Born: Diego Velasquez, eminent Spanish artist, 1599, Seville; Pierre Corneille, French dramatist, 1606, Rouen, Jean Baptist Languet, 1675, Dijon; Dr. Nathaniel Lardner, theologian, 1684, Hawkhurst.
Died: Ludovico Giovanni Ariosto, eminent Italian poet, 1533, Ferrara; Memnon de Coehorn, eminent engineer, the 'Vauban of Holland,' 1704, Hague; Louise, Duchess de is Valliere, mistress of Louis XIV, 1710; George, Lord Anson, eminent naval commander, circumnavigator, 1762, Moor Park; Patrick Henry, American patriot and orator, 1799; Jeremy Bentham, writer on legal and political reforms, 1832, London.
Feast Day: St. Philip the Deacon, 1st century; St. Gudwall, Bishop of St. Maloi, confessor, end of 6th or beginning of 7th century; St. Claude, Archbishop of Besancon, confessor, 696 or 703; St. Norbert, Archbishop of Magdeburg, and founder of' the Premonstratensian Order, confessor, 1134.
The son of a prosperous London solicitor, Jeremy Bentham was born on the 15th of February 1748, in Houndsditch -not then the murky and unsavoury neighbourhood that it is now. With a dwarfish body and a precocious mind, the boy was hawked about by his father as an infant prodigy, while his nursery was crowded with masters in French and music, drawing and dancing. Determined to lose no time in making a man of him, the father sent him to Westminster at eight, to Oxford at twelve, and entered him at Lincoln's Inn at sixteen. By these hasty operations the elder Bentham in a great measure frustrated his own plans. The nervous and feeble city child, thrown among rough lads, like Cowper conceived a horror of society, and sought refuge from the tyranny of his kind in solitary study and meditation. His prospects at the bar were good; but what between conscientious scruples about doing as other lawyers did, and his preference for books over men and money, it at last became plain to his father that legal eminence would never be attained by Jeremy; and, after many struggles, he threw him up as a hopeless creature, leaving him thence-forth to follow his own devices.
The young man had in reality a love for legal studies, but for philosophical ends, and not as a means of livelihood. His favourite authors were Montesquieu, Barrington, Beccaria, and Helve-tins. He had been haunted for a long while by the question, What is genius? When reading Helvetius, the etymology of the word suggested to him that it must mean invention. Helvetius also taught him that legislation was the most important of all subjects. Then came the further question, 'Have I a genius for legislation?' which, after a short course of self-examination, he tremblingly decided in the affirmative. From that time forward he devoted himself more and more exclusively to the reform of legislation. In 1769, he encountered in a pamphlet of Dr. Priestley's the phrase, 'The greatest happiness of the greatest number,' which. he chose for his lode-star, and identified with his name. He described himself at this time as 'eeking and picking his way; getting the better of prejudice and non-sense; making a little bit of discovery here, another there, and putting the little bits together.'
In 1776 appeared, anonymously, his first publication, A Fragment on Government, which attracted considerable notice, and was attributed to some of the chief men of the day. In lonely lodgings, and oppressed with his father's displeasure, 'Mine,' he writes, 'was a miserable life.' Lord Shelburne, having discovered the author of the Fragment, called on Bentham, and invited him to his seat of Bowood. Visit followed visit, until he became almost domesticated in Shelburne's fancily. There he met congenial society, and was raised,' as he relates, 'from the bottomless pit of humiliation, and made to feel that I was something.' Between 1785 and 1787 he made an extensive tour over Europe, and whilst living at Kirchoff, in Southern Russia, at the house of his brother, who was in the service of the Czar, he produced the celebrated Defence of Usury, one of the most pleasantly written and conclusively reasoned of his minor works.
His father dying, he came into possession of a handsome inheritance, and settled in Queen Square Place, Westminster, once Milton's house, where he abode without change until death, for half a century. His life henceforward was that of a literary recluse, with habits of the most regular and persevering industry. His writings were for years almost completely neglected; and for this the manner was chiefly to blame. It was through the medium of M. Dumont's French translations, and that of the higher class English reviews, that the ideas of Jeremy Bentham reached the public. He only became tolerable, only became intelligible, as Sydney Smith remarked, 'after he had been washed, trimmed, shaved, and forced into clean linen.' In France he first attained something like popularity. Happening, when in Paris, in 1825, to enter one of the supreme law courts, he was recognised, and the whole body of advocates at once rose to do him reverence, and the judges invited him to sit beside them.
Bentham stirred very little abroad, being content to take exercise in his garden; and it used to be said that he was as surely to be found at home as Robinson Crusoe on his island. Easily found at home, it was easier to procure an interview with the king than with the philosopher. There was never a man so desirous of shunning others, unless some strong sense of duty, or prospect of usefulness, subdued his love of seclusion. Once, when Madame de Stael called on him, expressing an earnest desire for an audience, he sent to tell her that he certainly had nothing to say to her, and he could not see the necessity of an interview for anything she could have to say to him. On another occasion, Mr. Edgeworth, in his somewhat pompous manner, called and delivered this message to the servant, Tell Mr. Bentham that Mr. Richard Lovell Edgeworth desires to see him;' to which he returned for answer, 'Tell Mr. Richard Lovell Edgeworth that Mr. Bentham does not desire to see him.'
With the exception of music, his tastes were all of a grave kind. Living in Milton's house, he had a slab put up in his garden, 'Sacred to Milton, prince of poets,' and as a duty once read his works; but he had no enjoyment of poetry, and assured young ladies that it was a sad misapplication of time. Like Franklin in appearance, he made a curious picture: his white hair, long and flowing, his neck bare; in a quaker-cut coat, list shoes, and white worsted stockings drawn over his breeches' knees. In his garden, in this odd guise, he might be seen trotting along on what he called his 'ante-prandial circumgyrations.' Indoors, he dined in his work-room, where the green window-curtains were pinned over with slips of paper, being notes taken at the moment of passing thoughts, to be located and collated at a future time. This strange hermit was not without creatures and creations of his own. There was his stick, Dapple, which he laid on the shoulders of honoured visitors in friendly knighthood on meet occasions. There was his sacred tea-pot, Dickey, regularly set upon a lamp to sing. Last, and not least, were his favourite cats, chief among whom was Lang-borne. Him, Bentham boasted he had made a man of. First he raised him to the dignity of Sir John; but as he advanced in years he was put into the church, and as the Rev. Dr. John Langhorne he died.
At the mature age of eighty-five, with unimpaired intellect, with cheerful serenity, Bentham died, on the 6th of June 1832. To his physician and friend, Dr. Southwood Smith, he left his body for dissection; and three days after his decease Dr. Smith delivered an oration over it at the School of Anatomy, Webb Street, Maze Pond.
It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of Bentham's labours as a jurist, and of his services as the instructor of statesmen and politicians, who, with more practical faculties, were able to work out the legal reforms he suggested and devised. At first, when he proposed changes in the fabric of English law, he was regarded as a harmless lunatic; as he persisted, he grew into estimation as a dangerous and sacrilegious madman; and for long years he wrote and published without gaining a single influential coadjutor. Towards the close of his career he became girt about with appreciation and help of the most useful kind. In 1823, the Westminster Review, started at his cost and conducted by his disciples, ably represented him in politics and literature. Undoubtedly he suffered from the seclusion in which he lived, and many crotchets he entertained were bred in his ignorance of human nature.
A knowledge of men is indispensable for those who would teach or make laws for them; and to know the world, an author must live in it, and observe how many circumstances conspire to defeat the most reasonable expectations and deductions that can be formed on paper. From the same cause Bentham's style suffered. His early writings were terse, clear, and frequently happy in expression; his later were greatly the reverse. By much living and thinking alone he had forgot the familiar language of his kind. Bentham's moral philosophy is constantly attacked as 'cold-blooded, calculating, selfish;' and when we consider his prosaic temper, it is not to be wondered that more ideal spirits should revolt from the prominence he gives to the material over the spiritual interests of life; but of his good-will to mankind, and his earnest wish to promote their happiness, there can be no question; 'he did what he could,' and higher praise than this can be accorded to no one. Universal genius we shall never find in one man; instead, we attain it in pieces. One man can do one thing supremely well, and another another. Bentham did what Wordsworth could not, and Wordsworth what Bentham could not, and each depreciated the other. Let us be more catholic than either, and try to honour the eminent services of both, and never erect our peculiar likings, necessarily narrow and imperfect, into a standard of universal judgment.
EDWARD III OF ENGLAND AND PHILIP VI OF FRANCE-QUARREL ABOUT HOMAGE
The claim of one sovereign for homage from another, on account of a superiority over certain parts of that other's dominions, was surely not the wisest institution of the Middle Ages. It does not seem to have ever been a clear claim in any case, and as far as it could be substantiated at all, it was liable to be stretched so far as to excite hostile resistance. England was but just emerged from a long war with Scotland, arising from an overstretched claim over its monarch, when its own kings were plunged into one of a century long, in consequence of a similar claim over themselves on the part of the French monarch.
When Philip the Sixth had made good his somewhat questionable pretensions to the French throne, he lost no time in summoning Edward III of England to come and pay homage as a vassal for Guienne. The latter, who through his mother claimed the whole French empire, refused an audience to the ambassadors, and sent word that the son of a king would not bow before the son of a count. Fresh envoys were despatched, to inform him that his fiefs and revenues would be seized if he persisted in his refusal; and as a war would at that time have been extremely inconvenient, Edward yielded to the advice of his peers, and wrote respectfully to Philip, 'that he had long intended to visit France to acquit himself of his debt; and that, all obstacles being now removed, he should shortly cross over.'
The 6th of June 1329 was the day fixed for the monarchs to meet at the cathedral of Amiens, and the grandeur which Edward displayed in his own dress and that of his followers made it evident that he was more anxious to parade his power and riches than to honour Philip. He wore a robe of Cramoisy velvet spotted with gold leopards, the crown on his head, the sword at his side, and gold spurs; three bishops, four counts, six barons, and forty noble knights were in his train. Philip, on his side, had forgotten nothing to render the ceremony as pompous as possible. He was seated on a superb throne, dressed in a long robe of violet velvet, spotted with gold ileums-de-Ns; his diadem set with precious stones, and holding a golden sceptre in his hand. The kings of Navarre, Bohemia, and Majorca stood by his side, with dukes, counts, and church dignitaries in abundance. Edward himself was struck with the magnificence of this numerous and brilliant entourage; on his return to England, when his queen questioned him about the king her uncle, he was never weary of speaking 'of the great state and honour in France, to which no other kingdom could be compared.'
As soon as Edward had approached the throne, the high chamberlain commanded him to take off his crown, his sword, and spurs, and to kneel before the king on a cushion that was prepared -a most humiliating ceremony for so proud a spirit; he, however, obeyed, having advanced too far to recede, but all present remarked the indignation depicted on his face, to see himself forced to so lowly an attitude before such illustrious witnesses. The same officer then said, 'Sire, you must, as Count de Guienne, pay liege homage to monseigneur the king, and promise him faith and loyalty.' Here all Edward's pride was awakened, he declared he did not owe liege homage; both sides disputed the question warmly; at length, on his promising to consult his archives as soon as he returned to England, to know exactly to what he was pledged, and to send the declaration, sealed with the great seal, they lot him off in these general terms: 'Sire,' said the chamberlain, 'you are the vassal of the King of France for Guienne and its appurtenances, which you hold of him as peer of France, according to the form of peace made between his predecessors and yours, as you and your ancestors have done for the same duchy to former kings.' To which Edward replied, 'Voire,' the old French word for yes. 'If it be so,' replied the Viscount de Melun, 'the king, our sire, receives you under protest.' The French monarch said, 'Voire,' and kissed the King of England on his mouth, holding his hands in his own. Thus ended a ceremony which enraged Edward so much that he swore eternal hatred to the prince who had treated him with so much haughtiness.
On his return to England he was in no haste to make the required search, but the Duke de Bourbon and other nobles were sent to this country to receive a formal and authentic declaration. The French jurisconsults, who accompanied them, spent much time with the English parliament in examining previous acts of homage, and it was proved that the king was liege man in his rank of Duke of Guienne. The necessary papers were sent to Philip, and Edward never rested until he had prepared the army which was to attack France, and begin that fearful war which lasted above a century.
On the 6th of June 1712, Sir Mark Cole and three other gentlemen were tried at the Old Bailey for riot, assault, and beating the watch. A paper of the day asserts that these were 'Mohocks, that they had attacked the watch in Devereux Street, slit two persons' noses, cut a woman in the arm with a penknife so as to disable her for life, rolled a woman in a tub down Snow Hill, misused other women in a barbarous manner by setting them on their heads, and overset several coaches and chairs with short clubs, loaded with lead at both ends, expressly made for the purpose. In their defence, the prisoners denied that they were Mohocks, alleging that they were 'Scourers,' and had gone out, with a magistrate's sanction, to scour the streets, arrest Mohocks and other offenders, and deliver them up to justice.
On the night in question they had attacked a notorious gambling-house, and taken thirteen men out of it. While engaged in this meritorious manner, they learned that the Mohocks were in Devereux Street, and on proceeding thither found three men desperately wounded, lying on the ground; they were then attacked by the watch, and felt bound to defend themselves. As an instance of the gross misconduct of the watch, it was further alleged that they, the watch, had on the same, night actually presumed to arrest a peer of the realm, Lord Hitchinbroke, and had latterly adopted the practice of going their rounds by night accompanied by savage dogs. The jury, however, in spite of this defence, returned a verdict of ' guilty;' and the judge fined the culprits in the sum of three shillings and four-pence each.
It is scarcely credible that, so late as the last century, a number of young men of rank and fashion, assuming the name of a savage tribe, emulated their barbarous actions by wantonly inflicting the most disgusting cruelties on the peaceable inhabitants, particularly women, of London. And after these Mohocks, as they styled themselves, had held the town in terror for two years, after a royal proclamation had offered £100 reward for the apprehension of any one of them, when these four persons were at last brought to justice, the amount of punishment inflicted was merely the paltry fine of 3s. 4d.
Gay thus alludes to the Mohocks, and this very trial, in his Trivia:
Who has not heard the Scourers' midnight fame?
Who has not trembled at the Mohocks' name?
Was there a watchman took his hourly rounds,
Safe from their blows or new-invented wounds?
I pass their desperate deeds and mischief done,
Where from Snow Hill black steepy torrents run;
How matrons, hooped within the hogshead's womb,
Are tumbled furious thence: the rolling tomb
O'er the stones thunders, bounds from side to side-
So Regulus, to save his country, died.
One of the miscellaneous publications, issued by the circle of wits that revolved round Pope and Swift, is entitled, An Argument, proving from History, Reason, and Scripture, that the present Race of Mohocks and Hawke-bites are the Goy and Magog mentioned in the Revelations; and therefore that this vain and transitory World will shortly be brought to its final Dissolution. Written by a reverend Divine, who took it from the Mouth of the Spirit of a Person who was slain by the Mohocks.
The 'Spirit' introduces himself by saying, 'I am the porter that was barbarously slain in Fleet Street. - By the Mohocks and Hawkubites was I slain, when they laid violent hands upon me. They put their hook into my mouth, they divided my nostrils asunder, they sent me, as they thought, to my long home; but now I am returned again to foretell their destruction.' When the Spirit disappears, the assumed reverend author sings:
From Mohock and from Hawkubite,
Good Lord, deliver me!
Who wander through the streets at night,
They slash our sons with bloody knives,
And on our daughters fall;
And if they murder not our wives,
We have good luck withal
Coaches and chairs they overturn,
Nay, carts most easily;
Therefore from Gog and Magog,
Good Lord, deliver me!
On the 6th of June 1597, died William Hunnis, chapel-master to Queen Elizabeth, and previously Gentleman of the Chapel under Edward the Sixth. Hunnis was a rhymester-we cannot call him a poet-as well as a musician; and according to his last will and testament, thus written in metre by himself, he experienced the once proverbial poverty of the rhyming race:
To God my soul I do bequeath, because it is his own,
My body to be laid in grave, where, to my friends best known
Executors I will none make, thereby great strife may grow,
Because the goods that I shall leave will not pay all I owe.
Immediately after the Reformation a very general spirit for versifying the Psalms and other parts of Scripture prevailed in England. Hunnis, not the least idle of those versifiers, published several collections, under quaint titles, now worth far more than their weight in gold to the bibliomaniacs. Seven Sobs of a Sorrowful Soul for Sin, comprehending the seven penitential psalms in metre, was dedicated to Frances, Countess of Sussex, the foundress of Sydney-Sussex College at Oxford. Under the happy title of A Handful of Honeysuckles, he published Blessings out of Deuteronomie, Prayers and Meditations, in metre, with musical notes. His spiritual nosegays were numerous, to say nothing of his Recreations on Adam's Banishment, the Lost Sheep, and other similar topics; he turned the whole book of Genesis into rhyme, under the title of A Hiveful of Honey.
Christopher Tye, a contemporary of Hunnis, and organist to Queen Elizabeth, rendered the Acts of the Apostles into English verse, and having set them to music, they were sung in the Chapel Royal, but never became popular. The impropriety of the design, as well as the infelicity of its execution, was perceived even in that undiscerning age. Of the Acts, as versified by Tye, the initial stanzas of the fourteenth chapter may be selected as the least offensive for a specimen:
It chanced in Iconium,
As they oft' times did use,
Together they into did come
The synagogue of Jews,
Where they did preach, and only seek
God's grace them to achieve;
That so they speak, to Jew and Greek,
That many did believe.
The early Puritans violently opposed the study of the classics, or the reading of transla, tions from them, asserting that the customary mode of training youths in the Roman poets encourages idolatry and pagan superstition; their employing themselves so zealously in rendering the Bible into English metre was that it might serve as 'a substitute for the ungodliness of the heathens.' A favourite book for those versifiers was the Song of Solomon, of which many versions were made. One, entitled Sion's Muse, is thus alluded to in a satire of Bishop Hall, written in ridicule of the spiritual poetry with which the age was inundated. After mentioning several of these productions, the nervous though inelegant satirist adds:
Yea, and the prophet of the heavenly lyre, Great Solomon, sings in the English choir; And is become a new found sonnetist, Singing his love, the holy spouse of Christ: Like as she were some light-skirts of the rest, In mightiest inkhornisms he can thither wrest. Ye Sion Muses shall by my dear will, For this your zeal and far-admired skill, Be straight transported from Jerusalem, Unto the holy house of Bethlehem.'
Robert Wisdome, archdeacon of Ely, was also one of those versifiers; but he is chiefly memorable for a metrical prayer, intended to be sung in churches, against the Pope and Turk, of whom he had conceived most alarming apprehensions. As there is no stanza in this prayer which could be considered unprofane at the present day, it is impossible to quote it. Among other wits, however, the facetious Bishop Corbet has happily ridiculed it. Supposing himself seized with a sudden impulse to hear or to write a puritanical hymn, he invokes the ghost of Wisdome, as the most skilful poet in this mode of composition, to come and assist him. But he advises Wisdome to steal back again to his tomb in Carfax Church, at Oxford, silent and unperceived, for fear of being discovered and intercepted by the terrible Pope or Turk. The epigram is as follows:
To the Ghost of Robert Wisdome
Thou, once a body, now but air,
Arch-botcher of a psalm or prayer,
From Carfax come!
And patch us up a zealous lay,
With an old ever and for aye,
Or all and some.
Or such a spirit lend me,
As may a hymn down send me,
To purge my brain;
But, Robert, look behind thee,
Lest Turk or Pope do find thee,
And go to bed again.