Born: St. John of God, 1495; Dr. John Campbell, historical writer, 1708, Edinburgh; Dr. John Fothergill (Quaker), 1712, Carrend; William Roscoe, miscellaneous writer, 1753, Liverpool; Austin H. Layard, M.P., explorer of the antiquities of Nineveh, 1817, Paris.
Died: King William III, of England, 1702, Kensington; Bishop John Hough, 1743; Thomas Blackwell, LL.D., classical scholar, 1757, Edinburgh; Sir William Chambers, ILA., architect, 1796; Francis Duke of Bridgewater (canal navigation), 1803, St. James's; W. Sawrey Gilpin, landscape painter, 1807, Brompton; Joseph Jekyll, F.R.S., noted wit, 1837, London; Karl Johann (Bernadotte), King of Sweden, 1844.
Feast Day: Saints Apollonius, Philemon, and others, martyrs of Egypt, about 311. St. Senan, Bishop in Ireland, about 544. St. Psalmoid, or Saumay, of Ireland, about 589. St. Felix, Bishop of Dunwich, 646. St. Julian, Arch-bishop of Toledo, 690. St. Rosa, virgin of Viterbo, buried 1252. St. Duthak, Bishop of Ross, 1253. St. John of God, founder of the Order of Charity, 1550.
SIR WILLIAM CHAMBERS
In our day, which is distinguished by an unprecedentedly high culture of architecture, the attainments of Sir William Chambers, the great English architect of the eighteenth century, are apt to be set down as mediocre. There must, nevertheless, have been some considerable gifts in possession of the man who could design such a noble pile as Somerset House.
Chambers was born at Stockholm (1726), the son of a Scotchman who had gone there to prosecute some claims of debt for warlike stores which he had furnished to Charles XII. Educated in England, he started in life as super-cargo in a mercantile ship trading with China. In that country he busied himself in taking sketches of the peculiar buildings of the country, and thus laid the foundations of a taste which clung to him in his subsequent professional career. He as afterwards able to study architecture both in Italy and France. His command of the pencil seems to have been the main means of his advancement. It recommended him to the Earl of Bute as a teacher of architectural drawing to the young Prince George, afterwards George III. Having thus secured an opening into important fields of professional exertion, his energetic character and assiduity did all the rest; and Chambers reigned for thirty years the acknowledged architectural chief of his day, received a Swedish order of knighthood, and retired from business with a handsome fortune.
It was in 1775, that Sir William, as Comptroller of his Majesty's works, proceeded to the great work of his life, the reconstruction of Somerset House. He is admitted to have shown in the internal arrangements of this great quadrangle all desirable taste and skill, while the exterior is the perfection of masonry. Many of the ornamental details were copied from models executed at Rome, under Chambers's direction: the sculptors employed were Carlini, Wilton, Geracci, Nollekens, and Bacon. Telford, the engineer, when he came to London, in 1782, was employed on the quadrangle. Chambers received £2,000 a-year during the erection of Somerset House; it cost more than half a million of money; but it is one of the noblest structures in the metropolis, and, in some respects, superior to any; the street-front and vestibule have always been much admired. After Somerset House, Chambers's most successful designs are the Marquis of Abercorn's mansion at Duddingstone near Edinburgh; and Milton Abbey, in Dorsetshire, which he built in the Gothic style for Lord Dorchester.
Sir William Chambers also designed the royal state coach, which has now been used by our sovereigns for a century. Walpole describes it as a beautiful object, though. crowded with improprieties; its palm-trees denote the architect's predilection for oriental objects. The bill was £8,000, but being taxed, was reduced nearly £500.
The wit of Mr. Jekyll has given him a traditionary fame superior to, and which will probably be more lasting than, that which some worthy men derive from solid works. He was, however, the author of several books, one of them of an antiquarian nature (on the monuments in the Temple Church), and he had attained, some time before his death, the senior position both among the King's Counsel and the Benchers. He reached the age of eighty-five. His bon mots were for a long course of years the delight of the bar of London, and of the brilliant society to which his powers of conversation gave him access. An obituary notice states that they would fill volumes. It is nevertheless probable that now, at the distance of a quarter of a century, it would be difficult to gather as many pleasantries of Mr. Jekyll as would fill a page of the present work.
A general remark with regard to bon mots may here be properly appended-namely, that they are extremely apt to be reproduced. It is not necessarily that jokers are plagiarists, but that the relations of things out of which bon mots spring are of limited number and liable to recur. It is therefore not without good cause that the determined joker utters his well-known malediction-' Perish those who have said all our good things before us!'
There is an old French collection of bon mots, called the Nain Jaune (Yellow Dwarf), in which some of the most noted of English jokes will be found anticipated. For example, the recommendation of Dr. Johnson to the lady author who sent him a manuscript poem, and told him she had other irons in the fire- 'I advise you to put the poem with the irons.' Of this the prototype appears as follows:
'M. N-, que la ciel a donne du malheureux talent dè'crire, sans penser, tous les mois, un volume, consultait le tr'es franc et le très malin P., sur un ouvrage nouveau dent it menace le public-' Parlez-moi franchement,' lui disait-il, ' car si cela ne vaut rien, j'ai d'autres fers an feu.'-' Dans ce cas,' lui respondit P., 'je vous conseille de mettre votre ntanuscrit oύ vous avez mis vos fers.''
As another example, though rather in the class of comic occurrences than criticisms-Madam Piozzi, in her Autobiography, relates that her mother Mrs. Salusbury used to narrate the following circumstance in connection with the name of Lord Harry Pawlett.
A lady, to whom that nobleman had paid attentions, and whom Mrs. Salusbury know, requested of his lordship that he would procure for her a couple of monkeys of a particular kind, from the East Indies:
'Lord Harry, happy to oblige her, wrote immediately, depending on the best services of a distant friend, whom he had essentially served. Writing a bad hand, however, and spelling what he wrote with more haste than correctness, he charged the gentleman to send him over two monkeys; but the word being written too, and all the characters of one height (100), what was Lord Harry Pawlett's dismay, when a letter came to hand with the news, that he would receive fifty monkeys by such a ship, and fifty more by the next conveyance, making up the hundred, according to his lord-ship's commands!'
We rather think there is a counterpart to this story, in which a Virginia planter is represented as writing to his factor in England to send him over two virtuous young women; in consequence of which, through a misapprehension of the characters forming the word two, the factor sent him fifty examples of the sex, with a promise of fifty more as soon as the number of volunteers for Virginia could be made up.
Whether this be the case or not, it appears that the joke about the monkeys is a hundred years older than the time of Mrs. Salusbury and Lord Harry Pawlett. In a letter dated the 19th of January 1635-6, Sir Edward Verney, Knight Marshal to Charles I, wrote to his son, Ralph Verney, from London, as follows:
'To requite your news of your fish, I will tell you as good a tale from hence, and as true. A merchant of London that writ to a factor of his beyond sea, desired him by the next ship to send him 2 or 3 apes. He forgot the r, and then it was 203 apes. His factor sent him four score, and says he shall have the rest by the next ship, conceiving the merchant had sent for two hundred and three apes. If yourself or friends will buy any to breed on, you could never have had such choice as now.'
THE BOWYER BIBLE
About ninety years ago, a poor youth was walking through Newgate-street listlessly looking into the shops, and lamenting his own poverty. His fancy was taken by a portrait in one of the windows; and something within him said that he too, perchance, might be able to paint portraits, and to earn a living thereby. He went home, procured paints, brushes, and a bit of broken looking-glass, and painted a small portrait of himself. It was a success, in his eyes, and apparently in the eyes of others; for he gradually got employment as a miniature painter, and numbered among his sitters such great personages as George III and Queen Charlotte. One Sunday, when the poor King was too far gone in his mental malady to sit to portrait-painters, the artist drew on his thumb nail a portrait of the King, which he afterwards transferred on the same scale to ivory; the Prince Regent liked the miniature so well, that he at once purchased it at the price named by the artist-a hundred guineas.
The person here treated of was William Bowyer, whose name is now little known or thought of as that of a regular artist. Perhaps he found that he was really deficient in the higher powers of art, and that it would be wise for him to turn his attention to other fields of labour. Be this as it may, he became a printer, and gradually realized a competency in that trade. The Stationers' Company, to this day, have the management of a small endowment which he established for the benefit of poor working printers. The most remarkable work printed by him was an Edition of Hume's History of England, so costly that only a few copies could be disposed of.
William Bowyer is now chiefly remembered in connexion with one particular copy of the Bible. Macklin ventured on the most costly edition of the Bible ever issued from the press; and Bowyer, possessing one copy of this work, devoted the leisure of nearly thirty years to illustrating it. He procured from every part of Europe engravings, etchings, and original drawings, relating to biblical subjects; and these, to the number of seven thousand, he interleaved with his Bible. From Michael Angelo and Raffaelle to Reynolds and West, every artist whose Scripture subjects had been engraved was brought into requisition. Bowyer having only his own taste to please, gave a very wide scope to the meaning of the words 'scriptural' and 'biblical;' insomuch that he included plates of natural history that might possibly illustrate the cosmogony of the Bible. The collection included the best Scripture atlases. Its most original features were two hundred drawings by Lautherbourg. Thus he went on, step by step, until his Bible expanded to forty-five folio volumes, including examples from nearly 600 different engravers.
This extraordinary work seems to have occupied Mr. Bowyer from about 1798 to 1824. The work, with costly binding, and an oak cabinet to contain all the forty-five volumes, is said to have cost him four thousand guineas. He insured it in the Albion Fire Office for £3,000. After his death, a lottery was got up for the benefit of his daughter, Mrs. Parkes, with this Bible as the sole prize. One Mr. Saxon, a Somersetshire farmer, won the prize. It is just possible that, as in the famous case of the family picture of the Vicar of Wakefield, the dimensions were not found compatible with domestic convenience; for the work has changed hands several times. At Messrs Puttick and Simpson's a few years ago, it became the property of Mr. Moreland of Manchester; after which it passed into the hands of Mr. Albinson of Bolton. In the early part of March 1856, there was a seven days' sale of the extensive library of the last-named gentle-man; and among the lots the chief was the celebrated Bowyer Bible. The biddings began at £400, and the lot was ultimately knocked down at £550 to Mr. Robert Heywood of Bolton. Ponderous as such a work must be for any private library, it would nevertheless be a pity that so unique a collection should over be broken up and scattered
We owe to two principles which have been ably illustrated by modern naturalists-namely, the educability of animals, and the transmission of the acquired gifts to new generations-that the young pointer, without ever having seen a field of game, is no sooner introduced to one than it points, as its father and mother did before it. To this also we owe the even more interesting speciality of certain varieties of the canine species, that they unpromptedly engage in the business of saving human life in situations of danger. We have all heard of the dogs of St. Bernard, which for ages have been devoted to the special duty of rescuing travellers who may be lost in Alpine snows. Early in the present century, one of these noble creatures was decorated with a medal, in reward for having saved the lives of no less than twenty-two snow-bound travellers. Sad to say, it lost its own life in the winter of 1810.
A Piedmontese courier, after resting for a while at the Hospice during a terrible snow storm, was earnestly desirous of proceeding that same night to the village of St. Pierre, on the Italian side of the mountain. The monks, after endeavoring in vain to dissuade him, lent him the aid of two guides and two dogs, including the one bearing the medal. The courier's family knowing of his intended return, and anxious for his safety, ascended part of the way to meet him; and thus it happened that the whole were nearly together when an avalanche broke away from the mountain pinnacle, and buried human beings and dogs together. So keen is the sense of smell possessed by these dogs, that though a perishing man lie beneath a snow drift to a depth of several feet, they will detect the spot, scrape away the snow with their feet, make a howling that can be heard at a great distance, and exert themselves to the utmost in his behalf. An anecdote is told of one of the dogs that found a child whose mother had just been destroyed by an avalanche; the child, alive and unhurt, was in some way induced to get upon the dog's back, and was safely conveyed to the Hospice.
Of the aptitude of the Newfoundland dog to take to the water, and courageously help drowning or endangered persons, the instances are abundant. We will cite only two. A Mr. William Phillips, while bathing at Portsmouth, ventured out too far, and was in imminent peril. Two boatmen, instead of starting off to assist him, selfishly strove to make a hard bargain with some of the bystanders, who urged them. While the parley was going on, a Newfoundland dog, seeing the danger, plunged into the water, and saved the struggling swimmer. It is pleasantly told that Mr. Phillips, in gratitude for his deliverance, bought the dog from his owner, a butcher, and thereafter gave an annual festival, at which the dog was assigned the place of honour, with a good ration of beefsteaks. He had a picture of the dog painted by Morland, and engraved by Bartolozzi; and on all his table-linen he had this picture worked in the tissue, with the motto, 'Virum extuli mari.'
The other anecdote is of more recent date. On the 8th of March 1834, two little boys were playing on the banks of the Grosvenor Canal at Pimlico (lately filled up to make the Victoria and Crystal Palace Railway). The younger of the two, in his gambols, fell into the water; the elder, about nine years of age, plunged in with the hope of saving him. Both sank, and their lives were greatly imperilled. It happened that at that critical moment Mr. Ryan, an actor at Astley's Amphitheatre, was passing, with a fine Newfoundland dog, which, under the name of Hero, was wont to take part in some of the performances. A bystander threw a pebble into the water, to show the spot where the two poor boys were immersed. The dog plunged in and brought up the older one; the clothes were rent, and the boy sank again; but the dog, making a second attempt, succeeded in bringing him to the shore, and afterwards his brother. Mr. Horncroft, the father of the children, gave a dinner that evening, at which Hero was a specially invited guest; and his gambols with the two boys whom he had saved, showed how he appreciated the joyousness of the meeting.
Some years ago, it was resolved at Paris to take advantage of the gifts of the Newfoundland dog, for a general purpose resembling the practice at St. Bernard. Ten select dogs were brought to the French capital, and appointed as savers of human life in the river Seine. They were first exercised in drawing stuffed figures of men and children from the water, and in time they acquired such skill and facility in their business, as to prove eminently serviceable.