Born: Antoine Arnauld,
French theologian, 1612, Paris; Anne, Queen of
England, 1665, St. James's; Augustine Calmet, 1672.
Died: Jacques Amyot,
Great Almoner of France, 1593; Charles II, King of
England, 1685, Whitehall; Pope Clement XII, 1740; Dr.
Joseph Priestley, chemist and electrician, 1804,
Feast Day: St. Dorothy,
virgin martyr, 304. St. Mel, bishop of Ardagh, 488.
St. Vedast, bishop of Arras, 539. St. Barsanuphius, of
Palestine, 6th century. St. Amandus, 675.
THE DEATH OF CHARLES THE SECOND
The winter of 1684-5 had been
spent by the Court at Whitehall, amid the gaieties
common to the season. Evelyn could never forget 'the
inexpressible luxury and profaneness, gaming, and all
dissoluteness, and, as it were, a total forgetfulness
of God (it being Sunday evening)' which he was witness
'the King sitting and toying with his concubines,
Portsmouth, Cleveland, Mazarine, &c., a French boy
singing love-songs in that glorious gallery, whilst
about twenty of the great courtiers and other
dissolute persons were at basset, round a large table,
a bank of at least £2,000 in gold before them; upon
which two gentlemen who were with me made strange
reflections. Six days after, all was in the dust.'
Burnet tells us that the King:
'ate little all that
day, and came to Lady Portsmouth, his favourite
mistress, at night, and called for a porringer of
spoon meat. Being made too strong for his stomach, he
ate little, and had a restless night.'
Another account states that the revels extended over
Sunday night until the next morning, when at eight
o'clock the King swooned away in his chair, and was
seized with a fit of apoplexy; and, according to
Evelyn, had not Dr. King, who was accidentally
present, and had a lancet in his pocket, bled his
'he would certainly have died that moment, which might have been of direful consequence, there being nobody else present with the King, save his
doctor and one more. It was a mark of extraordinary dexterity, resolution, and presence of mind in the doctor, to let him blood in the very paroxysm, without staying the
coming of other physicians, which regularly should have been done, and for want of which he must have a regular pardon, as they tell me.'
The Privy Council, however, approved of what he had done, and ordered him £1,000, but which was never paid him. This saved the King for the instant;
but next morning he had another fit, and the physicians told the Duke of York that his majesty was not likely to live through the day.
Then took place a scene,
revealing the hypocrisy of a lifetime; that is,
shewing that Charles, while professing Protestantism,
had all along been, as far as he was anything, a
'The Duke,' says Burnet, 'ordered
Huddleston, the priest, who had mainly contributed to
the saving of Charles at Worcester, to be brought to
the lodgings under the bed-chamber. When Huddleston
was told what was to be done, he was in great
confusion, for he had not brought the host. He went,
however, to another priest, who lived in the court,
who gave him the pix, with an host in it. Everything
being prepared, the Duke whispered the King in the
ear; upon that the King ordered that all who were in
the bedchamber should withdraw, except the Earls of
Bath and Feversham; and the door was double-locked.
The company was kept out half an hour; only Lord
Feversham opened the door once, and called for a glass
of water. Cardinal Howard told Bishop Burnet that, in
the absence of the company, Huddleston, according to
the account he sent to Rome, made the King go through
some acts of contrition, and, after obtaining such a
confession as he was then able to give, he gave him
absolution. The consecrated wafer stuck in the King's
throat, and that was the reason of calling for a glass
of water. Charles told Huddleston that he had saved
his life twice, first his body, then his soul.
'When the company were
admitted, they found the King had undergone a
marvellous alteration. Bishop Ken then vigorously
applied himself to the awaking of the King's
conscience, and pronounced many short ejaculations and
prayers, of which, however, the King seemed to take no
notice, and returned no answer. He pressed the King
six or seven times to receive the sacrament; but the
King always declined, saying he was very weak. But Ken
pronounced over him absolution of his sins. The King
suffered much inwardly, and said he was burnt up
within. He said once that he hoped he should climb up
to heaven's gates, which was the only word savouring
of religion that he used.'
During the night Charles earnestly recommended the Duchess of Portsmouth and her boy to the care of James; 'and do not,' he good-naturedly added, 'let poor Nelly starve.'
The Queen sent excuses for her absence, saying she was too much disordered to resume her post by the couch, and implored pardon. 'She ask my pardon, poor woman!' cried Charles; 'I ask hers, with all my heart.'
The morning light began to
peep through the windows of Whitehall, and Charles
desired the attendants to pull aside the curtains,
that he might once more look at the day. He remembered
that it was time to wind up a clock which stood near
his bed. These little circumstances were long
remembered, because they proved beyond dispute that,
when he declared himself a Roman Catholic, he was in
full possession of his faculties. He apologised to
those who stood round him all night for the trouble
which he had caused. He had been, he said, a most
unconscionable time dying, but he hoped they would
This was the last glimpse of
that exquisite urbanity so often found potent to charm
away the resentment of a justly incensed nation. Soon
after dawn the speech of the dying man failed. Before
ten his senses were gone. Great numbers had repaired
to the churches at the hour of morning service. When
the prayer for the King was read, loud groans and sobs
spewed how deeply his people felt for him. At noon, on
Friday, the 6th of February, he passed away without a
It was the belief of many at
the time that Charles II was poisoned. It was common
then and in the preceding age to attribute the sudden
death of any great man to poison; but, in Charles's
case, the suspicions are not without authority.
Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, says:
'The most knowing
and the most deserving of all his physicians did not
only believe him poisoned, but thought himself so too,
not long after, for having declared his opinion a
little too boldly.'
Bishop Patrick strengthens the
supposition from the testimony of Sir Thomas Mellington, who sat with the King for three days, and
never went to bed for three nights. Lord Chesterfield,
the grandson of the Earl of Chesterfield who was with
Charles at his death, states positively that the King
was poisoned. The Duchess of Portsmouth, when in
England in 1699, is said to have told Lord Chancellor
Cowper that Charles II was poisoned at her house by
one of her footmen in a dish of chocolate; and Fox had
heard a somewhat similar report from the family of his
mother, who was grand-daughter to the Duchess.
This historical evidence is,
however, invalidated by more recent investigation. On
examining King Charles's head, a copious effusion of
lymph was found in the ventricles and at the base of
the cranium; from which Sir Henry Halford
to think that the King might have been still further
bled with advantage. It is quite evident from Sir
Henry's account, that Charles II died of apoplexy—the
only too probable consequence of his excesses—and
consequently that his indifference to the
solicitations of those about him, on religious
matters, can only, with charity, be attributed to the
effects of his disease.
A WONDERFUL CHILD
The annals of precocity
present no more remarkable instance than the brief
career of Christian Heinecker, born at Lubeck,
February 6, 1721. At the age of ten months he could
speak and repeat every word which was said to him:
when twelve months old, he knew by heart the principal
events narrated in the Pentateuch: in his second year
he learned the greater part of the history of the
Bible, both of the Old and New Testaments: in his
third year he could reply to most questions on
universal history and geography, and in the same year
he learned to speak Latin and French: in his fourth
year he employed himself in the study of religion and
the history of the church, and he was able not only to
repeat what he had read, but also to reason upon it,
and express his own judgment. The King of Denmark
wishing to see this wonderful child, he was taken to
Copenhagen, there examined before the court, and
proclaimed to be a wonder. On his return home, he
learned to write, but, his constitution being weak, he
shortly after fell ill; he died on the 27th of June
1725, without, it is said, shewing much uneasiness at
the approach of death. This account of him by his
teacher is confirmed by many respectable contemporary
authorities. Martini published a dissertation at
Lubeck, in which he attempted to account for the
circumstances of the child's early development of
It cannot be too generally
known that extreme precocity like this is of the
nature of disease and a subject for the gravest care.
In a precocious child, the exercise of the intellect,
whether in lessons or otherwise, should be discouraged
and controlled, not, as it too often is, stimulated,
if there be any sincere desire that the child should
THE TWO UNKNOWN SISTERS—A CORNISH LEGEND
It is from Nectan's
The foamy waters flash and leap:
It is where shrinking wild flowers grow,
hey lave the nymph that dwells below!
But wherefore, in this
far off doll,
The reliques of a human cell?
Where the sad stream, and lonely wind,
Bring man no tidings of his kind!
Long years agone, the
old man said,
'Twas told him by his grandsire dead,
One day two ancient sisters came,
None there could tell their race or name!
Their speech was not in
Their garb had marks of loftier days;
Slight food they took from hands of men,
They wither'd slowly in that glen!
One died!—the other's
Gush'd, till the fount of tears was dry;
A wild and wasting thought had she,
'I shall have none to weep for me!'
They found her, silent,
at the last,
Bent, in the shape wherein she pass'd;
Where her lone seat long used to stand,
Her head upon her shrivell'd hand!
Did fancy give this
The grandame's talc for winter hearth?
Or some dead bard by Nectan's stream,
People these banks with such a dream
We know not: but it
suits the scene,
To think such wild things here have been,
What spot more meet could grief or sin
Choose at the last to wither in!
R. S. HAWKER.