Campanella, philosophical writer, 1568, Stile in
Calabria; Cardinal Richelieu, celebrated French
statesman, 1585, Paris; Louis XIV of France, 1638, St.
Germains; Jean Benjamin Laborde, musician and
historical writer, 1734, Paris; Robert Fergusson,
Scottish poet, 1750, Edinburgh; Dr. John Dalton,
eminent chemist, 1766, Eaglesfield, Cumberland.
Died: Catharine Parr,
queen of Henry VIII, 1548; Edmund Bonner, persecuting
bishop, 1569, Marshalsea Prison; Matthew Stuart, Earl
of Lennox, regent of Scotland, shot at Stirling, 1571;
Cardinal du Perron, statesman and man of letters,
1618; Jean Francois Regnard, comic poet, 1710, near
Paris; John Home, author of Douglas, 1808; James
Wyatt, architect, 1813; Dr. Patrick Neill, author of
works on natural history, &c., 1851, Edinburgh; Dr.
William Macgillivray, distinguished naturalist, 1852,
Feast Day: St. Alto,
abbot. St. Bertin, abbot, 709. St. Laurence Justinian,
confessor, first patriarch of Venice, 1455.
The public has been made
pretty well acquainted with the history of the author
of Douglas—how the bringing out of his play in
Edinburgh, in the year 1756, exposed him to censure
among his brethren in the Scotch Church—how he finally
retired from clerical duty upon a pension granted him
by Lord Bute—how he failed in every other literary
under-taking, but spent, on the whole, a happy, as
well as a long life, in the enjoyment of the
friendship of all the eminent men of his day. Home's
tragedy is not now looked upon as the marvel of genius
which it once was; and yet, one would think, there
must be some peculiar merit in a play of which so many
portions remain so strongly impressed upon so many
memories. The author was acknowledged, in his
lifetime, to be vain up to the full average of poets;
yet it was equally admitted regarding him, that he
loved his friends as warmly as he loved himself, and
was untiring in his exertions for their good. His
vanity seems to have been of a very inoffensive kind.
Sir Adam Ferguson, the son of
Home's friend, Dr. Ferguson, used to relate an
anecdote of the venerable dramatist with great comic
effect. It cannot be set forth in print with nearly
the same force, but it may, nevertheless, be worthy of
a place in this miscellany.
Mrs. Siddons, on visiting
the Edinburgh theatre, always spent an afternoon with
her worthy friends, Mr. and Mrs. Home, at their neat
house in North Hanover Street (latterly, Robertson's
upholstery wareroom). On one occasion, they were
seated at an early dinner, attended by Mr. Home's old
man-servant John, and a little 'lassie,' whose usual
place was the kitchen, and who did not as yet know
much about waiting at table.
'And what will you take to
drink, Mrs. Siddons?' inquired the host.
'A little porter,' answered
the tragedy queen in her impressive voice.
John, unobservant of the
lady's wishes, was ordered by his master to get a
little porter for Mrs. Siddons, and immediately left
the room, apparently to obtain the desired beverage.
Two or three minutes having elapsed, Mr. Home was
heard complaining to his wife of John's absence.
dear, John is getting very stupid—I think we shall
have to part with him. There he has been out of the
room for some minutes, and we are all at a stand.'
few more minutes passed, and Mr. Home's patience was
rapidly ebbing, notwithstanding that Mrs. Siddons did
all in her power to put him at his ease. The absence
of John, however, had become the subject of
concentrated thought to the company, when all at once
the outer-door was heard to open, hasty steps crossed
the lobby, and John presented himself in the
dining-room, with a flushed face, crying 'I've found
ane, ma'am! h 's the least I could get!'
into view a short, thick-set Highlander, whose band of
ropes and leaden badge betokened his profession, but
who seemed greatly bewildered on finding himself in a
gentleman's dining-room, surveyed by the curious eyes
of one of the grandest women that ever walked the
The truth flashed first upon Mrs. Siddons, who,
unwonted to laugh, was for once overcome by a sense of
the ludicrous, and broke forth into something like
shouts of mirth, while as yet Mr. Home was but
beginning to apprehend what his servant meant, and
Mrs. Home had evidently not the least chance of ever
under-standing it—for this lady was by no means a
bright specimen of her sex, as the second of Sir
Adam's anecdotes will help to make more clear to the
Fallen, as Douglas is now, to
the rank of a second-rate play, it is scarce possible
for modern men to imagine that it was once the subject
of enthusiastic admiration, even beyond the limits of
the author's country.
A middle-aged Englishman came to
Edinburgh in the summer of 1802, mainly for the
purpose of seeing the author of this, his favourite
tragedy. He found his way to a modest tenement in a
court off the principal street called Canongate, and
tremulously knocked at the door. A 'lassie' came.
Is Mr. Home within?'
'Will he be at home soon?'
Oh, na, sir; he's in the
This was true—Mr. Home,
attended by his man John, generally spent some weeks
in the Highlands every summer.
'And when will he be at home?'
'I canna tell, sir; and John's
awa' too—I suppose you had better come in and see Mrs.
'Oh, then, Mrs. Home is not
gone? I should be glad to see her for a few minutes.'
He reflected that, next to seeing a poet, was seeing a
poet's love. She must doubtless be a very interesting
woman. So he sent in his card, with a message stating
that he had come to Edinburgh almost on purpose to see
Mr. Home—and would the lady be so obliging as allow
him a few minutes' conversation? He was presently
ushered in, when he beheld a withered old lady, with
her head wrapped up in flannel, and looking in the
last stage of stupidity and decrepitude. She had a
little hot wine and water in a tumbler beside her, and
was engaged in grating into it a few grains of nutmeg,
such being her ordinary solacement after an early
dinner. The heart of the ardent Douglassomaniac sank
within him, but he mustered strength to engage in
conversation with the old lady, whom he found sadly
deficient in knowledge regarding matters of the day,
and, indeed, hardly able to converse at all, time
having made havoc of the few faculties she once
possessed. After trying her with various topics, he
came upon one which had lately been in great vogue—the
peace concluded with France.
'Oh, yes, I've heard o' the
peace. Ay, it's come at last'
It must make a great change in
many things,' said the Englishman; 'we may all be
thankful for it. England will be able to breathe
The old lady paused—she had not a
single idea in her head, but she naturally felt the
necessity of saying something. So she asked, in the
slow deliberate manner of old paralytic people: 'Do
you think, sir, it will mak' ony difference in the
price o' nitmugs?'
Hereupon, the lion-hunting
Englishman, it is said, uttered a hasty expression
unsuitable for print, bade the lady a hasty adieu, and
made the best of his way back to his hotel, whence he
next day set out for England.
BANBURY AND ITS
The Tatler for September 5,
1710, gives a jocular account of an Ecclesiastical
Thermometer, which had been invented for testing the
degrees of zeal of particular places in behalf of the
church. The writer states that the town of Banbury,
Oxford-shire, which had been singled out by Dr. Fuller
a century before for its cakes and zeal, proved itself
by 'the glass,' i. e., the above-mentioned
thermometer, to be still characterised in a marked
manner by the latter peculiarity.
It may be suspected
that Banbury at that time equally maintained its
ancient distinction in respect of cakes, for the town
is still noted for this article, insomuch that they
are exported to the most distant parts of the world,
one baker alone in 1839 disposing of 139,500 twopenny
ones. However this may be, we find that, in the days
of Fuller, the material things which the town was
remarkable for were—veal, cheese, and cakes; while it
is not less certain, that in the abstract article
zeal, Banbury was also notable.
Thereby hangs a jest.
When Philemon Holland was printing his English edition
of Camden's Britannia, he added to the author's
statement of Banbury being famous for cheese, the
words 'cakes and ale;' and so it was passing through
the press, when, Mr. Camden coming in, and seeing the
change, thinking 'ale' a somewhat disrespectful
reference, substituted for it the word 'zeal,' very
unluckily, as it proved, for the Puritans, who
abounded in the town, were greatly offended by the
allusion, and so more was lost than gained by the
Modern research has not failed
to discover the early traces of the extreme Puritanism
The advent of Queen Elizabeth
to power brought evil days to the Roman Catholics; and
in 1571, Mr. Anthony Cope, of Hanwell, a zealous
Puritan, was chosen parliamentary representative for
the borough by its eighteen electors, an office which
he filled for upwards of thirty years. The Rev. Thomas
Bracebridge, an eminent Puritan divine, was also at
this time vicar of Banbury, and was suspended by the
bishop in 1590, for denouncing that usurpation of
power in ecclesiastical matters which most of the
Tudors were so fond of taking on themselves. There can
be no doubt that he laid the foundation of those
principles of Puritanism which displayed themselves in
Banbury, towards the close of the reign in question,
and which Mr. Johnson describes as follows:
'From the date of the
execution of the Earl of Essex—the last and
best-beloved favourite of the queen—an event which
took place in 1601, the active mind of Elizabeth
became seriously impaired, and the transaction of
public business was disagreeable and irksome. The
oppressed and consequently dissatisfied adherents of
the church of Rome, taking advantage of this altered
state of things, began to wax bolder in the expression
of their opimons. Under the strict rule of the
Puritans, the shows and pageants had been suppressed,
and an attempt was now made by the Catholics to revive
them. The dresses were procured, the characters
rehearsed, and a day fixed for the performance in Banbury. The procession of the performers had reached
the high cross, and the actors were engaged in the
prologue of the play, when a counter-demonstration
issued from High Street, and a collision ensued
between the excited partisans of the conflicting
A regular melee is described
as having taken place; but the supporters of the
reformed doctrines, having both numbers and the law
upon their side, seem eventually to have had the best
of the fray. Having succeeded in driving their
antagonists out of the town, the rage of the populace
took a new direction. Hammers and pickaxes were
procured, and the "goodly cross," the symbol of the
faith of the Roman-Catholic world, was strewed in
ruins through the Horse Fair.... So thorough was the
work of destruction, that a writer of the time
compares the state in which the crosses were left—for
there were at least four of them—to the stumps of
trees when the trunks are cut down, or to the
conveniences by a roadside inn, to aid a lazy horseman
in mounting to the saddle.
To the church the crowd
repaired next, and worked their frantic will upon the
stately temple. The magnificent windows of stained
glass were shivered to atoms, as savouring too
strongly of idolatry, and the statuary and sculpture
mutilated and defaced by the hands of those insensible
to forms of beauty. Corbet charges the rioters with
not having left the leg or arm of an apostle, and says
that the names of the churchwardens were the only
inscriptions to be seen upon the walls.
'The reputed sanctity of
manners drew upon the town the cutting sarcasms of the
wits of the age. The "rare
Ben Jensen," in his comedy
of Bartholomew Fair, represents one of his characters,
"Zeal-o'-the-Land Busy," as a Banbury baker, who had
abandoned the dough-tub and oven for the more
lucrative avocation of " seeing visions and dreaming
Braithwaite, in his Drunken Barnaby's Four
Journeys, refers to the town in the well-known strain:
"To Banbury came I, 0
There I saw a Puritane one
Hanging of his cat on Monday,
For killing of a mouse on Sunday."
The same writer, in his
Strappado for the Devil, calls Bradford in Yorkshire,
the "Banbury of the North," and says that it also is
famous for its "twanging ale, zeal, cakes, and
cheese." Richard Corbet, subsequently bishop of
Oxford, in his Iter Boreale thus refers to the walks
in and around Banbury church:
"If not for God's, for
Mr. Whateley's sake,
Level the walks; suppose these pitfalls make
Him sprain a lecture, or displace a joint
In his long prayer, or in his fifteenth point."
This William Whateley was an
eminent Puritan divine, of the Richard-Baxter school,
who succeeded to the vicarage in 1610, and held the
office for about thirty years. The Rev. Samuel Wells,
another clergyman holding similar views, was inducted
to the vicarage in 1648, and held the office until
1662, when, on 'Black Bartholomew,' he threw the
emoluments of his living to the winds, and preached
his farewell sermon from the words, 'And now, behold,
I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the
things which shall befall me there.'
Sir William Davenant, in his
comedy The Wits, in speaking of a certain lady, says:
'She is more devout
Than a weaver of Banbury, that hopes
To entice heaven, by singing,
to make him lord Of twenty looms.'
The following lines of Thomas
Jordan, in his Royal Arbor of Loyal Poesie, may have
had some reference to the doings already mentioned:
And broke our painted glasses;
They threw our altars to the ground,
And tumbled down the crosses.
They set up Cromwell and
The Lord and Lady Claypole—
Because they hated common-prayer,
The organ, and the May-pole.'
Most persons who have a
feeling for the literature of their early years, will
lament the destruction of the cross of Banbury, the
locality of the famous nursery rhyme:
'Ride a cock-horse to
To see a black lady ride on a white horse,
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
That she may have music wherever she goes.'