Born: Nicolas Machiavelli, statesman and political writer, 1469, Florence; Dean Humphry Prideaux, theological writer, 1648, Padstow; William Windham, English statesman, 1750, London; Augustus Frederick Kotzebue, German poet, 1761, Weimar.
Died: Dr. Isaac Dorislaus, assassinated, 1649; Pope Benedict XIV, 1758; George Psalmanazar, miscellaneous writer, 1763; James Morison, hygeist, 1840; Thomas Hood, poet, 1845, London.
INVENTION OF THE CROSS
On this day is commemorated the discovery-through the zeal of the Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great-of the cross on which the Saviour was crucified. The statement usually given is that Helena went to Jerusalem, and there compelled the Jews to bring from their concealment and give up to her this and other crosses, and that its identity was established by a miracle: the body of a dead man was placed on each of the crosses, and when it touched the true one, the dead man immediately came to life. The cross was entrusted to the charge of the bishop of Jerusalem, and soon became an object of pilgrimage, and a source of profit, for small pieces were cut from it and given to the pilgrims, who made liberal offerings. In this manner the whole cross would naturally have been soon used up; but such a result was averted: it was found that the wood of the cross possessed the power of reproducing itself, and that, how much so ever was cut off, the substance was not diminished.
On the capture of Jerusalem, in 614, the true cross is said to have been carried into Persia, where it remained a few years, until it was recovered by the conquests of Heraclius, who carried it into Jerusalem on his back, in solemn procession: an event which is commemorated in the Roman Catholic church by the festival of the exaltation of the cross on the 14th of September, commonly called Holyrood day. When the Empress Helena discovered the cross, she also obtained possession of the four nails with which Christ' s body was attached to it, the spear which pierced his side, and other articles. Of the four nails, two were placed in the imperial crown, one was at a later period brought by Charlemagne to France, and a fourth was thrown into the Adriatic to calm the waters of that stormy sea.
The history of these and of the other numerous relics worshipped by the Roman Catholics, forms a curious picture of mediæval belief. The reformer Calvin published a book on the subject at a time when relic worship was at its height, which was translated into English by Stephen Wythers, in a quaint little black-letter volume, entitled 'A very profitable Treatise, made by M. Jhon Calvyne, declarynge what great profit might come to al Christendome, of there were a regester made of all Sainctes' Bodies, and other Reliques,' printed in 1561. Calvin declares that so great a quantity of fragments of the true cross were scattered among the Christian churches in his time, that they would load a large ship; and that, whereas the original cross could be carried by one man, it would take three hundred men to support the weight of the existing fragments of it. The largest pieces of it were then preserved in the Sainte Chapelle, at Paris; at Poictiers; and at Rome. Calvin gives a list of the numerous relics connected with Christ' s personal history which were preserved in his time, of which the following are a few examples:-The manger in which he was laid was preserved in the church of Sancta Maria Maggiore, at Rome; the cloth in which he was wrapped when born, in the church of St. Paul, at Rome, and at San Salvador, in Spain; his cradle and the shirt made for him by his mother, at Rome.
Following the events of the Saviour' s life on earth, we find the jugs which held the water he turned into wine at the marriage at Cana, in considerable numbers, at Pisa, at Ravenna, Cluny, Angers, San Salvador, &c., and some of the wine into which the water was turned was preserved at Orleans; the table on which the last supper was served was shown in the church of St. John Lateran; some of the bread he ate on that occasion, at San Salvador; the knife with which the paschal lamb was cut, at Treves; the cup in which he administered the wine, in a church near Lyons, as well as in an Augustine abbey in the district of the Albigeois; the platter on which the paschal lamb was placed, in three places; the towel with which he wiped the apostles' feet, at Rome, and at Aix; the palm-branch which he held in his hand when he entered Jerusalem, at San Salvador; a portion of the earth on which he stood when he raised Lazarus, in another church; and, in another, a portion of a fish which St. Peter caught, broiled, and offered to Jesus.
In relation to the passion, the fragments of the cross, as already observed, were innumerable; and the nails were very numerous-one is still shown at Cologne; the spear with which his side was pierced had been greatly multiplied, for it is known to have been preserved in seven different places, among which were Rome, and the Sainte Chapelle, in Paris; in the latter locality was preserved the largest portion of the crown of thorns, fragments of which, however, were largely scattered, and many abbeys and churches were glad to boast of a single thorn; the seamless garment was shown at Treves, at Argenteuil, and at other places; and the dice with which the soldiers played for it, at Treves, and at San Salvador.
Some of Christ' s blood was shown in several places; and the celebrated French printer and reformer, Henry Stephens, mentions as shown in his time (the middle of the sixteenth century), in one church in France, a phial of glass containing some of Christ's tears, and in another church one full of his breath! His shoes were preserved at Rome. Hardly less numerous were the relics connected with the Virgin Mary. The slippers of her husband, St. Joseph, were preserved at Treves; one of Mary' s shirts was shown at Aix-la-Chapelle; many of her clothes were shown in different places; one of her combs was exhibited at Rome, and another at Besancon; and they showed her wedding ring (!) at Perugia; but the most popular relic of the Virgin Mary was her milk, portions of which were shown in almost as many places as fragments of the true cross. There were not a few samples of it in England.
We might fill many pages with the often ridiculous relics of the innumerable saints of the Romish calendar. Some of the stones with which St. Stephen was stoned were shown at Florence, at Arles, and at Vigaud, in Languedoc. The Augustine monks at Poictiers worshipped one of the arrows with which St. Sebastian was slain, or at least made other people worship it; and there was another at Lambesc, in Provence. St. Sebastian had become multiplied in a very extraordinary manner, for his body was found in four places, and his head in two others, quite independent of his body; while the grey friars at Angers exhibited his brains, which, when the case was broken up in the religious wars, were found to have been turned into a stone. St. Philip appears to have had three feet-at least, a foot of St. Philip's was found in three several places. Materialism in religion was carried to such a point, that the celebrated monastery of Mont St. Michael, in Normandy, exhibited the sword and buckler with which the archangel Michael combated the spirit of evil, and we believe they were preserved there till the period of the great French Revolution; and one of the relic-mongers of earlier times is said to have exhibited a feather of the Holy Ghost-supposing, no doubt, from the pictorial representations, that the sacred spirit was a real pigeon.
The multiplicity of the same object seems sometimes to have embarrassed the exhibitors of relics, There is an old story of a rather sceptical visitor of sacred places in France, in the earlier part of the sixteenth century, to whom in a certain monastery the skull of John the Baptist was shown, on which he remarked, with some surprise, 'Ali! the monks of such a monastery showed me the skull of John the Baptist yesterday.' 'True,' said the monastic exhibitor, not disconcerted, 'but those monks only possess the skull of the saint when he was a young man, and ours was his skull when he was advanced in years and wisdom.' All the clergy, however, did not possess this peculiar style of ingenuity; but some labour was bestowed in sustaining the earlier doctrine, much enlarged in its application, that all holy relics possessed the miraculous power of multiplying themselves.
What an unenviable immortality is that of Nicolas Machiavelli! Out of his surname has been coined a synonyme for treacherous craft; and some antiquaries hold with Butler, in Hudibras, that- 'Nick Machiavel . . . gave his name to our Old Nick.' But like many other high coloured, popular beliefs, that of Machiavelli' s unmitigated diabolism does not endure critical scrutiny.
Machiavelli was born, in Florence, in 1469, of an ancient, but not wealthy family. He received a liberal education, and in his 29th year he was appointed secretary to the Ten, or committee of foreign affairs for the Florentine Republic. His abilities and penetration they quickly discerned, and despatched him from time to time on various and arduous diplomatic missions to the courts and camps of doubtful allies and often enemies. The Florentines were rich and weak, and the envy of the poor and strong; and to save them-selves from sack and ruin, they had to trim adroitly between France, Spain, Germany, and neighbouring Italian powers. Machiavelli proved an admirable instrument in such difficult business; and his despatches to Florence, describing his own tactics and those of his opponents, are often as fascinating as a romance, while furnishing authentic pictures of the remorseless cruelty and deceit of the statesmen of his age.
In 1512 the brothers Giuliano and Giovanni de Medici, with the help of Spanish soldiers, re-entered Florence, from which. their family had been expelled in 1494, overthrew the government, and seized the reins of power. Machiavelli lost his place, and was shortly after thrown into prison, and tortured, on the charge of conspiring against the new regime. In the meanwhile Giovanni was elected Pope by the name of Leo X; and knowing the Medicean love of literature, Machiavelli addressed a sonnet from his dungeon to Giuliano, half sad, half humorous, relating his sufferings, his torture, his annoyance in hearing the screams of the other prisoners, and the threats he had of being hanged. In the end a pardon was sent from Rome by Leo X, to all concerned in the plot, but not until two of Machiavelli' s comrades had been executed.
Machiavelli now retired for several years to his country-house at San Casciano, about eight miles from Florence, and spent his days in literary pursuits. His exile from public life was not willing, and he longed to be useful to the Medici. Writing to his friend Vettori at Rome, 10th December, 1513, he says, 'I wish that these Signori Medici would employ me, were it only in rolling a stone. They ought not to doubt my fidelity. My poverty is a testimony to it.' In order to prove to them 'that he had not spent the fifteen years in which he had studied the art of government in sleeping or playing,' he commenced writing The Prince, the book which has clothed his name with obloquy. It was not written for publication, but for the private study of the Medici, to commend himself to them by proving how thoroughly he was master of the art and craft of Italian statesmanship.
About 1519 the Medici received him into favour, and drew him out of his obscurity. Leo X employed him to draw up a new constitution for Florence, and his eminent diplomatic skill was brought into play in a variety of missions. Returning to Florence, after having acted as spy on the Emperor Charles Fifth' s movements during his descent upon Italy, he took ill, and doctoring himself, grew worse, and died on the 22nd of June, 1527, aged fifty-eight. He left five children, with little or no fortune. He was buried in the church of Santa Croce, where, in 1787, Earl Cowper erected a monument to his memory.
The Prince was not published until 1532, five years after Machiavelli' s death, when it was printed at Rome with the sanction of Pope Clement VII; but some years later the Council of Trent pronounced it 'an accursed book.' The Prince is a code of policy for one who rules in a State where he has many enemies; the case, for instance, of the Medici in Florence. In its elaboration, Machiavelli makes no account of morality, probably unconscious of the principles and scruples we designate by that name, and displays a deep and subtle acquaintance with human nature. He advises a sovereign to make himself feared, but not hated; and in cases of treason to punish with death rather than confiscation, 'for men will sooner forget the execution of their father than the loss of their patrimony.'
There are two ways of ruling, one by the laws and the other by force: 'the first is for men, the second for beasts;' but as the first is not always sufficient, cient, one must resort at times to the other, 'and adopt the ways of the lion and the fox.' The chapter in which he discusses, 'in what manner ought a prince to keep faith?' has been most severely condemned. He begins by observing, that everybody knows how praiseworthy it is for a prince to keep his faith, and practise no deceit; but yet, he adds, we have seen in our own day how princes have prospered who have broken their faith, and artfully deceived their rivals. If all men were good, faith need never be broken; but as they are bad, and will cheat you, there is nothing left but to cheat them when necessary. He then cites the example of Pope Alexander VI. as one who took in every-body by his promises, and broke them without hesitation when he thought they interfered with his ends.
It can hardly excite wonder, that a manual of statesmanship written in such a strain should have excited horror and indignation throughout Europe. Different theories have been put forth concerning The Prince by writers to whom the open profession of such deceitful tactics has seemed incredible. Some have imagined, that Machiavelli must have been writing in irony, or with the purpose of rendering the Medici hateful, or of luring them to destruction. The simpler view is the true one: namely, that he wrote The Prince to prove to the Medici what a capable man was resting idly at their service. In holding this opinion, we must not think of Machiavelli as a sinner above others. He did no more than transcribe the practice of the ablest statesmen of his time into luminous and forcible language. Our feelings of repugnance at his teaching would have been incomprehensible, idiotic, or laughable to them. If they saw any fault in Machiavelli' s book, it would be in its free exposure of the secrets of statecraft.
Unquestionably, much of the odium which gathered round the name of Machiavelli arose from that cause. His posthumous treatise was conveniently denounced for its immorality by men whose true aversion to it sprang from its exposure of their arts. The Italians, refined and defenceless in the midst of barbarian covetousness and power, had many plausible excuses for Machiavellian policy; but every reader of history knows, that Spanish, German, French, and English statesmen never hesitated to act out the maxims of The Prince when occasion seemed expedient. If Machiavelli differed from his contemporaries, it was for the better. Throughout The Prince there flows a hearty and enlightened zeal for civilization, and a patriotic interest in the welfare of Italy. He was clearly a man of benevolent and honourable aims, but without any adequate idea of the wrongfulness of compassing the best ends by evil means. The great truth, which our own age is only beginning to incorporate into statesmanship, that there is no policy, in the long run, like honesty, was far beyond the range of vision of the rulers and diplomatists of the 15th and 16th centuries.
Machiavelli was a writer of singularly nervous and concise Italian. As a dramatist he takes high rank. His comedy of Mandragola is spoken of by Lord Macaulay as superior to the best of Goldoni, and inferior only to the best of Molierc. It was performed at Florence with great success and Leo X. admired it so much, that he had it played before him at Rome. He also wrote a History of Florence, which is a lively and graphic narrative, and an Art of War, which won the praise of so competent a judge as Frederick the Great of Prussia. These and other of his works form eight and ten volumes octavo in the collected editions.
AUGUSTUS FREDERICK KOTZEBUE
Kotzebue, as a dramatic author, stands in some such relation to Schiller, the first master of the tragic art in his own country, as that in which our own Beaumont and Fletcher stand to Shakspeare. He had great fertility of invention, and the number of plays, on all subjects, which he favoured the world with, was in itself a marvel. He possessed considerable skill in producing tragic effects; but these were rather the results of exaggeration and sickly sentimentalism, of exhibiting things and events extraordinary and revolting, than of genuine human catastrophes, replete with fine passion, with high-souled interests, and happy exhibition of character. Hence that opposition between Kotzebue on the one hand, and Schiller and Goethe on the other, during the short time when all three together were doing their utmost at Weimar.
Nothing can convey a better idea of the sort of exaggeration which is chargeable upon Kotzebue, than an extract from an autobiography of the first fifty years of his life, which he published at Vienna in 1811; 'Come forth, ye magicimages of my happy childhood. The recollection of you is scarcely connected with my pre-sent self. Come forth, ye lovely shadows, and delude my fancy; ascend like a thin vapour from the ocean of the past, and let those sweet hours float once again before my eyes. I stand as on the brink of the stream of time, watching the current as it bears away my flowers; I see them already yonder on the summit of a wave, about to be engulphed and to disappear for ever. Let me catch that last glimmer. Do you see that boy who hangs with fixed eyes upon his mother's lips, while on a winter' s evening she is reading some good book to him and to his sister? Such wast thou! See him again, making a table of his stool, and a seat of his foot-stool, while he is devouring a beloved romance, and leaves his ball and hobby-horse neglected in a corner. Such wast thou!'
Yes, so it seems, such was Kotzebue, even at fifty years old. But his life, if we can read it aright through such a haze, was eventful and full of interest.
He was born at Weimar, May 3, 1761. He proved a precocious child-precocious alike for sensibility and the gifts of an author. Unfortunately for him, and perhaps for the world, he had only a mother to direct him. He studied Don Quixote and Robinson Crusoe, and at the age of seven proposed to his future aunt in a letter. He stood three hours with a friend, in the snow and cold, outside the house of a sick girl, watching the window-blind, and burst into tears to see the shadow of a spoon administering physic. At this time, also, he wrote a comedy of one page in length-subject, The Milkmaid and the Two Huntsmen, which, the reader will surmise, was never printed. He describes himself as stealing under the stage of the theatre at Weimar, and hiding behind the drum, when he could not obtain admittance in the regular way; and he made himself a little wooden theatre, and pushed his figures hither and thither with wires, blowing semen lycopodii through a quill into a candle to produce lightning.
And so the child was father of the man. This taste for dramatic writing, and for setting up little theatres wherever he went, grew upon him; and when he was a student of the Jena Academy, in 1779, his first tragedy was acted in the private theatre. 'I succeeded,' he relates, 'in persuading our company to perform my drama, and Wolf, the deceased chapel-master, was so obliging as to compose a very fine adagio for it. This was played while the hero of the piece was at his prayers, and was by far the best thing in the whole performance. I myself personated the prince; but, alas ! when at last I ought to have been shot, the pistol missed fire. Against this emergency, however, my murderer was prepared, as he had armed himself also with a dagger; but I was so eager to die, that I fell at sight of the pistol, before I had time to perceive the disaster. The hero, however, threw himself upon my pre-maturely dead body, and, equally resolved to kill as I was to die, gave me several desperate stabs with the dagger. The curtain dropped, and the audience was very sparing of their applause.'
When about nineteen, Kotzebue returned to Weimar, and was admitted an advocate, but digressed continually to more congenial pursuits than those of the law. At length, in 1781, unforeseen good fortune placed him high in the world. Frederick William Von Bawr, who, after leading an active military life for some years, had entered the service of Catherine of Russia, in 1769, and risen to eminence, gave Kotzebue his unbounded patronage; and though the general died two years after the poet's arrival at St. Petersburg, he contrived in that time to procure him in marriage a woman of condition, and have him appointed president of the government-magistracy for the province of Esthland. On a visit to Weimar, in 1790, Kotzebue lost his wife, and, to heal his grief, made a stay in Paris; after which he returned, and married another Russian lady. Then he came, for some reason or other, to reside in Weimar, and accepted the direction of the Imperial Theatre at Vienna.
He was often in trouble on account of his writings; and soon after this, possibly on account of something he had written,-for he himself professes to be ignorant of the true cause,-he was entrapped into Russia, and banished to Siberia. He must have had influential friends about court, for he did not long remain in exile, being soon completely restored to the Emperor Paul' s favour, and 'he slept in the imperial palace of Michailoff on the night of the 11th March, 1801, which transferred to Alexander the imperial dignity,' without, he maintains, any suspicion of what was to happen. He was further honoured in the new reign. Then, for some private reasons, after traveling in Italy some time, he finally settled in Mannheim, where his advocacy of Russian interests raised such a cry against him, as a traitor to his country and base spy, that conspiracies were formed to remove him; and on that same 11th day of March, in 1819, a young student, of excellent character previously, called on him in private, and stabbed him with a dagger. He may have been honestly advocating his own principles and opinions, influenced more or less by gratitude to the country which had done so much for him; yet, it must be confessed, much of his connection with Russia, and his own accounts of it, seem involved in obscurity.
Of Kotzebue' s works, perhaps the best comedy is False Shame, and his principal tragic performance is Gustavus Vasa. Misanthropy and Repentance, a somewhat strange medley, is familiar to the English stage under the title of The Stranger; so have other pieces of his been introduced in England, with other titles and in various disguises. His interest is by no means confined to a limited range of subjects. We have scenes laid among the negroes, scenes laid in Russia, Spanish scenes, English scenes, comedies, tragedies, farces, in profuse abundance from Kotzebue' s too prolific brain.
MORISON, THE ' HYGEIST'
Died at Paris, May 3, 1840, James Morison, who styled himself 'Hygeist,' and was for many years notorious for his extensively advertised vegetable medicines.' It will be a surprise to many to know that Morison was a man of good family (in Aberdeenshire), and that he had attained a competence by honourable merchandise in the West Indies before he came before the world in the capacity by which he has acquired fame. His own story, which there is no particular reason to discredit, always was that his own sufferings from bad health, and the cure he at length effected upon himself by vegetable pills, were what made him a disseminator of the latter article. He had found the pills to be the only rational purifiers of the blood.' By their use he had at fifty renewed his youth. His pains were gone; his limbs had become supple. He enjoyed sound sleep and high spirits. He feared neither heat nor cold, dryness nor humidity. Sensible that all this had come of the simple use of two or three pills at bed-time and a glass of lemonade in the morning, how should he be excused if he did not do his endeavour to diffuse the same blessing among his fellow-creatures? People may smile at this statement; but we can quite believe in its entire sincerity.
The pills were splendidly successful, giving a revenue of £60,000 to Government during the first ten years. Mr. Morison had attained the age of seventy at his death, since which time his central institution, called the British College of Health, in the New-road, London, has continued to be carried on.
The births and deaths of many very notable men have to be left in this chronicle uncommented on; but the too early departure of Thomas Hood is associated with such feelings, that it cannot be passed over. Hood came of a family in humble life at Dundee, in Scotland, whence his father migrated to London. The young genius tried bookselling, which was his father' s profession-also engraving-but was thrown out of all regular occupation by weak health. While little more than a stripling, he contributed prose and poetical pieces to periodical works, and soon attracted attention by his singular gift of humour. Of his Comic Annual and other subsequent publications, it is unnecessary to give a list. They have made for themselves a place in higher records than this. All have relished the exquisite drollery of Hood' s writings; but it requires to be insisted on that they have qualities in addition, distinguishing them from nearly all such productions. There is a wonderful play of fancy over all that Hood wrote, and few writers surprise us so often with fine touches of humane feeling. It is most sad to relate that the life of this gifted man was clouded by misfortunes, mainly arising from his infirm health, and that he sunk into the grave, in poverty, at the age of forty-seven. In personal character he was extremely amiable; but his external demeanour was that of a grave and rather melancholy man.
On the 3rd of May 1769, the freedom of Stratford-upon-Avon was presented to Mr. Garrick, by the Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses, enclosed in the far-famed cassolette or casket, made from the veritable mulberry tree planted by Shakspeare. This precious relic is beautifully carved with the following devices:-In the front, Fame is represented holding the bust of Shakspeare, while the three Graces crown it with laurel. On the back, Garrick is delineated as King Lear, in the storm scene. On the sides are emblematical figures representing Tragedy and Comedy; and the corners are ornamented with devices of Shakspeare' s works. The feet are silver griffins with garnet eyes. The carving was executed by Davis, a celebrated artist of Birmingham, at the expense of fifty-five pounds.
It was purchased by the late Mr. Mathews, the eminent comedian, at Mrs. Garrick' s sale. In 1835, it was again brought to the hammer, when Mr. Mathews' s library and curiosities were sold. Amidst a cloud of bidders, anxious to secure so matchless a relic, it was knocked down to Mr. George Daniel, of Islington, at forty-seven guineas.
In September 1769, the Mayor and Corporation of Stratford-upon-Avon presented to Garrick a cup, about eleven inches in height, carved from the same far-famed mulberry tree. Garrick. held this cup in his hand at the Jubilee, when he sang the beautiful song composed by himself for that occasion, commencing--
Behold this fair goblet, 'twas carved from the tree,
Which, O my sweet Shakspeare, was planted by thee;
As a relic, I kiss it, and bow at the shrine;
What comes from thy hand must be ever divine!
All shall yield to the mulberry tree;
Bend to thee,
Matchless was he
Who planted thee;
And thou, like him, immortal shall be.
After the death of Mrs. Garrick, the cup was sold, under a decree of Chancery, at Christie' s auction-rooms, and purchased by a Mr. Johnson, who afterwards offered it for sale at the price of two hundred guineas.