15th November

Born: Andrew Marvell, poet and politician, 1620, Kingston-upon-Hull; William Pitt, great Earl of Chatham, 1708, Boconnoc, Cornwall; William Cowper, poet, 1731, Great Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire; Sir William Herschel, astronomer, 1738, Hanover; John Caspar Lavater, physiognomist, 1741, Zurich; Rev. James Scholefield, scholar and classic editor, 1789, Henley on Thames.

Died: Albertus Magnus, celebrated schoolman, 1280, Cologne; Mrs. Anne Turner, executed as an accomplice in murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, 1615, London; John Kepler, great astronomer, 1630, Ratisbon; Henry Ireton, son-in-law of Cromwell, 1651, Limerick; James, Duke of Hamilton, killed in a duel in Hyde Park, 1712; Christopher Gluck, composer, 1787, Vienna; Bishop Tomlin, author of Refutation of Calvinism, 1827; Count Rossi, minister of interior, Papal States, assassinated, 1848, Rome; Johanna Kinkel, German novelist and musician, 1858.

Feast Day: St. Eugonius, martyr, 275. St. Male or Maclou, first bishop of Aleth in Brittany, 565. St. Leopold, Marquis of Austria, confessor, 1136. St. Gertrude, virgin and abbess, 1292.


It is pleasant to observe how the respect for 'honest Andrew Marvell' outlives all the political changes which succeed each other at fitful intervals in England; it is a homage to manliness and probity. During his life, from 1620 to 1678, he was mixed up with many of the exciting controversies of the times; but it was in the last eighteen years of his life, when Charles II was king, that Marvell attained his highest reputation. He acted as member of parliament for Kingston-upon-Hull; he trusted the electors, and they trusted him; and there has never been known in the history of our parliament a connection more honourable than that between him and his constituents. He used to write constantly to them about the state of public affairs; and his letters have considerable historical value, insomuch as they supply contemporary evidence of the proceedings in high places. The court-party could not be very much pleased at the publication of such a letter, as the following, from Andrew Marvell to his constituents at Hull:

The king having, upon pretence of the great preparations of his neighbours, demanded £300,000 for his navy (though, in conclusion, he hath not sent out any), that the parliament should pay his debts, which the ministers would never particularise to the House of Commons, our house gave several bills. You see how far things were stretched beyond reason, there being no satisfaction how those debts were contracted; and all men fore-seeing that what was given would not be applied to discharge the debts, which I hear are, at this day, risen to four millions, but diverted as formerly.
Nevertheless, such was the number of the constant courtiers, increased by the apostate patriots, who were bought off for that term, some at six, others at ten, one at fifteen thousand pounds in money; besides what offices, lands, and reversions to others, that it is a mercy they gave not away the whole land and liberty of England. The Duke of Buckingham is again £140,000 in debt; and by this prorogation, his creditors have time to tear all his lands to pieces. The House of Commons have run almost to the end of their line, and are grown extremely chargeable to the king and odious to the people. They have signed and sealed ten thousand a year more to the Duchess of Cleveland, who has likewise near ten thousand a year out of the new farm of the country excise of beer and ale; five thousand a year out of the post-office; and, they say, the reversion of all the king's leases, the reversion of all places in the custom-house, the green wax, and indeed, what not. All promotions, spiritual and temporal, pass under her cognizance.

The particular incident which has stamped the name of Andrew Marvell with the impress of honesty, has been narrated under different forms; but the following is its substance, as given by one writer:

The borough of Hull chose Andrew Marvell, a gentleman of little or no fortune, and maintained him in London for the service of the public. His understanding, integrity, and spirit were dreadful to the then infamous administration. Persuaded that he would be theirs for properly asking, the ministers sent his old school-fellow, the Lord Treasurer Danby, to renew acquaintance with him in his garret. At parting, the lord treasurer, out of pure affection, slipped into his hand an order upon the treasury for one thousand pounds, and then went into his chariot. Marvell, looking at the paper, calls after the treasurer: 'My lord, I request another moment' They went up again to the garret, and Jack, the servant-boy, was called. 'Jack, child, what had I for dinner yesterday? ' 'Don't you remember, sir? You had the little shoulder of mutton that you ordered me to bring from a woman in the market.' 'Very right, child. What have I for dinner today?' ' Don't you know, sir, that you bade me lay by the blade-bone to broil?' ''Tis so; very right, child; go away. My lord, do you hear that? Andrew Marvell's dinner is provided. There 's your piece of paper; I want it not. I know the sort of kindness you intended. I live here to serve my constituents; the ministry may seek men for their purpose; I am not one.

The setting of this story is somewhat too dramatic, but there is reason to believe that the substance of it is quite true. It is further said, that, though he thus rejected the money, he was in straitened circumstances at the time, insomuch that he was obliged, as soon as Danby had departed, to send to a friend to borrow a guinea.


The beauty of this woman, and her connection with the mysterious death of Sir Thomas Overbury, who was poisoned in the Tower through her agency, have invested her name with a species of romance in the annals of crime. Though she undoubtedly merited her fate, both she and her accomplices were merely the minor parties in this nefarious transaction, the principal criminals being the Earl and Countess of Somerset, who, though tried and condemned, received the king's pardon, and after undergoing an imprisonment of some years, were allowed to retire into the country and obscurity. The whole affair forms a singular episode in the reign of James I, and by no means reflects credit on that weak monarch.

When Robert Carr or Ker, a young Scottish adventurer of the border-family of Ferniherst, established himself so rapidly in the good graces of his sovereign, rising suddenly to the most influential posts in the kingdom, Sir Thomas Overbury acted as his bosom-friend and counsellor, and furnished him with most useful and judicious advice as to the mode of comporting himself in the new and unwonted sphere in which he was thus placed. Carr unfortunately, however, cast his eyes on the Countess of Essex, the beautiful and fascinating daughter of the Earl of Suffolk, who had been married when a girl of thirteen to the Earl of Essex, son of the unfortunate favourite of Queen Elizabeth, and who himself afterwards became so noted in the reign of Charles I as the commander of the parliamentary army.

This object of illicit love was but too ready to respond to the addresses of Carr, now created Viscount Rochester, having, it is believed, owed much of the depravity of her disposition to the pernicious lessons of Mrs. Turner, who lived as a dependent and companion to his daughter in the house of the Earl of Suffolk. This abandoned Mentor afterwards became the wife of a physician, at whose death, owing to the extravagant manner in which both she and her husband had lived, she was left in very straitened circumstances, and was only too glad to become again the confidante and adviser of the Countess of Essex in her amour with Rochester. Not content with the gratification of their unlawful passion, the guilty pair sought to legalise their connection by a marriage, to effect which it was of course necessary that the countess should, in the first place, obtain a divorce from her husband.

Sir Thomas Overbury, who had hitherto concurred with and aided Rochester in his amour, now opposed the marriage-scheme, knowing the odium his pupil would excite by contracting such a union, and dreading also the influence which the countess's relations, the Howards, would thereby obtain. He counselled Rochester strongly against thus committing himself, and enlarged, in rather emphatic terms, on the depraved character of his proposed wife. These speeches were reported by the infatuated favourite to the countess, who thereupon vowed the destruction of Overbury. First, she offered £1000 to Sir John Wood to murder the object of her resentment in a duel. Then Rochester and she concocted a scheme by which, on the favourite's representation to King James, Overbury, on the ground of having shewn contempt for the royal authority, was committed to the Tower, where he was detained a close prisoner under the guardianship of a new lieutenant, wholly in the interest of his enemies, who had procured the removal of the former governor of the fortress.

Meantime a divorce had been instituted by the Countess of Essex against her husband, and a majority of the commission of divines and lawyers, appointed by the king to try the cause, was found servile enough to pronounce sentence of dissolution. The day before this deliverance was given, Sir Thomas Overbury died in the Tower, from an infectious disease, as was alleged, and was hastily and clandestinely buried. No doubt was entertained by the public that he had been poisoned; but the matter was passed over without investigation, and for some months Rochester, now Earl of Somerset, basked with the partner of his guilt in all the sunshine of fashion and royal favour. But the king's fickle temper ere long caused his downfall.

The presentation at court of a new minion, George Villiers, afterwards the celebrated Duke of Buckingham, effected such a change in the affections of the king as completely to supplant the old favourite, who was accordingly exposed unshielded to the machinations of his enemies, and the just indignation of the people. On a warrant from the Lord Chief justice Coke, he and his wife were arrested for having occasioned the death of Sir Thomas Overbury, and along with them the parties of inferior rank who had acted as their accomplices. These were Mrs. Turner; Elwes, the lieutenant of the Tower; Weston, the warder who had been intrusted with the immediate custody of the prisoner; and Franklin, an apothecary. The proofs adduced against them were sufficiently strong to insure their condemnation, and their own confessions left subsequently no doubt of their guilt.

It appeared that Mrs. Turner and the Countess of Somerset had had frequent consultations with a certain Dr. Forman, a celebrated conjurer in Lambeth, who enjoyed a high reputation as a compounder of love-philtres, and was consulted in that capacity by many of the most fashionable ladies of the day. He died before the proceedings under notice were instituted, and it does not appear that he had any active concern in the murder of Overbury; but the fact of two of the accused parties having had dealings with a soi-disant wizard increased immensely the popular horror. As regards the perpetration of the murder, it was shewn that Mrs. Turner procured the poison from Franklin the apothecary, and handing it to the warder, Weston, the latter, under her instructions, and with the complicity of Elwes, the lieutenant of the Tower, administered it to the prisoner in small doses, in various kinds of food, and at different times, extending over a period of some months.

The criminals were all executed at Tyburn. The enduring of the last penalty of the law by Mrs. Turner, which took place on 15th November 1615, excited an immense interest. She had made herself famous in the fashionable world as the inventress of a yellow starch, and, in allusion to this circumstance, Lord Chief justice Coke, who had already addressed her in sufliciently contumelious terms, telling her, categorically, that she had been guilty of the seven deadly sins, declared that as she was the inventor of yellow-starched ruffs and cuffs, so he hoped that she would be the last by whom they would be worn. He, accordingly, gave strict orders that she should be hanged in that attire, which she had rendered so fashionable. This addition to the sentence was fully carried out; and the fair demon, Mrs. Turner, on the day of her execution, came to the scaffold arrayed as if for some festive occasion, with her face rouged, and a ruff stiffened with yellow starch round her neck. Numerous persons of quality, ladies as well as gentlemen, went in their coaches to Tyburn to see the last of Mrs. Turner. She made a very penitent end, and the object contemplated by the Lord Chief justice was fully attained, as the yellow ruff was never more worn from that day.

As already mentioned, the principal criminals, the Earl and Countess of Somerset, experienced no further penalty than an imprisonment of some years in the Tower. The partial pardon thus accorded to Carr, seems to have been extorted by fear from the king, who dreaded the revelation, by his former favourite, of some discreditable secret.


Though several sceptical individuals, denying the possibility of the life of man being protracted beyond the period of a hundred years, have maintained that no such instance of longevity can be produced, there is abundant and satisfactory evidence to confute this statement, and establish indisputably the fact of the existence of numerous centenarians both in ancient and modern times. One of these instances, that of 'Old Parr,' whose extreme and almost antediluvian age has become proverbial, rests on such well-authenticated grounds, that no reasonable doubt can be entertained as to its truth.

The Christian name of this venerable patriarch was Thomas, and he was born at Winnington, in the parish of Alberbury, Shropshire, in 1483. His father, John Parr, was an agricultural labourer, and Thomas throughout his long life followed the same occupation. Till the age of eighty, he continued a bachelor, and then married his first wife, with whom he lived for thirty-two years. About eight years after her death, when he himself was a hundred and twenty years old, he married for the second time. Having, in 1635, attained the wonderful age of a hundred and fifty-two years and upwards, he was visited in that year by the Earl of Arundel, who, having gone down to see some estates of his in Shropshire, was attracted by the reports which reached him of so remarkable an old man. His lordship was greatly struck by the intelligence and venerable demeanour of Thomas Parr, who was thereupon induced to pay a visit to London; the earl, as we are informed, 'commanding a litter and two horses (for the more easy carriage of a man so enfeebled and worn with age) to be provided for him; also that a daughter-in-law of his (named Lucye), should likewise attend him, and have a horse for her owne riding with him; and to cheere up the olde man, and make him merry, there was an antique-faced fellow, called Jacke, or John the Foole, with a high and mighty no beard, that had also a horse for his carriage. These all were to be brought 'out of the country to London, by easie journeys, the charges being allowed by his lordship: and likewise one of his honour's own servants, named Brian Kelly, to ride on horseback with them, and to attend and defray all manner of reckonings and expenses; all which was done accordingly.'

It would have been better, however, had Lord Arundel left the old man undisturbed in his native parish. Partly owing to the fatigues of the journey, partly to the crowds of visitors who thronged to see him, and above all to the unwonted mode of life which he led, Parr, ere many months were over, fell ill and died. He was buried on 15th November 1635, in Westminster Abbey, where a monument was erected to his memory. After death his body was examined by the celebrated Dr. Harvey, who found it remarkably stout and healthy, without any trace of decay or organic disease, so that had it not been for the abnormal influences to which he had been subjected for a few months previous to his death, there seems little doubt that Parr might have attained even a much greater age.

Old Parr's cottage, near Alberberry, Shropshire

The principal authority for the history of Old Parr is John Taylor, the 'Water Poet,' who, while the patriarch was residing in London, about a month before he died, published a pamphlet, entitled The Olde, Olde, very Olde Man; or The Age and Long Life of Thomas Parr. From the period at which this work was issued, we are warranted in placing considerable reliance on its statements, which appear never to have been controverted. In addition to those above quoted, we are informed by Taylor that, at the age of a hundred and five, Parr was obliged, in consequence of an intrigue with Catharine Milton, whom he afterwards married as his second wife, to do penance in a white sheet at the door of the parish church of Alberbury. When presented to Charles I at court, that monarch observed to him: 'You have lived longer than other men, what have you done more than other men?' Parr's reply was: 'I did penance when I was a hundred years old.' In the meeting of the venerable patriarch with the British sovereign, a parallel is almost suggested with the grand simplicity in which the presentation of Jacob to Pharaoh is recorded in the Book of Genesis.

Thomas Parr seems, through life, to have been of temperate and industrious habits, of which the following metrical account is given by Taylor:

Good wholesome labour was his exercise,
Down with the lamb, and with the lark would rise:
In mire and toiling sweat he spent the day,
And to his team he whistled time away:
The cock his night-clock, and till day was done,
His watch and chief sun-dial was the sun.
He was of old Pythagoras' opinion,
That green cheese was most wholesome with an onion;
Coarse meslin bread,* and for his daily swig,
Milk, butter-milk, and water, whey and whig:
Sometimes metheglin, and by fortune happy,
He sometimes sipped a cup of ale most nappy,
Cycler or perry, when he did repair
T' Whitson ale, wake, wedding, or a fair;
Or when in Christmas-time he was a guest
At his good landlord's house amongst the rest:
Else he had little leisure-time to waste,
Or at the ale-house huff-cap ale to taste;
His physic was good butter, which the soil
Of Salop yields, more sweet than candy oil;
And garlick he esteemed above the rate
Of Venice treacle, or best mithridate.
He entertained no gout, no ache he felt,
The air was good and temperate where he dwelt;
While mavisses and sweet-tongued nightingales
Did chant him roundelays and madrigals.
Thus living within bounds of nature's laws,
Of his long-lasting life may be some cause.

There was doubtless something peculiar in Parr's constitution which. enabled him to resist so long the effects of age and natural decay. As a corroboration of the theory of the hereditary trans-mission of qualities, it is a curious circumstance that Robert Parr, a grandson of this wonderful old man, who was born at Kinver in 1633, died in 1757, at the age of a hundred and twenty-four. Perhaps one of the most ingenious devices in the art of quackery is that by which a well-known medicine, bearing Parr's name, is vaunted to the public as the mysterious preparation by which he was enabled to attain the extraordinary age of a hundred and fifty-two. The portrait which is frequently attached to the puffing placard advertising these drugs, is derived from a likeness of Old. Parr, drawn by the celebrated painter Rubens.

In the Gentleman's Magazine for March 1814, a view, which we have copied. (see the preceding page), is given of Old. Parr's cottage, in the parish of Alberbury; Rodney's Pillar, on the Breidden Hill, appears in the distance. It is also stated in the work referred to, that the cottage has under-gone very little alteration since the period when Parr himself occupied it, and that a corner beside the huge misshapen chimney is shewn as the place where the Nestor of Shropshire used to sit.


On 15th November 1712, a singularly ferocious and sanguinary duel was fought in Kensington Gardens. The keepers of Hyde Park, on the morning of that day, were alarmed by the clashing of swords, and rushing to the spot whence the sound proceeded, found two noblemen weltering in their blood. These were Lord Mohun, who was already dead, and the Duke of Hamilton, who expired in the course of a few minutes. Nor had the combat been limited to the principals alone. The seconds, Colonel Hamilton on the part of the duke, and General Macartney on that of Lord Mohun, had also crossed swords, and fought with desperate rancour. The former of these remained on the field, and was taken prisoner; but Macartney fled to the continent, from which, however, he afterwards returned, and submitted to a trial.

A prodigious ferment was occasioned by this duel, owing to the circumstance of the Duke of Hamilton being regarded as the head of the Jacobite party both in North and South Britain, whilst Lord. Mohum was a zealous champion in the Whig interest. Neither of the men could lay claim to great admiration on the score of integrity or principle, and it is difficult, at the present day, to pronounce any decisive verdict in their case. What, however, seems to have originated merely in personal animosity was represented by the Tory party as a dastardly attempt on the part of their political opponents to inflict a vital wound on the Jacobite cause, then in the ascendant, by removing its great prop, who had just been appointed ambassador to the court of France, and was expected to leave London for Paris in the course of a few days. It was maintained that the duke had met foul-play at the hands of Macartney, by whose sword, and not that of Lord. Mohun, he had been slain. But this allegation was never established by sufficient evidence, and the truth of the matter seems to be that both sets of antagonists, principals as well as seconds, were so transported by the virulence of personal enmity as to neglect all the laws both of the gladiatorial art and the duelling code, and engage each other with the fury of savages or wild beasts.


Halley's Comet, so called, has been the means of dispelling many popular illusions concerning the influence of those mysterious bodies on worldly affairs. Before it had been ascertained that comets are periodical in their appearance, there was unbounded scope for speculation on the nature of this influence. The excellence of the celebrated vintage of 1811 was attributed to the great comet which appeared in that year; as was also the abundance of the crops. Nay, the number of twins born in the same year, and the fact that a shoemaker's wife in Whitechapel had four children at a birth, were in like manner laid to the charge of the comet; as likewise were the facts that wasps were few, and that flies became blind that year.

The Great Plague of London was attributed by some to a comet which appeared in the spring of that year. As there was a comet in 1668, and in the same year a remarkable epidemic among cats in Westphalia, some of the wiseacres of that day connected the two phenomena together as probable cause and effect. When Lima and Callao were destroyed by an earthquake in 1746, the disaster was imputed to a small comet in the absence of any more probable delinquent. A church clock, destroyed by a meteoric stone; an unusually large flock of wild pigeons in America; the disasters which were experienced by the Christians at the hands of the Turks in 1456; a fit of sneezing that became very prevalent in some parts of Germany; the deaths of eminent persons in various countries-all were believed to have been either produced or presaged by comets which appeared in certain years. That of two things which occurred nearly at the same time, one is the cause of the other, is a very popular and easy mode of philosophising. M. Arago adduces, in illustration of this point, the anecdote told by Bayle, of a lady who never looked out of the window of her apartment, situated in the greatest thoroughfare of Paris, and saw the street filled with carriages, without imagining that her appearance at the window was the cause of the crowd!

The reason why Halley's comet, or rather Halley's remarkable prediction concerning the comet, has had some influence in lessening these vague speculations, is because a regular and periodical occurrence of any event takes away from it much of a capricious or uncertain character. After Flamsteed had written down his careful observations on the comet of 1680, Sir Isaac Newton was able to determine what kind of curve it marked out in the heavens; and then Dr. Halley proceeded to investigate, in a very elaborate way, whether any two recorded comets were really two successive appearances of the same celestial body. He found reason to believe that the comets of 1531, 1607, and 1682 were in fact one and the same comet, which takes about seventy-six years to perform its remarkable journey round the sum. After making corrections for a few disturbing causes, he boldly declared his belief that that comet would appear again late in 1758 or early- in 1759; and, with a pardonable self-respect, he appealed to posterity not to lose sight of the fact, that if the comet should really return about that period, the prediction of such a result was due to an Englishman.

As the period approached, the great French mathematicians Clairaut, D'Alembert, and Lalande calculated the probable disturbance which. the planets would produce on such a comet; and they agreed that the month of April 1759 would be the probable time of re-appearance, or rather, of the perihelion of the comet-that is, its nearest approach to the sun.

The comet was espied on the 25th December 1758, and passed its perihelion on March 13th, 1759. This would have been a great triumph to Halley, if he could have lived to see it. All Europe agreed that this particular comet should be called Halley's Comet, in honour to the man who had so boldly and successfully predicted its periodicity. Then, as time passed on, arose the question- 'Will this comet re-appear after another interval of about seventy-six years, say in 1835?' In 1812, Damoiseau calculated that the comet ought to re-appear at perihelion on 4th November in that year. In 1829, Pontécoulant, another great mathematician, explained his reasons for selecting the 14th of November as a more probable date.

Two learned Germans, Rosenberger and Lehmann, also investigated the same intricate problem; the one named the 11th of November, the other the 26th, as the day of perihelion. At last, when the year 1835 arrived, all the astronomers in Europe were pointing their telescopes towards the heavens, under the belief that the comet would begin to be visible some time in August. They were right. On the 5th of August MM. Dumouchel and De Vico, at the observatory of Rome, detected the comet; it became visible to the naked eye towards the end of September, attained its greatest brilliancy about the middle of October, and passed its perihelion on 15th November-within one single day of the time calculated by Pontécoulant! All this is very wonderful to persons unskilled in astronomical mathematics; but so certain do savans now feel about it, that they decide that the recorded comets of 1378, 1456, 1531, 1607, 1682, 1759, and 1835 were only so many successive appearances of Halley's comet, at intervals of about seventy-six years apart. There is not the slightest doubt among them that Halley's comet will appear again in or about the year 1911, although possibly not one of our present astronomers will be alive in that year.

By thus substituting regularity for uncertainty, Halley's labours on the subject of comets have effectually reformed popular notions concerning those wondrous visitants.