Born: Gisbert Voet, Leyden theologian, 1589; Edmund Waller, poet, 1605, Coleshill; Sir William Davenant, poet laureate, 1606, bapt. Orford; Thomas Otway, dramatic poet, 1651, Trotten, Sussex; William Godwin, novelist, 1756, Widened; W. C. Macready, tragedian, 1793, London.
Died: Sir Nicholas Carew, beheaded, 1539, Aldgate; John Frederick, the Magnanimous, of Saxony, 1554; John Sturm, Lutheran teacher, 1589; George Herbert, poet, rector of Bemerton, 1633; Robert Hooke, philosopher, 1703; Camillo, Duke do Tullard, French Marshal, 1728; Rev. Dr. William Stukeley, antiquary, 1765, East Tram; Dr. William Hunter, 1783, London; Robert Adam, architect, 1792; Copley Fielding, landscape painter, 1855.
Feast Day: St. Marinas and Asterius, martyrs in Palestine, about 272. Saints Emeterius and Chelidonius, martyrs in Spain. St. Winwaloc, abbot in Armorica, about 529. St. Lamalisse, of Scotland, 7th century. St. Cunegundes, empress, 1040.
WALLER, DAVENANT, AND OTWAY
This day is the anniversary of the birth of three English poets: Edmund Waller, in 1605; Sir William Davenant, in 1606; and Thomas Otway, in 1651.
Waller was the descendant of an ancient and honourable family in Buckinghamshire, and his mother was the sister of the patriot, John Hampden. He was educated at Eton, subsequently took his degree at King's College, Cambridge, and was sent to Parliament at the age of seventeen, as representative of the family borough of Agmondesham, having even then obtained considerable reputation as a poet. He was twice married; between the death of the first, and his union with the second, the more valuable productions of his muse were given to the world. He had become the suitor of the Lady Dorothea Sydney, daughter of the Earl of Leicester, whom he immortalized as Sacharissa, a name, 'formed,' as he used to say, 'pleasantly,' from sacharum, sugar. Yet ho describes her as haughty and scornful. Sacharissa and her lover met long after the spring of life had passed, and on her asking him, 'When he would write such fine verses upon her again?' the poet ungallantly replied, 'Madam, when you are as young again.' As a politician, he was fickle and unsteady. The affair called his Plot, which terminated in his securing his own safety by appearing against his associates, has condemned his name to infamy.
During the Commonwealth, he panegyrized Cromwell, but from no sincere conviction. The act, however, is almost redeemed by the wit of his reply to Charles II, with reference to the verses, that poets usually succeed best in fiction. He died in London in the autumn of 1688. Waller is described as possessing rare personal advantages, exceedingly eloquent, and as one of the most witty and gallant men of his time; so much so, that, according to Clarendon, 'his company was acceptable where his spirit was odious.' The first edition of his poems was printed in 1645. Prefixed to it was a whimsical address, purporting to be 'from the Printer to the Reader,' assigning as a reason for their publication, that surreptitious copies had found their way into the world, ill set forth under his name-so ill that he might justly disown them.
As a specimen of Waller's 'smoothness,' (which was the admiration of Pope), we give one of his lyrical poems, well-known, but which can never be met with anywhere without giving pleasure:
Go, lovely Rose,
Tell her that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.
Tell her that's young,
And shuns to have her graces spied,
That hadst thou sprung
In deserts, where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.
Small is the worth
Of beauty from the light retired:
Bid her come forth,
Suffer herself to be desired,
And not blush so to be admired.
Then die, that she
The common fate of all things rare
May read in thee:
How small a part of time they share,
That are so wondrous sweet and fair.
In the churchyard of Beaconsfield, near the place of his birth, Waller lies buried beneath a handsome monument of white marble.
Davenant, aptly designated by Leigh Hunt, 'as the restorer of the stage in his time, and the last of the deep-working poetical intellects of the age that followed that of Elizabeth,' was the son of an innkeeper at Oxford. His mother was 'a very beautiful woman, of a good wit and conversation,' and as Shakspeare had frequented 'The Crown in his journeys from Warwickshire to London, scandal assigned other motives than those of friendship to the interest he early manifested to the youth, his namesake and godson. Davenant succeeded to the laureateship on the death of Ben Jonson. He was a great favourite with the Earl of Newcastle, who appointed him lieutenant-general of his ordnance.
In the civil war he obtained credit as a soldier, and was knighted by Charles I at the siege of Gloucester. On the decline of the king's affairs, his life was saved, it is said, chiefly by the interference of Milton; and it is believed that the intercession of Davenant afterwards mainly contributed to preserve Milton from the scaffold when matters changed in England. After the Restoration, Davenant obtained a patent for the representation of dramatic pieces at the Duke's Theatre, in. Lincoln's Inn Fields, and the house was opened with a new play of his own, entitled the Siege of Rhodes, in which he introduced a variety of beautiful scenery and machinery.
He wrote, in all, about twenty-five dramatic pieces. He died in 1668, and was interred in Westminster Abbey.
The only poem by Davenant, if we except his dramas, and a few minor addresses, is Gondibert which he unfortunately left unfinished. Opinions differ greatly on the merits of Fns production; but it is generally acknowledged to be 'without the charm of reality, and cold and abstracted; yet full of chivalrous grandeur, noble thoughts, harmonious diction, and displays an accurate knowledge of human nature, and a deep spirit of philosophy.'
As a sample of Sir William Davenant's muse, we give the following song:
The lark now leaves his wat'ry nest,
And climbing, shakes his dewy wings;
He takes this window for the east;
And to implore your light, he sings,
A wake, awake, the morn will never rise,
Till she can dress her beauty at your eyes.
The merchant bows unto the seaman's star,
The ploughman from the sun his season takes;
But still the lover wonders what they are,
Who look for day before his mistress wakes.
Awake, awake, break through your veils of lawn,
Then draw your curtains, and begin the dawn.'
Otway was not more remarkable for moving the tender passions, than for the variety of fortune to which he himself was subjected. Born the son of a clergyman, he was educated for the church, but on quitting Oxford, and coming to London, he became an actor, but performed with indifferent success. Otway was more valued for the sprightliness of his conversation and wit, which procured him the friendship of the Earl of Plymouth, who obtained for him a cornet's commission in the troops which then served in Flanders. Otway was always in necessitous circumstances, and particularly so on his return from abroad. He had recourse to writing for the stage, and this was the only employment that nature seems to have fitted him for. Leigh Hunt terms Otway 'the poet of sensual pathos; for, affecting as he sometimes is, he knows no way to the heart but through the senses.' In comedy, he has been considered too licentious, which, however, was no great objection to those who lived in the profligate days of Charles II; but in tragedy 'where he does not intend to be sublime, but confines himself to his own element, the pathetic, no writer can produce more powerful effects than his.'
But although Otway possessed, in so eminent a degree, the rare talent of writing to the heart, he was not favourably regarded by some of his contemporary poets, nor was he always successful in his dramatic compositions. After experiencing many reverses of fortune in regard to his circumstances, but generally changing for the worse, he died April 13, 1685, at a public-house on Tower-hill, whither he had retired to avoid the pressure of his creditors. The horrible story of his having been choked by attempting too eagerly to swallow a piece of bread, of which he had been some time in want, has been success-fully controverted.
Besides ten plays, Otway composed some miscellaneous poems, and wrote several translations. The beauty and delicacy of Otway's imagery will be seen in the following example:
You took her up a little tender flower,
Just sprouted an a bank, which the next frost
Had nipt, and with a careful, loving hand,
Transplanted. her into your own fair garden,
Where the sun always shines. There long she flourished;
Grew sweet to sense, and lovely to the eye;
Till at the last a cruel spoiler came,
Cropped this fair rose, and rifled all its sweetness
Then threw it like a loathsome weed away.
Through Izaak Walton the personal memory of George Herbert has been preserved. He was born on the 3rd of April 1593, in Montgomery Castle, Wales, being the fifth brother of Lord Herbert of Cherbury. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and in 1619 was chosen orator for the University. In those days King James used to go hunting about Newmarket and Royston, and was frequently invited to Cambridge, where Herbert,. as orator, had to receive him. The King was so charmed by Herbert's fine speeches that he gave him a pension of ₤120 a-year, with hopes of yet better things.
Lord Bacon, whom Walton happily designates 'the great secretary of Nature,' made Herbert's acquaintance at Cambridge, and so estimated his powers, that he submitted some writings to his criticism and revision. With the death of King James, in 1625, ended all Herbert's cherished hopes of promotion at court. After some severe struggles with his ambition, he resolved to take sacred orders, and in 1626 he was appointed prebend of Layton Ecclesia, a village in Hunts. Plagued with ague, he removed in 1630 to the healthier parsonage of Bemerton, a mile from Salisbury, where he died in 1632, at the early age of thirty-nine.
Herbert's fame rests on a posthumous publication. When dying, he handed a manuscript to a friend, saying, 'Sir, I pray deliver this little book to my dear brother Farrer, and tell him he shall find in it a picture of the many spiritual conflicts that have passed betwixt God and my soul. Desire him to read it, and then, if he can think it may turn to the advantage of any poor dejected soul, let it be made public; if not, let him burn it.' The little book was The Temple, or Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations. Mr. Farrer had it printed at Cambridge in 1633, and it at once rose into high popularity. Walton, writing in 1670, says that 20,000 copies had been sold, a large number for the seventeenth century. Herbert's imagination found its joy and exercise in the services and rites of the Church of England; what Nature was to Wordsworth, the Prayer-book was to him; and until Keble wrote, he was par spécialité the ecclesiastical poet. Our enjoyment of his verses is greatly marred through his free use of quaint conceits and fantastic imagery, by which his pious and often profound thoughts are obscured rather than illustrated. Herbert had a passion for music, and composed many of his hymns, that he might sing them to his Into and viol.
DR. STUKELEY, THE ANTIQUARY, AND HIS SPECULATIONS
This writer on Roman and British antiquities, the next distinguished investigator after Strype, died at the rectory-house of St. George the Martyr, Queen-square, London.
He was born at Holbeach, in Lincolnshire, in 1687, and completed his education at Bonet College, Cambridge. Here, natural science was his favourite pursuit, and with his friend and fellow-collegian, Stephen Hales, he used to ramble over Gogmagog Hills and the bogs of Cherry Hunt Moor, gathering simples; they also studied together anatomy and chemistry, and performed many curious dissections and experiments. After practising for a time as a physician, first at Boston, then in London, finally at Grantham, Stukeley relinquished medicine, and took orders. At first he obtained good preferments in Lincolnshire, but in 1747, being presented to the rectory of St. George the Martyr, in Queen-square, he once more settled in the metropolis, where, and at Kentishtown, he spent the rest of his life. Stukeley obtained this living from the Duke of Montague, with whom he had become acquainted some years before, when they were associated as founders of the Egyptian Society. It is curious to us now-a-days to hear Stukeley thus describing his first lodging, at one Mrs. Machin's, Ormond-street. 'On one side of my lodgings we have a beau street, and those sorts of entertainments it affords, and in my study backwards I have a fine view to Hampstead, and the rural scene of haymakers, &c. Next door I have the beautiful sight of Lord Powis's house, the most regular piece of architecture of any house in London, and a sharp fresh air, so that I enjoy a perfect rus in urbe.' He next lived in Queen-square, the north side of which 'was left open,' it is said, for the sake of the beautiful landscape view.
Stukeley's first antiquarian work was an account of the celebrated Artlhan's Oven, in Scotland; next, his Itinerarium Curiosuma, of which the second volume, or Centuria, is of all Stukeley's works the most sought after. He next published two works on Abury and Stonehenge, and he was the first to investigate the tumuli of that neighbourhood. He carefully studied the form and arrangement of Abury, and his engravings and restorations of Stonehenge are valuable; he regarded this work as a temple of the British Druids; but, in both cases, his essays are full of fanciful and irrelevant speculation, which, John Britton tells us, for many years so harassed and distressed him, that he was 'often tempted to relinquish the pursuit [of antiquities], in despair of ever arriving at anything like proof, or rational evidence.'
In 1757, Stukeley printed his account of the work of Richard of Cirencester, De Situ Britannice,' from the MS. sent to him as having been recently discovered at Copenhagen, by Charles Julius Bertram. The Itinerary contains eighteen journeys, which Richard says he compiled from certain fragments by a Roman general, from Ptolemy, and other authors; he mentions 176 stations (while Antoninus has only 113), some of them considerably north of the wall of Severus. The credit and fidelity of Richard have been doubted, but wherever the subject has admitted of local investigation, the result has been favourable to his authenticity. Gibbon says of him, that 'he shows a genuine knowledge of antiquity very extraordinary for a monk of the fourteenth century.'
In 1758, Stukeley published his Account of the Medallic History of Marcus Aurelius Valerius Careusius, Emperor of Britain, of which work Gibbon somewhat ungratefully says, 'I have used his materials, and rejected most of his fanciful conjectures.' It was this lively and licentious fancy which brought the ingenuity and learning which he really possessed into discredit. He undoubtedly described much that was curious and valuable, and which would probably have been lost but for his record of it. But his theories wore his bane. Among his Stonehenge speculations, he laments the loss of a tablet of tin found there in the time of Henry VIII, inscribed with strange characters, which Sammes thought to be Punic, but Stukeley himself Irish. He adds: 'No doubt but what it was a memorial of the founders, wrote by the Druids, and had it been preserved till now, would have been an in-valuable curiosity.'
Horace Walpole, adverting to the earthquake speculations of 1750, tells us: 'One Stukeley, a parson, has accounted for it, and I think prettily, by electricity-but that is the fashionable cause, and everything is resolved into electrical appearances, as formerly everything was accounted for by Des Cartes's vortices and Sir Isaac's gravitation,'
Regarding Stukeley's Lincolnshire life there is some pleasant gossip in Thompson's History of Boston, gleaned from letters and diaries, and affording some glimpses of the social life of that period.
In London, as he tells us, he frequented no levees, but 'took a vast deal of solitude,' and, instead of running from the Royal Society to the Antiquaries, retreated every night at six o'clock to his contemplative pipe. ' I love solitude in London,' he writes, ' and the beauty of living there is, that we can mix in company and solitude in just proportion; whilst in the country we have nothing else but solitude?'
Dr. Stukeley was buried at East Ham, in Essex, where, by his own particular desire, there is no monument to denote his resting-place. He appears to have been a single-hearted; good man, who, after some experience of public life, found that ' home was most agreeable.
In the library of the Gentlemen's Society at Spalding are preserved several of Stukeley's letters, in one of which he strenuously maintains the opinion that Britain was originally settled by Brute or Brito, the descendant of Æneas and Lavinia. 'In confidence of the truth of this descent from Æneas,' says Stukeley, 'I have endeavoured to unravel his pedigree through all the labyrinths of Grecian fable up to Noah, wherein one way or other is comprehended some part at least of all the famous men and kingdom of Greece, Italy, and Egypt, where there is any mutual relation by marriage or descent, and this will be particularly useful to me in reading the classics.
The only geological opinion to be found in these letters is the following:
'At Edmondthorp, in Leicestershire, I saw some huge and perfect scallop-shells, antediluvian, in the stone. You know Leicestershire consists of a red stone, brimful of the petrified shells of the, old world, especially all round the bottom of the great cliff, which generally bounds Lincolnshire and that county. 'Tis easy to conceive that when, the whole face of the county was an ocean, this cliff of ours, which begins at Hambledon, in Rutland-shire, and ends at Lincoln, stopped these shells from rolling down with the declining waters of the cataclysm into the sea, and so left them incrusted in the stone. I know this is the case all along the bottom of the cliff.'
THE MERRY UNDERTAKERS
One of the favourite bequests of our ancestors in the time preceding the Reformation, was for the purpose of keeping up an annual visit to the tomb of the testator, attended by a feast. This 'commemoration guttle,' as Dr. Fosbroke calls it, probably took its rise in the Pagan institution of anniversaries, but it was less spiritual and elegant. Mr. Donee tells us that one. of the meetings taking place at an inn, where the sign was the arms of a nobleman, one having asked a clergymen present to translate the motto, ' Virtus post fastens vomit,' he made answer, 'Virtus, a parish clerk, vivit, lives well, post funera, at funeral feasts.'
The joyous private behaviour of those whose business it is to take part in funeral pageantry has supplied material of humorous description to authors, from Richard Steele down to Charles Dickens. These officials necessarily put on looks of grave concern with their mourning habiliments; and, after all, having a part to act, is it not well that they act it? How should we regard them if, instead of an outward solemnity, they presented faces of merriment, or even of indifference? Still, in an official assumption of woe, there is something which we cannot view in other than a ludicrous light.
In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, there flourished, at the corner of the lane leading from the Wandsworth-road to Battersea-bridge, it tavern, yelept the Falcon, kept by one Robert Death, a man whose figure is said to have ill comported with. his name, seeing that it displayed the highest appearances of jollity and good condition. A. merry-hearted artist, named John Nixon, passing this house one day, found an undertaker's company regaling themselves at Death's Door. Having just discharged their duty to a rich nabob in a neighbouring cemetery, they had, the first time for three or four hours, found an opportunity of refreshing exhausted nature; and well did they ply the joyful work before them. The artist, tickled at a festivity among such characters in such a place, sketched them on the spot, and his sketch was soon after published, accompanied with a cantata from another hand, of no great merit, in which Sable, the foreman of the company, is represented as singing as follows, to the tune of ' I've kissed and I've prattled with fifty fair maids:
Dukes, lords, have I buried, and squires of fame,
And people of every degree;
But of all the line jobs that came in my way,
A fun'ral like this for me.
This is the job
That fills the fob,
0! the burying a nabob for me!
Unfeather the hearse, put the pall in the bag,
Give the horses some oats and some hay;
Drink our next merry meeting and quackery's increase,
With three times three and huzza, &c.'
Death has now submitted to his mighty name-sake, and the very place where the merry under-takers regaled themselves can scarce be distinguished among the spreading streets which now occupy this part of the environs of the metropolis.