18th of July

St Symphorosa, and her seven sons, martyrs, 120. St Philastrius, bishop of Brescia, confessor, 4th century. St Arnoul martyr, about 534. St Arnoul, bishop of Metz, confessor, 640. St Fredericm bishop of Utrecht, martyr, 838. St Odulph, canon of Utrecht, confessor, 9th century. St Bruno, bishop of Segni, confessor, 1125.

 

Born. – Zachary Ursinus, celebrated German divine, 1534, Breslau; Dr Robert Hooke, natural philosopher, 1635, Freshwater, Isle of Wight; Saverio Bettinelli, Italian author, 1718, Mantua.
Died. – Pope John XVIII., 1009; Godfrey of Bouillon, king of Jerusalem, 1100; Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch), great Italian poet and sonneteer, 1374, Arqua, near Padua.

 

THE AUTHOR OF ‘BARON MUNCHAUSEN.’

The facts are fully known to us, and there can be no harm in stating them. Be it understood that Raspe paid a visit to Scotland in the summer and autumn of 1789, for the professed purpose of searching in various districts for minerals. It was announced in the Scots Magazine for October, that he had discovered copper, lead, iron, cobalt, manganese, &c.; that the marble of Tiree, the iron of Glengarry, and the lead on the Breadalbane property were all likely to turn out extremely well. From Sutherland he had brought specimens of the finest clay; there was ‘every symptom of coal,’ and a fine vein of heavy spar had been discovered. He had now begun his survey of Caithness. From another source we learn that a while saline marble in Icolmkill had received his attention.1 As to Caithness, here lay probably the loadstone that had brought him into Scotland, in the person of Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster, a most benevolent gentleman, who, during a long life, was continually engaged in useful projects, chiefly designed for the public benefit, and of novel kinds. With him Raspe took up his abode for a considerable time, at his spray-beaten castle on the Pentland Firth; and members of the family still speak of their father’s unfailing appreciation of the infinite intelligence and facetiousness of his visitor’s conversation. Sir John had, some years before, discovered a small vein of yellow mundick on the moor of Skinnet, four miles from Thurso. The Cornish miners he consulted told him that the mundock was itself of no value, but a good sign of other valuable minerals not far off. In their peculiar jargon, ‘white mundick was a good horseman, and always rode on a good load.’2 Sir John now employed Raspe to examine the ground, not designing to mine it himself, but to let it to others if it should turn out favourably. For a time, this investigation gave the proprietor very good hopes. Masses of a bright heavy mineral were brought to Thurso Castle, as foretastes of what was coming. But, in time the bubble burst, and it was fully concluded by Sir John Sinclair, that the ores which appeared were all brought from Cornwall, and planted in the places where they were found. Miss Catherine Sinclair had often heard her father relate the story, but never with the slightest trace of bitterness. On the contrary, both he and Lady Sinclair always said, that the little loss they made on the occasion was amply compensated by the amusement which the mineralogist had given them, while a guest in their house.

Such was the author of Baron Munchausen, a man of great natural penetration and attainments, possessed of lively general faculties, and well fitted for a prominent position in life. Wanting, however, the crowning grace of probity, he never quite got his head above water, and died in poverty and obscurity. It will be observed that, in his mining operations in Caithness, he answers to the character of Dousterswivel in the Antiquary; and there is every reason to believe that he gave Scott the idea of that character, albeit the baronet of Ulbster did not prove to be so extremely imposed upon as Sir Arthur Wardour, or in any other respect a prototype of that ideal personage. Of all Raspe’s acknowledged works, learned, ingenious, and farseeing, not one is now remembered, and his literary fame must rest with what he probably regarded as mere jeu d’esprit.

 

1  Walker’s Econ. Hist. of Hebrides, ii. 379.
2  Stat. Account of Scotland, xx. 538.

 

On this Day in Other Sources.

 

She passed the 18th [July, 1563,] at Dunbarton: But, on the next day, she went to Currie, where she slept, and remained even on the 20th: On the 21st, she rode to Inverary: The Countess of Argyle, who entertained her, was her natural sister, being the daughter of James V., and the wife of the Earl of Argyle. 

– Life of Mary, pp.78-98.

 

July 18 [1576]. – The work of printing the Bible, undertaken by Arbuthnot and Bassendyne in March of the year preceding, had proved a heavier undertaking than they expected, and had met with ‘impediments.’ They now therefore came with their sureties before the Privy Council, and pleaded for nine months’ further time to complete the work, obliging themselves, in case of failure, to return the money which had been contributed by the various parishes. This grace was extended to them. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.56-80.

 

On the 18th of the following July [1601] the two “over portis,”  – the Kirk port and the Rottenrow port, – were ordered to be taken down and the timber and deals applied in repairing and making a little house on the bridge end, previously authorised to be erected for the use of the town and relief of the customer and his servants.1

– Scots Lore, pp.15-29.

1  Council Records, i. 224.

 

Charles [I.], with great solemnity, was crowned king of Scotland, England, France, and Ireland, by the Bishop of St. Andrews, who placed the crown upon his head; and on the 18th July [1633] he left Edinburgh on his return to London. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.47-66.

 

Taken seriatim, the records of the Tolbooth contain volumes of entries made in the following brief fashion:- 

… 

“- July 18 [1663]. – Bessie Brebner; hanged for murder.” 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.123-138.

 

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There was another hut close to the village of Govan, of which I am able to give a view from an original drawing made about the year 1815. The quantities of salmon taken were sometimes very great, and the price of the fish was small. In 1748, when there had been a very plentiful supply, the Glasgow Journal of 18th July in that year announced that salmon was to be sold in the Glasgow Market at a penny the pound. In the early acts of parliament relating to the deepening of the river the rights of fishing were carefully protected, but before long all protection had to be abandoned, and salmon-fishing in the Clyde above Dunbarton is now a thing of the past. 

– Old Glasgow, pp.150-161.

 

The laws authorise entail, by which real estates are preserved to a series of heirs, unattachable by the claims of creditors. They have specially exempted lands from the heavy probate and legacy duty, imposed on all other kinds of property descending by inheritance or Will. By these means alone, according to calculation, they saved themselves the enormous sum of £3,000,000 annually. I say, for instance, that a poor labouring man, by dint of hard industry and economy, has saved two hundred pounds, which he leaves to a relative at his death. The amount is taxed at the rate of one to ten per cent., according to the nearest of kin. But say that a lord, duke, or earl dies, and leaves an estate of from one to forty thousand pounds a year, not one penny is in this case paid in the shape of tax. They managed that the industrious, and all other classes but their own, should pay sweetly for public misrule. To help themselves still further, they have saddled eight hundred and forty-one of their order upon the nation, under the lucrative title of State Pensioners, whose pensions average £1,876, total, £1,638,371 per annum, not speaking of the thousands of lowergrades of pensioners. I shall conclude this portion of my address to you, by briefly informing you of the expenses of the aristocratic fighting establishment of Great Britain, during thirty years of peace, (both military and naval), – £549,083,112; average per annum, £16,150,000, including the expenses of putting down the Canadian Liberals, and of the Opium War in China. (See Lord John Russell’s speech in the House of Commons, on the 18th of July, 1848.) In short, Madam, if I was to enumerate what I know myself of the extravagant expenditure of the British Aristocratic Government, and of the monopolising systems of Great Britain, you would be astonished how the producers of all the wealth and splendour you have seen in England could exist at all. The Duke of Wellington alone cost the nation £2,762,563, since he entered the army, up to 1818. No wonder that the magnificent edifices, the sumptuous furnishings and embellishments, the beauties of art and nature within and without these edifices, and the amiable demeanour of the crafty ladies of England, have dazzled your eyes, so much so as to throw all republic grandeur, liberty, beauty, and arrangements, completely in the shade of insignificancy. But, Madam, had you made proper enquiry and research, you would have found that all these magnificent superstructures and splendour which rivetted your attention, and brought forth your admiration and superfluity of praise, were founded on American and West Indian slavery, and East Indian plunder, embellished and supplied by home plunder; then you have a fair specimen, rather an ocular demonstration of the sublime and ridiculous – somewhat like what you will find in Spain, Portugal and Italy. There you will find superb mansions, and churches which will surpass any you have seen in England, connected with an institution they call The Holy Inquisition. But in the rear and basement, you may find racks, gags, wheels, and other instruments of punishment; helpless, hopeless victims going through various ordeals of lingering death, and a charnel house to receive them. Let no one suppose that I include the English people in this black catalogue; no, I respect them, for they are the real victims of unnecessary dignity and grandeur. 

– Gloomy Memories, pp.71-134.

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