Born: Henry VII, King of England, Pembroke Castle, 1456; Thomas Lord Erskine, 1750; Admiral William Smyth, 1788.
Died: Miles Coverdale, translator of the Scriptures, 1568; Joseph Scaliger, 1609; James Quin, actor, Bath, 1766; J. H. Bernard de St. Pierre, 1814; Dr. Robert Macnish, miscellaneous writer, 1837; Henry Hallam, historian, 1859.
Feast Day: St. Fructnosus, 259. St. Agnes, virgin-martyr, 304 or 305. St. Epiphanius, 497. St. Virnin, or Vivian (?), 615. St. Publius.
St. Agnes-than whom there is no saint more revered by the Romish church-is usually de-scribed as a young Roman girl, who suffered savage persecution, and finally martyrdom, under Dioclesian. Upon the place of her supposed death, a church was built, and may still be seen without the walls of Rome; another was dedicated to her within the city. There is at Rome an annual procession in her honour, when a lamb, highly decorated, is led through the city. The connection of her name with the Latin for a lamb (agnus) has probably led to the association of this animal with her memory.
ERRONEOUS ESTIMATES OF AGES
Partly from the crafty and astute character of the man, partly from the tedious bad health of his latter years, partly perhaps from our hearing of him so much in the relation of a father, we always think of Henry VII as an elderly person. Yet he died in the fifty-third year of his age. There is something of the like illusion regarding several other royal personages in English history. For example, the deposed Henry VI is usually thought of as a man well up in years at the time of his death; but he never got beyond his forty-sixth. His ancestor John of Gaunt, whom (following Shakespeare) we think of as 'time-honoured Lancaster,' died at fifty-nine. At the same period of life died James I, whom we always represent to ourselves as an old man. The manner in which historical personages are spoken of, in respect of age, by their contemporaries, has helped us in some measure into this illusion. Malone remarks as follows:
'Our ancestors, in their estimate of old age, appear to have estimated somewhat differently from us, and to have considered men as old whom we should now esteem middle-aged. With them every man who had passed fifty seems to have been accounted an old man. King Henry is represented as old by Daniel, in his poem of Rosamond. Henry was born in 1133, and died in 1189, at the age of fifty-six. Robert Earl of Leicester is called an old man by Spenser in a letter to Gabriel Harvey in 1582, at which time Leicester was not fifty years old; and the French Admiral Coligny is represented by his biographer Lord Huntington, as a very old man, though at the time of his death he was but fifty-three.'
It is well known that Lord Erskine had experienced what he considered as a ghostly visitation. The circumstances, as related by himself, are given in Lady Morgan's Book of Ike Boudoir.
'When I was a very young man, I had been for some time absent from Scotland. On the morning of my arrival in Edinburgh, as I was descending the steps of a close, or coming out from a book-seller's shop, I met our old family butler. He looked greatly changed, pale, wan, and shadowy as a ghost. 'Eh! old boy,' I said, 'what brings you here? 'He replied, 'To meet your honour, and solicit your interference with my lord, to recover a sum clue to me, which the steward at the last settlement did not pay.' Struck by his looks and manner, I bade him follow me to the bookseller's, into whose shop I stepped back; but when I turned round to speak to him, he had vanished.
'I remembered that his wife carried on some little trade in the Old Town. I remembered even the house and flat she occupied, which I had often visited in my boyhood. Having made it out, I found the old woman in widow's mourning. Her husband had been dead for some months, and had told her on his death-bed, that my father's steward had wronged him of some money, but that when Master Tom returned, he would see her righted. This I promised to do, and shortly after I fulfilled my promise. The impression was indelible ----'
An amusing circumstance regarding Lord Erskine arose from his becoming possessed of a Sussex estate, which grew nothing but stunted birches, and was found totally irreclaimable. That it might not be wholly a loss to him, he commenced getting the birches converted into brooms, which were sold throughout the country. One of the broom-sellers being taken before a magistrate for acting thus without a license, Erskine went to defend him, and contended there was a clause to meet this very case. Being asked which it was, he answered, 'The sweeping clause, your worship, which is further fortified by a proviso, that nothing herein contained shall prevent any proprietor of land from vending the produce thereof in any manner that to him shall seem fit.'
DEATH OF LOUIS XVI
The 21st of January will long be a memorable day in the history of France, as that on which an agonised nation, driven frantic by the threats of external enemies, threw down the bloody head of their king as a gage of defiance to all gainsayers. Innocent and amiable, but fallen upon evil times, Louis XVI warmly engages our interest, as a victim who suffered for the evil doings of those who went before him. The story of his imprisonment and death, including the final parting with his family, is one of the saddest ever put on record.
Early on a gloomy winter morning, Paris was astir with the movements of large bodies of troops, forming a guard along the line by which the unfortunate king was conducted from his prison to the scaffold. He had made all religious preparations for death; yet is believed to have still entertained some hope of a rescue, it being understood that five hundred devoted adherents had vowed to interfere in his behalf even at the scaffold. Hence his last moments did not exhibit that serenity and meek submission which would have best become an innocent sufferer. There may, however, be room for debate as to the exact degree in which an unsubmissive spirit manifested itself. Somewhat to the surprise of our generation, it is thus described in Louis Blanc's Histoire de in Revolution Francaise, tom. viii., published in 1856:
At ten minutes past ten, they reached the foot of the scaffold. It had been erected in front of the Palace of the Tuileries, in the square called after Louis the Fifteenth, and near the spot where stood the statue of the most corrupt of kings-a king who died tranquilly in his bed. The condemned was three minutes descending from the carriage. Upon quitting the Temple he had refused the redingote which Clery had offered him, and now appeared in a brown coat, white waistcoat, grey breeches, and white stockings. His hair was not disordered, nor was any change perceptible in his countenance. The Abbe Firmont was dressed in black. A large open space had been kept round the scaffold,-with cannon ranged on every side,-while beyond, as far as the eye could reach, stood an unarmed multitude gazing. . . . Descending from his carriage, Louis fixed his eyes upon the soldiers who surrounded him, and with a menacing voice cried, 'Silence!' The drums ceased to beat, but at a signal from their officer, the drummers again went on. 'What treason is this?' he shouted; 'I am lost! I am lost!' For it was evident that up to this moment he had been clinging to hope. The executioners now approached to take off a part of his clothes; he repulsed them fiercely, and himself removed the collar from his neck. But all the blood in his frame seemed to be turned into fire when they sought to tie his hands. 'Tie my hands! 'he shrieked. A struggle was inevitable:-it came.
It is indisputable, says Mercier, that Louis fought with his executioners. The Abbe Edgeworth stood by, perplexed, horrified, speechless. At last, as his master seemed to look inquiringly at him, he said, 'Sir, in this additional outrage I only see a last trait of the resemblance between your Majesty and the God who will give you your reward.' At these words the indignation of the man gave way to the humility of the Christian, and Louis said to the executioners, 'I will drain the cup to the dregs.' They tied his hands, they cut off his hair, and then, leaning on the arm of his confessor, he began, with a slow tread and sunken demeanour, to mount the steps, then very steep, of the guillotine. Upon the last step, however, he seemed suddenly to rouse, and walked rapidly across to the other side of the scaffold; when, by a sign commanding silence, he exclaimed, 'I die innocent of the crimes imputed to me.' His face was now very red, and, according to the narrative of his confessor, his voice was so loud that it could be heard as far as the Pont-Tournant.
Some other expressions were distinctly heard, 'I pardon the authors of my death, and I pray Heaven that the blood you are about to shed may never be visited upon France.' He was about to continue, when his voice was drowned by the renewed rolling of the drums, at a signal which, it is affirmed, was given by the comedian Dugayon, in anticipation of the orders of Santerre. 'Silence! be silent!' cried Louis the Sixteenth, losing all self-control, and stamping violently with his foot. Richard, one of the executioners, then seized a pistol, and took aim at the king. It was necessary to drag him along by force. With difficulty fastened to the fatal plank, he continued to utter terrible cries, only interrupted by the fall of the knife.'
THE FATE OF CAPTAIN ALLEN GARDINER
It was a mournful spectacle that met the eyes of the crew of H.M.S. Dido, when, on the 21st of January, 1852, they found the remains of Captain Allen Gardiner and his hapless companions, on the dismal shore of Terra del Fuego, at the southern extremity of America. First came to light some direction, rudely written on a rock; then a boat lying on the beach at the mouth of a small river; then the unburied bodies of Gardiner and his friend Maidment; then a packet of papers and books; then the shattered remains of another boat, with part of her gear and stores, and various articles of clothing; then two more dead bodies; and lastly, the graves of the rest of the party.
Allen Gardiner was a remarkable man; one of those in whom the hardy seaman is combined with the deeply pious Christian: so strongly imbued, indeed, was he with piety, that the last years of his life were those of a missionary rather than of a sea-captain. He made many attempts at rescuing barbarous tribes from heathendom in various parts of the world. On returning from one of his voyages, in 1849, Gardiner formed a plan for sending out a missionary ship to Terra del Fuego, in the hope of Christianizing the rude Fuegians and Patagonians.
During a year or more his efforts were unavailing. First the Moravian Brethren, then the Scottish National Church, declined to enter into his views. At last, a lady at Cheltenham provided him with £700; and this, with £300 from his own private purse, formed the resources on which he acted. 'Unable to afford a brigantine or schooner, as he had wished, he contented himself with four open boats, which he caused to be built at Liverpool. Two of these were launches of considerable size, named by him the Pioneer and the Speedwell; the other two were small dingies, used as tenders or luggage boats. He sought and found six companions willing to share his perilous enterprise-a surgeon, a missionary, and four hardy, God-fearing Cornish boatmen. In September 1850, the ship Ocean Queen, bound from Liverpool to California, took out Gardiner, his companions, his boats, and six months' provisions. They were landed on the inhospitable foreign shore on the 5th of December.
From the day when the Ocean Queen left them to pursue her voyage round Cape Horn, the eye of no civilized man ever saw these brave sailor-missionaries alive. All that is known of them has been gathered from the papers subsequently found. Their life must have been one of continual hardship, cheered by nothing but the consciousness of a good motive. Seven men, in four open boats, went to convert barbarians, whose language they did not understand, and in a country singularly bare of food. Such was the enterprise, noble in intent, but deficient in practical foresight. They soon found the boats to be much encumbered with stores, and the Pioneer somewhat leaky. In several short voyages from island to island, and from shore to shore, they encountered numberless mishaps. Sometimes the natives came down to the beach and drove them away; sometimes they appeared more friendly, but robbed those whose mission they could not of course understand. During a storm both dingies were lost, with their contents; during another, the anchors and the spare timber were lost. Next, they found that all their gun-powder had been forgetfully left behind in the Ocean Queen, and that they had no means of shooting birds or other animals for food. Thus wore away the month of January, 1851. So far from their missionary labours having been begun, it was with them a struggle for the maintenance of their own lives. As time advanced, their dangers were increased. On the 1st of February their poor Pioneer was shattered during a storm; and now they had only the Speedwell to voyage in-a boat whose name almost mocked them in their misery.
From this day their anxious eyes were turned, not to the rude Fuegians, but to the arrival of some ship from England with succour. Arrangements had been made for sending out further supplies to them; Gardiner and his companions did not know of the various mischances that retarded (till too late) the carrying out ofthese plans. Some of the men became ill with the scurvy; some lived in a cavern, that the boats might become more comfortable as hospitals for the others. A few fish and fowl were caught; but nothing that required shooting. So March and April passed: and then the Ant-arctic winter began, adding snow and ice to their other troubles. From the middle of May they were all put on short allowance, owing to the rapid disappearance of their six months' stores. At the end of June one of the brave Cornishmen, Badcock, died, worn out with scurvy. There is an entry in Gardiner's diary, about the end of June, enumerating the articles still left; and among them were 'six mice,' concerning which he said: ' The mention of this last item in our list of provisions may startle some of our friends, should it ever reach their ears; but circumstanced as we are, we partake of them with a relish, and have already eaten several of them; they are very tender, and taste like rabbit.' A solitary penguin, a dead fox, a half-devoured fish thrown. up on shore,-all were welcomed by the half-starved men.
When August arrived, the strength of all was nearly exhausted. A few garden seeds were made into a kind of gruel; and mussel-broth was served to the invalids. Captain Gardiner himself lived on mussels for a fortnight, and was then compelled to give up this diet. He was about to lie down resignedly to die, when the discovery of a kind of rock-weed gave him a little further respite. On the 23rd, Erwin the boatman died, exhausted by hunger and disease; and on the 26th another boat-man, Bryant, followed him. Pearce, the remaining boatman, went nearly mad at the loss of his companions.
Mr. Maidment, the missionary, had just strength sufficient to dig a grave and deposit the last remains of the two poor fellows in it. He then made a pair of crutches with two sticks, on which Captain Gardiner might lean while walking a little; for these two, with their cavern and their shattered Pioneer, were at some little distance from the Speedwell; and Gardiner wished that he and the remnant of his little band, if God willed them to die on that dismal spot, should at least die in companionship. It was not to be, however; his strength failed him too soon, and he returned to the cavern.
The heroic, unrepining Maidment died on the 2nd of September. Gardiner was helpless: there was no Maidment to find a bit of food for him, and he could not rise to search for it himself. Hunger on the 3rd and 4th, hunger on the 5th and 6th; no food; and only just strength enough to write a few lines on paper which he hoped might one day reach friendly hands. It is supposed that he sank into the arms of death on the evening of the 6th, but none was near to make the record; nor can we know whether the remaining two of the unfortunate band (Mr Williams the surgeon, and Pearce the boat-man, who were in or near the Speedwell) died a little before or a little after their chief. The difference of date could not be much; for health, strength, and food were alike wanting to all.
It matters little here to notice by what cross-purposes supplies of food and other necessaries failed to reach Patagonia till too late. When Captain Moorshead, in the Dido, touched at that spot, (which he was permitted by the Government to do, on the earnest solicitation of Gardiner's friends,) various writings guided him from place to place, till he came to the poor shattered Pioneer. 'Captain Gardiner's body was lying beside the boat, which apparently he had left, and being too weak to climb into it again, had died by the side of it. We were directed to the cavern by a hand painted on the rock, with Psalm lxii. 5-8, under it.' Mr. Maidment's body was found in the cavern.
Here is the last scene of the tragedy. 'Their remains,' says Captain Moorshead, speaking of the seven deceased men, 'were collected together and buried close to the spot, and the funeral service read by Lieutenant Underwood. A short inscription was placed on the rock near his own text; the colours of the boats and ships were struck half mast; and three volleys of musketry were the only tribute of respect I could pay to this lofty-minded man and his devoted companions.'