Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pepys' Last Entry

May 31st, 1669 was the last day that the most famous of diarists, Samuel Pepys made an entry in his journal.  Pepys’ eyesight was failing, but he lived another 34 years.  Scott’s last entry was made much closer to his own end (April 16th, 1832), within a couple of months.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rising at Kent

‘30th May, 1648. There was a rising now in Kent, my 
Lord of Norwich being at the head of them. Their first 
rendezvous was in Broome-field, next my house at Sayes 
Court, whence they went to Maidstone, and so to Col- 
chester, where was that memorable siege. ‘

The passage above is from John Evelyn’s diary.  The Royalist rising in Kent is referred to by Walter Scott in “Woodstock”, with Lord Holland involved.

‘…"Not without some danger, though," muttered Louis, thinking of his
encounter with Bevis on the preceding evening.

"No, not without danger, indeed," echoed the knight; "but, as old Will

  'There's such divinity doth hedge a king,
  That treason dares not peep at what it would.'

"No, no--thank God, that's cared for; our Hope and Fortune is escaped,
so all news affirm, escaped from Bristol--if I thought otherwise,
Albert, I should be as sad as you are. For the rest of it, I have lurked
a month in this house when discovery would have been death, and that is
no longer since than after Lord Holland and the Duke of Buckingham's
rising at Kingston; and hang me, if I thought once of twisting my brow
into such a tragic fold as yours, but cocked my hat at misfortune as a
cavalier should."…’

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Charles II's Restoration

“I took up my politics,” said Sir Walter Scott of his school-days, “as King Charles II did his religion, from an idea that the Cavalier creed was the more gentlemanlike persuasion of the two.”

This quote of Walter Scott’s is found on the website.  May 29th was a significant date for Charles II, for more than one reason.  It was his birthday, and his restoration day.  Diarist John Evelyn records the restoration:

‘29th May, 1660. This day, his Majesty, Charles II 
came to London, after a sad and long exile and calami- 
tous suffering both of the King and Church, being seven- 
teen years. This was also his birthday, and with a 
triumph of above 20,000 horse and foot, brandishing their 
swords, and shouting with inexpressible joy; the ways 
strewn with flowers, the bells ringing, the streets hung 
with tapestry, fountains running with wine; the Mayor, 
Aldermen, and all the companies, in their liveries, chains 
of gold, and banners ; Lords and Nobles, clad in cloth of 
silver, gold, and velvet; the windows and balconies, all 
set with ladies; trumpets, music, and myriads of people 
flocking, even so far as from Rochester, so as they were 
seven hours in passing the city, even from two in the 
afternoon till nine at night. 
I stood in the Strand and beheld it, and blessed God. 
And all this was done without one drop of blood shed, 
and by that very army which rebelled against him : but it 
was the Lord's doing, for such a restoration was never 
mentioned in any history, ancient or modem, since the 
return of the Jews from their Babylonish captivity; nor 
so joyful a day and so bright ever seen in this nation, 
this happening when to expect or effect it was past all 
human policy.’

Monday, May 28, 2012

Scott Visits Gill's Hill

Turning today to Scott’s journal, to revisit the Radlett murder, which was covered earlier, Scott, intrigued by the story, visited the environs on May 28th, 1828.

May 28 [1828].—We took leave of our kind old host after breakfast, and set out for our own land. Our elegant researches carried us out of the high-road and through a labyrinth of intricate lanes,—which seem made on purpose to afford strangers the full benefit of a dark night and a drunk driver,—in order to visit Gill's Hill, famous for the murder of Mr. Weare.
The place has the strongest title to the description of Wordsworth:—
"A merry spot, 'tis said, in days of yore,But something ails it now—- the place is cursed."
The principal part of the house has been destroyed, and only the kitchen remains standing. The garden has been dismantled, though a few laurels and garden shrubs, run wild, continue to mark the spot. The fatal pond is now only a green swamp, but so near the house that one cannot conceive how it was ever chosen as a place of temporary concealment of the murdered body. Indeed the whole history of the murder, and the scenes which ensued, are strange pictures of desperate and short-sighted wickedness. The feasting—the singing—the murderer with his hands still bloody hanging round the neck of one of the females—the watch-chain of the murdered man, argue the utmost apathy. Even Probert, the most frightened of the party, fled no further for relief than to the brandy bottle, and is found in the very lane, and at the spot of the murder, seeking for the murderous weapon, and exposing himself to the view of the passengers. Another singular mark of stupid audacity was their venturing to wear the clothes of their victim. There was a want of foresight in the whole arrangement of the deed, and the attempts to conceal it, which argued strange inconsideration, which a professed robber would not have exhibited. There was just one single shade of redeeming character about a business so brutal, perpetrated by men above the very lowest rank of life—it was the mixture of revenge which afforded some relief to the circumstances of treachery and premeditation which accompanied it. But Weare was a cheat, and had no doubt pillaged Thurtell, who therefore deemed he might take greater liberties with him than with others.
The dirt of the present habitation equalled its wretched desolation, and a truculent-looking hag, who showed us the place, and received half-a-crown, looked not unlike the natural inmate of such a mansion. She indicated as much herself, saying the landlord had dismantled the place because no respectable person would live there. She seems to live entirely alone, and fears no ghosts, she says.
One thing about this mysterious tragedy was never explained. It is said that Weare, as is the habit of such men, always carried about his person, and between his flannel waistcoat and shirt, a sum of ready money, equal to £1500 or £2000. No such money was ever recovered, and as the sum divided by Thurtell among his accomplices was only about £20, he must, in slang phrase, have bucketed his pals.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Saint Petersburg

‘…Notwithstanding the personal friendship betwixt the emperors Alexander and Napoleon – notwithstanding their engagements entered at  Tilsit, and so recently revived at Erfurt, it seems to have been impossible to engage Russia heartily as an ally of Napoleon, in a war which had the destruction or absolute humiliation of Austria.  The court of St. Petersburg had, it is true, lost no time in securing the advantages which had been stipulated for Russia in the conference alluded to…’

Quoting again today, from Scott’s “Life of Napoleon”.   St. Petersburg was founded this day, May 27th, in 1703, by Tsar Peter the Great.