27th April

Born: Edward Gibbon, historian, 1737, Putney; Mary Woolstonecroft, (Mrs Godwin), 1753; Maria Christina, consort of Ferdinand VII, of Spain, 1806, Naples.

Died: Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, 1404, Hall in Hainault; John James Ankerstrom, regicide, executed 1792, Stockholm; Sir William Jones, poet and scholar, 1794, Calcutta; James Bruce, traveller in Africa, 1794, Kinnaird, Stirlingshire; Thomas Stothard, R.A., 1834, London.

Feast Day: St. Anthimus, bishop, and other martyrs at Nicomedia, 303. St. Anastasius, pope and confessor, 401. St. Zita, virgin, of Lucca, 1272.


Amongst the noted men of the eighteenth century, Bruce stands out very clearly distinguished to us by his dignified energy and perseverance as a traveller in barbarous lands. Of imposing person (six feet four), of gentle-manly birth and position, accomplished in mind, possessed of indomitable courage, self-reliance, and sagacity, powerful, calm, taciturn, he was quite the kind of man to press his way through the deserts of Abyssinia, Nubia, and Ethiopia, and bring back accounts of them. It is said that, after all, the river to whose head he attained was not the proper Nile; no matter, it was something pretty nearly, if not fully equivalent. He was altogether twelve years absent from his country, engaged in these remarkable peregrinations.

When at length, after great labour and care, he published his travels in five quartos, with an additional volume of illustrations, a torrent of sceptical derision in a great measure drowned the voice of judicious praise which was their due. We must say the public appears to us to have shown remarkable narrow-mindedness and ignorance on this occasion. How foolish, for instance, to object to the story of the people under an obligation to live on lion's flesh for the purpose of keeping down the breed of that race, that the converse case, the devouring of man by the lion, had alone been heretofore known. There was nothing physically impossible in man's eating lion's flesh. If it were practicable to save the country from a dangerous animal by putting a premium upon its destruction, why should not the plan have been resorted to? Equally absurd was it to deny that there could be a people so barbarous as to cut steaks from the living animal. Why, in the northern parts of Mr. Bruce's own country, it was at that very time customary for the people to bleed their cattle, for the sake of a little sustenance to themselves, in times of dearth. It was creditable to George III, that he always stood up for the veracity of Bruce, while men who thought themselves better judges, denounced him as a fabulist.

The end of Bruce was striking. While enjoying the evening of his laborious life in his mansion of Kinnaird, on the Carse of Falkirk, he had occasion one night to hand a lady to her carriage. His foot slipped on the stair, and he fell on his head. Taken up speechless, he expired that night, at the age of sixty-four.


April 27th 1546, 'being Tuesday in Easter week, William Foxley, pot-maker for the Mint in the Tower of London, fell asleep, and so continued sleeping, and could not be wakened with pinching, cramping, or otherwise burning whatsoever, till the first day of term, which was fourteen days and fifteen nights. The cause of his thus sleeping could not be known, although the same were diligently searched after by the king's physicians and other learned men: yea, and the king himself examined the said William Foxley, who was in all points found at his waking to be as if he had slept but one night; and he lived more than forty years after in the Tower.'-Stow

Instances of abnormal sleepiness are not uncommon. In the middle of the last century a woman of twenty-seven years of age, residing near Tholouse, had fits of sleep, each lasting from three to thirteen days, throughout a space of half a year. About the same time a girl of nineteen years, residing at Newcastle, slept fourteen weeks without waking, notwithstanding many cruel tests to which she was subjected. Her awaking was a process which lasted three days, after which she seemed in good health, but complained of faintness. Of cases of this nature on record, an over proportion refer to females.