23rd February

Born: Samuel Pepys, diarist, Secretary to the Admiralty, 1632, Brampton (or London): William Mason, poet, 1725, Hull; Prince Henry Benedict Stuart, Cardinal York, 1725.

Died: Pope Eugenics IV, 1447; Sir Thomas Wyatt, beheaded, 1555, Tower; Stanislaus I (of Poland), 1766; Sir Joshua Reynolds, painter, 1792, Leicester-square; Dr. Joseph Warton, Professor of Poetry, Oxon, 1800, Wickham, Rants; Joanna Baillie, poet and dramatist, 1851, Hampstead.

Feast Day: St. Serenus, a gardener, martyr, 307. St. Boisil, prior of Melross, 664. St. Milburge, virgin, abbess in Shropshire, 7th century. Dositheus, monk of Palestine. Peter Damian, cardinal, 1072.


For some time previous to his decease this great painter felt that his end was approaching. The failure of his powers is touchingly recorded. In July 1789, when Sir Joshua had nearly finished the portrait of Lady Beauchamp (the last female portrait he ever painted), his eyesight was so affected that he found it difficult to proceed. He laid down his pencil, and sat awhile in mute consideration. In his pocket-book is this note of the calamity: 'Monday, the 13th of July,-prevented by my eye beginning to be obscured.' He soon totally lost it, and then violently apprehended that the other was going too. This was not the case: but the dread of what might happen if he used it much, entirely deterred him from either painting, writing, or reading: he amused himself by sometimes cleaning or mending a picture, for his ruling passion still continued in force, and he enjoyed his pictures as much as ever. His health was perfect, and his spirits were good: he enjoyed company in a quiet way, and loved a game at cards as well as ever.

Sir Joshua's niece, Miss Palmer, speaks, in March 1790, of his still painting: another authority dates his entire cessation from work in November 1791: 'His last male portrait was that of Charles James Fox: and when the final touches were given to this picture, the hand of Reynolds fell to rise no more.'

Sir Joshua now became much depressed in spirits: a tumour and inflammation above the eye that had perished could not be dispersed, and he dreaded that the other eye might be affected. He grew melancholy and sorrowfully silent. A concealed malady was sapping his life and spirits. Mr. Burke tells us that the great painter's 'illness' was long, but borne with a mild and cheerful fortitude, without the least mixture of anything irritable or querulous, agreeable to the placid and even tenor of his whole life. He had, from the beginning of his malady, a distinct view of his dissolution, which he contemplated with an entire composure, that nothing but the innocence, integrity, and usefulness of his life, and an unaffected submission to the will of Providence, could bestow.'

'I have been fortunate,' said Reynolds, 'in long good health and constant success, and I ought not to complain. I know that all things on earth must have an end.' With these simple words of resignation, Sir Joshua expired, without any visible symptoms of pain, at his house in Leicester-square, on the night of February 23, 1792, in the sixty-ninth year of his ago.

Next day his body was opened by Mr. Hunter, the eminent surgeon, when his liver was found to have become preternaturally enlarged, from about five pounds to nearly eleven pounds. It was also somewhat scirrhous. The optic nerve of the left eye was quite shrunk, and more flimsy than it ought to have been: the other, which Sir Joshua was so apprehensive of losing, was not affected. In his brain was found more water than is usual with men of his age. Malone tells us that Reynolds had long enjoyed such constant health, looked so young, and was so active, that he thought, though sixty-nine years old, ho was as likely to live eight or ten years longer as any of his younger friends.

The remains of the illustrious painter, after lying in state in the great room of the Royal Academy at Somerset House, were interred, with much. ceremony, in St. Paul's Cathedral, in a grave in the south aisle of the crypt; in the nave above is a marble portrait-statue of England's finest painter, Reynolds, by her best sculptor, Flaxman. At the close of the funeral, Mr. Burke, who was one of Sir Joshua's executors, attempted to thank the members of the Royal Academy for the respect shown to the remains of their late President; but the orator's feelings could only find vent in tears-he could not utter a word. A memorial print, engraved by Bartolozzi, was presented to each of the gentlemen attending the funeral.

'Sir Joshua Reynolds,' says Burke, 'was on very many accounts one of the most memorable men of his time. He was the first Englishman who added the praise of the elegant arts to the other glories of his country. In taste, in grace, in facility, in happy invention, in the richness and harmony of colouring, he was equal to the greatest inventors of the renowned ages He had too much merit not to excite some jealousy, too much innocence to provoke any enmity. The loss of no man of his time can be felt with more sincere, general, and unmixed sorrow.'


The popular discontents following the close of the great war-after efflorescing in radicalism, Manchester meetings, street oratory, Cobbett's Registers, &c.-came to a sort of head in the early part of 1820. A combination of mean men was then formed, with a view to the effecting a revolution by means of sanguinary violence. The chief man concerned was one named. Arthur Thistlewood, who had been a soldier, who had been involved in a trial for sedition, but acquitted, and who had afterwards suffered a year's imprisonment for sending a challenge to the minister, Lord. Sidmouth. He was a desperate man, animated by a spirit of revenge which over-powered reason. It seemed to him not impossible, by some such stroke as that contemplated in the Gunpowder Treason, to create a national confusion out of which a better government might be evoked: and he found a number of extreme radicals, of like fortunes with himself, to join in his enterprise. In all such movements of the common sort of people, there are always some whose virtue does not enable them to resist bribery. The Government never remained unacquainted with the conspiracies formed against it.

Months before the development of the plot, it was fully known to the ministers, who, according to the wretched. policy which necessity suggested. to them, employed spies named. Oliver and Edwards to stimulate its authors, so as to make them clearly amenable to the law. Thistlewood and a group of associates went on meeting in some den in Gray's Inn-lane, arranging their plans, unconscious of the traitors in their midst. Their main design was to assassinate the ministers, each in his own house: but, at length learning that there was to be a cabinet dinner at the house of Earl Harrowby , President of the Council, in Grosvenor-square, on the 23rd of February, they resolved to wait for it, Thistlewood remarking with savage glee, 'It will be a rare haul to murder them all together.'

It was arranged that some of the conspirators should watch Lord Harrowby's house; one was to call and deliver a dispatch-box at the door; the others were then to rush in, and having secured the servants, they were to assassinate the ministers as they sat at dinner; bringing away as special trophies, the heads of Lord Sidmouth and Lord Castlereagh, in two bags provided for the purpose! They were then to set fire to the cavalry barracks: and the Bank of England and the Tower of London were to be taken by the people, who, it was hoped, would rise upon the spread of the news. It can scarcely be believed that such a scheme should have been seriously planned in the metropolis only forty years since: yet such was the fact.

With a view to the attack in Grosvenor-square, their place of meeting was a loft over a stable in Cato-street, near the Edgware-road. Here the conspirators having mustered to the number of twenty-four, took the precaution of placing one as a sentinel below, whilst they prepared for their dreadful work. Meanwhile, the ministers, fully apprised of what was going on, did not arrive at Lord Harrowby's; the Archbishop of York, who lived next door, happened to give a dinner-party at the same hour as that appointed at Lord Harrowby's, and the arrival of carriages at the Archbishop's deceived. those of the conspirators who were on the watch in the square, and they did not discover their mistake until it was too late to give warning to their comrades assembled in Cato-street. Here, while the traitors were arming themselves by the light of one or two candles, a party of Bow-street officers, mounting by a ladder, forcibly entered the loft: the fore-most of them, in attempting to seize Thistlewood, was run by him through the body, and instantly fell; the lights were extinguished, a few shots were exchanged, and Thistlewood. and some of his companions escaped through a window at the back of the premises: nine were taken that evening, with their arms and ammunition: and the intelligence was conveyed to the ministers, who had met at Lord Liverpool's, at Westminster, to await the result. A reward of £1,000 was immediately offered for the apprehension of Thistlewood, and he was captured next morning, while in bed, at the house of a friend in Little Moorfields.

The conspirators were sent to the Tower, the last persons imprisoned in that fortress. On the 20th of April, Thistlewood was condemned to death after three days' trial; and on May 1st, he and his four principal accomplices: Ings, Brunt, Tidd, and Davidson, who had been severally tried and convicted,-were hanged at the Old Bailey. The remaining six pleaded guilty; one received a pardon, and five were transported for life. To efface recollection of the conspiracy, Cato-street has been renamed Homer-street.


Among the minor objects of personal use which appear, from an inventory, to have belonged to Margaret de Bohan, daughter of Humphrey de Bohan, Earl of Hereford and Essex, slain at the battle of Boroughbridge, March 16, 1321, is a 'poume de aumbre,' or scent-ball, in the composition of which ambergris probably formed a principal ingredient. We here learn also that a nutmeg was occasionally used for the like purpose; it was set in silver, decorated with stones and pearls, and was evidently an object rare and highly prized. Amongst the valuable effects of Henry V, according to the inventory taken A. D. 1423, are enumerated a musk-ball of gold, weighing eleven ounces, and another of silver gilt. At a later period, the pomander was very commonly worn as the pendant of a lady's girdle. A receipt for compounding it may be found in the Treasury of Commodious Conceits, 1586.

The orange appears to have been used as a pomander soon after its introduction into England. Cavendish describes Cardinal Wolsey entering a crowded chamber 'holding in his hand a very fair orange, whereof the meat or substance within was taken out, and filled up again with the part of a sponge, wherein was vinegar and other confections against the pestilent airs; the which he most commonly smelt unto, passing among the press, or else he was pestered with many suitors.'

Sir Thomas Gresham, in his celebrated portrait by Sir Antonio More, holds in his left hand a small object resembling an orange, but which is a pomander. This sometimes consisted of a dried Seville orange, stuffed with cloves and other spices: and being esteemed a fashionable preservative against infection, it frequently occurs in old portraits, either suspended to the girdle or held in the hand. In the eighteenth century, the signification of this object had become so far forgotten, that, instead of pomanders, bona fide oranges were introduced into portraits, a practice which Goldsmith has happily satirized in his Vicar of Wakefield, where seven of the Flamboroughs are drawn with seven oranges, &c.

When the pomander was made of silver, it was perforated with holes, to let out the scent. Hence the origin of the vinaigrette of our day.

The earliest mention of coral is that which occurs in the inventory of Alianore de Bohun, namely, the paternoster of coral, with gilded gaudeer (the larger beads), which belonged to Margaret de Bohun, and the three branches of coral which Alianore possessed. The above use of coral explains its being worn, in later times, as an amulet, or defence against infection.


In Shakspeare's Much Ado About Nothing, Benedict (Act I., Sc. 1) alludes to 'the old tale-it is not so, nor 'twas not so, but indeed. God forbid it should be so.' It is believed by his laborious commentator, Mr. Halliwell, that Shakspeare here had in his recollection a simple English nursery story which he had probably heard in his infancy at Stratford, and of which some memory still survives. The story is given by thelearned commentator as follows: 'Once upon a time there was a young lady, called Lady Mary, who had two brothers. One summer they all went to a country seat of theirs, which they had not before visited. Among the other gentry in the neighbourhood who came to see them, was a Mr. Fox, a bachelor, with whom they, particularly the young lady, were much pleased. Ho used often to dine with them, and frequently invited Lady Mary to come and see his horse. One day that her brothers were absent elsewhere, and she had nothing better to do, she determined to go thither; and accordingly set out unattended. When she arrived at the house, and knocked at the door, no one answered.

At length she opened it and went in: over the portal of the hall was written, 'Be bold, be bold-but not too bold, lest that your heart's blood should run cold.' She opened it; it was full of skeletons and tubs full of blood. She retreated in haste, and coming down stairs she saw Mr. Fox advancing towards the house with a drawn sword in one hand, while with the other he dragged along a young lady by her hair. Lady Mary had just time to slip down, and hide her-self under the stairs, before Mr. Fox and his victim arrived at the foot of them. As he pulled the young lady upstairs, she caught hold of one of the banisters with her hand, on which was a rich bracelet. Mr. Fox cut it off with his sword; the hand and bracelet fell into Lady Mary's lap, who then contrived to escape unobserved, and got home safe to her brothers' house.

After a few days, Mr. Fox came to dine with them as usual. After dinner, when the guests began to amuse each other with extraordinary anecdotes, Lady Mary at length said she would relate to them a remarkable dream she had lately had. 'I dreamt,' said she, 'that as you, Mr. Fox, had often invited me to go to your house, I would go there one morning. When I came to the house I knocked, but no one answered. When I opened the door, over the hall was written, 'Be bold, be bold-but not too bold.' But, said she, turning to Mr. Fox, and smiling, 'it is not so, nor it was not so.' Then she pursued the rest of the story, concluding at every turn with 'It is not so, nor it was not so,' till she came to the room full of dead bodies, when Mr. Fox took up the burden of the tale, and said, 'It is not so, nor it was not so: and God forbid it should be so,' which he continues to repeat at every subsequent turn of the dreadful story, till she came to the circumstance of the cutting off the young lady's hand, when, upon his saying as usual, 'It is not so, nor it was not so: and God forbid it should be so,' Lady Mary retorts, 'But it is so, and it was so, and here's the hand I have to show;' at the same time producing the bracelet from her lap: whereupon the guests drew their swords, and cut Mr. Fox into a thousand pieces.'

It is worthy of notice that the mysterious inscription seen by the lady in Mr. Fox's house is identical with that represented by Spenser (Faerie Queen, III. xi. 54), as beheld by Britomart in

' - the house of Busyrane,
Where Love's spoyles are exprest.'
It occurs in the following stanza :
And as she lookt about she did behold
How over that same dore was likewise writ,
Be bold, be bold, and everywhere Be bold;
That much she mus'd, yet could not construe it
By any riffling skill or commune wit.
At last she spyde at that rowme's upper end
Another yron dore, on which was writ,
Be not too bold: whereto, though she did bend
Her earnest mind, yet wist not what it might intend.

It cannot be said that there is much in the story of Mr. Fox; but it is curious to find it a matter of familiar knowledge to two writers like Shakspeare and Spenser: and we learn from their allusions that, rude and simple as it is, it has existed for about three centuries, if not more.