Born: Izaak Walton, author of The Complete Angler, 1593, Stafford; John Dryden, poet, 1631, Aldwinkle, Northamptonshire; John Oldham, satirical poet, 1653, Shipton, Gloucestershire; Thomas Telford, eminent engineer, 1757, Westerkirk, Dumfriesshire.
Died: Simon Ockley, orientalist (History of the Saracens), 1720, Swavesey; Robert Potter, translator of Æschylus, &c., 1804, Lowestoft Norfolk; Mrs. Charles Mathews (Madame Vestris), celebrated vocalist and actress, 1856, Fulham.
Feast Day: St. Romanus, martyr. St. Nathy, or David, priest in Ireland. St. Fedlimid, or Felimy, bishop of Kilmore, confessor, 6th century.
Uncanonized, Izaak Walton is the patron saint of anglers. About scarce another author centre memories of such unmixed gentleness and peace. To speak of Walton is to fall to praising him. As Charles Lamb says:
It might sweeten a man's temper at any time to read the Complete Angler.
Of Walton's early life little is known beyond the fact that he was born at Stafford in 1593. It is presumed he was apprenticed in London to a sempster or linen-draper, for soon after coming of age he had a shop of his own in the Royal Exchange, Cornhill. In this situation he could hardly have had elbow-room, for the shops in the Exchange were but 7.5 feet long by 5 wide. From this, in 1624, he moved to a house 'on the north side of Fleet Street, two doors west of the end of Chancery Lane,' thus under the very shadow of Temple Bar. In the crowd and din of the junction there of Fleet Street and the Strand, it is a piquant reflection at this day, that an author whose name is wedded with green fields and quiet waters once abode. Subsequently he removed round the corner to the seventh house on the west side of Chancery Lane.
In this neighbourhood Walton tasted much sorrow. He married at Canterbury, in 1626, Rachel Floud, maternally descended from Archbishop Cranmer. Seven children were the fruit of this union, but they all died in childhood, and last of all the mother also, in 1640. The narrow accommodations which London tradesmen then assigned to their families are sufficient to account for such tragic results. Meanwhile Walton's business as linen-draper prospered; and for recreation he used 'to go a-fishing with honest Nat, and R. Roe.' His favourite stream was the Lea, a river which has its source above Ware, in Hertfordshire, and gliding about the country to the north-east of London, falls into the Thames a little above Blackwall.
Amidst the troubles of the civil war, while London was generally parliamentarian, worthy Izaak remained a steady royalist and churchman. Having accumulated a small independence, and anxious, it is supposed, to escape from the scene of so many domestic afflictions, and from possible annoyance on the score of his faith and politics, he gave up shopkeeping, about 1643, and retired into the country. In 1646, he contracted a second marriage with Anne Ken, sister of the saintly bishop of Bath and Wells. She died in 1662, leaving her husband a son Izaak and a daughter Anne to comfort him in his prolonged old age.
Walton was fifty when he gave up business, and forty years of leisure remained for his enjoyment. Authorship he had begun before he left his shop. In the parish church of St. Dunstan he had been a hearer and, as he says, 'a convert' to the preaching of Dean Donne, the poet. An intimate friendship ensued between the divine and the linen-draper, and when Donne died in 1631, Walton was tempted into writing his elegy; and to a collection of the dean's Sermons, published in 1640, he prefixed The Life of Dr. John Donnie. His success in this piece of biography led on to other efforts of the same kind, as inclination and opportunity offered. In 1651, appeared his Life of Sir Henry Walton; in 1662, The Life of Mr. Richard Hooker; in 1670, The Life of Mr. George Herbert; and in 1678, The Life of Dr. Sanderson. These five biographies, brief yet full, written in sympathy yet with faithfulness, with reverence, modesty, and discretion, have been accepted as choice miniatures of the several worthies who are their subjects, and are reprinted and read to this day with unabated admiration.
Not the Lives, however, but The Complete Angler or Contemplative Man's Recreation is Walton's true title to fame. It was published in 1653, the year in which Oliver Cromwell was declared Protector, and Walton lived to see it pass through four other editions-namely, in 1655, 1664, 1668, and 1676. How often it has since been reprinted, annotated by admiring editors, and extolled by critics of every mind, time would fail to tell. The Angler has long ago taken an undisputed place among English classics, and to speak of its abounding poetry, wisdom, and piety would be to repeat criticism which has passed into commonplace.
The advices which Walton gives for the treatment of live-bait-as, for instance, the dressing of a frog with hook and wire, needle and thread, 'using him as though you loved him, that is, harm him as little as you may possible, that he may live the longer,' and the recommendation of a perch for taking pike, as 'the longest-lived fish on a hook' -have subjected him to the charge of cruelty. Hence Byron writes in Don Juan of:
Angling, too, that solitary vice,
Whatever Izaak Walton sings or says;
The quaint, old, cruel coxcomb, in his gullet
Should have a hook, and a small trout to pull it.
But people in the seventeenth century concerned themselves little or nothing with animal suffering. Boyle, a good Christian and contemporary of Walton's, records experiments with animals in the air-pump with a coolness which makes us shudder. The Puritans objected to bull and bear baiting, not, as Lord Macaulay observes, in pity for bull or bear, but in aversion and envy at the pleasure of the spectators. Strange as it may seem, compassion for animals is a virtue, the coming in of which may be remembered by living men.
Blessed with fine health, Walton carried the vigour of manhood into old age; in his eighty-third year, we find him professing a resolution to begin a pilgrimage of more than a hundred miles, to visit his friend Cotton on the Dove in Derby-shire. In the great frost of 1683, which covered the Thames with ice eleven inches thick, split oaks and forest trees, and killed the hollies, and in which nearly all the birds perished, old Izaak died in his ninety-first year. He was at the time on a visit to his daughter Anne, at Winchester, and in Winchester Cathedral he lies buried. In a will made a few months before, he declared his 'belief to be, in all points of faith, as the Church of England now professeth;' a declaration of some consequence, he asserts, on account of 'a very long and very true friendship with some of the Roman Church.'
DRYDEN-THE WEAPON SALVE
What a blurred page is presented to us in the life of Dryden-in one short year bemoaning Cromwell and hailing Charles-afterwards changing his religion, not without a suspicion of its being done for the sake of court-favour-a noble, energetic poet, yet capable of writing licentious plays to please the debased society of his age-a gentleman by birth, yet fain to write poetical translations from the classics for Jacob Tonson at so much a line! Notwithstanding all short-comings, Dryden is not merely a venerated figure in the literary Pantheon of England, but one not a little loved. We all enter heartily into the praise of 'Glorious John.'
Dryden had many enemies; no man could write in those days without incurring hatred. Hence it arose that the following notice appeared in a London newspaper in December 1679. 'Upon the 17th instant, in the evening, Mr. Dryden, the great poet, was set upon in Rose Street, in Covent-Garden, by three persons, who called him a rogue, and other bad names, knockt him down, and dangerously wounded him, but upon his crying out 'Murther!' they made their escape. It is conceived that they had their pay beforehand, and designed not to rob him, but to execute on him some cruelty, if not popish vengeance.' Soon afterwards the following advertisement was issued: 'Whereas, &c., &c., if any person shall make discovery of the said offenders, to the said Mr. Dryden, or to any justice of peace for the liberty of Westminster, he shall not only receive fifty pounds, which is deposited in the hands of Mr. Blandard, goldsmith, next door to Temple Bar, for the said purpose; but if the discoverer himself be one of the actors, he shall have the fifty pounds, without letting his name be known, or receiving the least trouble by any. prosecution.'
In Dryden's version of Shakspeare's Tempest, Ariel is made to save Hippolito's life by directing Ferdinand's sword to be anointed with weapon-salve and wrapped up close from the air. Believers were not wanting in this extraordinary nostrum, so well suited to an age when every gentleman carried a sword as a matter of course, which, equally as a matter of course, he was ready to draw on the slightest provocation. Sconce, the hero of Glapthorne's comedy of The Hollander, knew a captain reported to have obtained some of the precious ointment from the witches of Lapland, and is extremely anxious to get some himself, that he may safely 'confront the glistering steel, outface the sharpest weapon.' An apothecary's man gives him an unguent which he warrants genuine, thirty citizens blown up by an explosion of gun-powder having been saved by dressing the smoke of the powder with the salve! Sconce is so convinced by this evidence, that when he has occasion to test the efficacy of the ointment, and finds it of little avail, he attributes the failure to some impediment in his, blood, and fully credits the doctor's assertion that
The same salve will cure
At any distance-as if a person hurt
Should be at York, the weapon dressed at London
On which the blood is.
Davenant says (The Unfortunate Lovers, Act II., scene I.):
Greatness bath still a little taint i' th' blood;
And often 'tis corrupted near the heart;
But these are not diseases held, till by
The monarch spied who our ambition feeds,
Till at surfeits with his love; nor do we strive
To cure or take it from ourselves, but from
His eyes, and then our medicine we apply
Like the weapon-salve, not to ourselves but him
Who was the sword that made the wound.
The 'ever-memorable' John Hales, of Eton, thought it worth while to make a serious attack on the weapon-salve, in a 'letter to an honourable person' (1630). He declares it:
is but 'a child of yesterday's birth,' one amongst the many pleasant phantasies of the Rosicrucians; and as for the cures it has worked, 'the effect is wrought by one thing, and another carries the glory of it. A man is wounded; the weapon taken, and a wound-working salve applied to it; in the meanwhile, the wounded person is commanded to use abstinence as much as may be, and to keep the wound clean. Whilst he thus doth, he heals, and the weapon-salve bears the bell away.
No man in his right senses would ever have thought of curing a wound by anointing the weapon that inflicted it; therefore the discovery must have been the result of experience, in which case there must have been a fortuitous concurrence of circumstances scarcely credible. 'First the salve, made for some other end, must fall on the weapon, and that upon the place where the blood was, and there rest, and then some man must observe it, and find that it wrought the cure.
He then shews that if the doctrine be true, that it is through the blood that the cure is worked, the salve would be just as efficacious applied whereon the blood fell, and is therefore foolishly called weapon-salve; and having thus deprived it both of reputation and name, he winds up his letter triumphantly thus:
'I have read that a learned Jew undertook to persuade Albertus, one of the Dukes of Saxony, that by certain Hebrew letters and words, taken out of the Psalms, and written on parchment, strange cures might be done upon any wound; as he one day walked with the duke, and laboured him much to give credit to what he discoursed in that argument, the duke suddenly drew his sword, and wounding him in divers places, tells him he would now see the conclusion tried upon himself. But the poor Jew could find no help in his Semhamphoras, nor his Hebrew characters, but was constrained to betake himself to more real chirurgery. I wish no man any harm, and therefore I desire not the like fortune might befall them who stand for the use of weapon-salve; only this much I will say, that if they should meet with some Duke of Saxony, he would go near to cure them of their errors, howsoever they would shift to cure their wounds.'
The latest allusion to this wonderful medicine we can find, is in Mrs. Behn's Young King, published in 1690, in which play one of the characters is cured of a wound by a balm
That like the weapon-salve
Heals at a distance.
QUEEN ELIZABETH AT TILBURY FORT
During the first week of August, in the eventful year 1588, there was doubt in England whether the much-dreaded Spanish Armada would or would not enter the Thames, in its attack upon the freedom and religion of England. Both sides of the Thames were hastily fortified, especially at Gravesend and Tilbury, where a chain of boats was established across the river to bar the passage. There was a great camp at Tilbury Fort, in which more than twenty thousand troops were assembled. After having reviewed the troops assembled in London, the queen went down to encourage those encamped at Tilbury, where her energetic demeanour filled the soldiery with enthusiasm.
Riding on a warcharger, wearing armour on her back, and holding a marshal's truncheon in her hand-with the Earls of Essex and Leicester holding her bridle-rein, she harangued them thus:
My loving people, we have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery. But I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear! I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects; and, therefore, I have come amongst you at this time, not as for my recreation and sport, but being resolved in the midst and heat of the battle to live or die amongst you all-to lay down for my God, for my kingdom, and for my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know that I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma, or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm To which, rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, the judge and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already by your forwardness, that you have deserved rewards and crowns; and we do assure you, on the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the meantime, my lieutenant-general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded more noble or more worthy subject. Nor will I suffer myself to doubt, but that by your obedience to my general, by the concord in the camp, and your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over those enemies of my God, my kingdom, and my people.
The harangue is given in slightly different form by different historians; but the substance is the same in all.
However much historians may have differed, and still do differ, concerning the character of Elizabeth, there can be no doubt of the fitness of such an harangue to rouse the people to an heroic resistance. She was no longer youthful; but her sex and her high spirit recommended her to the hearts of her people. 'By the spirited behaviour,' says Hume, she revived the tenderness and admiration of the soldiery; an attachment to her person became a kind of enthusiasm among them; and they asked one another, whether it were possible Englishmen could abandon this glorious cause, could display less fortitude than appeared in the female sex, or could ever by any dangers be induced to relinquish the defence of their heroic princess. The so-called Invincible Armada,' as most English readers are aware, did not afford an opportunity for Elizabeth's land-forces to show their valour; its destruction was due to other agencies.
THE DUKE OF SUSSEX'S ANNULLED MARRIAGE
The annulling of the late Duke of Sussex's first marriage, in August 1794, was one of the sad consequences of the Royal Marriage Act. That statute was passed about twenty years before, at the request, and almost at the command, of George III.
The king, who held very high notions concerning royal prerogatives, had been annoyed by the marriages of two of his brothers with English ladies. He wished to see the regal dignity maintained in a twofold way-by forbidding the marriage of English princes and princesses with English subjects; and by rendering the consent of the reigning sovereign necessary, even when the alliance was with persons of royal blood.
The Royal Marriage Act, by making provision for the last-named condition, virtually insured the first-named so long as the king should live: seeing that he had resolved never to give his consent to the marriage of any of his children with any of his own subjects. The nation sympathised deeply with the amiable prince whose happiness was so severely marred on this particular occasion. While travelling in Italy in 1792, the duke formed an attachment to Lady Augusta Murray, daughter of the Earl of Dunmore. The earl was not in Italy at that time; but Lady Dunmore consented to a private marriage of her daughter with the Duke of Sussex who was then about twenty years of age). The duke could not have been ignorant of the Royal Marriage Act, nor is it likely that the existence of such a statute could have been unknown to Lady Dunmore; this afterwards afforded an argument in the hands of the king's party.
The young couple, after a residence at Rome of several months, came to England. At the desire of the lady and her friends, the duke consented to a second marriage-ceremony, more public and regular than the first. The couple took lodgings in South Molton Street, at the house of a coal-merchant; merely that they might, by a residence of one month in the parish of St. George's, Hanover Square, be entitled to have their banns asked in the church of that parish. They were regularly married on the 5th of December 1793, under the names of Augustus Frederick, and Augusta Murray. It was an anxious time for the lady, seeing that she was about to become a mother, and had every motive for wishing to be recognised as a true wife. She was, however, destined to disappointment.
The king never forgave the duke for this marriage, which he inflexibly determined not to recognise. In his own name, as if personally aggrieved in the matter, the obstinate monarch instituted a suit against his own son in the Court of Arches, for a nullity of the marriage. Within one week of Lady Augusta's confinement, the king's proctor served a citation on the Duke of Sussex, to answer the charges of the suit. The investigations underwent many costly changes. At one time the privy-council made searching inquiries; at other times other tribunals; and the fact of the marriage at St. George's Church had to be rendered manifest by the testimony of the mother and sister of Lady Augusta, the clergyman who had performed the marriage-ceremony, the coal-merchant and his wife, and another witness who was present.
So far as the church was concerned, the marriage was in all respects a valid one; but the terms of the Royal Marriage Act were clear and decided; and after many months of anxious doubt, the duke and Lady Augusta were informed, by the irreversible judgment of the courts, that their marriage was no marriage at all in the eyes of the English law, and that their infant son was illegitimate. Later sovereigns sought to alleviate the misery thus occasioned to an amiable family (a daughter was born before the Duke of Sussex and Lady Augusta finally separated), by giving a certain degree of rank and position to those who were taboo'd from the royal circle; but nothing could fully compensate for the misery and disappointment that had been occasioned. Lady Augusta, in a letter to a friend written in 1811, said:
Lord Thurlow told me my marriage was good in law; religion taught me it was good at home; and not one device of my powerful enemies could make me believe otherwise, nor ever will.
The Duke of Sussex settled an income on Lady Augusta, out of the allowance he received from parliament; and the king took care, during the whole remainder of his life, not to give the duke a single office or post that would augment his resources. In 1826, Lord (then Mr.) Brougham, in a speech relating to the duke, characterised the Royal Marriage Act, which had produced so much misery, as 'the most unfortunate of all acts;' while Mr. Wilberforce stigmatised it as 'the most unconstitutional act that ever disgraced the statutebook.