Died: Eliza Barton, 'the Maid of Kent,' executed,
1534, Tyburn; Prince Eugene of Savoy,
1736, Vienna; John Lewis Petit, his time the most renowned surgeon in Europe,'
1760, Paris; Robert Mudie, miscellaneous writer, 1842, London.
Feast Day: St. Serf or Servanus, of Scotland,
5th century. St. Agnes of Monte Pulciano, 1317. St. James of
CROMWELL'S DISSOLUTION OF THE RUMP PARLIAMENT
The 20th of April 1653, is the date of this
memorable event. The Parliament by which Charles I had been met and overcome,
was dwindled down by
various purgations to about fifty-three members, who aimed at becoming a sort of
mild oligarchy for the administration of the affairs of the commonwealth. They
were deliberating on
a bill for the future representation, in which they should have a permanent
place, when Cromwell resolved to make an end of them. It was the last incident
in the natural series of
a revolution, placing military power above all other.
Cromwell, having ordered a company of musketeers to follow
him, entered the House 'in plain black clothes and grey worsted stockings,' and,
listened for a while to their proceedings. Hearing at length the question put,
that the bill do pass, he rose, put off his hat, and began to speak. In the
course of his address, he
told them of their self-seeking and delays of justice, till at length Sir Peter Wentworth interrupted him with a remonstrance
against such language.
Then blazing up, he said, 'We have had enough of this�I will put an end to your
prating.' Stepping into the floor of the House, and clapping on his hat, he
commenced a violent
harangue, which he occasionally emphasized by stamping with his feet, and which
came mainly to this, 'It is not fit you should sit here any longer�you have sat
too long for any
good you have been doing lately. You shall now give place to better men.' 'Call
them in!' he exclaimed; and his officer Harrison and a file of soldiers entered
the House. Then
proceeding, 'You are no parliament! Some of you are drunkards '�bending a stern
eye upon Mr. Chaloner; 'some of you are _______ ,' a word expressive of a worse
immorality, and he
looked here at Henry Marten and Sir Peter Wentworth
�'living in open contempt of God's commandments. Some of you are corrupt, unjust
persons�how can you
be a parliament for God's people? Depart, I say, and let us have done with you.
He lifted the mace from the table, and gave it to a musketeer
to be taken away. He caused Harrison to give his hand to Speaker Lenthal, and
lead him down
from the chair. The members, cowed by his violence, and the sight of the armed
men, moved gloomily out of the House. It is the Lord that hath caused me to do
this,' he said. 'I
have sought that He would rather slay me than put me upon doing this work.' Sir
Harry Vane venturing a remonstrance, 'Oh, Sir Harry
Vane! 'exclaimed the
Lord-General; 'the Lord deliver me from Sir Harry Vane!' When all had gone out,
he came out too, and locked the door. From that time he was master of the three
kingdoms for about
five and a half years.
This wealthy and most extraordinary individual died on the
20th of April 1836, having attained the age of eighty years. 'Jemmy
Wood' �for by such
name he was usually recognised�was the sole proprietor of the old Gloucester
Bank, which had been established by his grand-father in the year 1716, being one
of those primitive
banking concerns which took their rise in a shop business, and of which,
perhaps, hardly one example now survives. Wood's bank was conducted to the last
by the proprietor and two
or three clerks, at the end of a common chandlery shop, which they also attended
to. Wood was latterly considered as the richest commoner in the kingdom. His
habits were those of a
thrifty old bachelor. In the bank or shop his whole time was passed: he went to
no one's house, and never invited any person to his. It was his habit on Sundays
to go to church
regularly, eat his dinner on his return, and then take a short walk into the
country. He left several wills of a conflicting character, and, as a matter of
course, these documents
caused litigation, and gave employment to lawyers and attorneys for years.
Many anecdotes illustrating his penuriousness are told;
amongst others the following: One Sunday before leaving his house to proceed to
church, he gave to a
little boy, who acted as his servant, a chicken, which he intended to be roasted
for dinner. The cooking process commenced; and as the bird was turned and
basted, the savory steam
which it gave forth sharpened the boy's appetite, and he ventured to rub his
finger on the breast, which was being gradually browned, and apply his finger to
his mouth. The taste
was delicious! He became bolder, and picked away a morsel of the breast of the
bird; then another; other bits followed, until none of the breast remained.
Hunger was gnawing at the boy's heart, and he could not
resist temptation; so the whole chicken speedily disappeared. His hunger now
appeased, he saw his
fault, and, trembling at the prospect of meeting his thrifty master, like most
little boys after doing wrong, he thought of hiding. On entering a closet
adjoining the room, his eye
fell on a small bottle, having on it a label with the awful word 'poison' in
legible characters. He feared death much, but his master still more, and in a
minute he resolved to end
his days; accordingly, he drained the bottle, and was, as he thought, safe from
his master's rage. In a short time, the old banker appeared on the scene,
resolved to enjoy his
chicken and glass of brandy - and - water. Great was his astonishment to see the
spit empty, and find the boy away. On making a search he found the latter lying
on the pantry floor
with the empty bottle, which quickly brought before his mind a solution of the
mystery. The boy was drunk, for the bottle contained old Wood's brandy, which
was marked 'poison,' to
guard it from the possibility of being touched by the servants. What the old
gentleman did with the lad is not recorded.
The 20th of April is the fair-day of Tenbury, in
Worcestershire, and there is a belief in that county that you never hear the
cuckoo till Tenbury
fair-day, or after Pershore fairday, which is the 26th of June.
The following is a very common rhyme in England, regarding
the period of the cuckoo:
The cuckoo shows his bill;
He is singing all day;
He changes his tune;
He prepares to fly;
Fly he must.
It is a popular belief in Norfolk that whatever you are doing
the first time you hear the cuckoo, that you will do most frequently all the
year. Another is
that an unmarried person will remain single as many years as the cuckoo, when
first heard, utters its call.
Mr. Marryat found a curious legend among the Danes regarding
the cuckoo. 'When in early springtime the voice of the cuckoo is first heard in
every village girl kisses her hand, and asks the question, "Cuckoo! cuckoo!
when shall I be married?" and the old folks, borne down with age and
rheumatism, inquire, "Cuckoo!
cuckoo! when shall I be released from this world's cares?" The bird, in
answer, continues singing "Cuckoo!" as many times as years will elapse
before the object of their desires
will come to pass. But as some old people live to an advanced age, and many
girls die old maids, the poor bird has so much to do in answering the questions
put to her, that the
building season goes by; she has no time to make her nest, but lays her eggs in
that of the hedge-sparrow.'
Several of our English birds were objects of superstition in
the Middle Ages, and none more so than the cuckoo. Our forefathers looked upon
it as the
harbinger of spring, and as the merriest songster of summer, and it is the
subject of the oldest of English popular songs now remaining. This song, which
is preserved in MSS. Harl.
No. 978, must be of the earlier half of the thirteenth century, and is
remarkable for being accompanied with musical notes, and as being the oldest
sample of English secular music.
The words are as follows:
Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing Cuccu;
Groweth sed, and bloweth med,
And springth the tittle nu.
Awe bleteth after lomb,
Lhouth after calve cu;
Bulluc sterteth, bucke verteth;
Murie sing Cuccu,
Wel singes thu, Cuccu;
Ne swik thu never nu.'
Which may be thus interpreted in modern English:
Summer is come in,
Loud sing Cuckoo;
Grows the seed, and blooms the mead,
And sprouts the wood now.
The ewe bleats after the Iamb,
The cow lows after the calf,
The bullock leaps, the buck verts;
Merrily sing Cuckoo, Cuckoo, Cuckoo.
Well singest thou, Cuckoo;
Cease thou never to sing, Cuckoo.'
The reader will remember the somewhat similar song of spring
in Shakspeare's Love's Labour's Lost, where spring is 'maintained by the
It was the spring, indeed, and not the summer, that the
cuckoo was considered to represent in the Middle Ages. There is an early Latin
poem on the cuckoo in
connection with spring, which is ascribed, no doubt incorrectly, to Bede, in
which the cuckoo is called upon to awake, because the spring had arrived:
'Tempus adest veris, cuculus, modo rumpe soporem.'
It is the popular belief in some parts of the country that
the cuckoo always makes its first appearance on the 21st of April.
The cuckoo was often celebrated in the mediaeval poetry of
all ages and all languages, and was looked upon as possessing some share of
knowledge. In some parts it seems to have been an article of belief that it was
one of the gods who took the form of the bird, and it was considered a crime to
kill it. Its most
singular quality, in this superstitious lore, was the power of telling how long
people would live, the faith in which is still preserved among the peasantry of
many parts of
Germany and the north of Europe. It was believed that if, when you first heard a
cuckoo in the morning, you put the question in a respectful manner, it would
immediately repeat its
note just as many times as you had years to live. This superstition is the
foundation of many stories in the mediaeval Latin writers, of which the
following, told by Caesarius of
Heisterbach, belongs to the year 1221.
'A converse' in a certain monastery�that is, a lay-man who
had become a monk�was walking out one day, when, hearing a cuckoo and counting
the number of
times its note was repeated, he found it to be twenty-two. 'Ah!' said he, 'if
I am yet to live twenty-two years more, why should I mortify myself all this
long time in a
monastery? I will return to the world, and give myself up to the enjoyment of
its pleasures for twenty years, and then I shall have two years to repent in.'
So he returned to the
world, and lived joyously two years, and then died, losing twenty out of his
In another given in Wright's Selection of Latin Stories, a
woman is described as lying on her death-bed, when her daughter urged her to
send for a priest,
that she might confess her sins. Too whom her mother replied, 'Why? if I am ill
today, tomorrow or next day I shall be well. But the daughter, seeing she became
worse brought in
several of her neighbours, who urge the same thing. To whom she said, 'What do
you talk about? or, what do you fear? I shall not die these twelve years; I have
heard the cuckoo,
who told me so.' At length she became speechless, and was at the point of death.
Then her daughter sent for the priest, who came bringing what was necessary [to
perform the last
duties], and approaching her he asked if she had anything to confess. All she
said was 'kuckuc [cuckoo]. Again the priest offered her the sacrament, and asked
her if she believed
the Lord, was her Saviour, and she replied 'kuckuc,' so the priest went away,
and shortly afterwards she died.
In one of the branches of the celebrate romance of Renart
(Reynard the Fox), written in French verse in the thirteenth century, and
published by Meon
(vol. iv., p. 9), Renart and his wife, dame Ermengart, are introduced reposing
together in the early morning, and discoursing of ambitious prospects, when
Renart suddenly hears the
note of the cuckoo:
'A cest mot Renart le cucu
Entent, si jeta un fans ris;
Jou te conjur," fait il, de cris,
Cucus, que me dise le voir,
Quans ans j'ai a vivre; savoir Le veil, cucu."'
'At this word Renart the cuckoo
Hears, and broke into a false laugh;
"I conjure you," said he, "earnestly,
Cuckoo, that you tell me the truth,
How many years I have to live;
to know It I wish, Cuckoo."'
The cuckoo responded at once, and repeated his note thirteen
'Atant se taist, que plus ne fu
Li oisiaus illuec, ains s'envolle.
Et Renars maintenant acole
Dame Ermengart; "Ave's oi?"
"Sire," dist-ell, "des cuer joi;
Vos semons que me baisies."
"Dame," dist-il, "j'en suis tos lies.
M'a li cucus treize ans d'a�
A vivre encore ci apres."'
'Then he ceased, for no longer was
The bird there, but flew away.
And Renart now embraced
Dame Ermeugart; "Have you heard?"
"Sir," said she, "I have heard it gladly;
I demand that you kiss me."
"Dame," said he, "I am quite rejoiced.
To me has the cuckoo thirteen years of life
To live yet here taught."'
The notion which couples the name of the cuckoo with the
character of the man whose wife is unfaithful to him, appears to have been
derived from the Romans,
and is first found in the Middle Ages in France, and in the countries of which
the modern language is derived from the Latin. We are not aware that it existed
originally among the
Teutonic race, and we have doubtless received it through the Normans. The
opinion that the cuckoo made no nest of its own, but laid its eggs in that of
another bird which brought
up the young cuckoo to the detriment of its own offspring, was well known to the
ancients, and is mentioned by Aristotle and Pliny. But they more correctly gave
the name of the
bird not to the husband of the faithless wife, but to her paramour, who might
justly be supposed to be acting the part of the cuckoo. They gave the name of
the bird in whose nest
the cuckoo's eggs were usually deposited, curruca, to the husband. It is not
quite clear how, in the passage from classic to mediaeval, the application of
the term was transferred
to the husband.
There are, or have been not long ago, in different parts of
England, remnants of other old customs, marking the position which the cuckoo
held in the
superstitions of the Middle Ages. In Shropshire, till very recently, when the
first cuckoo was heard, the labourers were in the habit of leaving their work,
making holiday of the
rest of the day, and carousing in what they called the cuckoo ale. Among the
peasantry in some parts of the kingdom, it is considered to be very unlucky to
have no money in your
pocket when you hear the cuckoo's note for the first time in the season. It was
also a common article of belief, that if a maiden ran into the fields early in
the morning, to hear
the first note of the cuckoo, and when she heard it took off her left shoe and
looked into it, she would there find a man's hair of the same colour as that of
her future husband.