5th of September

St Alto, abbot. St Bertin, abbot, 709. St Laurence Justinian, confessor, first patriarch of Venice, 1455.

 

Born. – Tommaso Campanella, philosophical writer, 1568, Stilo in Calabria; Cardinal Richelieu, celebrated French statesman, 1585, Paris; Louis XIV. of France, 1638, St Germains; Jean Benjamin Laborde, musician and historical writer, 1734, Paris; Robert Fergusson, Scottish poet, 1750, Edinburgh.
Died. – Matthre Stuart, Earl of Lennox, regent of Scotland, shot at Stirling, 1571; Cardinal du Perron, statesman and man of letters, 1618; Jean François Regnard, comic poet, 1710, near Paris; John Home, author of Douglas, 1808; Dr Patrick Neill, author of works on natural history, &c., 1851, Edinburgh; Dr William Macgillivray, distinguished naturalist, 1852, Aberdeen.

 

JOHN HOME.

The public has been made pretty well acquainted with the history of the author of Douglas – how the bringing out of his play in Edinburgh, in the year 1756, exposed him to censure among his brethren in the Scotch Church – how he finally retired from clerical duty upon a pension granted him by Lord Bute – how he failed in every other literary undertaking, but spent, on the whole, a happy, as well as a long life, in the enjoyment of the friendship of all the eminent men of his day. Home’s tragedy is not now looked upon as the marvel of genius which it once was; and yet, one would think, there must be some peculiar merit in a play of which so many portions remain so strongly impressed upon so many memories. The author was acknowledged, in his lifetime, to be vain up to the full average of poets; yet it was equally admitted regarding him, that he loved his friends as warmly as he loved himself, and was untiring in his exertions for their good. His vanity seems to have been of a very inoffensive kind. 

Sir Adam Ferguson, the son of Home’s friend, Dr Ferguson, used to relate an anecdote of the venerable dramatist with great comic effect. It cannot be set forth in print with nearly the same force, but it may, nevertheless, be worthy of a place in this miscellany. Mrs Siddons, on visiting the Edinburgh theatre, always spent an afternoon with her worthy friends, Mr and Mrs Home, at their neat house in North Hanover Street (latterly, Robertson’s upholstery wareroom). On one occasion, they were seated at an early dinner, attended by Mr Home’s old man-servant John, and a little ‘lassie,’ whose usual place was the kitchen, and who did not as yet know much about waiting at table. 

‘And what will you take to drink, Mrs Siddons?’ inquired the host. 

‘A little porter,’ answered the tragedy queen in her impressive voice. 

John, unobservant of the lady’s wishes, was ordered by his master to get a little porter for Mrs Siddons, and immediately left the room, apparently to obtain the desired beverage. Two or three minutes having elapsed, Mr Home was heard complaining to his wife of John’s absence. ‘My dear, John is getting very stupid – I think we shall have to part with him. There he has been out of the room for some minutes, and we are all at a stand.’ A few more minutes passed, and Mr Home’s patience was rapidly ebbing, notwithstanding that Mrs Siddons did all in her power to put him at his ease. The absence of John, however, had become the subject of concentrated thought to the company, when all at once the outer-door was heard to open, hasty steps crossed the lobby, and John presented himself in the dining-room, with a flushed face, crying: ‘I’ve found ane, ma’am! he’s the least I could get!’ Then emerged into view a short, thick-set Highlander, whose band of ropes and leaden badge betokened his profession, but who seemed greatly bewildered on finding himself in a gentleman’s dining-room, surveyed by the curious eyes of one of the grandest women that ever walked the earth. The truth flashed first upon Mrs Siddons, who, unwonted to laugh, was for once overcome by a sense of the ludicrous, and broke forth into something like shouts of mirth, while as yet Mr Home was but beginning to apprehend what his servant meant, and Mrs Home had evidently not the least chance of ever understanding it – for this lady was by no means a bright specimen of her sex, as the second of Sir Adam’s anecdotes will help to make more clear to the reader. 

Fallen, as Douglas is now, to the rank of a second-rate play, it is scarce possible for modern men to imagine that it was once the subject of enthusiastic admiration, even beyond the limits of the author’s country. A middle-aged Englishman came to Edinburgh in the summer of 1802, mainly for the purpose of seeing the author of this, his favourite tragedy. He found his way to a modest tenement in a court off the principal street called Canongate, and tremulously knocked at the door. A ‘lassie’ came. 

‘Is Mr Home within?’ 

‘Na, sir.’ 

‘Will he be at home soon?’ 

‘Oh, na, sir; he’s in the Hielands.’ 

This was true – Mr Home, attended by his man John, generally spent some weeks in the Highlands every summer. 

‘And when will he be at home?’ 

‘I canna tell, sir; and John’s awa’ too – I suppose you had better come in and see Mrs Home.’ 

‘Oh, then. Mrs Home is not gone? I should be glad to see her for a few minutes.’ He reflected that, next to seeing a poet, was seeing a poet’s love. She must doubtless be a very interesting woman. So he sent in his card, with a message stating that he had come to Edinburgh almost on purpose to see Mr Home – and would the lady be so obliging as allow him a few minutes’ conversation? He was presently ushered in, when he beheld a withered old lady, with her head wrapped up in flannel, and looking in the last stage of stupidity and decrepitude. She had a little hot wine and water in a tumbler beside her, and was engaged in grating into it a few grains of nutmeg, such being her ordinary solacement after an early dinner. The heart of the ardent Douglassomaniac sank within him, but he mustered strength to engage in conversation with the old lady, whom he found sadly deficient in knowledge regarding matters of the day, and, indeed, hardly able to converse at all, time having made havoc of the few faculties she once possessed. After trying her with various topics, he came upon one which had lately been in great vogue – the peace concluded with France. 

‘Oh, yes, I’ve heard o’ the peace. Ay, it’s come at last.’ 

‘It must make a great change in many things,’ said the Englishman; ‘we may all be thankful for it. England will be able to breathe again, madam.’ The old lady paused – she had not a single idea in her head, but she naturally felt the necessity of saying something. So she asked, in the slow deliberate manner of old paralytic people: ‘Do you think, sir, it will makony difference in the price o’ nitmugs?‘ Hereupon, the lion-hunting Englishman, it is said, uttered a hasty expression unsuitable for print, bade the lady a hasty adieu, and made the best of his way back to his hotel, whence he next day set out for England.

 

On this Day in Other Sources.

 

King Henry likewise, with great solemnity and triumph, married his aunt, Ermengarde, daughter to [Richard] the Viscount Beaumont [le Roger], to King William, at Woodstock Castle, in England, this year [1185] also, the 5th of September. 

Historical Works, pp.19-38.

 

In this year, 1239, King Alexander II married his second wife the Lady Marie [de Coucy], the daughter of Enguerrand de Coucy, Earl of Dreux, in France, at Roxburgh; who bore to him a son, christened Alexander, the 5th of September in the following year, 1240. 

– Historical Works, pp.38-57.

 

In the same way, in the Scottish burghs, the magistrates appear to have not only permitted and encouraged, but enforced and regulated similar pageants. They were accompanied by music and banners, and the masques supported the character of some scriptural or classical person, or age, or event. A very early notice occurs in the burgh records of Aberdeen, by which the magistrates prescribe to each trade the fancy characters which it is to contribute to these pageants. It is as follows:- “This craftes vnderwritten sall fynd yerly in the offerand of our Lady at Candelmas thir personnes vnderwritten: that is to say The littistaris [dyers] sal fynd the Empriour and twa doctoures; the Smiths and Hammermen sal fynd the three kingis of Culane; the talzoures sal find Our lady Sancte Bride, Sancte Helene, and Joseph; the skynnaris sal fynd two bischops and four angeles,” and so on through all the trades – each, in addition to the personated characters, being enjoined to provide “als mony honeste squiares as thai may.”1

– Old Glasgow, pp.276-289. 

1  Burgh Records of Aberdeen, 5th Sept. 1442.

 

Sep. 5 [1582]. – Another consequence of the change at court was, that the Duke of Lennox was forced to leave the kingdom. The Presbyterian historians relate the manner of his departure with evident relish. ‘The duke departed out of the town, after noon, accompanied with the provost, bailies, and five hundred men… He rode towards Glasgow, accompanied by Lord Maxwell, the Master of Livingstone, the Master of Eglintoun, Ferniehirst, and sundry other gentlemen.’ – Cal... He ‘remained in Dunbarton at the West Sea, where, or [ere] he gat passage, he was put to as hard a diet as he caused the Earl of Morton to use there; yea, even to the other extremity that he had used at court; for, whereas his kitchen was sae sumptuous that lumps of butter was cast in the fire when it soked [grew dull], and twa or three crowns waird upon a stock of kale dressing, he was fain to eat of a meagre guse, scoundered with beare strae.’ – Melville’s Diary. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.81-98.

 

And in the following year – which was the year of the meeting of the Long Parliament – the provost “is appoyntit to go to Edinbrughe with the silver and gold “wark, the lint money and the contributions collectit for the commoun cause.”1 In the same year “a perfyt catallog” was ordered to be made up “of the haill names of the persons within this burgh able for weir,” and certain days were fixed for drilling. Three years later, as the troubles thickened, every one capable of bearing arms was called out. 

– Old Glasgow, pp.162-175.

1  5th Sept. 1640.

 

Till a comparatively recent period there was no newspaper printed in Glasgow. Even after the middle of the seventeenth century the means of obtaining intelligence were very scanty, and the magistrates appear to have seldom or never seen a London paper. The first step taken to remedy this dearth of intelligence is recorded in a minute of the town council of 5th September, 1657, which “appoynts Johne Flyming to wryt to his man wha lyes at London to send hom for the tounes use weiklie ane diurnall.” Previous to this the magistrates were supplied with weekly intelligence by one of their counsel or law agents in Edinburgh – Mr. John Nicoll. 

– Old Glasgow, pp.299-307.

 

To the east of Mylne’s Square stood some old alleys which were demolished to make way for the North Bridge, one of the greatest local undertakings of the eighteenth century. One of these alleys was known as the Cap and Feather Close, immediately above Halkerston’s Wynd. The lands that formed the east side of the latter were remaining in some places almost intact till about 1850. 

In one of these, but which it was impossible to say, was born on the 5th of September, 1750, that luckless but gifted child of genius, Robert Fergusson, the poet, whose father was then a clerk in the British Linen Company; but even the site of his house, which has peculiar claims on the interest of every lover of Scottish poetry, cannot be indicated. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.235-241.

 

12. ELIZABETH and REBECCA DINWIDDIE.

Elizabeth, born 1738; died, 1773. Rebecca, born, 1742; died,      . 

Daughters of Governor Dinwiddie (No. 11). Elizabeth died unmarried at Clifton, and was buried in the old Church there, where her sister erected a monument to her. Rebecca accompanied her father on a visit to Scotland after his return from Virginia in 1758, and on 5th September of that year was made “a Burgess of the Burgh of Renfrew.” She married “Archibald Hamilton. Esq., of the Isle of Man,” but died without children. 

– Memorial Catalogue, Gallery 1.

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