Born: Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, minister of Queen Anne, 1661.
Dead: Francis II of France, husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, 1560; Sir Henry Wotton, poet and miscellaneous writer, 1639, Eton; Johann Wolfgang Theophilus Mozart, celebrated composer, 1792, Vienna; John Bewick, wood-engraver, 1795, Ovingham; Carlo Giovanni Maria Denina, historical writer, 1813, Paris; Leopold Frederick, Count Stolberg, poet and miscellaneous writer, 1819, Sonderműhlen, near Osnabrűck; Captain S. A. Warner, inventor of projectiles, 1853, Pimlico.
Feast Day: St. Crispina, martyr, 304. St. Sabas, abbot, 532. St. Nicetius, bishop of Triers, confessor, about 566.
Mozart appears as a being eccentrically formed to be a medium for the expression of music and no grosser purpose. In this he was strong: in everything else of body and mind, he remained a child during the thirty-six years to which his life was limited.
When three years old, his great amusement was finding concords on the piano; and nothing could equal his delight when he had discovered a harmonious interval. At the age of four, his father began to teach him little pieces of music, which he always learned to play in a very short time; and, before he was six, he had invented several small pieces himself, and even attempted compositions of some extent and intricacy.
'The sensibility of his organs appears to have been excessive. The slightest false note or harsh tone was quite a torture to him; and, in the early part of his childhood, he could not hear the sound of a trumpet without growing pale, and almost falling into convulsions. His father, for many years, carried him and his sister about to different cities for the purpose of exhibiting their talents. In 1764, they came to London, and played before the late king. Mozart also played the organ at the Chapel Royal; and with this the king was more pleased than with his performance on the harpsicord. During this visit he composed six sonatas, which he dedicated to the queen. He was then only eight years old. A few years after this he went to Milan; and at that place was performed, in 1770, the opera of Mithridates, composed by Mozart at the age of fourteen, and performed twenty nights in succession. From that time till he was nineteen, he continued to be the musical wonder of Europe, as much from the astonishing extent of his abilities, as from the extreme youth of their possessor.
'Entirely absorbed in music, this great man was a child in every other respect. His hands were so wedded to the piano, that he could use them for nothing else: at table, his wife carved for him; and, in everything relating to money, or the management of his domestic affairs, or even the choice and arrangement of his amusements, he was entirely under her guidance. His health was very delicate; and, during the latter part of his too short life, it declined rapidly. Like all weak-minded people, he was extremely apprehensive of death; and it was only by incessant application to his favourite study, that he prevented his spirits sinking totally under the fears of approaching dissolution. At all other times, he laboured under a profound melancholy, which unquestionably tended to accelerate the period of his existence. In this melancholy state of spirits, he composed the Zauberflo//te, the Clemenza di Tito, and the celebrated mass in D minor, commonly known by the name of his Requiem. The circumstances which attended the composition of the last of these works are so remarkable, from the effect they produced upon his mind, that we shall detail them; and, with the account, close the life of Mozart.
One day, when his spirits were unusually oppressed, a stranger, of a tall, dignified appearance, was introduced. His manners were grave and impressive. He told Mozart that he came from a person who did not wish to be known, to request he would compose a solemn mass, as a requiem for the soul of a friend whom he had recently lost, and whose memory he was desirous of commemorating by this solemn service. Mozart undertook the task, and engaged to have it completed in a month. The stranger begged to know what price he set upon his work, and immediately paid him one hundred ducats, and departed. The mystery of this visit seemed to have a very strong effect upon the mind of the musician. He brooded over it for some time; and then suddenly calling for writing materials, began to compose with extraordinary ardour. This application, however, was more than his strength could support; it brought on fainting fits; and his increasing illness obliged him to suspend his work. 'I am writing this Requiem for myself! ' said he abruptly to his wife one day; 'it will serve for my own funeral-service; ' and this impression never afterwards left him. At the expiration of the month, the mysterious stranger appeared, and demanded the Requiem. ' I have found it impossible,' said Mozart, 'to keep my word; the work has interested me more than I expected, and I have extended it beyond my first design. I shall require another month to finish it.' The stranger made no objection; but observing, that for this additional trouble it was but just to increase the premium, laid down fifty ducats more, and promised to return at the time appointed. Astonished at his whole proceedings, Mozart ordered a servant to follow this singular personage, and, if possible, to find out who he was: the man, however lost sight of him, and was obliged to return as he went. Mozart, now more than ever persuaded that he was a messenger from the other world, sent to warn him that his end was approaching, applied with fresh zeal to the Requiem; and, in spite of the exhausted state both of his mind and body, completed it before the end of the month. At the appointed day the stranger returned; but Mozart was no more.
NOTES ON AN ANCIENT GOTHIC CROWN
Towards the close of 1858, or early in 1859, in the course of excavations at La Fuente de Guarraz, near Toledo, on the property of some private individual, a hoard of treasure of great value and interest was brought to light. No particulars of the discovery are recorded. It seems, however, that there were not found any remains of a case or casket in which the relics had been enclosed; in several parts the ornamentation had been filled with the soil in which they were found; it has, therefore, been supposed that those relics of royalty had been buried in some time of confusion without any enclosure. The spot where the crowns were found was uncultivated land, which the peasants were breaking up when the discovery was made. The treasure consisted of eight crowns: four are of gold richly jewelled; from the front of the crowns jewelled crosses are suspended by 'old chains; there are also chains of the same metal for the purpose of hanging the crowns in some convenient situation.
These ancient and precious objects were brought to Paris in the month of January 1859, by the proprietor of the land where they were found, and the crowns were immediately purchased by the Minister of Public Instruction, for the national collection at the Hotel de Cluny, a museum which is already possessed of many valuable examples of medieval art, besides specimens of more ancient date. The largest of the crowns bears the following inscription, in letters jewelled and appended by little chains to its lower margin, 'RECCESVINTHVS REX OFFERET;' the letters are about two inches in length each-they are separately hung, and to each is attached a pendant pearl and sapphire. The gold letters are beautifully incrusted with precious stones, and engraved in the same manner as some of the gold work of the Anglo-Saxon period. By means of the inscription, we are able to arrive at a knowledge of the date of this crown, for King Reccesvinthus governed Spain from 653 to 675; the inscription also shews that it has been an offering (probably to some religious shrine) by this ruler; and the seven other crowns, of smaller dimensions and value, may have been those of the queen and the princes and princesses of the family; some of them, judging by their size, are intended for children of early age-the whole being a solemn offering on some important occasion.
In ancient times it was customary to enrich the saintly shrines with choice and valuable gifts; amongst these, however, there were often imitation crowns and other objects given as votive-offerings, to be placed over the altars, or in some other conspicuous position. There are, however, instances of the crowns which were actually worn by kings and queens having been devoted to this purpose-amongst these may be mentioned the Iron Crown of Lombardy. It is to be observed that the gold chains by which those relics were suspended, have been added to the simple circlets which were no doubt actually worn by royal personages about twelve hundred years ago, since they are formed with hinges and fastenings to facilitate the fastening of them to the heads of the wearers.
The crown of the king measures about nine inches in diameter, and twenty-seven in circumference; it is a hoop about four inches in breadth, and upwards of half an inch in thickness; it is, however, not solid, but formed of massive gold plates soldered together. The margins of this hoop consist of two bands of cloisonné work, with incrustations of carnelian; and it is still further enriched with thirty oriental sapphires of large size, set in collets, giving to the gems a very prominent relief. Thirty very large pearls are arranged alternately with the sapphires. The intervening spaces are pierced in open work and engraved, so as to represent foliage and flowers, and to the lower margin is appended the fringe of letters already mentioned. The golden chains are united above with foliated ornaments, which are enriched with numerous pendant pearls and sapphires, and surmounted by a capital, in the form of a knot of crystal, elaborately carved and polished, and terminating in a globe of the same material. The Latin shaped cross, suspended from the crown by a slender chain, is set with six fine sapphires and eight pearls of remarkable dimensions, mounted in very high relief; jewelled pendants are also attached to the limbs and foot of the cross. This has been worn as a fibula or brooch, the acus by which it has been fastened to the royal robes being still visible. The entire length of this combination of ornament, from the gold hook to which it is fastened to the lowest pendant sapphire attached to the cross, is about three feet. The crown is composed of the purest gold, the colour of which, with the violet sapphires alternating with the pearls, &c., presents a most gorgeous appearance.
The crown, of which we give an engraving, was probably worn by the queen of Reccesvinthus. The broad circlet is set with fifty-four rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and opals, whilst pendant sapphires fringe its lower margin. Above and below, near both edges of this circlet, there are little loops which seem to have been used for fastening a lining or cap of some costly tissue within the golden hoop, to protect the forehead of the wearer. The pendant cross is not so much decorated as that above mentioned, being, however, richly set on both sides with sapphires. The same jewels are also suspended from the cross. The eight other crowns are of several fashions. Three are essentially different from the others, for instead of a broad band, the circlet consists of open frame-work of gold, formed of three horizontal hoops and numerous traverses, with gems set at the points of intersection; all the crowns are enriched with not less than fifty-four precious stones and pearls, and have also hanging fringes of sapphires.
On the pendant crosses of one of the crowns is engraved the following dedication: 'IN DEI NOMINE OFFERET SONNICA SANCTAE MARIE IN SORBACES.' After the word NOMINE, a leaf is introduced as a stop; M. Du Sommerards considers that Sonnica is a male appellation. The three smallest crowns had no pendant crosses. As an example of ancient art-workmanship, this may be regarded as one of the most remarkable discoveries which have been made in recent times. The articles are in excellent preservation, and the French have reason to congratulate themselves that they have gained possession of such a prize.
DR. JOHN SHEBBEARE
A person happening to pass by Charing Cross, on the 5th of December 1758, would have witnessed an extraordinary spectacle-a vast crowd surrounding a scaffold, on which stood two men and a pillory. A man in the pillory was no unusual sight in those days, but, in this particular case, the culprit's head and hands were not enclosed in the holes provided for the purpose; unconfined, he stood at his ease, and, to prevent even the rains of heaven from visiting him too roughly, a servant, dressed in a rich livery, carefully held an umbrella over his revered head. The man whose legally inflicted punishment was thus turned into a triumph, was Dr. John Shebbeare.
The son of a country attorney in Devonshire, Shebbeare was educated as a surgeon, but, being unsuccessful in his profession, turned his attention to literature. Having resolved, as he admitted, to write himself into a pension or the pillory, his political tracts were of an exceedingly virulent character, most galling to the king and ministry of the day. His best-known work is a series of Letters to the People of England, which had a wide circulation, and was eagerly read by all classes. The leading idea in the Letters, was the then not unpopular one, that the grandeur of France and the misfortunes of England, were wholly attributable to the undue influence of Hanover in the British council-chamber. In allusion to the White Horse being the armorial ensign of Hanover, Shebbeare's motto prefixed to his Letters, was the well-known verse from the Apocalypse-
And I looked and beheld a pale horse; and his name that sat upon him was Death, and Hell followed.
In consequence of these Letters, the Attorney-general Pratt, afterwards Lord Camden, filed an information against Shebbeare in the Court of King's Bench, at the Easter term, 1758. At the trial, the officers of the crown admitted a point, then and afterwards much disputed, but now incontrovertibly established, that the jury have the right to determine both the law and the fact in cases of libel.
Shebbeare was found guilty, and sentenced to be fined five pounds, to stand in the pillory one hour, to be imprisoned in the Marshalsea for three years, and to give security for his good-behaviour for seven years, himself in £500, and two others in £250 each. The under-sheriff at that time was a Mr. Beardmore, a person of exactly the same political principles as Shebbeare; so he brought the culprit to the pillory in one of the city state-coaches, handing him out and in with the greatest demonstrations of respect. This gave Churchill occasion to write in the Author:
Where is Shebbeare? 0 let not foul reproach,
Travelling thither in a city-coach,
The pillory dare to name; the whole intent
Of that parade was fame, not punishment,
And that old stanch Whig, Beardmore, standing by
Can in full court give that reproach the lie.
The last line refers to a trial that arose out of this affair. Beardmore was arraigned in the Court of King's Bench for not doing his duty on the occasion. He contended that he had fulfilled the letter of the law by pillorying Shebbeare, and brought forward a number of witnesses to prove it. The judge, however, ruled that Shebbeare had not been put in the pillory, and the too-indulgent sub-sheriff was sentenced to pay a fine of £50, and suffer two months' imprisonment. Beardmore afterwards had his revenge, when solicitor to Wilkes; by an over-stretch of legal power, he and his clerk were taken into custody, and recovered heavy damages from the secretary of state, for false imprisonment.
The footman who held the umbrella over Shebbeare, was an Irish chairman, hired and dressed in livery for the occasion. The following day, he called on the doctor, representing that the guinea he received for his trouble was scarcely sufficient; for, as he put it, 'only think of the disgrace, your honour.' Shebbeare gave him five shillings more, and the man went away satisfied.
Shebbeare remained three years, the full term of his sentence, in prison. On the expiration of that time, a new reign had commenced: George III, young and inexperienced, had ascended the throne; and his minister, Lord Bute, was the most unpopular of men. So it was thought best to make a friend of such a virulent and unscrupulous writer as the doctor, and a pension was granted to him accordingly. Thus his words were made good-he wrote himself into the pillory, and into a pension. Dr. Johnson was pensioned shortly after, causing the wits to say that the king had first pensioned a she bear, and afterwards a he bear. In a satirical poem, entitled the Masquerade, Johnson and Shebbeare are thus alluded to:
Much beared and much flattered by people of note, With cash in his pockets for turning his coat, Surly Johnson as Crispin the Second comes pat in, Talking Latin in English, and English in Latin, Successor of Shebbeare, but missing the wood, Where, pampered by Bute, his prototype stood.
Shebbeare's plays, novels, political, satirical, and medical works, are thirty-four in number, but now all utterly forgotten. He died at a good old age in 1788, greatly lamented by his friends; for this Ishmael of politics and public life is represented as a very amiable and worthy man in all his private relations, as husband, son, father, brother, and friend. So little do we know of each other, so little do we probably know of our ownselves and characters.