Born: John Horne Tooke,
political character, author of the Diversions of
Purley, 1736, Westminster.
Died: John Marston,
dramatist, 1634 (?); Roger Gale, learned antiquary,
1744, Scruton, Yorkshire; Lady Miller, 1781; Charles
Barbaroux, Girondist politician, guillotined, 1793;
William Smellie, naturalist, miscellaneous writer,
1795, Edinburgh; Thomas Sandby, R.A., 1798; J. C. L.
de Sismondi, historian, 1842, near Geneva; Louis
Buonaparte, ex-king of Holland, 1846.
Feast Day: Saints
Agoard and Aglibert, martyrs, near Paris, about 400;
St. Prosper of Aquitain, confessor, 463; St. Maximus,
Bishop of Turin, confessor, 5th century; St. Melee,
bishop and confessor in Scotland, 7th century; St.
Adelbert of Northumberland, confessor, about 740; St.
William of Monte-Vergine, 1142.
Lady Miller of Batheaston was
a literary amateur at a time when few women addressed
the public. She was, moreover, a woman of warm
emotional nature, of some taste, and even of a certain
degree of talent. In company with her husband, Sir
John, she made a tour of Italy, and wrote an account
of it, which appeared under the modest title of
Letters written during a Tour of Italy by an
Englishwoman. On returning to their home at Batheaston,
this amiable pair of enthusiasts brought with them an
elegant antique vase, which they deposited on an altar
in their saloon. The apartment was formally dedicated
to Apollo, Lady Miller taking upon herself the august
office of high priestess, the vase itself being
considered as the shrine of the deity. A general
invitation was then issued to all votaries of fashion
and poetry to assemble in the temple twice a week in
honour of the son of Latona. As Batheaston was but a
suburb of Bath, it may be supposed that the invitation
was well responded to; for, besides the mental
gratification about to be described, an excellent
collation always concluded the ceremonies.
The worship of Apollo was
conducted by each candidate for fame dropping a votive
offering, in the form of a short piece of poetry, into
the urn, as the whole assemblage marched round it in
solemn procession. A lady was deputed to take the
pieces one by one out of the urn, and hand them to a
gentleman, who read them aloud. The merits of the
poems were then considered, and the prizes adjudged,
the blushing authors of the four best compositions
being presented to the high-priestess, Lady Miller,
and by her crowned with myrtles, amidst the plaudits
of the company.
The poetry was no doubt very
poor, and the whole affair rather namby-pambyish; but
it certainly was much more harmless than many of the
fashionable follies of the day. The meetings lasted
for several years, till at length they were put an end
to by a most unwarrantable breach of good manners and
hospitable confidence. Some unknown person
disgracefully and maliciously contaminated the sacred
urn with licentious and satirical compositions, to the
great annoyance of the ladies present, and the chagrin
of the host and hostess. The urn was thenceforth
closed, and the meetings were discontinued for ever.
Of the more legitimate kind of satire on the
Bathcaston meetings, freely indulged in by the wits of
the day, the following is a good specimen:
Addressed to Lady Miller, on
the Urn at Batheaston.
'Miller, the Urn in ancient
time, 'tis said,
Held the collected ashes of the dead:
So thine, the wonder of these modern days,
Stands open night and day for lifeless lays.
Leave not unfinished, then, the well-formed plan,
Complete the work thy classic taste began;
And oh, in future, ere thou dost unurn them,
Remember first to raise a pile, and burn them.'
JOHN HORNE TOOKE
This person was looked upon as
one of the political pests of his era. A renegade
priest, who openly scoffed at his former calling, and
who led that kind of life which is called in England
'not respectable,' he could not well be much esteemed
as a private citizen, notwithstanding the learning and
ingenuity of his own generally admired work, The
Diversions of Purley. It is, however, rather
startling to reflect that all the public questions on
which Mr. Tooke's opinions were deemed mischievous
have since been settled in his favour. His opposition
to the American war, for which he was fined and
imprisoned, is now fully sanctioned by the general
opinion of his countrymen. His advocacy of a reform
of the House of Commons�which by the way he stultified
sadly by sitting for Old Sarum�must be presumed to
have received the stamp of public presumed since the measure was carried only
twenty years after his death. He was the first
prominent Englishman to proclaim the advantages of
free-trade; was, it might almost be said, the father
of the modern doctrine on that subject, and was for
this one heresy perhaps more ridiculed and condemned
than for any of the rest.
And yet we have seen this
social heresy established, and that with such
triumphantly happy results, that its enemies were in a
very few years silenced, and its maxims beginning to
be received and acted upon in nearly every civilized
country, excepting America, where Mr. Tooke would
doubtless have expected it to be first taken by the
hand. One cannot thus trace the history of Mr. Tooke's
opinions without feeling how power-fully it speaks as
a lesson of toleration.
The equivocal name of Mr.
Tooke's great work is said to have led to some queer
results. The committee of a village library at
Canonmills, near Edinburgh, ordered it, on its
publication, as an entertaining popular work, and were
surprised when they found themselves in possession of
a solid quarto full of profound etymological
disquisitions. Mr. Tooke is described by
Samuel Rogers, who knew him intimately, as a charming