Born: John Horne Tooke, political character, author of the Diversions of Purley, 1736, Westminster.
Died: John Marston, dramatist, 1634 (?); Roger Gale, learned antiquary, 1744, Scruton, Yorkshire; Lady Miller, 1781; Charles Barbaroux, Girondist politician, guillotined, 1793; William Smellie, naturalist, miscellaneous writer, 1795, Edinburgh; Thomas Sandby, R.A., 1798; J. C. L. de Sismondi, historian, 1842, near Geneva; Louis Buonaparte, ex-king of Holland, 1846.
Feast Day: Saints Agoard and Aglibert, martyrs, near Paris, about 400; St. Prosper of Aquitain, confessor, 463; St. Maximus, Bishop of Turin, confessor, 5th century; St. Melee, bishop and confessor in Scotland, 7th century; St. Adelbert of Northumberland, confessor, about 740; St. William of Monte-Vergine, 1142.
LADY MILLER-BATHEASTON POETICS
Lady Miller of Batheaston was a literary amateur at a time when few women addressed the public. She was, moreover, a woman of warm emotional nature, of some taste, and even of a certain degree of talent. In company with her husband, Sir John, she made a tour of Italy, and wrote an account of it, which appeared under the modest title of Letters written during a Tour of Italy by an Englishwoman. On returning to their home at Batheaston, this amiable pair of enthusiasts brought with them an elegant antique vase, which they deposited on an altar in their saloon. The apartment was formally dedicated to Apollo, Lady Miller taking upon herself the august office of high priestess, the vase itself being considered as the shrine of the deity. A general invitation was then issued to all votaries of fashion and poetry to assemble in the temple twice a week in honour of the son of Latona. As Batheaston was but a suburb of Bath, it may be supposed that the invitation was well responded to; for, besides the mental gratification about to be described, an excellent collation always concluded the ceremonies.
The worship of Apollo was conducted by each candidate for fame dropping a votive offering, in the form of a short piece of poetry, into the urn, as the whole assemblage marched round it in solemn procession. A lady was deputed to take the pieces one by one out of the urn, and hand them to a gentleman, who read them aloud. The merits of the poems were then considered, and the prizes adjudged, the blushing authors of the four best compositions being presented to the high-priestess, Lady Miller, and by her crowned with myrtles, amidst the plaudits of the company.
The poetry was no doubt very poor, and the whole affair rather namby-pambyish; but it certainly was much more harmless than many of the fashionable follies of the day. The meetings lasted for several years, till at length they were put an end to by a most unwarrantable breach of good manners and hospitable confidence. Some unknown person disgracefully and maliciously contaminated the sacred urn with licentious and satirical compositions, to the great annoyance of the ladies present, and the chagrin of the host and hostess. The urn was thenceforth closed, and the meetings were discontinued for ever. Of the more legitimate kind of satire on the Bathcaston meetings, freely indulged in by the wits of the day, the following is a good specimen:
Addressed to Lady Miller, on the Urn at Batheaston
Miller, the Urn in ancient time, 'tis said,
Held the collected ashes of the dead:
So thine, the wonder of these modern days,
Stands open night and day for lifeless lays.
Leave not unfinished, then, the well-formed plan,
Complete the work thy classic taste began;
And oh, in future, ere thou dost unurn them,
Remember first to raise a pile, and burn them.
JOHN HORNE TOOKE
This person was looked upon as one of the political pests of his era. A renegade priest, who openly scoffed at his former calling, and who led that kind of life which is called in England 'not respectable,' he could not well be much esteemed as a private citizen, notwithstanding the learning and ingenuity of his own generally admired work, The Diversions of Purley. It is, however, rather startling to reflect that all the public questions on which Mr. Tooke's opinions were deemed mischievous have since been settled in his favour. His opposition to the American war, for which he was fined and imprisoned, is now fully sanctioned by the general opinion of his countrymen. His advocacy of a reform of the House of Commons-which by the way he stultified sadly by sitting for Old Sarum-must be presumed to have received the stamp of public presumed since the measure was carried only twenty years after his death. He was the first prominent Englishman to proclaim the advantages of free-trade; was, it might almost be said, the father of the modern doctrine on that subject, and was for this one heresy perhaps more ridiculed and condemned than for any of the rest.
And yet we have seen this social heresy established, and that with such triumphantly happy results, that its enemies were in a very few years silenced, and its maxims beginning to be received and acted upon in nearly every civilized country, excepting America, where Mr. Tooke would doubtless have expected it to be first taken by the hand. One cannot thus trace the history of Mr. Tooke's opinions without feeling how power-fully it speaks as a lesson of toleration.
The equivocal name of Mr. Tooke's great work is said to have led to some queer results. The committee of a village library at Canonmills, near Edinburgh, ordered it, on its publication, as an entertaining popular work, and were surprised when they found themselves in possession of a solid quarto full of profound etymological disquisitions. Mr. Tooke is described by Samuel Rogers, who knew him intimately, as a charming companion.