a ship to explore the west coast of Africa, by sailing southward from the Straits of Gibraltar. The first voyage was not attended with much success; but the prince pursued the scheme at intervals for many years. In 1415, one of the exploring vessels thus sent out reached as far as Cape Non. In 1418, John Gonzales Zano and Tristam Vaz Texeira, two gentlemen of Prince Henry's court, made a voyage which enabled them to discover the island of Madeira. After a period of several years, marked by discoveries of a minor character, Gillianez doubled Cape Bojador in 1433 an event which led Pope Martin V, in the plenitude of liberality and inadvertence, to bestow on the king of Portugal all that might be afterwards discovered in Africa and India; a papal concession that gave rise to serious international disputes in after days.
In 1441, Antonio Gonzales and Nuno Tristan advanced as far south as Cape Blanco; a progress which was followed up by Vicente de Lagos and Aloisio de Cada Mosto, who, in 1444, advanced to the river Gambia, and by Cada Mosto, who, in 1446, reached Senegal and Cape de Verde. A long interval now ensued, unmarked by any discoveries of importance on the west African coast. In 1470, the Portuguese discoveries recommenced with a voyage by Fernando Gonaz nearly as far south as the equator. Some years after this, the northern limit of the kingdom of Congo was reached; and in 1484 the river of the same name was attained by Diego Cano. Then came discoveries of a far more important description. King John of Portugal, in 1486, sent out two expeditions to discover an eastern route to India, and likewise the whereabouts of the mysterious potentate known as Prester John. The latter eluded all search, but India did not. One of the expeditions proceeded through Egypt and down the Red Sea, and, amid many difficulties, crossed the Arabian Sea or Indian Ocean to Calicut, in India.
The other, under Bartholomew Diaz, comprising two caravals and a small store ship, proceeded southward beyond the latitude of the Cape of Good Hope; and Diaz doubled it, or went round it from west to east with-out knowing it. He coasted a thousand miles of the African shores never before seen by Europeans; and though difficulties prevented him from crossing over to India, he had the joy of finding, on his return, that he had really reached and passed the cape which forms the southern extremity of Africa. He called it Cabo Tormentoso, the Cape of Torments, or Tempests, on account of the rough weather which he experienced there; but the king said: No, it shall be the Cape of Good Hope, for the discovery is one of great promise! At last came the expedition of Vasco da Gama, to which all the above were preliminary. King Emanuel of Portugal (King John's son) sent him out in 1497, in command of three vessels, with 160 men. He doubled the cape on 20th November, sailed northward, and discovered Sofala, Mozambique, and Melinda; and then, guided by an Indian pilot, he crossed the ocean from Melinda to Calicut in twenty three days. All that followed was a mere finishing of the great problem: Vasco da Gama was the first who made the entire voyage from Western Europe to India, so far as records enable us to judge.
In the last century, when the pursuit of book collecting was almost approaching to the nature of a mania, a great want was felt of an artist capable of providing suitable habiliments for the treasures of literature of constructing caskets worthy of the jewels which they enshrined. When the demand comes to be made, the means of supply are seldom far distant; so, at this eventful crisis, as Dr. Dibdin informs us, Roger Payne rose like a star, diffusing lustre on all sides, and rejoicing the hearts of all true sons of bibliomania. The individual who could excite such lively enthusiasm was simply a bookbinder, but of such eminence in his art, as to render all his works exceedingly valuable. For taste, judicious choice of ornament, and soundness of workmanship, Payne was unrivalled in his day, and some maintain that he has never been equalled in subsequent times. But whatever lustre Roger may have diffused, it was by his handiwork alone; in person he was a filthy, ragged, ale sodden creature, with a foolish, and even fierce indifference to the common decencies of life. His workshop was a deplorable filthy den, unapproachable by his patrons; yet, when he waited on his distinguished employers, he made no alteration in his dress. The Countess of Spencer's French maid fainted when she saw such a specimen of humanity in conversation with her mistress. Payne, like others of this kind of temper, thought he thus shewed his manliness, for a Quixotic spirit of independence was one of his failings, though in speech and writing he ever displayed the greatest possible humility.
In spite of his eccentric habits, Payne might have made a fortune by his business, and ridden in a carriage, as finely decorated as the books he bound. The rock on which he split was the excessively ardent devotion which he cherished for strong ale. In one of his account books, still preserved, we find one day's expenditure thus recorded: 'For bacon, one halfpenny; for liquor, one shilling; reminding us of a snatch of a song, in the old comedy of Gammer Curton's Needle:
When I saw it booted not,
Out of doors, I hied me,
And caught a slip of bacon,
When I thought that no one spied me.
Which I intended not far hence,
Unless my purpose fail,
Shall serve for a shoeing horn,
To draw on two pots of ale.
Ale may be said to have been meat, drink, washing, and lodging for the wretched Roger. When remonstrated with by his friends and patrons, and told that sobriety, like honesty, was the best policy, and the only road that led to health and wealth, he would reply by chanting a verse of an old song in praise of his favourite beverage, thus:
All history gathers
From ancient forefathers,
That ale's the true liquor of life;
Men lived long in health,
And preserved their wealth,
Whilst barleyn-broth only was rife.
Payne could rhyme on his darling theme; his trade bills are preserved as great curiosities, for they mostly contain unbusiness like remarks by this eccentric original. On one, delivered for binding a copy of Barry's work on the Wines of the Ancients, he wrote:
Homer the bard, who sung in highest strains,
Had, festive gift, a goblet for his pains;
Falernian gave Horace, Virgil fire,
And barley wine my British muse inspire,
Barley wine first from Egypt's learned shore,
Be this the gift to me from Calvert's store.
Payne's chef d'oeuvre is a large paper copy of the famous folio Æschylus, known to collectors as the Glasgow Æschylus, being printed, with the same types as the equally famous Glasgow Homer, by Foulis, in that city in 1795. This book, bound for Lord Spencer, contains the original drawings executed by Flaxman, and subsequently engraved and dedicated to the mother of the earl. Dibdin, in the Edes Althorpianae, describes it as the most splendid and interesting work in Europe. Payne's bill for binding it is verbatim, literatim, and punctuatim, as follows:
Eschylus Glasguae. MDCCXCV. Flaxman Illustravit. Bound in very best manner, sewd with strong Silk, every Sheet round every Band, not false Bands; The Back lined with Russia Leather, Cutt Exceeding Large; Finished in the most Magnificent Manner, Emborderd with ERNAINE expressive of The High Rank of The Noble Patroness of the Designs, The other Parts Finished in the most elegant Taste with small Tool Gold Borders Studded with Gold; and small Tool Plates of the most exact Work, Measured with the Compasses. It takes a great deal of Time, marking out the different Measurements; preparing the Tools, and making out New Patterns. The Book finished in compartments with parts of Gold Studded Work. All the Tools except Studded points are obliged to he worked off plain first and afterwards the Gold laid on and Worked off again. And this Gold Work requires Double Gold, being on Rough Grained Morocco, The Impressions of the Tools must be fitted and covered at the bottom with Gold to prevent flaws and cracks ... £12 12 0
Fine drawing paper for Inlaying the designs 5s. 6d.
Finest Pickt Lawn paper for Interleaving the Designs ls. 8d.
One yard and a half of Silk 10s. 6d.
Inlaying the Designs at 8d. each 32 Designs £1, ls. 4d., 1 19 0
Mr. Morton adding borders to the Drawings 1 16 0
£16 7 0
Another bill, delivered to Dr. Mosely, Payne's medical attendant, runs thus:
'Harmony of the World, by Haydon: London 1642. Bound in the very best manner; the hook sewed in the very best manner with white silk, very strong, and will open easy; very neat and strong boards; fine drawing paper inside stained to suit the colour of the book. The outsides finished in the Rosie Crucian taste very correct measured work. The inside finished in the Druid taste, with Acorns and SS. studded with Stars, &c., in the most magnificent manner. So neat, strong, and elegant as this book is bound, the binding is well worth 13s., and the inlaying the frontispiece, cleaning and mending, is worth 2s. To Dr. Mosely's great goodness, I am so much indebted, that my gratitude sets the price for binding, inlaying, cleaning, and mending at only . . £0 10 6
Payne, for a long time, lived and worked alone in his filthy den; but towards the close of his career, he took in, as a fellow labourer, an excellent workman named Weir. This man was a regularly dubbed ale knight, loved barley wine to the full as much as his partner, and used to sing:
Ale is not so costly,
Although that the most lie,
Too long by the oil of the barley,
Yet may they part late,
At a reasonable rate,
Though they come in the morning early.
Sack is but single broth,
Ale is meat, drink, and cloth.
Sobriety may not be always a bond of union, but inebriation is a certain source of discord, and not only words, but frequently blows were exchanged between the two artists. Weir's wife was a famous cleaner of old books, and she went with her husband to Toulouse, where they exercised their skill and art, for several years, in binding and repairing the valuable library of Count Macarthy. Payne ended his wretched existence on the 20th of November 1797, and was soon followed by Weir to the bourne whence no man returneth. After their deaths, Mrs. Well was employed to clean and repair the books, parchments, vellums, &c., in the Register Office at Edinburgh. Lord Frederick Campbell was so much pleased with her good conduct, and marvellously successful labours in this capacity, that he had her portrait drawn and engraved. Her chef d'enevre was a copy of the Faits of Arms and Chivalrye, printed by Caxton, and bound by Payne. At the Roxburgh sale, this book was brought to the hammer. As a work printed by Caxton, bound by Payne, and cleaned by Weir does not occur every day, the excitement and sensation when Mr. Evans put it up was immense; nor was it finally knocked down till the biddings reached the high figure of three hundred and thirty six pounds.
THE BRITISH NIMROD
In a letter, dated 20th November 1611, from John Chamberlain, a gentleman and scholar, in the reign of James I, to his friend Sir Dudley Carleton, we find, amid other items of news, the following passage regarding the king and queen:
The king is hunting at Newmarket, and the queen at Greenwich, practising for a new masque. This brief sentence exhibits very comprehensively the ruling passions of those two royal personages. Queen Anne was no less fond of court masques and halls, than her consort was of the chase. His flatterers bestowed on him the title of the British Solomon, and extolled him as the most profoundly wise sovereign that had ever sat on a throne, but with much greater appropriateness, as far at least as regarded enthusiasm for, and devotedness to sport, they might have dubbed him the British Nimrod. From his early youth in Scotland, the love of the chase was with him an overpowering and absorbing passion, and he gave so much time to it, that the extent of his studies and his knowledge becomes the more a wonder. It took him much away from state business, and proved a serious annoyance to his counsellors who would be required to accompany him after the stag for six hours in order to get five minutes conversation with him; but he was never at a loss for something to say in excuse of this misspending of time. My health, he would say, is necessary for the state; the chase is necessary for my health: ergo, it is doing the public a service if I hunt. This logic, from royal lips, was irresistible. The king's sports were chiefly pursued in his own parks; but he was not less willing to let his bugle waken the echoes in those of his chief nobles, who were but too happy to contribute to his gratification that they might establish themselves in his favour.
Now and then, some one of the favoured few permitted to ride with him, has, luckily for us, sought to enliven his letters to absent friends with little sketches of the adventures that fell out on these merry hunting mornings; and in the State Papers we meet with a series of detached photographs, which, brought together, form a not uninteresting picture. Bravely responding to the sharp sting of Ripon rowels, we seem to witness the pure blooded iron gray that carried England's fortunes, dash onwards, to be again at the head of the field, which he had momentarily lost. Down the steep, along the valley, through the centre of its shallow river's bed, sweep onwards the gallant cavalcade, scattering the shingle with their horses hoofs, and throwing up the water in broad glistening sheets. A bugle note from some distant forester falls on the ear. The game's at soil. Another five minutes sweep round that elbow of the stream, and there stands our hart of grease, knee deep in the amber pool, his broad dun haunches firm against the lichen covered rock; his beamy antlers lowering from side to side, as the clustering hounds struggle and swim around him, straining their bloodshot eyes. The king, pleased, yet flushed and pale with excitement, his hunting garb soiled with mire and bog water from spur to bonnet plume, reins up just in time to witness the finish, for Bran and Buscar, Ringwood and Jewell (prime leader of the royal pack), have fastened upon the quarry's throat.
And when the deer has been broken up, and whilst the foresters, all unbonneted, wind the customary mart upon their bugles, our royal woodsman is plunging his unbooted limbs in the beast's warm, reeking entrails: an extraordinary panacea, recommended by the court physician, Sir Theodore Mayerne, as the sovereign'st thing on earth, for those gouty and rheumatic twinges, which too emphatically reminded the Stuart in the autumn of his days, how every inordinate cup is unblest and the ingredient thereof a devil, though the warning produced no practical result.
It is amusing enough to note how cheaply and contemptuously James held the judgment of such as presumed to differ from him in their estimation of his favourite sports and his style of indulging in them. Great was his disgust when he heard that his brother in law, Christian, king of Denmark, who visited England in 1606, had spoken slightingly of English hunting in general, saying it was an amusement in which more horses were killed in jest, than in the Low Country wars were consumed in earnest. James, after indulging in a few expletives, which it is as well to omit, sarcastically growled forth the reply:
That he knew not what sport the old Danish gods, Thor and Woden, might partake of in their Scandinavian heaven, but flesh and blood could spew no better than he had done.
A prince thus enamoured of the pleasures of a sportsman's life, could hardly be expected to endure otherwise than impatiently the sedentary duties of his council chamber. They were, indeed, utterly distasteful to him; and so, likewise, by association, were those assembled there Egerton, Buckhurst, Dorset, Naunton, Winwood, Nottingham, &c.; lord keepers, lord treasurers, lord admirals, and lord chamberlains. Debates about the most signal means of curbing Gondomar's haughty insolence, which but reflected the arrogance of his master, or upon the policy of the Spanish match, were often abruptly terminated by the monarch rising from his chair with a yawning remark, that he had worked long enough; so he was off towards Royston, to have a flight with the new Spanish falcon. His majesty, writes Sir Dudley Carleton, already referred to, having broken up the council, rides straight to Royston, with all his hunting crew, a small train of forty persons; and again: the king is at the inn at Ware, with his hawkes. Unfortunately, he neglects to satisfy inquisitive posterity who read his pleasant letters more than two centuries afterwards, whether James, and his small hunting crew of forty persons, passed their nights, one and all, in the great bed which is so inseparably associated in our ideas with that town.
Cecil, styled by his master who had a characteristic nickname for every one about him 'my little beagle' because, like that diminutive hound, he was small of stature, and indefatigable in hunting down not hares and conies, but conspiracies (men say he invented far more than he discovered) was almost the only one of his ministers for whom James felt any personal regard, although he often growled at the king's expensive hobbies, which, he said, cost more than would build a fleet. Once when he lay ill of a fever, and the king was about to quit London on a sporting tour, he received a visit of condolence from his sovereign, who comforted him with these words: that he was very sensible of his sickness, and must have a care of his well doing; 'For,' quoth James, as he pressed his hand at parting, 'should aught unto ward occur to thee, my little beagle, there were no more safe hunting for the king of England.'
The probability of being assassinated in his solitary gallops through the lonely forest, was ever present to the royal mind; and his preservation he attributed wholly to the untiring vigilance of his astute state secretary. Nor were his fears at all unfounded. Among the State Papers is a declaration of one Captain Newell, that a soldier named FitzJames had said:
There would soone be a puffe, that may send some high enough and low enough to hell ere longe; and that he would shoote the king in the woods of Royston, with many similar affidavits.
Our modern English sovereigns are satisfied with the modest parade of a single master huntsman and one pack of buck hounds. But the first English king of the Stuart race maintained at least seven establishments at the same number of hunting lodges at Royston, Hinchinbrooke, Theobalds, Windsor, Newmarket, Nonsuch, Hampton Court with hounds for the chase in St. John's Wood, and the great woods stretching around Newington. Possibly the reader may be rather astonished to hear of great stags and fallow deer roaming wild in the two last named suburbs of London, and that James maintained a large staff of foresters and keepers to preserve the pheasants, hares, conies, &c., swarming in their leafy coverts. The one, he now sees covered with pleasant villas, rising from the midst of grounds adorned with all the cunning of horticulture elegant retirements for the refined and wealthy; the other, chiefly a squalid, densely populated quarter possessed by the sons of poverty and toil, and little suggestive of the accessaries to sylvan sport.
Our old friend, Sir Dudley Carleton, viewed them under a different aspect. The king, he says:
went this evening to lie at Lord Arundel's, in Highgate, that he may be nearer and readier to hunt the stag on the morrow, in St. John's Wood. His son, Charles I, one Monday morning unharboured a buck from a great secluded dingle at Newington, where, twenty four hours previously, a knot of poor trembling Puritans had sheltered. themselves and their worship from the persecution of Archbishop Laud. We took, says that zealous churchman in a letter to Windebank, dated Fulham, June 1632 another conventicle of separatists in Newington Woods, in the very brake where the king's stag was to be lodged, for his hunting next morning.
But, revenons B nos chiens. James had distinct packs of hounds for the several kinds of chase in which he indulged stag, red deer, roebuck, fox, wolf, hare, and otter beside ban, bear, and bull dogs, with a nobleman for their keeper; and teams of spaniels, indispensable to his superb hawking establishments. These necessarily demanded a large suite of attendants, whose names sound strange in the ears of modern sportsmen. There were masters of the game, sergeants of the stag hounds,' lumbermen of the buck hounds, yeomen and children of the leash, tents and toils (the latter being small pages who held relays of fresh dogs at openings of the forest), keepers of the royal fishing cormorants, of the elephants, camels, and other' tame beasts, located. in St. James's Park. His majesty, we are told, once experienced some inconvenience at his hunting seats, from the crowding about him of certain over zealous country gentlemen, eager to gaze upon their sovereign taking saye, or to assist at the ceremony of cutting up a fat stag.
One day when the court was at Rufford, says one of Lord Stafford's letters, the loss of a stag, and the hounds hunting foxes instead of deer put the king into a marvellous chafe, accompanied by those ordinary symptoms (oaths), better known to you courtiers than to us rural swains. In the height whereof comes a clown galloping in, and staring full in his face. 'Mass!' quoth the intruder, 'am I come forty miles to see a fellow!' and presently turns about his horse, and away he goes faster than he came; the oddness whereof caused his majesty and all the company to burst out into a vehement laugh, and so the fume was for that time happily dispersed. Yet was his majesty merry against the hair, however genuine might be the glee of his courtiers. He that very day, says John Chamberlain, erected a new office, and made Sir Richard Wigmore 'marshal of the field.' He is to take order that the king be not attended by any but his own followers; nor interrupted nor hindered in his sports by idle spectators.
During one season, the king hunted in the Fen country, where the deer not unfrequently sought safety in the meres, surrounded by dreary marshes, impassable to sportsmen and dogs. The fenmen, like the Bretons dwelling in the Landes of France, traversed their boggy soil on stilts; and a party of them being hired on one occasion to drive out the game, and doing their work off hand and cleverly, James was so gratified thereat, and. so amused. by their singular appearance when stalking through the water, like a flight of fishing cranes, that he signified his gracious pleasure to erect a new office. Accordingly, one day after a jovial hunting dinner, he chose Sir George Carew as leader of the stiltsmen who was to be ready with his squad in uniform, whenever the royal hounds hunted that district.
Although passing a considerable portion of his life in the saddle, James was not a very skilful horseman, as is testified by the many and dangerous falls recorded of him, through which he was sometimes at the point of death. Every precaution was therefore resorted to, to lessen or avert the perils incident to the headlong pace which the king fearlessly maintained in order to be well up at the finish. The high sheriff of Herts, Thomas Wilson, writing to the constables of Sandon, Ketshall, and other towns of the county, informs them of the' King's express command that they give notice to occupants of arable land, not to plough their fields in narrow ridges, nor to suffer swine to go abroad unringed, and root holes, &c., to the endangering of his majesty and the prince in hawking and hunting; they are also to take down the high bounds between lands which hinder his majesty's ready passage.
Although his various kennels contained, at a moderate calculation, little short of two hundred couple of hounds, and the cost of their maintenance and equipages was a serious draught upon his privy purse, James never deemed himself properly furnished, while a single hound of reputation remained in possession of his subjects. The writer has seen a score or two of docquets, empowering his officers everywhere to seize hounds, beagles, spaniels, and mongrels for his majesty's disport; and his chief huntsman had a similar warrant to take by force every canine celebrity known to exist in three counties. On the occurrence of any of those hunting casualties, where his dogs got maimed by horse kicks, or being ridden over, &c., he vented his indignation in the most outrageous language; yet there, as indeed in almost every transaction of his life, he chewed himself as placable as he was momentarily irate. There is a pleasant instance of this feeling mentioned in one of the letters already quoted. The king, says the writer, is at Tibbalds, and the queen gone or going after him.
At their last meeting being at Tibbalds, which was about a fortnight since, the queen, shooting at a deer with her crossbow, mistook her mark, and killed Jewell, the king's most special and principal hound, at which he stormed exceedingly awhile, swearing many and great oaths. None would undertake to break unto him the news, so they were fain to send Archie the fool on that errand. But after he knew who did it, he was soon pacified, and with much kindness wished her not to be troubled with it, for he should love her never the worse, and the next day sent her a jewell worth £2000, 'as a legacy from his dead dog.' Love and kindness increase daily between them, and it is thought they were never on better terms. Doubtless this opportunity of perpetrating a practical joke upon the name of his most principal hound, went a great way in reconciling the royal punster to his loss and to the queen.