14th of November

St Laurence, confessor, archbishop of Dublin, 1180.

Born. – Adam Gottlob Oehlenschläger, Danish poet, 1779, Copenhagen; Sir Charles Lyell, geologist, 1797, Kinnordy, Forfarshire.
Died. – Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz, mathematician and moral philosopher, 1716, Hanover; George William Frederick Hegel, German philosopher, 1831, Berlin; Dr John Abercrombie, physician and moral writer, 1844, Edinburgh.


It is curious to look back to the days when Bruce the traveller published his celebrated work on Africa, and claimed to have discovered the true sources of the mysterious river which flows so many hundreds of miles through that continent. Comparing that narrative with one which has appeared in 1863, we see that Bruce was in the wrong; that he may have discovered a source but not the source; and that a long series of intermediate investigations was needed to arrive at a true solution of the interesting problem. No blame to James Bruce for all this. He was really a sagacious and enterprising man; and although some doubt was thrown upon his truthfulness during his life, he is now believed to have been veracious to the extent of his knowledge. His error concerning the sources of the Nile may well be excused, considering the harassing difficulties of the problem… 

Bruce was all the more proud of his achievement, because the ancients had believed that the Bahr-el-Abiad was the true Nile, an opinion which he claimed to have shewn fallacious. The ancients were right, however, and Bruce wrong. Step by step the White Nile has been traced to points nearer and nearer to the equator, and therefore nearer to its source. Linant, in 1827, ascended as far as Aleis, in 15o N. lat. In 1842, Werne, heading an expedition sent out by the pacha of Egypt, reached to 5o N. lat., and was told by the natives that the source was still far distant. In 1845, M. D’Abbadie thought he had reached the source of the Nile; but Beke afterwards shewed that the stream traced by D’Abbadie was only an affluent of the Bahr-el-Abiad, and expressed an opinion that the real source is even beyond the equator. M. Knoblecher, who had a missionary establishment at Khartoum, went up the White Nile as par as 4o N. lat., and saw that river still far away to the south-west. 

The grand discovery of all, that the Nile really rises in south latitude, and crosses the equator, was made by Captain Grant and Speke, whose names have become thereby renowned throughout Europe. In 1858. Captain Speke reached a very beautiful lake, the Victoria Nyanza, while journeying westward from Zanzibar. The head of this lake is three degrees south of the equator. He found the lake to be a large sheet of fresh water, lying on a plateau or table-land, from 3000 to 4000 feet above the level of the sea. The lake, to use the language of Captain Speke, ‘looked for all the world like the source of some great river; so much so, indeed, that I at once felt certain in my own mind it was the source of the Nile, and noted it accordingly.’ It was the bold guess of a sagacious and experienced man. The Victoria Nyanza is really the head-water of the Nile, being fed immediately by a range of lofty mountains in the interior. Its most southern affluent is the Leewumbu or Shimeeyu. Stanley, who sailed round the lake in 1875, and who explored the head-waters of the Congo, confirmed Speke’s discovery. It is thus settled that the Nile flows uninterruptedly from the lake to the Mediterranean, through no less than thirty-four degrees of latitude, and along a course exceeding 2000 miles in length, in a straight line, and perhaps 3000, allowing for windings. Captain Speke was prevented from putting his speculation to the test in 1859 or 1860; but in 1861 and 1862, accompanied by Captain Grant, he traced the course of the grand river down from the lake to the ocean – not actually keeping the stream in view the whole of the way, but touching it repeatedly here and there, in such a way as to leave no doubt that it is the Nile. 

Thus the somewhat magniloquent terms in which Bruce announced his discoveries have not proved to be justified. The post of honour is to be given, not to the Blue Nile, but to the White Nile, and at a point nearly a thousand miles further south than was reached by Bruce.

On this Day in Other Sources.

At a subsequent meeting no less than fourteen individuals – eight of them being females – are “permittit to keep and hold Scots Schooles, they and their spouses, if they ony have, keiping and attending the ordinances within the samyne.”1

– Old Glasgow, pp.276-289.

1  14th Nov. 1663.

The first newspaper published in Glasgow appeared on the 14th of November, 1715, and, curiously enough, it was a penny paper. It bore for its title, “The Glasgow Courant containing the occurrences both at Home and Abroad: Glasgow, Printed for R. T, and are to be sold at the Printing House in the Colledge and at the Post Office.” It soon changed its name, however, as the fourth number appeared under the title, “The West Country Intelligence.” The prospectus was as follows: “This paper is to be printed three times every week for the use of the Country round. Any gentleman or Minister, or any other who wants them, may have them at the Universities Printing House or at the Post Office. It is hoped this paper will give satisfaction to the Readers and that they will encourage it by sending Subscriptions for one year, half year, or quarterly, to the above directed places, when they shall be served at a most easie rate. Advertisements are to be taken in at either the printing house in the College or Post office. The gentlemen in the towns of Aberdeen St. Andrews Inverness, Brechen, Dundee, St. Johnstoune, Stirling, Dumbarton, Inverary, Dumfries, Lanerk, Hamilton, Irvin, Air, Kilmarnock, and Stranraer, are desired to send by post any News they have, and especially Sea-port towns to advise what ships come in or sail off from these parts.” The “easy rate” at which the paper was to be sold was afterwards announced thus: “N.B. This paper is not sold in retail under three halfpence, but for encouragement to subscribers for one penny.” Such was the first Glasgow newspaper. It is not known how long it was continued, but a set consisting of sixty-seven numbers is preserved in the college library. It was printed on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, in a small quarto form, each copy containing twelve pages. It was made up chiefly of extracts from foreign journals and the London newspapers, with private letters and occasionally poetry, but there was very little local news.1 But the Intelligence did not long survive, and for twenty-five years no newspaper was printed in Glasgow. 

– Old Glasgow, pp.299-307.

1  Notices and Documents illustrative of the Literary History of Glasgow (Maitland Club), p. 6.

By the proposals for building this new [Theatre Royal], according to the Scots Magazine for 1768, Mr. Ross had to raise £2,500 by twenty-five shares, at £100 per share, for which the subscribers were to receive 3 per cent., and free access to all performances and every part of the house, except behind the scenes. “The house is to be 100 feet in length by 50 broad. To furnish new scenes, wardrobe, and necessary decorations will, it is computed, cost £1,500 more, and the whole building, &c., is to be insured for £4,000, and mortgaged as security to pay the interest. As it would be impossible to procure good performers should the tickets continue at the low prices now paid, it is proposed to make the boxes 4s., the pit 3s., the first gallery 2s., and the upper 1s. For these prices, says Mr. Ross, this stage shall vie with those of London and Dublin. There shall be five capital men-actors, one good man-singer, one second ditto; three capital women-actresses, two capital women-singers, one capital man-dancer, and one woman ditto; the rest as good as can be had: the orchestra shall be conducted with a good first fiddler, as a leader, a harpsichord, and the rest of the band persons of merit.” 

Soon after, Mr. Ross advertised that he found “the general voice incline that the boxes and pit should be an equal price. As that is the case, no more than sixpence will be added to the tickets: boxes and pit 3s., galleries 2s. and 1s. The manager’s first plan must therefore be in some degree contracted; but no pains, care, or expense, will be spared to open the new theatre on the 14th of November next with as complete a company as can be got together.” 

Arnot, writing of the view of the edifice as seen from the bridge, truly averred that “it produces the double effect of disgusting spectators by its own deformity, and obstructing the view of the Register Office, perhaps the handsomest building in the nation.” 

Its front was somewhat better, being entirely of polished ashlar, presenting a gable and moulded pediment, with three large circular-headed windows, opening upon a spacious balcony and balustrade, which crowned the portico. The latter consisted of six plain Doric pillars with a cornice. This faced the green slope of Multree’s Hill, on which the Register House was not built till 1772. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.340-348.

Bigotry, Intolerance, and Fireworks.

WE have great pleasure in announcing that the observance of the Fifth of November was very general, and very signal this year. No less than 5,000 persons were employed in letting off fireworks on Tower-Hill. At Hammersmith – a  place which is greatly infested with Roman aliens – numerous GUYS were paraded; among them there was a living reality on horseback; a gentleman who had got himself up in a style combining FAWKES with FALSTAFF. These displays of popular bigotry and intolerance are greatly to be commended; and they are very seasonable just now, when Popery is trying to enslave the Continent, and genteel Puseyites at home are slyly doing its work wherever they can; as, for instance, in a certain Review. 

As saints, and thorough-going adherents to Exeter Hall, we rejoice in the demonstration which was made on Thursday last against the subjects of a foreign power, who are plotting, and scheming, and intriguing, and chanting through the nose, in the view of setting up their Italian Empire in HER MAJESTY’s dominions. May the British Public continue to burn the POPE annually in effigy, so long as there exists a British gander capable of allowing his goose to frequent the confessional! Squibs and crackers are not arguments exactly, but they are very good answers to dogmatic lies. They cannot hurt the feelings of our Catholic fellow-subjects, because we have no such ellows. What fellowship is there between the subjects of the QUEEN OF ENGLAND and those of the POPE OF ROME? – November 14, 1857., p.206.


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