Home

 About:

 Today's Page

 Calendar of Days

 Indexes

 Search Site

 Links

 Contact Us

 

 The Book of Days is proudly brought to
you by the members of Emmitsburg.net

May 24th

Born: Bishop Jewel, 1522; Charles Von Linne (Linnaeus), illustrious naturalist, 1707; Sir Robert Adair, ambassador, 1763; Albert Smith, comic writer, 1816, Chertsey; John Henry Foley, artist, 1818, Dublin; Her Majesty Queen Victoria, 1819, Kensington.

Died: Pope Gregory VII, 1085; Nicolas Copernicus, astronomer, 1543, Thorn, Prussia; Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, minister to James I, 1612; George Brydges, Lord Rodney, naval commander, 1792; Miss Jane Porter, novelist, 1850, Bristol.

Feast Days: Saints Donatian and Rogatian, martyrs, about 287. St. Vincent of Lerins, 450. St.John de Prado, priest, martyr.

LINNAEUS

Carl Linne (usually Latinized to Linnaeus) was born at Rashalt, a hamlet in the south of Sweden, on the 24th of May (N.S.) 1707. His father was a clergyman, whose house was situated in a delightful spot on the banks of a fine lake, surrounded by hills and valleys, woods and cultivated grounds. As Linne was wont to say, he walked out of his cradle into a garden. His father and an uncle had both a passion for horticulture, and they early inspired the child with their own spirit. Carl, however, was reckoned a dull boy. He was destined for the church; but for theological studies he had a positive aversion, and, as a consequence, he made no progress in them. He was not disinclined to study, but his study was botany, and out of botany neither money nor advancement was to be had. It was finally resolved to make him a physician, and at the age of twenty he was sent to the University of Lund, where he was 'less known for his knowledge of natural history than for his ignorance of everything else.' By good fortune he became a lodger in the house of the Professor of Medicine, Dr. Stoboeus, who discerning genius where others saw stupidity, gave Linne the free range of his library and museum, and treated him with all the kindness of a father.

In this genial atmosphere he came to the determination to spend his life as a student of Nature, a resolve from which neither poverty nor misery ever moved him. To the regret of Stoboeus he left Lund for Upsala, thinking that it was a better university. His father could allow him no more than eight pounds a year. Often he felt the pangs of hunger, and holes in his shoes he stuffed with paper; but he read and attended lectures with an energy which let nothing slip, and was sure in the end to meet with reward.

LINNAEUS, AS HE TRAVELLED IN LAPLAND

LINNAEUSCelsius, the Professor of Divinity, himself a botanist, discovered Linne one day in the academical garden intently examining a plant, and, entering into conversation with the poor student, surprise followed surprise as the extent of his knowledge revealed itself. He led Linne to Rudbeck, the Professor of Botany, who took him into his house as tutor to his children, and allowed him to lecture as his deputy. In the quiet of Rudbeck's library Linne first conceived those schemes of classification by which he was to revolutionize botanical science. On the 12th of May 1732, he set forth on his celebrated journey to Lapland. Alone, sometimes on horse-back and sometimes on foot, he skirted the borders of Norway, and returned by the eastern coast of the Gulf of Bothnia to Upsala on the 12th of October, having travelled 4,000 miles, and brought back upwards of one hundred plants before unknown or undescribed. The university rewarded him with £10, his travelling expenses. With £15 he had scraped together, he went to Holland in 1735, to seek a university where at a cheap rate he might obtain a diploma, to enable him to practice physic for a livelihood. At Hardervyck he succeeded in this object, defending on the occasion the hypothesis 'that intermittent fevers are owing to fine particles of clay, taken in with the food, lodging in the terminations of the arterial system.'

In Holland, by the advice of Boerhaave, he tarried for three years, making many delightful acquaintances in that country of flowers. Cliffort, a rich. Dutch banker, who had a fine garden and museum, committed them to his care to put in order. He paid liberally, but worked Linne very hard, especially in editing a grand folio, Hortus Cliffartianus, adorned with plates, and full of learned botanical lingo, for which Linne had nothing but contempt. In the same years he managed to get printed several works of his own, his Flora Lapponica, Fundamenta Botanica, Geneva Plantarem, and Critica Botanica, by which he quickly became famous. From Holland he made an excursion to England, but was disappointed alike in his reception by English botanists, and in the state of their collections as compared with the Dutch. There is a tradition, that when he first saw the golden bloom of the furze on Putney Heath, he fell on his knees enraptured with the sight. He vainly endeavoured to preserve some specimens of the plant through the Swedish winter. On leaving Holland he had an interview with Boerhaave on his death-bed. His parting words were, 'I have lived out my time, and done what I could. May God preserve thee, from whom the world expects much more! Farewell, my dear Linnaeus!'

On his return to Sweden he married, and commenced business in Stockholm as a physician; but in 1740 he was called to Upsala as Professor of Medicine, and shortly afterwards was transferred to the chair of Botany. In Upsala, as professor and physician, he spent the remaining eight-and-thirty years of his life. Honours from all nations, and wealth, flowed freely unto him. The king raised him to nobility, and he took the title of Von Linne. Ease, however, induced no cessation of his old habits of industry. To the end he laboured incessantly. He cared for nothing but science, and he knew no delight but to be busy in its service. Towards the close of his life he suffered from a complication of diseases, but from his bed he kept dictating to an amanuensis on his favourite subjects. He died on the10th of January 1778, aged seventy years, seven months, and seven days; closing in a blaze of honour and renown a life which had commenced in obscurity and poverty.

The labours of Linne were not confined to botany, but ranged over all branches of natural history; but with botany his fame is indissolubly associated. The classification and nomenclature of plants he found in utter confusion—a confusion all the worse, inasmuch as it was formal, and the product of a pedantry jealous of innovation and proud of its jargon. The changes introduced by Linne were, however, such obvious improvements, that they attained general acceptance with surprising facility. It is true that Linne's classification of the vegetable kingdom was itself artificial, and that it has almost every-where given place to the natural system of Jussieu, but none the less is the world his debtor. It is the glory of science that it is progressive, and that the high achievement of today makes way for a higher tomorrow. It is rarely the lot of the savant to set forth any system or hypothesis which is more than provisional, or which sooner or later does not suggest and yield place to a more comprehensive. But without the first it is not likely we should have the second; without Linne, we should scarcely have enjoyed Jussieu.

A QUACK OCULIST

Sir William Read, originally a tailor or a cobbler, became progressively a mountebank and a quack doctor, and gained, in his case, the equivocal honour of knighthood from Queen Anne. He is said to have practised by 'the light of nature'; and though he could not read, he could ride in his own chariot, and treat his company with good punch out of a golden bowl. He had an uncommon share of impudence; a few scraps of Latin in his bills made the ignorant suppose him to be wonderfully learned. He did not seek his reputation in small places, but practised at that high seat of learning, Oxford; and in one of his addresses he called upon the Vice-Chancellor, University, and the City, to vouch for his cures—as, indeed, he did upon the people of the three kingdoms. Blindness vanished before him, and he even deigned to practise in other distempers; but he defied all competition as an oculist.

Queen Anne and George I honoured Read with the care of their eyes; from which one would have thought the rulers, like the ruled, as dark intellectually as Taylor's (his brother quack) coach-horses were corporeally, of which it was said five were blind in consequence of their master having exercised his skill upon them.

Dr. Radcliffe mentions this worthy as 'Read the mountebank, who has assurance enough to come to our table upstairs at Garraway's, swears he'll stake his coach and six horses, his two blacks, and as many silver trumpets, against a dinner at Pontack's.'

Read died at Rochester, May 24, 1715. After Queen Anne had knighted him and Dr. Hannes, there appeared the following lines:

'The Queen, like Heav'n, shines equally on all,
Her favours now without distinction fall:
Great Read and slender Hannes, both knighted, show
That none their honours shall to merit owe.
That Popish doctrine is exploded quite,
Or Ralph had been no duke, and Read no knight.
That none may virtue or their learning plead,
This has no grace, and that can hardly read.'

There is a curious portrait of Read, engraved in a sheet, with thirteen vignettes of persons whose extraordinary cases he cured.

SUPERSTITIONS ABOUT ANIMALS

The robin is very fortunate in the superstitious which attach to it. The legend which attributes its red breast to his having attended our Lord upon the cross, when some of His blood was sprinkled on it, may have died out of the memory of country-folk; but still

'There's a divinity doth hedge—a robin,'

which keeps it from innumerable harms.

His nest is safe from the most ruthless bird-nesting boy. 'You must not take robin's eggs; if you do, you will get your legs broken,' is the saying in Suffolk. And, accordingly, you will never find their eggs on the long strings of which boys are so proud.

Their lives, too, are generally respected. 'It is unlucky to kill a robin.' 'How badly you write,' I said one day to a boy in our parish school;’ your hand shakes so that you can't hold the pen steady. Have you been running hard, or anything of that sort?' 'No,' replied the lad, 'it always shakes; I once had a robin die in my hand; and they say that if a robin dies in your hand, it will always shake.'

The cross on the donkey's back is still connected in the rustic mind with our Lord's having ridden upon one into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; and I wish that it procured him better treatment than he usually meets with.

[A good many years ago a writer in Blackwood's Magazine, adverting to the fact that the ass must have borne this mark before the time of Christ, suggested that it might be a premonition of the honour which was afterwards to befall the species. But the naturalist comes rather roughly across this pleasant fancy, when he tells that the cross stripe is, as it were, the evanishment in this species of the multitude of stripes which we see in the allied species, the zebra.-Swainson's Zoology.]

It is lucky for you that martins should build against your house, for they will never come to one where there is strife. Soon after setting up housekeeping for myself, I was congratulated on a martin having built its nest in the porch over my front door.

It is unlucky to count lambs before a certain time; if you do, they will be sure not to thrive. With this may be compared the popular notion of the character of David's sin in numbering the people of Israel and Judah, related in the last chapter of the Second Book of Samuel—a narrative which makes some people look with suspicion and dislike upon our own decennial census.

It is unlucky to kill a harvest man, i.e., one of those long-legged spiders which one sees scrambling about, perfectly independent of cobwebs: if you do kill one, there will be a bad harvest.

If there are superstitions about animals, it is satisfactory to find them leaning to the side of humanity; but the poor hedgehog finds to his cost that the absurd notion of his sucking the teats of cows serves as a pretext for the most cruel treatment.

It is currently believed that if you put horsehairs into a spring they will turn to eels. A few months ago, a labouring man told a friend of mine that 'he knew it was so, for he had proved it.' He had put a number of horsehairs into a spring near his house, and in a short time it was full of young eels.

Mermaids are supposed to abound in the ponds and ditches in this neighbourhood. Careful mothers use them as bugbears to prevent little children from going too near the water. I once asked a child what mermaids were, and he was ready with his answer at once, 'Them nasty things what crome you (i. e., hook you) into the water!' Another child has told me, 'I see one wunst, that was a grit big thing Mike a feesh.' Very probably it may have been a pike, basking in the shallow water. Uncaught fish are very likely to have their weight and size exaggerated. Everybody knows what enormous fish those are which anglers lose. A man has told me of carp, that he could ' compare them to nothing but great fat hogs,' which I have afterwards caught in a drag-net, and found to be suit more than four pounds weight. No wonder, then, that a little child, with its mind prepared to believe in mermaids, should have seen something big enough for one in a pike.

The saying about magpies is well known

'One, sorrow;
Two, mirth;
Three, a wedding;
Four, death.'

And it is a curious thing that, as the man said about the horsehairs being turned into cels,-' I have proved it;' for, as I was on my way to be married, travelling upon a coach-top to claim my bride the next day, three magpies—neither more nor less-flew across the road.

Suffolk                                                                                                 C.W.J.

May 25th

BACK TO TOP >