Born: Louis XI of France, 1423, Bourges; Henry Grattan, Irish parliamentary orator, 1750, Dublin.
Died: Mary de Medicis, consort of Louis XIII of France, 1642, Cologne; Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, 1792, Brunswick.
Feast Day: St. Phocas, martyr, 303; St. Gunthiern, abbot in Brittany, 6th century; St. Bertram, bishop of Mans, 623; St. Guthagon, recluse at Oostkerk, 8th century.
Ireland has great honour in producing Henry Grattan, and she will never be politically beyond hope while she continues to venerate his memory. With every temptation to become the tool of the British ministry, he came forward as the unflinching advocate of the just rights and independence of his country; a Protestant, he never ceased to claim equal rights for an opposite class of believers. In the blotted page of Irish history, it is truly a bright spot where Grattan (1780) obtains in the native parliament the celebrated resolution as to its sole competency to make laws for Ireland. An irreproachable private life admirably supports the grandeur of his public career.
An anecdote of Grattan's boyhood shews the possession of that powerful will without which there can be no true greatness:
When very young, Mr. Grattan had been frightened by stories of ghosts and hobgoblins, which nurses are in the habit of relating to children, so much so, as to affect his nerves in the highest degree. He could not bear being left alone, or remaining long without any person, in the dark. This feeling he determined to overcome, and he adopted a bold plan. In the dead of night he used to resort to a churchyard near his father's house, and there he used to sit upon the gravestones, whilst the perspiration poured down his face; but by these efforts he at length succeeded and overcame his nervous sensation. This certainly was a strong proof of courage in a child.'-Memoirs of Henry Grattan by his Son (1848), v. 212.
EXPIRATION OF THE CORNISH LANGUAGE
The 3rd of July is connected (in a very slight manner, it must be acknowledged) with an event of some importance-the utter death and extinction of one of the ancient provincial languages of England.
Many have been the conjectures as to the person and to the locality, where lived the last individual who could speak Cornish. Dr. Borlase, who published his History in 1758, says that 'the language had altogether ceased, so as not to be spoken anywhere in conversation;' while Dr. Bryce of Redruth affirms that the language had its last struggles for life, at or about the wild prominences of the Land's End. This fact Lhwyd, in a letter, March 10, 1701, corroborates. Our doubts are, however, settled by the detailed account of Dorothy Pentreath, alias Jeffries, who, born in 1681, lived at Mouse-hole, near Penzance, and conversed most fluently in the Cornish tongue. Her father, a fisherman, sent this young Sibyl at the age of twelve with fish to Penzance. In Cornish she sold them, no improbability, as not until over twenty could she speak a word of English. The name Pentreath signifies the end of the sand. The following lines, giving Cornish and English alternately, will serve to confirm the occupation of the Pentreaths:
TO NEIGHBOUR NICHOLAS PENTREATH
Contreoak Nicholas Pentreath,
(Neighbour Nicholas Pentreath),
Pa resso why doaz war an treath
(When you come upon the sand),
Gen puseas, komero why wryth
(With fish, take you care),
Tha geil compez, hedna yw fyr
(To do right, that is wise),
Ha cowz meaz Dega, dega,
(And speak aloud Tythe, Tythe),
Enna ew of guz dega gür.
(There is all your true tythe).
The Hon. Daines Barrington, who travelled in Cornwall in 1768, had an interview with her, which is described in the Archceologia, vol. iii.: 'When we reached Mouse-hole, I desired to be introduced as a person who had laid a wager, that there was no one who could converse in Cornish. Upon which Dolly Pentreath spoke in an angry tone of voice for two or three minutes, in a language which sounded very much like Welsh. The hut in which she lived was in a very narrow lane, opposite to two rather better cottages, at the doors of which two other women stood, advanced in years, and who, I observed, were laughing at what Dolly Pentreath said to me. Upon this, I asked them whether she had not been abusing me; to which they answered: 'Yes, very heartily, and because I supposed she could not speak Cornish.' I then said they must be able to talk it; to which they answered, they could not speak it readily, but that they understood it, being only ten or twelve years younger than Dolly Pentreath.'
Six years after this visit, though bending with old age, and in her 87th year, Dolly Pentreath could walk six miles in bad weather, her intellect was unimpaired, and her memory so good that she recollected the gentleman who had such a curiosity to hear the Cornish language. The parish maintained her in her poverty, while her fortune-telling and gabbling Cornish also contributed to her maintenance. She was short of stature, and towards the end of her life somewhat deaf, but positive that she was the only person who could speak or know anything about the ancient tongue of her country. She died January 1778, and was buried in Paul Churchyard, where her epitaph, supposed to have been written by Mr. Thomson of Truro, ran thus:
Coth Doll Pentreath cans ha dean,
Marow ha kledyz ed Paul pleu, Na ed an
Egloz, gan pobel bras,
Bes ed Egloz-hay coth Dolly es.
Old Doll Pentreath, one hundred aged and two,
Deceased, and buried in Paul parish. too,
Not in the church with folks great,
But in the churchyard, cloth old Dolly lie.
Thus much for Dolly. We also learn that the language was not entirely lost by her death; for a fisherman of Mouse-hole, in 1797, informed Mr. Barrington, that one William Bodenoer was the last person of that place who could speak in Cornish. This man, some years younger than Dolly, frequently conversed with her, but their conversation was scarcely understood by any one of that place. Impossible as it is precisely to fix upon the very last conversationalist, all accounts agree in making Dorothy the latest fluent speaker. Though her successors may have understood the language, they were unable to maintain a dialogue in the manner in which she did. A letter from Bodenoer, dated July 3, 1776 two years before Dorothy's death), will shew the condition of the language:
Bluth vee Eue try Gevree a pemp,
Theatra vee pean boadjaek an poscas
Me rig deskey Cornoaek termen me vee maw,
Cornoaek ewe all ne,
Cea yes yen pobble younk.
My age is threescore-and-five,
I am a poor fisherman,
I learned Cornish when I was a boy.
Cornish is all forgot With young people.
Bodenoer died in 1794, leaving two sons, who knew not enough of the Cornish to converse in it. If the visitor to Penzance will direct his steps three miles west of that place, he will hear some-what of Dorothy Pentreath, and of that language, which, now forgotten, found in her its last efficient representative.
On the 3rd of July 1839, some of the eminent members of the Academy of Sciences at Paris, including MM. Arago, Lacroix, Libri, and Sturm, met to examine a remarkable boy, whose powers of mental calculation were deemed quite inexplicable. The boy, named Vito Mangiamele, a Sicilian, was the son of a shepherd, and was about eleven years old. The examiners asked him several questions which they knew, under ordinary circumstances, to be tedious of solution-such as, the cube root of 3,796,416, and the 10th root of 282,475,249; the first of these he answered in half a minute, the second in three minutes. One question was of the following complicated character: What number has the following proportions, that if its cube is added to 5 times its square, and then 42 times the number. and the number 40 be subtracted from the result, the remainder is equal to 0 or zero?' M. Arago repeated this question a second time, but while he was finishing the last word, the boy replied: 'The number is 5!'
Such cases greatly puzzle ordinary mathematicians. Buxton, Colburn, and Bidder, have at different times exhibited this unaccountable power of accounting. Jedediah Buxton, although his grandfather was a clergyman and his father a schoolmaster, was so neglected in his education that he could not even write; his mental faculties were slow, with the one wonderful exception of his power of mental arithmetic. After hearing a sermon, he remembered and cared for nothing concerning it except the number of words, which he had counted during their delivery. If a period of time, or the size of an object, were mentioned in his hearing, he almost unconsciously began to count how many seconds, or how many hair's-breadths there were in it. He walked from Chesterfield to London on purpose to have the gratification of seeing George II; and while in the metropolis, he was taken much notice of by members of the Royal Society.
On one occasion he went to see Garrick in Richard III; but instead of attending to the performance in the usual way, he found occupation in counting the number of words uttered by each performer. After striding over a field in two or three directions, he would tell the number of square inches it contained. He could number all the pints of beer he had drunk at all the houses he had ever visited during half a century. He once set himself to reckon how much a farthing would amount to if doubled 140 times; the result came out in such a stupendous number of pounds sterling as required 39 places of figures to represent it.
In 1750 this problem was put to him: to find how many cubical eighths of an inch there are in a quadrangular mass measuring 23,145,789 yards long, 5,642,732 yards wide, and 54,965 yards thick; he answered this, as all the others, mentally. On one occasion he made himself what he called 'drunk with reckoning' the following: 'In 200,000 million cubic miles, how many grains of eight different kinds of corn and pulse, and how many hairs one inch long?' He ascertained by actual counting how many of each kind of grain, and how many hairs an inch long, would go to an inch cube, and then set himself about his enormous self-imposed task. He could suspend any of his problems for any length of time, and resume it at the point where he left off; and could converse on other subjects while thus employed. He could never give any account of the way in which he worked out his problems; nor did his singular but exceptional faculty bring him any other advantage than that of being invited to the houses of the gentry as a kind of show.
Zerah Colburn, who excited much interest in London in 1812, was a native of Vermont, in the United States. At six years old, he suddenly shewed extraordinary powers of mental calculation. By processes which seemed to be almost unconscious to himself, and were wholly so to others, he answered arithmetical questions of considerable difficulty. When eight years old, he was brought to London, where he astonished many learned auditors and spectators by giving correct solutions to such problems as the following: raise 8 up to the 16th power; give the square root of 106,929: give the cube root of 268,336,125; how many seconds are there in 48 years? The answers were always given in a very few minutes-sometimes in a few seconds. He was ignorant of the ordinary rules of arithmetic, and did not know how or why particular modes of process came into his mind. On one occasion, the Duke of Gloucester asked him to multiply 21,734 by 543; something in the boy's manner induced the duke to ask how he did it, from which it appeared that the boy arrived at the result by multiplying 65,202 by 181, an equivalent process; but why he made this change in the factors, neither he nor any one else could tell. Zerah Colburn was unlike other boys also in this, that he had more than the usual number of toes and fingers; a peculiarity observable also in his father and in some of his brothers.
An exceptional instance is presented in the case of Mr. Bidder, of this faculty being cultivated to a highly useful purpose. George Parker Bidder, when six years old, used to amuse himself by counting up to 100, then to 1000, then to 1,000,000; by degrees he accustomed himself to contemplate the relations of high numbers, and used to build up peas, marbles, and shot, into squares, cubes, and other regular figures. He invented processes of his own, distinct from those given in books on arithmetic, and could solve all the usual questions mentally more rapidly than other boys with the aid of pen and paper. When he became eminent as a civil engineer, he was wont to embarrass and baffle the parliamentary counsel on contested rail-way bills, by confuting their statements of figures almost before the words were out of their mouths. In 1856, he gave to the Institution of Civil Engineers an interesting account of this singular arithmetical faculty-so far, at least, as to shew that memory has less to do with it than is generally supposed; the processes are actually worked out seriatim, but with a rapidity almost inconceivable.