Born: Thomas Hobbes, philosophical writer, 1588, Malmsbury; Dr. Edmund Calmly, 1671, Aldermanbury; Catherine I of Russia, 1689, Bingen.
Died: John Stow (history and antiquities of London), 1605, London; William Lord Brounker, mathematician, P.R.S., 1684, St. Catherine's; Rev. William Derham, D.D., scientific writer, 1735, Upminster; Sir Thomas Hanmer, Speaker of the House of Commons in the reign of Queen Anne, editor of Shakspeare, 1746; George Jacques Danton, guillotined, 1794; Rev. William Gilpin, writer on scenery, 1804, Boldre, Hampshire; Robert Raikes, first institutor of Sunday-schools, 1811, Gloucester.
Feast Day: St. Tigernach, of Ireland, 550. St. Becan, of Ireland, abbot, 6th century. St. Gerald, abbot of Seauve, near Bordeaux, 1095. St. Vincent Ferrer, of Spain, confessor, 1419.
One of the most remarkable and precious preservations of the past, a photograph, as it were, of old London, is the well-known Survey of the venerable John Stow. From it we acquire a knowledge not of the topography alone, but also of the manners, habits, and customs of London and its inhabitants in the palmy days when the Lord Mayor was little less than a monarch, and Shakspeare was holding horses at the Globe Theatre on Bankside. In fact, we possess from Stow's indefatigable labours a more intimate knowledge of Queen Elizabeth's capital than we do of the same city at any other period, or, indeed, of any other city at any age of the world. Nor is the Survey the more dry bones of antiquarian research. A distinguished critic has designated it as the most picturesque of narratives. The very minuteness that gave an air of ridicule to the work, causing Fuller to describe Stow as 'such a smell-feast that he cannot pass by Guildhall but his pen must taste of the good cheer therein,' renders the Survey all the more valuable to us now. For instance, after giving a complete account of the abbey of St. Clair, he says:
Near adjoining to this abbey, on the south side thereof, was some time a farm belonging to the said nunnery, at which farm I myself, in my youth, have fetched many a halfpennyworth of milk, and never had less than three ale pints for a halfpenny in the summer, nor less than one ale quart for a halfpenny in the winter, always hot from the kine, as the same was milked and strained. One Trolop, and afterwards Goodman, were farmers there, and had thirty or forty kine to the pail. Goodman's son, being heir to his father's purchase, let out the ground first for the grazing of horses, and then for garden plots, and lived like a gentleman thereby.
Here we have a part of his own autobiography, an account of the price and quality of the milk then sold in London, and the source from which the now crowded district of Goodman's Fields derived its name.
Stow was born in the parish. of St. Michael's, Cornhill, and brought up to his father's business of a tailor. It is rather a singular circumstance that Speed and Stow, the two most distinguished historians of the sixteenth century, were both tailors, which led Sir Henry Spelman to say, 'We are beholden to Mr. Speed and Mr. Stow for stitching up for us our English history.'
To unceasing industry, Stow added an unquenchable love of truth. In his earliest writings, he announced his views of historical composition. No amount of fine phrases or elegant composition, he considered, could atone for the slightest deviation from fact. 'In history,' he said, 'the chief thing that is to be desired is truth; 'and adds this rhythmical caution to the 'phrase-makers: '
Of smooth and flattering speech,
Remember to take heed,
For truth in plain words may he told,
But craft a lie doth need.
A life devoted to the study of history affords the biographer but few incidents. Stow was over engaged in travelling on foot from place to place, in search of materials; or employed in transcribing, translating, abstracting, and compiling the materials so collected. Nor was the painful, patient labourer allowed to live in peace. The vulgar scoffed at him, as the 'lazy prick-louse,' who would not work at his honest trade; and the higher powers, fearing that his researches in antiquity might injure the Reformed religion, threw him into prison, and ransacked his humble dwelling. From the report of those enforcers of the law, we have a pleasant peep at his library, which consisted of 'great collections of his own for his English Chronicles, also a great sort of old books printed; some fabulous, as Sir Gregory Triamour, &c., and a great parcel of old manuscript chronicles in parchment and paper; besides miscellaneous tracts touching physic, surgery, herbs, and medical receipts; and also fantastical popish books printed in old time, and others written in Old English on parchment.'
Such a man could never be expected to become wealthy; accordingly we find Stow in his old ago struggling with poverty. Yet his good-humour never forsook him. Being troubled with pains in his feet, he observed that his afflictions lay in the parts he had formerly made so much use of. And this elucidates a passage in the Hawthornden MSS. Ben Jonson, conversing with Drummond respecting Stow, said, 'He and I walking alone, he asked two cripples what they would have to take them to their order.'
At last, when eighty years of age, Stow received a state acknowledgment of his public services. He petitioned James I for a license to beg, as he himself expresses in the petition:
A recompense for his (the petitioner's) labour and travel of forty-five years, in setting forth the Chronicles of England, and eight years taken up in the Survey of the cities of London and Westminster, towards his relief in his old age: having left his former means of living, and only employing himself for the service and good of his country.
The prayer was granted by Letters Patent under the Great Seal, reciting that:
Whereas our loving subject, John Stow (a very aged and worthy member of our city of London), this five-and-forty years hath to his great charge, and with neglect of his ordinary means of maintenance (for the general good, as well of posterity as of the present age), compiled and published divers necessary books and chronicles; and therefore we, in recompense of these his painful labours, and for the encouragement to the like, have, in our Royal inclination, been pleased to grant our Letters Patent, under our great Seal of England, thereby authorizing him, the said John Stow, to collect among our loving subjects their voluntary contributions and kind gratuities.
These Letters were granted for one year, but produced so little, that they were extended for another twelve months, one entire parish in the city of London giving the munificent sum of seven-and-sixpence. Such was the public remuneration of the man who had been useful to his country but not to himself-the reward of the incessant labours of a well-spent life-of, as Stow himself said, many a weary day's travel, and cold winter night's study.
His person and character are thus described by his literary executor, Edmond Howes: 'He was tall of stature, lean of body and face, his eyes small and crystalline, of a pleasant and cheerful countenance; his sight and memory very good; very sober, mild, and courteous to any that required his instructions; and retained the true use of all his senses unto the day of his death, being of an excellent memory. He always protested never to have written anything either for malice, fear, or favour, nor to seek his own particular gain or vainglory; and that his only pains and care was to write the truth. He could never ride, but travelled on foot unto divers cathedral churches, and other chief places of the land to search records. He was very careless of scoffers, backbiters, and detractors. He lived peacefully and died at fourscore years of age, and was buried in his parish church of St. Andrew's Undershaft; whose mural monument near to his grave was there setup at the charges of Elizabeth, his wife.'
It is a curious circumstance-one which, in some countries, would be termed a miracle-that the Great Fire in 1666 spared the monument of Stow: the man from whose records alone we know what London was previous to the devouring conflagration. Independent of its interest, it is a remarkable curiosity, from its being made of terra cotta, coloured to resemble life; very few sepulchral memorials of that kind being now in existence. It represents the venerable antiquary in a sitting posture, poring over one of the three hundred and thirty-nine manuscripts from which he extracted and condensed his imperishable Annals.
John Aubrey was a native of Wiltshire, and therefore proud of its downs, which, in his odd, quaint way, he tells us, 'are the most spacious plaines in Europe, and the greatest remaines that I can hear of the smooth primitive world when it lay all under water. The turfe is of a short sweet grasse, good for the sheep. About Wilton and Chalke, the downes are intermixt with boscages, that nothing can be more pleasant, and in the summer time doe excell Arcadia in verdant and rich turfe.' Then, pursuing the image, he says, 'The innocent lives of the shepherds hero doe give us a resemblance of the Golden Age. Jacob and Esau were shepherds; and Amos, one of the royall family, asserts the same of himself, for he was among the shepherds of' Tecua (Tekoa) following that employment. The like, by God's own appointment, prepared Moses for a scepter, as Philo intimates in his life, when he tells us that a shepherd's art is a suitable preparation to a kingdom. The same he mentions in his Life of Joseph, affirming that the care a shepherd has over his cattle very much resembles that which a king hath over his subjects. The same St. Basil, in his Homily de St. Mamene, Martyre, has, concerning David, who was taken from following the ewes great with young ones to feed Israel. The Romans, the worthiest and greatest nation in the world, sprang from shepherds. The augury of the twelve vultures placed a sceptre in Romulus's hand, which held a crook before; and as Ovid says,
His own small flock each senator did keep.
Lucretius mentions an 'extraordinary happinesse', and as it were divinity, in a shepherd's life:
Thro' shepherds' care, and their divine retreats.
And to speake from the very bottome of my heart, not to mention the integrity and innocence of shepherds, upon which so many have insisted and copiously declaimed, methinks he is much more happy in a wood that at ease contemplates the universe as his own, and in it the sunn and starrs, the pleasing meadows, shades, groves, green banks, stately trees, flowing springs, and the wanton windings of a river, fit objects for quiet innocence, than he that with fire and sword disturbs the world, and measures his possessions by the waste that lies about him.
Then the old Wiltshire man tells us how the plains abound with hares, fallow deer, partridges, and bustards; the fallow deer and bustards have disappeared. In this delightful part of the country is the Arcadia about Wilton which 'did no doubt conduce to the heightening of Sir Philip Sydney's phansic. He lived much in these parts, and the most masterly touches of his pastoralls he wrote here upon the spott where they were conceived. 'Twas about these purlieus that the Muses were wont to appeare to Sir Philip Sydney, and where he wrote down their dictates in his table-book, though on horseback,' and some old relations of Aubrey's remembered to have seen Sir Philip do this.
Aubrey then proceeds to trace many of the shepherds' customs of his district to the Romans, from whom the Britons received their knowledge of agriculture. The festivals at sheep-shearings he derives from the Parilia. In Aubrey's time, the Wiltshire sheepmastcrs gave no wages to their shepherds, but they had the keeping of so many sheep pro rala', 'soe that the shepherd's lambs doe never miscarry;' and Plautus gives a hint, of this custom amongst the Romans in his time. In Scotland, it is still the custom to pay shepherds partly in this manner. The Wiltshire antiquary goes so far as to say that the habit of his time was that of the Roman, or Arcadian shepherds, as delineated by Drayton, in his Polyolbion, i.e., a long white cloak with a very deep cape, which comes half way down their backs, made of the locks of the sheep. There was a sheep-crook, as we read of in Virgil and Theoeritus; a sling, a scrip, their tar lax, a pipe or flute, and their dog. But since 1671 (when Aubrey wrote) they are grown so luxurious as to neglect their ancient warm and useful fashion, and go 'a la mode. T. Randolph, in an Eclogue on the Cotswold Hill games, says:
What clod pates, Thenot, are our British wanes,
How lubber-like they loll upon the plaines!
And, as additional evidence of their luxurious taste, Aubrey remembered that before the Civil War many of them made straw hats, which was then left off; 'and the shepherdesses of late yeares (1680) doe begin. to worke point, whereas before they did only knitt coarse stockings.' Evelyn notes that, instead of the slings, the shepherds had, in his time, a hollow iron, or piece of horn not unlike a shoeing home, fastened to the other end of the crosier, by which they took up stones, and kept their flocks in order.
It is curious to find that the shepherds and other villagers, in Aubrey's time, took part in welcoming any distinguished visitors to their country by rustic music and pastoral singing. We read of the minister of Bishop's Cannings, an ingenious man and excellent musician, malting several of his parishioners good musicians, both vocal and instrumental; and they sung psalms in concert with the organ in the parish church. When King James I visited Sir Edward Baynton, at Bromham, the minister entertained his Majesty, at the Bush, in Cotefield, withbucolics of his own making and composing, of four parts; which were sung by his parishioners, who wore frocks and whips like carters. Whilst his Majesty was thus diverted, the eight bells rang merrily, and the organ was played. The minister afterwards entertained the king with a football match of his own parishioners; who, Aubrey tells us, 'would, in those days, have challenged all England for musique, football, and ringing.' For the above loyal reception King James made the minister of Bishop's Cannings one of his chaplains in ordinary.
When Anne, Queen of James I, returned from Bath, the worthy minister received her at Shepherd-shard, with a pastoral performed by himself and his parishioners in shepherds' weeds. A copy of this song was printed, with an emblematic frontispiece of goats, pipes, sheep-hooks, cornucopias, &c. The song was set for four voices, and so pleased the queen, that she liberally rewarded the singers.