Sunday, February 26, 2006

Letters from Bishop Heber

The first letter, and extract from second letter, from Reginald Heber to a female relative who had recently lost her husband at Hyeres.

Jan. 2nd, 1821.—My dear Charlotte, I have been for some time back desirous of writing to you, but have been deterred by the fear of intruding too soon on a grief which I was well aware must have its course, and which is necessarily proportionate to the love, strong as death and stronger than the most trying worldly misfortunes, which you have uniformly shown to your husband, and which, as was to be expected and as I have always seen reason to believe, was mutual. I could not help feeling, too, that your loss was too severe to admit of the ordinary topics of consolation ; that the possession of the love and confidence of a man like our poor William, could not in the natural course of things be surrendered without a very bitter pang, and that his abilities and his amiable temper and manners must be recollected by you with regret now that for a time you are separated from him.

You have already been long tried in the furnace of affliction, and God has enabled you during many years to endure the bitterness of separation from loved objects, and in sickness and in banishment to find comfort in that divine religion which it is necessary to be a mourner to know the full value of. I trust and believe that He has not forsaken you now, and that from the same source of resignation to His will and confidence in His mercy, you have been supported and strengthened under this last and severest trial.

I need not remind you, you have still much to live for; that you are favoured beyond most mothers in the disposition and promising talents of your children, and that if, as I trust will be the case, your health admits of your return to England, you will have more opportunity of watching over their education and promoting their best interests than, but for this heavy visitation, you were likely to have possessed.
There are other considerations, too, which must have their force in encouraging and enabling you to bear your affliction. That affliction was sooner or later to one or other of you inevitable. You must have mourned for Him, or he for you; and if this last had been the case, recollect how lonely and forlorn his exile must have been, and that your death would have had the effect in a great measure of depriving your children of both their parents.

Even in the circumstances of the fatal accident, there is much to alleviate its heaviness. An instantaneous death without pain, and while engaged in innocent amusement, is what poor William himself would perhaps have chosen above most others. It would have been far more afflicting both to himself and to you if you had had to watch over a long and painful illness, to witness suffering which you could not relieve, and to long for advice and assistance of a better kind than your place of residence could supply: above all, it may be a comfort to reflect that, before he was thus summoned to another state of existence, he had been purified, and that the chastisements of Heaven have thus been not only tempered, but directed in mercy.

There is one source of consolation more, which I cannot help mentioning, though from the difficulty and perplexed nature of the disputes to which it has given rise, and the abuses which have been grounded on it, I mention it with great diffidence even to you, and have never ventured to recommend it generally. Few persons, I believe, have lost a beloved object, more particularly by sudden death, without feeling an earnest desire to recommend them in their prayers to God's mercy, and a sort of instinctive impression that such devotions might still be serviceable to them in that intermediate state which we are taught by Scripture precedes the final judgment.

The Roman Catholics, by their interested doctrines of hired masses for the dead, and by their unwarranted and melancholy notion of a purgatory to which even the good are liable, have prejudiced the greater number of Protestants against this opinion; and it is, I confess, one which is not so clearly revealed or countenanced in Scripture, as to make the practice of praying for the dead obligatory on any Christian. Yet, having been led attentively to consider the question, my own opinion is on the whole favourable to the practice, which indeed is so natural and so comfortable, that this alone is a presumption that it is neither unpleasing to the Almighty nor unavailing with Him.

The Jews, so far back as their opinions and practices can be traced since the time of our Saviour, have uniformly recommended their deceased friends to mercy; and from a passage in the Second Book of Maccabees, it appears that (from whatever source they derived it) they had the same custom before His time. But if this were the case the practice can hardly be unlawful, or either Christ or His Apostles would, one should think, have in some of their writings or discourses condemned it. On the same side it may be observed, that the Greek Church and all the Eastern Churches, though they do not believe in purgatory, pray for the dead and that we know the practice to have been universal, or nearly so, among the Christians little more than 150 years after our Saviour. It is spoken of as the usual custom by Tertullian and Epiphanius. Augustine, in his Confessions, has given a beautiful prayer which he himself used for his deceased mother, Monica; and among Protestants, Luther and Dr. Johnson are eminent instances of the same conduct.

I have accordingly been myself in the habit for some years of recommending on some occasions, as after receiving the Sacrament, &c. &c., my lost friends by name to God's goodness and compassion through His Son, as what can do them no harm, and may, and I hope will, be of service to them. Only this caution I always endeavour to observe—that I beg His forgiveness at the same time for myself if unknowingly I am too presumptuous, and His grace lest I, who am thus solicitous for others, should neglect the appointed means of my own salvation.

But I intended to write a letter of consolation and am got into theological controversy, and I fear I may already have written too much in my small handwriting for your eyes. God bless, God comfort you, my dearest Charlotte! God make your children through their future lives a source of comfort to you in this world, and bring you and them to be with your William in one family in Heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

…. I have long owed you my thanks for your letter, and the kindness with which you received my attempts at consolation under a low which, alas! admits little effectual comfort, except from the secret support and blessing of the same divine Being who only afflicts us for our good, and who, if we place our hopes in Him, will never lay more on us than He at the same time enables us to bear. But I felt myself at the same time bound to answer the very interesting and very difficult question which you had suggested to me concerning the state of the dea, and their acquaintance with what passes on earth, and I have really had no leisure to give a subject the attention which it deserves and requires, nor even to satisfy myself, much more another, with the conjectures (for they deserve no other name) which I have formed.

That the intermediate state between death and judgment is not one of insensibility, or (as the Socinians fancy) a perfect suspension and interruption of existence, is plain I think from very many passages of Scripture. Thus, when Christ uses the argument taken from the Almighty calling himself the God of Abraham &c. to prove the life after death, he uses it in a manner which implies that the life of which he speaks is uninterrupted, since to make it answer his purpose, Abraham must have been alive when God thus spoke, not merely destined to live again at the general resurrection.

In like manner, St Paul speaks of his desire to depart from the world, to be immediately with Christ, which he could not have been if after death he were to sleep perhaps 3,000 years till the day of judgment. But, above all, the penitent thief was proised by our Saviour, that he should that very day be with Him in Paradise, a passage which will not bear any other meaning than that generally assigned to it, and which in that meaning is conclusive.

As to the condition of the dead, it has been always believed by the Christian world that the souls of men are in situations of happiness or misery – the one not so perfect, and other not so intense, as will be their doom at the day of judgment; and it has been even supposed, and seems likely from all that we know of our spiritual nature, that till that time their happiness or misery must rather consist in hope or hear and the approval or disapproval of conscience, than in any actual enjoyment or punishment; and the early Christians most of them believed that, by the prayer of surviving friends, the condition of such persons might be made better, and a milder sentence obtained for their errors and infirmities from their Almighty Judge, when the doom of all creatures shall be finally settled.

This is, as you well know, a disputed point, but it is one which the wisest and most learned divines have always spoken of with doubt, without venturing to blame those who, with becoming humility, recommend the souls of those they have loved to mercy. But the notion of a purgatory fire which all, or almost all, Christians were to pass through as a necessary preparation for heaven, was never dreamt of in the Church till the ninth or tenth centuries; and the Eastern Churches to this day have never received it. It is, in fact, a strange and dismal detraction from the efficacy of Christ's blood, since the Church of Rome does not admit those who die impenitent to any share in its advantages, but sends them to hell immediately; so that it only throws a fresh obstacle in the way to heaven, in the case of those whose sins all sides suppose to be already washed out by the work of redemption.

A more difficult question remains—Whether the dead know anything of what is passing among men. On this point I can arrive at no satisfactory conclusion, any further than that there are some passages in Scripture which seem very like it. As where St. Paul
encourages us, in Heb. xii. 1, to run with patience our race,, from the consideration that we are encompassed with so great a cloud of witnesses, which witnesses, you will see in the former chapter, are the good and great men of former times. But I must defer these deep discussions till I have the pleasure of seeing you. In the meantime accept of my best wishes, my sincere affection, and permit me to add, my prayers.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Extracts from the Works of Francis Egerton, Earl of Bridgewater

Birkenhead: January 23.—Mr. Nugent has just brought me a bundle of the publications on various subjects by Lord Bridgewater; all excepting one of addenda and corrigenda to an edition of Euripides, and a letter from the Seigneurie de Florence au Pape Sixto 4re, 1478, relate to himself, his family or inland navigation.

A Life of the Chancellor Egerton seems interesting from the variety of documents, relating more to contemporary history than to his hero, which are thrown into notes; especially a letter from, Essex to the Chancellor, who had tried to persuade him to return to the Court and sue for pardon to Elizabeth, after he had received the famous box on the ear. The most singular production is a single sheet beginning—
A report has been generally circulated that I have an intention of writing a life of F. E., third Duke of Bridgewater . . . consequently I am induced on my part to announce to the public that I will not write his life. It is true that for ten or eleven years before his death I and I only lived in the house with him . . . that I prepared materials with a view of writing his life. . . . When I reflected more and more continually every day upon what I saw, first I faltered, and lastly I became assured that I could bring neither the faculties of my mind or body on to the accomplishment of this task. How could I bring my mind to the task, were I impressed with the persuasion that the general system of navigable canals and inland navigation ought to be carried forward upon the enlarged, comprehensive, and elevated view of benefiting the public and the country? How could I bring my mind to the task, should I have seen such an object neglected or overlooked by one of the first and greatest subjects in Great Britain (most certainly in Europe), and all things appertaining to the navigation considered as in a merchant's counting-house, exclusively upon the strictest calculations of profit and loss and individual interest ? How could I bring my mind to the task ? how portray a domestic tyrant, selfish in all things, living for himself alone, regardless of those duties which attach to one who inherits immense estates from a long line of ancestry, unacquainted with even the persons of most of his own family, his own name, his own blood, giving nothing in charity, with no service at home and yet never attending any public worship ? . . . Under all these considerations, and many more, I confess I faltered; I cannot bring myself to the task. Briefly, therefore, &c. &c. [Here follows an account like that for the peerage.] F. H. E. London, 1809

Another singular paper is his petition to Louis XVIII. to be exempted from the Droit d’aubain on the Hotel de Noailles, which he had purchased. The grounds on which he requests this exemption are singular:
Que je suis reste plusieurs annees en France, et que pendant tout ce temps je n'ai pas voulu acheter aucune propriete quelconque. Qu'au commencement de 1815 j'ai change d'avis. . . . Que je n'ai pas voulu profiter des delais que la loi et 1'usage m'accorderaient pour payer les droits d'enregistrement, mais que les circonstances critiques ou V. M. se trouvait alors m'ont determine a solder les droits Ie lendemain, 18 mars 1815, la somme de 30,743 francs. Qu'il est impossible de ne pas reconnaitre dans ces paymens onereux faits par anticipation le vif interet que m'inspirait alors la situation de V. M. Que je n'ai plus tarde a voir de quel osil on regardait ma conduite; car Buonaparte, sous pretexte d'utilite publique qui exigeait que lea bureaux de Secretariat du Gouvernement passent dans mon hotel, a mis sous le sequestre mon hotel, mon mobilier, et m'a ordonne de sortir de mon hotel, sous peine d'expulsion forcee. Que j'ai defendu mon droit contre Buonaparte, a mon risque personnel et a mes frais personnels. J'ai defendu aussi les droits de tous les proprietaires francais. J'ai barricade les portes et mis mon hotel en etat de siege. Je me suis vu force, pour la premiere fois de ma vie que j'ai su un proces, d'entamer un proces .... enfin je me suis vu force de passer par mille tracasseries de toute espece que je crois devoir designer au Gouvernement reparateur de V. M. . . . Que lea circonstances suivantes sont pleinement suffisantes pour empecher que la concession en question ne devienne un exemple general. Que je suis allie a la famille royale d'Angleterre. [Here follows a long descent from Henry VII. and from Robert Comte d'Artois, frere de St. Louis, ]

In the first instance I put away the addenda and corrigenda to his translation of Euripides, saying to myself, That must be totally uninteresting to me; but one word caught my eye which made me look for others, and in the notes I found a mass of heterogeneous knowledge ; some unintelligible to me, being herisse de Grec; some uninteresting; a long and severe criticism on the ' Phedre' of Racine, much on Jewish customs, some music, some philosophy, some piety, an extract from his own will, &c. &c. In this confused mass I find a note on the original invention of arithmetical numerals in large characters, full of ideas which are quite new to me, and certainly very interesting.

He surmises that this mode of numeration was taken from the hand and fingers, and resulted naturally from the necessity under which the most ancient proprietors lay of counting the herds and flocks in which their wealth consisted. Holding up the palm of one of his hands before his eyes, the four fingers furnished him. with a ready mark for each of four units; he coarsely imitated them thus, 1111; at five, the mark which naturally suggested itself "was that which was made by the forefinger and thumb, thus, V ; by adding his units to this he could count to ten; at ten it naturally suggested itself to double the mark already made for five, and thus make twice five; to his first vertical V he added another that was inverted A ; thus he was enabled to count as far as fifty: at fifty he had to seek another mark for the method by which he obtained the mode of numeration required, and enabled him to procure a new mark at each five; which number when doubled makes a decimal, and resulted out of the lines which gave him the figure of his body. He rested the palm of one hand upon one side of the body on the lower ribs, and looking down to the figure presented by his arm, it formed a right angle and presented this figure, L; thus he was enabled to count on to one hundred. To obtain a new mark he observed the same method: he doubled the I— which represented fifty; leaving the first mark vertical, he inverted the next, the second accessory figure, the upright, serving for both; the result is C : at five hundred he wanted another figure, and still proceeding on the same system of doubling, he then produced this figure by adding another, D. He had now obtained his unit, now softened in I; his five, now V; his ten, now X, his fifty, L; his hundred, now softened into C ; his five hundred, now softened and rounded into D: he then doubled the square for a thousand thus, CD ; which is now softened into M, or into the letters 010 ; by which last letters are denoted one hundred minus five hundred, or four hundred, and one hundred plus five hundred, giving ten hundred or a thousand.

It remains to be observed that by this series of operations is obtained the designation of positive and negative quantity; for, upon whatever side shall be begun to be marked the units, whether right or left, the figures placed on the same side denote they are minus that figure, as V minus 1 is IV ; five minus two, 111, &c.; five minus 0 is V positive. Again, the figures marked on the other side of the V, or the decimal, denote that they are plus
that figure; five plus one is VI, &c. &c.*
Editor's note
* This seems to be now the received origin of numerals.—Encyclopaedia Britannia, Art. Arithmetic.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Queen Caroline

We were talking one day of Queen Caroline: a doubt was expressed whether some of the blame which attaches to her character may not be removed by attributing some of her extraordinary actions to insanity, by which alone they can be accounted for. Mrs. Kemble told me she had known, at Lausanne, a man, now a landamman or magistrate, formerly an officer in the Duke of Brunswick's Guards, who told her that it was the general opinion that in early youth the Princess had shown strong symptoms of insanity, and he gave the following instance to prove his assertion: A great ball was given, to which the Duchess would not allow her daughter, then aged sixteen, to go. The ball was just begun, when a messenger came to the Duke and Duchess to inform them that Princess Caroline was taken violently ill.

Of course, they returned immediately to the palace, all the court following them ; the landamman, then on guard, being one among them. When they reached the antechamber of the apartment of the Princess, they found she was on a bed in the next room, screaming with agony; they were told that she was black in the face, &c. &c. The doors were all open, when the Duke and Duchess went up to the bed and tenderly enquired what was the matter. The doctors were not yet arrived; the Princess said any attempt at dissimulation would be useless and im- possible. ' I am in labour, and entreat you, madam, to send for an accoucheur immediately.'

These words were spoken loud enough to be heard by all those who were waiting in the next room; their astonishment may be conceived. Soon after the accoucheur came: as soon as the Princess saw him, she jumped out of bed, wiped the livid colouring from her face, and with a loud laugh said to the Duchess,' Now, madam, will you keep me another time from a ball ?' At this period, when- ever she did go into public, there were persons appointed to watch that she did not give notes, &c. &c.; but it was supposed that she found means to elude their vigilance.

The idea of the unsoundness of the mind of the unfortunate Caroline is strongly confirmed by the following circumstances, related to me by Lord Redesdale in May 1828. Having been invited to dine with the Duchess of Brunswick at Blackheath, he and Lady Redesdale, coming at the time specified found themselves long before the rest of the company They passed half-an-hour en tiers with the Duchess who, having known him from his earliest youth, began talking very confidentially and imprudently of the misconduct of her daughter, ending with saying,' But the excuse is, that, poor thing, she is not right here.' She struck her forehead, and burst into a violent flood of tears.

By this time some guests were heard entering, and Lord and Lady Redesdale were obliged to support the poor infirm old woman to her room, and make the best story they could.

He told me also, and I forget how he knew it to be true, that when the Princess was at Baden and the Grand Duke made a partie de chasse for her, she appeared on horseback with a half-pumpkin on her head. Upon the Grand Duke's expressing astonishment, and recommending a coiffure rather less extraordinary, she only replied that the weather was hot, and nothing kept the head so cool and comfortable as a pumpkin.

Surely nothing that was said by Brougham or Denman could plead so strongly in extenuation of the nudities of the Muse of History, &c. &c., as the pumpkin.

Monday, February 13, 2006


January, 1828.—Mrs. Kemble told me that at the period of the first appearance of 'De Montfort,'* when everybody was decrying the possibility of the existence of hatred so diabolical, and were calling it quite beyond the bounds of nature, the subject was one day discussed at dinner at Lord Rosslyn's.**

He replied that in real life he had known an instance of hatred still more inveterate, and related the following story:— At a large school in the country a rebellion took place among the boys ; the master, very anxious to know the name of the ringleader, at length, either by threats or bribes, or both, induced one of the boys to disclose the name of a boy named Davison. He was, of course, severely punished and expelled, carrying away with him sentiments of deadly hate instead of the affection he had formerly felt for his schoolfellow. Many years intervened, during which they never had the least intercourse.

The young man who had peached went to the East Indies. He returned, and landed on the coast of Devonshire. Stopping to dine at a small inn, he enquired of the waiter what gentlemen lived in the neighbourhood, and hearing that the squire of the parish was a Mr. Davison, the name struck him; he thought he recollected that his former schoolfellow used to talk of his home in Devonshire, and while his dinner was getting ready he determined to go to the squire's house, A maidservant opened the door, and he sent in his name, saying that if Mr. Davison had been educated at such a school, he would recollect it.

He was introduced, and most cordially received by his schoolfellow, whom he found laid up with a fit of the gout, and was pressed to dine, with many apologies for bad fare, &c. &c.; Mr. Davison having unfortunately given permission to all his servants to go to a neighbouring place, and having kept only the woman who was his nurse.

Mr. Davison appeared so rejoiced in talking over old stories with his friend, and pressed him so strongly to be charitable enough to pass another day with him, that at last he consented. Next morning the unfortunate guest was found with his throat cut from ear to ear. Of course, the maidservant was taken up on suspicion; indeed, as it seemed impossible from its nature that the wound should have been self-inflicted, and as she was the only creature in the house excepting her master, who was unable to move, there did not seem a doubt.

The trial came on: Mr. Davison appeared as prosecutor; Lord Rosslyn was his counsel. In spite of the poor girl's protestations of innocence, the case seemed nearly decided, when Mr. Davison sent a note to his counsel, desiring him to ask the girl whether she had heard any noise in the night. Lord Rosslyn objected; but his
client insisted. This seems to have been one of those strange perversions of intellect by which guilt is ordained to betray itself when all the artifice which had accompanied it is lulled asleep.

What could have been the object of this enquiry does not appear; its effect was fatal. The girl replied that she recollected hearing a noise along the passage, which had awakened her; but that, having been much fatigued during the day, she was too sleepy to get up to enquire the cause. More questions were asked, the noises and various other circumstances described; suspicions arose against Mr. Davison, and the business ended in his avowing himself the murderer.

He said that, from the moment in which he first beheld the face of his old schoolfellow, he had determined upon revenging his ancient quarrel by the death of the offender. He had crawled on hands and knees from his own room to that of his unfortunate guest, and unable to support himself without the use of his hands, had found great difficulty in opening the door; but helping himself by his teeth, had at last achieved it, reached the bed and perpetrated the horrid deed; he had then crawled back, and had contrived to free himself from all blood-stains before he got into his bed. It was the extraordinary noise made by his crawling which had disturbed the maidservant, and at last led to his detection.
Editor’s note
The authenticity of this story has been vehemently impeached, principally by lawyers on technical grounds ; and I have been censured for not altering the details so as to make them agree with the English rules of criminal procedure; in other words, for not falsifying the internal evidence of the narrative. These objectors are especially shocked at the notion of Wedderburne, a Chancery barrister, appearing as counsel for the prosecution, and at his being permitted to cross-examine the prisoner. Till long after Wedderburne's day it was not unusual for barristers intended for the equity bar to go circuit; and it appears to me not at all improbable that the prosecuting counsel whose suspicions were awakened by the language or manner of his client, should endeavour to elicit an explanation from the prisoner, with a view to her acquittal, and be aided, from a humane motive, by the judge. A hint or question with this view is incorrectly described as cross-examination.
But I am disposed to take broader ground. The story is told from memory by one lady, and written down by another; and each in turn was certainly impressed more by the broad circumstances than by the minute details. No reasonable person can well doubt that the trial was related by Lord Rosslyn in Mrs. Kemble's hearing; that he spoke from personal knowledge, whether he was professionally engaged or not; and that the acquittal, of the maidservant was brought about by some self-betraying word or conduct of the murderer.
A letter in Notes and Queries, in which the technical objections are pressed, has hitherto elicited no additional information. As the case involved no law point, it would not be reported or noticed in the law books: Lord Rosslyn's professional experience ranged over a long period, and the most diligent enquirer after truth may be excused for shrinking from the task of examining the scanty journals of the middle of the eighteenth century.
* Miss Joanna Baillie's tragedy to illustrate the passion of
** The ex-Chancellor Lord Loughborough.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Louis XVIII and the Fortune-teller

Wynnstay, 1827.— In the year 1791 Lady Malmesbury heard at Coblentz, from Monsieur (afterwards Louis XVIII.), the following story. He was once tempted to go in disguise, to consult a famous fortune-teller at Paris: after having heard his own fortune told, he asked the woman whether it was true that she could prophesy of those whom she could not see, merely by a view of their portraits.

She answered in the affirmative; and he produced a picture of Louis XVI. in a masquerade dress, without any of the insignia of royalty. She had scarcely seen the picture when she returned it, exclaiming, 'Ah Dieu, le malheureux! il perira sur l’echafaud.' Monsieur left the woman, laughing in his sleeve at the idea of having so completely deceived her and exposed her ignorance; but when he told the story to Lady Malmesbury, he said, 'Depuis que tant d'evenemens se sont passes en France, cela me donne beaucoup a penser.'

At that period (1791) the King had just accepted the Constitution; his popularity was at the greatest height,* and no event appeared less likely than his execution. At the time when the prophecy was made, several years before the Revolution, the event would certainly have been deemed impossible; and it is evident that nothing could have induced the fortune-teller to allude to it if she had known that the picture represented the monarch whose sway was then absolute.

[From Lady Hart, who wrote down the story immediately after hearing it from Lady Malmesbury.']

Editor's note
* He accepted the Constitution (Sept. 18, 1791) three months after the flight to Varennes, and he was under duress at the time. A somewhat similar story is told of Bernini, the sculptor, who was said to have prophesied the unhappy end of Charles I., on seeing his bust.