19th of May

St Prudentiana, virgin, 1st century. St Peter Celestine, Pope, 1296.

Born. – John Theophilus Fichte, German philosophical writer, 1762, Rammenau; Professor John Wilson, poet and miscellaneous writer, 1785, Paisley.
Died. – Flaccus Alcuinus, learned theologian, 804, Tours; Adam Billaut, French poet, 1662; Thomas Gent, printer of York, 1778; James Boswell, author of Life of Dr Johnson, 1795.*


Boswell gets but hard measure from the world. We owe to him the best, because the most complete, account of a human being – in short, the best piece of biography – that the world possesses; and yet he is seldom respectfully spoken of. Even the completeness of the life of Johnson, proceeding as it does from his extreme veneration for the man, stands as a fact rather against than for him. True, Boswell did not exhibit in life many sordid qualities; he failed in his profession as a counsel, both in his own country and in London; and he clouded his latter days and cut them short by dissipation. Surely many estimable men have done no better. True, also, he was vain, fickle, frivolous, to some extent; but have not many been so without forfeiting the regard of those who knew them? Perhaps the best defence that can be made for Boswell is to cite the regard in which he was held by his contemporaries – Johnson, above all. Invariable tradition represents him as the most pleasant of all pleasant companions. His high spirits, his drollery, his pure self-revealing simplicity, made him the delight of his friends. Surely, if a man had these good qualities, was at the same time honourable in his social and domestic relations, and possessed of the literary power and industry required for such a book as the Life of Johnson, he could not be quite a despicable thing. 

It is little known that Boswell occasionally wooed the Muses. The following is a song which he composed to an Irish air, in celebration of one of his many youthful love-affairs, and which can scarcely be said to have been published.1

‘Oh, Larghan Clanbrassil, how sweet is thy sound, 
 To my tender remembrance, as Love’s sacred ground: 
 For there Marg’ret Caroline first charmed my sight, 
 And filled my young heart with a fluttering delight.
 When I thought her my own, ah! too short seemed the day 
 For a jaunt to Downpatrick, or a trip on the sea; 
 To express what I felt then, all language were vain – 
 ‘Twas in truth what the poets have studied to feign.
 But too late I found even she could deceive, 
 And nothing was left but to weep and to rave; 
 Distracted I fled from my dear native shore, 
 Resolved to see Larghan Clanbrassil no more.
 Yet still, in some moments enchanted, I find 
 A ray of her softness beam soft on my mind; 
 While thus in blest fancy my angel I see, 
 All the world is a Larghan Clanbrassil to me.’
1  It is transcribed from a volume of song which his son, Sir Alexander Boswell, gave anonymously to the world in 1803.
*  After I discovered what kind of person Johnson was, I opted for Boswell’s version of their ‘Tour to the Hebrides’ rather than Johnson’s. After reading it through a couple of times I have huge admiration for Boswell’s patience when it came to the obnoxious Johnson.

On this Day in Other Sources.

About the end of March, in the year of our redemption 1328, Louis [IV.] of Bavaria (a sworn enemy to Pope John [XXII.]) comes to Rome, where he is crowned with the 3rd crown, by Sciarra Colonna, where he called a counsel of diverse archbishops, bishops and abbots, that adhered to him, and there began a new schism, for they elected Peter John Olivi, a [Franciscan] of Umbria, Pope, and named him Nicholas V.; this Antipope was elected [on] the 19th day of May this same year. 

– Historical Works, pp.88-104.

This year, 1364, after the death of John [II.] the Magnanimous, King of France, his son Charles, the 5th of that name, called the Wise, was solemnly crowned at Rheims, the 19th day of May; he warred very fortunately at this time against his enemies the English, by his brothers and chief commanders; and whatever former neglect or evil fortune had lost or omitted, by his wisdom he providently foresaw and recovered. 

– Historical Works, pp.104-124.

Amidst those disquieting scenes, Mary returned to Edinburgh, early in May. Owing to some intimations of Randolph, before her journey to Fife, she had allowed her mind to swell upon a personal interview, with Elizabeth, in England. Whether Cecil, or Maitland, suggested this idle purpose, cannot now be told: Mary, certainly, laid the matter before her privy council, on the 19th of May [1562]: And her counsellors left the decision of the matter to herself, “if she should think her own person to be in any way in surety, upon any promise to be made, by the English Queen.” Mary was so little apprehensive of her personal safety, that she sent Secretary Maitland, to London, to agree upon the detail of such an interview. The Queen wrote to Leicester upon the subject: And her chief minister, the Earl of Mar, addressed a letter to Cecil, upon the same business. For carrying it into effect; a provisional treaty was, actually, agreed upon, so sincere, seemed Elizabeth, for the moment: But, she soon began to vacillate, between the two opinions, whether to meet, or not to meet, the Scotish Queen at Nottingham. At length, in July, she sent that truly respectable statesman, Sir Henry Sidney, to Edinburgh; in order to explain to the Scotish Queen, how inconvenient it would be, to meet her, personally, while the troubles continued, in France. 

– Life of Mary, pp.42-61.

On the 19th day of May [1590], [Queen Anna] made her entry into the town of Edinburgh, accompanied with all [those] that attended her from Denmark, where they were royally feasted by the city. 

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

On Tuesday (19th of May, 1789) the three companies of the City Guard were reviewed by the magistrates on the Calton Hill. The men now composing this corps have all been in the army (except a few), and the captains having all served in the line last war, a remarkable improvement and dexterity were observed in their manœuvres and exactness of firing. The magistrates complimented the commanding officer, and gave a handsome donation to the men for their behaviour. The magistrates have ordered the night sentinels to be furnished with rattles, similar to those of the watchmen in London, in case of fire or riot, for the purpose of early assistance from the main guard.” (Ibid., 1789.) All the officers wore bullion epaulettes and gilded gorgets. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.123-138.


Monday, May 18.

   Mr McLAREN then rose to move the following amendment:- ‘That no arrangement respecting additional members can be just or satisfactory which does not treat Scotland, as regards the number of its representatives in Parliament, as an integral part of the United Kingdom, entitled to be placed on a footing of perfect equality with England and Ireland in proportion to its present population, and the revenue which it yields to the national exchequer, as compared with the present proportion of revenue in England and Ireland, and that to establish this equality at least fifteen additional members should now be provided for Scotland… It had been proved a short time since that one class had a member for 36,000 votes, while another class had only a member for 40,000 or 46,000 votes. But what was the case with Scotland? Why, that the largest constituency it was about to enfranchise had 100,000 inhabitants and but one member; while the smallest had 107,000 and but one… A return recently made showed that Scotland contributed to the exchequer £8,289,000 annually, while Ireland contributed to the same only £6,800,000. The sums, however, voted during the same year for Scotch purposes amounted to only £552,000; while the sums voted for Ireland amounted to £2,250,000. In other words, while Scotland paid more to the exchequer than Ireland, Ireland got 400 per cent. more out of it than Scotland. Surely it could not be contended that the people of Scotland were to remain hewers of wood and drawers of water to bring in money to the public purse, but were to have no adequate or fair voice in the expenditure of that money. Taking the proportionate contribution to the national expenditure of the three kingdoms, Scotland was entitled to 35 members more than she has at present; while on the scale of population she was entitled to an addition of about eighteen members… It was one of the watchwords of English liberty, that representation and taxation should go together; but this principle was reversed in the case of Scotland…”

– Edinburgh Evening Courant, Tuesday 19th May, 1868.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1850-1875.

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