20th of November

St Maxentia, virgin and martyr. St Edmund, king and martyr, 870. St Bernard, bishop of Hildesheim, confessor, 1021. St Felix of Valois, confessor, 1212.

Born. – Jean Francois de la Harpe, miscellaneous writer (Lycée ou Cours de la Littérature); Louis Alexandre Brethier, Prince of Wagram, general of Napoleon, 1753, Versailles.
Died. – Cardinal de Polignac, statesman and man of letters, 1741, France; Mountstuart Elphinstone, Indian diplomatist, &c., 1859, Hookward Park, Surrey.


In the last [18th] century, when the pursuit of book-collecting was almost approaching to the nature of a mania, a great want was felt of an artist capable of providing suitable habiliments for the treasures of literature – of constructing caskets worthy of the jewels which they enshrined. When the demand comes to be made, the means of supply are seldom far distant; so, at this eventful crisis, as Dr Dibdin informs us, ‘Roger Payne rose like a star, diffusing lustre on all sides, and rejoicing the hearts of all true sons of bibliomania…’ 

Payne’s chef-d’œuvre is a large paper copy of the famous folio Æschylus, known to collectors as the Glasgow Æschylus, being printed, with the same types as the equally famous Glasgow Homer, by Foulis, in that city in 1795. This book, bound for Lord Spencer, contains the original drawings executed by Flaxman, and subsequently engraved and dedicated to the mother of the earl. Dibdin, in the Ædes Althorpianæ, describes it as the most splendid and interesting work in Europe. Payne’s bill for binding it is verbatim, literatim, and punctuatim, as follows:

   ‘Æschylus Glasguæ. MDCCXCV. Flaxman Illustravit. Bound in very best manner, sewd with strong Silk, every Sheet round every Band, not false Bands; The Back lined with Russia Leather, Cutt Exceeding Large; Finished in the most Magnificent Manner, Em-borderd with ERNAINE expressive of The High Rank of The Noble Patroness of the Designs, The other Parts Finished in the most elegant Taste with small Tool Plates of the most exact Work, Measured with the Compasses. It takes a great deal of Time, marking out the different Measure-ments; preparing the Tools, and making out New Patterns. The Book finished in compartments with parts of Gold Studded Work. All the Tools except Studded points are obliged to be worked off plain first – and afterwards the Gold laid on and Worked off again. And this Gold Work requires Double Gold, being on Rough Grained Morocco, The Impressions of the Tools must be fitted and covered at the bottom with Gold to prevent flaws and cracks.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     £12  12  0

   Fine drawing paper for Inlaying the designs 5s. 6d. Finest Pickt Lawn paper for Interleaving the Designs 1s. 8d. One yard and a half of Silk 10s. 6d. Inlaying the Designs at 8d. each 32 Designs £1, 1s. 4d.,     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .      .     .     .     .     .     .     .       1  19  0

   Mr Morton adding borders to the Drawings.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .         1  16  0

                                                                                                                                                £16  7  0’

Payne, for a long time, lived and worked alone in his filthy den; but towards the close of his career, he took in, as a fellow-labourer, an excellent workman named Weir. This man was a regularly ‘dubbed ale-knight,’ loved barley-wine to the full as much as his partner,.. Sobriety may not be always a bond of union, but inebriation is a certain source of discord, and not only words, but frequently blows were exchanged between the two artists. Weir’s wife was a famous cleaner of old books, and she went with her husband to Toulouse, where they exercised their skill and art, for several years, in binding and repairing the valuable library of Count Macarthy. Payne ended his wretched existence on the 20th of November 1797, and was soon followed by Weir to the bourne when no man returneth. After their deaths, Mrs Weir was employed to clean and repair the books, parchments, vellums, &c., in the Register Office at Edinburgh. Lord Frederick Campbell was so much pleased with her good-conduct, and marvellously successful labours in this capacity, that he had her portrait drawn and engraved. Her chef-d’œuvre was a copy of the Faite of Arms and Chivalrye, printed by Caxton, and bound by Payne. At the Roxburgh sale, this book was brought to the hammer. As a work printed by Caxton, bound by Payne, and cleaned by Weir does not occur every day, the excitement and sensation when Mr Evans put it up was immense; nor was it finally knocked down till the biddings reached the high figure of three hundred and thirty-six pounds.

On this Day in Other Sources.

The King calls a parliament this year, 1469, of his estates, at Edinburgh, the 20th day of November; during which the solemnity of the Queen’s coronation was performed, with all ceremony [necessary], in the abbey church of Holyroodhouse. In this parliament was enacted a law that none under the degree of knight, unless worth [a] yearly revenue 100 [pounds] of old extent, except heralds and musicians, should wear clothes of silk. As also that all notaries, in time to come, shall be made [by the] King, and not [by] the [Holy Roman] Emperor. That the King’s rolls and registers be put in books; and that no foreign black money, of [any] nation, with any course [be used] within this kingdom. 

– Historical Works, pp.189-214.

Andrew Muirhead, a canon, was next elected bishop, and consecrated in the year 1455. He founded the hospital of St. Nicholas, near his episcopal palace, and repaired the north aisle of the cathedral. He was a member of the regency during the minority of James III.; several times a commissioner to treat with England; and one of the ambassadors to negotiate the marriage of James with Margaret of Denmark. He died 20th November 1473.

– Sketches, pp.29-70.

This year, 1475, the King, for the urgent affairs of the kingdom, calls a parliament, to be [held] at Edinburgh, the 20th day of November; wherein it was enacted, that civil complaints be first pursued before the Judge Ordinary; that bullion be brought in; and that no coined money ordained to pass, be put to the fire and made bullion of, or yet broken or melted by goldsmiths, without the King’s special license. 

– Historical Works, pp.189-214.

Randolph set out from London, for Edinburgh, with fresh instructions, upon the stale topick of courtship, in favour of their old lover, Leicester, the proposal of whom Elizabeth now thought to have been received, by Mary, with more sharpness, than the subject, or the proposer, merited. Leicester himself was aware, as we have seen, that he had been proposed, by the malignity of Cecil, to involve the man, whom he hated, in a difficult predicament, between the two Queens; and Elizabeth, to gratify her own envy, persevered in her purpose, to embarrass, and mortify Mary. The Scotish Queen was, in no haste, however, to appoint commissioners, to treat of such foolery; and she was not very well pleased, that the English ambassador, at Paris, had made this treaty of marriage mere matter of town-talk: This was, no doubt, owing to Cecil’s artifice, who wished that Mary’s courtship, by Leicester, might mortify the great personages, who had made sincere pretensions to the Scotish Queen: The whole matrimonial negotiation was, probably, instituted by Elizabeth, with the insidious design, of disappointing Mary’s splendid suitors, from abroad, as well as gratifying her own spleen.  

The commissioners, who were to settle this courtship, which Elizabeth meant, sincerely, assembled, at length, at Berwick, on the 19th of November [1564]: Bedford, and Randolph, on the side of Elizabeth; and Murray, and Maitland, on the part of Mary. The English commissioners proposed inviolable amity, perpetual peace, and assured hope of succession, if the Scotish Queen would marry Leicester. For, upon this condition, Elizabeth had promised, to declare her, by act of Parliament, her adopted daughter, or sister, as soon as she should be married. The Scotish commissioners, maintained, that it stood not with the dignity of a Queen, who had been sought unto, by so many princes, to condescend to the marriage of a new created earl, a subject of England, upon hope only, without dowry; neither stood it with the Queen of England’s honour, to commend such a husband to so great a princess, her kinswoman:..

– Life of Mary, pp.78-98.

The 20th day of November, [1600,] the Queen was brought to bed of a son at Dunfermline; he was christened Charles,.. 

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

Naples Novemb. 20 [1661].

By reason of the late storms, there hath been extraordinary losse of Ships, and the Rains were so great, that they run down the Mountains like Rivers, a multitude of Vineyards utterly spoiled, especially about Sarno, the damnages valued to 300000 Crowns. 

Mercurius Caledonius.

During the reign of Charles I. it shared largely in the disasters which overspread the country; and it shared still more largely in those of the dark reign of Charles II. On the 20th of November, 1706, 200 Cameronians entered the burgh, published a manifesto against the impending union of the two kingdoms, and burnt the articles of union at the cross. The Covenanters were indignant that the articles of union made no recognition of their solemn league and covenant, and that they, on the other hand, recognised the constitution of the church of England, which they had sworn to overthrow and exterminate; but notwithstanding the intemperance and tumultuousness of their well-meant proceedings, they happily did not succeed in precipitating the town into any serious disaster.

– Gazetteer of Scotland, pp.346-352.

James Mhor was considered as the chief instigator of this outrage, thus the vengeance of the Crown was directed against him rather than Robin, “who was considered but a half-wild Highlandman;” and in virtue of a warrant of fugitation issued, he was arrested and tried. The Lords of Justiciary found him guilty, but in consequence of some doubts, or informality, sentence of death was delayed until the 20th of November, 1752. In consequence of an expected rescue – mediated by Highlanders who served in the city as caddies, chairmen, and city guards, among who Macgregor’s bravery at Prestonpans, seven years before, made him popular – he was removed by a warrant from the Lord Justice Clerk, addressed to General Churchill, from the Tolbooth to the Castle, there to be kept in close confinement till his fatal day arrived. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.66-79.

The Abbé McPherson, before leaving France in 1798, applied to the agent at St. Omers, to whom the mass of the College MSS. had been consigned, to learn their fate. He was assured by that person, that on the appearance of a proclamation enjoining all holders of British property to surrender it on pain of death, his wife, dreading a discovery, burnt the papers in his absence. Alexander Innes denied the truth of this statement; but they have never been recovered; and the fate of that deposit is still involved in obscurity.1

– Sketches, Appendix I.

1  This account is from the narrative of the Abbé McPherson himself, communicated by him at Rome in 1838 to Mr. Dennistoun. The Abbé was then about eighty-two years old, but vigorous in body and mind. Mr. Dennistoun made a note of his communication at the time. 
Above thirty years after McPherson’s inquiry at St. Omers, one Robert Watson came to Rome, and talking on this subject to the Abbé, assured him that there was no truth in the alleged destruction of these documents; indeed, he asserted that he knew where many of them then were, and that he could recover them if £50 were paid him. This information the Abbé wrote to Lord Stuart de Rothsay, then in Paris, who saw Watson, paid him the money, and did obtain some papers. 
This Watson had fled from Scotland, having been compromised in the seditious associations of 1794, and remained abroad till after the peace. Having become acquainted at Rome with an attorney, who had been confidential agent of the Cardinal York, he purchased form him, for 100 scudi (£22, 10s.), a large mass of papers, chiefly regarding the rebellions of 1715 and 1745, which had remained in his hands after the Cardinal’s death. Several carts were employed to transport them to a room which Watson had fitted up to receive them: but having made great boasting of his prize, the matter reached Cardinal Gonsalvi, the minister of Pius VII., who directed the whole to be seized. Watson was offered repayment of the price and all the expenses; but he refused to accept of this, and left Rome protesting his right to the papers. The whole collection was subsequently sent to George IV. as a present from Pius VII., and is generally known as the Stuart Papers. A commission was appointed by his Majesty for examining these, with Sir Walter Scott at the head of it; and extracts have been published from them by Lord Mahon, in his History of England from the Peace of Utrecht, and by Dr. Brown, in his History of the Highlands
The subsequent fate of Watson will appear from the following notice in the Times, November 22 and 23, 1838:- 
   “On Tuesday, 20th November 1838, an inquest was held at the Blue Anchor Tavern, St. Mary-at-Hill, Thames Street, London, on Mr. Robert Watson, aged 88, who had strangled himself the preceding morning when in bed, by twisting his neckcloth with a poker. He had arrived in that tavern in March from Boulogne, and after staying five weeks went to Bath, on his return from which he had an apoplectic fit. He generally lay in bed till two o’clock. The night before his death, he told the landlord that he was secretary to Lord George Gordon in 1780; that he had been the intimate friend of Horne Tooke up to his death; that he had been tried at the Old Bailey for conspiracy, and acquitted; that, at another time, £400 had been offered by Government for his apprehension, but he escaped by living in disguise in a lord’s house in London, and got away by the interest of Lady McD. in a Swedish ship, in which he was nearly taken, on suspicion of being Thomas Hardy. He went afterwards to Paris, and was employed by Napoleon to teach him English, who made him President of the Scotch College there, with 5000 francs a year, which he held six years. That he had been to every court in Europe, and had travelled to every part of the globe, and had been intimate with Washington; and was an avowed Deist. He went from France to Rome, where he discovered a mass of papers relative to the Stuart family, and of the greatest importance to England. That he entered upon a negotiation about them with Lord Castlereagh, who gave him a free pardon, and promised him £3000 for the discovery. That he frequently visited the Pope on the subject, and at last obtained them for a large sum; and, after further difficulties on the part of the Pope, he shipped them in a frigate sent on purpose from England, Lord Brougham being sent out by the Government to receive them. When he went to Bath, he had with him a box, which he declared contained important papers, and which he left there. 
   “He said he had an aunt in Edinburgh 104 years old, and 84 years a widow, and was supposed to be uncle to Dr. Watson, a surgeon in Leith. He was a person of very reserved habits; and nineteen wounds were said to have been found on his body after death.
Verdict – Temporary insanity.”
Necropolis 14.jpg




Glasgow’s Cathedral & City Necropolis.

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