Born: Robert Boyle, 1627, Lismore; Thomas Tanner, antiquary, 1674; Paul Whitehead, 1709; Robert Burns, 1759; Sir Francis Burdett, 1770; James Hogg (the Ettrick Shepherd), poet, 1772; Benjamin Robert Haydon, painter, 1786, Plymouth; Daniel Maclise, artist, 1811, Cork.
Died: William Shield, dramatic composer, 1829.
Feast Day: St. Juventinus and Maximinus, martyrs at Antioch, 363. St. Apollo, abbot in Thebais, about 393. St. Publius, abbot in Syria, 4th century. St. Prejectus (or St. Prix), bishop of Clermont, martyr, 674. St. Poppo, abbot of Stavello, 1048.
ST. PAUL'S DAY
The festival of the Conversion of St. Paul, instituted by the church in gratitude for so miraculous and so important an instance of the Divine power, 'a perfect model of a true conversion,' is mentioned in several calendars and missals of the eighth and ninth centuries. 'It was for some time kept a holiday of obligation in most churches of the West; and we read it mentioned as such in England in the council of Oxford, in 1222, in the reign of King Henry III' -Butler. It is still a festival of the Anglican, as well as other churches.
The day has also a celebrity of another description, the origin of which has not yet been discovered. It has been an article of constant belief in Western Europe, during the middle ages, and even down to our own time, that the whole character of the coming year is prognosticated by the condition of the weather on this day; and this is the more singular, as the day itself was one of those to which the old prognosticators gave the character of a dies Ægyptiacus, or unlucky day. The special knowledge of the future, which it was believed might be derived from it, were arranged under four heads, in four monkish Latin verses, which are found very frequently in the manuscripts of the middle ages, and prevailed equally on the continent and in our own island. The following is the most correct copy of these verses that we have been able to obtain (in copies of a later date, attempts were made to improve the style of the Latin, which in some degree destroyed their quaintness):
Clara dies Pauli bona tempera denotat anni;
Si nix vel pluvia, designat tempera cara;
Si fiant nebulae, pereunt animalia quaeque;
Si fiant venti, designat praelia genti.
Fair weather on St. Paul's day thus betided a prosperous year; snow or rain betokened a dear year, and therefore an unfruitful one; clouds foreboded great mortality among cattle; and winds were to be the forerunners of war. Several old translations of these lines into verse in French and English are met with; the following is one of the English versions:
If St. Paul's day be fair and clear,
It does betide a happy year;
But if it chance to snow or rain,
Then will be dear all kind of grain;
If clouds or mists do dark the skie,
Great store of birds and beasts shall die;
And if the winds do flie aloft,
Then war shall vexe the kingdome oft.
Other days in the month of January enjoyed at different times, and in different places, a similar reputation among the old prognosticators, but none of them were anything like so generally held and believed in as the day of the Conversion of St. Paul.
In the reign of Philip and Mary (1555), this day was observed in the metropolis with great processional state. In the Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London, we read that:
'on St. Paul's day there was a general procession with the children of all the schools in London, with all the clerks, curates, and parsons, and vicars, in copes, with their crosses; also the choir of St. Paul's; and divers bishops in their habits, and the Bishop of London, with his pontificals and cope, bearing the sacrament under a canopy, and four prebends bearing it in their gray autos; and so up into Leadenhall, with the mayor and aldermen in scarlet, with their cloaks, and all the crafts in their best array; and so came down again on the other side, and so to St. Paul's again. And then the king, with my lord cardinal, came to St. Paul's, and heard masse, and went home again; and at night great bonfires were made through all London, for the joy of the people that were converted likewise as St. Paul was converted.'
Down to about this time there was observed, in connection with St. Paul's Cathedral, a custom arising from an obligation incurred by Sir William Baud in 1375, when he was permitted to enclose twenty acres of the Dean's land, in consideration of presenting the clergy of the cathedral with a fat buck and doe yearly on the days of the Conversion and Commemoration of St. Paul.
'On these days, the buck and the doe were brought by one or more servants at the hour of the procession, and through the midst thereof, and offered at the high altar of St. Paul's Cathedral: after which the persons that brought the buck received of the Dean and Chapter, by the hands of their Chamberlain, twelve pence sterling for their entertainment; but nothing when they brought the doe. The buck being brought to the steps of the altar, the Dean and Chapter, appareled in copes and proper vestments, with garlands of roses on their heads, sent the body of the buck to be baked, and had the head and horns fixed on a pole before the cross, in their procession round about the church, till they issued at the west door, where the keeper that brought it blowed the death of the buck, and then the horns that were about the city answered him in like manner; for which they had each, of the Dean and Chapter, three and fourpence in money, and their dinner; and the keeper, during his stay, meat, drink, and lodging, and five shillings in money at his going away; together with a loaf of bread, having in it the picture of St. Paul.'
Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, first saw the light on the 25th January 1759 in a small cottage by the wayside near the Bridge of Doon, two miles from Ayr. A wonderful destiny was that of the peasant's babe born that day-a life of toil, imprudence, poverty, closed in early death, but to he followed by an afflatus of popular admiration and sympathy such as never before nor since attended a literary name in any country. The strains of Burns touch all hearts. He has put words together, as scarcely any writer ever did before him. His name has become a steno-graph for a whole system of national feelings and predilections. Other poets, after death, have a tablet in Westminster Abbey, and occasional allusions in critical writings. But when the centenary of Burns's birth arrives, it is festively celebrated in every town in the country; nay, wherever our language is spoken-alike in Federal America, in Canada, in Victoria, in Calcutta, in Hong Kong, in Natal-there is a pouring out of grateful sentiment in honour of Burns
BIRTH OF BURNS BY THOMAS MILLER
Upon a stormy winter night
Scotland's bright star first rose in sight;
Beaming upon as wild a sky
As ever to prophetic eye
Proclaimed, that Nature had on hand
Some work to glorify the land.
Within a lonely cot of clay,
That night her great creation lay.
Coila-the nymph who round his brow
Twined the red-berried holly-bough-
Her swift-winged heralds sent abroad,
To summon to that bleak abode
All who on Genius still attend,
For good or evil to the end.
They came obedient to her call
The immortal infant knew them all.
Sorrow and Poverty-sad pair
Came shivering through the wintry air:
Hope, with her calm eyes fixed on Time,
His crooked scythe hung with flakes of rime:
Fancy, who loves abroad to roam,
Flew gladly to that humble home:
Pity and Love, who, hand in hand,
Did by the sleeping infant stand:
Wit, with a harem-skarem grace,
Who smiled at Laughter's dimpled face:
Labour, who came with sturdy tread,
By high-souled Independence led:
Care, who sat noiseless on the floor;
While Wealth stood up outside the door,
Looking with scorn on all who came,
Until he heard the voice of Fame,
And then he bowed down to the ground:-
Fame looked on Wealth with eyes profound,
Then passed in without sign or sound.
Then Coila raised her hollied brow,
And said, 'Who will this child endow?'
Said Love, 'I'll teach him all my lore,
As it was never taught before;
Its joys and doubts, its hopes and fears,
Smiles, kisses, sighs, delights, and tears.'
Said Pity, 'It shall be my part
To gift him with a gentle heart.'
Said Independence, 'Stout and strong
I'll make it to wage war with wrong.'
Said Wit, 'He shall have mirth and laughter,
Though all the ills of life come after.'
'Warbling her native wood-notes wild,'
Fancy but stooped and kissed the child;
While through her fall of golden hair
Hope looked down with a smile on Care.
Said Labour, 'I will give him bread.'
'And I a stone when he is dead,'
Said Wealth, while Shame hung down her head.
'He'll need no monument,' said Fame;
'I'll give him an immortal name;
When obelisks in ruin fall,
Proud shall it stand above them all;
The daisy on the mountain side
Shall ever spread it far and wide;
Even the road-side thistle down
Shall blow abroad his high renown.'
Said Time, 'That name, while I remain,
Shall still increasing honour gain;
Till the sun sinks to rise no more,
And my last sand falls on the shore
Of that still, dark, and unsailed sea,
Which opens on Eternity.'
Time ceased: no sound the silence stirr'd,
Save the soft notes as of a bird
Singing a low sweet plaintive song,
Which murmuring Doon seemed to prolong,
As if the mate it fain would find
Had gone and 'left a thorn' behind.
Upon the sleeping infant's face
Each changing note could Coila trace.
Then came a ditty, soft and slow,
Of Love, whose locks were white as snow.
The immortal infant heaved a sigh,
As if he knew such love must die.
That ceased: then shrieks and sounds of laughter,
That seemed to shake both roof and rafter,
Floated from where Kirk Alloway
Half buried in the darkness lay.
A mingled look of fun and fear
Did on the infant's face appear.
There was a hush: and then uprose
A strain, which had a holy close,
Such as with Cotter's psalm is blended
After the hard week's labour's ended,
And dawning brings the hallowed day.
In sleep the infant seemed to pray.
Then there was heard a martial tread,
As if some new-born Wallace led
Scotland's armed sons in Freedom's cause.
Stern looked the infant in repose.
The clang of warriors died away,
And then 'a star with lessening ray'
Above the clay-built cottage stood;
While Ayr poured from its rolling flood
A sad heart-rending melody,
Such as Love chants to Memory,
When of departed joys he sings,
Of 'golden hours on angel wings'
Departed, to return no more.
Pity's soft tears fell on the floor,
While Hope spake low, and Love looked pale,
And Sorrow closer drew her veil.
Groans seemed to rend the infant's breast,
Till Coila whispered him to rest;
And then, uprising, thus she spake:
'This child unto myself I take.
All hail! my own inspired Bard,
In me thy native Muse regard
Around the sleeping infant's head
Bright trails of golden glory spread.
'A love of right, a scorn of wrong,'
She said, 'unto him shall belong;
A pitying eye for gentle woman,
Knowing ' to step aside is human;
'While love in his great heart shall be
A living spring of poetry.
Failings he shall have, such as all
Were doomed to have at Adam's fall;
But there shall spring above each vice
Some golden flower of Paradise,
Which shall, with its immortal glow,
Half hide the weeds that spread below;
So much of good, so little guile,
As shall make angels weep and smile,
To think how like him they might be
If clothed in frail humanity;
His mirth so close allied to tears,
That when grief saddens or joy cheers,
Like shower and shine in April weather,
The tears and smiles shall meet together.
A child-like heart, a god-like mind,
Simplicity round Genius twined:
So much like other men appear,
That, when he 's run his wild career,
The world shall look with wide amaze,
To see what lines of glory blaze
Over the chequered course he passed-
Glories that shall for ever last.
Of Highland hut and Lowland home,
His songs shall float across the foam,
Where Scotland's music ne'er before
Rang o'er the far-off ocean shore.
To shut of eve from early morn,
They shall be carolled mid the corn,
While maidens hang their heads aside,
Of Hope that lived, and Love that died
And huntsmen on the mountains steep,
And herdsmen in the valleys deep,
And virgins spinning by the fire,
Shall catch some fragment of his lyre.
And the whole land shall all year long
Ring back the echoes of his song.
The world shall in its choice records
Store up his common acts and words,
To be through future ages spread;
And how he looked, and what he said,
Shall in wild wonderment be read,
When coming centuries are dead.'
'And wear thou this,' 'she solemn said,
And bound the holly round' his ' head;
The polished leaves, and berries red,
Did rustling play;
And, like a passing thought, she fled
In light away.'.
It is amusing to learn that Burns, when just emerging from obscurity, jocularly anticipated that his birthday would come to be noted among other remarkable events. In a letter to his early patron, Gavin Hamilton, in 1786, he says: 'For my own affairs, I am in a fair way of becoming as eminent as Thomas à Kempis, or John Bunyan; and you may expect henceforth to see my birthday inscribed among the wonderful events, in the Poor Robin and Aberdeen Almanacks, along with the Black Monday and the Battle of Bothwell-bridge.'
It is an affecting circumstance that Burns, dying in poverty, and unable to remunerate his medical attendant in the usual manner, asked the doctor's acceptance of his pair of pistols as a memorial of their friendship. Dr. Maxwell, who proved a generous friend to the poor bard's surviving widow and children, retained these weapons till his death in 1834, after which they were preserved for some years by his sister. On her death, they were presented to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, in whose museum in Edinburgh they are now kept in an elegant coffer, but open to the inspection of the public.
EDWARD II OF ENGLAND
25th January 1327, is the date of the deposition of the silly king, Edward II, whose reign of twenty years had been little else than one continual wrangle regarding the worthless royal favourites, Gaveston and Despencer. Edward is remarkable in one respect, that, weak and pusillanimous himself, he was the son of one and father of another of the most vigorous of English monarchs. Wisdom, dignity, and every manly quality had fairly leaped over this hapless generation.
There is an authentic manuscript which gives an account of the expenses of Edward II during a part of his reign; and it contains striking evidence of his puerile character. There are repeated entries of small sums, disbursed to make good the losses which the king incurred in playing at cross and pile, which is neither more nor less than the pitch and toss of modern school-boys. He played at this game with the usher of his chamber, and he would borrow from his barber the money wherewith to play. He did not disdain to travel on the Thames, in a returned barge which had brought fagot to his court. There is a sum entered, as paid by the king's own hands, to James of St. Albans, who had danced before his highness upon a table, and made him laugh heartily; and another was conferred on Morris Ken of the Kitchen, who, in a hunt at Windsor, made the king laugh heartily by frequently tumbling off his horse. An elaborate history of the reign could not make us better appreciate the misfortune of the English people in being for twenty years under such a monarch.
MARRIAGE OF THE PRINCESS MARGARET OF ENGLAND
On St. Paul's day, 1502-3, there took place a marriage in the royal family of England, which has been attended with most important consequences to the welfare of the entire island. The Princess Margaret, eldest daughter of Henry VII, was then united at the manor of Richmond to King James IV of Scotland, as represented by his proxy, Patrick Earl of Bothwell. It was foreseen by the English king that this union might lead to that of the two kingdoms, which had so long been at enmity with each other; and when some of his council objected, that in this event England would become a province of Scotland, he spewed his deeper wisdom by remarking that it never could be so, as the smaller would ever follow the larger kingdom.
The young Queen of Scots was at this time only thirteen years and a quarter old; nevertheless, a learned Scotsman, Walter Ogilvy, who was present at the marriage, describes her as if she had already acquired all the graces, mental as well as bodily, of mature womanhood. She was 'decens, Urbana, sagax.' Beauty and modesty were united in her. She was of tall stature, had lively eyes, smooth arms, beautiful hands, golden hair, and a tongue enriched with various languages. Her complexion united the beauty of both the roses of her father and mother. Whether she walked or lay, stood or sat, or spoke, a grace attended her.
January 25, 1791, died the celebrated wit, George Selwyn, in the seventy-second year of his age.
The Earl of Carlisle, writing to George Selwyn from Trentham, Sept. 20, 1774, tells him that a man is about to be tried at the assizes in Carlisle for murder. His lordship adds, 'If you should happen to be with us at the time of the assizes, I will take care to get you a good place at the execution; and though our Tyburn may not have all the charms which that has where you was brought up and educated, yet it may be better than no Tyburn.'
Lord Carlisle here alludes to the singular taste of George Selwyn for attending executions, in order to watch the conduct of the criminal under his extraordinary circumstances; a propensity the more remarkable in him, that he was a man of the greatest benevolence and tenderness of nature, and the undisputed prince of the men of wit and humour of his day. It was perhaps to gratify the very benevolence of his nature, by giving it a hearty sensation, that he was so fond of looking upon the sufferings of evil-doers.
His friend Horace Walpole, writing in 1750, speaks of him as one 'whose passion it was to see coffins, corpses, and executions.' Walpole having spoken of one Arthur More, recently deceased, George instantly remarked the curious fact that More had had his coffin chained to that of his mistress. 'How do you know?' inquired Walpole in some surprise. 'Why,' replied Selwyn, 'I saw them the other day in a vault at St. Giles's.' 'He was walking this week,' says Walpole, 'in Westminster Abbey, with Lord Abergavenny, and met the man who shews the tombs. 'Oh, your servant, Mr. Selwyn; I expected to have seen you here the other day, when the old Duke of Richmond's body was taken up.' George had probably been out of town when the event happened.
The trial of the unfortunate rebel lords, in 1746, proved a rich treat for Selwyn. He attended most assiduously, and went fully into the spirit of the scene. Observing a Mrs. Bethel, who had what is called a hatchet face, he said, 'What a shame of her to turn her face to the prisoners before they are condemned!' Going to get a tooth extracted, he told the dentist he would drop his handkerchief for the signal. Some ladies rallied him about his want of feeling in having gone to see Lord Lovat's head cut off; Why,' said he, 'I made amends by going to the undertaker's to see it sewn on again.' And such was really the fact. He attended this last ceremony with an appearance of great solemnity, concluding the affair by calling out in the manner of the Lord Chancellor at the trial, 'My Lord Lovat, your lordship may rise!'
Henry, first Lord Holland, who, with all his faults as a statesman, possessed both wit and good nature, touched off the ruling passion of George Selwyn in the neatest manner when on his death-bed. Being informed that George had been inquiring for him, he said to his servant, 'The next time Mr. Selwyn calls, show hint up: if I am alive, I shall be delighted to see him; and if I am dead, he will be glad to see me.'
The story has been often told of George Selwyn, that he went to Paris, in 1756, on purpose to see the execution of Damien, for his attempt to assassinate Louis XV 'On the day of the execution, he mingled with the crowd, in a plain undress and bob-wig; when a French nobleman, observing the deep interest he took in the scene, and imagining, from the plainness of his attire, that he must be a person in the humbler ranks of life, chose to imagine that he must infallibly be a hangman. 'Eh, bien, monsieur,' he said, êtes-vous arrivé pour voir ce spectacle?' -'Oui, monsieur.' - 'Vous êtes bourreau?'-'Non, non, monsieur; je n'ai pas cette honneur; je ne suis qu'un amateur.'
HONOUR TO MAGISTRATES
On this day, in 1821, there were read before the Society of Antiquaries, some notes by Mr. John Adey Repton, on the custom which prevailed in the seventeenth century of erecting two ornamental posts beside the gates of chief magistrates. Of the examples presented by Mr. Repton, one may be here copied, being the posts erected beside the door of Thomas Pettys, Mayor of Norwich in 1592. This feature of old municipal usage is often alluded to by the contemporary dramatists. Thus, in Lingua, or a Combat of the Tongue and the five Senses for Superiority: a Pleasant Comedie, 1607, 4to, occurs the following passage:
Cornrnunis Sensus.-Crave my counsel, tell me what manner of man is he? Can he entertain a man into his house? Can he hold his velvet cap in one hand, and vail his bonnet with the other? Knows he how to become a scarlet gown? Hath he a pair of fresh posts at his door?
Phantastes.-He's about some hasty state matters; he talks of posts, methinks.
Corn. S. -Can he part a couple of dogs brawling in the street? Why, then, chose him Mayor, &c.'
In Beaumont and Fletcher's play of The Widow, is the following passage:
I'll love your door the better while I know it.
Widow.-A pair of such brothers were fitter for posts without door, indeed to make a show at a new-chosen magistrate's gate, than to be used in a woman's chamber.'
Similar posts were erected at the sheriff's gate, and used for the display of proclamations. In Rowley's play of A Woman Never Vexed, 1632, a character says:
'If e'er I live to see thee sheriff of London, I'll gild thy posts.'
A trace of this old custom is still to be found in Edinburgh, where it is a rule that a pair of gilded lamp-posts are always erected before the door of the Lord Provost.
THE AUTHORIZED VERSION OF THE BIBLE (Ordered in January, 1604)
The month of January is memorable as that of the celebrated Hampton Court Conference, held at the beginning of the reign of James I in England (1604), for the regulation of questions of religion, agitated by the violent opposition between the High Church party and the Puritans. Among other grievances brought forward on this occasion was the unsatisfactory state of the translations of the Bible then existing; and one of the most important and lasting results was the formation of the Authorized translation of the Scriptures which still remains in use in this country, and which was ordered by King James soon after the Conference separated. The history of the English versions of the Bible is a subject of interest to everybody.
There was no principle or doctrine in the Roman Catholic religion opposed to the translation of the Holy Scriptures. In fact, the Latin text of the Bible used by the Catholics, and known as the Vulgate, was itself only a translation; and it was translated into the languages of various countries without reluctance or hesitation. Among the Anglo-Saxons, Aldhelm is said to have translated the Psalms as early as the seventh century; and an Anglo-Saxon translation of the Psalms, partly in prose and partly in verse, is still preserved in the Imperial Library in Paris, and was printed at Oxford in 1835, under the editorial care of Mr. Benjamin Thorpe. The Anglo-Saxon translation of the Gospels, which has been ascribed to the ninth century, has also been printed; and a distinguished Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastic, Alfric, towards the close of the tenth century, translated into Anglo-Saxon a great part of the Old Testament, which is still preserved in manuscript.
The whole of the Scriptures are supposed to have been translated into Anglo-Norman, but detached portions only are preserved. An English harmony of the Gospels was compiled in verse in the beginning of the thirteenth century, by a man named Orm, who gave to it the title of Ormnlum, after his own name. Several versions of the Psalms were also written in early English, but the first translation. Of the entire Bible into English was that which was completed in the courte of the latter half of the fourteenth century, and which is known as Wycliffe's Bible, as being the work either of that reformer himself, or at least of his followers. There are two texts of this English version, differing considerably from each other-which are printed side by side in the edition in 3 vols. 4to edited by Forshall and Madden-and it must have been circulated very widely, from the great number of manuscript copies still in existence.
Though the mediaeval churchmen did not object to the Scriptures being translated, they had a strong objection to the communication of them to the vulgar. In this respect the publication of translations of the Bible before and after the invention of printing, presented totally different questions. A manuscript book was very expensive, could be multiplied but slowly, and could only be possessed by the wealthy. The translations, therefore, to which we have alluded, were mostly, no doubt, made for ecclesiastics them-selves, for abbesses and nuns, or for pious ladies of rank.
But the Wycliffites openly professed that their object in translating the Scriptures was to communicate them to the people, and even to the lowest orders, by reading them, and causing them to be read, in the vernacular tongue. The whole mass of the Romish clergy who were opposed to reform took the alarm, horrified at the idea of imparting religious knowledge to the people, whom they wished to keep in a condition of blind subjection to themselves, with which such knowledge was quite incompatible. The first attempt to proscribe the Wyclifrte translation was made in parliament in 1390, and was defeated by the influence of the Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt. But in 1408, the clergy, under Archbishop Arundel, succeeded in their object: Wycliffe's and every other translation of the Scriptures into English were prohibited by an act of Convocation; and all who were known or suspected to read them were subjected to bitter persecution, which continued without intermission until the reign of Henry VIII.
The English Reformers were quick at taking advantage of the new art of printing, and they soon entered into communication with their brethren on the Continent, where only they could find a free press. In the year 1526, an English translation of the New Testament was printed, it is said, at Antwerp, and copies were surreptitiously passed into England. This translation, which is said to have been made direct from the Greek original, was the work of William Tyndal, a canon of the then new foundation of Christ Church, Oxford, who had been obliged to leave his native country on account of his religious opinions, assisted by John Fry, or Fryth, and William Roy, who were both put to death as heretics. It was the first printed translation of any part of the Scriptures in English. The chiefs of the Catholic party in England seem to have been much. embarrassed with this book, and they attempted to meet the difficulty by buying up all the copies and burning them; and thus created an artificial sale, which enabled Tyndal to bring out another and more correct edition.
It was not till 1530, that Sir Thomas More, as Lord Chancellor, with the high ecclesiastics, issued a declaration against all English translations of the Scriptures; and that same year Tyndal printed his translation of the Pentateuch at Hamburg. He had now undertaken, with the assistance of another learned English Reformer, Miles Coverdale, a translation of the whole Bible; but in the middle of his labours he was suddenly arrested and thrown into prison by order of the Emperor, and his opinions were punished with death in 1536, the year of the first act for the dissolution of the English monasteries. In the previous year, the great work on which he had laboured with so much zeal had been completed. Miles Coverdale, who had been his assistant from the commencement, had continued the work alone after Tyndal's imprisonment; and this first English Bible was published in 1535, in a huge folio volume, believed from the character of the types to have been printed at Zurich, under the solo name of Coverdale. It was dedicated to King Henry VIII of England.
By this time the Reformation had made such was then carried to the greatest perfection, and the care of the printing was entrusted to Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch; but they were interrupted by the interference of the French clergy, who seized and burnt nearly the whole impression, and Grafton and Whitchurch were obliged to withdraw to London, where the printing was completed in the spring of 1539.
This book was sometimes called Cranmer's Bible, and sometimes spoken of as the 'Great Bible.' It was to it that reference was made in the royal proclamation of the following year, advances in England, that the King himself was induced to allow the Bible to be circulated in the language of the people; and early in the year 1536 the English clergy were enjoined by royal authority to place a Latin Bible and an English Bible in the choir of every church, where it could be freely read by the people.
The number of copies of Coverdale's Bible was insufficient to supply such a demand; and a new English Bible was now ordered to be printed under the direction of Cranmer, on which it is believed that Coverdale was the chief person employed. Leave was obtained from the King of France to print which enjoined the curates and parishioners of this Bible in Paris, where the typographic art every parish to provide themselves with the Bible of the largest size, under a penalty of forty shillings a month as long as they remained without it. At the latter end of Henry's reign, in consequence of a change in the religious policy of the Court, a check was again put on the free reading of the Scriptures, which was of course removed on the accession of Edward VI.
The persecutions of Queen Mary's reign drove the English Reformers into exile, when a number of the more zealous of them assembled at Geneva, and, while there, employed themselves upon a new translation of the Scriptures, with annotations, to which was given a strong Calvinistic colouring, and which contained political notions of a democratic character. The New Testament was first published, and was completed in 1557: the Old Testament followed in 1560. This is generally known as the Geneva Bible, and was in favour among the Puritan party and in Scotland. Elizabeth, at the beginning of her reign, determined to have an English translation of the Bible more in accordance with her views in religious matters; and she entrusted the direction of it to Archbishop Parker, who distributed the work among a certain number of learned men.
It was published in 1568, and, from the circumstance that there was a considerable number of bishops among the translators, it is often spoken of as the Bishops' Bible.
Such was the state of things at the time of the Hampton Court Conference. There were at least four different English translations of the Bible, which had gone through numerous editions, differing very much from each other, not only verbally, but very often in the interpretation of Holy Writ, and not one of which had any absolute authority over the other. Moreover, most of these older translations, in the Old Testament at least, had been made in a great measure from the Latin vulgate, the old Romanist version. It cannot be denied that one authorized and correct version of the Bible was greatly wanted, and this seems to have been allowed by all parties. It appears, however, that the proposal originated with the Puritans, and that it was their speaker in the Conference, Dr. Reynolds, who brought the subject before the King. James had no partiality for any of the translations which then existed; he is understood to have disliked the Geneva Bible, partly on account of its rather low tone on his favourite 'kingeraft;' it was a flattering idea that his reign in England should be inaugurated by a translation of the Scriptures from the original Hebrew. He, accordingly, embraced the proposal with eagerness, and drew up with his own pen the rules for translating.
In the course of the year 1604, James appointed a Commission of learned men selected from the two Universities and from Westminster, consisting at first of fifty-four individuals, but reduced subsequently to forty-seven. To each of these a portion of the Scriptures was given to translate. They began their labours in the spring of 1607, and completed them in three years; and then a select committee was appointed, consisting of two from each University, and two from Westminster, who met at Stationers' Hall, in London, to correct the work of the rest. The Bishop of Winchester (Bilson) and Dr. Myles Smith finally revised the whole, and prefixed the arguments to the several books. It is supposed that Bancroft, Bishop of London, had the chief direction of the whole work.
Thus was formed the Authorized Version of the Scriptures, which was published in 1611, and has ever since been the only English translation acknowledged by the Anglican Church. For the time at which it was written, it is truly a very wonderful work; but still it is
acknowledged by modern scholars to be far from perfect. During the two centuries and a half since the time of James I, Hebrew philology and the knowledge of biblical antiquities have made great advance; and there can be no doubt that the Authorized translation of the Bible contains many errors and many mistranslations, which it would be very desirable to see corrected. Many men of great learning have therefore, from time to time, asked for a new translation, or at least a revision of the present Authorized Version. But others, while acknowledging its imperfections, hold that they are none of them of a character to interfere with the utility of the present version among the mass of the people, and they shrink from the prospect of disturbing their religious convictions and feelings, with which this version has been so long and so closely interwoven.
A copy of the Authorized Version was, as before, placed in each parish church, that it might be accessible to all; and, usually, after the fashion of the old libraries, it was chained to the place. A sketch of such a Bible, yet surviving in Cumnor Church, Leicestershire, is given in the preceding page.