Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pont Neuf

‘October 31 [1826]—At breakfast visited by M. Gallois, an elderly Frenchman (always the most agreeable class), full of information, courteous and communicative. He had seen nearly, and remarked deeply, and spoke frankly, though with due caution. He went with us to the Museum, where I think the Hall of Sculpture continues to be a fine thing; that of Pictures but tolerable, when we reflect upon 1815. A number of great French daubs (comparatively), by David and Gerard, cover the walls once occupied by the Italian che/s-d'ceuvre. Fiat justitia, ruat coelum. We then visited Notre Dame and the Palace of Justice. The latter is accounted the oldesb building in Paris, being the work of St. Louis. It is, however, in the interior, adapted to the taste of Louis xiv. We drove over the Pont Neuf, and visited the fine quays, which was all we could make out to-day, as I was afraid to fatigue Anne…’

It was on May 31, 1578 that King Henry III laid the first stone for the Pont Neuf, which is now the oldest bridge over the Seine.   The entry above is from Scott’s Journal.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Jeanne D'Arc Martyred

‘It is true, that this policy was not uniformly observed. The story of the celebrated Jeanne d'Arc, called the Maid of Orleans, preserves the memory of such a custom, which was in that case turned to the prejudice of the poor woman who observed it.
It is well known, that this unfortunate female fell into the hands of the English, after having, by her courage and enthusiasm, manifested on many important occasions, revived the drooping courage of the French, and inspired them with the hope of once more freeing their country.  The English vulgar regarded her as a sorceress – the French as an inspired heroine; while the wise on both sides considered here as neither the one or the other, but a tool used by the celebrated Dunois, to play the part which he assigned her.  The Duke of Bedford, when the ill-starred Jeanne fell into his hands, took away her life, in order to stigmatize her memory with Sorcery, and to destroy the reputation she had acquired among the French. The mean recurrence to such a charge against such a person had no more success than it deserved, although Jeanne was condemned, both by the Parliament of Bourdeaux and the University of Paris.  Her indictment accused her of having frequented an ancient oak-tree, and a fountain arising under it, called the Fated or Fairy Oak of Bourlemont. Here she was stated to have repaired, during the hours of divine service, dancing. skipping, and making gestures, around the tree and fountain, and hanging on the branches, chaplets, and garlands of flowers, gathered for the purpose, reviving, doubtless, the obsolete idolatry which in ancient times had been rendered on the same spot to the Genius Loci. The charmed sword and blessed banner, which she had represented as signs of her celestial mission, were, in this hostile charge against her, described as enchanted implements, designed by the fiends and fairies whom she worshipped, to accomplish her temporary success. The death of the innocent, high-minded, and perhaps amiable enthusiast was not, we are sorry to say, a sacrifice to a superstitious fear of witchcraft, but a cruel instance of wicked policy, mingled with national jealousy and hatred.’

The text above comes form Letter VII of Scott’s “Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft”.  On June 30, 1431, Joan of Arc was executed.  The Folio “Book of Days” provides this entry from the official contemporary account of Joan’s final minutes:

‘After the sentence was read, the bishop, the Inquisitor, and many of the judges went away, leaving Jeanne upon the scaffold.
Then the Bailli of Rouen, an Englishman, who was there, without any legal formality and without reading any sentence against her, ordered that she should be taken to the place where she was to be burned.
When Jeanne heard this order given, she began to weep and lament in a way that all the people present were themselves moved to tears.
The said Bailli immediately ordered that the fire should be lighted, which was done.
And she was there burned and martyred tragically, an act of unparalleled cruelty.
And many, both noble and peasant, murmered greatly against the English.’

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Charles II of England Born

‘In Charles the Second's time, the representative of this ancient family was Sir Geoffrey Peveril, a man who had many of the ordinary attributes of an old-fashioned country gentleman, and very few individual traits to distinguish him from the general portrait of that worthy class of mankind. He was proud of small advantages, angry at small disappointments, incapable of forming any resolution or opinion abstracted from his own prejudices--he was proud of his birth, lavish in his housekeeping, convivial with those kindred and acquaintances, who would allow his superiority in rank--contentious and quarrelsome with all that crossed his pretensions--kind to the poor, except when they plundered his game--a Royalist in his political opinions, and one who detested alike a Roundhead, a poacher, and a Presbyterian. In religion Sir Geoffrey was a high-churchman, of so exalted a strain that many thought he still nourished in private the Roman Catholic tenets, which his family had only renounced in his father's time, and that he had a dispensation for conforming in outward observances to the Protestant faith. There was at least such a scandal amongst the Puritans, and the influence which Sir Geoffrey Peveril certainly appeared to possess amongst the Catholic gentlemen of Derbyshire and Cheshire, seemed to give countenance to the  rumour.’

The passage above, from Sir Walter Scott's "Peveril of the Peak", discuss Charles Stuart's time.  England’s Charles II was born this day, May 29th , in 1630.  Charles was 18 when his father, Charles I was executed, and he spent many years in exile, before returning during the Restoration to become king.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Thomas Betterton

'...Home and there found Creed, who dined with us, and after dinner by water to the Royall Theatre; but that was so full they told us we could have no room. And so to the Duke's House; and there saw "Hamlett done, giving us fresh reason never to think enough of Betterton. Who should we see come upon the stage but Gosnell, my wife’s maid? but neither spoke, danced, nor sung; which I was sorry for. But she becomes the stage very well...'

Samuel Pepys had poor luck finding fit entertainment on May 28, 1663, as he records in his diary.  Pepys enjoyed Thomas Betterton's acting, mentioning the actor more than once in his diary.  As Robert Lowe points out in his biography "Thomas Betterton", 'We can scarcely wonder, then, that Pepys interjects notes of admiration again and again regarding this great impersonation. "Above all," he writes, on August 24, 1661, "Betterton did the Prince's part beyond imagination." Again, on May 28, 1663, he "saw Hamlett done, giving us fresh reason never to think enough of Betterton." And his last notice of the play (August 31, 1668) appropriately reaches a climax of approval—"To the Duke of York's Playhouse, and saw Hamlet, which we have not seen this year before, or more; and mightily pleased with it; but, above all, with Betterton, the best part, I believe, that ever man acted."...'

 Lowe reports an observation on Betterton's abilities that Pepys and others may have appreciated:

'In The Laureat, a venomous attack upon Colley Cibber, published in 1740, the author specially mentions Betterton's Hamlet. He says—
 "I have lately been told by a Gentleman who has frequently seen Mr. Betterton perform this Part of Hamlet, that he has observ'd his Countenance (which was naturally ruddy and sanguin) in this Scene of the fourth Act where his Father's Ghost appears, thro' the violent and sudden Emotions of Amazement and Horror, turn instantly on the Sight of his Father's Spirit, as pale as his Neckcloth, when every Article of his Body seem'd to be affected with a Tremor inexpressible; so that, had his Father's Ghost actually risen before him; he could not have been seized with more real Agonies; and this was felt so strongly by the Audience, that the Blood seemed to shudder in their Veins likewise, and they in some Measure partook of the Astonishment and Horror, with which they saw this excellent Actor affected."...'

 Walter Scott, being aware of Betterton's reputation, includes the actor's name in the speech of character Will Smith in "Peveril of the Peak":

 '...”Useless? I deny it," replied Smith. "Every one of my fellows does something or other so exquisitely, that it were sin to make him do any thing else—it is your jacks-of-all-trades who are masters of none.— But hark to Chaubert's signal! The coxcomb is twangling it on the lute, to the tune of Eveillez vous, belle endormie—Come, Master What d'ye call, [addressing Peveril,]—get ye some water, and wash this filthy witness from your hand, as Betterton says in the play; for Chaubert's cookery is like Friar Bacon's head—time is—time was—time will soon be no more."...'

Friday, May 27, 2011

Malcolm IV Becomes King

‘When knights were made in the actual field of battle, little solemnity was observed, and the form was probably the same with which private individuals had, in earlier times, conferred the honour on each other. The novice, armed at all points, but without helmet, sword, and spurs, came before the prince or general, at whose hands he was to receive knighthood, and kneeled down, while two persons of distinction, who acted as his godfathers, and were supposed to become pledges for his being worthy of the honour to which he aspired, buckled, on his gilded spurs, and belted him with his sword.  He then received the accolade, a slight blow on the neck, with the flat of the sword, from the person who dubbed him, who, at the same time, pronounced a formula to this effect: "I dub thee knight, in the name of God and St. Michael, (or in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.) Be faithful, bold, and fortunate." The new-made knight had then only to take his place in the ranks of war, and endeavour to distinguish himself by his forward gallantry in the approaching action, when he was said to win his spurs. It is well known, that, at the battle of Cressy, Edward III refused to send succours to the Black Prince, until he should hear that he was wounded or dismounted, being determined he should, on that memorable day, have full opportunity to win his spurs. It may be easily imagined, that on such occasions, the courage of the young knights was wound up to the highest pitch, and, as many were usually made at the same time, gallantry could not fail to have influence on the fortune of the day.  At the siege of Tholouse, (1159) Henry II of England made thirty knights at once, one of whom was Malcolm IV King of Scotland. Even on these occasions, the power of making knights was not understood to be limited to the commander in chief…’

The text above is from Sir Walter Scott’s “Essay on Chivalry”.  Malcolm IV was knighted by Henry II six years after he became King of Scotland, which occurred on May 27, 1153.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pleasure Gardens

On May 26, 1742, Horace Walpole writes to Horace Mann, in part describing his visit to Ranelagh Gardens, in Chelsea.  Ranelagh had opened just two days prior, one of several pleasure gardens opened around this time. 

'To Sir Horace Mann
Downing Street, May 26, 1742.

To-day calls itself May the 26th, as you perceive by the date; but I am writing to you by the fireside, instead of going to Vauxhall.  if we have one warm day in seven, "we bless our stars, and think it luxury."  And yet we have as much waterworks and fresco diversions, as if we lay ten degrees nearer warmth.  Two nights ago Ranelagh-gardens were opened at Chelsea; the Prince, Princess, Duke, much nobility, and much mob besides, were there.  There is a vast amphitheatre, finely gilt, painted, and illuminated, into which every body that loves eating,drinking, staring, or crowding, is admitted for twelvepence.  The building and disposition of the gardens cost sixteen thousand pounds.  Twice a-week there are to be ridottos, at guinea tickets, for which you are to have a supper and music.  I was there last night, but did not find the joy of it.  Vauxhall is a little better; for the garden is pleasanter, and one goes by water...'

Walpole knew gardens well, and in the passage above he mentions his preference for Vauxhall over Ranalagh.  Walpole published his "Essay on Gardening" in 1780, and it became the standard by which others are measured.  Sir Walter Scott mentions the work in "Redgauntlet": 

'I will not trouble you with any account of the various hothouses and gardens, and their contents. No small sum of money must have been expended be erecting and maintaining them in the exquisite degree of good order which they exhibited. The family, I understood, were connected with that of the celebrated Millar, and had imbibed his taste for flowers and for horticulture. But instead of murdering botanical names, I will rather conduct you to the policy, or pleasure-garden, which the taste of Joshua or his father had extended on the hanks betwixt the noose and river. This also, in contradistinction to the prevailing simplicity, was ornamented in an unusual degree. There were various compartments, the connexion of which was well managed, and although the whole ground did not exceed five or six acres, it was so much varied as to seem four times larger. The space contained close alleys and open walks; a very pretty artificial waterfall; a fountain also, consisting of a considerable jet-d'eau, whose streams glittered in the sunbeams, and exhibited a continual rainbow. There was a cabinet of verdure, as the French call it, to cool the summer heat, and that was a terrace sheltered from the north-east by a noble holly hedge, with all its glittering spears, where you might have the full advantage of the sun in the clear frosty days of winter.

I know that you, Alan, will condemn all this as bad and antiquated; for, ever since Dodsley has described the Leasowes, and talked of Brown's imitations of nature, and Horace Walpole's late Essay on Gardening, you are all for simple nature—Condemn walking up and down stairs in the open air, and declare for wood and wilderness. But ne quid nimis. I would not deface a scene of natural grandeur or beauty, by the introduction of crowded artificial decorations; yet such may, I think, be very interesting, where the situation in its natural state, otherwise has no particular charms...'

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Out of Exile

‘But our brave young king is now come home,
King Charles the Second in degree;
The Lord send peace into his time,
And God preserve his majestie! ‘

The text above is from “The Gallant Grahams”, which is included in Sir Walter Scott’s “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border”.  On May 25th, 1660, Samuel Pepys, in his diary, records arriving in England with Charles II and Charles’ brother James, Duke of York. The Stuart brothers were returning from their exile in the Netherlands.

‘By the morning we were come close to the land, and every body made ready to get on shore. The King and the two Dukes did eat their breakfast before they went, and there being set some ship’s diet before them, only to show them the manner of the ship’s diet, they eat of nothing else but pease and pork, and boiled beef. I had Mr. Darcy in my cabin and Dr. Clerke, who eat with me, told me how the King had given 50l. to Mr. Sheply for my Lord’s servants, and 500l. among the officers and common men of the ship. I spoke with the Duke of York about business, who called me Pepys by name, and upon my desire did promise me his future favour. Great expectation of the King’s making some Knights, but there was none. About noon (though the brigantine that Beale made was there ready to carry him) yet he would go in my Lord’s barge with the two Dukes. Our Captain steered, and my Lord went along bare with him. I went, and Mr. Mansell, and one of the King’s footmen, with a dog that the King loved,1 (which [dirted] the boat, which made us laugh, and me think that a King and all that belong to him are but just as others are), in a boat by ourselves, and so got on shore when the King did, who was received by General Monk with all imaginable love and respect at his entrance upon the land of Dover. Infinite the crowd of people and the horsemen, citizens, and noblemen of all sorts. The Mayor of the town came and gave him his white staff, the badge of his place, which the King did give him again. The Mayor also presented him from the town a very rich Bible, which he took and said it was the thing that he loved above all things in the world. A canopy was provided for him to stand under, which he did, and talked awhile with General Monk and others, and so into a stately coach there set for him, and so away through the town towards Canterbury, without making any stay at Dover. The shouting and joy expressed by all is past imagination. Seeing that my Lord did not stir out of his barge, I got into a boat, and so into his barge, whither Mr. John Crew stepped, and spoke a word or two to my Lord, and so returned, we back to the ship, and going did see a man almost drowned that fell out of his boat into the sea, but with much ado was got out. My Lord almost transported with joy that he had done all this without any the least blur or obstruction in the world, that could give an offence to any, and with the great honour he thought it would be to him. Being overtook by the brigantine, my Lord and we went out of our barge into it, and so went on board with Sir W. Batten, and the Vice and Rear-Admirals. At night my Lord supped and Mr. Thomas Crew with Captain Stoakes, I supped with the Captain, who told me what the King had given us. My Lord returned late, and at his coming did give me order to cause the marke to be gilded, and a Crown and C. R. to be made at the head of the coach table, where the King to-day with his own hand did mark his height, which accordingly I caused the painter to do, and is now done as is to be seen.’

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

David I of Scotland

King David I of Scotland died on May 24, 1153.  David's time was one of great administrative reforms, one of which was the establishment of Abbeys, including Melrose Abbey.  Melrose is believed to be the resting place of Robert the Bruce's heart.  Melrose Abbey figures in Walter Scott's "The Lay of the Last Minstrel".  The Second Canto of this poem begins:
'If thou would'st view fair Melrose aright,
Go visit it by the pale moonlight;
For the gay beams of lightsome day
Gild, but to flout, the ruins grey.
When the broken arches are black in night,
And each shafted oriel glimmers white;
When the cold light's uncertain shower
Streams on the ruin'd central tower;
When buttress and buttress, alternately,
Seem framed of ebon and ivory;
When silver edges the imagery,
And the scrolls that teach thee to live and die;
When distant Tweed is heard to rave,
And the owlet to hoot o'er the dead man's grave,
Then go--but go alone the while--
Then view St. David's ruin'd pile;
And, home returning, soothly swear,
Was never scene so sad and fair!'

Monday, May 23, 2011

Norfolk Agrarians

'May 23 [1828].—I breakfasted with Chantrey, and met the celebrated Coke of Norfolk, a very pleasing man, who gave me some account of his plantations. I understand from him that, like every wise man, he planted land that would not let for 5s. per acre, but which now produces £3000 a year in wood. He talked of the trees which he had planted as being so thick that a man could not fathom them. Withers, he said, was never employed save upon one or two small jobs of about twenty acres on which every expense was bestowed with a view to early growth. So much for Withers. I shall have a rod in pickle for him if worth while...'

Sir Walter Scott is in England during the spring of 1828, when he meets Earl of Leicester, Thomas Coke.  Coke of Norfolk and the William Withers mentioned in Scott's Journal entry of May 23rd, 1828, both had estates in Norfolk, England. Coke in particular is thought of as having been a leading part of the British agricultural revolution. 

Withers published a letter criticizing Sir Walter Scott's Essay on Planting Waste Lands, which Scott published in the Quarterly Review of October 1827.  The essay is lengthy, and the first couple of paragraphs are here:

'Education has been often compared to the planting and training up of vegetable productions, and the parallel holds true in this remarkable particular, amongst others, that numerous systems are recommended and practised in both cases which are totally contradictory of each other, and most of which can, nevertheless, be supported by an appeal to the fruits they have brought forth. It would seem to follow that the oak is more easily taught to grow, and the young idea how to shoot, than is generally allowed by the warm assertors of particular systems, and that nature will even in cases of neglect or mismanagement do a great deal to supply the errors of carelessness whether of the preceptor or the forester. It would be wasting words, to set about proving that in both departments there are certain rules which greatly assist Nature in her operations, and bring the tree, or the youth, to an earlier and higher degree of maturity than either would otherwise have obtained. But we think it equally plain, that the rules which are found most effectual are of a very general character, and, when put into practice, must be modified according to the circumstances of each individual case; from which it results, that an exclusive attachment to the minutise of particular systems will, in many instances, be found worse than unnecessary.
To apply this maxim to the art of planting, we would remark that there are certain general principles respecting planting, pruning, thinning, and so forth, without which no plantation will be found eminently successful, even in the most advantageous situations; and, which being carefully followed in less favourable circumstances, will make up for many deficiencies of soil and climate. But on the other hand, there are many peculiar modes of treating plantations which, succeeding extremely well in one situation, will in another impede, rather than advance, the progress of the wood. Yet it frequently happens, that these very varieties, or peculiarities of practice, are insisted upon, by those who build systems, as the indispensable requisites for success in every case, This leads to empirical doctrines of all sorts, which, perhaps, prevail more among planters than in any other department of rural practice. Such are, violent and exclusive prepossessions entertained in favour of any particular kind of tree, how valuable soever; such are also the differences eagerly and obstinately maintained respecting particular modes of preparing the ground, and the precise season of putting in the plants, Such, also, are some particular doctrines held concerning pruning. Upon all these points we find practical men entertain and express very opposite opinions, with as much pertinacity as if they had been handed down, in direct tradition, from the first of men and of foresters. The feuds arising from these differences of opinion have, as in the case of religion itself, been unfavourable to the progress of the good cause; and one of the most important of national improvements has been, in a great measure, neglected, because men could not make up their minds concerning the very best possible mode of conducting it.
We are far, very far, from supposing ourselves capable of filling up, by a general sketch, a summary of rules which may be useful to the planter, yet we claim some knowledge of the subject, from sixteen years undeviating attention to the raising young plantations of considerable extent, upon lands, which may be, in general, termed waste and unimproved. Indeed, to lay aside for a moment our impersonality, the author of this article having, in the course of that time, seen reason to change his opinion on many important points, and particularly upon those in which the expense of planting is chiefly concerned, takes the freedom to consider Mr. Monteath's useful and interesting treatise with reference to his own experince, and the facts which that experience has suggested…’

Aside from Coke's comments on Withers, recorded by Scott in his Journal, Sir Henry Steuart, who published "The Instant Landscape" responded to Withers' open letter to Scott.  Steuart's response is covered in the Journal of Agriculture in 1831:

'The next essay of our author is in the form of a letter to Sir Walter Scott, controverting certain opinions expressed by the latter in a very pleasing essay on planting, which all planters ought to read, contained in the Quarterly Review. We do not certainly propose to take up the gauntlet for the Author of Waverley. The task of replying to Mr Withers has already been performed by Sir Henry Steuart, who, in a note to the second edition of his own work, disposes of some of the opinions of that gentleman, though, in doing so, we cannot help thinking, that the ingenious Baronet falls himself into certain errors, quite as great as those which he endeavours to controvert....
The scientific principles on which the process should be conducted, and my anxiety to impress them on the minds of planters, are sufficiently shown in the present section and notes, whether for arboricultural or agricultural purposes, to which Mr Withers's able pamphlet may serve as a practical commentary…
"There is one thing, with which I have been rather surprised in Mr Withers's pamphlet, and which cannot be passed over without notice by any person of intelligence, and that is, his denominating the ordinary or pitting method of planting, as every where practised, without any previous deepening of the soil, 'The Scotch System and for no other alleged reason that I can discover, on the most attentive perusal of his publication, than that some Scotch contractors had executed about forty acres of plantation for Admiral Windham, according to this method, and that the thing had turned out 'a total failure.'
"It is certainly very candid in Mr Withers to inform us, that he knows nothing of Scotland or Ireland, and that his observations on wood, and his practice in raising it, are wholly confined to Norfolk. His pamphlet as clearly informs us, that he knows nothing of general planting, or of its history and progress in Britain, and the rest of Europe; and that the anatomy of plants and vegetable physiology have not come within the range of his studies…’