Born: Angelo Poliziano, poet and classic commentator, 1454, Montepulciano, Tuscany; Samuel Rogers, poet (Pleasures of Memory), 1763, Stoke Newington, London.
Died: Pope Benedict I, 577; Ladislaus I, king of Hungary, 1095; James, Earl of Douglas, killed at Otter-bourne, 1388; Robert, Earl of Kingston, 1643; Maria Theresa, queen of Louis XIV, 1683; William Penn, coloniser of Pennsylvania, 1718, Ruscombe, Berkshire; John Sebastian Bach, eminent composer, 1750, Leipsic; Thomas Gray, poet, 1771; Prince Charles Lucien Bonaparte, naturalist, 1857, Paris.
Feast Day: Saints Abdon and Sennen, martyrs, 250. St. Julitta, martyr, about 303.
THE GOOD EARL OF KINGSTON
Robert Pierrepoint, Earl of Kingston, surnamed the Good, being not less celebrated for his great wealth than the benevolent use he made of it, was killed on the 30th of July 1643, under circumstances which either confirmed a rash asseveration, or gave rise to a curious story. As the wealth, abilities, influence, and popular reputation of the earl would render him a most powerful and valuable auxiliary, to whichever party he might join at the breaking out of the great civil war, each side was equally anxious to secure his adherence. He remained neutral so long that it was considered his mind was undecided as to which cause he would eventually support. At last, seeing that war was inevitable, he joined the king, bringing with him the valuable aid of 2000 men, and £24,000 in money. Vigorously opposing the Parliamentarians in the field, he was surprised and taken prisoner by Lord Willoughby of Parham, at Gainsborough. A prize of so great value was not to be lightly guarded, at such an uncertain time. To make him perfectly secure, Willoughby placed the earl in a pinnace, to be conveyed to the stronghold of Hull.
On the vessel's passage thither, the royalist Sir Charles Cavendish ordered it to be fired upon by a cannon, and the unlucky ball killed the Earl of Kingston and his servant. The vessel being brought-to, and Cavendish learning that his rash procedure had destroyed his friend and the most valuable man of his party, he, in a paroxysm of rage and blind revenge, ordered all the crew of the pinnace to be put to death. Such is the account of this untoward affair given in history; but Mrs. Lucy Hutchinson, in her memoir of her husband, gives us the popular account, perfectly in keeping with the beliefs and opinions of the period. It would from this appear that the last parliamentary agent sent to the Earl of Kingston, to induce him to join their party, was a Captain Lomax, to whom the earl expressed his solemn determination not to join either side. And to quote the words of Mrs. Hutchinson: 'he made a serious imprecation on himself: 'When,' said he, 'I take arms with the king against the parliament, or with the parliament against the king, let a cannon bullet divide me between them;' which God was pleased to bring to pass a few months after; for he going into Gainsborough, and there taking up arms for the king, was surprised by my Lord Willoughby, and, after a handsome defence of himself, yielded, and was put prisoner into a pinnace, and sent down the river to Hull, when my Lord Newcastle's army, marching along the shore, shot at the pinnace, and, being in danger, the Earl of Kingston went up upon the deck to shew himself, and to prevail of them to forbare shooting; but as soon as he appeared, a cannon bullet flew from the king's army, and divided him in the middle, being then in the parliament's pinnace, who thus perished according to his own unhappy imprecation.'
William Penn was born on Tower Hill, London, 14th October 1644. His father was Sir William Penn, an admiral who had fought with distinction the fleets of Holland and Spain. His mother was a Dutchwoman, the daughter of a rich Rotterdam merchant. Penn received an excellent education, and whilst at Oxford he was tempted to go and hear one Thomas Loe, a Quaker, preach. Quakerism, in our time the meekest of faiths, was in those days regarded by churchmen and dissenters alike, as an active spirit of evil deserving no mercy or forbearance: there was contamination and disgrace in everything connected with it. Loe's ministry so affected Penn, that he began to think of becoming a Quaker himself. His father heard of the impending metamorphosis with horror, and sent him off to France, to avert the change. The policy was successful. Penn soon forgot the Quaker in the gaiety of Paris, and returned, to his father's delight, a fine gentleman, with all the airs and accomplishments of a courtier.
The terrors of the plague of London in 1665, however, revived the youth's pious tendencies, and again his father tried change of scene, and sent him to Ireland. There he distinguished himself in subduing an insurrection; and it is a curious fact, that the only authentic portrait of the great apostle of peace existing, represents him at this period a young man armed and accoutred as a soldier. It so happened, that the Quakers were growing numerous in the larger Irish cities, and one day Penn strolled into their meeting in Cork. To his surprise, Thomas Loe, from Oxford, arose and spoke from the text, 'There is a faith that overcomes the world, and there is a faith that is overcome by the world.' From that meeting is dated Penn's thorough conversion to Quakerism. His father heard of his relapse with dismay, and ordered him back to London. They had a long and painful discussion, but the young man was immovable; neither the hope of honour nor the prospect of degradation had any effect on his resolution; and the admiral, after exhausting his whole armory of persuasion, ended by turning his son out of doors.
This conduct threw Penn completely over to the Quakers. He began to preach at their meetings, to write numerous pamphlets in defence of their doctrines, to hold public debates with their adversaries, and to make propagandist tours over England and the continent, sometimes alone, and sometimes in company with George Fox, Robert Barclay, and others. Of persecution and imprisonment he had his share. A tract, The Sandy Foundation Shaken, in which he set forth Unitarian opinions, so excited the bishop of London, that he had him committed to the Tower, where he lay for nearly nine months. King Charles sent Stillingfleet to talk him out of his errors; but, said Penn, 'The Tower is to me the worst argument in the world.' During this confinement he wrote, No Cross, no Crown, the most popular of his works. 'Tell my father, who I know will ask thee,' said he one day to his servant, 'that my prison shall be my grave before I will budge a jot: for I owe my conscience to no mortal man. Actuated by a spirit as patient as it was resolute, Penn and his brethren fairly wore out the malice of their persecutors, so that in sheer despair intolerance abandoned Quakerism to its own devices.
Happily, the admiral had the good sense to reconcile himself to his son. It is said that, in spite of his irritation, he came to admire the steady front William shewed to an adverse and mocking world. The admiral's disappointment was indeed severe. He stood high in favour with Charles II and the Duke of York, and had his son co-operated with him, there was no telling what eminence they might not have attained. 'Son William,' said the veteran, only a day or two before his death, 'I am weary of the world: I would not live my days over again, if I could command them with a wish; for the snares of life are greater than the fears of death.' Almost the last words he uttered were, 'Son William, if you and your friends keep to your plain way of preaching, and also keep to your plain way of living, you will make an end of priests to the end of the world.'
Penn, by his learning and logic, did more than any man, excepting Barclay, author of the Apology, to shape Quaker sentiment into formal theology; but the service by which the world will remember him, was his settlement of Pennsylvania. His father had bequeathed him a claim on the government of £16,000 for arrears of pay and cash advanced to the navy. Penn very well knew that such a sum was irrecoverable from Charles II; he had long dreamed of founding a colony where peace and righteousness might dwell together; and he decided to compound his debt for a tract of country in North America. The block of land he selected lay to the north of the Catholic province of Maryland, owned by Lord Baltimore; its length was nearly 300 miles, its width about 160, and its area little less than the whole of England. Objections were raised; but Charles was only too glad to get rid of a debt on such easy terms. At the council, where the charter was granted, Penn stood in the royal presence, it is said, with his hat on. The king thereupon took off his; at which Penn observed, 'Friend Charles, why dost thou not keep on thy hat?' to which his majesty replied, laughing: 'It is the custom of this place for only one person to remain covered at a time.' The name which Penn had fixed on for his province was New Wales; but Secretary Blathwayte, a Welshman, objected to have the Quaker-country called after his land. He then proposed Sylvania, and to this the king added Penn, in honour of the admiral.
The fine country thus secured became the resort of large numbers of Quakers, who, to their desire for the free profession of their faith, united a spirit of enterprise; and very quickly Pennsylvania rose to high importance among the American plantations. Its political constitution was drawn up by Penn, aided by Algernon Sidney, on extreme democratic principles. Perfect toleration to all sects was accorded. 'Whoever is right,' Penn used to say, 'the persecutor must be wrong.' The world thought him a visionary; but his resolution to treat the Indians as friends, and not as vermin to be extirpated, seemed that of a madman. So far as he could prevent, no instrument of war was allowed to appear in Pennsylvania. He met the Indians, spoke kindly to them, promised to pay a fair price for whatever land he and his friends might occupy, and assured them of his good-will. If offences should unhappily arise, a jury of six Indians and six Englishmen should decide upon them.
The Indians met Penn in his own spirit. No oaths, no seals, no official mummeries were used; the treaty was ratified on both sides with a yea, yea-the only one, says Voltaire, that the world has known, never sworn to, and never broken.' A strong evidence of Penn's sagacity is the fact, that not one drop of Quaker blood was ever shed by an Indian; and forty years elapsed from the date of the treaty, ere a red man was slain by a white in Pennsylvania. The murder was an atrocious one, but the Indians themselves prayed that the murderer's life might be spared. It was spared; but he died in a very short time, and they then said, the Great Spirit had avenged their brother.
It will be thought that Penn made a capital bargain, in the purchase of Pennsylvania for £16,000; but in his lifetime, he drew little but trouble from his investment. The settlers withheld his dues, disobeyed his orders, and invaded his rights; and he was kept in constant disquiet by intrigues for the nullification of his charter. Distracted by these cares, he left his English property to the care of a steward, who plundered him mercilessly; and his later years were saddened with severe pecuniary distress. He was twice married, and in both cases to admirable women. His eldest son, a promising youth, he lost just as he verged on manhood; and a second son, by riotous living, brought himself to an early grave, trying Penn's fatherly heart with many sorrows. Multiplied afflictions did not, however, sour his noble nature, nor weaken his settled faith in truth and goodness.
Penn's intimacy with James II exposed him, in his own day, to much suspicion, which yet survives. It ought to be remembered, that Admiral Penn and James were friends; that the admiral, at death, consigned his son William to his guardianship; and that between James and his ward there sprung up feelings apparently amounting to affection. While James was king, Penn sometimes visited him daily, and persuaded him to acts of clemency, otherwise unattainable. Penn scorned as a Quaker, James hated as a Catholic, could sympathise as brothers in adversity. Penn, by nature, was kindly, and abounding in that charity which thinketh no evil; and taking the worst view of James's character, it is in nowise surprising that Penn should have been the victim of his duplicity. It is well known that rogues could do little mischief, if it were not so easy to make good men their tools.
There was very little of that asceticism about Penn which is thought to belong to-at least early -Quakerism. The furniture of his houses was equal in ornament and comfort to that of any gentleman of his time. His table abounded in every real luxury. He was fond of fine horses, and had a passion for boating. The ladies of his household dressed like gentlewomen-wore caps and buckles, silk gowns and golden ornaments. Penn had no less than four wigs in America, all purchased the same year, at a cost of nearly £20. To innocent dances and country fairs he not only made no objection, but patronised them with his own and his family's presence.
William Penn, after a lingering illness of three or four years, in which his mind suffered, but not painfully, died at Ruscombe on the 30th July 1718, and was buried at the secluded village of Jordans, in Buckinghamshire. No stone marks the spot, although many a pilgrim visits the grave.
GRAY AND HIS ELEGY
Sprung of a harsh and unamiable father, but favoured with a mother of opposite character-rising from a youth spent in comparatively humble circumstances-Thomas Gray became, in his mature years, a devoted college-student, a poet, a man of refined taste, and an exemplifier of all the virtues. There is not a more irreproachable character in English literature. The portraits of the bard give us the idea of a very good-looking man. He was unfitted, however, for success in society, by an insuperable taciturnity. The only reproach ever intimated against him by his college-associates, was that of fastidiousness. We may fairly suspect the truth on this point to be, that he shrunk from the coarse and boisterous enjoyments in which the greater number of them indulged.
He had a weakness, in the form of a nervous dread of fire. His chamber in St. Peter's College, Cambridge, being in a second-floor, he thought it very likely that, in case of a conflagration, his exit by the stairs might be cut off. He therefore caused an iron bar to be fixed by arms projecting from the outside of his window, designing by a rope tied thereto to descend to the ground, in the event of a fire occurring. This excessive caution, as it appeared to his brother-collegiates, raised a spirit of practical joking in them; and one evening, not long after the fire-escape had been fixed up, a party of them came from a merry-making, and thundered at the door of Gray, with loud cries of 'Fire! fire! fire!' The nervous poet started from bed, flew to his window, and descended by his rope into the vacant ground below, where of course he was saluted with bursts of laughter by his friends. Gray's delicate nature was so much shocked by this rough affair, that he deserted Peter's College, and took up his residence in Pembroke. The window with the iron apparatus is still shewn, and is faithfully represented on the preceding page.
Among popular English poems, there is none more deservedly distinguished than Gray's Elegy. It appeals to a feeling which is all but universal-a tendency to moralise when alone in a churchyard; and thus it is enabled to take hold of the most common-place minds.
There are several curious circumstances connected with its publication worth recording. For some time after it was written, Gray shewed it round among his friends, but said nothing about publishing it. After a time, he became bolder, and even allowed copies of it to circulate in manuscript, until, at last, through the carelessness of Horace Walpole-or it may have been from a friendly wish of his to see it universally admired, as he felt it would be-a copy fell into the hands of the editor of The Magazine of Magazines, who immediately sent the poet word that he meant to print it. Gray had now no alternative but to print it himself; and accordingly wrote at once to Horace Walpole, with special directions to that end. 'I have but one bad way left,' he writes, 'to escape the honour they would inflict upon me: and therefore am obliged to desire you would make Dodsley print it immediately (which may be done in less than a week's time) from your copy, but without my name.' It seems, he would have us think it a great infliction to be admired by the public.
However, Walpole did as he was bid, and had it printed in all haste; adding an advertisement, at Gray's request, in which he informs the reader that the publication is entirely due to an unavoidable accident. But Dodsley, after all, was too late. It first saw the light in The Magazine of Magazines, February 1751. Some imaginary literary wag is made to rise in a convivial assembly, and thus announce it: 'Gentlemen, give me leave to soothe my own melancholy, and amuse you in a most noble manner, with a full copy of verses by the very ingenious Mr. Gray, of Peterhouse, Cambridge. They are stanzas written in a country churchyard.' Then follow the verses. A few days afterwards, Dodsley's edition appeared, in quarto, anonymously, price sixpence, with An Elegy wrote in a Country Churchyard for its title, and the title-page duly adorned with cross-bones, skulls, and hour-glasses.
The original manuscript of the Elegy is still in existence. It is written on four sides of a doubled half sheet of yellow foolscap, in a neat legible hand, with a crow-quill. Gray bequeathed it, among other papers, to Mr. Mason, who wrote his life; Mr. Mason left it, with the rest of the manuscripts, to his curate, Mr. Bright; and Mr. Bright's son sold the lot in 1845, when the Elegy fell to Mr. Penn, of Manor House, Stoke Pogeis, for £100. In 1854, it was again in the market, and was purchased for £131 by Mr. Robert Charles Wrightson.
A photographed Facsimile of the Original Auto-graph Manuscript of Gray's Elegy, was published in 1862, by Messrs Sampson Low and Son. Curious and interesting differences exist between the first draft and the printed copy: numerous alterations were afterwards made, and as many as six verses, which appear in the manuscript, were omitted.
Perhaps the most interesting of all the emendations was that made in verse 15 of the printed poem; in which Hampden, Milton, and Cromwell were severally substituted for Cato, Tully, and Caesar: it is said that this judicious change was suggested by Mason.
Verse 19, as the poem now stands, is:
Verse 24 is:
For thee, who, mindful of th' unhonour'd dead,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate.
Verse 24 originally stood thus:
If chance, that e'er some pensive spirit more,
By sympathetic musings here delay'd,
With vain, tho' kind inquiry shall explore
Thy once-loved haunt, this long deserted shade.
And before verse 19 came these four verses:
The thoughtless World to majesty may bow,
Exalt the brave, and idolise success;
But more to Innocence their safety owe
Than Power and Genius e'er conspired to bless.
And thou who, mindful of the unhonoured Dead,
Dost in these notes their artless tale relate,
By night and lonely contemplation led
To linger in the lonely walks of Fate,
Hark how the sacred calm that reigns around
Bids every fierce tumultuous passion cease;
In still small accents whisp'ring from the ground
A grateful earnest of eternal peace.
No more with Reason and thyself at strife,
Give anxious cares and endless wishes room;
But through the cool, sequester'd vale of life
Pursue the silent tenor of thy doom.
The change which Gray made is tolerably clear. The four verses were struck out and replaced by verse 19, and the second of the four substituted for the old 24th, with some necessary changes.
After verse 25 followed, originally:
Him have we seen the greenwood side along,
While o'er the heath we hied, our labours done,
Oft as the woodlark piped her farewell song,
With wistful eyes pursue the setting sun.
And after verse 29, now the last, once followed:
There scatter'd oft the earliest of ye year,
By hands unseen are frequent vi'lets found;
The robin loves to build and warble there,
And little footsteps lightly print the ground.
In the summer of 1759, Gray lodged at Mr. Jauncey's, in Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, to be near the British Museum, of which he was a diligent explorer. He told his friend Mason that in this 'peaceful settlement' he had an uninterrupted view of Hampstead, Highgate, and the Bedford Gardens! a space now covered with miles of uninterrupted brick and mortar. The contrast which the Reading Room, with its hundreds of constant readers, now presents with the corresponding establishment in Gray's time, is not less remarkable.
The company that then assembled to study and pursue research, was composed of 'a man that writes for Lord Royston, a man that writes for Dr. Burton of York, a third that writes for the emperor of Germany or Dr. Pocock; Dr. Stukely, who writes for himself, the very worst person he could write for; and I, who only read to know if there is anything worth writing.' Gray further mentions a comfortable fact. 'The keepers have broken off all intercourse with one another, and only lower a silent defiance as they pass by.'
The admirable mother of Gray-who had set up a millinery shop to support her children, when deserted by her unworthy husband-was buried in the churchyard of Stoke Pogeis, near Eton, with an epitaph by the poet containing this most touching passage: ' The careful tender mother of many children, one of whom alone had the misfortune to survive her.' It seems to be generally concluded that he conceived himself as musing in this burialground when he composed the Elegy. He himself was interred there beside the worshipped grave of his mother.
In one of the final verses of the Elegy there is a clause not unworthy of comment, as a historical expression of the intellectual condition of the English peasantry in the eighteenth century. ' Approach and read for thou canst read,' says the hoary-headed swain to the stranger. It is here assumed that, as a rule, an English peasant was unable to read. A Scottish poet would not have had occasion to make the same assumption regarding his humble countrymen-thanks to the Scottish parish schools, instituted at the Revolution.
SALE OF THE OLD GATES OF LONDON
A sale of three of the City gates, on the 30th of July 1760, marked, in a singular way, a dividing point between the old and the modern history of London. The English metropolis, like most large and important cities in the middle ages, was bounded by a wall and a ditch; and in this wall were openings or gates for the passage of foot and vehicle traffic. Beginning from the east, this fortified boundary commenced with the famous Tower of London, itself a vast assemblage of gates and fortified posts. Advancing thence nearly northward, the wall extended to Æld-gate or Aldgate, which defended the approach by the great highway from Essex. This was probably the oldest of all the City gates. In 1215, during the civil war between King John and the barons, the citizens aided the latter in entering London by Aldgate; and soon afterwards, the gate, being very ruinous and dilapidated, was replaced by one strongly built of stone. This new one (a double gate with portcullis) remained till the time of Queen Elizabeth, when it was replaced by another more ornamental than warlike.
This was one of the three gates finally removed in 1760. The wall extended nearly north-west from Aldgate to Bishops-gate, which guarded the great road from Cambridge. This gate was not among the oldest of the series, but is supposed to have been built about the reign of Henry II. At first there were no means of exit from the City between Aldgate and Aldersgate; and this extra gate was opened rather to furnish additional accommodation, than for any defensive purpose. The gate was in a ruinous state from the time of Edward VI to that of James I, when it was replaced by a new one; and this latter was finally removed early in the last century.
The wall stretched westward from Bishopsgate to Moorgate; of which Stow says: 'I find that Thomas Falconer, mayor about the year 1415, the third of Henry V, caused the wall of the city to be broken near unto Coleman Street, and there builded a postern, now called Moorgate, upon the moorside, where was never gate before. This gate he made for ease of the citizens that way to pass upon causeys [causeways] into the fields for their recreation; for the same field was at that time a marsh.' Indeed, all the country immediately outside the city, from Bishopsgate to Aldersgate, was very fenny and marshy, giving rise to the names Moorfields and Finsbury (Fensbury). Moorgate was rebuilt in 1472, and pulled down about the middle of the last century, the stones being used to repair the piers of London Bridge.
The next gate was Cripplegate, a postern or minor gate like Moorgate, but much more ancient; it was many times rebuilt, and was, like the other gates, used as a prison. The name, Stow says, 'so called of cripples begging there.' This was one of the three gates finally pulled down in 1760. The City wall extended thence to Ælders-gate or Aldersgate, one of the oldest of the series, and also one of the largest. The ancient structure, crumbling with age, was replaced by a new and very ornamental one in the time of James I; and this latter gave way to the street improvers early in the last century.
The next gate was Newgate. In the Anglo-Norman times, there were only three City gates-Aldgate, Aldersgate, and Ludgate; and no person could leave the city westward at any point between the two last-named gates. To remedy this inconvenience, Newgate was built about the time of Henry I, the designation 'new' being, of course, only comparative. After being rebuilt and repaired several times, Newgate and its prison were burned down by Lord George Gordon's mob in 1780; the prison was replaced by a much larger and stronger one, but the gate was not rebuilt. The City wall extended from Newgate to Ludgate, which was the oldest of the series except Aldgate and Aldersgate, and the one with which the greatest number of historical events was connected. After many rebuildings and repairing, Ludgate was one of the three which were pulled down in 1760.
It must not be supposed that Dowgate, Billingsgate, and St. John's Gate were necessarily City gates; the first and second were landing-places on the river-side, the third was the gate belonging to the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. As to the Bars -such as Temple Bar, Holborn Bar, and Smithfield Bar-they were subsidiary or exterior barriers, bearing some such relation to 'the City without the walls,' as the gates bore to 'the City within the walls,' but smaller, and of inferior strength.
The announcement in the public journals, concerning the destruction of three of the gates on the 30th of July 1760, was simply to the effect that Mr. Blagden, a carpenter of Coleman Street, gave £91 for the old materials of Cripplegate, £148 for Ludgate, and £177, 10s. for Aldgate; undertaking to have all the rubbish removed by the end of September. Thus ended our old City gates, except Newgate, which the rioters put an end to twenty years later.