Born: Thomas Carlyle, historical and miscellaneous writer, 1795, near Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire; Dr. John Kitto, Biblical illustrator, 1804, Plymouth.
Died: Pope John XXII, 1334, Avignon; Cardinal Richelieu, celebrated minister of Louis XIII, 1642, Paris; William Drummond, poet, 1649, Hawthornden; Thomas Hobbes, philosopher, author of Leviathan, 1679; John Gay, poet and dramatist, 1732, London; John Shute, Lord Barrington, 1734; James Perry, editor of the Morning Chronicle, 1821, Brighton; Robert Jenkinson, Earl of Liverpool, statesman, 1828; Samuel Butler, bishop of Lichfield, great scholar, 1839.
Feast Day: St. Clement of Alexandria, father of the church, beginning of 3rd century. St. Barbara, virgin and martyr, about 306. St. Maruthas, bishop and confessor, 5th century. St. Peter Chrysologus, archbishop of Ravenna, confessor, 450. St. Siran or Sigirannus, abbot in Berry, confessor, 655. St. Anno, archbishop of Cologne, confessor, 1075. St. Osmund, bishop and confessor, 1099.
Thomas Hobbes was the plague of the theologians and philosophers of the seventeenth century. Charles II likened him to a bear against whom the church played its young dogs in order to exercise them. Warburton, writing a century later, said:
The philosopher of Malmesbury was the terror of the last age, as Tindall and Collins are of this. The press sweat with controversy, and every young churchman-militant would try his arms in thundering on Hobbes's steel cap.
A library might, indeed, be formed of the literature Hobbes provoked; and supposing it were admitted that he was altogether in the wrong, yet we should see a beneficent end in the means which stimulated so much mental activity. Faith is strengthened and assured in free contest with error; belief would lapse into mere hearsay if not sharply tested by question and denial; and we all must own, that:
truth like a torch the more it's shook it shines.
Thomas Hobbes was born at Mahnesbury, in Wilts, on Good Friday, 1588, the year of the Spanish Armada. It is said his birth was hastened by his mother's terror of the enemy's fleet; and it may be, that a timidity with which through life he was afflicted, was thus induced. He and Fear, he was wont to say, were born together. He was a precocious child; he learned much and easily, and while yet a boy, translated the Medea of Euripides from the Greek into Latin verse. At the age of fifteen he was sent to Oxford, and at twenty he entered the Cavendish family as tutor to Lord Hardwicke, and with scarcely an intermission remained in the service of that noble house as tutor and secretary to the end of his long life. Born under Elizabeth, he lived through the reigns of James and Charles; he saw the rise and fall of the Commonwealth; and died in 1679, at the great age of ninety-two, within six years of the accession of James II.
The latter part of his life was spent in Derbyshire, in the charming retreat of Chatsworth, and from Bishop Kennet we have a minute account of his habits there:
His professed rule of health was to dedicate the morning to his exercise, and the afternoon to his studies. At his first rising, therefore, he walked out and climbed any hill within his reach; or, if the weather was not dry he fatigued himself within doors by some exercise or other, to be a sweat After this he took a comfortable breakfast; and then went round the lodgings to wait upon the earl, the countess and the children, and any considerable strangers, paying some short addresses to all of them. He kept these rounds till about twelve o'clock; when he had a little dinner provided for him, which he ate always by himself without ceremony. Soon after dinner, he retired to his study, and had his candle with ten or twelve pipes of tobacco laid by him; then shutting his door, he fell to smoking, thinking, and writing for several hours. Hobbes was tall and spare; his forehead was massive, and in old age deeply wrinkled; his hair was a bright black, till time grizzled it; his eyes were quick and sparkling, and his nose long. His countenance, he tells us, was 'not beautiful, but when I am speaking, far from disagreeable.
Hobbes's temper was naturally and intensely conservative, and his lot was cast in times when the whole current of events seemed destined to disturb it. His first work, a translation of Thucydides, in which he had the assistance of Ben Jonson, was published in 1628, in order that the absurdities of the Athenian democrats might serve as a warning to turbulent Englishmen. As civil troubles thickened, he was glad to seek refuge in Paris, where he enjoyed the acquaintance of Descartes, Gassendi, and other eminent Frenchmen. But though he had no inclination for a personal share in the strife which was rending his country into warring factions, he was far from indifferent to it. His mind was absorbed in the questions it suggested; he was asking himself, what was the origin of society? and what were the true relations between rulers and their subjects?
The first result of his meditations appeared in a Latin treatise, De Cive, printed in Paris in 1642, and afterwards translated into English as Philosophical Rudiments concerning Government and Society. Descartes wrote of De Cive:
I can by no means approve of its principles or maxims, which are very bad and extremely dangerous, because they suppose all men to be wicked, or give them occasion to be so. His whole design is to write in favour of monarchy, which might be done to more advantage than he has done, upon maxims more virtuous and solid.
The principles set forth in the De Cive, Hobbes more fully developed in the celebrated Leviathan; or the Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil, published in London, in folio, in 1651. In this work he describes man in a state of nature, or of isolation, as in a state of war, which in society he exchanges for a state of amity or peace. God made man, and man, in his turn, makes society, which is a sort of artificial man; a man on a large scale, in which the ruler is the brain, and his subjects, according to their various offices, the members. To the monarch he accords absolute power, and to his subjects unconditional obedience, not only in matters civil but religious. It might be supposed that such a doctrine would have proved highly acceptable to a generation in which the divine right of kings was in common vogue, but it was quickly discerned that though Hobbes rendered a useful defence of absolutism, it was a defence, spite of Hobbes's protests, which might serve a Cromwell as well as a Stuart. Hence, in 1666, parliament passed a censure on the Leviathan and De Cive.
Hobbes's pen, to the end of his life, was never idle. He wrote in advocacy of necessity against free will. He translated the Iliad and Odyssey into very ordinary verse. He composed a history of the civil wars from 1640 to 1660. He had a controversy with Dr. Wallis, professor of geometry at Oxford, which lasted twenty years, and in which he was thoroughly worsted. Hobbes had commenced the study of mathematics in middle life, and imagined he had discovered the quadrature of the circle. Wallis told him he was mistaken, and the dispute which ensued was acrimonious to a laughable degree. Hobbes published Six Lessons to the Professors of Mathematics in Oxford, to which Wallis replied in Due Correction for Mr. Hobbes for not Saying his Lessons Right.
Though the parliament condemned Hobbes, he was a favourite with Charles II and his court. The aversion in which he was held by the pious, was a fair title to their esteem; and his sharp sayings and low estimate of human motives, were perfectly suited to their tastes. Moreover, he had been mathematical tutor to Charles when in exile; and though, after the publication of the Leviathan, he had been forbidden the royal presence, the king had a real fondness for his old master, and, seeing him one day in London, as he passed along in his coach, he sent for Hobbes, gave him his hand to kiss, ordered his portrait to be taken, and settled on him a pension of £100 a year.
Hobbes was freely denounced as an atheist, but solely by inference, and in direct opposition to his own confession. He expressly acknowledged God as 'the Power of all powers, and First Cause of all causes;' but, at the same time, denied that any could know 'what He is, but only that He is.' What gave great handle to some to treat him as an atheist, was the contempt he expressed for many of those scholastic terms invented by theologians, in their endeavour to define the Infinite, and his determination to pursue his reasoning on politics and philosophy in thorough independence of their dogmas. Consistently with his principles, he conformed to the Church of England, and partook of its sacraments; but he seldom remained to listen to the sermon after the prayers.
Perhaps no writer has treated questions of polity and metaphysics with greater terseness and clearness than Hobbes, and lovers of a manly English style receive deep gratification from his pages. The late Sir William Molesworth collected and edited the works of Hobbes in sixteen volumes. When he stood as candidate for parliament for Southwark in 1845, one of the election cries was, 'Will you vote for Molesworth, the editor of Atheist Hobbes?'
JOHN GAY: ORIGIN OF A POPULAR NURSERY RHYME
John Gay is chiefly remembered as the author of the Fables and the Beggar's Opera, both of which, though not productions evincing the highest order of genius, have, by their sparkling vivacity and humour, secured for themselves transmission to posterity. He appears to have been wild and improvident in conduct, but nevertheless of a most amiable and genial disposition, which endeared him to a wide circle of literary friends, one of-whom, Pope, thus touchingly commemorates him in the well known elegy on Gay:
Of manners gentle, of affections mild;
In wit a man, simplicity, a child.
A mock-heroic poem, by Gay, entitled Trivia, or the Art of Walking the Streets of London, gives a very lively description of the city of London as it existed in the reign of Queen Anne, and of the dangers and inconveniences to which a pedestrian was exposed in those days while traversing its thoroughfares. This poem is indirectly connected with a well-known nursery rhyme. Few of our readers are unacquainted with the effusion commencing:
Three children sliding on the ice,
Upon a summer's day;
with its tragi-comical catastrophe, and its moral of like character, addressed to
Parents that have children clear,
And eke they that have none.
Like many other tales of that class, both in prose and verse, its origin, we believe, has long remained unknown. A little old book, however, which we had occasion to quote in our first volume (p. 173), The Loves of Hero and Leander (London, 1653 and 1677), enlightens us on this point, and gives these lines in their primitive form.
In the latter part of the work, we find a rambling story, in doggerel rhymes, attempting the comical, and no less than eighty-four lines in length: it begins thus:
Some Christian people, all give ear
Unto the grief of us:
Caus'd by the death of three children clear,
The which it hapned thus.
And, elsewhere in the narrative, we meet with three other quatrains, the origin evidently of the rhyme in question:
Three children sliding thereabout,
Upon a place too thin,
That so at last it did fall out,
That they did all fall in.
For had these at a sermon been,
Or else upon dry ground,
Why then I would ne'er have been seen,
If that they had been drown'd.
Ye parents all that children have,
And ye that have none yet,
Preserve your children from the grave,
And teach them at home to sit.
From the concluding verse of the story, as told in the original, it would seem that these lines were composed in the early part of the Civil Wars of Charles I.
In connection with this homely production, we have now to advert to an instance in which a more recent writer has evidently been indebted to it. Among the other incidents of the narrative, we are told that these unlucky children were sliding upon the Thames, when frozen over, and that one of them had the misfortune to lose his head by the inopportune closing of the ice:
Of which one's head was from his should-
Ers stricken, whose name was John,
Who then cry'd out as loud as he could,
'0 Lon-a, Lon-a, London,
Oh! tut-tut, turn from thy sinful race,'
Thus did his speech decay.
If we turn to a passage in Gay's Trivia (book ii. 11. 388-392), descriptive of a frost on the Thames, near a century later, we find the following account of the tragic death of Doll the apple-woman:
The cracking crystal yields, she sinks, she dies,
Her head, chopt off, from her lost shoulders flies;
'Pippins,' she cry'd, but death her voice confounds,
And 'Pip, pip, pip,' along the ice resounds!
The severing of the head from the shoulders, the half articulated words, and the 'speech decaying,' or 'voice confounded,' in death, are, all of them, points so extremely similar, that there can hardly be room for supposing this to be a case of accidental coincidence.
MR. JAMES PERRY OF THE MORNING CHRONICLE
James Perry was one of those silent workers whose works do not perish; and who, even when the worker and the work both have disappeared, exert a lasting influence on those who follow them. He was an Aberdeen man, born in 1756. After receiving a good education, and commencing the study of the law, he was suddenly thrown upon his own resources through commercial disasters in his family. Coming to England, he obtained an engagement as clerk to a manufacturer in Manchester; and while thus employed, he greatly improved himself, during his leisure hours, by joining a literary association. The essays and papers which he contributed as a member of this society attracted much attention at the time. He went to London in 1777, to seek a wider sphere of usefulness; and feeling a kindred sympathy towards a newspaper called the General Advertiser, he wrote essays and fugitive-pieces, dropped them into the letter-box at the office of that journal, and had the pleasure of seeing them in print a day or two afterwards. An accidental circumstance brought him into communication with the proprietors.
Calling one day at the shop of Messrs Richardson and Urquhart, booksellers, to whom he had letters of recommendation, he found the latter busily engaged reading, and apparently enjoying an article in the General Advertiser. After Mr. Urquhart had finished the perusal, Perry delivered his message; and Urquhart said:
If you could write articles such as this, I could give you immediate employment.
When Urquhart (who was one of the proprietors of the paper) heard that Perry was the author of the article, and had another of a similar kind with him in his pocket, they soon came to terms. Urquhart offered and Perry accepted a situation of a guinea a week, with an extra half-guinea for aiding in the London Evening Post, issued from the same establishment. Installed now in a regular literary capacity, Mr. Perry threw the whole of his energies into his work.
During the memorable trials of Admirals Keppel and Palliser, he, for six successive weeks, by his own individual efforts, managed to transmit daily, from Portsmouth, eight columns of a report of the proceedings, taken by him in court. These contributions, so very acceptable to the general public, raised the circulation of the General Advertiser largely. Even this arduous labour did not exhaust his appetite for study; and he wrote, in addition, papers on a large variety of subjects. In 1782, he conceived the plan, and commenced the publication, of the European Magazine, a monthly journal, intended to combine a review of new books with a miscellany on popular subjects. After conducting this for twelve months, he was appointed editor to a newspaper called the Gazetteer, with a salary of four guineas a week, and a proviso that he should be allowed to advocate those political opinions which he himself held, and which were those of Charles James Fox.
To understand an innovation which he at once introduced, it will be necessary to bear in mind what constituted parliamentary reporting in those days. Both Houses of parliament, for a long series of years, had absolutely forbidden the printing of the speeches in newspapers; and it was only in an indirect way that the public could learn what was going on with the legislature. No facilities were offered to reporters; there was no 'Reporters' Gallery;' the 'Strangers' Gallery' was the only place open to them, and no one was allowed to use a note-book.
William Woodfall, of the Morning Chronicle, became quite famous for his success in overcoming these difficulties. He used to commit a debate to memory, by attentively listening to it, and making here and there a secret memorandum; when the House rose, he went home, and wrote out the whole of the speeches, trusting a little to his memoranda, but chiefly to his memory. Though generally accurate, mistakes, of course, occurred; and now and then the report contained evidence of 'poking fun' at an honourable member. Mr. Wilberforce once explained to the House, that in a report of a speech of his concerning the cultivation of the potato, he was made to say:
Potatoes make men healthy, vigorous, and active; but what is still more in their favour, they make men tall; more especially was he led to say so, as being rather under the common size; and he must lament that his guardians had not fostered him under that genial vegetable!
Woodfall's reputation became considerable; and when strangers visited the House, their first inquiry often was:
Which is the Speaker, and which is Mr. Woodfall?
As the visitors were locked into the gallery, and not allowed to leave it, or partake of any refreshment, till the debate was ended, Woodfall often had a very exhausting night of it. He would draw a hard-boiled egg from his pocket, take off the shell in his hat, and stoop his head to make a hasty meal, before the serjeant-at-arms could witness this infraction of the rules of the House. He was not a favourite with the other reporters; and on one occasion the well-known hard egg was filched from his pocket, and an unboiled one substituted by a practical joker who owed him a grudge. One of the reporters who had thus to retain in his memory the substance of the speeches, was Mark Supple, an Irishman full of wit and humour, and often full of wine likewise.
One evening, being in his usual place in the gallery, a dead silence happened to occur for a few seconds, when he suddenly called out: 'A song from Mr. Speaker!' William Pitt was nearly convulsed with laughter; Mr. Addington, the speaker, could with difficulty retain his gravity; but the serjeantat-arms had to punish the offender.
Mr. Perry, we have said, in the Gazetteer introduced a great improvement-that of employing several reporters in each House of parliament, instead of one only, as had been the usual custom. Many of the speeches had been wont to appear in print some days after they had been delivered; but Perry rightly thought that the public ought to be served more promptly. By employing, accordingly, a larger staff, he was enabled to surprise and gratify the readers of his paper each morning with very fair reports of the speeches of the previous evening. He conducted the Gazetteer for eight years, and also edited Debrett's Parliamentary Debates. Mr. Woodfall, who had gained celebrity in connection with the Morning Chronicle, sold it (apparently in 1790) to Mr. Perry and Mr. Gray, who had the money lent to them by Mr. Bellamy, a wine-merchant, and housekeeper to the House of Commons. Perry at once took a high tone; he advocated steady liberal principles, avoiding alike bigoted Toryism on the one hand, and rabid Republicanism on the other; and at the same time, kept equally aloof from scandal and from venality. Although nearly always opposed to the minister of the day, he was only twice, in his newspaper career of forty years, exposed to ex officio prosecution, and was in both cases honourably acquitted.
During a critical period of the French Revolution, Perry lived for twelve months at Paris, and acted there as reporter and correspondent for the Chronicle. He had many eminent men to assist him in the editorship; at one time, Mr. (afterwards Serjeant) Spankie; at another, Mr. (afterwards Lord) Campbell; at another, Thomas Campbell, the poet; and at another, William Hazlitt. Perry was a general favourite, and he was thus characterised by a contemporary:
He was a highly honourable and brave man: confidence reposed in him was never abused. He was the depositary of many most important secrets of high personages. Generous in the extreme, he was ever ready with his purse and his services. His manner was manly, frank, and cordial; and he was the best of proprietors. Walter, of the Times, was a better man of business; and Daniel Stuart, of the Post and Courier, knew better how to make money; but Perry was a thorough gentleman, who attracted every man to him with whom he was connected.
Soon after Mr. Perry's death, the Morning Chronicle was sold for £42,000 to Mr. Clements, proprietor of the Observer. In 1834, Sir John Easthope bought it for a much smaller sum. In later years, it sunk greatly in reputation; and the sale became so small, that it could no longer be carried on without loss. The proprietorship changed frequently; and an attempt was made to revive the sale by establishing the journal as a penny-paper. This also failing, the Morning Chronicle disappeared from the public eye altogether. Mr. Perry's reputation is not affected by these failures; he made the paper the best of all the London journals; the decadence was due to others.