Born: St. Francis Xavier, Christian missionary, 1506, Xavier Castle, Pyrenees; Dr. Hugh Blair, author of Lectures on Rhetoric, &c., 1718, Edinburgh; William Wordsworth, poet, 1770, Cockermouth; Francois M. C. Fourier, French socialist, 1772; It. W. Elliston, actor, 1774, London; Sir Francis Chantrey, sculptor, 1782 Giambattista Rubini, 'the greatest of tenor singers,' 1795 Sir J. E. Tennent, author of works on Belgium, Ceylon, &c., 1804, Belfast.
Died: Charles VIII of France, 1498, Amboise; Jerome Bignon, French historical writer, 1656; Sir William Davenant, poet, 1668; Charles Colardean, French dramatic writer, 1776, Paris; Peter Camper, Dutch anatomist, 1789, Leyden; Rev. William Mason, poet, 1797; William Godwin, novelist and miscellaneous writer, 1836, London; Sir James Scarlett, Lord Abinger, Chief Baron of the Court of Exchequer, 1844, Bury St. Edmunds; William L. Bowles, poet, 1850, Salisbury.
Feast Day: St. Hegesippus, a primitive father, 2nd century. St. Aphraates, anchoret, 4th century. St. Finan, of Ireland. St. Aibert, recluse, 1140. St. Herman Joseph, confessor, 1226.
Among the dreamers and contrivers of new social worlds, Fourier is unquestionably the prince; no one ever brought to the task a more imperial intellect, or evolved a grander, more complex, and more detailed Utopia. His works are voluminous, and to master the laws and ordinances of his ideal kingdom would be a labour more than equivalent to the comprehension of Blackstone and the Code Napoleon.
Fourier, the son of a linendraper, was born at Besancon. His father dying in narrow circumstances, he commenced life behind a haberdasher's counter in Rouen, from whence he moved to Lyons, in which city, as a clerk and as a merchant, he spent a large part of his life. The Revolution had filled the air with daring social speculations, and Fourier quickly arrived at the conviction that the existing constitution of society was radically rotten. In 1796 he was draughted into the army as a private soldier, but after two years of service he was discharged as an invalid, and bearing with him a notable stock of ideas derived from his experience of military discipline and organization. Whilst a clerk at Marseilles, in 1799, he was ordered to superintend the sinking of a quantity of corn in the sea at midnight, which had become spoiled by hoarding when the people were dying of famine. This, and sundry encounters with commercial knavery, inspired him with an increasing aversion to trade. He gave all his spare hours to study, and among his acquaintances had a repute for universal knowledge, and for some unfathomable notions on the reconstruction of society. Excited by their curiosity, he was induced to publish, in 1808, a book as a prospectus of his scheme, to be developed in eight volumes but the poor book did not find above a dozen purchasers. Six years elapsed, when by chance a copy of the neglected work fell into the hands of M. Just Muiron, a gentleman of Besancon, who read it with delight, entered into correspondence with Fourier, and avowed himself his disciple. He urged Fourier to fulfill his programme, and offered to bear a great part of the cost of publication.
The result was, that Fourier gave up business, and retired into the country, and between the years 1816 and 1821 produced the bulk of his writings. He printed two large volumes at Besancon, and at the end of 1822 carried them to market in Paris; but no one would buy or even read them. The reviewers dismissed them as voluminous and abstruse. To meet this objection he produced an abridgment, but it fared no better. Worn out with waiting, and unable to bear the expense of a Parisian residence, he was compelled to return to Lyons in 1825, and take a situation as cashier at £50 a year. Meanwhile his work found receptive readers here and there throughout France, who encouraged him to go on writing.
Madame Clarissa Vigoureux became a most elective ally, devoting her fortune and a skilful pen to the propagation of his views. In 1829, he made his abode permanently in Paris. The Revolution of 1830 brought the St. Simonian sect of socialists into notoriety, and Fourier sent copies of his books to its leaders, but they paid them no attention. He tried the Owenites of England in the same way, and met with the same neglect. Irritated by their indifference, he attacked them in a sarcastic pamphlet, The Fallacy and Charlatanry of the St. Simonians and the Owenites, which created a great sensation, and put an end to his weary years of obscurity. Several of the cleverest St. Simonians became his adherents, and in June 1832 they started a weekly paper, The Phalanstery, which Fourier edited. Some disciples, anxious to realize the paradisiacal life of The Phalanstery, set up a joint-stock society, with a nominal capital of £20,000, at Rambouillet, but it turned out an utter failure. Fourier protested against the experiment, as entered into with wild haste, and without the completion of the conditions essential to success. Whilst waiting in the confident expectation that some great capitalist would knock at his door, and give him power to transform into fact the dream of his life, Fourier died on the 10th of October 1837, in his sixty-sixth year. He was never married.
Fourier was a thin, nervous man, of about five feet seven inches. His head, which was not large, was high in front, depressed behind (what phrenologists call the bankrupt form of head, as indicating an over-generous and too little selfish nature), and very full on each side. His hair was light brown, his eyes blue, his nose aquiline, his chin large, and his lips thin and closely compressed. In manner he was dignified, yet simple and earnest; and in his later years there was a sphere of sadness, if not bitterness, around him from long travail and hope deferred. His income was scarcely ever more than. EGO a year, but his wants were few; he was a good economist, and at his death £40 was found in his cash-box. Music and flowers were his perpetual delights.
Fourier's writings extend over eight thick volumes, and about an equal quantity remains in manuscript. They deal with a wide variety of subjects, and a well-read Fourierite is seldom at a loss for a quotation from his master on any matter under discussion. In many points there is a close resemblance between Fourier and Swedenborg: both were equally ready to evolve the unknown from their internal consciousness, and to deliver it with all the assurance of certainty. Fourier's grand aim was to assort mankind according to their characters, powers, and propensities; to band them together in such a way, that friendship, work, and pleasure should coincide. He was never tired of asserting that the Newtonian law of attraction was equally applicable to the world of mind as the world of matter; and that all the disorder and misery of society springs from the infraction and resistance of its benign operation.
His socialism had thus a spiritual side; and many who would have been repelled from the dead level of a material communion, were fascinated with his glorious pictures of harmonious hierarchies of workers, where each man should do what he loved to do, and could do best, in fellowship with those whose tastes and feelings were kindred to his own. Fourier's language is graphic and striking, but seldom elegant, and often incorrect. His wealth of imagination and his logical power, as remarkable in construction as in destruction, amaze, while they excite regret that such genius should have been squandered so fruitlessly. Had he tried to govern a single village or workshop, he might have discovered the vanity of drawing out schemes of society on paper, the folly of legislating for men as though they were bricks and mortar, and the hopelessness of doing them good in any way save through the consent of their erratic, perverse, and incalculable wills.
Fourierism found many adherents in France and the United States, and various abortive attempts were made to institute associations after his model. The Revolution of 1848 brought a flush of promise to the Parisian Fourierites, but the reaction which followed blighted all. Fourier's doctrines are far too complicated to enter into popular politics, and the day is probably not distant when they will altogether lapse out of any faith into the condition of literary and psychological curiosities.
LOVE AND MADNESS
On the evening of the 7th of April 1779, a handsome, well-dressed lady was stepping out of Covent Garden Theatre, to take her coach, when a young man in the dress of a clergyman moved abruptly towards her, and firing a pistol into her head, killed her in a moment. Immediately he fired another at himself, but without fatal effect, and then began to beat his head with its butt, as if eager in any way to deprive himself of life. He was, however, secured, and carried, all bespattered with his own blood and that of his victim, to a magistrate. The dead body was taken to a neighbouring tavern to await a coroner's inquest.
No more romantic story broke the dull tenor of English aristocratic life in the eighteenth century. The lady was Miss Reay, well known as the mistress of the Earl of Sandwich, an elderly statesman of great ability, who conducted the whole of the naval affairs of England during the war with the American colonies. Miss Reay was of humble origin, but possessed beauty, intelligence, and an amiable character. She had borne four children to the Earl, who treated her with the greatest tenderness and affection. Rather more than three years before the above date, a young military officer named Hackman, in quarters at Huntingdon, was, in the course of an ordinary hospitality, invited by Lord Sandwich to Hitchinbroke, his lordship's country residence. Though the time is so near our own, it was different in some of the essentials of good taste, if not of morals; and we learn with some little surprise that this distinguished statesman had Miss Reay established as the mistress of his house, for the reception of such society as visited him.
The young man, who was of an enthusiastic temperament, fell violently in love with Miss Reay, and sought to win her affections with a view to matrimony. The poor girl, who had the grace to wish she were not what she was, opened her heart to his addresses. They corresponded, they met; the young man was permitted to believe that the most cherished hope of his heart would be realized. To fit himself the better to maintain her as his wife, he studied for the church, took orders, and actually entered upon a curacy (Wiverton, in Norfolk).
Miss Reay's situation became always more and more embarrassing, as the number of her children increased. Well disposed to Hackman, she was yet bound by strong ties of gratitude to Lord Sandwich. In short, she could not summon sufficient moral courage to break through her bondage. She seems to have striven to temper the violent transports of her lover; but his was not a constitution to bear with such a disappointment. His letters, afterwards published, fully shew how his love for this unfortunate woman gradually fixed itself as a morbid idea in his mind. For some weeks before the fatal day, he dwells in his letters on suicides, and cases of madmen who murdered the objects of their affections.
The story of Chatterton seems to have had a fascination for him. He tells a friend on the 20th of March, that he did not believe he could exist without Miss Reay. He then, and for some time further, appears to have only contemplated his own death, as the inevitable consequence of his blighted passion. On the morning of the 7th of April he was employed in reading Blair's Sermons; but afterwards having traced Miss Reay to the theatre, he went back to his lodgings for a brace of pistols, which he employed in the manner which has been described.
The wretchedness of the unhappy man during the few days left to him on earth was extreme. He woke to a just view of his atrocious act, but only to condemn himself, and the more eagerly to long for death. After his condemnation, the following note reached him:
17 April, '79. To Mr. Hackman, in Newgate.
'If the murderer of Miss Reay wishes to live, the man he has most injured will use all his interest to procure his life.'
His answer was:
Condemned cell, Newgate,
17 April, 1779.
The murderer of her whom he preferred, far preferred, to life, suspects the hand from which he has just received such an offer as he neither desires nor deserves. His wishes are for death, not for life. One wish he has: could he be pardoned in this world by the man he has most injured? Oh, my lord, when I meet her in another world, enable me to tell her (if departed spirits are not ignorant of earthly things) that you forgive us both, that you will be a father to her dear infants!', J H.'
Two days after this date, Hackman expiated his offence at Tyburn.
The surviving children of Miss Reay were well educated by their father; and the fourth, under the name of Basil Montagu, attained the rank of Queen's Counsel, and distinguished himself by a Life of Bacon and other works.
SALE OF A WIFE
The Annual Register for 1832 gave an account of a singular wife-sale which took place on the 7th of April in that year. Joseph Thomson, a farmer, had been married for three years without finding his happiness advanced, and he and his wife at length agreed to separate. It is a prevalent notion amongst the rude and ignorant in England that a man, by setting his wife up to public auction, and so parting with her, legally dissolves the marriage tie, and escapes from all its obligations.
Thomson, under this belief, came into Carlisle with his wife, and by the bellman announced that he was about to sell her. At twelve o'clock at noon the sale commenced, in the presence of a large number of persons. Thomson placed his wife on a large oak chair, with a rope or halter of straw round her neck. He then spoke as follows:
Gentlemen, I have to offer to your notice my wife, Mary Anne Thomson, otherwise Williams, whom I mean to sell to the highest and fairest bidder. Gentlemen, it is her wish as well as mine to part for ever. She has been to me only a born serpent. I took her for my comfort, and the good of my home; but she became my tormentor, a domestic curse, a night invasion, and a daily devil. Gentlemen, I speak truth from my heart when I say-may God deliver us from troublesome wives and frolicsome women! Avoid them as you would a mad dog, a roaring lion, a loaded pistol, cholera morbus, Mount Etna, or any other pestilential thing in nature. Now I have shewn you the dark side of my wife, and told you her faults and failings, I will intro-duce the bright and sunny side of her, and explain her qualifications and goodness. She can read novels and milk cows; she can laugh and weep with the same ease that you could take a glass of ale when thirsty. Indeed, gentlemen, she reminds me of what the poet says of women in general:
"Heaven gave to women the peculiar grace, To laugh, to weep, to cheat the human race."
She can make butter and scold the maid; she can sing Moore's melodies, and plait her frills and caps; she cannot make rum, gin, or whisky, but she is a good judge of the quality from long experience in tasting them. I therefore offer her with all her perfections and imperfections, for the suns of fifty shillings.'
If this speech is correctly reported, the man must have been a humorist in addition to his other qualities. The account concludes with the statement that, after waiting about an hour, Thomson knocked down the lot to one Henry Mears, for twenty shillings and a Newfoundland dog; they then parted in perfect good temper-Mears and the woman going one way, Thomson and the dog another.
Of course an affair of this kind is simply an outrage upon decency, and has no legal effect whatever. It can only be considered as a proof of the besotted ignorance and brutal feelings of a portion of our rural population. Rather unfortunately, the occasional instances of wife-sale, while remarked by ourselves with little beyond a passing smile, have made a deep impression on our continental neighbours, who seriously believe that it is a habit of all classes of our people, and constantly cite it as an evidence of our low civilization. It would never occur to us as a proof of any such thing, for we recognise it as only an eccentricity; yet it may be well for us to know that it really does take place now and then,-more frequently, indeed, than almost any are aware of,-and is a social feature by no means unworthy of the grave consideration of educationists.
In 1815, a man held a regular auction in the market-place at Pontefract, offering his wife at a minimum bidding of one shilling, and 'knocking her down' for eleven shillings. In 1820, a man named Brouchet led his wife, a decent-looking woman, into the cattle-market at Canterbury, from the neighbouring village of Broughton; he asked a salesman to sell her for him; the sales-man replied that his dealings were with cattle, not with women, and he refused. The man thereupon hired a pen or stall, for which he paid the usual tollage of sixpence, and led his wife into it by a halter; and soon afterwards he sold her to a young man at Canterbury for five shillings. In 1834, a man led his wife by a halter, in precisely a similar way, into the cattle-market at Birmingham; but the local journals did not report the sum at which the unfortunate 'lot' was knocked down.
A case occurred in 1835, in which a woman was sold by her husband for fifteen pounds; she at once went home with the buyer; she survived both buyer and seller, and then married again. Some property came to her in the course of years from her first husband; for, notwithstanding claims put forth by other relations, she was able to maintain in a court of law that the sale did not and could not vitiate her rights as his widow. A good deal of surprise was felt in many villages of ignorant peasantry, in 1837, at the result of a trial at the West Riding Sessions in Yorkshire, where a man was committed to a month's imprisonment and hard labour for selling, or attempting to sell, his wife: the right to do this being believed in more extensively than we are apt to imagine.
In 1858, in a beer-shop at Little Horton, near Bradford, a man named Hartley Thompson put up his wife, described by the local journals as a pretty young woman, for sale; he even announced the sale beforehand by means of a crier or bellman; he brought her in with a ribbon round her neck, by way of halter. These two persons had lived unhappily together, and both entertained a belief that by such a process as this they might legally separate for life. It is difficult, indeed, to credit how such things can be, unless the wife be more or less a consenting party; this supposition once made, however, so cheap a substitute for the Divorce Court becomes intelligible. Doubtless, in some cases the husband acts wholly for himself in the matter; as happened in 1859 at Dudley, where a man sold his wife for sixpence, under the full belief that by so doing she would have no further legal claim on him for support.
There are not wanting instances of a belief that the marital tie may be legally dissolved by a document partaking of the character of a lease. In the feudal days there was the famous case of Sir John de Camoys, who regularly leased his wife to Sir William de Paynel; the lady was, however, not a consenting party to the transaction; and on appealing to the law, the lease was declared null and void.
In recent times one particular instance presented a curious variation from this course of proceeding. The Birmingham Police Court, in 1853, had to adjudicate on an assault case; and in the evidence the strange fact came out that a husband had leased, not his wife, but himself. He had deserted his wife, and had paid a lawyer thirty-five shillings to draw up a regular contract between him and another woman. In proper form the man was described as a 'carpenter,' and the woman as a 'spinster.' Omitting the names, the opening sentences ran thus:
Wherein the said ----and - have mutually agreed with each other to live and reside together, and to mutually assist in supporting and maintaining each other during the remainder of their lives, and also to sign the agreement hereinafter contained to that effect: now, therefore, it is hereby mutually agreed by and between the said - and - that they shall live and reside together during the remainder of their lives, and that they shall mutually exert themselves by work and labour, and by following all their business pursuits, to the best of their abilities, skill, and understanding, and by advising and assisting each other, for their mutual benefit and advantage, and also to pro-vide for themselves and each other the best support and comforts in life which their means and income can afford, &c. &c.
The man had allowed himself, or had been allowed, to believe that the existence of this document would be a bar to any claim on the part of his poor wife. It is no wonder that the magistrate administered a severe reproof to the lawyer who lent himself to such a scandal.