Born: Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory, 1634, Kilkenny Castle; Alexis Piron, 1689, Dijon; Ann Radcliffe, novelist, 1764, London; Henry Hallam, historian, 1777, Windsor.
Died: Emperor Anastasius I, 518; Archbishop (Stephen) Langton, 1228; Emperor Leopold II of Austria, killed at Sempach, 1386; John Oldmixon (English history), 1742, Bridgewater; Philip V of Spain, 1746, San Ildefonso; General Braddock, killed at Du Quesne, North America, 1755; William Strachan, publisher, 1785; Zachary Taylor, President of the United States, 1850, Washington, U.S.
Feast Day: St. Ephrem of Edessa, doctor and confessor, 378; St. Everildis, virgin, of England, 7th century; The martyrs of Gorcum, 1572.
Hallam holds a sort of coldly monumental place in the modern literary annals of England. His historical works on the Middle Ages, the English Constitution, and the progress of literature in Europe, are models of research, justness of generalisation, and elegance of expression. The writer, however, always seems to sit aloof. Like many other men of letters, whose work accorded with their taste, and who were safe by fortune or frugality from the more trying cares of life, he reached a great age, being at his death, in January 1859, eighty-two years old. In one respect, he resembled Burke-he had to submit, near the close of his own life, to the loss of a son whom he held to be a youth of the highest promise, and whom he regarded with doting affection. There is scarcely a more affecting chapter in English biography, than the account of the death of the younger Hallam, when travelling for the recovery of health under his father's care, and the account of the bringing home of the corpse by the sorrow-stricken old man, himself conscious that he must soon follow him into the dark and narrow house appointed for all living.
Perhaps the most valuable service Mr. Hallam has rendered to his country, was the careful view he gave it of the progress of its political system. The grand virtue of that system-its distribution of power amongst a variety of forces, which check and counterpoise each other, so that liberty and order result in strict co-ordination -has been fully asserted and held up by him. Somewhat to the surprise of the Whig party, to which he had always been attached, he deprecated the great change which they proposed in the parliamentary representation in 1831. Conversing on this subject with one of the most influential members of the cabinet, he said: 'I am a Whig, as you are: a reform appears to me to be needed, but the reform you attempt is unreason-able. The object should be to perfect, not to change.
To suppress certain abuses in the electoral system, and to extend the right of voting, is doubt-less in conformity with the spirit of our institutions, and maybe advantageous to the development of our public life; but it would be dangerous to give too large an extension to this measure. To grant universal suffrage, would be to hazard a change in the English constitution, and to disturb the harmonious working of a system which we owe to the sagacity and good-fortune of our forefathers. It is in the House of Commons that the union of the Crown, Lords, and Commons is at present effected, that their concerted action is initiated, and, in a word, the equilibrium of power is maintained. This equilibrium constitutes the very essence of the government of England. If the composition of the House of Commons is too essentially altered, by rendering elections too democratic, a risk is incurred of destroying this balance, and giving an irregular impulse to the state by introducing new elements. If once the principle of this bill be admitted, its consequences will extend; change will succeed to change, and the reform of one day will necessitate a fresh one the next. The government will gradually be transferred to the hustings. The representatives, elected by the democracy, will look to the quarter from which the wind of popular favour blows, in order to follow its direction; and English politics, abandoned to popular caprice, will deviate from their proper course, whilst the English constitution will be shaken to its foundation.'
LUNACY AND ASTRONOMY
On the 9th of July 1787, a Dr. Elliott, described in the journals of the day as 'one of the literati,' fired two pistols, apparently, at a lady and gentleman, while walking in Prince's Street, London. Neither, however, was injured, though both were very much frightened, and the lady's dress was singed by the closeness of the explosion. Elliott was arrested, committed to Newgate, and, a few days after, tried for an attempted murder, but acquitted on the technical point, that there was no proof of the pistols having been loaded with ball.
Unforeseeing this decision, Elliott's friends had set up a plea of insanity, and among other witnesses in support thereof, Dr. Simmons, of St. Luke's hospital for lunatics, was examined. This gentleman, whose long and extensive experience in cases of insanity, gave great weight to his evidence, testified that he had been intimately acquainted with Dr. Elliott for more than ten years, and fully believed him to be insane. On being further pressed by the recorder to adduce any particular instance of Elliott's insanity, the witness stated that he had lately received a letter from the prisoner on the light of the celestial bodies, which indisputably proved his aberration of mind. The letter, which had been intended by the prisoner to have been laid before the Royal Society, was then produced and read in court. The part more particularly depended upon by the witness as a proof of the insanity of the writer, was an assertion that the sun is not a body of fire, as alleged by astronomers, 'but its light proceeds from a dense and universal aurora, which may afford ample light to the inhabitants of the surface (of the sun) beneath, and yet be at such a distance aloft as not to annoy them.' The recorder objected to this being proof of insanity, saying that if an extravagant hypothesis were to be considered a proof of lunacy, many learned and perfectly sane astronomers might be stigmatised as madmen.
Though the defence of insanity was not received, Elliott, as already observed, was acquitted on a legal point, but the unfortunate man died in prison, of self-inflicted starvation, on the 22nd of July, having resolutely refused to take any food during the thirteen days which intervened between his arrest and death.
The story in itself is little more than a common newspaper report of an Old Bailey trial; but as Elliott's idea respecting the sun is that held by the first astronomers of the present day, we are afforded a curious instance of a not very generally recognised fact-namely, that the madness of one century may be the wisdom of its successor; while it is not improbable that the converse of the proposition may be equally as certain, so that a great deal of what we consider wisdom now, may be condemned as rank folly 'a hundred years hence.'
SUPERSTITIONS ABOUT NEW-BORN CHILDREN
It is unlucky to weigh them. If you do, they will probably die, and, at any rate, will not thrive. I have caused great concern in the mind of a worthy old monthly nurse by insisting on weighing mine. They have, however, all done very well, with the exception of one, the weighing of whom was accidentally forgotten to be performed.
The nurses always protested against the weighing, though in a timorous sort of way; saying that, no doubt it was all nonsense, but still it had better not be done.
It is not good for children to sleep upon bones-that is, upon the lap. There seems to be some sense in this notion; it is doubtless better for a child to be supported throughout its whole length, instead of hanging down its head or legs, as it might probably do if sleeping on the lap.
Hesiod, in his Works and Days, forbids children of twelve months, or twelve years old, to be placed in -upon things not to be moved-which some have understood to mean sepulchres: if this is right, perhaps there is some connection between his injunction, and that which condemns the sleeping upon bones, though the modern bones are those of the living, and not of the dead.
Cats suck the breath of infants, and so kill them. This extremely unphilosophical notion of cats preferring exhausted to pure air, is frequently a cause of great annoyance to poor pussy, when, after having established herself close to baby, in a snug warm cradle, she finds herself ignominiously hustled out under suspicion of compassing the death of her quiet new acquaintance, who is not yet big enough to pull her tail.
When children first leave their mother's room, they must go upstairs before they go downstairs, otherwise they will never rise in the world.
Of course it frequently happens that there is no upstairs,' that the mother's room is the highest in the house. In this case the difficulty is met by the nurse setting a chair, and stepping upon that with the child in her arms as she leaves the room. I have seen this done.
A mother must not go outside her own house-door till she goes to be 'churched.' Of course the principle of this is a good one. It is right, under such circumstances, the first use a woman should make of her restored strength, should be to go to church, and thank God for her recovery; but in practice this principle sometimes degenerates into mere superstition.
If you rock an empty cradle, you will rock a new baby into it. This is a superstition in viridi observantia', and it is quite curious to see the face of alarm with which a poor woman, with her tenth baby in her arms, will dash across a room to prevent the 'baby--but-one' from engaging in such a dangerous amusement as rocking the empty cradle.
In connection with this subject, it maybe mentioned that there is a widely-spread notion among the poorer classes, that rice, as an article of food, prevents the increase of the population. How the populousness of India and China are accounted for on this theory, I cannot say; probably those who entertain it never fully realise the existence of 'foreign parts,' but it is certain that there was not long ago a great outcry against the giving of rice to poor people under the poor law, as it was said to be done with a purpose.