2nd of January

St Macarius of Alexandria, anchoret. St Concordius, martyr. St Adelarf, abbot.

[It is not possible in this work to give special notices of all the saints of the Romish calendar; nor is it desirable that such should be done. There are, however, several of them who make a prominent figure in history; some have been remarkable as active and self-devoted missionaries of civilisation; while others supply curious examples of the singularities of which men are capable under what are now very generally regarded as morbid views of religion. Of such persons it does not seem improper that notices of a dispassionate nature should be given, among other memorable matters connected with the days of the year.]

 

Born. – General Wolfe, Westerham, Kent, 1727. 
Died. – Alexander, Earl of Rosslyn, Lord Chancellor of England, 1805; Dr Andrew Ure, chemist, 1857. 

 

GENERAL WOLFE.

The want of a Life of General Wolfe, – a strange want, considering the glory which rests on the name, – has caused some points regarding him to remain in doubt. It is doubtful, for example, if he was in service in the campaign of the Duke of Cumberland in the north of Scotland in 1746.

In Jacobite Memoirs of the Rebellion of 1745-6, a collection of original papers edited by Mr Robert Chambers in 1834, there are evidences of a gentleman’s house at Aberdeen having been forcibly taken possession of by the Duke of Cumberland and General Hawley; who, not content with leaving no requital behind them, took away many articles of value, which are afterwards found to have been sold in London. In this unpleasant story, a ‘Major Wolfe,’ described as aide-de-camp to Hawley, figures as a bearer of rough messages. A painful question arises, ‘Could this be the future hero of Quebec?’ One fact is gratifying by contradiction, that this hero was not a major till 1749. Could it be his father? This is equally unlikely, for he was then a brigadier-general. It is to be observed that James Wolfe, though only nineteen at this time, was a captain in Barrell’s regiment (having received that commission in June 1744), and Barrell’s regiment, we know, stood in the left of the front line of the royal army at Culloden: a mistake of major for captain is easily conceivable. In the hope of getting conclusive evidence that the admired Wolfe was not involved in the personal barbarisms of Cumberland and Hawley, the editor of the Jacobite Memoirs wrote to Mr Southey, who, he understood, was prepared to compile a memoir of General Wolfe from original materials; and he received the following answer:

Keswick, 11th August, 1833.
Sir, – Immediately upon receiving your obliging letter, I referred to my own notes and extracts from the correspondence of Wolfe with his family, the whole of which has been in my possession.
There I find that his father was with the Duke of Cumberland’s army in 1745, and that he himself was at Newcastle in the November of that year. His father was a general at that time; and Wolfe, I think, was not yet a major (though I cannot immediately ascertain this), for he only received his lieutenant’s1 commission in June 1744. My present impression is that he was not in the Scotch campaign, and that the Major Wolfe of whom your papers speak must have been some other person. His earliest letter from Scotland is dated January 1749.
Throughout his letters Wolfe appears to have been a considerate, kind-hearted man, as much distinguished from most of his contemporary officers by humane and gentlemanly feeling as by the zeal with which he devoted himself to his profession. All that has hitherto been known of him tends to confirm this view of his character.
I am much obliged to you for your offer of the volume in which the paper is printed, and shall thankfully receive it when it is published, Meantime, Sir, I have the honour to remain, &c.’

If, after all, there is nothing but character to plead against the conclusion that Wolfe was the harsh message-bearer of the brutal Hawley, it is to be feared that the defence is a weak one. In the army which marched into Scotland in 1746, and put down the rebellion, there was a general indignation and contempt for the Scottish nation, disposing men otherwise humane to take very harsh measures. The ordinary laws were trampled on; worthy friends of the government, who pleaded for mercy to the vanquished, were treated with contumely; some of the English officers were guilty of extreme cruelty towards the Highland peasantry. No one is remembered with more horror for his savage doings than a certain Captain Caroline [Frederick] Scott; and yet this is the same man whom Mallet introduces in his poem of the Wedding Day as a paragon of amiableness. The verses are as follows:

‘A second see! of special note, 
Plump Comus in a Colonel’s coat; 
Whom we this day expect from far, 
A jolly first-rate man of war; 
On whom we boldly dare repose, 
To meet our friends, or meet our foes.’

To which the poet appends a prose note:

  ‘The late Col. Caroline Scott, who, though extremely corpulent, was uncommonly active; and who, to much skill, spirit, and bravery, as an officer, joined the greatest gentleness of manners as a companion and friend. He died a sacrifice to the public, in the service of the East India Company, at Bengal, in the year 1755.’

If the Caroline Scott who tortured the poor Highlanders was really this gentle-natured man, the future hero of Quebec can be imagined as carrying rough messages to the lady at Aberdeen.

 

LORD CHANCELLOR ROSSLYN.

Alexander Wedderburn, Earl of Rosslyn, Lord Chancellor of England from 1793 to 1801, entered in his youth at the Scottish bar, but had from the first an inclination to try the English, as a higher field of ambition. After going through the usual drudgeries of a young Scotch counsel for three years, he was determined into that career which ended in the English chancellorship by an accident. There flourished at that time at the northern bar a veteran advocate named Lockhart, the Dean of the body, realising the highest income that had ever been known there, namely a thousand a year, and only prevented from attaining the bench through the mean spite of the government, in consequence of his having gallantly gone to defend the otherwise helpless Scotch rebels at Carlisle in 1746.2 Lockhart, with many merits, wanted that of a pleasant temper. He was habitually harsh and overbearing towards his juniors, four of whom (including Wedderburn) at length agreed that, on the first occasion of his shewing any insolence towards one of them, he should publicly insult him, for which object it was highly convenient that the Dean had been once threatened with a caning, and that his wife did not bear a perfectly pure character. In the summer of 1757, Wedderburn chanced to be opposed to Lockhart, who, nettled probably by the cogency of his arguments, hesitated not to apply to him the appellation of ‘presumptuous boy.’ The young advocate, rising afterwards to reply, poured out upon Lockhart a torrent of invective such as no one in that place had ever heard before. ‘The learned Dean,’ said he, ‘has confined himself on this occasion to vituperation; I do not say that he is capable of reasoning, but if tears would have answered his purpose, I am sure tears would not have been wanting.’ Lockhart started up and threatened him with vengeance. ‘I care little, my lords,’ said Wedderburn, ‘for what may be said or done by a man who has been disgraced in his person and dishonoured in his bed.’ The judges felt their flesh creep at the words, and Lord President Craigie could with difficulty summon energy to tell the young pleader that this was language unbecoming an advocate and unbecoming a gentleman. According to Lord Campbell, ‘Wedderburn, now in a state of such excitement as to have lost all sense of decorum and propriety, exclaimed that “his lordship had said as a judge what he could not justify as a gentleman.” The President appealed to his brethren as to what was fit to be done, who unanimously resolved that Mr Wedderburn should retract his words and make an humble apology, on pain of deprivation. All of a sudden Wedderburn seemed to have subdued his passion, and put on an air of deliberate coolness; when, instead of the expected retraction and apology, he stripped off his gown, and holding it in his hands before the judges, he said: “My lords, I neither retract nor apologise, but I will save you the trouble of deprivation; there is my gown, and I will never wear it more; virtute me involvo.” He then coolly laid his gown upon the bar, made a low bow to the judges, and, before they had recovered from their amazement, he left the court, which he never again entered.’3

It is said that he started that very day for London, where, thirty-six years afterwards, he attained the highest place which it is in the power of a barrister to reach. It is generally stated that he never revisited his native country till near the close of his life, after his resignation of the chancellorship.

There is something spirited, and which one admires and sympathises with, in the fact of a retort and reproof administered by a young barrister to an elderly one presuming upon his acquired reputation to be insolent and oppressive; but the violence of Wedderburn’s language cannot be justified, and such merit as there was in the case one would have wished to see in connection with a name more noted for the social virtues, and less for a selfish ambition, than that of Alexander Wedderburn.

 

EXTRAORDINARY LIGHT.

On the 2d of January 1756, at four in the afternoon, at Tuam, in Ireland, an unusual light, far above that of the brightest day, struck all the beholders with amazement. It then faded away by invisible degrees; but at seven, from west to east, ‘a sun of streamers’ appeared across the sky, undulating like the waters of a rippling stream. A general feeling of alarm was excited by this singular phenomenon. The streamers gradually became discoloured, and flashed away to the north, attended by a shock, which all felt, but which did no damage. – Gentleman’s Magazine, xxvi. 39. The affair seems to have been an example of the aurora borealis, only singular in its being bright enough to tell upon the daylight.

 

UNFOUNDED BUT PERSEVERING POPULAR NOTIONS.

[One] of these popular notions has a respectability about it, because, though not true, it proceeds on a conception of what is just and fitting. It represents all persons who have ever had anything to do with the invention or improvement of instruments of death, as suffering by them, generally as the first to suffer by them. Many cases are cited, but on strict examination scarcely one would be found to be true. It has been asserted, for example, that Dr Guillotin of Paris, who caused the introduction into France of the instrument bearing his name, was himself the first of its many victims; whereas he in reality outlived the Revolution, and died peaceably in 1814. Nor is it irrelevant to keep in mind regarding Guillotin, that he was a man of gentle and amiable character, and proposed this instrument for execution as calculated to lessen the sufferings of criminals. So has it been said that the Regent Morton of Scotland introduced the similar instrument called the Maiden into his country, having adopted it from an instrument for beheading which long stood in terror of the wicked at one of the gates of the town of Halifax in Yorkshire. But it is ascertained that, whether Morton introduced it or not – and there is no proof that he did – it was in operation at Edinburgh some years before his death; first under the name of the Maiden, and afterwards under that of the Widow – a change of appellation to which it would be entitled after the death of its first bridegroom.

It has likewise been represented that the drop used in hanging was an improvement effected by an eminent joiner and town-councillor of Edinburgh, the famous Deacon Brodie, and that when he was hanged in October 1788 for housebreaking, he was the first to put the utility of the plan to the proof. But it is quite certain that, whether Brodie made this improvement or not, he was not the first person to test its serviceableness, as it appears to have been in operation at least three years before his death.4 even his title to the improvement must be denied, except, perhaps, as far as regards the introduction of it into practice in Edinburgh, as some such contrivance was used at the execution of Earl Ferrers in 1760, being part of a scaffold which the family of the unfortunate nobleman caused their undertaker to prepare on that occasion, that his lordship might not swing off from a cart like a plebeian culprit. ‘there was,’ says Horace Walpole, ‘a new contrivance for sinking the stage under him, which did not play well; and he suffered a little by the delay, but was dead in four minutes.’

 

1  Mistake for ‘captain’s.’
2  These particulars regarding Lockhart are stated from the writer’s recollection of a conversation in 1833 with Sir William Macleod Bannatyne, who had entered at the Scotch bar exactly seventy years before, while Lockhart was still flourishing.
3  Lives of the Chancellors.
4  The Scots Magazine, in relating the execution of one William Mills for housebreaking, 21st September 1785, says, that ‘part of the platform on which he stood dropped a few minutes before three.’ 

 

On This Day from Other Sources.

 

QUEEN OF SCOTS CONTINUES HER CAPTIVITY IN ENGLAND.

On the 2d of January 1570, the Queen of Scots was carried back, from Coventry to Tutbury, when the country was free, from insurrection, though not free from tyranny. The rebellion, in England, was, scarcely, suppressed, when the Regent Murray laboured, earnestly, that the Queen of Scots might be delivered into his hands; offering hostages; and engaging to deliver the Earls of Northumberland, and Westmoreland, who were now in his power.

– Life of Mary, pp.238.

 

PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY & REGENT OF GLASGOW UNIVERSITY GAINS DEGREE.

[Law (Jo[hn]) P.P.] Calendarium Lunæ Perpetuum: cursus Lunæ acurate monstratus. 1699.

The author was Professor of Philosophy in the University. He was the last Regent admitted after disputation. On this occasion (2nd January, 1691) there were nine candidates who disputed in presence of the Faculty. Law was son of Robert Law, minister of East Kilpatrick; he died in 1718, leaving a legacy of books to the University Library.

Memorial Catalogue, Gallery 1.

 

TOBACCO MERCHANT BORN.

ALEXANDER BROWN. 

Born 2nd January, 1738; died, 6th September, 1803. 

Merchant in Glasgow. Bailie in 1779, and Dean of Guild, 1784, 1785. A fine classical scholar and a graceful artist. He designed the seals of several of the Glasgow Incorporations. Son of John Brown (No. 64A). He married, in 1770, Isabella, daughter of John Noble of Ferme and Ardardan Noble, and had issue, James Dennistoun Brown, H.E.I.C.S., grandfather of the lender, and a daughter, Jane, afterwards Mrs. Humphrey Ewing Maclae of Cathkin (see No. 426).

Memorial Catalogue, Gallery 1.

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