Born: Matthew Boulton, partner of James Watt, 1728, Birmingham; Sir John Soane, architect, 1753, Reading; Prince Eugene de Beauharnois, step-son of Napoleon Bonaparte, 1781, Paris.
Died: Richard Tarleton, celebrated comedian, 1588; Sir Edward Coke, eminent lawyer, 1634, Stoke Pogeis; Claudius Salmasius, author of a Defence of Charles I, 1653; Oliver Cromwell, Protector of England, 1658, Whitehall, London; David Ancillon, eminent Protestant divine, 1692, Berlin; George Lillo, dramatist, 1739; Joseph Ritson, antiquary, 1803, Hoxton; Clara Reeve, novelist, 1807, Ipswich; George Richardson Porter, statist, 1852, Tunbridge Wells.
Feast Day: St. Mansuet, first bishop of Toul, in Lorraine, about 375. St. Macnisius, first bishop of Connor, in Ireland, 513. St. Simeon Stylites, the Younger, 592. St. Remaclus, bishop of Maestricht, confessor, about 664.
In the morning of the English stage, just before Shakspeare gave it form and finish, the most favourite comic actor was Richard Tarleton. Of peasant origin in Shropshire, this quaint person seems to have spent most of his early life in the business of tavern-keeping, first in the country, afterwards in London. He had, at one time, an hostelry in Gracechurch Street; at another time, an ordinary in Paternoster Row-it has been surmised that the latter establishment has come down to more recent times, under the well-known name of Dolly's Chop-house. Dick could write ballads for the streets; he could make witty answers in rhyme; his aspect-which included a flattened nose-was provocative of mirth wherever it shewed itself; he was full of the mimetic gift.
After living some years in London by tavern-keeping, he was adopted into the service of Queen Elizabeth, that he might enliven her at supper-time by his jests and his gossip. We must imagine this grand old woman, at the very time when she was perhaps counter-conspiring against Mary and Babington, or giving orders for meeting the Armada, or devising plans for preserving her rule in Ireland, prone to listen to the 'quips, and cranks, and wanton wiles' of this poor fellow: a wise thing, too, for even the life of a sovereign will be the better of occasional condescensions to simple natural merriment and outbreaks of laughter.
Latterly, Dick was a performer at the Curtain Theatre, in Shoreditch-a favourite one in low comedy, as we should now call it, though in plain truth there was then no other. His face was half his fortune in professional respects. It was so droll, that the moment he appeared-before he had said a word-it took the audience with laughter that scarcely subsided for an hour. He could regale them with dexterous fencing, an accomplishment in which he had attained some fame; but his most popular single performance was the playing of what was in those days called a Jig.
This was not simply a merry dance, as it still is, but also a song or ballad. In came the irresistible Dick, quaintly attired, playing a little tabor with one hand, and ready to finger a pipe with the other: curveting, skipping, shuffling round and roumd before the bewitched audience, he would then chant forth a long string of verses, referring in comic or satiric terms to some persons or things of the day, all with such droll expression as was in itself charm enough. We have fortunately preserved to us one of Tarleton's jigs, entitled A Horseload of Fools, in which he takes off a great variety of persons, as the Puritan, the Courtier, the Poet, the Lover, and at length comes to the corporation dignitary-a class which made itself odious to the players by constant efforts to repress theatricals in the city.
This fool comes of the citizens,
Nay, prithee, do not frown;
I know him as well as you
By his livery gown:
Of a rare horn-mad family.
He is a fool by 'prenticeship
And servitude, he says;
And hates all kinds of wisdom,
But most of all in plays:
Of a very obstinate family.
You have him in his livery gown,
But presently he can
Qualify for a mule or mare,
Or for an alderman:
With a gold chain in his family.
Being born and bred for a fool,
Why should he be wise?
It should make him not fit to sit
With his brethren of Ass-ize:
Of a very long-eared family, &c.
The contemporary portrait of Tarleton, here copied, represents him in the act of performing one of his jigs; and one can readily see in the face that homely comicality which made him the delight of the Shoreditch groundlings of his day, and enabled him to cure his queen of melancholy 'better,' as old Fuller tells us, 'than all her physicians.'
Poor Tarleton is supposed to have been cut off suddenly by the plague, for he made his will, died, and was buried all on one day. His remains were deposited in the churchyard of St. Leonard's, Shoreditch. He could not have reached any considerable age, for from his will it appears that his mother was still alive, and the son to whom he left his property is spoken of as under tutelage. His wife Kate, who is often alluded to in his jests, and who appears to have been of loose life, is not adverted to in the will. She had probably by that time departed from this sublunary sphere.
Dick is alluded to by several contemporary writers, always in kindly terms. It is pleasant to think of one who made so many laugh, that he passed through life unoffendingly. The London populace are said to have kept his memory alive for a century; they named game-cocks after him; they had an ale-house in Southwark adorned with his portrait. Tarleton's jests were collected and published after his death, and have been reproduced with much illustrative matter by the Shakspeare Society. In vain, however, do we look in them for any very brilliant wit or profound humour. We must presume that the droll countenance, voice, and mamner of the man were mainly what his contemporaries enjoyed.
OLIVER CROMWELL-HIS DEATH-A QUEER PECULIARITY OF HIS CHARACTER
The 3rd of September had become a day very memorable to Cromwell. In his expedition to reduce the Scotch Presbyterians, who had taken up the son of the late king as their sovereign, he gained his first great success in the battle of Dunbar, fought on the 3rd of September 1650. The affair was closed triumphantly for him at Worcester on the 3rd of September 1651. In an age when individuals were believed to have days specially connected with their destiny, the 3rd of September might well appear auspicious to the Protector. A strange turn, however, was given to these superstitious ideas in his case, when, on the 3rd of September 1658, the Protector died. It is usually stated that his decease took place amidst a storm of singular violence, which was tearing and flooding the whole country, and which fittingly marked the occasion; but the storm, in reality, happened on Monday the 30th of August, and must have been pretty well spent before the Friday afternoon, when Oliver breathed his last.
M. Guizot, in his Life of Cromwell, describes the Protectoral court as confined within rather narrow limits, and having his own family as its 'centre and chief element.' His wife, Elizabeth Bouchier, was a simple and timid woman, anxious about her children, and a little jealous (not without cause) of himself. Two or three ladies of rank-one in particular, the Lady Dysart, subsequently Duchess of Lauderdale-were now and then seen at court. The other principal figures were the Protector's children. 'He summoned his son Richard to London, and obtained his election as a member of parliament, a privy-councillor, and chancellor of the university of Oxford.
His son-in-law, John Claypole, was a man of elegant tastes, and, like Richard Cromwell, was on friendly terms with a great many Cavaliers. After the marriage of his two younger daughters with Lord Falconbridge and Mr. Rich, Cromwell had about him four young and wealthy families, desirous to enjoy life, and to share their enjoyments with all who came near them in rank and fortune. The Protector himself was fond of social amusements and brilliant assemblies; he was also passionately fond of music, and took delight in surrounding himself with musicians, and in listening to their performances. His court became, under the direction of his daughters, numerous and gay. One of them, the widow of Ireton and wife of Fleetwood, was a zealous and austere republican, and took but little part in their festivities, and deplored the monarchical and worldly tendencies which prevailed in the house-hold as well as in the policy of the Protector. In the midst of his public labours, Cromwell exulted in the enjoyment of this domestic prosperity.'
After making full allowance for the verity of what M. Guizot states, it is necessary to look at a certain fact considerably derogating from the dignity of the Protector's court. He was, in reality, a man of a coarse humour, fond of playing off jokes equally rough and childish. It will scarcely be believed, but it is well authenticated, that, at the marriage of his daughter Frances to Mr. Rich, November 1657, not a twelvemonth before his death, he amused himself by throwing about sackposset among the ladies, to soil their rich clothes; flung wet sweetmeats about, and with the same article daubed the stools on which the ladies were to sit. He also pulled off the bridegroom's peruke, and made as if he would have thrown it in the fire, but did not: he only sat upon it. These pranks appear to have been viewed by the company with the usual complaisance shewn to even the mauvaises plaisanteries of the great, for we are told that the ladies took their share of the sack-posset sent them in so irregular a manner as 'a favour.'
Dr. Bates, in his book on the Troubles in England, records an anecdote of Cromwell's youth, which we might have set down as a royalist fiction but for the pranks above described. It is to the effect that, when Sir Oliver Cromwell was holding Christmas in the old English fashion at Hitchenbrook, his nephew and namesake, the future Protector, mingled amongst the dancers, with gloves and leggings befouled in the most horrible manner, that he might spread contamination amongst the company, thus spoiling innocent mirth, and rendering the house itself insufferable. A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine, who brought forward this unpleasant story, adds the observation: 'I have noticed this itch in certain boys at school, who were invariably tyrants in their nature.'
The 3rd of September 1677 is the date of the licensing (by Sir Roger L'Estrange) of Cocker's Arithmetick. The fifty-first edition was published in 1745 by 'R. Ware, at the Bible and Sun, Amen Corner;' marking the extraordinary success which attended the book during the first seventy years of its existence. There had been manuals of arithmetic before; but Cocker's had a superior completeness, which threw all others into the shade.
In his original 'proeme or preface,' the author, who described himself as a 'practitioner in the arts of writing, arithmetick, and engraving' (to which he had been directed by 'the secret influence of Divine Providence'), says:
'For you, the pretended Numerists of this vapouring age, who are more disingeniously witty to propound unnecessary questions, than ingeniously judicious to resolve such as are necessary; for you was this book composed and published, if you will deny yourselves so much as not to invert the streams of your ingenuity, but by studiously conferring with the Notes, Names, Orders, Progress, Species, Properties, Proprieties, Proportions, Powers, Affections and Applications of Numbers delivered herein, become such Artists indeed, as you now only seem to be.'
He further assured the world that all the rules in his book are 'grounded on Verity and delivered with Sincerity; the Examples built up gradually from the smallest Consideration to the greatest
Zoilus and Morus, lie you down and die,
For these inventions your whole force defy.
Cocker, however, was not destined to see anything of the success which has since made his name proverbial in England in connection with arithmetical subjects. The little book was edited from a manuscript he had left, by 'Mr. John Hawkins, writing-master, near St. George's Church, in Southwark;' bearing, nevertheless, a wood-cut portrait of the author, with the following inscription below:
Ingenious Cocker, now to rest thou'rt gone,
No art can show thee fully, but thine own;
Thy rare Arithmetick alone can shew
Th' vast sum of thanks we for thy labours owe.
It appears that Cocker died in the year of the publication of his book, and was buried in St. George's Church, Southwark, 'in the passage at the west end, within the church.' He was rather a caligrapher, a writer and engraver of 'letters, knots, and flourishes,' than an arithmetician, and valued himself chiefly on the former accomplishments. His life seems to have been one of struggle: there is extant a petition sent by him, some years before his death, to the Treasurer, Earl of Southampton, entreating payment of £150, granted to him by the king for his encouragement in the arts of writing and engraving, as he was hindered in his operations 'by reason of extreme want and necessity.' He probably could have gone through a second life in handsome style on the profits of his Arithmetick.
Connected with the life of Cocker, it may be allowable to introduce a set of remarks, by the great novelist of our age, upon an ancient mode of keeping accounts which was kept up in the British Exchequer long after better nodes were in use everywhere else.
'Ages ago, a savage mode of keeping accounts on notched sticks was introduced into the Court of Exchequer, and the accounts were kept much as Robinson Crusoe kept his calendar on the desert island. In the course of considerable revolutions of time, the celebrated Cocker was born, and died. Walkinghame of the Tutor's Assistant, well versed in figures, was also born, and died- a multitude of accountants, bookkeepers, and actuaries were born, and died. Still official routine inclined to these notched sticks, as if they were the pillars of the constitution, and still the Exchequer accounts continued to be kept on certain splints of elm-wood called 'tallies.' In the reign of George III an inquiry was made by some revolutionary spirit whether-pens, ink, and paper, and slates and pencils being in existence-this obstinate adherence to an obsolete custom ought to be continued, and whether a change ought not to be effected.
All the red tape in the country grew redder at the bare mention of this bold and original conception, and it took till 1826 to get these sticks abolished. In 1834, it was found that there was a considerable accumulation of them, and the question then arose, what was to be done with such worn-out, wormeaten, rotten old bits of wood? I daresay there was a vast amount of minuting, memo-randuming, and despatch-boxing on this mighty subject. The sticks were housed at Westminster, and it would naturally occur to any intelligent person that nothing could be easier than to allow them to be carried away for firewood by the miserable people who live in that neighbourhood. However, they never had been useful, and official routine required that they never should be, and so the order went forth that they were to be privately and confidentially burned.
It came to pass that they were to be burned in a stove in the House of Lords. The stove, overgorged with these preposterous sticks, set fire to the panelling; the panelling set fire to the House of Lords; the House of Lords set fire to the House of Commons; the two houses were reduced to ashes; architects were called in to build others; we are now in the second million of the cost thereof; the national pig is not nearly over the stile yet, and the little old woman, Britannia, hasn't got home to-night. Now, I think we may reasonably remark, in conclusion, that all obstinate adherence to rubbish which the time has long outlived, is certain to have in the soul of it more or less that is pernicious and destructive, and that will some day set fire to something or other, which, if given boldly to the winds, would have been harmless, but which, obstinately retained, is ruinous.'
An example of the Exchequer notched sticks is here depicted for the amusement of the reader. It contains a half-intelligible legend in Latin, indicating that it is the record of an East Indian loan. Of course the reader will understand that there is, after all, a sort of' rationality in the system, the one stick being for the creditor, the other for the lender, and the tallying of the notches a proof that both are genuine. In Scotland, till the early days of the editor, it was customary for the baker's lad to bring the Nick-sticks with his bread, a notch being made for each loaf he left. While the notches on his stick corresponded with those on the one left with the family, both parties were satisfied that the account was justly kept.
When Trinculo (in Shakspeare's Tempest) mistakes Caliban for 'a strange fish,' he at once exclaims: ' Were I in England now, and had but this fish painted, not a holiday fool there but would give a piece of silver: there would this monster make a man; any strange beast there makes a man: when they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian.' This love of the English populace for strange sights is frequently alluded to by other writers of the Elizabethan era; a time fertile of travel, and abounding in discoveries which required very little exaggeration to carry them into the marvellous. This taste for the wonderful was well supplied-shows, ballads, and broadsides fostered and fed the public appetite. Occasionally, the 'monster' was a very mild form of monster indeed! A shark or a polypus was, by dint of rhetorical flourishes, converted into a very alarming monster, of which instances occur in Halliwell's folio edition of Shakspeare.
The continental artists and authors went far beyond all this; the inland people particularly, from their inexperience of the sea, appear to have been thought capable of believing anything. Gesner, Rondeletius, and other authors of the sixteenth century, narrate the capture of marine monsters of a very 'strange' order, and among them one that was 'taken in Polonia in 1531,' which bore a general resemblance to a bishop!
In the rare and curious little volume on Costume, by Johannes Sluper, published at Antwerp in 1572, is a picture of this fish, here reproduced in facsimile. The quatrain appended to this cut assures us that bishops are not confined to land alone, but that the sea has the full advantage of their presence; and that though they may not speak, they wear a mitre.
This 'monster,' we are told, was brought to the king, 'and after a while seemed very much to express to him, that his mind was to return to his own element again: which, the king perceiving, commanded that it should be so; and the bishop was carried back to the sea, and cast himself into it immediately.' The bishop once established in the popular mind, the clergy might follow of course, the more particularly as it would seem to countenance a sort of divine creation of monkery in the sea. So accordingly we find in the same work, this equally extraordinary representation of ' The Sea-Monk,' to which the following stanza is appended:
La Mer poissons en abondance apporte,
Par dons devins que devous estimer.
Mais fert estrange est le Moyne de Mer,
Qui est ains'e que ce pourtrait le porte.
In the office-book of the master of the revels, Sir Henry Herbert, is the entry of 'a licence to James Leale to shew a strange fish for half a yeare, the 3rd of September 1632.' The records of London exhibitions, and the chronicles of Bartholomew, and other fairs, supply a constant succession of these favourite shows. A most amusing underplot in Jasper Mayne's comedy, The City Match, 1659, is founded on this popular weakness. A silly young Cockney is intoxicated by revellers, upon whom he forces his company for the sake of learning fashionable follies, and is dressed up and exhibited at a tavern, as 'a strange fish,' to wondering sight-seers at a shilling a head. One asks, if it is a whale, that the charge is so high; and another declares, 'We gave but a groat to see the last fish;' the showman replies with quiet dignity:
Gentlewoman, that was but an Irish Sturgeon!
This came from the Indies; and eats five crowns a day,
In fry, ox-livers, and brown paste!
But we must not laugh too freely at our ancestors. It is not more than three years since a 'talking fish' was profitably exhibited in London, and the principal provincial towns, at a shilling a head. The fish was a species of seal, and the 'talking' consisted of a free translation of its natural cry into the words ma-ma or pa pa, according to the fancy of the showman or spectator.