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12th of August

St Euplius, martyr, 304. St Muredach, first bishop of Killala, in Ireland, 5th century. St Clare, virgin and abbess, 1253.

Born. – John George Gmelin, naturalist and Siberian traveller, 1709, Turbingen; Francis Horner, politician, 1778, Edinburgh
Died. – Pope Gregory IX., 1241; Pope Innocent XI., 1689; Nahum Tate, versifier of the Psalms, 1715, Southwark; Robert Stewart, Marquis of Londonderry (Lord Castlereagh), Tory statesman, died by his own hand at North Cray, Kent, 1822.


To the rising generation, the name of Francis Horner is comparatively little known, though as the friend of Jeffrey, Brougham, and Sydney Smith, a contributor to the Edinburgh Review, and a brilliant and influential speaker on the side of the Whigs, in the House of Commons, his name is intimately connected with the political and literary history of the early part of the present century. Cut off by an insidious and consuming disease at the premature age of thirty-eight, in the very flower of his parliamentary reputation, he had not yet so far matured his powers as to leave behind a durable impress of his character and abilities. Yet the universal regret by which the tidings of his death were received at the time, testify how exalted were the hopes which the intelligence of his countrymen had entertained respecting him – hopes which a perusal of his literary remains, limited in amount as these are, induce us to pronounce to have been thoroughly justifiable. 

The history of this brilliant young man is not much diversified by incident. His father was a wealthy merchant in the city of Edinburgh, and Francis received his education in the High School there, then under the rectorship of the distinguished classical scholar, Dr Adam. Always of a studious, retiring disposition, he rarely mingled in the sports of the other boys, among whom, however, he held the proud pre-eminence of being the dux or head-scholar. The bent of his mind, from the first, seems to have been towards a profession to which the art of oratory formed a leading adjunct, and he accordingly chose that of an advocate at the Scottish bar. With the view of getting rid of his northern accent, his father sent him, when about seventeen, to an academy at Shacklewell, near London, conducted by a Mr Hewlett, who succeeded so well in smoothing down the young Scotchman’s Doric, that in after-life it is said to have been perfectly indistinguishable. Returning to Edinburgh, he commenced his legal studies, and in due time was admitted a member of the Faculty of Advocates. Here his avocations and sympathies naturally brought him into close fellowship with Francis Jeffrey, and the rest of that brilliant coterie which embraced so enthusiastically the cause of progress, and established the Edinburgh Review as the promulgator of their sentiments. He was also one of the most distinguished members of the Speculative Society, a debating association in Edinburgh, which then included some of the most splendid oratorical and literary talent in Great Britain. 

After practising for some time as an advocate, he resolved on qualifying himself for the English bar, as affording a better field for his talents, and also as opening up to him more readily the path of distinction in public life. He accordingly proceeded to London, where he entered himself as a student at Lincoln’s Inn, and was called to the bar in 1807, having the previous year been returned to parliament for the borough of St Ives, in Cornwall, through the influence of Lord Henry Petty, afterwards the Marquis of Lansdowne. He subsequently sat successively in three other parliaments, the last place for which he was returned being St Mawes, in Cornwall. During a period of about ten years, he distinguished himself as one of the most effective members of the Opposition, on all questions of commercial polity, and more especially those relating to the currency. Towards the end of 1816, his constitution, never robust, began visibly to give way, and in the hope of re-establishing his health, he was recommended to try the curative influences of a southern climate. He accordingly proceeded to Italy, and took up his abode at Pisa, where for a time he was cheered by the appearances of convalescence. These, however, proved fallacious, and the difficulty of breathing, and other symptoms of his malady, having returned with renewed severity, he expired on the evening of Saturday, 8th February 1817. 

The regret occasioned by his death was great and profound. Eloquent tributes to his memory were rendered in the House of Commons by Lord Morpeth, Mr Canning, and others; but it was in private life, among the personal friends to whom he had endeared himself by the uprightness and amiability of his disposition, that his loss was most sensibly felt. Sydney Smith used to declare of him, that he had the ten commandments written in his face, which bore so thoroughly the impress of virtue and honesty, that as the clerical wag remarked, no jury could possibly convict him on any charge, and he might consequently commit all sorts of crimes with impunity. His talents as an orator, statesman, and scholar were only exceeded by the modesty which characterised his whole deportment. Had he survived, there is little doubt that he would have attained to the highest offices in the state, and handed down his name to posterity as one of the ablest and most industrious of our political economists. But, like Henry Kirke White and John Keats, whom, however, he only resembled in the gentleness and goodness of his disposition, the brightness of the morning of his life was prematurely extinguished, and his sun went down whilst it was yet day.

On this Day in Other Source.

The battle of Dupplin [Moor], fought this year, [12th August,] 1332, between the Governor, Domhnall, Earl of Mar, and Edward Balliol, David Comyn, Earl of Atholl, Henry de Beaumont, with their Scottish and English adherents, wherein the Governor was killed, his army routed, and with him Thomas Randolph, the young Earl of Moray, Muireadhach, Earl of Menteith, Robert Bruce, the bastard son of King Robert I., and Sir Alexander Fraser [of Cowie]; Donnchadh, Earl of Fife, was at this battle taken prisoner. 

– Historical Works, pp.104-124.

Aug. 12 [1579]. – ‘Twa poets of Edinburgh, remarking some of his [the Earl of Morton’s] sinistrous dealing, did publish the same to the people by a famous libel written against him; and Morton, hearing of this, causit the men to be brought to Stirling, where they were convict for slandering ane of the king’s councillors, and were there baith hangit. The names of the men were William Turnbull, schoolmaster in Edinburgh, and William Scott, notar. They were baith weel beloved of the common people for their common offices.’ – H. K. J. ‘Which was thought a precedent, never one being hanged for the like before; and in the meantime, at the scattering of the people, there were ten or twelve despiteful letters and infamous libels in prose, found, as if they had been lost among the people, tending to the reproach of the Earl of Morton and his predecessors.’ – Moy. R

– Domestic Annals, pp.56-80.



   CHARLES R. – Trustie and welbeloued, wee greet yow well. Whereas we haue giuen warrant unto Alexander McNaughtan gentleman of our priuie chamber in ordinarie for levying two hundreth bow-men in that our kingdome, for our seruice in the war wherein we are engaged with France; and being informed that the persones in those high countries are ordinarlie good bow-men, we are hereby well pleased to desire yow to use your best meanes to cause levy such a nomber of them for our said seruant as possiblie yow can, he performing such conditiones with them as are usuall in the like cases, which we will tak as a speciall pleasure unto us, whereof wee will not be unmindfull when any occasion shall offer whereby we may expressse our respect unto yow. So we bid yow farewell. From our court at Windsore, the 12 of August 1627. 

– Sketches, Appendix VII.

The Edinburgh Courant of August 12, 1708, has the following strange announcement:- 

“George Williamson, translator (i.e. cobbler) in Edinburgh, commonly known by the name of Bowed Geordie, who swims on face, back, or any posture, forwards or backwards, and performs all the antics that any swimmer can do, is willing to attend any gentlemen and to teach them to swim, or perform his antics for their divertisement: is to be found at Luckie Reid’s, at the foot of Gray’s Close, on the south side of the street, Edinburgh.” 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.266-274.

From that night Niddry’s Wynd knew [Lady Grange] no more. She had two sons grown to manhood at the time she was so mysteriously spirited away; her daughter was married to John Earl of Kintore; yet none of her relations ever made the slightest stir in the matter, though the Aberdeenshire seat of the Earl was once suggested as a place of residence for her. 

Leaving the vicinity of Edinburgh by the Lang Gate, a ride of twenty miles brought her, with her captors, to Muiravonside, where she was secured, under guard, in the house of John Macleod, advocate; but a man being posted near her bed, she could neither enter it nor take repose. Next night she was secured farther off, in an old solitary tower, at Wester Polmaise, where for fourteen weeks she was kept in a room, the windows of which were boarded over, access to the garden even being denied her. 

On the 12th of August [1730] a Highlander named Alexander Grant suddenly appeared, and announced that she must prepare for the road again; and by her captors, who gave out that she was insane, she was conveyed by rough and secluded ways, where she could neither ride nor walk, but had to be borne in their arms, sleeping at night in a bothy, till she found herself on the shore of Loch Hourn, an arm of the sea, in the land of Glengarry. Then “bitterly did she weep and implore compassion, but the Highlanders understood not her language, and though they had done so, a departure from the orders which had been given them was not to be expected from men of their character,” and she was hurried on board of a ship. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.246-252.

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