6th of August

The Transfiguration of our Lord. St Xystus or Sixtus II., pope and martyr, about 258. Saints Justus and Pastor, martyrs, 304.

 

Born. – Nicholas Malebranche, distinguished French philosopher (Recherche de la Verité), 1638, Paris; François-de-Salignac-de-Lamothe Fenelon, archbishop of Cambray, and author of Telemaque, 1651, Château de Fenelon, Perigord; Jean Baptiste Bessières, French general, 1768, Preissac, near Cahors.
Died. – St Dominic de Guzman, founder of the Dominicans, 1221, Bologna; Ben Jonson, dramatist, 1637, London; Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velasquez, celebrated Spanish painter, 1660, Madrid; General Robert Cunningham, Baron Rossmore, eminent public character in Ireland, 1801.

 

BEN JONSON.

Ben Jonson occupies a prominent position on the British Parnassus; yet his works are little read, because there is something of roughness and boldness in his style, which repels that class of readers who read poetry for recreation, rather than critically. But hundreds, who find little pleasure in reading his verses, feel an interest in his personal history. Ben, or Benjamin Jonson, was born in Westminster, in 1574, a month after the death of his father, but his family was of Scotch extraction. They came out of the Johnstons of Annandale, the name having been so far changed in its migration southwards. The dramatist’s mother married again, and, whatever might have been his father’s position in life, his step-father was a master-bricklayer. This second parent allowed him to obtain a good education; he went to Westminster school, and in due time proceeded to Cambridge. But before he had been long at the university, the necessary funds were found wanting, and Ben returned home with a heavy heart, to become a bricklayer. This employment, of which, in after-years, he was often derisively reminded, proved uncongenial. He ‘could not endure,’ he tells us, ‘the occupation of a bricklayer:’ so he tried the military profession, and joined the army in Flanders. Before long our valiant hero sickened of the sword, and returned home, ‘bringing with him,’ says Gifford, ‘the reputation of a brave man, a smattering of Dutch, and an empty purse.’

August6

In 1618, the poet made a pedestrian tour into Scotland, mainly, it has been surmised, to visit his friend the poet Drummond. Taylor, the so-called Water-poet, had come to Scotland at the same time on a tour, designed to prove whether he could peregrinate beyond the Tweed without money; a question which he solved in the affirmative, as the well-known Penniless Pilgrimage avouches. He found his ‘approved good friend,’ Jonson, living with John Stuart at Leith, and received from him a gold piece of the value of twenty-two shillings; a solid proof of the kind feelings of honest Ben towards his brethren of Parnassus. Jonson on this occasion, spent some time with the Duke of Lennox in the west, and formed a design of writing a piscatorial play, with Loch Lomond as its scene. He passed the winter in Scotland, and in April was for three weeks the guest of Drummond at his romantic seat of Hawthornden, on the Esk. Here he drank freely – perhaps the bacchanalian habits of the north had somewhat corrupted him – indulged in the hearty egotism of a roysterer, and spoke disparagingly of many of his contemporaries, a little to the disgust of the modest Scottish poet, who took memoranda of his conversation, since published. On this subject there has been, in our day, a good deal of unnecessary discussion, to which it would be useless further to advert.

 

DEATH OF LORD ROSSMORE.

Lord Rossmore, who, for many years in the latter part of the last century, was commander-in-chief of the forces in Ireland, died suddenly during the night, between the 5th and 6th of August 1801, at his house in Dublin, having attended a viceregal drawing-room at the Castle till so late as eleven o’clock on the preceding evening. 

It may be interesting to Scottish readers to know, that Lord Rossmore was identical with a youth named Robert Cunningham, who makes some appearance in the history of ‘the Forty-five.’ Having attached himself, with some other young men, as volunteers to General Cope’s army, on its landing at Dunbar, he and a Mr Francis Garden acted as scouts to ascertain the movements of the approaching Highlanders, but, in consequence of tarrying to solace themselves with oysters and sherry in a hostelry at Fisherrow, were captured by a Jacobite party. They were at first threatened with the death due to spies, but ultimately allowed to slip away,1 and lived to be, the one an Irish peer, the other a Scottish judge.

 

1   See Scott’s amusing account of this affair, Quarterly Review, xxxvi. 177. See also Home’s Works, iii. 84.

 

On this Day in Other Sources.

 

Against the 6th of August in this year [1477], the [King] calls a parliament of the estates of the kingdom, to be [held] at Edinburgh, wherein merchant strangers [were] ordained to be honourably received and favourably treated, for encouraging them to trade and commerce with this kingdom; that the act [about cruve] fishing,* made by King James I., be observed also; that the quantity of salmon barrels for packing, in all time coming, [if they] be of the [old] measure of Hamburgh, under pain of loss of the fish by the first seller, and 5 [pounds] to be paid by the delinquent cooper, maker of the barrels, to the King; and that the King’s customers be searchers here upon, in each town. 

– Historical Works, pp.189-214.

*  Cruve fishing was fishing using a basket-like contraption for catching the fish. Perhaps like a lobster pot.

 

The last of the ante-Reformation Bishops of Aberdeen. Bishop William Gordon, died on the 6th August 1577. Spottiswood’s character of him is short and plain. “This man, brought up in letters at Aberdeen, followed his studies a long time in Paris, and returning thence, was first parson of Clat, and afterwards promoved to this See. Some hopes he gave at first of a virtuous man, but afterwards turned a very epicure, spending all his time in drinking and whoring; he dilapidated the whole rents by feuing the lands, and converting the victual-duties in money, a great part whereof he wasted upon his base children, and the whores, their mothers; a man not worthy to be placed in this catalogue.” 

– Sketches, pp.85-91.

 

Aug. 6 [1598]. – ‘The pest began in Leith’ (Bir.), and soon ‘infected sundry parts about Edinburgh, so that many fled out of the town.’ – Cal. It raged during this year in England, 17,890 persons being carried off in London alone. A fast was held in Edinburgh on account of this visit of the pestilence, from the 7th of August till the end of harvest, when it ceased. Notwithstanding the scarcity of food from October 1595 down almost to this time, the mortality in Scotland does not appear to have been great – a result probably owing in the main part to the abundant harvest of the present year. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.124-176.

 

News of this conspiracy coming to Edinburgh on the morrow, the 6th day [of August, 1599], that the King had escaped this bloody plot, there [were] great expressions of joy among all sorts of people, by shooting of canons, ringing of bells and bonfires; and the 

[John Graham,] Earl of Montrose, Lord Chancellor, 

Lord [Alexander] Elphinstone, [Lord High] Treasurer, 

Sir James Elphinstone, [Lord Balmerino,] Secretary, 

Sir David Murray, [Viscount of Stormont,] Comptroller, 

Sir John Preston, [Lord Fentonbarns,] Collector, 

with a great many of the nobility, senators of the College of Justice, and privy counsellors, went all of them to Edinburgh cross, and [heard] Mr David Lindsay declare the business to the people in a very eloquent oration; which no sooner finished, but all of them, on their knees, with lifted up hands to heaven, gave God humble and hearty thanks for his majesty’s health, safety and delivery out of so great danger. 

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

 

Aug. 6 [1600]. – While Mr Robert Bruce and some others of the clergy professed to regard the conspiracy with incredulity, the great bulk of the people, going with their loyalty, as often happens, far beyond the merit of its object, manifested all tokens of extreme satisfaction at the king’s escape. On the arrival of the news, ‘there was sic joy, that the cannons shot, the bells rang, the trumpets sounded, the drums strake. The town rase in arms, with shooting of muskets, casting of fireworks, and banefires set forth; the like was never seen in Scotland, there was sic merriness and dancing all the nicht.’ – Bir

– Domestic Annals, pp.124-176.

 

The year 1678 saw the first attempt to start a stage from the High Street to Glasgow, when on the 6th of August a contract was entered into between the magistrates of that city and a merchant of Edinburgh, by which it was agreed that “the said William Hume shall have in readiness one sufficient strong coach, to run betwixt Edinburgh and Glasgow, to be drawn by six able horses; to leave Edinburgh ilk Monday morning, and return again – God willing – ilk Saturday night; the burgesses of Glasgow always to have a preference in the coach.” As the undertaking was deemed arduous, and not to be accomplished without assistance, the said magistrates agreed to give Hume two hundred merks yearly for five years, whether passengers went or not, in consideration of his having actually received two years’ premium in advance. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.198-203.

 

The first Magistrates of Greenock, were elected in 6th August 1751. The Council was nine in number, including the two Baillies and a Treasurer: the government of the Burgh has not since been altered; and the municipal affairs are still managed by this magistracy. They have a Baronial jurisdiction within the limits of the Burgh, and hold Burgh courts weekly. 

– Select Views, pp.103-114.

 

David Allan, known as the “Scottish Hogarth,” a historical painter of undoubted genius… [whose] terms were, as advertised in the Mercury, one guinea per month for three lessons in the week, which in those simple days would restrict his pupils to the wealthy and fashionable class of society. He died at Edinburgh on the 6th of August, 1796. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.253-258.

 

Betwixt the kirk and the ‘Auld brig o’ Doune,’ by which a road now disused is carried over ‘Doon’s classic stream,’ about 100 yards south-east of the kirk, and on the summit of the eastern bank, which here rises boldly from the river, stands a splendid monument to [Robert Burns], designed by Hamilton of Edinburgh, and consisting of a triangular base, supporting nine Corinthian columns, which are surrounded by a cupola terminating in a gilt tripod. It is upwards of 60 feet in height; and cost above £2,000. The whole is enclosed, and ornamented with shrubbery; and the clever figures of Tam o’ Shanter and Souter Johnny, executed by the ingenious self-taught sculptor, Thom,* are placed in a small building within the enclosure…

In the field immediately behind the Monument was erected the pavilion in which the great festival in commemoration of Scotland’s national bard was held, on the 6th of August, 1844. The interior formed nearly a square, and, filled with lines of narrow tables, afforded accommodation to above 1,800 persons. This great fête excited intense interest throughout the whole of Scotland, and it is supposed that the proceedings of the day brought together above fifty thousand enthusiastic admirers of Scotia’s peasant-bard. 

– Scotland Illustrated, pp.48-51.

*  Mr. Thom  is mentioned in the book I keep relating this one to, Leighton’s ‘Select Views on the River Clyde‘ (1830), in the last paragraph of the chapter on Ayr.

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