12th of February

St Eulalia, virgin of Barcelona, martyr, about 305. St Meletius, patriarch of Antioch, 381. St Benedict, of Anian, abbot, 821. St Anthony Cauleas, patriarch of Constantinople, 896.

Born. – Gabriel Naudé, littérateur, 1600, Paris; Dr Cotton Mather (writer on Witchcraft), 1663, Boston, N. A.; Elias de Crebillon, French romancist, 1707, Paris; Edward Forbes, naturalist, 1815, Douglas, Isle of Man
Died. – David ap Owen, 1512; George Heriot, founder of ‘Heriot’s Hospital,’ 1624; Gabriel Brotier, editor of Tacitus, 1789, Paris; Lazaro Spallanzani, naturalist, 1799, Paris; Immanuel Kant, philosopher, 1804; Sir Astley Cooper, surgeon, 1841.


For nearly thirty years, from 1800, had this nefarious traffic flourished, when a Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed to investigate the matter. In reply to the following question: ‘Does the state of the law actually prevent the teachers of anatomy from obtaining the body of any person, which, in consequence of some peculiarity of structure, they may be particularly desirous of procuring?’ Sir Astley Cooper stated: ‘The law does not prevent our obtaining the body of an individual if we think proper; for there is no person, let his situation in life be what it may, whom, if I were disposed to dissect, I could not obtain.’ In reply to another question, Sir Astley Cooper said, ‘The law only enhances the price, and does not prevent the exhumation: nobody is secured by the law, it only adds to the price of the subject.’ 

The profession had for many years been anxious to devise some plan to prevent the exhumation of bodies; but it was thought too hazardous to attempt the enactment of laws on the subject, in consequence of the necessary publicity of the discussions upon them. The horrible murders committed at Edinburgh, under the system of Burking, and exposed in the year 1828, at last rendered it peremptorily necessary for the Government to establish some means of legalizing dissection, under restrictions regulated by the ministers of the Crown. An inspector was appointed, to whom the certificate of the death of the individual, and the circumstances under which he died, were to be submitted before the body could be dissected, and then only in the schools in which anatomizing was licensed by the Government; and this new system has much raised the characters of those who are teaching anatomy, as well as the science itself, in the estimation of the public. 

The Resurrectionists mostly came to bad ends. There were but few regulars; the others being composed of Spitalfields weavers, or thieves, who found the disguise of this occupation convenient for carrying on their own peculiar avocations. One was tried, and received sentence of death, for robbing the Edinburgh mail, but was pardoned upon the intercession of the Archdukes John and Lewis, who were much interested by finding the criminal at work in his cell, articulating the bones of a horse; he left the country, and was never after heard of. Another Resurrectionist, after a long and active career, withdrew from it in 1817, and occupied himself principally in obtaining and disposing of teeth. As a licensed suttler, in the Peninsula and France, he had drawn the teeth of those who had fallen in battle, and had plundered the slain: with the produce of these adventures, he built a large hotel at Margate, but his previous occupation being disclosed, his house was avoided, and disposed of at a very heavy loss: he was subsequently tried, and imprisoned for obtaining money under false pretences, and was ultimately found dead in a public-house near Tower-hill. It is credibly reported of one body-snatcher, that, at his death, he left nearly £6000 to his family. One, being captured, was tried and found guilty of stealing the clothes in which the bodies were buried, and was transported for seven years. A man who was long superintendent to the dissecting-room at St Thomas’s Hospital, was dismissed for receiving and paying for bodies sent to his employer, and re-selling them at an advanced price, in Edinburgh; he then turned Resurrectionist, was detected and imprisoned, and died in a state of raving madness.

On this Day in Other Sources.

There is a cattle fair here [Abernethy] on the 12th of February; also on the fourth Wednesday in May, and second Thursday in November. Population, 800. – This place, though “now a mean village,” says Dr Jamieson, “once boasted high honours, and had very considerable extent. It would appear that it was a royal residence in the reign of one of the Pictish princes who bore the name of Nethan or Nectan. The Pictish chronicle has ascribed the foundation of Abernethy to Nethan I., in the third year of his reign, corresponding with A.D. 458. The Register of St Andrews, with greater probability, gives it to Nethan II., about the year 600. Fordun and Wyntoun agree in assigning it to Garnat, or Garnard, the predecessor of the second Nethan. Abernethy had existed as a royal seat perhaps before the building of any conspicuous place of worship. For we learn, that the Nethan referred to ‘sacrificed to God and St Bridget at Aburnethige;’ and that the same Nethan, ‘king of all the provinces of the Picts, gave as an offering to St Bridget, Apurnethige, till the day of judgment.’ Fordun expressly asserts, that, when this donation was made, Abernethy was ‘the chief seat, both regal and pontifical, of the whole kingdom of the Picts.’

– Gazetteer of Scotland, pp.15-18.


[Chatelard] proceeded the full length, on the 12th of February 1563, of concealing himself, in the Queen’s bed chamber, when she was about to retire into it, for the night, with his sword, and dagger, beside him. This fact, being concealed, from the Queen, by her female attendants, from prudential motives, till the morning. The Queen commanded Chatelard out of her sight.

– Life of Mary, pp.78-98.


On the 12th [February, 1643], about eight in the morning, being a misty day, ‘visions seen at the hill of Brimman, within four miles of Aberdeen. William Anderson, tenant in Crabstone, told me he saw ane great army as appeared to him, both of horse and foot, about eight hours in the morning, being misty, and visibly continued till sunrising; syne vanished away in his sight with noise into ane moss hard beside. Likewise in the muir of Forfar, armies of men seen in the air. Whilk visions the people thought to be prodigious tokens, as it fell out over true.’ – Spal

– Domestic Annals, pp.257-277.


[Mr. Hope of] Rankeillor was ordered to produce letters of evidence that those shown were actually written by Lady Grange, and being found to be in the writing of Maclennan, they were dismissed as insufficient, and warrants, were refused. 

Undeterred by this, Hope, on the 12th of February [1741], fitted out a sloop, commanded by William Gregory, with twenty-five well-armed men, and sent him, with Mr. Maclennan on board, “to search for and rescue Lady Grange wherever she could be found;” but Macleod, on hearing of the departure of the sloop – which got no farther than Horse Shoe Harbour, in Lorn (where the master quarrelled with his guide, Mrs. Maclennan, and put her ashore) – had Lady Grange removed, and secluded in Assynt, at a farm-house, closely watched. There she became enfeebled in mind and body, the result of violent passions, intoxication, and latterly sea-sickness, which produced settled imbecility; and the unhappy lady thus treated was the wife of a man who, “not to speak of his office of a judge in Scotland, moved in English society of the highest character. He must have been the friend of Lyttelton, Pope, Thomson, and other ornaments of Frederick’s Court; and, as the brother-in-law of the Countess of Mar, who was sister of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, he would figure in the brilliant circle which surrounded that star of the age of the second George. Yet he does not appear to have ever felt a moment’s compunction at leaving the mother of his children to fret herself to death in a half-savage wilderness.” 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.246-252.


In 1745 the citizens of Glasgow and their neighbours were very forward in support of the government. About 3000 militia turned out, and from these was organized a regiment of 650 men, under the Earl of Home as their colonel. of which about 500 were Glasgow men, and the remainder chiefly from Paisley. They were marched to Stirling early in December, and were employed to guard the passes of the Forth.1 In the Glasgow Courant of 12th February, 1746, they are mentioned as a regiment which made “a very fine appearance, notwithstanding it had been raised and marched in nine days.” 

– Old Glasgow, pp.162-175. 

1  Cochrane Papers, Maitland Club, p. 117.

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