Sunday, July 31, 2011

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

July 31st is the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the soldier who turned to a religious life while recuperating from a cannon shot that injured his leg.  Ignatius, along with Francis Xavier and four others founded the Society of Jesus in 1534.  Ignatius died on July 31, 1556.

Several writers on Ignatius employ some of Walter Scott’s words to discuss a test Ignatius faced early on in his spiritual development -  “A Churchman should refute heresy with argument; a Knight with his dagger”.  The test is related in Stewart Rose’s “Ignatius Loyola and the Early Jesuits”:

‘He had passed through the town of Cervera, and was proceeding slowly along the high road to Barcelona, when he was overtaken by a man like himself, mounted upon a mule, The whom he perceived to be of the unhappy race of the Moriscoes (as the Moors, or Spanish Arabs, had now begun to be called), still numerous in the south-west of Spain, especially in Aragon and Valencia. Many hundreds of them had left the country rather than comply with the conditions imposed by Ferdinand; but the vast majority, being loath to abandon their native land, had made profession of Christianity; and of these, as was inevitable, a large proportion remained Mahometans at heart. The man who now joined Ignatius seems to have made no attempt to djsguise his misbelief; for, on learning that his fellow-traveller was on his way to Our Lady of Monserrato, he began disputing with him about the Blessed Virgin; admitting that she was a virgin when she conceived and gave birth to the Redeemer, but denying that she had retained her right to the title afterwards. In this opinion he persisted, in spite of all the arguments which Ignatius, in his faith and zeal, could urge against him. The dispute soon waxed hot and vehement on both sides; till the infidel, whether incensed at his opponent's retorts, or alarmed at the warmth of feeling he displayed, suddenly put spurs to his mule, and, without any word of leave-taking, galloped off at full speed. He was scarcely out of sight before Ignatius began to take blame to himself, as well for having failed to convince him of his errors, as for having allowed the follower of the false prophet to depart unscathed. The fierce spirit of -the zealot was roused within his breast, and so bore down and stifled, for the time, every sentiment of Christian charity and pity, that he seriously debated with himself whether he ought not, as a knight and gentleman,1 to follow the blasphemer and wash out the stain cast on Our Lady's honour in the offender's blood. But then, the fear arose lest, by so ruthless a proceeding, he should be angering both her and her Divine Son; and, unable in the heat of his excited feelings to decide between right and wrong, he determined to refer the matter to the judgment of God. Coming, therefore, to a point where the road divided, leading on the one hand to the place, about fifty paces further on, to which the man had told him he was going, and on the other to a steep and stony mountain-pass, he threw the bridle on his mule's neck, and left her to take which way she pleased. 'If,' thought he, 'she follows in the direction in which the infidel has gone, it is a sign that I am to pursue and despatch him with my poniard; but if she takes the other rode, Heaven does not intend that he should perish by my hand.' In His mercy, God had regard rather to the untutored zeal than to the rash resolution of His champion; for, strange to say, although the road along which the Morisco had gone was broad and smooth, the mule turned up the rough ascent, and Ignatius was saved from the commission of a great crime.’

1 'A Churchman should refute heresy with argument; a Knight with his dagger.'—Quoted by Sir Walter Scott.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Samuel Rogers

Samuel Rogers, the English poet, was born on July 30, 1763.  Popular in his day, Rogers is largely forgotten now, but he influenced literature and other poets in his day.  Walter Scott commented on Rogers in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808:

'The followers and imitators of Campbell would probably rejoice more in being termed of the school of Goldsmith or Johnson: yet when we read the Pleasures of Friendship, the Pleasures of Solitude, the Pleasures of Love, and so forth, — or even when we see such titles in an advertisement, — we are naturally led to think the subjects could only have been chosen from the popularity of the Pleasures of Hope, or of the Pleasures of Memory. The latter beautiful poem probably gave Mr. Campbell the original hint of his plan, though it expanded into a more copious and holder field of composition than had been attempted by Mr. ROGERS, and contains beauties of a kind so different, that the resemblance of title is almost the only circumstance which connects them. The Pleasures of Memory is a gem in which the exquisite polish makes up for the inferiority of the water. There is not a line in it which has not been earnestly and successfully refined to melody, nor is there a description left unfinished, or broken off harshly. The sentiments are easy and elegant, and of that natural and pleasing tendency which always insures a favourable reception, even when destitute of novelty. We have in Mr. Rogers' poetry none of Campbell's sublime bursts of moral eloquence, which exalt us above the ordinary feelings of our nature; but we are gently and placidly led into a current of sentiment most congenial to all the charities and domestic attachments of life. Yet those who have by heart the Deserted Village of Goldsmith, will hardly allow Mr. Rogers' title to originality. Something he has gained over his model by an intimate acquaintance with the fine arts, and the capacity of appreciating their most capital productions. The delicacy and accuracy of discrimination inseparable from such attainments, diffuses, through his poetry, a certain shade of classical and chastened taste, which may serve, perhaps, more than any of the circumstances we have mentioned, to discriminate his productions from those of his contemporaries.'

Friday, July 29, 2011

William Wilberforce

‘Wilberforce had met Scott in February 1821.  Those in attendance at this dinner party, hosted by Sir Robert Inglis, included former Prime Minister Lord Sidmouth (Henry Addington) as well as Wilberforce’s friend and political protégé Sir Thomas Acland.  Harford, with whom Wilberforce had taken a coach to attend the dinner, recalled that “Mr. Wilberforce much enjoyed this meeting with Sir Walter, and the pleasure appeared to be mutual.”

Scott was arguably Wilberforce’s favorite novelist – and a poet whose skill he greatly admired.  He considered Scott’s works “full of genius”…’

The text above comes from Kevin Belmonte’s “William Wilberforce”, a biography of the philanthropist.  Wilberforce was also a member of Parliament, where he pushed for abolition of the slave trade.  Belmonte’s book includes many other quotes concerning Scott’s novels.  Wilberforce died on July 29, 1833, and is buried in Westminster Abbey, next to William Pitt (the Younger).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Robespierre Executed

‘…Their chief, Robespierre, in an unsuccessful attempt to shoot himself, had only inflicted a horrible fracture on his under-jaw.

In this situation they were found like wolves in their lair, foul with blood, mutilated, despairing, and yet not able to die. Robespierre lay on a table in an anteroom, his head supported by a deal-box, and his hideous countenance half-hidden by a bloody and dirty cloth bound round the shattered chin.

The captives were carried in triumph to the Convention, who, refusing to admit them to the bar. sent them before the Revolutionary Tribunal, which ordered them, as outlaws, for instant execution. As the fatal cars passed to the guillotine, those who filled them, but especially Robespierre, were overwhelmed with execrations from the friends and relatives of victims whom he had sent on the same melancholy road. The nature of his previous wound. from which the cloth had never been removed till the executioner tore it off; added to the torture of the sufferer. The shattered jaw dropped, and the wretch yelled aloud, to the horror of the spectators.  A mask taken from that dreadful head was long exhibited in different nations of Europe, and appalled the spectator by its ugliness, and the mixture of fiendish expression with that of bodily agony. At the same time fell young Robespierre, Coulhon, Saint Just, Coffinhal, Henriot, Dumas, President of the Revolutionary Tribunal,  the Mayor, and fourteen of their subalterns…’

French revolutionary Maximillien Robespierre met his fate on the guillotine on July 28, 1794.  Many would have felt he received his just due, having been so active in the Reign of Terror.  Sir Walter Scott described Robespierre’s  end in “Life of Napoleon Bonaparte”.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Battle of Killiecrankie

‘Claverhouse's sword (a strait cut-and-thrust blade) is in the possession
of Lord Woodhouselee. In Pennycuik-house is preserved the buff-coat,
which he wore at the battle of Killicrankie. The fatal shot-hole is
under the arm-pit, so that the ball must have been received while his
arm was raised to direct the pursuit However he came by his charm of
proof, he certainly had not worn the garment usually supposed to
confer that privilege, and which is called _the waistcoat of proof, or
of necessity. It was thus made: "On Christmas daie, at night, a thread
must be sponne of flax, by a little virgine girle, in the name of the
divell: and it must be by her woven, and also wrought with the needle.
In the breast, or forepart thereof, must be made with needle work, two
heads; on the head, at the right side, must be a hat and a long beard;
the left head must have on a crown, and it must be so horrible that it
maie resemble Belzebub; and on each side of the wastcote must be made a
crosse."--SCOTT'S _Discoverie of Witchcraft,_ p. 231.’

The notes to Sir Walter Scott’s “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border" contain the note above, which references one of the outcomes of the Battle of Killiecrankie, which ended on July 27, 1689 – namely that John Graham of Claverhouse was fatally wounded.  Despite the victory, Claverhouse’s death was a blow to the Jacobite cause.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Handing it to the Diarists

July 26 – it’s a day in the middle of the hot summer, when people may be twiddling their fingers more than other
days.  James Boswell found an entry Samuel Johnson had made in his diary, regarding his finger nails:
 ‘In one of his manuscript Diaries, there is the following entry, which marks his curious minute attention:
 'July 26, 1768.  I shaved my nail by accident in whetting the knife, about an eighth of an inch
 from the bottom, and about a fourth from the top.  This I measure that I may know the growth
 of nails; the whole is about five eighths of an inch.'

We find Sir Walter Scott referred to nails on July 26 as well:

July 26 [1827].—Wrote till one o'clock, and finished the first volume of Tales—about six leaves. To-morrow I resume the Chronicles, tooth and nail.

Two rather mundane entries, but they say a lot about the two authors in a few words.

Monday, July 25, 2011

John Jamieson of the Scottish Dictionary

July 25.—Terry and wife arrived yesterday. Both very well. At dinner-time to-day came Dr. Jamieson of the Scottish Dictionary, an excellent good man, and full of auld Scottish cracks, which amuse me well enough, but are caviare to the young people. A little prolix and heavy is the good Doctor; somewhat prosaic, and accustomed to much attention on the Sunday from his congregation, and I hope on the six other days from his family. So he will demand full attention from all and sundry before he begins a story, and once begun there is no chance of his ending.

John Jamieson became pastor in a Forfar Secessionist congregation in 1779.  Somewhat like Samuel Johnson, Jamieson published a dictionary, with Jamieson’s focused on the Scottish language rather than English.  Jamieson’s dictionary was published in 1825, and Dr. Jamieson visited Scott on July 25, 1826, as Scott recorded in his journal.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Queen Mary

‘…The inhabitants of the village were therefore invited to attend upon the instructions
 of Henry Warden,and many of them were speedily won to the doctrine which their 
master and protector approved. These sermons, homilies, and lectures, had made a
 great impression on the mind of the Abbot Eustace, or Eustatius, and were a
 sufficient spur to the severity and sharpness of his controversy with his old
 fellow-collegiate; and, ere QueenMary was dethroned, and while the Catholics
 still had considerable authority inthe Border provinces, he more than once
 threatened to levy his vassals, and assailand level with the earth that stronghold
 of heresy the Castle of Avenel…’

Queen Mary was dethroned on July 24, 1567, as the text above from “The Abbot” references.  Her son James VI acceded to the throne that day, though he was little more than a year old.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Landing at Eriskay

'Your Royal Highness,' said Waverley,'must have founded on circumstances altogether unknown to me, when you did me the distinguished honour of supposing me an accepted lover of Miss Bradwardine. I feel the distinction implied in the supposition, but I have no title to it. For the rest, my confidence in my own merit is too justly slight to admit of my hoping for success in any quarter after positive rejection.'

The Chevalier was silent for a moment, looking steadily at them both, and then said, 'Upon my word, Mr. Waverley, you are a less happy man than I conceived I had very good reason to believe you. But now, gentlemen, allow me to be umpire in this matter, not as Prince Regent but as Charles Stuart, a brother adventurer with you in the same gallant cause. Lay my pretensions to be obeyed by you entirely out of view, and consider your own honour, and how far it is well or becoming to give our enemies the advantage and our friends the scandal of showing that, few as we are, we are not united. And forgive me if I add, that the names of the ladies who have been mentioned crave more respect from us all than to be made themes of discord.'

Bonnie Prince Charlie did a good turn by Edward Waverley in Walter Scott’s “Waverley”.  Charles Edward Stuart landed on Scottish territory at Eriskay on July 23, 1745 to launch his ill-fated campaign against the Hanovers. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Battle of Salamanca

'Looking towards Spain, Napoleon saw his affairs there in a better posture than he could have expected, after the battle of Salamanca, and the capture of Madrid. Lord Wellington, indifferently supported by the Spanish army, among whom quarrels and jealousies soon rose high, had been unable, from want of a sufficient battering-train, to take the fortress of Burgos; and was placed in some danger of being intercepted by Soult’s army, who had raised the siege of Cadiz, while engaged with that under D'Erlon, with whom was the intrusive king. The English general, therefore, with his usual prudence, retreated into the territories of Portugal, and Napoleon, seeing that his army in Spain amounted to 270,000 men, thought them more than sufficient to oppose what forces Spain could present, with the regular allied army of perhaps 70,000 at most, under Lord Wellington's command. He withdrew, accordingly, 150 skeletons of battalions, which he meant to make the means of disciplining his young conscripts...'

Arthur Wellesley, then Earl of Wellington, scored a major victory over Napoleon’s forces at the Battle of Salamanca, Spain.  The French were badly defeated, but not destroyed, and ultimately regrouped, as Walter Scott alludes to in the text above, which is from “Life of Napoleon Bonaparte”.  The Battle of Salamanca took place on July 22, 1812.