Born: Lord George Sackville, 1716; J. B. Bernadotte, king of Sweden, 1764, Pau; Thomas Noon Talfonrd, 1795.
Died: Henry Brigges, 1630, Oxford; Dr. E. Jenner, 1823, Berkeley; Francis Jeffrey, 1850, Edinburgh; Adam Gottlob Ochlenschliiger, Danish poet, 1850.
Feast Day: St. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, 166. St. Paula, widow, 404. St. Conon, bishop of Man, about 648.
Polycarpus is the earliest of the Christian fathers. An unusual and peculiar interest attaches to him, as one who might have known, if he did not actually know, the evangelist John. At Smyrna, of which he was bishop, Polycarp suffered martyrdom by burning, in 167. Of his writings there remains but an epistle to the Philippians, exhorting them to maintain the purity of the faith.
Conon is a Scotch saint of the seventh century. He was for some years Bishop of Man or of the Southern Isles, and his name continued to be remembered with veneration in the Highlandstill the Reformation. 'Claw for claw,' as Canon said to Satan, 'and the devil take the shortest nails,' is a proverb of the Highlanders, apparently referring to some legend of an encounter between the holy man and the great spiritual enemy of our race.
The first recognised editor of the Edinburgh Review was a man of small and slight figure, and of handsome countenance; of fine conversational powers, and, what will surprise those who think of him only as the uncompromising critic, great goodness of heart and domestic amiability. In his latter years, when past the psalmist-appointed term of life, he grew more than over tender of heart and amiable, praised nursery songs, patronised mediocrities, and wrote letters of almost childish gentleness of expression. It seemed to be the natural strain of his character let loose from some stern responsibility, which had made him sharp and critical through all his former life.
His critical writings had a brilliant reputation in their day. He was too much a votary of the regular old rhetorical style of poetry to be capable of truly appreciating the Lake school, or almost any others of his own contemporaries. The greatest mistake he made was as to Wordsworth, whose Excursion he saluted. (Edinburgh Review, November 1814) with an article beginning, 'This will never do;' a free and easy condemnation which, now contrasted with the reputation of Wordsworth, returns a fearful revenge upon the critic.
Jeffrey, however, is not without his companions in this kind of misfortune. Home, the author of Douglas, could not see the merit of Burns; and Kitson, while appreciating him as a poet generally, deemed his songs a failure. 'He does not,' says the savage Joseph, 'appear to his usual advantage in song: non omnia possumus.'
It would be a curious task, and something like a fair revenge upon the sanguinary brotherhood of Critics, to run over their works, and select the unhappy cases in which, from prejudice or want of natural penetration, they have passed judgments and made prophecies which now appear ludicrously inappropriate. Some unlucky pronouncements by unprofessional hands may mean-while be noted.
It was Waller who wrote of Paradise Lost on its first appearance:
'The old blind schoolmaster, John Milton, hath published a tedious poem on the fall of man; if its length be not considered a merit, it has no other.'
Walpole, led by political prejudice, on several occasions wrote disparagingly of Smollett. Humphry Clinker, which has ever been a favourite with the British public, is passed over ignominiously by the lord of Strawberry Hill, as 'a party novel written by the profligate hireling Smollett.'
We find a tolerably fair offset to the short-comings of Whig Review criticism, in the way in which the poetry of Hunt, Shelley, and Keats was treated in the early volumes of the Quarterly. In the noted article on the Endymion of Keats (April 1818), which Byron speaks of in his couplet:
Tis strange the mind, that very fiery particle,
Should let itself be snuffed out by an article
(which, however, was a mistake), the critic professes to have been utterly unable to read the poem, and adds:
'The author is a copyist of Mr. Hunt . . . more unintelligible, almost as rugged, twice as diffuse, and ten times more tiresome and absurd than his prototype.'
Died on the 26th January 1855, the Right Rev. David Low, Bishop of Ross and Argyll, in the Episcopal communion of Scotland. The principal reason for noticing this prelate is the fact that he was the last surviving clergyman in Scotland, who had, in his official character, acted upon scruples in behalf of the house of Stuart. At the time of the excellent bishop's entrance to the Church, in 1787-when he was ordained a deacon-the body to which he belonged omitted the prayer for the king and royal family from their service, being unostentatiously but firmly attached to the fortunes of the family which forfeited the British crown nearly a hundred years before; and it was not till after the death of the unfortunate Charles Edward, in January 1788, that they at length (not without some difficulty) agreed to pray for King George.
An obituary notice of Bishop Low speaks of him as follows:
'His appearance was striking-tall, attenuated, but active-his eye sparkling with intelligence, his whole look that of a venerable French abbe of the old regime. His mind was eminently buoyant and youthful, and his memory was a fount of the most interesting historical information, especially in connection with the Cavalier or Jacobite party, to which he belonged by early association and strong religious and political predilection. Born in a district (at that time) devoted to the cause of the Stuarts, almost under the shadow of Edzell Castle, the ancient stronghold of the Lindsays in Forfarshire, and having lived much from time to time in his early years in the West Highlands, among the Stuarts of Ballachulish and Appin, he had enjoyed familiar intercourse with the veterans of 1715 and 1745, and he detailed the minutest events and adventures of those times with a freshness and a graphic force which afforded infinite delight to his younger auditors. His traditional knowledge extended even to the wars of Claverhouse and Montrose.'
Those who know of bishops and their style of living only from the examples afforded by the English Protestant Church, will hear with surprise and incredulity of what we have to tell regarding Bishop Low. This venerable man, who had never been married, dwelt in a room of the old priory of Pittenweem, on the coast of Fife, where he ministered to a congregation for which a good diningroom would have furnished tolerably ample accommodation. He probably never had an income above a hundred a year in his life; yet of even this he spent so little, that he was able at the last to bequeath about eight thousand pounds for purposes connected with his communion. A salt herring and three or four potatoes often formed the home dinner of the Bishop of Ross and Argyll.
Even in Scotland, chiefly from the introduction of English clergymen of fortune into the episcopate, a bishop is beginning to be, typically, a tolerably well-off and comfortable-looking personage. It therefore becomes curious to recall what he, typically, was not many years ago. The writer has a perfect recollection of a visit he paid, in the year 1826, to the venerable Dr. Jolly, Bishop of Moray, who was esteemed as a man of learning, as well as a most devoted officer of his church. He found the amiable prelate living at the fishing town of Fraserburgh, at the north-east corner of Aberdeenshire, where he officiated to a small congregation. The bishop, having had a little time to prepare himself for a visitor, was, by the time the writer made his call, dressed in his best suit and his Sunday wig. In a plain two-story house, such as is common in Scotch towns, having a narrow wooden stair ascending to the upper floor, which was composed of two concealed apartments, a but and a ben, and in one of these rooms, the beautiful old man-for he was beautiful-sat, in his neat old-fashioned black suit, buckled shoes, and wig as white as snow, surrounded entirely by shelves full of books, most of them of an antique and theological cast. Ireneaus or Polyearp could not have lived in a style more simple. The look of the venerable prelate was full of gentleness, as if he had never had an enemy, or a difficulty, or anything else to contend with, in his life. His voice was low and sweet, and his conversation most genial and kindly, as towards the young and unimportant person whom he had admitted to his presence. The whole scene was a historical picture which the writer can never forget, or ever reflect on without pleasure. Bishop Jolly lived in a style nearly as primitive as Bishop Low; but the savings which consequently arose from his scanty income were devoted in a different way. His passion apart from the church was for books, of which he had gathered a wonderful quantity, including many that were of considerable value for their rarity.
The series of nonjurant English bishops, which began with those who refused to acknowledge William and Mary, including Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury, came to an end with the Rev. Mr. Gordon, who died on the 19th of November 1779. There was, however, a succession of separatists, beginning with one bishop, and which did not terminate till 1805.
SEVENTH SONS AND THEIR SEVENTH SONS
There has been a strong favour for the number Seven, from a remote period in the world's history. It is, of course, easy to see in what way the Mosaic narrative gave sanctity to this number in connection with the days of the week, and led to usages which influence the social life of all the countries of Europe. But a sort of mystical goodness or power has attached itself to the number in many other ways. Seven wise men, seven champions of Christendom, seven sleepers, seven-league boots, seven churches, seven ages of man, seven hills, seven senses, seven planets, seven metals, seven sisters, seven stars, seven wonders of the world,-all have had their day of favour; albeit that the number has been awkwardly interfered with by modern discoveries concerning metals, planets, stars, and wonders of the world.
Added to the above list is the group of Seven Sons, especially in relation to the youngest or seventh of the seven; and more especially still if this person happen to be the seventh son of a seventh son. It is now, perhaps, impossible to discover in what country, or at what time, the notion originated; but a notion there certainly is, chiefly in provincial districts, that a seventh son has something peculiar about him. For the most part, the imputed peculiarity is a healing power, a faculty of curing diseases by the touch, or by some other means.
The instances of this belief are numerous enough. There is a rare pamphlet called the Quack Doctor's Speech, published in the time of Charles II. The reckless Earl of Rochester delivered this speech on one occasion, when dressed in character, and mounted on a stage as a charlatan. The speech, amid much that suited that licentious age, but would be frowned down by modern society, contained an enumeration of the doctor's wonderful qualities, among which was that of being a 'seventh son of a seventh son,' and therefore clever as a curer of bodily ills. The matter is only mentioned as affording a sort of proof of the existence of a certain popular belief. In Cornwall, the peasants and the miners entertain this notion; they believe that a seventh son can cure the king's evil by the touch. The mode of proceeding usually is to stroke the part affected thrice gently, to blow upon it thrice, to repeat a form of words, and to give a perforated coin or some other object to be worn as an amulet.
At Bristol, about forty years ago, there was a man who was always called 'Doctor,' simply because he was the seventh son of a seventh son. The family of the Joneses of Muddfi, in Wales, is said to have presented seven sons to each of many successive generations, of whom the seventh son always became a doctor-apparently from a conviction that he had an inherited qualification to start with. In Ireland, the seventh son of a seventh son is believed to possess prophetical as well as healing power. A few years ago, a Dublin shopkeeper, finding his errand-boy to be generally very dilatory in his duties, inquired into the cause, and found that, the boy being a seventh son of a seventh son, his services were often in requisition among the poorer neighbours, in a way that brought in a good many pieces of silver.
Early in the present century, there was a man in Hampshire, the seventh son of a seventh son, who was consulted by the villagers as a doctor, and who carried about with him a collection of crutches and sticks, purporting to have once belonged to persons whom he had cured of lame-ness. Cases are not wanting, also, in which the seventh daughter is placed upon a similar pinnacle of greatness. In Scotland, the spae wife, or fortune-teller, frequently announces herself as the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, to enhance her claims to prophetic power. Even so late as 1851, an inscription was seen on a window in Plymouth, denoting that a certain doctress was 'the third seventh daughter,'-which the world was probably intended to interpret as the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter.
Sometimes this belief is mixed up with curious family legends. The Winchester Observer, a few years ago, gave an account of the 'Tichborne Dole,' associated with one of the very oldest Hampshire families. The legend tells that, at some remote period, a Lady Mabella, on her death-bed, besought her lord, the Tichborne of those days, to supply her with the means for bequeathing a gift or dole of bread to any one who should apply for it annually on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin. Sir Roger promised her the proceeds of as much land as she could go over while a brand or billet of a certain size was burning: she was nearly bedridden, and nearly dying; and her avaricious lord believed that he had imposed conditions which would place within very narrow limits the area of land to be alienated. But he was mistaken. A miraculous degree of strength was given to her. She was carried by her attendants into a field, where she crawled round many goodly acres. A field of twenty-three acres, at Tichborne, to this day, bears the name of the Crawl. The lady, just before her death, solemnly warned her family against any departure from the terms of the dole; she predicted that the family name would become extinct, and the fortunes impoverished, if the dole were ever withdrawn. The Tichborne dole, thus established, was regarded as the occasion of an annual festival during many generations.
It was usual to bake fourteen hundred loaves for the dole, of twenty-six ounces each, and to give two pence to any applicant in excess of the number that could be then served. This custom was continued till about the middle of the last century; when, under pretence of attending Tichborne Dole, vagabonds, gipsies, and idlers of every description, assembled from all quarters, pilfering throughout the neighbourhood; and at last, in 1796, on account of the complaints of the magistrates and gentry, it was discontinued. This gave great offence to many who had been accustomed to receive the dole. And now arose a revival of old traditions. The good Lady Mabella, as the legend told, had predicted that, if the dole should be withheld, the mansion would crumble to ruins; that the family name would become extinct through the failure of male heirs; and that this failure would be occasioned by a generation of seven sons being followed by a generation of seven daughters. Singularly enough, the old house partially fell down in 1803; the baronet of that day had seven sons; the eldest of these had seven daughters; and the owner of the family estates became a Doughty instead of a Tichborne If this story be correctly told, it is certainly a very tempting one for those who have a leaning towards the number seven.
France, as well as our own country, has a belief in the Seventh Son mystery. The Journal de Loiret, a French provincial newspaper, in 1854 stated that, in Orleans, if a family has seven sons and no daughter, the seventh is called a Marcou, is branded with a fleur-de-lis, and is believed to possess the power of curing the king's evil. The Marcou breathes on the part affected, or else the patient touches the Marcou's fleur-de-lis. In the year above-named, there was a famous Marcou in Orleans named Foulon; he was a cooper by trade, and was known as 'le beau Marcou.' Simple peasants used to come to visit him from many leagues in all directions, particularly in Passion week, when his ministrations were believed to be most efficacious. On the night of Good Friday, from midnight to sunrise, the chance of cure was supposed to be especially good, and on this account four or five hundred persons would assemble. Great disturbances hence arose; and as there was evidence, to all except the silly dupes themselves, that Foulon made use of their superstition to enrich himself, the police succeeded, but not without much opposition, in preventing these assemblages.
In some of the States of Germany there used formerly to be a custom for the reigning prince to stand sponsor to a seventh son (no daughter intervening) of any of his subjects. Whether still acted upon is doubtful; but there was an incident lately which bore on the old custom in a curious way. A West Hartlepool newspaper stated that Mr. J. V. Curths, a German, residing in that busy colliery town, became, toward the close of 1857, the father of one of those prodigies -a seventh son. Probably he himself was a Saxe Gothan by birth; at any rate he wrote to the Prince Consort, reminding him of the old German custom, and soliciting the honour of his Royal Highness's sponsorship to the child. The Prince was doubtless a little puzzled by this appeal, as he often must have been by the strange applications made to him. Nevertheless, a reply was sent in the Prince's name, very complimentary to his countryman, and enclosing a substantial souvenir for the little child; but the newspaper paragraph is not sufficiently clear for us to be certain whether the sponsorship really was assented to, and, if so, how it was performed.
THREE WONDERFUL THINGS
Sir James Stewart, of Coltness, was accustomed. to say, that after having lived fifty years, and gone through almost all the geographical and literary world, three things only had surmounted his most sanguine expectations-The Amphitheatre at Verona, the Church of St. Peter's at Rome, and Mr. Pitt in the House of Commons. Smoking was formerly forbidden among school-masters.
In the rules of the school at Chigwell, founded in 1629, it was declared that 'the master must be a man of sound religion, neither Papist nor Puritan, of a grave behaviour, and sober and honest conversation, no tippler or haunter of alehouses, and no puffer of tobacco.'
'To the good.'-We find this homely phrase in the speech of Charles I to the House of Commons on 'The Arrest of the Five Members,' as follows: 'Whatsoever I have done in favour and to the good,' &c.