Born: Anthony Ashley Cooper, first Earl of Shaftesbury, celebrated politician in the reign of Charles II, 1621, Winborne, Dorsetshire.
Died: Sir John Graham, Scottish patriot, killed at the battle of Falkirk, 1298; Sir Henry Percy (Hotspur), killed at the battle of Shrewsbury, 1403; Charles VII, king of France, 1461, Mean, in Berri; Henry III, king of France, assassinated at Paris, 1589; Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, 1596, London; Gerbrant Vander Eeckhout, Dutch painter, 1674; Pope Clement X, 1676; Francis Lord Gardenstone, Scottish judge, miscellaneous writer, 1793; Marie Francois Xavier Bichat, eminent French anatomist, 1802, Paris; Dr. George Shaw, naturalist, 1.813, London; Joseph Piazzi, eminent astronomer, 1826, Palermo.
Feast Day: St. Mary Magdalen. St. Joseph of Palestine (Count Joseph), about 356. St. Vandrille or Wandregisilus, abbot of Fontenelles, 666. St. Meneve, abbot of Menat, 720. St. Dabius or Davies, of Ireland, confessor.
The beautiful story of Mary Magdalen-for such it is, though so obscurely related in Scripture-has always made her a popular saint among the Roman Catholics, and Italian painters and sculptors have found an inspiration in her display of' the profound moral beauty of repentance. A medieval legend connected with her name represents her as ending her days in France. It is said that, after the crucifixion of Jesus, she, in company with the Virgin and Mary Salome, being much persecuted by the Jews, set sail on the Mediterranean in a leaky boat, and after a miraculous deliverance, landed in the south of Gaul. There, the party separated, the Magdalen retired to St. Baume, to spend the remainder of her days in penitence and prayer; and in that retreat, in the odour of sanctity, she closed her earthly pilgrimage.
The rise of saintly histories forms a curious chapter in that of human belief. There has always been much less of positive deliberate deception in them than most persons would now be disposed to admit. Some appearances were presented-a sup-position was hazarded about them-this, instantly translated by well-meaning credulity into a fact, set the story agoing. In an age when no one thought of sifting evidence, the tale took wing unchecked, and erelong it became invested with such sanctity, that challenge or doubt was out of the question. In some such way it probably was, that the remains of a dead body found by the monks of Vezelai under their high-altar, were accepted as those of Mary Magdalen. The news soon spread through France; the monks were delighted at the opportunity it afforded them of enriching their monastery, as the celebrity of the saint would certainly draw a great multitude of people; and they determined to encase these relics with a pomp which should dazzle the simple. The king of France, St. Louis, who was always interested in anything relating to religion, determined to be present at the festival, and went to Vezelai accompanied by his whole court. The body was drawn from its coffin, and placed in a silver shrine; the legate took a part; and the king several hones, which he had enshrined, some with two of the thorns of Christ's crown, and a morsel of the cross in an arm of gold enriched. with pearls and ninety precious stones; others in a reliquary, silver gilt, supported by an angel, and richly ornamented.
But Vezelai was not long in possession of this sacred deposit without Provence disputing it; their tradition was, that St. Maximin, bishop of Aix, had buried it at La Baume in an alabaster tomb; and Charles, Prince of Salerno, the eldest son of the king of Sicily, commenced a search for the body, and had the happiness to find it. The legend relates that a delicious odour spread through the chapel, and that from the tongue there sprang a branch of fennel, which, divided into several bits, became as many relics. Near the body were two writings; one on a board covered with wax containing these words: 'Here rests Mary Magdalen:' the other on incorruptible wood, with these words: 'The seven hundredth year of the nativity of our Lord, on the sixteenth day of December, Odoin being the reigning king of France, at the time of the invasion of the Saracens, the body of Saint Mary Magdalen was transferred secretly in the night from her alabaster sepulchre into this of marble for fear of the infidels.' The young prince immediately assembled the nobility and clergy of Provence, raised the body in their presence, enshrined it, and placed the head in a reliquary of pure gold.
Then Vezelai lost much of its credit, in spite of the pope, who declared himself on its side. La Baume carried the day, and the preaching friars who held the deposit, triumphed loudly over the monks who kept possession of the other. It gave birth to a long and acrimonious discussion: the latter party objected that dates were never used in France before the middle of the eighth century, under Pepin and Charlemagne. No trace could be found in history of this incursion of the Saracens; and who was Odoin? No king of that name ever reigned in France. So many absurdities discredited the Provencal tradition, yet La Sainte Baume was still frequented by a great concourse of people: now, nothing remains but a grotto celebrated for the fables to which it has given rise.
THE PERCY INSURRECTION-BATTLE OF SHREWSBURY-DEATH OF HOTSPUR
Happy are the heroes who are immortalised by the poets of their country. The brave, headstrong, irascible Hotspur; the rousing of Prince Henry to noble deeds from the wild roystering companion-ship of Falstaff and his friends; the imaginative, superstitious Glendower-all stand as lifelike characters before the eye of hundreds of Englishmen, who would never have heard their names had it not been for the bard of Avon. The powerful Percies, who had been Henry IV's greatest friends in the day of distress, became discontented subjects after he ascended the throne.
The Hotspur, of whom Henry had said:
0 that it could be proved
That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged
In cradle-clothes our children where they lay,
And called mine Percy, his Plantagenet!
Then would I have his Harry and he mine,
took dire offence at the refusal of the king to permit him to pay the ransom of his brother-in-law, Sir Edmund Mortimer, who had been taken captive by Owen Glendower.
Joining himself to his uncle, the Earl of Worcester, Scroop, the archbishop of York, the Scottish Earl of Douglas, and the Welsh cheftain, he entered on the fatal insurrection which cost his life, and that of many thousands of brave men. The earl, his father, being dangerously ill, could not join the rendezvous; but Douglas crossed the border with a goodly array, and the Earl of Worcester collected a picked body of Cheshire archers, all making their way to the borders of Wales, where Glendower's army was to meet them. Henry IV's skilful generalship probably saved his crown; for hastening his army with all speed from Burton-upon-Trent, he contrived to get between the two rebel forces, and prevent their junction. Having reached Shrewsbury, and finding Hotspur's army close at hand, he determined to give battle on the following day. During the night, the insurgents sent in a long list of their grievances, in the shape of a defiance:
For which causes,' said they, 'we do mortally defy thee, thy fautors, and accomplices, as common traitors and destroyers of the realm, and invaders, oppressors, and confounders of the very true and right heir to the crown of England and France; and we intend to prove it this day by force of arms, Almighty God blessing us.
Early in the morning (July 22, 1403), the eager combatants drew up in battle-array; about 14,000 on each side, brothers in language and country, thus sadly opposed. The martial strains of the trumpets were sounded, the war-cry of 'St. George for us!' which had led to many a victory, was answered by, 'Esperance, Percy!' and the bravest knights in Christendom, Hotspur and Douglas, led the charge. Had they been well supported, nothing could have resisted the shock. As it was, many noble knights were slain; the two leaders seeking the king everywhere in vain, he having put on plain clothes, and forcing Hotspur to say: 'The king hath many marching in his coats;' and Douglas to reply:
Another king! they grow like Hydra's heads;
I am the Douglas, fatal to all those
That wear those colours on them.
The Prince of Wales, though wounded in the face, fought with desperate courage, and for three hours the battle raged fearfully; but Hotspur, being shot through the head, fell mortally wounded, and the king's cry of 'Victory and St. George!' put the assailants to flight. Douglas, falling from a hill, was so bruised that his pursuers took him; but he was soon after set at liberty. The Earl of Worcester, Sir Richard Vernon, and some others, were executed on the field, and the great but dearly-bought victory of Shrewsbury settled the usurper Henry firmly on the throne.
The body of Hotspur, found among the dead, was by Henry's command taken from the grave, where Lord Furnival had laid it, and placed between two millstones in the market-place of Shrewsbury, quartered, and hung upon the gates, after the barbarous fashion of the times. Otterbourne tells us that the courage of the brave Percy was much damped before the battle by an incident which marks the superstitious feeling of the times. When preparing for the field, he called for his favourite sword, and was informed that he had left it at the village of Berwick, where he had rested the previous night. Startled at the name of the place, he heaved a deep sigh, and exclaimed:
'Alas! then my death is near at hand, for a wizard once told me that I should not live long after I had seen Berwick, which I thought was the town in the north.-Yet will I not he cheaply won.'
When the king had put an end to the pursuit and slaughter, he returned thanks for his victory on the field of battle, and commanded the erection of the collegiate church of Battlefield, of which more than half is now in ruins.
On the 22nd day of July, in the year of our Lord 1376, according to old Verstegan, a terrible calamity befell the town of Hamel, in Brunswick:
'There came into the town of Hamel an old kind of companion, who, for the fantastical coat which he wore being wrought with sundry colours, was called the Pied Piper. This fellow, forsooth, offered the townsmen, for a certain sum of money, to rid the town of all the rats that were in it (for at that time the burghers were with that vermin greatly annoyed). The accord, in fine, being made, the Pied Piper, with a shrill pipe, went thorow all the streets, and forthwith the rats came all running out of the houses in great numbers after him; all which he led into the river of Weaser, and therein drowned them.
This done, and no one rat more perceived to be left in the town, he afterward came to demand his reward according to his bar-gain; but being told that the bargain was not made with him in good earnest, to wit, with an opinion that he could be able to do such a feat, they cared not what they accorded unto, when they imagined it could never be deserved, and so never be demanded; but, nevertheless, seeing he had done such an unlikely thing indeed, they were content to give him a good reward; and so offered him far less than lie looked for. He, therewith discontented, said he would have his full recompense according to his bargain; but they utterly denied to give it him.
He threatened them with revenge; they bade him do his worst, whereupon he betakes him again to his pipe, and going thorow the streets as before, was followed by a number of boys out of one of the gates of the city, and coming to a little hill, there opened in the side thereof a wide hole, into the which himself and all the children did enter; and being entered, the hill did close up again, and became as before. A boy, that, being lame, came somewhat lagging behind the rest, seeing this that happened, returned presently back, and told what he had seen; forthwith began great lamentation among the parents for their children, and the men were sent out with all diligence, both by land and by water, to inquire if aught could be heard of them; but with all the inquiry they could possibly use, nothing more than is aforesaid could of thembe understood. And this great wonder happened on the 22nd day of July, in the year of our Lord 1376.'
The rat seems altogether a mystical sort of creature; at least, very mystical things are current everywhere regarding it. It is one of the simplest of these, that there are districts where rats do not dwell and cannot be introduced.
Not only are we told by the credulous Hector Boece, that there are no rats in Buchan (Aberdeenshire), but a later and more intelligent author, Sir Robert Gordon, makes the same statement regarding Sutherlandshire: 'If,' says he, 'they come thither in ships from other parts, they die presently, how soon they do smell the air of that country.' Sir Robert at the same time asserts, that the species abounds in the neighbouring province of Caithness. But this is not all. The reverend gentlemen who contributed to Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, about 1794, the articles on Morven and Roseneath, the one in the north, the other in the south of Argyle-shire, avouch that rats have been introduced into those parishes in vain. The author of the article on Roseneath seems to have been something of a wag, though quite in earnest on the point of fact. 'From a prevailing opinion,' says he, 'that the soil of this parish is hostile to that animal, some years ago, a West India planter actually carried out to Jamaica several casks of Roseneath earth, with a view to kill the rats that were destroying his sugar-canes. It is said this had not the desired effect; so we lost a valuable export. Had the experiment succeeded, this would have been a new and profit-able trade for the proprietors; but perhaps by this time, the parish of Roseneath might have been no more!'
It was a prevalent notion in past ages, that you might extirpate rats by a persevering course of anathematising in rhyme. Reginald Scot says that the Irish thought they could rhyme any beast to death; but the notion was, in general, restricted to the rat. It is with reference to this belief; or practice, that Rosalind, in As You Like It, says: 'I never was so berhymed since Pythagoras's time, that I was an Irish rat, which I can hardly remember.'
Another prevalent notion regarding rats was, that they had a presentiment of coming evil, and always deserted in time a ship about to be wrecked, or a house about to be flooded or burned. So lately as 1854, it was seriously reported in a Scotch provincial newspaper that, the night before a town mill was burned, the rats belonging to the establishment were met migrating in a body to a neighbouring pease-field. The notion acquires importance as the basis of a new verb in the English language-to rat-much used in political party janglings.
Mr. Bewick, the ingenious wood-engraver, has put on record a fact regarding rats nearly as mystical as any of the above. He alleges that 'the skins of such of them as have been devoured in their holes [for they are cannibals to a sad extent] have frequently been found curiously turned inside out, every part of them being completely inverted, even to the ends of the toes.'
It may be added as a more pleasing trait of these too much despised animals, that they are, nevertheless, of a social turn, and have their sports and pastimes by themselves. 'They play at hide-and-seek with each other, and have been known to hide themselves in the folds of linen, where they have remained quite still until their playmates have discovered them, in the same manner as kittens. Most readers will recollect the fable, where a young mouse suggests that the cat should have a bell fastened to his neck, so
that his companions might be aware of her approach. This idea was scouted by one of their wise-heads, who asked, who was to tie the bell round the cat's neck? This experiment has actually been tried upon a rat. A bell was fastened round his neck, and he was replaced in his hole, with full expectation of his frightening the rest away; but it turned out that, instead of their continuing to be alarmed at his approach, he was heard for the space of a year to frolic and scamper with them.'
The profession of the rat-catcher is an old and a universal one. In Italy, in the seventeenth century, as we learn from Annibal. Caracci's illustrations of the Cries of Bologna, this kind of professional went about with a pole bearing a square flag, on which were representations of rats and. mice. The Chinese rat-catcher carries, as the outward ensign of his craft, a cat in a bag. One of the many exquisite engravings of Cornelius Vischer (born at Haarlem, 1610), gives us the Dutch rat-catcher of that day with all his paraphernalia-a sketch so lifelike and so characteristic that its fidelity cannot be doubted. Our artist here gives what we are happy to consider a tolerable transcript of this humorous print. In the original, the following inscription is given in prose form:
Fele fugas mures: magnis si furibus arces
Exiguos fures, furor est; me respite, vilis
Si modo munmus adest, mures felesque fugabo.
[i. e. ' By the cat you put rats to flight.
If you drive away little thieves by great ones, it is utter folly.
Look at me; provided only a little coin is forth-coming,
I will put both rats and cats to flight]
If a fire does not burn well, and you want to 'draw it up,' you should set the poker across the hearth, with the fore part leaning across the top bar of the grate, and you will have a good fire-if you wait long enough; but you must not be unreasonable, and refuse to give time for the charm to work. For a charm it is, the poker and top bar combined, forming a cross, and so defeating the malice of the gnomes, who are jealous of our possession of their subterranean treasures; or else of the witches and demons, who preside over smoky chimneys. I had seen the thing done scores of times; and understanding that it was sup-posed to create a draught, like a poor weak rationalist as I was, I once thought to improve the matter by setting up the shovel instead of the poker; but I might as well have left it alone-the fire wasn't to be taken in, or the witches balked, by such a shallow contrivance, and I was left in the cold.
This poker-superstition is at least harmless, and we may admit that among those belonging to the household there are some which are positively beneficial-for example, those referring to the breakage of glass and crockery.
You have a valuable mirror, we will say. Do you know what is its greatest safeguard from the handles of housemaids' brooms, &c.? It is the belief, that if a looking-glass is broken, there will be a death in the family within the year. This fear is, of course, most operative in small households, where there are but few persons to divide the risk with the delinquent.
I once had a servant who was very much given to breaking glass and crockery. Plates and wine-glasses used to slip out of her hands, as if they had been soaped; even spoons (which it was hardly worth while to drop, for they would not break) came jingling to the ground in rapid succession.
'Let her buy something,' said the cook, 'and that will change the luck.' 'Decidedly,' said the mistress, 'it will be as well that she feel the inconvenience herself.' 'Oh, I didn't mean that, ma'am,' was the reply; 'I meant that it would change the luck.'
'Well, have you broken anything more?' I asked, a few days after this conversation. 'No, sir,' the girl answered, 'I hav'nt broken nothing since I bout the 'tater dish.' Unluckily, however, this was too good to last; the breaking recommenced, and we were obliged to part.
If you break two things, you will break a third.
A neighbour saw one of her servants take up a coarse earthenware basin, and deliberately throw it down upon the brick floor.
'What did you do that for?' asked the mistress. 'Because, ma'am, I'd broke tew things,' answered the servant, 'so I thout the third 'd better be this here,' pointing to the remains of the least valuable piece of pottery in the establishment, which had been sacrificed to glut the vengeance of the offended Ceramic deities.