St Mary Magdalen. St Joseph of Palestine (Count Joseph), about 356. St Vandrille or Wandregisilus, abbot of Fontenelles, 666. St Meneve, abbot of Menat, 720. St Dabius or Davius, of Ireland, confessor.
Died. – Sir John Graham, Scottish patriot, killed at the battle of Falkirk, 1298; Charles VII., king of France, 1461, Meun, in Berri; Henry III., king of France, assassinated at Paris, 1589; Gerbrant Vander Eeckhout, Dutch painter, 1674; Pope Clement X., 1676; Francis Lord Gardenstone, Scottish judge, miscellaneous writer, 1793; Marie François Xavier Bichat, eminent French anatomist, 1802, Paris; Joseph Piazzi, eminent astronomer, 1826, Palermo.
THE beautiful story of Mary Magdalen – for such it is, though so obscurely related in Scripture – has always made her a popular saint among the Roman Catholics, and Italian painters and sculptors have found an inspiration in her display of the profound moral beauty of repentance. A medieval legend connected with her name represents her as ending her days in France. It is said that, after the crucifixion of Jesus, she, in company with the Virgin and Mary Salome, being much persecuted by the Jews, set sail on the Mediterranean in a leaky boat, and after a miraculous deliverance, landed in the south of Gaul. There, the party separated, the Magdalen retired to St Baume, to spend the remainder of her days in penitence and prayer; and in that retreat, in the odour of sanctity, she closed her earthly pilgrimage.
The rise of saintly histories forms a curious chapter in that of human belief. There has always been much less of positive deliberate deception in them than most persons would now be disposed to admit. Some appearances were presented – a supposition was hazarded about them – this, instantly translated by well-meaning credulity into a fact, set the story agoing. In an age when no one thought of sifting evidence, the tale took wing unchecked, and erelong it became invested with such sanctity, that challenge or doubt was out of the question. In some such way it probably was, that the remains of a dead body found by the monks of Vezelai under their high-altar, were accepted as those of Mary Magdalen. The news soon spread through France; the monks were delighted at the opportunity it afforded them of enriching their monastery, as the celebrity of the saint would certainly draw a great multitude of people; and they determined to encase these relics with a pomp which should dazzle the simple. The king of France, St Louis, who was always interested in anything relating to religion, determined to be present at the festival, and went to Vezelai accompanied by his whole court. The body was drawn from its coffin, and placed in a silver shrine; the legate took a part; and the king several bones, which he had enshrined, some with two of the thorns of Christ’s crown, and a morsel of the cross in an arm of gold enriched with pearls and ninety precious stones; others in a reliquary, silver gilt, supported by an angel, and richly ornamented.
But Vezelai was not long in possession of this sacred deposit without Providence disputing it; their tradition was, that St Maximin, bishop of Aix, had buried it at La Baume in an alabaster tomb; and Charles, Prince of Salerno, the eldest son of the king of Sicily, commenced a search for the body, and had the happiness to find it. The legend relates that a delicious odour spread through the chapel, and that from the tongue there sprang a branch of fennel, which divided into several bits, became as many relics. Near the body were two writings; one on a board covered with wax containing these words: ‘Here rests Mary Magdalen:’ the other on incorruptible wood, with these words: ‘The seven hundredth year of the nativity of our Lord, on the sixteenth day of December, Odoin being the king of France, at the time of the invasion of the Saracens, the body of Saint Mary Magdalen was transferred secretly in the night from her alabaster sepulchre into this of marble for fear of the infidels.’ The young prince immediately assembled the nobility and clergy of Provence, raised the body in their presence, enshrined it, and placed the head in a reliquary of pure gold. Then Vezelai lost much of its credit, in spite of the pope, who declared himself on its side. La Baume carried the day, and the preaching friars who held the deposit, triumphed loudly over the monks who kept possession of the other. It gave birth to a long and acrimonious discussion: the latter party objected that dates were never used in France before the middle of the eighth century, under Pepin and Charlemagne. No trace could be found in history of this incursion of the Saracens; and who was Odoin? No king of that name ever reigned in France. So many absurdities discredited the Provençal tradition, yet La Sainte Baume was still frequented by a great concourse of people: now, nothing remains but a grotto celebrated for the fables to which it has given rise.
On the 22d day of July, in the year of our Lord 1376, according to old Verstegan, a terrible calamity befell the town of Hamel, in Brunswick:
‘Therre came into the town of Hamel an old kind of companion, who, for the fantastical coat which he wore being wrought with sundry colours, was called the Pied Piper. This fellow, forsooth, offered the townsmen, for a certain sum of money, to rid the town of all the rats that were in it (for at that time the burghers were with that vermin greatly annoyed). The accord, in fine, being made, the Pied Piper, with a shrill pipe, went thorow all the streets, and forthwith the rats came all running out of the houses in great numbers after him; all which he led into the river of Weaser, and therein drowned them. This done, and no one rat more perceived to be left in the town, he afterward came to demand his reward according to his bargain; but being told that the bargain was not made with him in good earnest, to wit, with an opinion that he could be able to do such a feat, they cared not what they accorded unto, when they imagined it could never be deserved, and so never be demanded; but, nevertheless, seeing he had done such an unlikely thing indeed, they were content to give him a good reward; and so offered him far less than he looked for. He, therewith discontented, said he would have his full recompense according to his bargain; but they utterly denied to give it him. He threatened them with revenge; they bade him do his worst, whereupon he betakes him again to his pipe, and going thorow the streets as before, was followed by a number of boys out of one of the gates of the city, and coming to a little hill, there opened in the side thereof a wide hole, into the which himself and all the children did enter; and being entered, the hill did close up again, and became as before. A boy, that, being lame, came somewhat lagging behind the rest, seeing this that happened, returned presently back, and told what he had seen; forthwith began great lamentation among the parents for their children, and the men were sent out with all diligence, both by land and by water, to inquire if aught could be heard of them; but with all the inquiry they could possibly use, nothing more than is aforesaid could of them be understood. And this great wonder happened on the 22d day of July, in the year of our Lord 1376.’1
The rat seems altogether a mystical sort of creature; at least, very mystical things are current everywhere regarding it. It is one of the simplest of these, that there are districts where rats do not dwell and cannot be introduced. Not only are we told by the credulous Hector Boece, that there are no rats in Buchan (Aberdeenshire), but a later and more intelligent author, Sir Robert Gordon, makes the same statement regarding Sutherlandshire: ‘If,’ says he, ‘they come thither in ships from other parts, they die presently, how soon they do smell the air of that country.’ Sir Robert at the same time asserts, that the species abounds in the neighbouring province of Caithness. But this is not all. The reverend gentleman who contributed to Sir John Sinclair’s Statistical Account of Scotland, about 1794, the articles on Morven and Roseneath, the one in the north, the other in the south of Argyleshire, avouch that rats have been introduced into those parishes in vain. The author of the article on Roseneath seems to have been something of a wag, though quite in earnest on the point of fact. ‘From a prevailing opinion,’ says he, ‘that the soil of this parish is hostile to that animal, some years ago, a West India planter actually carried out to Jamaica several casks of Roseneath earth, with a view to kill the rats that were destroying his sugar-canes. It is said this had not the desired effect; so we lost a valuable export. Had the experiment succeeded, this would have been a new and profitable trade for the proprietors; but perhaps by this time, the parish of Roseneath might have been no more!’
It was a prevalent notion in past ages, that you might extirpate rats by a persevering course of anathematising in rhyme. Reginald Scot says that the Irish thought they could rhyme any beast to death; but the notion was, in general, restricted to the rat. It is with reference to this belief, or practice, that Rosalind, in As You Like It, says: ‘I never was so berhymed since Pythagoras’s time, that I was an Irish rat, which I can hardly remember.’
Another prevalent notion regarding rats was, that they had a presentiment of coming evil, and always deserted in time a ship about to be wrecked, or a house about to be flooded or burned. So lately as 1854, it was seriously reported in a Scotch provincial newspaper that, the night before a town mill was burned, the rats belonging to the establishment were met migrating in a body to a neighbouring pease-field. The notion acquires importance as the basis of a new verb in the English language – to rat – much used in political party janglings.
It may be added as a more pleasing trait of these too much despised animals, that they are, nevertheless, of a social turn, and have their sports and pastimes by themselves. ‘They play at hide-and-seek with each other, and have been known to hide themselves in the folds of linen, where they have remained quite still until their playmates have discovered them, in the same manner as kittens. Most readers will recollect the fable, where a young mouse suggests that the cat should have a bell fastened to its neck, so that his companions might be aware of her approach. This idea was scouted by one of their wise-heads, who asked, who was to tie the bell round the cat’s neck? This experiment has actually been tried upon a rat. A bell was fastened round his neck, and he was replaced in his hole, with full expectation of his frightening the rest away; but it turned out that, instead of their continuing to be alarmed at his approach, he was heard for the space of a year to frolic and scamper with them.’2
The profession of the rat-catcher is an old and universal one. In Italy, in the seventeenth century, as we learn from Annibal Caracci’s illustrations of the Cries of Bologna, this kind of professional went about with a pole bearing a square flag, on which were representations of rats and mice. The Chinese rat-catcher carries, as the outward ensign of his craft, a cat in a bag. One of the many exquisite engravings of Cornelius Vischer (born at Haarlem, 1610), gives us the Dutch rat-catcher of that day with all his paraphernalia – a fidelity cannot be doubted. Our artist here gives what we are happy to consider a tolerable transcript of this humorous print.
If a fire does not burn well, and you want to ‘draw it up,’ you should set the poker across the hearth, with he fore part leaning across the top bar of the grate, and you will have a good fire – if you wait long enough; but you must not be unreasonable, and refuse to give time for the charm to work. For a charm it is, the poker and top bar combined, forming a cross, and so defeating the malice of the gnomes, who are jealous of our possession of their subterranean treasures; or else of the witches and demons, who preside over smoky chimneys. I had seen the thing done scores of times; and, understanding that it was supposed to create a draught, like a poor weak rationalist as I was, I once thought to improve the matter by setting up the shovel instead of the poker; but I might as well have left it alone – the fire wasn’t to be taken in, or the witches balked, by such a shallow contrivance, and I was left in the cold.
This poker-superstition is at least harmless, and we may admit that among those belonging to the household there are some which are positively beneficial – for example, those referring to the breakage of glass and crockery.
You have a valuable mirror, we will say. Do you know what is its greatest safeguard from the handles of housemaids’ brooms, &c.? It is the belief, that if a looking-glass is broken, there will be a death in the family within the year. This fear is, of course, most operative in small households, where there are but few persons to divide the risk with the delinquent.
I once had a servant who was very much given to breaking glass and crockery. Plates and wine-glasses used to slip out of her hands, as if they had been soaped; even spoons (which it was hardly worth while to drop, for they would not break) came jingling to the ground in rapid succession.
‘Let her buy something,’ said the cook, ‘and that will change the luck.’ ‘Decidedly,’ said the mistress, ‘it will be as well that she feel the inconvenience herself.’ ‘Oh, I didn’t mean that, ma’am,’ was the reply; ‘I meant that it would change the luck.’
‘Well, have you broken anything more?’ I asked, a few days after this conversation. ‘No, sir,’ the girl answered, ‘I hav’nt broken nothing since I bout the ‘tater dish.’ Unluckily, however, this was too good to last; the breaking recommenced, and we were obliged to part.
If you break two things, you will break a third.
A neighbour saw one of her servants take up a coarse earthenware basin, and deliberately throw it down upon the brick floor.
‘What did you do that for?’ asked the mistress. ‘Because, ma’am, I’d broke tew things,’ answered the servant, ‘so I thout the third ’d better be this here,’ pointing to the remains of the least valuable piece of pottery in the establishment, which had been sacrificed to glut the vengeance of the offended Ceramic deities.
Suffolk. C. W. J.
1 Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, chap. iii. edit. 1673, p.92.
2 Smith’s Cries of London, 4to, 1839, p. 33.
On this Day in Other Sources.
“THE WALLACESTONE MEMORIAL. – A demonstration for the purpose of inaugurating a movement to raise funds to erect a statue of Sir William Wallace at Wallacestone, near Polmont, was held there yesterday afternoon. At this place, it is said, Wallace viewed the approach of the English forces on the morning of the Battle of Falkirk, on the 22d July 1298. A stone pillar, about 8 feet high and of great age, marks the historic spot, but the committee wish to have, if possible, a statue of the Scottish hero mounted on a pedestal – a monument at once worthy of the great patriot whose memory it is intended to commemorate, and of the historic surroundings of the place…”
– Scots Lore, pp.280-282.
Queen [Madeleine] dies of a fever, the 22nd of July, this year , to the great grief of the King and of all his people, and was solemnly interred in the burial of the Kings, at Holyroodhouse abbey.
– Historical Works, pp.238-275.
At the commencement of a truce on the 22d of July , the meal had risen to twelve shillings, the boll of wheat to ten pounds, and a carcass of beef to sixteen pounds. On that day, ‘after noon, the victuals whilk was keepit to ane dearth was brought to Leith and sauld, the meal for five shillings the peck,… and [sae] very mickle bread baken, that it that was sauld for sixteen pennies was sauld for six pennies. Thanks to God.’ During the scarcity, ale not being to be had, a drink of vinegar and water was substituted. – D. O.
– Domestic Annals, pp.45-55.
July 22 . – Two extraordinary trials took place, affording the most striking illustrations of the vices and superstitions of the time.
The family of Monro of Foulis, in Ross-shire, is one of great antiquity, and even so far back as 1576 was represented by the seventeenth baron in succession. Holding possessions on the borders of the Highlands, it hovered between the characters of the Celtic chief and the Lowland gentleman. Ross of Balnagowan was a rich neighbour of similar character. At that time, the Lady Foulis – to use her common appellation – was Catherine Ross of the latter family, the second wife of her husband. She had a son named George; but the succession was barred to him by two sons of the previous marriage of her husband, Robert and Hector.
At the above date, she and Hector, then representative of the family, were tried separately for sundry offences, committed as far back as 1576, Hector being, strange to say, the private pursuer against his step-mother, although he had immediately after to take his own place at the bar as a criminal. The dittay against the lady set forth a number of attempts at serious crime, partly prosecuted by natural means, and partly by superstitious practices. It appeared that she had desired to put her step-son Robert out of the way, not, as might have been supposed, to favour the succession of her own offspring, but that her brother, George Ross of Balnagowan, might be free to marry Robert Monro’s wife; to which end she also took steps for the removal of the wife of George Ross. It appears that she was not only prompted to, but assisted in her attempts by George Ross himself, although no judicial notice was taken of his criminality. Catherine Ross, described as daughter of Sir David Ross of Balnagowan, was also concerned. Having formed her design some time in the year 1576, Lady Foulis opened negotiations with various wretched persons in her neighbourhood who practised witchcraft; and first with one named William McGillivray, whom she feed with a present of linen cloth, and afterwards with sums of money. One Agnes Roy, a notorious witch, was sent by her to secure the services of a particularly potent sorceress, named Marion McKean McAlister, or more commonly Lasky Loncart, who was brought to Foulis, and lodged with Christian Ross Malcolmson, that she might assist with her diabolic arts. Christian, too, was sent to Dingwall to bring John McNillan, who appears to have been a wizard of note. Another, named Thomas McKean McAllan McEndrick, was taken into counsel; besides whom there were a few subordinate instruments. Some of the horrible crew being assembled at Canorth, images of the young Laird of Foulis and the young Lady Balnagowan were formed of butter, set up and shot at by Lasky Loncart with an elf-arrow – that is, one of those flint arrow-heads which are occasionally found, and believed by the ignorant to be fairy weapons, while in reality they are relics of our savage ancestors. The shot was repeated eight times, but without hitting the images; so this was regarded as a failure. On another day, images of clay were set up and shot at twelve times, yet equally without effect. Linen cloth had been provided, wherewith to have swathed the images in the event of their being hit; after which they would have been interred under the bridge-end of the stank of Foulis. The object of all these proceedings was of course to produce the destruction of the persons represented by the images. This plan being ineffectual, Lady Foulis and her brother are described as soon after holding a meeting in a kiln at Drimnin, to arrange about further procedure. The result was a resolution to try the more direct means of poison with both the obnoxious persons. A stoup of poisoned ale was prepared and set aside, but was nearly all lost by a leak in the vessel. Lady Foulis then procured from Lasky Loncart a pipkin of ranker poison, which she sent to young Monro by her nurse on purpose to have destroyed him. It fell by the way and broke, when the nurse tasting the liquor, was immediately killed by it. It was said that ‘the place where the pig [pipkin] brake, the gerse that grew upon the samen was so heich bye [beyond] the nature of other gerse, that neither cow nor sheep ever previt [tasted] thereof yet; whilk is manifest and notorious to the haill country of Ross.’ Lady Foulis is accused of afterwards making renewed attempts, not merely to poison young Monro, but many of his relations, particularly those who stood in the way of her own son’s succession. There seems, however, to have been no success in this quarter. Matters turned out better with the innocent young Lady Balnagowan. Regarding her, Lady Foulis is represented as thus expressing herself, that ‘she would do, by all kind of means, wherever it might be had, of God in heaven or the devil in hell, for the destruction and down-putting of Marjory Campbell.’ By corrupting a cook, Lady Foulis contrived that some rat-poison should be administered to her victim in a dish of kid’s kidneys. Catherine Niven, who had brought this poison, ‘scunnerit [revolted] with it sae meikle, that she said it was the sairest and maist cruel sight that ever she saw, seeing the vomit and vexation that was on the young Lady Balnagowan and her company.’ By vomiting, death seems to have been evaded, but the lady contracted in consequence what is described at the trial as an incurable illness.
Not long afterwards, these events became the subject of judicial investigation, and Christian Ross and Thomas McKean were apprehended, brought to trial, convicted, and burnt, November 1577.
It is alleged that, a few days before they suffered, Lady Foulis came into their presence, and referring to the common reports against her, accusing her of sorcery and poisoning, declared herself ready to abide a trial; when, there being no one present to accuse her, she asked instruments to that effect; after which, mounting a horse which had been kept ready, she rode away to Caithness, and remained there three-quarters of a year. By the intercession of the Earl of Caithness, she was then taken back by her husband; and there seems to have been no further notice taken of her case for several years. At length, in 1589, her husband being dead, his successor, Robert Monro, purchased a commission for the trial of certain witches and sorcerers, aiming evidently at retribution upon his wicked step-mother. According to the dittay: ‘Before any publication thereof, and ere he might have convenient time to put the same in execution, in respect of the troubles that occurred in the north, thou, knawing thyself guilty, and fearing to bide the trial of ane assize, fand the moyen [found the means] to purchase ane suspension, not only thy awn name, and sic others as was specified in the said commission, but also certain others who were not spoken of… whilk, gif thou had been ane honest woman, and willing to abide trial, thou wald never have causit suspension of ony sic commission, but wald rather hath fortherit the same.’ In the same year, Robert Monro died, under what circumstances does not appear, leaving the succession to his brother Hector, who now appeared as nominal prosecutor of his step-mother.
In the circumstances under which the trial took place, the jury being a packed one of humble dependents on the Foulis family, a conviction was not to be expected. Lady Foulis was ‘pronounced to be innocent and quit of the haill points of the dittay.’ Her own son, George, having died in 1590, Hector Monro was, immediately after his step-mother’s trial, placed in turn at the bar, charged by her with having brought about the said George’s death by sorcery and witchcraft; but he likewise was acquitted. – Pit.
– Domestic Annals, pp.99-123.
July 22 . – The Privy Council informed the king that Sir George Hay had enterprisingly set up works for iron and glass, which for some years he supported at high charges, in hopes of being remunerated by profits. ‘But now he has found, by experience, that all the country dispatch of his glass in ane haill year will not uphold his glassworks the space of ane month.’ It was entreated that the king would allow of Sir George’s glass being sold unrestrainedly in England, and at the same time restrict the exportation of coal into that country. By such means he admitted he had a hope of thriving. – M. S. P.
– Domestic Annals, pp.177-227.
July . – Cromwell having crossed the Tweed with his army on the 22d of this month, a large body of troops assembled on Leith Links to oppose him, all animated with a good spirit in behalf of their king and country, but unluckily not all equally sound in the faith of the Solemn League and Covenant. Thousands were sent back, ‘to the discontentment of much people.’ The leaders thought it safer to meet Cromwell with twenty thousand who were of right principles, than with thirty thousand of whom a third were merely patriotic and loyal. While the army, as honest John Nicoll remarks, ‘stood daily in purging upon the Links,’ the young king came to review them, and doubtless was right sorry to see so many hearty soldiers turned away from his banner.
– Domestic Annals, pp.278-301.
An emissary of the Scottish ministry discovered [Richard Cromwell’s] retreat at Rouen, and, with the aid of the French authorities, he was sent to the Tower, and from thence to Edinburgh, where, with every mark of indignity, he was publicly executed on the same spot where, five-and-twenty years before, he had defied the proclamation of Charles I. This was on the 22nd of July, 1663, and he died with the utmost constancy and Christian fortitude.
– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.219-227.
The girdle – a round iron plate used for baking oaten cakes over a fire – a household article once universal among the middle and humbler classes in Scotland – was invented and first made at the little burgh of Culross, in Fife. In 1599, King James gave the Culrossians an exclusive privilege to make girdles, and this had been confirmed by a gift from Charles II. in 1666. Nevertheless, a neighbouring gentleman, Preston of Valleyfield, had kept girdle-makers (craticularum fabros) on his barony, for which he was now challenged at law by the burghers of Culross. He defended himself on various grounds (July 22); and the Lords, before decision, ‘recommended to Drumcairn to take trial if the girdle-makers of Culross have any other trade or craft than that of making girdles, and at what prices they sell the same; and likewise to try if the men at Valleyfield do make sufficient girdles, and at what prices they make the same, and if they have any other trade than making of girdles, &c.’ How the matter ended we do not learn. – Foun. Dec.
– Domestic Annals, pp.338-341.
“Your Lordship knows, that in summer last, an humble petition, subscribed by a number of tenants on Mr. Sellar’s sheep farm in Farr and Kildonan, was presented to Lady Stafford, complaining of various acts of injury, cruelty and oppression, alleged to have been committed upon their persons and property, by Mr. Sellar, in the spring and summer of that year.
To this complaint, her Ladyship, upon the 22nd of July , was graciously pleased to return an answer in writing. In it, her Ladyship, with her usual candour and justice, with much propriety observes, “That if any person on the estate shall receive any illegal treatment, she will never consider it as hostile to her if they have recourse to legal redress, as a most secure way to receive the justice which she always desires they should have on every occasion.” Her Ladyship also intimates, “That she had communicated the complaint to Mr. Sellar, that he may make proper inquiry and answer to her.”
It would appear, however, that Mr. Sellar still refused, or delayed, to afford that redress to the removed tenants to which they conceived themselves entitled, which emboldened them to approach Earl Gower with a complaint, similar to the one they had presented to Lady Stafford.
– Gloomy Memories, pp.10-12.