Born: Tommaso Campanella, philosophical writer, 1568, Stile in Calabria; Cardinal Richelieu, celebrated French statesman, 1585, Paris; Louis XIV of France, 1638, St. Germains; Jean Benjamin Laborde, musician and historical writer, 1734, Paris; Robert Fergusson, Scottish poet, 1750, Edinburgh; Dr. John Dalton, eminent chemist, 1766, Eaglesfield, Cumberland.
Died: Catharine Parr, queen of Henry VIII, 1548; Edmund Bonner, persecuting bishop, 1569, Marshalsea Prison; Matthew Stuart, Earl of Lennox, regent of Scotland, shot at Stirling, 1571; Cardinal du Perron, statesman and man of letters, 1618; Jean Francois Regnard, comic poet, 1710, near Paris; John Home, author of Douglas, 1808; James Wyatt, architect, 1813; Dr. Patrick Neill, author of works on natural history, &c., 1851, Edinburgh; Dr. William Macgillivray, distinguished naturalist, 1852, Aberdeen.
Feast Day: St. Alto, abbot. St. Bertin, abbot, 709. St. Laurence Justinian, confessor, first patriarch of Venice, 1455.
The public has been made pretty well acquainted with the history of the author of Douglas-how the bringing out of his play in Edinburgh, in the year 1756, exposed him to censure among his brethren in the Scotch Church-how he finally retired from clerical duty upon a pension granted him by Lord Bute-how he failed in every other literary under-taking, but spent, on the whole, a happy, as well as a long life, in the enjoyment of the friendship of all the eminent men of his day. Home's tragedy is not now looked upon as the marvel of genius which it once was; and yet, one would think, there must he some peculiar merit in a play of which so many portions remain so strongly impressed upon so many memories. The author was acknowledged, in his lifetime, to be vain up to the full average of poets; yet it was equally admitted regarding him, that he loved his friends as warmly as he loved himself, and was untiring in his exertions for their good. His vanity seems to have been of a very inoffensive kind.
Sir Adam Ferguson, the son of Home's friend, Dr. Ferguson, used to relate an anecdote of the venerable dramatist with great comic effect. It cannot be set forth in print with nearly the same force, but it may, nevertheless, be worthy of a place in this miscellany.
Mrs. Siddons, on visiting the Edinburgh theatre, always spent an afternoon with her worthy friends, Mr. and Mrs. Home, at their neat house in North Hanover Street (latterly, Robertson's upholstery wareroom). On one occasion, they were seated at an early dinner, attended by Mr. Home's old man-servant John, and a little 'lassie,' whose usual place was the kitchen, and who did not as yet know much about waiting at table.
'And what will you take to drink, Mrs. Siddons?' inquired the host.
'A little porter,' answered the tragedy queen in her impressive voice.
John, unobservant of the lady's wishes, was ordered by his master to get a little porter for Mrs. Siddons, and immediately left the room, apparently to obtain the desired beverage. Two or three minutes having elapsed, Mr. Home was heard complaining to his wife of John's absence.
'My dear, John is getting very stupid-I think we shall have to part with him. There he has been out of the room for some minutes, and we are all at a stand.'
A few more minutes passed, and Mr. Home's patience was rapidly ebbing, notwithstanding that Mrs. Siddons did all in her power to put him at his ease. The absence of John, however, had become the subject of concentrated thought to the company, when all at once the outer-door was heard to open, hasty steps crossed the lobby, and John presented himself in the dining-room, with a flushed face, crying 'I've found ane, ma'am! h 's the least I could get!'
Then emerged into view a short, thick-set Highlander, whose band of ropes and leaden badge betokened his profession, but who seemed greatly bewildered on finding himself in a gentleman's dining-room, surveyed by the curious eyes of one of the grandest women that ever walked the earth.
The truth flashed first upon Mrs. Siddons, who, unwonted to laugh, was for once overcome by a sense of the ludicrous, and broke forth into something like shouts of mirth, while as yet Mr. Home was but beginning to apprehend what his servant meant, and Mrs. Home had evidently not the least chance of ever under-standing it-for this lady was by no means a bright specimen of her sex, as the second of Sir Adam's anecdotes will help to make more clear to the reader.
Fallen, as Douglas is now, to the rank of a second-rate play, it is scarce possible for modern men to imagine that it was once the subject of enthusiastic admiration, even beyond the limits of the author's country.
A middle-aged Englishman came to Edinburgh in the summer of 1802, mainly for the purpose of seeing the author of this, his favourite tragedy. He found his way to a modest tenement in a court off the principal street called Canongate, and tremulously knocked at the door. A 'lassie' came.
Is Mr. Home within?'
'Will he be at home soon?'
Oh, na, sir; he's in the Hielands.'
This was true-Mr. Home, attended by his man John, generally spent some weeks in the Highlands every summer.
'And when will he be at home?'
'I canna tell, sir; and John's awa' too-I suppose you had better come in and see Mrs. Home.'
'Oh, then, Mrs. Home is not gone? I should be glad to see her for a few minutes.' He reflected that, next to seeing a poet, was seeing a poet's love. She must doubtless be a very interesting woman. So he sent in his card, with a message stating that he had come to Edinburgh almost on purpose to see Mr. Home-and would the lady be so obliging as allow him a few minutes' conversation? He was presently ushered in, when he beheld a withered old lady, with her head wrapped up in flannel, and looking in the last stage of stupidity and decrepitude. She had a little hot wine and water in a tumbler beside her, and was engaged in grating into it a few grains of nutmeg, such being her ordinary solacement after an early dinner. The heart of the ardent Douglassomaniac sank within him, but he mustered strength to engage in conversation with the old lady, whom he found sadly deficient in knowledge regarding matters of the day, and, indeed, hardly able to converse at all, time having made havoc of the few faculties she once possessed. After trying her with various topics, he came upon one which had lately been in great vogue-the peace concluded with France.
'Oh, yes, I've heard o' the peace. Ay, it's come at last'
It must make a great change in many things,' said the Englishman; 'we may all be thankful for it. England will be able to breathe again, madam.'
The old lady paused-she had not a single idea in her head, but she naturally felt the necessity of saying something. So she asked, in the slow deliberate manner of old paralytic people: 'Do you think, sir, it will mak' ony difference in the price o' nitmugs?'
Hereupon, the lion-hunting Englishman, it is said, uttered a hasty expression unsuitable for print, bade the lady a hasty adieu, and made the best of his way back to his hotel, whence he next day set out for England.
BANBURY AND ITS REMARKABLES
The Tatler for September 5, 1710, gives a jocular account of an Ecclesiastical Thermometer, which had been invented for testing the degrees of zeal of particular places in behalf of the church. The writer states that the town of Banbury, Oxford-shire, which had been singled out by Dr. Fuller a century before for its cakes and zeal, proved itself by 'the glass,' i. e., the above-mentioned thermometer, to be still characterised in a marked manner by the latter peculiarity.
It may be suspected that Banbury at that time equally maintained its ancient distinction in respect of cakes, for the town is still noted for this article, insomuch that they are exported to the most distant parts of the world, one baker alone in 1839 disposing of 139,500 twopenny ones. However this may be, we find that, in the days of Fuller, the material things which the town was remarkable for were-veal, cheese, and cakes; while it is not less certain, that in the abstract article zeal, Banbury was also notable.
Thereby hangs a jest. When Philemon Holland was printing his English edition of Camden's Britannia, he added to the author's statement of Banbury being famous for cheese, the words 'cakes and ale;' and so it was passing through the press, when, Mr. Camden coming in, and seeing the change, thinking 'ale' a somewhat disrespectful reference, substituted for it the word 'zeal,' very unluckily, as it proved, for the Puritans, who abounded in the town, were greatly offended by the allusion, and so more was lost than gained by the change.
Modern research has not failed to discover the early traces of the extreme Puritanism of Banbury.
The advent of Queen Elizabeth to power brought evil days to the Roman Catholics; and in 1571, Mr. Anthony Cope, of Hanwell, a zealous Puritan, was chosen parliamentary representative for the borough by its eighteen electors, an office which he filled for upwards of thirty years. The Rev. Thomas Bracebridge, an eminent Puritan divine, was also at this time vicar of Banbury, and was suspended by the bishop in 1590, for denouncing that usurpation of power in ecclesiastical matters which most of the Tudors were so fond of taking on themselves. There can be no doubt that he laid the foundation of those principles of Puritanism which displayed themselves in Banbury, towards the close of the reign in question, and which Mr. Johnson describes as follows:
From the date of the execution of the Earl of Essex-the last and best-beloved favourite of the queen-an event which took place in 1601, the active mind of Elizabeth became seriously impaired, and the transaction of public business was disagreeable and irksome. The oppressed and consequently dissatisfied adherents of the church of Rome, taking advantage of this altered state of things, began to wax bolder in the expression of their opimons. Under the strict rule of the Puritans, the shows and pageants had been suppressed, and an attempt was now made by the Catholics to revive them. The dresses were procured, the characters rehearsed, and a day fixed for the performance in Banbury. The procession of the performers had reached the high cross, and the actors were engaged in the prologue of the play, when a counter-demonstration issued from High Street, and a collision ensued between the excited partisans of the conflicting creeds.
A regular melee is described as having taken place; but the supporters of the reformed doctrines, having both numbers and the law upon their side, seem eventually to have had the best of the fray. Having succeeded in driving their antagonists out of the town, the rage of the populace took a new direction. Hammers and pickaxes were procured, and the 'goodly cross,' the symbol of the faith of the Roman-Catholic world, was strewed in ruins through the Horse Fair.... So thorough was the work of destruction, that a writer of the time compares the state in which the crosses were left-for there were at least four of them-to the stumps of trees when the trunks are cut down, or to the conveniences by a roadside inn, to aid a lazy horseman in mounting to the saddle.
To the church the crowd repaired next, and worked their frantic will upon the stately temple. The magnificent windows of stained glass were shivered to atoms, as savouring too strongly of idolatry, and the statuary and sculpture mutilated and defaced by the hands of those insensible to forms of beauty. Corbet charges the rioters with not having left the leg or arm of an apostle, and says that the names of the churchwardens were the only inscriptions to be seen upon the walls.
'The reputed sanctity of manners drew upon the town the cutting sarcasms of the wits of the age. The 'rare Ben Jensen,' in his comedy of Bartholomew Fair, represents one of his characters, 'Zeal-o'-the-Land Busy,' as a Banbury baker, who had abandoned the dough-tub and oven for the more lucrative avocation of ' seeing visions and dreaming dreams.
Braithwaite, in his Drunken Barnaby's Four Journeys, refers to the town in the well-known strain:
To Banbury came I, 0 profane one!
There I saw a Puritane one
Hanging of his cat on Monday,
For killing of a mouse on Sunday.
The same writer, in his Strappado for the Devil, calls Bradford in Yorkshire, the 'Banbury of the North,' and says that it also is famous for its 'twanging ale, zeal, cakes, and cheese.' Richard Corbet, subsequently bishop of Oxford, in his Iter Boreale thus refers to the walks in and around Banbury church:
If not for God's, for Mr. Whateley's sake,
Level the walks; suppose these pitfalls make
Him sprain a lecture, or displace a joint
In his long prayer, or in his fifteenth point.
This William Whateley was an eminent Puritan divine, of the Richard-Baxter school, who succeeded to the vicarage in 1610, and held the office for about thirty years. The Rev. Samuel Wells, another clergyman holding similar views, was inducted to the vicarage in 1648, and held the office until 1662, when, on 'Black Bartholomew,' he threw the emoluments of his living to the winds, and preached his farewell sermon from the words, 'And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things which shall befall me there.'
Sir William Davenant, in his comedy The Wits, in speaking of a certain lady, says:
She is more devout
Than a weaver of Banbury, that hopes
To entice heaven, by singing,
To make him lord Of twenty looms.
The following lines of Thomas Jordan, in his Royal Arbor of Loyal Poesie, may have had some reference to the doings already mentioned:
They pluckt communion-tables down,
And broke our painted glasses;
They threw our altars to the ground,
And tumbled down the crosses.
They set up Cromwell and his heir--
The Lord and Lady Claypole-
Because they hated common-prayer,
The organ, and the May-pole.
Most persons who have a feeling for the literature of their early years, will lament the destruction of the cross of Banbury, the locality of the famous nursery rhyme:
Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a black lady ride on a white horse,
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
That she may have music wherever she goes.