Born: Gerard Van Swieten, physician, 1700, Leyden.
Died: Otho the Great, emperor, 973, Magdeburg; Jacques Auguste de Thou (Thuanus), French historian, 1617; John Gwillim, herald, 1621; Patrick Delany, D.D., miscellaneous writer, 1768, Bath; William, Marquis of Lansdowne, 1805; Richard Cumberland, English dramatist, 1811; H. W. Banbury, amateur artist, 1811: Thomas Barnes, editor of The Times, 1841, London.
Feast Day: St. Benedict II, Pope, confessor, 686. St. John of Beverley, 721. St. Stanislaus, Bishop of Cracow, martyr, 1079.
JOHN OF BEVERLEY
Most of the early Anglo-Saxon saints were men and women of princely, or at least of noble birth; and such. was the case with John of Beverley, who is commemorated on this day. He was born at Harpham, near Driffield, which latter place was apparently a favourite residence of the Northumbrian kings; and he was therefore a Yorkshireman. As was not very common among the Anglo-Saxons, he received a scriptural instead of an Anglo-Saxon name; and he was evidently intended for the church from his infancy, for we are told that when a boy his education was entrusted to the Abbess Hilda, and he afterwards went to Canterbury, and pursued his studies under Theodore the Great, who may be looked upon as the father of the Anglo-Saxon schools. On leaving Theodore, John set up as a teacher himself, and opened a school in his native district, in which his learning drew together a number of scholars, among whom was the historian Bede. About the year 685, John was made bishop of Hexham, one of the sees into which the then large diocese of York had been divided during the exile of Wilfred; but on Wilfred's return the see of York was restored to its former condition, and John resigned his bishopric, and retired into comparatively private life. Not long afterwards Hexham was again formed into a separate bishopric, and restored to John, who was removed thence to be made Archbishop of York, in the year 705.
From the account of this prelate given by his disciple Bede, it is evident that he was a man of learning, and of great piety, and that he exercised considerable influence over the Northumbrian church in his time; yet he was evidently not ambitious of public life, but preferred solitude and contemplation. Hence, both as bishop and archbishop, he selected places of retirement, where he could enjoy temporary seclusion from the world. With this view, he built a small monastic cell in an open place in the heart of the forest of the Deiri, which was so far removed from the haunts of men that its little stream was the resort of beavers, from which circumstance it was called in Anglo-Saxon Beofor-leag, or the lea of beavers, which, in the change of language, has been smoothed down into Beverley. From this circumstance, the Archbishop of York became known by the name of John of Beverley, which has distinguished him ever since. In 718, when he felt old age creeping upon him, John resigned his archbishopric, and retired to the solitude of Beverley, where he spent the remainder of his days. He died on the 7th of May 721. It is hardly necessary to add, that John's cell in the forest soon became a celebrated monastery, and that the flourishing town of Beverley gradually arose adjacent to it. Hither, during Roman Catholic times, numerous pilgrims resorted to the shrine of the saint, where great miracles and wonderful cures of diseases were believed to be performed; and his memory was held in such reverence, and his power as a saint supposed to be so great, that 'St John' became the usual war cry of the English of the North in their wars with the Scots.
The great work of the Sieur De Thou, the history of his own time, is of a character to which no English writer has presented an exact parallel. According to one of his countrymen: 'That love of order, that courageous hatred of vice, that horror of tyranny and rebellion, that attachment to the rights of the crown and the ancient maxims of the monarchy, that force in the descriptions, that fidelity in the portraits,-all those characters of truth, of courage, and impartiality which shine in all parts of his work, have given it the distinction of being the purest source of the history of the sixteenth century.'
It must ever reflect credit on De Thou, while affording a noble incentive to others, that this truly great work was composed in the midst of the most laborious state employments.
A future generation may perhaps enjoy the memoirs of some of the great editors who in the course of the present century have raised the political press to a power in the state. Common and natural is the curiosity to penetrate the mystery of the thunder of The Times, but discreetly and thoroughly has that mystery been preserved. We know the names of Walter, Stoddart, Barnes, Sterling, and Delano; but of their mode of working and associates, little certainly.
Thomas Barnes, under whose editorship The Times became the greatest of newspapers, was born in 1785, and was educated as a Blue-coat boy. From Christ's Hospital he went to Cam-bridge; after which, returning to London, he entered as a student for the bar at the Temple. The monotony of the law he relieved by light literary pursuits. He commenced writing a series of critical essays on English poets and novelists for a paper called The Champion, in which he manifested an eminent degree of power and taste. The Champion became sought after for the sake of Barnes's essays, which its conductors accordingly were anxious to see continued. There was, however, great difficulty in Barnes's irregular habits. Moved by their importunity, he had a table with books, paper, and ink, placed at his bedside, and ordered that he should be regularly called at four in the morning. Rising then, and wrapping round him a dressing-gown, he would dash off the coveted articles. Afterwards, having more ambitious views, he ad-dressed a number of letters to The Times, on the men and events of the day, and was gratified by seeing them accepted. Mr. Walter, struck with their merit, called on Barnes, and employed him, first as reporter, and then as editor. It is said Barnes wrote very few leaders, but spent his skill in appointing subjects to able writers, and in trimming and amplifying their productions. His life of incessant labour was unhappily closed by a premature death. After long suffering from stone, he was operated upon by Liston; but his system, sapped by dissipation, and worn down by mental toil and bodily pain, gave way, and he died on the 7th of May 1841, at the age of fifty-six.
In an entry of 'several presentments of Court Loot, relative to the repairs of walls on the banks of the Thames,' dated May 7th, 1685, there appears the name of James Salter, as one of the tenants who was fined the sum of live pounds, for suffering the river wall opposite his dwelling-house to become ruinous. The earliest notice, however, that we have of this person as the proprietor of a museum, is contained in a paper by Sir Richard Steele, published in The Tatler, in 1709, in which he is recognised by his nick-name of Don Saltero, and several of his curiosities are incidentally mentioned.
Salter had been valet to Sir Hans Sloane. On leaving service, he returned to his original trade of a barber,-combined, as it then was, with the arts of bleeding and tooth-drawing. In 1693, he set up a coffee-house, his late master giving him a few curiosities to place in the public room, as an attraction to customers. Salter being himself an oddity, his house soon became frequented by retired naval officers, and other residents of Chelsea, who contributed to his collection, and gave him the title of Don Saltero, from a fancied resemblance he bore to the celebrated knight of the woeful countenance.
Steele describes him as a sage of a thin and meagre countenance, enough to make one doubt whether reading or fretting had made it so philosophic. His first advertisement appears in The Weekly Journal of June 22nd, 1723, in the following words:
Fifty years since, to Chelsea great,
From Rodnam, on the Irish main,
I stroll'd, with maggots in my pate,-
Where, much improv'd they still remain.
Through various employs I've past:
A scraper, vertuos', projector,
Tooth-drawer, trimmer, and at last
I'm now a grimcrack whim-collector.
Monsters of all sorts here are seen,
Strange things in nature as they grew so;
Some relicks of the Sheba queen,
And fragments of the fam'd Bob Cruse.
Knick-knacks to dangle round the wall,
Some in glass cases, some on shelf;
But, what's the rarest sight of all,
Your humble servant shows himself.
On this my chiefest hope depends.
Now, if you will the cause espouse,
In journals pray direct your friends
To my museum coffee-house;
And, in requital for the timely favour,
I'll gratis bleed, draw teeth, and be your shaver;
Nay, that your pate may with my noddle tally,
And you shine bright as I do-marry shall ye
Freely consult my revelation Molly;
Nor shall one jealous thought create a huff,
For she has taught me manners long enough.
Salter made no charge for seeing his museum, but visitors were expected to take refreshments; and catalogues were sold for twopence each, headed with the words:
containing a list of the collection, and names of the persons who had contributed to it. This catalogue went through forty-five editions, and the business was no doubt a profitable one. The time of Salter's death is not very certain, but his daughter, a Mrs. Hall, kept the house in 1760.
Pennant, when a boy, saw in Don Saltero's collection 'a lignified hog,' that had been presented by his great uncle; it was simply the root of a tree, somewhat resembling the form of a pig. From one of the catalogues, now before us, we extract the following items, as a sample of the whole:
A piece of Solomon's temple. Job's tears that grow on a tree. A curious piece of metal found in the ruins of Troy. A set of beads made of the bones of St. Anthony of Padua. A curious flea-trap. A piece of Queen Catherine's skin. Pontius Pilate's wife's great-grandmother's hat. Manna from Canaan. A cockatrice serpent. The Pope's infallible candle. The lance of Captain How Tow Sham, King of the Darien Indians, with which he killed six Spaniards, and took a tooth out of each head, and put it in his lance as a trophy. Oliver's broadsword.
This last article had, in all probability, been presented by one of the earliest frequenters of the coffee-house, 'a little and very neat old man, with a most placid countenance,' named Richard Cromwell, the ex-protector of England. Sir John Cope and his sons, who lived in the neighbourhood, are included among the contributors to the museum; but there is no Highland broad-sword mentioned in the catalogue. There is one remarkable item in it, which forms a curious link with the present day. It is described as 'a coffin of state for a friar's bones.' In Nichols's edition of The Tatler, we learn that this elaborately carved and gilt coffin, with its contents, was a present from the Emperor of Japan to the King of Portugal, that had been captured by an English privateer, whose captain gave it to Saltero. There can be little doubt that the bones it contained were the remains of one of 'the Japanese martyrs!'
One can hardly realize the fact, that in the last century, strangers in London made a point of visiting Don Saltero's, just as they now-a-days visit the British Museum. Franklin, in his 'Life,' says: 'We one day made a party to go by water to Chelsea, in order to see the college and Don Saltero's curiosities.' It was on the return from this party that the then journeyman printer, by displaying his skill in swimming, was induced to consider whether he would not try his fortunes in England as a teacher of swimming.
Everything has its day. So in 1799, after being an institution for more than a hundred years, Saltero's house and curiosities fell under the all-conquering and inevitable hammer of the auctioneer. In the advertisement which announces the sale, the house is described as 'a substantial and well-erected dwelling-house, delight-fully situated facing the River Thames, commanding a beautiful view of the Surrey hills and adjacent country. Also, the valuable collection of curiosities.' The last fetched no more than £50. The highest price given for a lot was thirty-six shillings, which was paid for 'a very curious model of our blessed Saviour's sepulchre at Jerusalem, very neatly inlaid with mother-o'-pearl.'
MONKS OF ST FRANCIS
May 7th, 1772, died Sir William Stanhope, K.B., a younger brother of the celebrated Philip, Earl of Chesterfield. He resided at Eyethorpe in a handsome and hospitable manner, and exercised an attraction in society through his wit and literary talents. Sir William was a member of a convivial fraternity very characteristic of an age which, having material prosperity, and nothing to be fearful or anxious about, showed men of fortune generally in the light of pleasure-seekers rather than of duty-doers. The association bore the name of the Monks of St. Francis, partly in allusion to the place of meeting, the house of Medmenham, in Bucks, which had been originally a Cistercian monastery. It comprised John Wilkes and Charles Churchill; the less-known poets, Lloyd and Paul Whitehead; also Francis Lord le Despencer, Sir John Dashwood King, Bubb Doddington, and Dr Benjamin Bates. The spirit of the society was shown by their putting up over the door of their place of meeting, the motto of the actual order of St. Francis, 'Fais ce que tu voudras;' and it is understood that they took full advantage of the permission. Their orgies will not bear description. One can only express a regret that men possessed generally of some share of talents, and perhaps of impulses not wholly discreditable to their hearts, should have so far mistaken their way in the world.'
When Dr. Lipscomb published his elaborate work on Buckinghamshire in 1847, he could hear of but one surviving member of the order of St. Francis, and he in extreme old age, together with a gentleman who had been admitted to a few meetings while yet too young to be made a member.
While the orgies of the Medmenham monks must needs be buried in oblivion, it may be remarked that such societies were not uncommon in that full-fed, unthinking age. There was one called the Harry-the-Fifth Club, or The Gang, designed to exemplify in a more or less metaphorical manner the habits attributed to the hero of Agincourt. Of this fraternity, the then heir of British royalty, Frederick Prince of Wales, was a member; and there exists, or lately existed, at Windsor, a picture representing a sitting of the Gang, in which the Prince appears as president, with Sir Hugh Smithson, Lord Inchiquin, and other members. An example of the badge supposed to have belonged to this club represents the exploits of the tavern on one side, and those of the highway on the other, the latter containing, moreover, a view of a distant town, with stocks and a gibbet, with the motto, 'JACK GANG WARILY.' Although the two latter words are an injunction to proceed with caution, it cannot be doubted that an extreme licence in all kinds of sensual enjoyments was assumed as the privilege of the Harry-the-Fifth Club.