23rd May

Born: Elias Ashmole, antiquary, 1617, Litchfield; Dr. William Hunter, 1718, Kilbride, Lanarkshire; Empress Catherine of Russia, 1729, Zerbst Castle, Germany; James Boaden, theatrical writer, biographer, 1762.

Died: Emperor Henry V, 1125, Utrecht; Jerome Savonarola, religious and political reformer and orator, burnt at Florence, 1498; Francis Algarotti (physical science), 1764, Pisa; William Woollet, engraver, 1785; Richard Lalor Sheil, poet, politician, 1851, Florence.

Feast Day: St. Julia, martyr, 5th century. St. Desiderius, Bishop of Langres, martyr, 411 (?). St. Desiderius, bishop of Vienne, martyr, 612.


The excessive corruption at which the church had arrived in the fifteenth century brought out an earlier and Italian Luther in the person of Gioralamo Savonarola, a Dominican preacher of Florence, a man of great natural force of character, well fitted to be a reformer, but who was also one of those extreme pietists who derive their main energies from what they accept as divine promptings and commands whispered to them in their moments of rapture. Of Savonarola it was alleged that he had frequent conversations with God, and it was said the devils who infested his convent trembled at his sight, and in vexation never mentioned his name without dropping some of its syllables. His stern and daring eloquence caused his name to ring through Florence, and from Florence through Italy. He denounced the luxury and vices of the Florentines with a terrible thoroughness, and so effectually, that he quickly gathered around him a party of citizens as self-denying and earnest as himself. He openly resisted the despotism of the Medici, and sided with the democracy, prophesying judgment and woe for his adversaries. The lives led by the clergy and the papal court he pronounced infernal, and sure to sweep the church to perdition if repentance and amendment were not early sought and found. Pope Alexander VI excommunicated and forbade him to preach; but he forbore only a while, and when he resumed preaching it was with greater vehemence and popular applause than before. The pope and the Medici then resolved to fight him with his own weapons.

The Dominicans, glorified in their illustrious brother, were envied by the Franciscans. Savonarola had posted a thesis as a subject for disputation, and it was not difficult to prompt a Franciscan to prove it heretical. The strife between the two orders grew very hot. One of the Dominicans, in his zeal for the orthodoxy and sanctity of Savonarola, offered to prove them by walking through a fire unhurt. A Franciscan, not to be beaten, offered to do the same. The magistrates made arrangements for the trial. In the great square the city assembled to witness the spectacle. A pile of faggots was laid, but when set ablaze, and everything was ready, Savonarola proposed that his champion should bear the consecrated host as his protection through his fiery walk. The magistrates would not listen to the proposal; its impiety, they said, was horrible. Savonarola was in-flexible; he would not allow the ordeal to go forward except on that condition; and in the dispute the faggots consumed uselessly away. This business was his ruin with the Florentines. His enemies seized the advantage, broke into his convent of San Marco, and dragged him, his champion, and another monk to prison. The pope appointed a commission of clergy and lay-men to try them, and the end was, that all three were strangled, and then burned, on the 23rd May 1498.


On the 23rd of May 1805, when the Emperor Napoleon the First was crowned King of Italy at Milan, he, with his own hands, placed the ancient iron crown of Lombardy on his head, saying, 'God has given it to me, let him beware who would touch it;' thus assuming, as Sir Walter Scott observes, the haughty motto attached to the antique diadem by its early possessors.

This celebrated crown is composed of a broad circle of gold, set with large rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, on a ground of blue and gold enamel. The jewels and embossed gold exhibit a very close resemblance to the workmanship of an enamelled gold ornament, inscribed with the name of King Alfred the Great, which was found in the isle of Athelney, in Somersetshire, about the close of the seventeenth century, and is now carefully preserved in the Ashmolean museum at Oxford.

But the most important part of the iron crown, from which, indeed, it derives its name, is a narrow band of iron, about three-eighths of an inch. broad, and one-tenth of an inch in thickness, attached to the inner circumference of the circlet. This inner band of sacred iron-perfectly visible in the above engraving -is said to have been made out of one of the nails used at the crucifixion, given by the Empress Helena, the alleged discoverer of the cross, to her son Constantine, as a miraculous protection from the dangers of the battlefield. The ecclesiastics who exhibit the crown point out as a 'permanent miracle,' that there is not a single speck of rust upon the iron, though it has now been exposed more than fifteen hundred years. The earliest quasi-historical notice of the iron crown is, that it was used at the coronation of Agilulfus, King of Normandy, in the year 591.

Bonaparte, after his coronation at Milan, instituted a new order of knighthood for Italy, entitled the Iron Crown, on the same principles as that of the Legion of Honour for France.


A ministerial fish dinner, in which whitebait forms a prominent feature, always signalizes the close of the parliamentary session-hilarious, we believe, as the break-out of boys from school on an unexpected holiday, whether the recent votes should have indicated approaching removal from the Treasury benches, or their continued and permanent occupation. Under this day, for reasons which will appear, we give an account (which was furnished to the Times in 1861) of the origin of the festival.

Some of your readers have no doubt heard of Dagenham Reach, in Essex, a lake formed by the sudden irruption of the waters of the Thames over its banks nearly a century ago, covering the adjacent lands, from which they have never retired. On the banks of Dagenham Lake once stood, and, for aught I know, may still stand, a cottage occupied by a princely merchant named Preston, a baronet, of Scotland and Nova Scotia, and some time M.P. for Dover. He called it his 'fishing cottage,' and often in the spring went thither with a friend or two to escape the toils of parliamentary and mercantile duties. His most frequent guest was, as he was familiarly styled, Old George Rose, Secretary of the Treasury, and an Elder Brother of the Trinity House. Sir Robert also was an active member of that fraternity.
Many a joyous day did these two worthies pass at Dagenham Reach, undisturbed by the storms that raged in the political atmosphere of Whitehall and St. Stephen's Chapel. Mr. Rose once intimated to Sir Robert that Mr. Pitt, of whose friendship they were both justly proud, would, no doubt, much delight in the comfort of such a retreat. A day was named, and the Premier was accordingly invited, and received with great cordiality at the 'fishing cottage.' He was so well pleased with his visit and the hospitality of the baronet-they were all considered two, if not three-bottle men-that on taking leave Mr. Pitt readily accepted an invitation for the following year, Sir Robert engaging to remind him at the proper time. For a few years Mr. Pitt was an annual visitor at Dagenham Reach, and he was always accompanied by Old George Rose. But the distance was great, railways had not yet started into existence, and the going and coming were somewhat inconvenient for the First Minister of the Crown. Sir Robert, however, had his remedy, as have all such jovial souls, and he proposed that they should in future dine nearer London. Greenwich was suggested as a convenient salle a manger for the three ancients of the Trinity House - for Pitt was also a distinguished member of that august fraternity. The party was now changed from a trio to a quartet, Mr. Pitt having requested to be permitted to bring Lord Camden.
Soon after this migration a fifth guest was invited, Mr. Long, afterwards Lord Farnborough. All still were the guests of Sir Robert Preston; but, one by one, other notables were invited (all of the Tory school), and at last Lord Camden considerately remarked that, as they were all dining at a tavern, it was only fair that Sir Robert Preston should be released from the expense. It was then arranged that the dinner should be given as usual by Sir Robert Preston, that is to say, at his invitation, and he insisted on still contributing a buck and champagne; but the rest of the charges of mine host were thence-forward defrayed by the several guests, and on this plan the meetings continued to take place annually till the death of Mr. Pitt. Sir Robert was requested in the following year to summon the several guests, the list of whom by this time included most of the Cabinet Ministers. The time for meeting was usually after Trinity Monday, a short period before the end of the Session. By degrees a meeting, which was originally purely gastronomic, appears to have assumed, in consequence of the long reign of the Tories, a political or semi-political character.
In the year 18-Sir Robert Preston died, but the affairs had become so consolidated by long custom, that the 'fish dinner,' as it was now called, survived; and Mr. Long (I believe he was then Lord Farnborough) undertook to summon the several guests to the 'Ministerial fish dinner,' the private secretary of the late Sir Robert Preston furnishing to the private secretary of Lord Farnborough the names of the noblemen and gentlemen who had been usually invited. Up to the decease of the baronet the invitations had been sent privately. I have heard that they now go in Cabinet boxes, and the party was certainly limited to the members of the Cabinet for some time. No doubt, eating and drinking are good for digestion, and a good digestion snakes men calm and clear-headed, and calmness and a clear head promote logical reasoning, and logical reasoning aids the counsels of the nation, and reipublicae consilio the nation goes on to glory. So I suppose, in one way or another, the ' Ministerial Whitebait Dinner 'conduces to the grandeur and prosperity of our beloved country.


Amidst the leisure in the social life of two centuries since, time was found for recording a number of curious particulars bearing upon events, persons, circumstances, and manners, which are not to be found in the more pretentious histories of the period. Such information must be sought in the old family diaries, of which many specimens have been brought to light of late years, largely gratifying the fondness for archaeological illustration by which the present age is distinguished from its predecessor.

A very interesting memorial of this sort is in the possession of Sir Thomas Edward Winnington, Bart., of Stamford Court, in the county of Worcester. It is the autograph account-book of Mrs. Joyce Jefferies, a lady resident in Herefordshire and Worcestershire during the civil war, and who was half-sister and sole executrix of Humphrey Conyngesby, Esq., who travelled on the Continent between 1594 and 1610, in which latter year he left London for Venice, 'and was never after seen by any of his acquaintance on this side of the sea or beyond, nor any certainty known of his death, where, when, or how.' The book is kept in a clear hand, and comprises the receipt and expenditure of nine years; and besides containing many curious particulars of the manners of the age, sets forth her own very extraordinary self-the general representative of a class that is now exhibited only in the family pictures of the country ladies of the time.

Mrs. Jefferies lived in Widemarsh Street, Hereford, and her income amounted, on an average, to £500 per annum; she lived far beyond her means, not by over-indulgence in costly luxuries, for her own record is a tissue of benevolence from beginning to end, and three-fourths of the entries consist of sums bestowed in presents, excused in loans, or laid out in articles to give away. By being over free to her god-children,-by building her house in Widemarsh Street, which cost £800, and which was ordered to be pulled down in the time of the rebellion under Charles I, and the materials sold for £50-by other calamities of war-but worse, by knavish servants-she had so far consumed her means, that, had not her nephew received her in Holme Castle, she must have come to want in her old age.

Her personal appearance and style of dress may be gathered from her book. In 1638, in her palmy days, she wore a tawny camlet and kirtle, which, with trimmings and making, cost £10 17s. 5d. She had at the same time a black silk calimanco loose gown, petticoat, and bodice, which, with the making, came to £18 Is. 8c1.; and a Polonia coat and kirtle cost in all £5 1s. 4d. Tailors were the male dressmakers of the time; and Mrs Jefferies employed them in Hereford, Worcester, and London. Sir Philip Warwick, de-scribing the appearance of Cromwell in the House of Commons, remarks that his 'clothes were made by an ill country tailor.' But the country tailor was not the only artist who was unskilful in the trade; for the above tawny coat and silk calimanco dresses were so badly made in London, that they had to be altered by a country tailor. She had about the same period a head-dress of black tiffany; wore ruff-stocks, and a beaver hat with a black silk band, and adopted worsted hose of different colours, sometimes blue, sometimes grass-green.

Among the articles of her toilet may be observed false curls and curling-irons; she had Cordovan gloves, sweet gloves, and embroidered gloves. She wore diamond and cornelian rings, used spectacles, and carried a whistle for a little dog, suspended at her girdle. A cipress (Cyprus?) cat, given to her by a Herefordshire friend, the Lady Dansey, of Brinsop, was no doubt a favourite; and she kept a throstle in a twiggen cage. The young lady above mentioned, who resided with her, was dressed at her expense, in a manner more suitable to her earlier time of life: for instance, she had in August 1638, a green silk gown, with a blue taffeta petticoat. At Easter following, she went to a christening, arrayed in a double cobweb lawn, and had a muff. In April 1639, she was dressed in a woollen gown, 'spun by the cook's wife, Whooper,' liver-coloured, and made up splendidly with a stomacher laced with twisted silver cord. Another article of this young lady's wardrobe was a gown of musk-coloured cloth; and when she rode out she was decked in a bastard scarlet safeguard coat and hood, laced with red, blue, and yellow; but none of her dresses were made by female hands.

The household establishment of Mrs. Jefferies is by no means, for a single person, on a contracted scale. Many female servants are mentioned; two having wages from £3 to £3 4s, per annum, with gowns of dark stuff at Midsummer. Her coachman, receiving 40s. per annum, had at Whitsuntide, 1639, a new cloth suit and cloak; and, when he was dressed in his best, exhibited fine blue silk ribbon at the knees of his hose. The liveries of this and another man-servant were, in 1641, of fine Spanish cloth, made up in her own house, and cost upwards of nine pounds. Her man of business, or steward, had a salary of £5 16s. A horse was kept for him, and he rode about to collect her rents and dues, and to see to her agricultural concerns. She appeared abroad in a coach drawn by two mares; a nag or two were in her stable; one that a widow lady in Hereford purchased of her, she particularly designated as 'a rare ambler.'

She had a host of country cousins, and was evidently an object of great interest and competition among such as sought for sponsors to their child en. She seems to have delighted in the office of gossip, and the number of her god-children became a serious tax upon her purse. A considerable list of her christening gifts includes, in 1638, a silver tankard to give her god-daughter, httle Joyce Walsh, £5 5s. 6d.; 'at Heriford faier, for blue silk riband and taffetary lace for skarfs,' for a god-son and god-daughter, 8s.; and 1642, ' paid Mr. Side, gouldsmith in Heriford, for a silver bowie to give Mrs Lawrence daughter, which I found, too, called Joyse Lawrence, at 5s. 8d. an oz., 48s. 10d.' But to Miss Eliza Acton she was more than maternally generous, and was continually giving proofs of her fondness in all sorts of indulgence, supplying her lavishly with costly clothes and sums of money-money for gloves, for fairings, for cards against Christmas, and money repeatedly to put in her purse.

Of her system of housekeeping we get a glimpse. In summer, she frequently had her own sheep killed; and at autumn a fat heifer, and at Christmas a beef or brawn were sometimes slaughtered, and chiefly spent in her house. She is very observant of the festivals and ordinances of the Church, while they continue unchanged; duly pays her tithes and offerings, and, after the old seignorial and even princely custom, contributes for her dependents as well as herself, in the offertory at the communion at Easter; has her pew in the church of All Saints at Hereford dressed, of course, with flowers at that season by the wife of the clerk; gives to the poor's-box at the minster, and occasionally sends doles to the prisoners at Byster's Gate.

Attached to ancient rules in town and country, she patronizes the fiddlers at sheep-shearing, gives to the wassail and the hinds at Twelfth Eve, when they light their twelve fires, and make the fields resound. with toasting their master's health, as is done in many places to this day; and frequently in February is careful to take pecuniary notice of the first of the other sex, among those she knew, whom she met on Valentine's Day, and enters it with all the grave simplicity imaginable:

Gave Tom Aston, for being my valentine, 2s. Gave Mr. Dick Gravel, cam to be my valentine, 1s. I gave Timothy Pickering of Clifton, that was my valentine at Horn; castle, 4d.' Sends Mr Mayor a present of 10s. on his 'law-day;' and on a certain occasion dines with him, when the waits, to whom she gives money, are in attendance at the feast; and contributes to these at New Year and Christmas tide, and to other musical performers at entertainments or fairs; seems fond of music, and strange sights, and 'rarer monsters.'

She was liberal to Cherilickcome 'and his Jack-an-apes,' some vagrant that gained his living by exhibiting a monkey; and at Hereford Midsummer fair, in 1640, 'to a man that had the dawncing horse.' To every one who gratified her by a visit, or brought her a present, she was liberal; as well as to her own servants, and attendants at friends' houses. She provided medicine and advice for those who were sick, and could not afford to call in medical aid; and she took compassion upon those who were in the chamber of death and house of mourning, as may be seen in this entry: '1648, Oct. 29. For a pound of shugger to send Mrs. Eaton when her son Fitz Wm. lay on his deathbed, 20d.'

In many instances, the feeling is worth more than the gift bestowed. She makes a little boy happy by threepence to put into his purse; and to a poor fellow that was stationed to keep watch and ward at one of the city gates near her house, she contributed 'at several times,' 9d.

Not a single direct expression of ill-will can be detected in any of her comments. Mr. Garnons, an occasional suitor for relief, she styles 'an unthrifty gentleman;' amuses herself in setting down a small bad debt, and after recording the name of the borrower, and the trifling sum lent, adds, in a note, by way of anticipation, 'which he will never pay.' In another case, that of a legal transaction, in which a person had agreed to surrender certain premises to her use, and she had herself paid for drawing the instrument upon which he was to have acted, she observes, 'But he never did, and I lost my money.' In all matters she exhibits a gentle and a generous mind.

But it may be repeated that her greatest triumph, and one that her relations and acquaintance took care she should frequently enjoy, was at a christening, Here she was perfectly happy, if we may judge from what she herself tells us:

Childe borne called Joyce. Memorand. that my eosin Mrs. Jane Jeffrys, of Horn-castle, was delivered of a daughter about a q'rter of an howre before 9 o'clock at night on Thirsday night, being Christmas-eve's eve, and ye 23rd day of December 1647; and Kitt was baptised on ye Munday following, being St john's-day, 27th day, 1647, and named Joyce. Ould Mrs Barckley and myself Joyse Jeffreys were gossips. God blesse hitt: Amen. Hitt went home with nurce Nott to the Smeeths in greate Chelsey's parish, ye same Munday after diner, to nurce.'
December 27th. Gave the midwyfe, good wyfe Hewes, of Upper Tedston, the christening day, 10s.' Munday. Gave nurce Nott ye same day, 10s.

But what at this season gave the strong spur to her emotions, was the circumstance of the infant having been called by her own Christian name. The exact period of her decease is unknown; the codicil of her will carries her to 1650; and it is shown that she was buried in the chancel of the parish church of Clifton-upon-Tyne, on the border of Worcestershire.