Born: Edward Gibbon, historian, 1737, Putney;
Mary Woolstonecroft, (Mrs Godwin), 1753; Maria Christina,
consort of Ferdinand VII, of Spain, 1806, Naples.
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.,
St. Anthimus, bishop, and other martyrs at Nicomedia,
303. St. Anastasius, pope and confessor, 401. St. Zita,
virgin, of Lucca, 1272.
JAMES BRUCE 'THE TRAVELER'
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.
A PERSEVERING SLEEPER
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.