Born: John Flaxman, sculptor, 1755, York; Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, governor of Java (1811-1816), author of a History of Java, founder of the Zoological Society, 1781.
Died: Henry II of England, 1189, Chinon Castle; Pope Benedict XI, 1303; Sir Thomas More, Chancellor of England, beheaded 1535, London; Edward VI of England, 1553, Greenwich; Archbishop Grindal, 1583, Croydon; Humphry Wanley, learned scholar, 1726; Michael Bruce, poet, 1767, Kinnesswood, Tlinross-shire; George Augustus Elliot, Lord Heathfield, military commander, 1790: Granville Sharpe, philanthropist, 1813, Fulham: Samuel Whitbread, statesman, 1815: Sir Henry Raeburn, painter, 1823, Edinburgh; Sir Thomas Munro, 1827, Madras; D. M. Moir, poet and miscellaneous writer, 1851, Musselburgh Scotland; Andrew Crosse, electrician, 1855: Sir Francis Palgrave, historian, 1861.
Feast Day: St. Julian, anchoret, about 370. St. Palladius, apostle of the Scots, bishop and confessor, about 450. St. Moninna, of Ireland, virgin, 518. St. Goar, priest and confessor, 575. St. Sexburgh, abbess of Ely, 7th century.
SIR THOMAS MORE
When Sir Thomas More was installed as lord chancellor, in the room of Cardinal Wolsey, the Duke of Norfolk, by the king's express command, commended him 'unto the people, there with great applause and joy gathered together,' for his admirable wisdome, integritie, and innocencie, joined with most pleasant facilitie of witt; praise which perfectly suited its subject.
Sir Thomas More united prudence with pleasantry, great and singular learning with simplicity of life, and unaffected humility with the proudest temporal greatness: he preferred the love of his family, and the quiet pleasures of his own house-hold, to the favours of kings or delights of courts. It was only after the repeated urging of Henry, that at last he consented to relinquish his studious and secluded life at Chelsea: and it may truly be said that he was never happy after: for, besides his natural shrinking from public responsibility, and his disregard of worldly notoriety, he had a remarkably clear insight into Henry's character, and never put much faith in his abundant favours.
More was retained in the king's household like a personal friend, except that there must have been a degree of tyranny in his being kept thus continually from his own family. But his pleasantries amused the king and his queen, and his learning was useful to a monarch, who was writing a book which was to be the wonder of Christendom, and which had to be looked over, corrected, and arranged by Sir Thomas, as Sir Thomas himself admits, before Europe could be honoured with a glance at it. He was employed on several embassies alone, and in company with Wolsey: and finally, much against his will, he succeeded in 1529, to the highest honours, upon Wolsey's fall.
He filled the office of chancellor with a wisdom and unspotted integrity which were unexampled in his own time: and yet united with these virtues such graceful ease and agreeable manners, that it seemed to him no effort to he honest, and no difficulty to be just. When one woman sought to bribe him, by presenting him with a valuable cup, he ordered his butler to fill it with wine, and having drunk her health, returned it: and when another presented him with a pair of gloves, containing forty pounds, he accepted the gloves and returned the gold, declaring that 'he preferred his gloves without lining?'
More, though liberal-minded, was a stanch believer in the pope's supremacy, and had a great dread of heresy: and when Henry opposed the pope's will and decree by marrying Anne Boleyn, More resigned his chancellorship. He did not do so ostensibly on that account, but the king was shrewd enough to surmise his true reason. Henry really loved his servant, and did his utmost to obtain his approval of the new marriage, but the ex-chancellor preserved a discreet silence. The king, piqued by the neutrality of one whose opinion he valued, and on whom he fancied he had bestowed so many inestimable benefits, determined to make the late favourite acquiesce in his sovereign's will. More was invited to the coronation, and urged to appear, but he refused. He was threatened, but he only smiled. His name was put in the bill of attainder against the supposed accomplices of Joan of Kent, and then erased as a favour. But when the oath was put to him, which declared the lawfulness of the king's marriage, he would not take it, and so was committed to the Tower: and after many attempts, first to change him, and then to make him betray himself, so as to afford just ground for condemnation, he was tried and condemned unjustly, and beheaded, to the regret and shame of the whole nation, and all the world's astonishment and disgust.
The body of Sir Thomas More was first interred in St. Peter's Church, in the Tower, and afterwards in Chelsea Church: but his head was stuck on a pole, and placed on London Bridge, where it remained fourteen days. His eldest and favourite daughter, Margaret Roper, much grieved and shocked at this exposure of her father's head, determined, if possible, to gain possession of it. She succeeded: and, according to Aubrey, in a very remarkable manner. 'One day,' says he, 'as she was passing under the bridge, looking on her father's head, she exclaimed: 'That head has lain many a time in my lap, would to God it would fall into my lap as I pass under!' She had her wish, and it did fall into her lap!' Improbable as this incident may appear, it is not unlikely that it really occurred. For having tried in vain to gain possession of the head by open and direct means, she bribed or persuaded one of the bridge-keepers to throw it over the bridge, as if to make room for another, just when he should see her passing in a boat beneath. And she doubtless made the above exclamation to her boatmen, to prevent the suspicion of a concerted scheme between her and the bridge-keeper. However some of these particulars may be questioned, it appears certain that Margaret Roper gained possession of her father's head by some such means, for when summoned before the council for having it in her custody, she boldly declared that 'her father's head should not be food for fishes!' For this she was imprisoned, but was soon liberated, and allowed to retain her father's head, which she had enclosed in a leaden box, and preserved it with the tenderest devotion. She died in 1544, aged 36, and was buried in the Roper vault, in St. Dunstan's Church, Canterbury: and, according to her own desire, her father's head was placed in her coffin. But subsequently, for some cause not now known, it was removed from its leaden case, and deposited in a small niche in the wall of the vault, with an iron grating before it, where it now remains in the condition of a fleshless skull.
Margaret Roper was well skilled in Greek, Latin, and other languages: a proficient in the arts and sciences as then known: and a woman of remarkable determination and strength of character. A tradition, preserved in the Roper family, records that Queen Elizabeth offered her a ducal coronet, which she refused, lest it should be considered as a compromise for what she regarded as the judicial murder of her father.
HUMPHRY WANLEY, THE ANTIQUARY
This laborious worker in the field of antiquarianism was the son of the author of that strange collection of curious, but ill-authenticated matters, the Wonders of the Little World, and was born March 21, 1671-2. He was placed to some mechanical business: but all the time he could command, he employed in searching for and reading ancient manuscripts, by copying and imitating which he acquired a particular facility in judging of their authenticity and dates. Dr. Lloyd, bishop of Worcester, pleased with this extraordinary taste in so young a person, sent him to Oxford. He was next appointed by Harley, Earl of Oxford, to arrange his valuable collections of manuscripts and books; and his lordship's eldest son allowed Wanley a pension, and continued him in his situation of librarian till his death. His industry as a bibliographer was untiring, and various public libraries and collections of manuscripts benefited from his labours.
Humphry was a very unselfish being, and extremely faithful to his patrons. He was in the habit of collecting scarce articles for Lord Oxford's library. One day, having procured a rarity, he went to his lordship's town-house, where several cabinet ministers were assembled, and Wanley was desired to wait a few minutes. The weather was cold, and he became irritated by the delay: so he determined to retaliate by increasing the price for his treasure. When the ministers departed, Wanley was admitted to Lord Oxford.
'I have, my lord,' said Wanley, 'a most rare article, but it is very dear. It is the property of a widow, who has two daughters: they have seen better days. She would scarcely permit me to bring it, though I left a promissory-note for the hundred pounds she demanded, in case I did not return it.'
'A hundred pounds, Wanley: that is a great sum for so small a thing!'
'It is, my lord: but you have so often asked me to get it, that I thought I could not do less than shew it your lordship, particularly as it is quite perfect, and is the only copy known.'
'It is a large sum: however, I must have it. Give me pen, ink, and paper.' A draught was drawn for a hundred pounds, in presenting which his lordship said: 'Now, Wanley, perhaps you purchased this at some bookstall!'
Humphry expressed a seeming surprise, shrugged up his shoulders, and left the book with the peer, for what he really did give for it at a bookstall-sixpence!
Wanley died July 6, 1726, and was buried in the old church of St. Marylebone, under a flat stone.
Andrew Crosse was a country gentleman, who spent his whole life at Fyne Court, on his patrimonial acres, six miles from Taunton, on the Quantock Hills. His leisure he employed in electrical experiments made on a gigantic scale. Shewing a large party, that had come from a distance to see his apparatus, two enormous Leyden jars, which he charged by means of wires stretched for miles among the forest-trees, an old gentleman contemplated the arrangement with a look of grave disapprobation, and, at length, with much solemnity, observed:
'Mr. Crosse, don't you think it is rather impious to bottle the lightning?'
'Let me answer your question by asking another,' replied Mr. Crosse, laughing. 'Don't you think, sir, it might be considered rather impious to bottle the rain-water?'
Whilst engaged in the construction of a variety of minerals, by subjecting various matters held in solution to electrical action, he, in 1837, hit on a discovery, which, blazoned abroad in the news-papers, raised round his name a storm of obloquy which happily his hearty good-nature enabled him to endure without discomfort.
Having mixed two ounces of powdered flint with six ounces of carbonate of potassa, fused them together in a strong heat, then reduced the compound to powder, and dissolved it in boiling-water, he obtained silicate of potassa, a portion of which he diluted in boiling water, slowly adding hydrochloric acid to super-saturation. This fluid he subjected to a long continued electric action, through the intervention of a porous stone, in order to form, if possible, crystals of silica, 'but this failed. On the fourteenth day from the commencement of the experiment, he observed, through a lens, a few small whitish excrescences projecting from the middle of the electrified stone. On the eighteenth day, these projections had become enlarged, and struck out seven or eight filaments. On the twenty-sixth day, they assumed the forms of perfect insects, standing erect on a few bristles, which were their tails. On the twenty-eighth day they moved their legs, and soon after detached themselves from the stone, and began to move about. In the course of a few weeks, about a hundred insects had made their appearance. The smaller ones had six legs and the larger eight, and were pronounced as 'belonging to the genus Affirm.
At first Mr. Crosse imagined that these insects must have originated from some ova in the water. He repeated the experiment, taking every conceivable care to subject his materials to processes destructive of life, but the acari duly reappeared under the same conditions. Others tried the experiment, with even more rigid pains to exclude and destroy imperceptible ova, but still acari came to life, walked about, fed, multiplied, and only died after frost, which always proved fatal to them. The discussion which followed these remarkable experiments still continues. Some hold that they are clear proofs of spontaneous generation, and of the possibility of animal creation wherever the requisite conditions are supplied. Others firmly maintain the impossibility of such new creation, and assert that ova must needs be present, having eluded the contrivances to destroy or to strain them out. About the Acarus Crossii, as it was called, Crosse himself put forth no theory, drew no inferences, and attacked no established belief. He was very little of a theorist: he simply said, I did so and so, and so and so was the result. The abuse lavished on him for the inferences that might be drawn from his discovery was singularly out of place.
Mr. Crosse was not wealthy, and his secluded life at home among the Somersetshire hills was first a necessity and then a habit. He was far from unsocial, and he excited in all who knew him the heartiest friendship. He was twice married; and died on the 6th July 1855, in the room in which, seventy-one years before, he had been born.
A MODERN HERMIT
In the village of Newton Burgoland, which is a hamlet of the parish of Swepstone, near Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, is now (1863) living au eccentric character, who styles himself 'The Old Hermit of Newton Burgoland.' Though he has resided here nearly fifteen years, his real name, William Lole, is scarcely known: and a stranger might search for him in vain, even in his own hamlet, unless he inquired for 'The Old Hermit.' Yet he is no recluse, no ascetic. It cannot be said of him:
The moss his bed, the cave his humble cell;
His food the fruits, his drink the crystal well
He lives among the haunts of men, in a comfortable cottage: he can enjoy a good dinner, can drink his glass of beer, and smoke his pipe with as much relish as any man. Yet, according to his own definition, he is entitled to the appellation of a hermit. 'True hermits,' says he, 'throughout every age, have been the firm abettors of freedom.' And, as regards his appearance, his fancies, and his habits, he is a hermit-a solitaire, in the midst of his fellow-beings. He wears a long beard, and has a very venerable appearance. In his dress he is the veriest dandy, if we regard its profuseness and singularity. He has a multitude of suits, all of an original and very fantastical description. They must have cost more than half his income, and have exhausted his utmost ingenuity to devise. He has no less than twenty different kinds of hats, each of which has its own name and form, with some emblem or motto on it-sometimes both. Here are a few examples:
Motto or Emblem. Without money, without friends, without credit.
The shapes of the hats, and the devices on them, are intended to symbolise some important fact or sentiment.
The rest of his dress is as fantastical as his hats. He has twelve suits of clothes, each with a peculiar name, differing from the others, and, like his hats, intended to be emblematical. One dress, which he calls 'Odd Fellows,' is of white cotton or linen. It hangs loosely over the body, except being bound round the waist with a white girdle, buckled in the front. Over his left breast is a heart-shaped badge, bearing the words, 'Liberty of conscience,' which he calls his 'Order of the Star.' The hat which he wears with this dress is nearly white, and of common shape, but has on it four fanciful devices, bound with black ribbon, and inscribed, severally, with these words: 'Bless, feed-good allowance-well clothed-all working-men.'
Another dress, which he calls 'Foresters,' is a kind of frock-coat, made of soft brown leather, slightly embroidered with braid. This coat is closed down the front with white buttons, and bound round the waist with a white girdle, fastened with a white buckle. The hat, slightly resembling a turban, is divided into black and white stripes, running round it.
Another dress, which he has named 'Military,' has some resemblance to the military costume at the beginning of the present century. The coat is sloped off at the waist, and faced with fur; dark knee-breeches, and buckled shoes. The hat belonging to this dress is no longer in existence. It was a large conspicuous article, a composition between the old-fashioned cocked-hat, and that worn by military commanders: but instead of the military plume, it had two upright peaks on the crown, not unlike the tips of a horse's ears. This hat, which he asserts cost five pounds, was the pride of his heart. He considered it a perfect specimen of exquisite taste and ingenuity. He preserved it with religious care, and never wore it but on important occasions.
On one of these occasions he arrayed himself in his 'Military,' and adjusted his pet-hat with consequential precision. Exulting in his fancied dignity, he sallied forth from his hermitage: but, forgetful of the hermit's humility, he strode along the road with a somewhat martial air. When, Lo! he met a group of giddy, mischievous youths who were just looking out for a frolic. The old hermit's queer appearance, of course, attracted their notice. His fantastical hat, his antiquated military costume, the whimsical mixture of his reverent and defiant air, might have conquered the gravity of a Stoic. No wonder the merry youths were convulsed with laughter. But nothing less than a practical joke would satisfy them. So they rushed round the old hermit, knocked off his hat, tossed it into the air, kicked it about for a football, and finally tore it into tatters. Thus perished our sage's pet-hat. Alas! for pets, whether old hermits' hats or young ladies' pug-dogs, they are sure to come to an untimely end.
The old hermit still mourns over his lost hat, and descants of its glories with melancholy pleasure. 'Ah!' says he, 'it was a perfect beauty-a wonderful production! It cost me many a sleepless night to invent it. Many a meal I lost to save money to pay for it. I shall never have its like again. I cannot afford it. I grow old, and times grow harder with me, Ah! those audacious lads. Would they had had some-thing better to do! It was downright cruelty to rob the poor old hermit of such a noble hat!' His mania for symbolisation pervades all his thoughts and doings. His garden is a complete collection of emblems. The trees, the walks, the squares, the beds, the flowers, the seats and arbours-are all symbolically arranged. In the passage leading into the garden are 'the three seats of Self-inquiry,' each inscribed with one of these questions: 'Am I vile? Am I a hypocrite? Am I a Christian?' Among the emblems and mottoes, which are marked by different-coloured pebbles or flowers, are these:
'The vessels of the tabernacle;' 'The Christian's armour-olive-branch, baptismal-font, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith,' &c. 'Mount Pisgah;' a circle enclosing the motto-'Eternal love has wed my soul;' 'A bee-hive;' 'A church;' 'Sacred urn;' 'Universal grave;' 'Bed of diamonds;' 'A heart, enclosing the rose of Sharon;' All the implements used in gardening. 'The two hearts' bowers;' 'The lovers' prayer; 'Conjugal bliss;' 'The Hermit's coat of arms; 'Gossips' Court,' with motto: 'Don't tell anybody!' 'The kitchen-walk' contains representations of culinary utensils, with mottoes. 'Feast square' contains-' Venison pasty, Round of beef,' &c.; The Odd Fellow's Square,' with 'The hen-pecked husband put on water-gruel.' 'The oratory,' with various mottoes; 'The orchestry,' mottoes, 'God save our noble queen; Britons never shall be slaves,' &c. 'The sand-glass of Time;' 'The assembly-room;' 'The wedding-walk;' 'The Holy Mount;' 'Noah's ark, Rainbow, Jacob's ladder,' &c. 'The Bank of Faith;' 'The Saloon;' 'The Enchanted Ground;' 'The Exit'-all with their respective emblems and mottoes.
Besides these fantastical devices, there are, or were, in his garden, representations of the inquisition and purgatory; effigies of the apostles; and mounds covered with flowers, to represent the graves of the Reformers. In the midst of the religious emblems stood a large tub, with a queer desk before it, to represent a pulpit. When his garden was full of visitors, as it often used to be, he would clamber into this tub, and harangue them in a long rambling tirade against popery, and all kinds of real or fancied religious and political oppression. He declaims vociferously against the pope as Antichrist and the enemy of humanity; and when he fled from Rome in the guise of a servant, our old hermit decked his hat with laurels, and, thus equipped, went to the Independent chapel, declaring that 'the reign of the man of sin was over.' He also raised a mock-gallows in his garden, and suspended on it an effigy of the pope, whimsically dressed, with many books sticking out of his pockets, which, he said, contained the doctrines of popery.
Though he professes Christianity, and owns the Bible to be a divine revelation, yet he belongs to no religious community, and very rarely enters a place of worship. He is extremely poor, and how he ekes out a livelihood is a marvel; for though his house and garden are his own property, they yield him no income. His garden, which might have been made profitable, is so fully occupied with his whimsical devices, that it produces scarcely any fruit or vegetables. And often, when laying out some new fancy in his garden, he would be so engrossed with it, that he would have passed day after day without food, had not one kind neighbour and another carried him a ready-dressed meal. He gains a little, however, by opening his garden to tea-parties, on which occasions he supplies the visitors with tea-services, and charges them one shilling or sixpence a head, according to their condition in life. But this income, which is very scanty and precarious, lasts only during the summer season. Occasionally he prints little pamphlets or tracts, consisting of mottoes and trite sayings; but these, though sold at a high price, can scarcely pay the expense of printing. He is now in such poverty that he is thankful for any assistance, which does not require him to relinquish his present mode of living. He has a brother in competent circumstances, who has offered to share his home with him; but, 'No,' says the old hermit, 'for what would then become of my garden? My heart is in my garden. I cannot leave it!'