Born: Dr. William Vincent, scholar and miscellaneous writer, 1739; Marie Antoinette, queen of Louis XVI, 1755, Vienna; Field-Marshal Radetzky, celebrated Austrian commander, 1766, Castle of Trebnilz, Bohemia; Edward, Duke of Kent, father of Queen Victoria, 1767.
Died: Dr. Richard Hooker, author of the Ecclesiastical Polity, 1600, Bishop's Bourne; Richard Bancroft, archbishop of Canterbury, 1610, Lambeth; Sophia Dorothea, consort of George I of England, 1726, Castle of Ahlen, Hanover; Alexander Menzikoff, Russian statesman and general, 1729, Siberia; Princess Amelia, daughter of George III, 1810, Windsor; Sir Samuel Romilly, eminent lawyer and philanthropist, 1818; Sir Alexander Burnes, diplomatist, murdered at Cabal, 1841; Esaias Tegner, Swedish poet, 1846, Wexio, Sweden; Dr. Richard Mant, theological and miscellaneous writer, 1848, Ballymoney, Antrim.
Feast Day: All Souls, or the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed. St. Victorinus, bishop and martyr, about 304. St. Marcian, anchoret and confessor, about 387. St. Vulgan, confessor, 7th century.
ALL SOULS DAY
This is a festival celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church, on behalf of the souls in purgatory, for whose release the prayers of the faithful are this day offered up and masses performed. It is said to have been first introduced in the ninth century by Odilon, abbot of Cluny; but was not generally established till towards the end of the tenth century. Its observance was esteemed of such importance, that in the event of its falling on a Sunday, it was ordered not to be postponed till the Monday, as in the case of other celebrations, but to take place on the previous Saturday, that the souls of the departed might suffer no detriment from the want of the prayers of the church. It was customary in former times, on this day, for persons dressed in black to traverse the streets, ringing a dismal-toned bell at every corner, and calling on the inhabitants to remember the souls suffering penance in purgatory, and to join in prayer for their liberation and repose.
At Naples, it used to be a custom on this day to throw open the charnel-houses, which were lighted up with torches and decked with flowers, while crowds thronged through the vaults to visit the bodies of their friends and relatives, the fleshless skeletons of which were dressed up in robes and arranged in niches along the walls. At Salerno, also, we are told, that a custom prevailed previous to the fifteenth century, of providing in every house on the eve of All-Souls-Day, a sumptuous entertainment for the souls in purgatory who were supposed then to revisit temporarily, and make merry in, the scene of their earthly pilgrimage. Every one quitted the habitation, and after spending the night at church, returned in the morning to find the whole feast consumed, it being deemed eminently inauspicious if a morsel of victuals remained uneaten. The thieves who made a harvest of this pious custom, assembling, then, from all parts of the country, generally took good care to avert any such evil omen from the inmates of the house by carefully carrying off whatever they were unable themselves to consume. A resemblance may be traced in this observance, to an incident in the story of Bel and the Dragon, in the Apocrypha.
SIR SAMUEL ROMILLY
The revocation in 1685, by Louis XIV, of Henry IV's Edict of Nantes, by which for nearly a hundred years Protestants had enjoyed at least toleration, cost France dearly, but greatly enriched England by the immigration of a multitude of skilful artisans, who introduced to the land of their adoption many forms of useful and elegant industry. Nor did these noble exiles profit England only by their manual skill. The names of their descendants appear with distinction in almost every department of our national life, but few with a more radiant glory than encircles the head of Sir Samuel Romilly.
His grandfather came from Montpellier, and settled in the neighbourhood of London as a wax-bleacher. His father was a jeweller, and in Frith Street, Soho, he was born on the 1st of March 1757. As a boy, he received an indifferent education at the French Protestant school, but as soon as he had left it, he diligently applied himself to self culture. What business he should follow, he could not decide. A solicitor's was thought of, a merchant's office was tried, and then his father's shop, but none pleased him. Meanwhile, he studied hard and became a good Latin scholar. Eventually, he was articled for five years to one of the sworn clerks in Chancery.
In his leisure, he read extensively, but with method, governing himself with a strict rein. At the expiration of the five years, it had been his intention to purchase a seat in the Six Clerks' Office, and there quietly settle for life; but his father needed the requisite funds in his business, and Romilly, deprived of this resource, determined to qualify himself for the bar. Severe mental application brought on ill health, and to recruit his strength he made a journey to Switzerland. In Paris, he formed the acquaintance of D'Alembert, Diderot, and other thinkers of their school, and their influence had considerable effect in moulding his opinions towards liberalism and reform.
In 1783, Romilly was called to the bar, but he had to wait long ere he was rewarded with any practice. When briefs did at last fall to his lot, it very soon became manifest that they were held by a master; he gave his conscience to all he undertook, and wrought out his business with efficiency. Solicitors who trusted him once were in haste to trust him again, and a start in prosperity being made, success came upon him like a flood. His income rose to between £8000 and £9000 a year, and in his diary, he congratulates himself that he did not press his father to buy him a seat in the Six Clerks' Office. Lord Brougham says:
Romilly, by the force of his learning and talents, and the most spotless integrity, rose to the very heights of professional ambition. He was beyond question or pretence of rivalry the first man in the courts of equity in this country.
Mirabean visited London in 1784, and introduced Romilly to the Marquis of Lansdowne, who was so impressed with the young man's genius, that he twice offered him a seat in parliament; but Romilly was too proud to sit under even such liberal patronage. Not until 1806 did he enter the House of Commons, and then as Solicitor General in the Whig government, styled 'All the Talents,' formed after the death of Pitt. That administration lasted little more than a year, but Romilly remained a member of the House for one borough or another to the end of his life. In parliament, he was felt as a great power, and his speeches and votes were invariably on the Whig and progressive side. His oratory, which some competent judges pronounced the finest of his age, was usually listened to with rapt attention; a passage in his speech in favour of the abolition of the slave-trade received the singular honour of three distinct rounds of applause from the House.
Romilly's grand claim to remembrance, however, rests on his humane efforts to mitigate the Draconic code of English law. Nearly three hundred crimes, varying from the most frightful atrocity to keeping company with gipsies, were indiscriminately punishable with death. As a consequence, vice flourished, for, as Lord Coke long ago observed, ' too severe laws are never executed.' He had long meditated over the matter, and after discus-sing various schemes of procedure, he cautiously ventured, in 1808, to bring in a bill to repeal the statute of Elizabeth, which made it a capital offence to steal privately from the person of another. This he succeeded in getting passed.
He next, in 1810, tried a bolder stroke, and introduced three bills to repeal several statutes, which punished with death the crimes of stealing privately in a shop goods to the value of 5s., and of stealing to the amount of 40s in dwellinghouses, or in vessels in navigable rivers. All three were lost! He did not despair, however, but kept agitating, and renewed his motions session after session. He did not live to reap success, but he cleared the way for success after him.
Romilly had married, in his forty-first year, Miss Garbett, a lady of rare intelligence, whom he first met at the Marquis of Lansdowne's, and their union proved eminently happy. After twenty years of conjugal felicity, she fell into delicate health. In 1818 there was a dissolution of parliament, and as an evidence of the respect in which Romilly was held, the electors of Westminster placed his name at the head of the poll, although he declined to spend a shilling or solicit a vote. Never, alas! was he destined to sit for Westminster. Public honours were vapid whilst his beloved partner lay nigh unto death. On the 29th of October she died. The shock was dreadful to Romilly. In his agony he fell into a delirium, and in a moment, when unwatched, he sprang from his bed, cut his throat, and expired in a few minutes. The sad event took place in his house, Russell Square, London, 2nd November 1818. When Lord Eldon, next morning, took his seat on the bench, and saw the vacant place within the bar where for years Romilly had pleaded before him, iron man though he was, his eyes filled with tears. 'I cannot stay here' he exclaimed, and rising in great agitation, broke up his court.
In one grave the bodies of husband and wife were laid at Knill, in Herefordshire. It is a singular circumstance, that in the parish church of St. Bride, Fleet Street, there is a tablet on the wall with an inscription to the memory of Isaac Romilly, F.R.S., who died in 1759 of a broken heart, seven days after the decease of a beloved wife.
Romilly's style of speech was fluent, yet simple, correct and nervous, and without ornament of any kind. His reasoning was clear and accurate, and seemed to the hearer intelligible without an effort. His voice was deep and sonorous, and his presence full of severe and solemn dignity. To these oratorical powers he brought great earnestness; what-ever he undertook, he fulfilled with all his might. The cause of his client he made his own, and he was reckoned to run the fairest chance of victory who had Romilly for his advocate.
FUNERAL OF A JEWISH RABBI
There are not often opportunities, in England, of witnessing the funeral obsequies of the great priests or rabbis among the Jews; because that peculiar people do not form so large a ratio to the whole population here as in many continental countries, and consequently do not comprise so many sacerdotal officers. One of the few instances that have occurred, took place on the 2nd of November 1842. Dr. Herschel, who had been chief rabbi of England for forty-two years, was buried on this day. At ten o'clock in the morning, the body, in a plain deal-coffin covered with a black cloth, was removed from his residence in Bury Court, St. Mary Axe, to the chief synagogue in Duke's Place, Houndsditch.
It was supported and followed by twenty-four leading members of the Hebrew persuasion, including Sir Moses Montefiore. During the progress from the door of the synagogue to the ark, a special service was chanted by the Rev. Mr. Asher, the principal reader; and after the bier had been placed before the ark, an impressive ceremonial took place. The ark was covered with black cloth; the whole of the windows were darkened; the synagogue was illuninated by wax-tapers; and the whole place assumed a sombre and imposing aspect. This portion of the religious ceremony having been completed, a procession was formed to convey the remains of the venerable rabbi to their last resting-place, the Jews' burial-ground, at Mile End. In the procession were the boys and girls of the German, Spanish, and Portuguese Jewish schools; the youths training up for the priesthood; the readers of the various metropolitan synagogues; and the carriages of the principal Jewish laity.
There were nearly a hundred carriages in all. In accordance with a wish expressed by the deceased, there were no mourning-coaches. On arriving at the burial-ground, at Heath Street, Mile End, the body was carried into a sort of hall, in the centre of which it was placed. The reader, then, taking his position at the head of the coffin, repeated a burial-service. At the conclusion of the prayers, the coffin was borne to the grave. Several brown-paper parcels, sealed with wax, containing papers and documents, were thrown into the grave, in obedience to instructions left by the deceased; and a large box, containing one of the laws of Moses, written by Rabbi Herschel himself on parchment, was also, at his special request, consigned to the grave with him. The shops of the Jewish tradesmen along the line of route were closed as the procession passed, the ceremony altogether occupying five hours.