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6th of January – Twelfth Day

St Melanius, bishop, 490. St Nilammon, hermit. St Peter, abbot of St Austin’s, Canterbury, 608.

Born. – Joan d’Arc, 1402; Peter Metastasio, poet, 1698; Benjamin Franklin, philosopher, Boston, U.S., 1706; David Dale, philanthropist, 1739. 
Died. – Madame d’Arblay (Frances Burney), novelist, 1840; James Smith, comic poet, 1840; Fanny Wright, lady politician, 1853.


Modern society has felt as if there were something wanting in the character of Franklin; yet what the man positively had of good about him was, beyond all doubt, extremely good. Self-denial, energy, love of knowledge, sagacity to discern and earnestness to pursue what was calculated to promote happiness amongst mankind, scientific ingenuity, courage in the protection of patriotic interests against misrule – all were his. How few men possess half so many high qualities!

It is an extremely characteristic circumstance that, landing at Falmouth from a dangerous voyage, and going to church with his son to return thanks to God for their deliverance, he felt it as an occasion when a Catholic would have vowed to build a chapel to some saint: ‘not being a Catholic,’ said the philosopher, ‘if I were to vow at all, it would be to build a lighthouse‘ [the article found chiefly wanting towards the end of their voyage].

It is little known that it was mainly by the advice of Franklin that the English government resolved to conquer Canada, and for that purpose sent out Wolfe’s expedition.

While in our island at that time (1759), as agent for the colony of Pennsylvania, he made an excursion to Scotland, accompanied by his son. His reputation as a man of science had made him well known there, and he was accordingly received with distinction by Hume, Robertson, Lord Kames, and other literary men of note, was made a doctor of St Andrews University, and a burgess by the Town Council of Edinburgh. Franklin paid a long visit to Lord Kames at his seat of Kames in Berwickshire, and when he came away, his host and hostess gave him a convoy into the English border. Some months after, writing to his lordship from London, he said: ‘How much more agreeable would our journey have been, if we could have enjoyed you as far as York! We could have beguiled the way by discoursing on a thousand things that now we may never have an opportunity of considering together; for conversation warms the mind, enlivens the imagination, and is continually starting fresh game that is immediately pursued and taken, and which would never have occurred in the duller intercourse of epistolary correspondence. So that whenever I reflect on the great pleasure and advantage I received from the free communication of sentiment in the conversation we had at Kames, and in the agreeable little rides to the Tweedside, I shall ever regret our premature parting.’

‘Our conversation,’ he added, ‘until we came to York, was chiefly a recollection of what we had seen and heard, the pleasure we had enjoyed, and the kindnesses we had received in Scotland, and how far that country had exceeded our expectations. On the whole, I must say, I think the time we spent there was six weeks of the densest happiness I have ever met with in any part of my life; and the agreeable and instructive society we found there in such plenty, has left so pleasing an impression on my memory, that, did not strong connections draw me elsewhere, I believe Scotland would be the country I should choose to spend the remainder of my days in.’

Soon after, May 3rd, 1760, Franklin communicated to Lord Kames a plan he had formed to write a little book under the title of The Art of Virtue. ‘Many people,’ he said, ‘lead bad lives that would gladly lead good ones, but do not know how to make the change. They have frequently resolved and endeavoured it; but in vain, because their endeavours have not been properly conducted. To expect people to be good, to be just, to be temperate, &c., without shewing them how they should become so, seems like the ineffectual charity mentioned by the Apostle, which consisted in saying to the hungry, the cold, and the naked, “Be ye fed, be ye warmed, be ye clothed,” without shewing them how they should get food, fire, or clothing.

‘Most people have naturally some virtues, but none have naturally all the virtues.

‘To inquire those that are wanting, and secure what we require as well as those we have naturally, is the subject of an art. It is properly an art, as painting, navigation, or architecture. If a man would become a painter, navigator, or architect, it is not enough that he is advised to be one, that he is convinced by the arguments of his adviser that it would be for his advantage to be one, that he is convinced by the arguments of his adviser that it would be for his advantage to be one, and that he resolves to be one; but he must also be taught the principles of the art, be shewn all the methods of working, and how to acquire the habits of using properly all the instruments; and thus regularly and gradually he arrives, by practice, at some perfection in the art. If he does not proceed thus, he is apt to meet with difficulties that might discourage him, and make him drop the pursuit. 

‘My Art of Virtue has also its instruments, and teaches the manner of using them.

‘Christians are directed to have faith in Christ, as the effectual means of obtaining the change they desire. It may, when sufficiently strong, be effectual with many; for a full opinion, that a teacher is infinitely wise, good, and powerful, and that he will certainly reward and punish the obedient and disobedient, must give great weight to his precepts, and make them much more attended to by his disciples. But many have this faith in so weak a degree, that it does not produce the effect. Our Art of Virtue may, therefore, be of great service to those whose faith is unhappily not so strong, and may come in aid of its weakness. Such as are naturally well-disposed, and have been so carefully educated as that good habits have been early established and bad ones prevented, have less need of this art; but all may be more or less benefited by it.’2

Between two men of such sentiments as Franklin and Lord Kames, thrown together for six weeks, the subject of religious toleration we may well suppose to have been frequently under discussion. Franklin communicated to his Scotch friend a small piece, of the nature of an apologue, designed to give a lesson of toleration, and which Kames afterwards published. It has often been reprinted as an original idea of the American philosopher; but, in reality, he never pretended to anything more than giving it its literary style, and the idea can be traced back through a devious channel to Saadi, the Persian poet, who, after all, relates it as coming from another person.

That Franklin should have ascended from the condition of a journeyman compositor to be a great philosopher and legislator, and ‘to stand before kings,’ is certainly one of the most interesting biographical facts which the eighteenth century presents. Without that frugal use of means, the want of which so signally keeps our toiling millions poor, it never could have been.

Of ever memorable value is the anecdote he tells of his practice in a London printing-office. ‘I drank only water,’ says he; ‘the other workmen, near fifty in number, were great drinkers of beer. On one occasion, I carried up and down stairs a large form of types in each hand, when others carried but one in both hands. They wondered to see that the Water American, as they called me, was stronger than themselves who drank strong beer. We had an alehouse boy, who always attended in the house to supply the workmen. My companion at the press drank every day a pint before breakfast, a pint at breakfast with his bread and cheese, a pint between breakfast and dinner, a pint at dinner, a pint in the afternoon about six o’clock, and another when he had done with his day’s work. I thought it a detestable custom; but it was necessary, he supposed, to drink strong beer that he might be strong to labour. I endeavoured to convince him that the bodily strength afforded by beer could only be in proportion to the grain or flour of the barley dissolved in the water of which it was made; that there was more flour in a pennyworth of bread; and therefore, if he could eat that with a pint of water, it would give him more strength than a quart of beer. He drank on, however, and had four or five shillings to pay out of his wages every Saturday night for that vile liquor; an expense I was free from. And thus these poor devils kept themselves always under.’


This day, called Twelfth-Day, as being in that number after Christmas, and Epiphany from the Greek ‘Επιφάνεια, signifying appearance, is a festival of the Church, in commemoration of the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles; more expressly to the three Magi, or Wise Men of the East, who came, led by a star, to worship him immediately after his birth. (Matt. ii. 1-12.) The Epiphany appears to have been first ‘observed as a separate feast in the year 813. Pope Julius I. is, however, reputed to have taught the Church to distinguish the Feasts of the Nativity and Epiphany, so early as about the middle of the fourth century. The primitive Christians celebrated the Feast of the Nativity for twelve days, observing the first and last with great solemnity; and both of these days were denominated Epiphany, the first the greater Epiphany, from our Lord having on that day become Incarnate, or made His appearance in “the flesh;” the latter, the lesser Epiphany, from the threefold manifestation of His Godhead – the first, by the appearance of the blazing star which conducted Melchior, Jasper, and Balthuzar, the three Magi, or wise men, commonly styled the three Kings of Cologne, out of the East, to worship the Messiah, and to offer him presents of “Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh” – Melchior the Gold, in testimony of his royalty as the promised King of the Jews; Jasper the Frankincense, in token of his Divinity; and Balthuzar the Myrrh, in allusion to the sorrows which, in the humiliating condition of a man, our Redeemer vouchsafed to take upon him: the second, of the descent of the Holy Ghost in the form of a Dove, at the Baptism: and the third, of the first miracle of our Lord turning water into wine at the marriage in Cana. All of which three manifestations of the Divine nature happened on the same day, though not in the same year.

‘To render due honour to the memory of the ancient Magi, who are supposed to have been kings, the monarch of this country himself, either personally or through his chamberlain, offers annually at the altar on this day, Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh; and the kings of Spain, where the Feast of Epiphany is likewise called the “Feast of the Kings,” were accustomed to make the like offerings.’ – Brady.

In the middle ages, the worship by the Magi was celebrated by a little drama, called the Feast of the Star. ‘Three priests, clothed as kings, with their servants carrying offerings, met from different directions before the altar. The middle one, who came from the east, pointed with his staff to a star. A dialogue then ensued; and, after kissing each other, they began to sing, “Let us go and inquire;” after which the precentor began a responsory, “Let the Magi come.” A procession then commenced; and as soon as it began to enter the nave, a crown, with a star resembling a cross, was lighted up, and pointed out to the Magi, with, “Behold the Star in the East.” This being concluded, two priests standing at each side of the altar, answered meekly, “We are those whom you seek;” and, drawing a curtain, shewed them a child, whom, falling down, they worshipped. Then the servants made the offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which were divided among the priests. The Magi, meanwhile, continued praying till they dropped asleep; when a boy, clothed in an alb, like an angel, addressed them with, “All things which the prophets said are fulfilled.” The festival concluded with chanting services, &c. At Soissons, a rope was let down from the roof of the church, to which was annexed an iron circle having seven tapers, intended to represent Lucifer, or the morning star; but this was not confined to the Feast of the Star.’ – Fosbroke’s Antiquities, ii. 700.

In its character as a popular festival, Twelfth-Day stands only inferior to Christmas. The leading object held in view is to do honour to the three wise men, or, as they are more generally denominated, the three kings. It is a Christian custom, ancient past memory, and probably suggested by a pagan custom, to indulge in a pleasantry called the Election of Kings by Beans.3 A large cake was formed, with a bean inserted, and this was called Twelfth-Cake. The family and friends being assembled, the cake was divided by lot, and whoever got the piece containing the bean was accepted as king for the day, and called King of the Bean. The importance of this ceremony in France, where the mock sovereign is named Le Roi de la Fève, is indicated by the proverbial phrase for good luck, ‘Il a trouvé la fève au gâteau,’ He has found the bean in the cake. In Rome, they do not draw king and queen, but indulge in a number of jocularities, very much for the amusement of children. Fruit-stalls and confectioners’ shops are dressed up with great gaiety. A ridiculous figure, called Beffana, parades the streets, amidst a storm of popular wit and nonsense. The children, on going to bed, hang up a stocking, which the Beffana is found next morning to have filled with cakes and sweetmeats is they have been good, but with stones and dirt if they have been naughty.

The sketch [above] is copied from an old French print, executed by J. Mariatte, representing Le Roi de la Fève (the King of the Bean) at the moment of his election, and preparing to drink to the company. In France, this act on his part was marked by a loud shout of ‘Le Roi boit!’ (The king drinks,) from the party assembled.

On Twelfth-Day, 1563, Mary Queen of Scots celebrated the French pastime of the King of the Bean at Holyrood, but with a queen instead of a king, as more appropriate, in consideration of herself being a female sovereign. The lot fell to the real queen’s attendant, Mary Fleming, and the mistress good-naturedly arrayed the servant in her own robes and jewels, that she might duly sustain the mimic dignity in the festivities of the night. The English resident, Randolph, who was in love with Mary Beton, another of the queen’s maids of honour, wrote in excited terms about this festival to the Earl of Leicester. ‘Happy was it,’ says he, ‘unto this realm, that her reign endured no longer. Two such sights, in one state, in so good accord, I believe was never seen, as to behold two worthy queens possess, without envy, one kingdom, both upon a day. I leave the rest to your lordship to be judged of. My pen staggereth, my hand faileth, further to write… The queen of the bean was that day in a gown of cloth of silver; her head, her neck, her shoulders, the rest of her whole body, so beset with stones, that more in our whole jewel-house were not to be found… The cheer was great. I never found myself so happy, nor so well treated, until that it came to the point that the old queen [Mary] herself, to show her mighty power, contrary unto the assurance granted me by the younger queen [Mary Fleming], drew me into the dance, which part of the play I could with good will have spared unto your lordship, as much fitter for the purpose.’4

1  Franklin is sometimes said to have been born on the 17th of January. He was, in reality, born on what was held at the time of birth as the 6th, being old style. Considering that the day of the birth of remarkable men, as expressed in their own time, is that round which our associations arrange themselves, it is intended in this work to adhere to that date, in all cases where it is known.
2  Sparkes’s Life and Correspondence of Franklin. 10 vols. 8vo. Philadelphia. Vol. ix.
3  ‘Some maintain it to have been derived from the custom observed by the Roman children, who, at the end of their Saturnalia, drew lots with beans, to see who would be king.’ – Brady
4  Strickland’s Lives of the Queens of Scotland, iv. 20.

Associated Words from Jamieson’s Scottish Dictionary.

BANE, King of Bane, The same with King of the Bean, a character in the Christmas gambols. This designation is given to the person who is so fortunate as to receive that part of a divided cake which has a bean in it; Rex fabae. Knox.
” Now, now, the mirth comes, 
With the cake full of plums, 
Where bean’s the king of the feast here.” 
– Herrick.

On This Day from Other Sources.


… the old chief of the Glencoe Macdonalds had sped to Inverlochy or Fort-William before the end of the year, and offered his oath to the governor there, but, to his dismay, found he had come to the wrong officer. It was necessary he should go to Inverary, many miles distant, and there give in his submission to the sheriff. In great anxiety, the old man toiled his way through the wintry wild to Inverary. he had to pass within a mile of his own house, yet stopped not to enter it. After all his exertions, the sheriff being absent for two days after his arrival, it was not till the 6th of January [1692] that his oath was taken and registered. The register duly went thereafter to the Privy Council at Edinburgh; but the name of Macdonald of Glencoe was not found in it: it was afterwards discovered to have been by special plans obliterated, though still traceable.  

Domestic Annals, pp.342-354. 


James Mushet undertook to knock his sister-in-law on the head for twenty guineas, and got one or two in hand by anticipation, part of which he employed in burying a child of his own.

At length, the infatuated Nicol [Mushet] borrowed a knife one day, hardly knowing what he wanted it for, and, taking his wife with him that night, as on a walk to Duddingston, he embraced the opportunity of killing her at a solitary place in the King’s Park. He went immediately after to his brother’s, to tell him what he had done, but in a state of mind which made all afterwards seem a blank to him. Next morning the poor victim was found lying on the ground, with her throat cut to the bone, and many other wounds, which she had probably received in struggling with her brutal murderer.

Mushet was seized and examined, when he readily related the whole circumstances of the murder and those which had led to it. He was adjudged to be hanged in the Grassmarket on the ensuing 6th of January [1723]. His associate Burnbank was declared infamous, and sentenced to banishment. the common people, thrilled with horror by the details of the murder, marked their feelings in the old national mode by raising a cairn on the spot where it took place; and Mushet’s Cairn has ever since been a recognised locality.

Domestic Annals, pp.390-397.



Sir – I take the liberty of addressing you upon a subject which, it appears to me, should be equally interesting to the people of Ireland, as to those of Scotland. I refer to the decided movement that has lately begun here, against that system by which the existence of Ireland and Scotland, as component parts of a United Empire, is systematically ignored – by which, as a consequence, the position and interests of these Countries are subordinated, and sacrificed to those of England – and under which, all public functions and establishments for the Union, are centred in London. As an Irish Journalist, you may be supposed to feel an interest in this subject.  

   Of course you are aware that strenuous efforts have been made to extinguish the movement in Scotland, by all manner of misrepresentation and ridicule. But these cannot alter the true facts and principles involved.  

   There are, no doubt, peculiarities, somewhat distinguishing the cases of Ireland and Scotland. But in the one great point of opposition to centralization, they have but one interest. From the accompanying copy of a recent address by the Council of the Scottish Association, and relative Tracts, you will see that this is a leading feature in the Scottish movement.  

   To me, individually, it appears that much, if not all, of the complaints that have been urged here, may be traced to an assumption on the part of our English fellow-subjects, that England stands, somehow or other in a superior, and the Sister Countries in a subordinate position. And there is no shape in which this displays itself more remarkably than in the ‘form of speech’ so generally adopted, even by her Majesty’s Ministers, by which England is represented as entirely swallowing up the other parts of the Union – which ignores the very existence of our Native Countries – and by which Irishmen and Scotsmen are held up to the world as Englishmen, wherever honor is to be derived from their actions.  

   In making this remark at such a time, I ask you to believe that I am far from being actuated by any feeling different from the most unreserved devotion, on the part of your or my Countrymen, to the assertion of the rights of Europe, and of this Empire, in the present great struggle. But the circumstances of that struggle only serve to bring out, in a more striking and demonstrative form, the thing of which I speak. Irishmen and Scotsmen have had their full share – some say more than their share – in the struggle; but in all this they are constantly represented as fighting the “battle of England,” or, as it was expressed lately in a General Order, ‘they have added fresh lustre to the military fame of England!’ In short, they are made to occupy the position of mere mercenaries in the English Army, while they should be engaged in a struggle for the honor of their own Countries and the safety of civilization.  

   Some of my views on this subject are given in the accompanying Pamphlet; and it is possible you may have seen how the first letter, there printed, was dealt with by the English Journals. It may have been, that my style of putting the question was open to criticism. Of that I do not pretend to judge. But, when English journalists can ostentatiously place Scotland in the same category with ‘the Channel Islands,’ and meet with applause in doing so, and when Ministers of the Crown give sanction to such assumptions, I think that my general idea is pretty well sustained.  

   You will observe that the only thing assuming even the form an argument, in the answers, to my remembrance, consisted in a reference to the position of Ireland. If, it was said, Scotland may refer to the Treaty of Union as ground for repudiating the imposition of the English name, why may not Ireland do the same? I might have replied, why not, if she sees it for honor or her interest? In the meantime, I may refer to my actual reply, in dealing with my English assailants. But it has been this reference to Ireland that has suggested the present communication.  

   Be so good as observe that I do not contend for the use of the words, Britain and British, from any abstract merit they possess. I seek to vindicate a principle, which is this – that, in a union of nations, whose histories and associations have, unfortunately, been antagonistic, the assumption of the old name of any one, for the whole, is necessarily offensive, degrading, and injurious to the others – representing them, at home and abroad, as mere dependencies, and encouraging the idea that their feelings, wishes, and interests must yield to those of the dominant nation; and that, consequently, in such a union, the adoption of some common name is essential towards affording fair play in the political and social relations of the parties, and in matters affecting honors and distinctions amongst them.  

   Now, this principle seems to be deliberately and systematically violated by England towards Scotland, in the face of the plainest stipulation. The plea that this must be insisted in, out of tenderness for Ireland, was a piece of gross humbug on the part of those who attempted to use it. I think, farther, that the principle is systematically violated towards Ireland also. What is there in the associations connected with the English name that may foster patriotic feelings in the bosom of an Irishman? Am I wrong in supposing that the men of Ireland (seeing anything at all in my principle) would infinitely prefer the general designation of British subjects, to having imposed on them a name antagonistic to every sentiment connected with their country’s history? It may, perhaps, be said that, literally speaking, even the British name is not to them that common ground I would desiderate; but, in a good degree, it is so. Antiquarian geographers, indeed, tell us the Isles of Britain comprehend your country as well as mine, and such an opinion is popular; but I do not dwell upon this. What I look to is, that we have here a name which, so far as history antecedents go, as regards Scotland, is entirely, and as regards Ireland, is comparatively, at least, free from such objections as I have referred to – which negatives the assumption of English superiority, and under which Irishmen and Scotsmen, alike, could cultivate a liberal spirit of nationality connected with their native countries, without having everything honorable, or of good report, produced by them, appropriated and stamped as English.  

   It is not possible here to dwell upon the many ways in which the neglect of the principle referred to may, and does, affect the honor and interests of Ireland and Scotland. These I must leave to yourself to observe, and I cannot suppose they are difficult of discovery.  

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

A. N. B.

   Glasgow, 2d January, 1855. 

– Waterford Chronicle, Saturday 6th January, 1855.

– Treaty of Union, 1850-1875.


SCOTLAND’S hills and dales can tell,  
How bravely foemen she could quell,  
What hosts before her vanquish’d fell  
On many a well fought day. 
For liberty her red cross flew;  
For liberty her sword she drew;  
For liberty her foes o’erthrew;  
She could not be a slave. 
When Rome’s proud eagle was unfurl’d,  
And floated o’er a prostrate world,  
Defiance, Caledonia hurl’d,  
And scorn’d the haughty foe. 
When Scandinavia pour’d her swarms;  
Fill’d all her coasts with dire alarms,  
Then Scotland dauntless rose in arms,  
Her heart was proud and brave. 
Like ocean wave rush’d on her foes,  
Like ocean’s barrier Scotland rose,  
And dashed them back and ’round them strews  
Their boasted chivalry. 
In freedom’s cause she drew her brand,  
And freedom still has bless’d her land,  
And laurel crown’d she aye could stand,  
‘Mid bravest of the brave.  
Even when her nobles did conspire,  
Chose England as their high umpire,  
Her gallant son she did inspire –  
Wallace of Ellerslie.
Who, follow’d by a noble band,  
Defended well their native land;  
And Cambuskenneth saw the stand  
They made for Scotland there.
But envy ever doth pursue  
The brave, the faithful, and the true,  
And traitors base this hero slew,  
Whose arm they dare not brave.  
Tho’ Scotland mourn’d her hero slain,  
And prostrate seem’d, she rose amain,  
And under Bruce did freedom gain,  
As Bannockburn can tell.
But though our wars with England cease,  
And union brings the joys of peace;  
Joys which may more and more increase,  
While time its course shall run;
Forget we not that patriot band,  
Midst blood and death who raised the brand,  
And fought for freedom and the land  
Of Scotia brave and free. 
J. M. AIM.
Sandwick, 6th January, 1857. 

‘Gloomy Memories’, pp.188-190.

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