18th April

Born: Sir Francis Baring, baronet, eminent merchant, 1740; George H. Lewes, miscellaneous writer, 1817, London.

Died: John Leland, eminent English antiquary, 1552, London; John Fox, author of The Acts and Monuments of the Church, 1587, London; Robert Parsons, Jesuit controversialist, 1610, Rome; Sir Symonds D'Ewes, collector of English historical records, 1650; George Lord Jeffreys, Chancellor of England, 1689, Tower of London; Alexandre Lainez, French poet, 1710; Charles Pratt, Earl Camden, Chancellor of England 1766-1770, statesman, 1794; Dr. Erasmus Darwin, poet, 1802, Breadsall; John Abernethy, eminent surgeon, 1831.

Feast Day: St. Apollonius, the Apologist, martyr, 186. St. Laserim, Bishop of Leighlin, Ireland, 638. St. Galdin, Arch-bishop of Milan, 1176.


As even Nero had some one to strew flowers over his grave, so was there a bard who found the notorious Jeffreys worthy of a gratulatory ode on his acceding to the Chief Justiceship. It appears in a broadside, dated October 23, 1683, and is wholly composed of panegyric. The circumstance becomes the more remarkable as the effusion is in Latin verse, arguing that the author was a man of good education. It ends with:

I, secli presentis amor, longumque futuri
Exemplar, qui sic titulos virtutibus ornas,
Virtutem celsis titulis! Antiqua Britannum
Gesta sepultorum per te rediviva resurgant,
Angliacumque novis cumulant annalibus orbem.


Erasmus Darwin, poet and physician, was born at Elton, near Newark, in Nottinghamshire. From his early youth, he was inclined to the easily enjoyed pleasures of the imagination, rather than to the hard-earned rewards of scientific studies. The following anecdote shews how open to vivid impressions his mind was in youth. Journeying from Newark, to enter upon his collegiate education at Cambridge, he rested for the night at the house of two old bachelor brothers. They were delighted with the vivacity of the young student, and were rendered by it so painfully sensible that they were childless and solitary, that he heard one say regretfully to the other, 'Why did not one of us marry!'

The tone and the circumstances never allowed that sentence to fade from Darwin's memory, and it was the origin of that strong condemnation of an unmarried life, which for ever afterwards he was so ready to utter. In due course, Darwin graduated in medicine at Cambridge; but even there he distinguished himself more by poetic exercises than proficiency in science. Indeed, he never attained to any particular eminence as a physician, and would now be completely forgotten were it not for his principal poem, The Loves of the Plants. This work formed part only of a poem entitled The Botanic Garden, in which the physiology and classification of the vegetable world is related in high-sounding, but not unmelodious verse, and illustrated with many notes amusing, though not profound. The digressions are many, and the flights of imagination widely discursive. These flights are not always characterised by scientific accuracy, but reach the extreme limits of poetic frenzy. One, however, as a prognostication of steam-vessels and locomotive engines, has become among the most hackneyed quotations in our language:

Soon shall thy arm, unconquered steam! afar
Drag the slow barge, or drive the rapid car.

The loves of the Plants had a great popularity in its day, but was at last snuffed out by the able but severe burlesque, The Loves of the Triangles.

Darwin had often expressed a hope that the termination of his life might come to him without pain, for he ever esteemed pain as a much greater evil than death. The hope was realized; complaining of cold, he seated himself by the fire, and died in a few minutes, without pain or emotion.


A man had better ne'er been born
Than have his nails on a Sunday shorn.
Cut them on Monday, cut them for health;
Cut them on Tuesday, cut them for wealth;
Cut them on Wednesday, cut them for news;
Cut them on Thursday, for a pair of new shoes;
Cut them on Friday, cut them for sorrow;
Cut them on Saturday, see your sweetheart tomorrow.

Sir Thomas Browne remarks: 'To cut nails upon a Friday or a Sunday is accounted lucky amongst the common people in many places. The set and statutory times of paring nails and cutting hair is thought by many a point of consideration, which is perhaps but the continuation of an ancient superstition. To the Romans it was piacular to pare their nails upon the nundinae, observed every ninth day,' &c.