Born: Henry Cromwell (N. S.), 1627.
Died: Sweyn (of Denmark), 1014; John of Gaunt, 1399; Charles X of Sweden, 1660; Sir Thomas Lombe, 1738; Richard Nash (Bath), 1761; John Beckmann, 1811, Gottingen; Admiral Strachan, 1828.
Feast Day: St. Blaine, bishop of Sebaste, 316. St. Auscharius, archbishop of Hamburg and Bremen, 865. St. Wereburge, patroness of Chester, 699. St. Margaret of England, 12th century.
Wereburge was one of the earlier and more celebrated of the Anglo-Saxon saints, and was not only contemporary with the beginning of Christianity in Mercia, but was closely mixed up with the first movement for the establishment of nunneries in England. Her father, Wulfhere, king of the Mercians, though nominally a Christian, was not a zealous professor, but, under the influence of his queen, all his children were earnest and devout believers. These children were three princes, - Wulfhad, Rufinus, and Keured,-and one daughter, Wereburge. The princess displayed an extraordinary sanctity from her earliest years, and, though her great beauty drew round her many suitors, she declared her resolution to live a virgin consecrated to Christ. Among those who thus sought her in marriage was the son of the king of the West Saxons; but she incurred greater danger from a noble named Werbode, a favourite in her father's court, who was influenced, probably, by ambition as much as by love. At this time there are said to have been already five bishops' sees in Mereia,-Chester, Lichfield, Worcester, Lincoln, and Dorchester; and to that of Lichfield, which was nearest to the favourite residence of King Wulfhere, near Stone, in Staffordshire, St. Chad (Ceadda) had recently been appointed. It appears that Chad had an oratory in the solitude of the forest, where he spent much of his time; and that Wulfhere's two sons Wulfhad and Rufinus, while following their favourite diversion, discovered him there. The legend, which is not quite consistent, represents them as having been pagans down to that time, and as being converted by Chad's conversation.
Werbode, also, is said to have been a perverse pagan, and, according to the legend, his influence lied led Wulfhere to apostatise from Christianity. The king approved of Werbode as a husband for Wereburge, but he was stoutly opposed by the queen and the two young princes; and the royal favourite, believing that the two latter were the main obstacles to his success, and having obtained information of their private visits to St. Chad, maligned them to their father, and obtained an order from King Wulfhere for putting them to death. This barbarous act was no sooner accomplished, than Werbode was poisoned by an evil spirit, and died raving mad; while King Wulfhere, overcome with deep repentance, returned to Christianity, and became renowned for his piety.
Wereburge now, with her father's consent, became a nun, and entered the monastery of Ely, which had been but recently founded, and which was then governed by her cousin Etheldrida. As a nun of Ely, Wereburge soon became celebrated for her piety, and, according to the legend, her sanctity was made manifest by numerous miracles. Ethelred, Wulfhere's brother, succeeded him on the throne of the Mercians in 675; and one of his first cares was to call his niece Wereburge from Ely, and entrust to her care the establishment of nunneries in Mercia. Within a very short time, assisted by his munificence, she founded religious houses for nuns at Trentham and Hanbury (near Tutbury), in Staffordshire, and at Wedon in Northampton-shire, of all which she was superior at the same time. She died at Trentham, on the 3rd of February, 699, having declared her will that her body should be buried at Hanbury; when the people of Trentham attempted to detain it by force, those of Hanbury were aided by a miracle in obtaining possession of it, and carried it for interment to their church. Years after-wards, when the Danes ravaged this part of theisland, the body of St Wereburge was carried for safety from Hanbury to Chester, and deposited in the abbey church there (now the cathedral), of which she henceforth became the patroness.
Such is the history of St Wereburge as we gather it partly from tolerably authentic history, but more largely from the legend. The latter was set forth in English verse early in the sixteenth century, by a monk of Chester named Henry Bradshaw, whose book was printed in a black-letter volume, now very rare, by Pynson, in 1521. Bradshaw's verses are too chill to be worth quotation as specimens of old. English poetry, and the posthumous miracles he relates are certainly not worth repeating. There is one, however, which gives us such a curious picture of the proceedings of the citizens when a mediaeval town was on fire, and bears also such curious points of resemblance to the description of the confusion in London at the great fire of 1666, that, as shewing how little progress had been made during the period between the time of Henry Bradshaw and the reign of Charles II, we are tempted to give some verses from it. Some houses had accidentally taken fire while the inhabitants were at their devotions in the churches:
This fearefull fire encreased more and more,
Piteously wastyng hors, chambre, and hall.
The citizens were redy their cite to succour,
Shewed all their diligence and labour continuall;
Some cried for water, and some for hookes dyd call;
Some used other engins by crane and policy;
Some pulled downe howses afore the fire truly.
'Other that were impotent mekely gan praye
Our blessed Lorde on them to have pit'e
Women and children cried, 'Out and waile away!'
Beholdyng the daunger and perill of the cit'e.
Prestes made hast divine service to suppl'e [complete]
Redy for to succour their neyghbours in distree
(As charit'e required), and helpe their hevyues.
'the fire contyuned without any cessynge,
fervently flaiuyng ever contynuall,
From place to place mervaylously rennyng [running],
As it were tynder consumyng toure and wall.
The citizens sadly laboured vaync all;
By the policie of man was founde no remedy
To cesse [stop] the fire so fervent and myghty.
Many riall [royal] places fell adowne that day,
Riche marchauntes hoses brought to distraction;
Churches and chapels went to great decay.
That tyme was burnt the more [greater]
part of the towne;
And to this present day is a famous opinion
Howe a mighty churche, a mynstre of saynt Michaell,
That season was bruit and to ruyne fell.'
The citizens, finding themselves powerless to put out the fire, addressed their prayers to St Wereburge, and the monks then brought out her shrine, and carried it in procession through the flaming streets. This, it was believed, stopped the progress of the conflagration.
It may be well to state that this curious poem has been reprinted by the Chetham Society.
JOHN OF GAUNT
Edward the Third's fourth son, John, born at Ghent, or, as it was then spelt, Gaunt, during his father's expedition to Flanders, in February 1340, and called from that circumstance, John of Gaunt, has obtained a greater name amongst celebrated princes than his own merits would perhaps justify, probably in some measure from his inheriting the popularity of his elder and greater brother, the Black Prince.
John, when two years old, was created Earl of Richmond. After the death of the great warrior, Henry Duke of Lancaster, in 1360, John of Gaunt, who had married his daughter the princess Blanche, was raised by his father, King Edward, to that dukedom. In the adventurous expedition which the Black Prince made into Spain in 1367, his brother John accompanied him. Two years later, accompanying the Black Prince on a march which he made through France to the English possessions in the south, John took the command of the army, on his brother being obliged by the state of his health to return to England. Immediately afterwards John of Gaunt married the Spanish princess Constance, eldest daughter of Don Pedro, whom he had first seen at Bordeaux in 1367; and, as her father had been murdered by his rival, the usurper Don Erique, the Duke of Lancaster assumed in his wife's right the title of King of Castile and Leon. In the continuous wars with France which followed, John of Gaunt was a brave but not a successful commander, and they were put an end to by the truce of 1374.
The Black Prince died on the 8th of June 1376, two years after this peace. Since his return to England, he had espoused the popular cause against his father's government, and thus became a greater favourite than ever with the nation. His brother of Lancaster, on the contrary, was unpopular, and supported the abuses of the court. After his death, John of Gaunt became all powerful in the parliament, and high in favour with his father the king; but in his hostility to the opposition which had been supported by the Black Prince, he quarrelled violently with the Church, and especially with William of Wickham, Bishop of Winchester, whom he persecuted with inveterate hatred.
It is believed that the Duke's hostility to the bishops was the main cause of the support he gave to John Wycliffe, the great Church reformer, by which he certainly did good service to the English Reformation in its first beginning, and gained popularity among the Lollards. But even here he proceeded with the intemperance which especially marked his character. The prelates, provoked by the encouragement thus openly given to innovators in Church doctrines and government, cited Wycliffe to appear in St Paul's Church, before Courtenay, Bishop of London, to answer for his opinions. He came there on the 19th of February 1377, supported by the Duke of Lancaster and the Lord Henry Percy, Marshal of England, in person, with a formidable array of knights.
The bishop was highly offended by this bold advocacy of men who came there to be tried as heretics, and high words passed between him and the Duke, who is said to have threatened 'to pull down the pride of him, and of all the bishops of England,' and to have talked of dragging him out of the church by the hair of his head.
A great crowd of citizens, who were present, spewed an inclination to take part with the bishop, and, further irritated by some proceedings in parliament which threatened their municipal rights, they rose tumultuously next morning, and rushing first to the house of the Marshal, broke into it, and committed various acts of violence. Not, however, finding Lord Henry Percy there, they hastened to the Savoy, the palace of the Duke of Lancaster, where 'a priest chancing to meete them, asked of some, what that business meant. Whereunto he was answered, that they went to take the Duke and the Lord Percy, that they might be compelled to deliver to them Sir Peter de la More, whome they unjustly kept in prison. The priest sayde that Peter de la More was a traytour to the king, and was worthie to be hanged. With which words they all cryed,
'This is Percy! this is the traytour of England! his speech bewrayeth him, though hee bee disguised in apparel.' Then ranne they all upon him, striving who should give him his deaths wound, and after they had wounded him, they caryed him to prison, where he dyed.'
The Bishop of London now arrived and appeased the rioters, but not till the great courtiers against whom their wrath had been excited were in great terror. The Duke and the Lord Henry Percy happened to be dining with a Flemish merchant named John of Ypres;
'but the Londoners knew it not, for they thought that he and the duke had beene at the Savoy, and therefore with all hast posted thither. But one of the dukes knights seeing these things, in great haste came to the place where the duke was, and, after that he had knocked and could not get in, hee sayd to Haverland the porter, 'If thou love my lord and thy life, open the gate I' with which wordes hee got entrey, and with great feare hee telles the duke that without the gate were infinite numbers of armed men, and, unlesse hee tooke great heede, that day should bee his last. With which words, when the duke heard them, he leapt so hastily from his oysters, that he hurt both his legges against the fourme. Wine was offered to his oysters, but hee would not drinke for haste. Hee fledde with his fellow Syr Henry Percy, no maniac following them, and, entring the Thamis, never stinted rowing untill they carne to a house neere the manor of Kenington (besides Lambeth), where at that tyme the princesse was, with the young prince, before whom he made his complaint.'
The Londoners were summoned before the King, who effected a reconciliation between them and the Duke; but, old Stow adds in his quaint manner,
'in the meane space some men ceased not to make rymes in reproeh of the duke, and to fasten them in divers places of the city, whereby the greater fury of the people might be kindled, the dukes flame blotted, and his name had in destestation.'
This was one of the last public audiences given by King Edward III, who died on the 21st of June following. At the beginning of the following reign, the hostile feeling between the Londoners and John of Gaunt continued, but his power had greatly declined, and for a while he took little part in public business.
In Wat Tyler's rebellion, when the insurgents had obtained possession of London, they proclaimed the Duke of Lancaster as one of the arch-traitors, and burnt his palace of the Savoy to the ground. John of Gaunt was at this time in Scotland, employed in a diplomatic mission. He had not long returned from a hostile expedition to France, the ill success of which had increased his unpopularity. From this time forward the Duke was involved in frequent quarrels with his nephew the young king, and they became more and more difficult to reconcile, until at last Richard was glad to get rid of him by allowing him to carry an army of ten thousand men to Spain in order to recover by force the kingdom of Castile. He landed at Corunna in the month of July 1385, and marched through Galicia into Portugal, where the King of Portugal not only joined him with an army, but married Philippa, John of Gaunt's eldest daughter by his first wife. He was at first successful against the Spaniards, but eventually having lost the greater part of his troops by famine and disease, he was obliged to make his retreat into Guienne, and was glad to conclude a treaty with the de facto King of Castile, by which John of Gaunt abandoned all his claim to the throne of Castile and Leon, in consideration of a large sum of money, and of the marriage of Henry Prince of the Asturias, the heir of Castile, with his daughter by his second wife.
On the return of the Duke of Lancaster from the Continent, he appears to have become suddenly popular, perhaps on account of his hostility to his nephew's favourites. He had been always accused of aiming at the English crown, and of a design to supplant the young King Richard; and it is said that he incurred Richard's final displeasure, by pressing the king too urgently to acknowledge his son Henry of Bolingbroke, heir to the throne. From this time John of Gaunt lived retired from court until his death, which occurred at Ely House, in Holborn, on the 3rd of February 1399. It is hardly necessary to add, that within a few weeks afterwards his son became King of England, as Henry IV.
This extraordinary man, to whose amenities the city of Bath owes so much, was born at Swan-sea, in 1673; educated at Carmarthen School, and thence sent to Jesus College, Oxford, where his college life was mostly marked by his assiduity in intrigue. He next purchased for himself a pair of colours in the army, which, however, he soon quitted. He then entered himself at the Temple, to stucly for the law. but led so gay a town life without any visible means of supporting it, that his companions suspected him of being a highwayman.
Disgusted at these suspicions, Nash retired to Bath, then one of the poorest and meanest cities in England. It had its public amusements for the company who flocked there to drink the Bath waters, consisting chiefly of a band of musicians, who played under some fine old trees, called the Grove. In 1701, Nash was appointed, 'master of the ceremonies,' and immediately removed the music to the Pump-room. His laws were so strictly enforced that he was styled 'King of Bath:' no rank would protect the offender, nor dignity of station condone a breach of the laws. Nash desired the Duchess of Queensberry, who appeared at a dress ball in an apron of pointlace, said to be worth 500 guineas, to take it off, which she did, at the same time desiring his acceptance of it; and when the Princess Amelia requested to have one dance more after 11 o'clock, Nash replied that the laws of Bath, like those of Lycurgus, were unalterable.
Gaming ran high at Bath, and frequently led to disputes and resort to the sword, then generally worn by well-dressed men. Swords were, therefore, prohibited by Nash in the public rooms; still, they were worn in the streets, when Nash, in consequence of a duel fought by torchlight, by two notorious gamesters, made the law absolute, 'That no swords should, on any account, be worn in Bath.' He also wrote certain 'Rules, by general consent determined,' to be observed at all public places of amusement: these he concluded as follows
N.B.--Several men of no character, old women, and young ones of questionable reputation, are great authors of lies in this place, being of the sect of levellers.'
Nash was a sleeping partner in one of the principal gambling-houses in Bath; consequently, his life was chequered with vicissitudes. In 1732, he possessed six fine black coach-horses, which were so well matched and paced so well in full trot, that it appeared as if one horse drew the carriage. He kept a coachman, postilion, two footmen in livery, a gentleman out of livery, and a running footman. Many instances of Nash's benevolence are recorded. He gave away his money freely. A broken gamester, observing him one day win two hundred guineas at picquet, and put the money into his pocket with indifference, exclaimed, 'How happy that money would make me!' Nash, overhearing this, placed the money in his hand, saying, 'Go, then, and be happy!'
Of Nash's gambling life some expiatory anecdotes are related. The Earl of T- when a young man, being fond of play, was desirous to have the King of Bath' for his opponent, for whom, however, he was no match. Nash, after winning from him several trifling stakes, resolved to attempt his cure. Accordingly, he engaged his lordship one evening to a serious amount; and having first won all his ready money then the title-deeds of his estates, and finally the very watch in his pocket and the rings on his fingers, Nash read him a lecture on the flagrant impropriety of attempting to make money by gambling, when poverty could only be pleaded in justification of such conduct. He then returned him all his winnings, at the same time exacting from him a promise that he would never play again. Not less generously did Nash behave to an Oxford student, who had come to spend the long vacation at Bath. This greenhorn, who also affected to be a gamester, was lucky enough to win a large sum of money from Nash, and after the game was ended was invited by him to supper. 'Perhaps,' said Nash, 'you think I have asked you for the purpose of securing my revenge; but I can assure you that my sole motive in requesting your company is to set you on your guard, and to entreat you to be warned by my experience, and to shun play as you would the devil. This is strange advice for one like me to give; but I feel for your youth and inexperience, and am convinced that if you do not stop where you now are, you will infallibly be ruined.' Nash was right. A few nights afterwards, having lost his entire fortune at the gaming table, the young man blew his brains out!
The Corporation of Bath so highly respected Nash, that the Chamber voted a marble statue of him, which was erected in the Pump-room, between the busts of Newton and Pope; this gave rise to a stinging epigram by Lord Chesterfield, concluding with these lines:
The statue placed these busts between
Gives satire all its strength;
Wisdom and Wit are little seen,
But Folly at full length.
Except a few months annually passed in super-intending the amusements at Tunbridge, Nash lived at Bath until his health was worn out; and after one of Nature's serious warnings, he expired at his house in St. John's-place, on the 3rd of February, 1761, aged eighty-seven years. He was buried in the Abbey Church with great ceremony: a solemn hymn was sung by the charity-school children, three clergymen preceded the coffin, the pall was supported by aldermen, and the Masters of the Assembly Rooms followed as chief mourners; while the streets were filled and the housetops covered with spectators, anxious to witness the respect paid to the venerable founder of the prosperity of the city of Bath.
SURRENDER OF HUME CASTLE
Under the date February 3, 1651, we have, in Whitlocke's Memoriais, intelligence of the siege of Hume Castle in Berwickshire, by Colonel Fenwick, an officer of Cromwell's army. This seat of a once powerful family occupied a commanding position at the western extremity of the great plain of the Merse. On its being summoned by Colonel Fenwick to surrender to Cromwell (who had recently beaten the Scots at Dunbar and overrun nearly the whole of Scotland south of the Forth), the governor answered, 'That he knew not Cromwell, and for his castle it was built upon a rock.' Four days later, there was intelligence in London, that Colonel Fenwick was playing with his guns upon Hume Castle, and that the governor sent this letter to him:
I William of the Wastle
Am now in say castle,
And awe the dogs in the town
Shand garre me gang down.
So Whitlocke prints or misprints the governor's brave answer, which in reality was only a somewhat confused version of a rhyme used by boys in one of their games. This sort, as practised to the present day in Scotland, is as follows. One of the party takes his station upon a large stone, heap of sand, rubbish, or any other materials, with a handkerchief in his hand, and cries out, as a defiance to his companions:
I Willie Wastle
Stand in my castle,
And a' the dogs in the town
I'll no ding Willie Wastle down.
They assail him, trying to drive him from his position, while he endeavours to repel them with the handkerchief. Any one who succeeds in driving him off, takes the vacated position, and seeks to maintain it in the same manner; and so on. The quaint act of the governor in adopting this defiance against the Cromwellian officer, has been the means of certifying to us that the antiquity of the boy's game is not less than two centuries.
The governor-whose name we learn from another source to have been Thomas Cockburn-appears to have made a resistance in conformity with his answer to the English commander; and it is not till three days after, that Whitlocke records the great execution which the mortar pieces had done against Hume Castle. The shot had made great breaches and spoilt many rich goods, and Fenwick was preparing for a storm, when the governor beat a parley. 'Fenwick refused to treat unless they would presently surrender upon quarter for life; which they did; and Fenwick appointed some officers to look to the equal sharing of the goods among his soldiers; only the governor's lady had liberty to carry out some of her goods and bedding.'''
The rhyme of Willie Wastle was used later in the century with reference to another public event. Mr. William Veitch, a zealous Presbyterian clergyman who had been persecuted under the Stuarts, but after the Revolution became a prominent minister under the new establishment, is stated to have preached one day at Linton in Roxburghshire, when it pleased him to make allusion to the late episcopal frame of church government. 'Our bishops,' he said, 'had for a long time thought themselves very secure, like
Willie, Willie Wastle,
I am in my castle;
A' the dogs in the town
Dare not ding me down.
Yea, but there is a doggie in heaven that has dung them all down.'
ST. BLAIZE'S DAY
St. Blasius is generally represented as bishop of Sebaste in Armenia, and as having suffered martyrdom in the persecution of Licinius in 316. The fact of iron combs having been used in tearing the flesh of the martyr appears the sole reason for his having been adopted by the woolcombers as their patron saint. The large flourishing communities engaged in this business in Bradford and other English towns, are accustomed to hold a septennial jubilee on the 3rd of February, in honour of Jason of the Golden Fleece andSt. Maize; and, not many years ago, this fete was conducted with considerable state and ceremony. First went the masters on horseback, each bearing a white sliver; then the masters' sons on horseback; then their colours; after which came the apprentices, on horseback, in their uniforms. Persons representing the king and queen, the royal family, and their guards and attendants, followed. Jason, with his golden fleece and proper attendants, next appeared. Then came Bishop BLAIZE in full canonicals, followed by shepherds and shepherdesses, woolcombers, dyers, and other appropriate figures, some wearing wool wigs. At the celebration in 1825, before the procession started, it was ad-dressed by Richard Fawcett, Esq., in the following lines suitable to the occasion:
Hail to the day, whose kind auspicious rays
Deigned first to smile on famous Bishop Blaize
To the great author of our combing trade,
This day's devoted, and clue honour's paid;
To him whose fame through Britain's isle resounds,
To him whose goodness to the poor abounds;
Long shall his name in British annals shine,
And grateful ages offer at his shrine!
By this our trade are thousands daily fed,
By it supplied with means to earn their broad.
In various forms our trade its work imparts,
In different methods and by different arts;
Preserves from starving, indigents distressed,
As combers, spinners, weavers, and the rest.
We boast no gems, or costly garments vain,
Borrowed from India, or the coast of Spain;
Our native soil with wool our trade supplies,
While foreign countries envy us the prize.
No foreign broil our common good annoys,
Our country's product all our art employs;
Our fleecy flocks abound in every vale,
Our bleating lambs proclaim the joyful tale.
So let not Spain with us attempt to vie,
Nor India's wealth pretend to soar so high;
Nor Jason pride him in his Colchian spoil,
By hardships gained and enterprising toil,
Since Britons all with ease attain the prize,
And every hill resounds with golden cries.
To celebrate our founder's great renown,
Our shepherd and our shepherdess we crown;
For England's commerce, and for George's sway,
Each loyal subject give a loud HUZZA. HUZZA!
A significant remark is dropped by the local historian of these fine doings, that they were most apt to be entered upon when trade was flourishing.
There was also a general popular observance of St. Blaize's day in England. Apparently for no better reason than the sound of the venerated prelate's name, it was customary to light fires on this day, or evening, on hill tops or other conspicuous places. Perhaps the Scotch custom of the Candlemass Bleese, already adverted to, was only St. Blaize's fire transferred back to his eve. So determinedly anxious were the country people for the celebration by a blaze, that they would sacrifice articles of some importance to make one. Country women went about during the day in an idle merry humour, making good cheer; and if they found a neighbour spinning, they thought themselves justified in making a conflagration of the distaff.
In the simple days when England was Catholic, it was believed that, by a charm in name of St. Maize, a thorn could be extracted from the flesh, or a bone from the throat. It was only necessary to hold the patient, and say, 'Blaize, the martyr and servant of Jesus Christ, commands thee [ in the case of a bone in the throat] to pass up or down; Lin the case of a thorn] to come forth; and the command was instantly effectual.
THE WEDDING RING
Mystic significance has, from the earliest period, been associated with the ring. In its circular continuity it was accepted as a type of eternity, and hence of the stability of affection. The Greek and Roman rings are often inscribed with sentences typical of this feeling. May you live long is engraved on one published by Caylus; I bring good fortune to the wearer, was another usual inscription; sometimes a stone was inserted in the ring, upon which was engraved an intaglio, representing a hand pulling the lobe of an car, with the one word Remember above it. Others have the wish Live happy, or I give this love pledge.
They were lavishly displayed by the early nations; but, except as an indication of gentility or wealth, they appear to have been little valued until Greek sentimentalism gave them a deeper significance. As a gift of love, or a sign of betrothal, they came into ancient use. The Jews make the ring a most important feature of the betrothal in the marriage ceremony. They were sometimes of large size, and much elaboration of workmanship, as in the specimen here engraved, selected from the curious collection of rings formed by the late Lord Londesborough. It is beautifully wrought of gold filigree, and richly enamelled. Upon it are the words joy be with you, in Hebrew characters.
According to the Jewish law, it is necessary that this ring be of a certain value; it is therefore examined and certified by the officiating Rabbi and chief officers of the synagogue, when it is received from the bridegroom; whose absolute property it must be, and not obtained on credit or by gift. When this is properly certified, the ring is returned to him, and he places it on the bride's finger, calling attention to the fact that she is, by means of this ring, consecrated to him; and so completely binding is this action that, should the marriage not be further consecrated, no other could be contracted by either party without a legal divorce.
In the middle ages, solemn betrothal by means of the ring often preceded matrimony, and as sometimes adopted between lovers who were about to separate for long periods. Chaucer, in his Troilus and Cresseide, describes the heroine as giving her lover a ring, upon which a love-motto was engraved, and receiving one from him in return. Shakespeare has more than one allusion to the custom, which is absolutely enacted in his Two Gentlemen of Verona, when Julia gives Protons a ring, saying, 'Keep you this remembrance for thy Julia's sake;' and he replies, 'Why, then, we'll make exchange; here, take you this.' The invention of the gimmal or linked ring gave still greater force and significance to the custom. Made with a double and sometimes a triple link, which turned upon a pivot, it could shut up into one solid ring. This will be better understood by our second cut, which represents one of these rings. It is hewn first as it appears when closed; to the sides of each outer hoop a small hand is attached, each fitting into the other, as the hoops are brought together, and enclosing a heart affixed to the central notched ring. It was customary to break these rings asunder at the betrothal, which was ratified in a solemn manner over the Holy Bible, and sometimes in the presence of a witness, when the man and the woman broke away the upper and lower rings from the central one, which the witness retained; when the marriage contract was fulfilled at the altar, the three portions of the ring were again united, and the ring used in the ceremony.
The fourth finger of the left hand has from long usage been consecrated to the wedding ring, from an ancient belief that from this finger a nerve went direct to the heart. So completely was this fanciful piece of physiology confided in by the Greeks and Romans, that their physicians term this the medical or healing finger, and used it to stir their mixtures, from a notion that nothing noxious could communicate with it, without its giving immediate warning by a palpitation of the heart. This superstition is retained in full force in some country places in England, particularly in Somersetshire, where all the fingers of the hand are thought to be injurious except the ring-finger, which is thought to have the power of curing any sore or wound which is stroked by it. That a sanatory power is imparted to the wedding ring, is believed by the peasantry, both in England and Ireland, who fancy any growth like a wart, on the skin, may be removed by rubbing a wedding ring upon them.
The clasped hands adopted on the gimmal rings became a frequent emblem on the solid wedding ring. The Londesborough collection furnishes us with a peculiarly curious example of the Shakspearian era; throwing a side light upon a passage in the great dramatist's Twelfth Night, where Malvolio, breaking open the letter purporting to be in his mistress's handwriting, says: By your leave, wax. Soft!-and the impressure her Lucrece, with which she uses to seal.' The bust of Lucretia, with her hand directing the fatal dagger, appears on the face of this ring; at the back are two clasped hands; the whole being enriched by niello engraving.
This fashion of ring is still in use in that curious local community of fishermen inhabiting the Claddagh at Galway, on the Irish western coast. They number with their families between five and six thousand, and are particularly exclusive in their tastes and habits, rarely intermarrying with other than their own people. The wedding ring is an heir-loom in the family; it is regularly transferred from the mother to the daughter who is first married, and so passes to her descendants. Many of them still worn there are very old, and show traces of still older design, like that in our cut, whose prototype may have been made in the Elizabethan era. The hands in this instance support a crowned heart, typical of the married state.
Within the hoop of the ring, it was customary, from the middle of the sixteenth to the close of the seventeenth century, to inscribe a motto or 'posy,' consisting frequently of a very simple sentiment in commonplace rhyme. The following are specimens:
Was Heaven's act.
In thee, my choice,
I do rejoyce.
Encrease our love.
The engraving exhibits one of these 'posy-rings,' of the simplest form, such as would be in ordinary use in the early part of the seventeenth century. The posy was always on the fiat inner side of the ring. Shakspeare has alluded more than once in contemptuous terms to these rhyming effusions. In the Merchant of Venice, Act v., sc. 1, when Portia asks Gratiano the reason of his quarrel with Nerissa, he answers:
About a hoop of gold, a paltry ring
That she did give me; whose posy was,
For all the world, like Cutler's poetry
Upon a knife, Love me, and leave me not.
Hamlet asks at the conclusion of the triple lines of rhyme uttered by the players at the commencement of their tragedy-'Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring? 'Yet the composition of such posies exercised the wits of superior men occasionally, and they were sometimes terse and epigrammatic. In 1624, a small collection of them was printed with the quaint title, Love's Garland, or posies for Rings, Handkerchiefs, and Gloves; and such pretty tokens, that lovers send their loves. It is curious that the second of the posies given above, and which was copied from a ring of the time of the publication of this volume, is given with a very slight variation in the series. The custom of placing the heart on the ring is also alluded to in the following posy:
My heart and I, Until I dye.
The joined hands is also notified in another:
Not two, but one
Till life be gone.
One of the most complete jingles is the following:
Doth still aspire.
Of a more meritorious kind, are the following specimens from a manuscript of the same period:
Constancy and heaven are round,
And in this the Emblem's found.
Weare me out, Love shall not waste,
Love beyond Tyme still is plac'd.
Weare this text, and when you looke
Uppon your finger, sweare by th' booke.
Lilly, in his address to the ladies, prefixed to the second part of his Euphues, 1597, hopes they will be favourable to his work, 'writing their judgments as you do the Posies in your rings, which are always next to the finger, not to be scene of him that holdeth you by the hand, and yet knowne by you that weare them on your hands.'
The Rev Giles Moore notes in his Journal, 1673-4 (Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. i.), I bought for Ann Brett a gold ring, this being the posy:
When this you see, remember me.
One of the most whimsical of these inscriptions was used by Dr John Thomas, Bishop of Lincoln in 1753, who had been married three times; on his fourth marriage he placed as a motto on the wedding ring:
If I survive,
I'll make them five!
My Lady Rochford,' writes Horace Walpole, 'desired me t'other day to give her a motto for a ruby ring,' proving the late continuance of the custom. The most modern form of sentimental or significant ring was ingeniously constructed by French jewellers in the early part of the present century, and afterwards adopted by English ones, in which a motto was formed by the arrangement of stones around the hoop; the initial letter of the name of each stone forming amatory words, when combined; as in the following examples:
AN ODD FUNERAL IN THE TIME OF THE COMMONWEALTH
Dugdale has preserved for us an account of the funeral of the wife of a gentleman, of good means, but cynical temper, during the Commonwealth. The gentleman was Mr. Fisher Dilke, Registrar of Shustoke; his wife was sister of Sir Peter Wentworth, one of the regicide judges. 'She was a frequenter of conventicles; and dying before her husband, he first stripped his barn-wall to make her a coffin; then bar-gained with the clerk for a groat to make a grave in the churchyard, to save eightpence by one in the church. This done, he speaketh about eight of his neighbours to meet at his house, for bearers; for whom he provided three twopenny cakes and a bottle of claret [this treat would cost 2s. at the utmost]. And some being come, he read a chapter in Job to them till all were then ready ; when, having distributed the cake and wine among them, they took up the corpse, he following them to the grave. Then, putting himself in the parson's place, (none being there,) the corpse being laid in the grave, and a spade of mould cast thereon, he said, 'Ashes to ashes, dust to dust;' adding, 'Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation' and so returned home.'