Born: Antoine Arnauld, French theologian, 1612, Paris; Anne, Queen of England, 1665, St. James's; Augustine Calmet, 1672.
Died: Jacques Amyot, Great Almoner of France, 1593; Charles II, King of England, 1685, Whitehall; Pope Clement XII, 1740; Dr. Joseph Priestley, chemist and electrician, 1804, Pennsylvania.
Feast Day: St. Dorothy, virgin martyr, 304. St. Mel, bishop of Ardagh, 488. St. Vedast, bishop of Arras, 539. St. Barsanuphius, of Palestine, 6th century. St. Amandus, 675.
THE DEATH OF CHARLES THE SECOND
The winter of 1684-5 had been spent by the Court at Whitehall, amid the gaieties common to the season. Evelyn could never forget 'the inexpressible luxury and profaneness, gaming, and all dissoluteness, and, as it were, a total forgetfulness of God (it being Sunday evening)' which he was witness of:
'the King sitting and toying with his concubines, Portsmouth, Cleveland, Mazarine, &c., a French boy singing love-songs in that glorious gallery, whilst about twenty of the great courtiers and other dissolute persons were at basset, round a large table, a bank of at least £2000 in gold before them; upon which two gentlemen who were with me made strange reflections. Six days after, all was in the dust.'
Burnet tells us that the King:
'ate little all that day, and came to Lady Portsmouth, his favourite mistress, at night, and called for a porringer of spoon meat. Being made too strong for his stomach, he ate little, and had a restless night.'
Another account states that the revels extended over Sunday night until the next morning, when at eight o'clock the King swooned away in his chair, and was seized with a fit of apoplexy; and, according to Evelyn, had not Dr. King, who was accidentally present, and had a lancet in his pocket, bled his Majesty:
'he would certainly have died that moment, which might have been of direful consequence, there being nobody else present with the King, save his doctor and one more. It was a mark of extraordinary- dexterity, resolution, and presence of mind in the doctor, to let him blood in the very paroxysm, without staying the coming of other physicians, which regularly should have been done, and for want of which he must have a regular pardon, as they tell me.'
The Privy Council, however, approved of what he had done, and ordered him £1000, but which was never paid him. This saved the King for the instant; but next morning he had another fit, and the physicians told the Duke of York that his majesty was not likely to live through the day.
Then took place a scene, revealing the hypocrisy of a lifetime; that is, shewing that Charles, while professing Protestantism, had all along been, as far as he was anything, a Catholic.
'The Duke,' says Burnet, 'ordered Huddleston, the priest, who had mainly contributed to the saving of Charles at Worcester, to be brought to the lodgings under the bed-chamber. When Huddleston was told what was to be done, he was in great confusion, for he had not brought the host. He went, however, to another priest, who lived in the court, who gave him the pix, with an host in it. Everything being prepared, the Duke whispered the King in the ear; upon that the King ordered that all who were in the bedchamber should withdraw, except the Earls of Bath and Feversham; and the door was double-locked. The company was kept out half an hour; only Lord Feversham opened the door once, and called for a glass of water. Cardinal Howard told Bishop Burnet that, in the absence of the company, Huddleston, according to the account he sent to Rome, made the King go through some acts of contrition, and, after obtaining such a confession as he was then able to give, he gave him absolution. The consecrated wafer stuck in the King's throat, and that was the reason of calling for a glass of water. Charles told Huddleston that he had saved his life twice, first his body, then his soul.
'When the company were admitted, they found the King had undergone a marvellous alteration. Bishop Ken then vigorously applied himself to the awaking of the King's conscience, and pronounced many short ejaculations and prayers, of which, however, the King seemed to take no notice, and returned no answer. He pressed the King six or seven times to receive the sacrament; but the King always declined, saying he was very weak. But Ken pronounced over him absolution of his sins. The King suffered much inwardly, and said he was burnt up within. He said once that he hoped he should climb up to heaven's gates, which was the only word savouring of religion that he used.'
During the night Charles earnestly recommended the Duchess of Portsmouth and her boy to the care of James; 'and do not,' he good-naturedly added, 'let poor Nelly starve.' The Queen sent excuses for her absence, saying she was too much disordered to resume her post by the couch, and implored pardon. 'She ask my pardon, poor woman!' cried Charles; 'I ask hers, with all my heart.'
The morning light began to peep through the windows of Whitehall, and Charles desired the attendants to pull aside the curtains, that he might once more look at the day. He remembered that it was time to wind up a clock which stood near his bed. These little circumstances were long remembered, because they proved beyond dispute that, when he declared himself a Roman Catholic, he was in full possession of his faculties. He apologised to those who stood round him all night for the trouble which he had caused. He had been, he said, a most unconscionable time dying, but he hoped they would excuse it.
This was the last glimpse of that exquisite urbanity so often found potent to charm away the resentment of a justly incensed nation. Soon after dawn the speech of the dying man failed. Before ten his senses were gone. Great numbers had repaired to the churches at the hour of morning service. When the prayer for the King was read, loud groans and sobs spewed how deeply his people felt for him. At noon, on Friday, the 6th of February, he passed away without a struggle.'
It was the belief of many at the time that Charles II was poisoned. It was common then and in the preceding age to attribute the sudden death of any great man to poison; but, in Charles's case, the suspicions are not without authority. Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, says:
'The most knowing and the most deserving of all his physicians did not only believe him poisoned, but thought himself so too, not long after, for having declared his opinion a little too boldly.'
Bishop Patrick strengthens the supposition from the testimony of Sir Thomas Mellington, who sat with the King for three days, and never went to bed for three nights. Lord Chesterfield, the grandson of the Earl of Chesterfield who was with Charles at his death, states positively that the King was poisoned. The Duchess of Portsmouth, when in England in 1699, is said to have told Lord Chancellor Cowper that Charles II was poisoned at her house by one of her footmen in a dish of chocolate; and Fox had heard a somewhat similar report from the family of his mother, who was grand-daughter to the Duchess.
This historical evidence is, however, invalidated by more recent investigation. On examining King Charles's head, a copious effusion of lymph was found in the ventricles and at the base of the cranium; from which Sir Henry Halford was disposed to think that the King might have been still further bled with advantage. It is quite evident from Sir Henry's account, that Charles II died of apoplexy-the only too probable consequence of his excesses-and consequently that his indifference to the solicitations of those about him, on religious matters, can only, with charity, be attributed to the effects of his disease.
A WONDERFUL CHILD
The annals of precocity present no more remarkable instance than the brief career of Christian Heinecker, born at Lubeck, February 6, 1721. At the age of ten months he could speak and repeat every word which was said to him: when twelve months old, he knew by heart the principal events narrated in the Pentateuch: in his second year he learned the greater part of the history of the Bible, both of the Old and New Testaments: in his third year he could reply to most questions on universal history and geography, and in the same year he learned to speak Latin and French: in his fourth year he employed himself in the study of religion and the history of the church, and he was able not only to repeat what he had read, but also to reason upon it, and express his own judgment. The King of Denmark wishing to see this wonderful child, he was taken to Copenhagen, there examined before the court, and proclaimed to be a wonder. On his return home, he learned to write, but, his constitution being weak, he shortly after fell ill; he died on the 27th of June 1725, without, it is said, shewing much uneasiness at the approach of death. This account of him by his teacher is confirmed by many respectable contemporary authorities. Martini published a dissertation at Lubeck, in which he attempted to account for the circumstances of the child's early development of intellect.
It cannot be too generally known that extreme precocity like this is of the nature of disease and a subject for the gravest care. In a precocious child, the exercise of the intellect, whether in lessons or otherwise, should be discouraged and controlled, not, as it too often is, stimulated, if there be any sincere desire that the child should live.
THE TWO UNKNOWN SISTERS-A CORNISH LEGEND
It is from Nectan's sainted steep
The foamy waters flash and leap:
It is where shrinking wild flowers grow,
hey lave the nymph that dwells below!
But wherefore, in this far off doll,
The reliques of a human cell?
Where the sad stream, and lonely wind,
Bring man no tidings of his kind!
Long years agone, the old man said,
'Twas told him by his grandsire dead,
One day two ancient sisters came,
None there could tell their race or name!
Their speech was not in Cornish phrase,
Their garb had marks of loftier days;
Slight food they took from hands of men,
They wither'd slowly in that glen!
One died!-the other's shrunken eye
Gush'd, till the fount of tears was dry;
A wild and wasting thought had she,
'I shall have none to weep for me!'
They found her, silent, at the last,
Bent, in the shape wherein she pass'd;
Where her lone seat long used to stand,
Her head upon her shrivell'd hand!
Did fancy give this legend birth,
The grandame's talc for winter hearth?
Or some dead bard by Nectan's stream,
People these banks with such a dream
We know not: but it suits the scene,
To think such wild things here have been,
What spot more meet could grief or sin
Choose at the last to wither in!