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December 22nd

Died: Emperor Vitellius, beheaded at Rome, 69 A.D.; Richard Plantagenet, alleged son of Richard III, 1550, Eastwell, Kent; Richard Allein, Nonconformist divine, 1681; Michael Baron, celebrated actor, 1729, Paris; Sir Philip Francis, reputed author of Junius, 1818, London; Dr. James Cowles Prichard, distinguished ethnologist, 1848, London; Rev. M. J. Routh, D.D., president of Magdalen College, Oxford, in his 100th year, 1854, Oxford.

Feast Day: St. Ischyrion, martyr, 253. Saints Cyril and Methodius, confessors, end of 9th century.

THE ORIGINAL BLUEBEARD  

For more than a century and a half, Bluebeard has been a favourite melodramatic hero: favourite, that is, with those who wish to find a tyrant as a foil to some ill-used damsel or heroine; and the more savage he is, the more intense is the interest felt in the story—by boys and girls, if not by children of larger growth.' In this, as in some other histories, the more thoughtful readers occasionally ask—Is it true? There certainly was no real lady to say:

 'Sister Anne, sister Anne, do you see anybody coming?'

but nevertheless Mezeray, and other French writers, tell us of a man who really suggested to Perrault the idea for the story of Bluebeard.

Giles de Laval, Seigneur de Retz, better known in French history as Marshal de Retz, was born in or about the year 1396. Losing his father in 1416, Giles entered the service of his sovereign-prince, the Duc de Bretagne; and his name is found mentioned in connection with events in 1420 and 1425. He next entered the service of the French king, Charles VII, and was actively engaged in the defensive war maintained by that monarch against the English; distinguishing himself in many engagements. In 1429, he was one of the captains under the celebrated Joan of Arc; and aided her in bringing provisions into Orleans. We then hear of Giles, and his brother Rene, accompanying the king to Rheims; and it is supposed that Giles was on this occasion created Marshal of France, in recognition of his military merits. It was he who carried the holy ampoule, at the consecration of the king, from the abbey of St. Remi to the cathedral. He appears also at this time to have been counsellor and chamberlain to the king. Again we hear of him commanding troops against the English in 1430 and 1433, in which last-named year his martial services appear to have terminated.

Now, there is nothing whatever in this career to denote a cruel or depraved taste: on the contrary, Giles de Laval presents himself to us as the Marshal de Retz, a man of high birth, successful as a military commander, and in high favour at the court of the king of France. Yet the French annals tell us that this man, at the age of thirty-seven, commenced the abominable course of life which has brought infamy upon his name. When twenty years of age, he had inherited large estates from his father; at twenty-four, he had married Catherine de Thouars, who brought him still larger property; and when his maternal grandfather, Jean de Craon, died in 1432, another set of estates fell to him: insomuch that Giles became the richest subject in France. This immense fortune was the grand cause of his ruin. He plunged into a course of profligacy and debauchery which diminished his wealth rapidly; and he sold one estate after another to defray his lavish expenses. He maintained a guard of honour of two hundred horsemen; and his suite, of fifty persons, comprised chaplains, choristers, musicians, pages, and serviteurs; most of whom were made ministers or accomplices in his acts of libertinism. Yet, withal, he affected great pomp and magnificence in religious ceremonies. His chapel was hung with cloth of gold and silk; the sacred vessels were of gold, and enriched with precious stones. His chaplains, habited in scarlet robes adorned with fur, bore the titles of dean, chanter, arch-deacon, and bishop; and he even sent a deputy to the pope, to ask permission for a cross to be carried before him! These, and other extravagances, made such inroads on his wealth that he began to dispose of his estates one after another. His family, alarmed at this prodigal waste of means, in which they all had an interest, obtained a decree from the parliament of Paris, forbidding him to make any further alienations of his property.

Even at this stage we do not recognise in Giles de Retz what the world would call a monster; we see in him only a profligate spendthrift, who joined licentiousness with religious observances in a way not at all unusual in the middle ages. But the worst was approaching. Craving for wealth to supply his extravagance, he had recourse to alchemy. Failing, then, to discover the grand art of transmuting base metals into gold, he next turned his attention to magic or sorcery, under the guidance of an Englishman, named Messire Jean, and an Italian, named Francisco Prelati. He is reported to have now made a compact with Satan, offering to give, in return for boundless wealth, everything except his own life and soul: as regarded the lives and souls of others, he felt no scruple. It was at this time, according to the accounts which have descended to us, that he began to immolate children—even while fulfilling his religious duties in his chapel with careful precision. The poor little creatures, made the victims of his iniquity in various ways, were finally put to death, and their blood and hearts used as charms in diabolical rites. His myrmidons inveigled boys and girls from the neighbouring villages into his castle, and they were never afterwards seen.

Other agents of his, during his tours from one to another of his castles in Bretagne, were wont to persuade poor peasants, who had beautiful children, to intrust them to the care of the marshal, who promised to attend to their advancement in life. The children were never again seen; and when outcries were made in consequence, the accomplices in De Retz's iniquities sought to stifle them by threats or bribery. This continued so long, and the number of children who disappeared became so large, that the matter came under the notice and interference of the authorities. In 1440, the marshal was arrested, together with two of his men, Henri and Etienne Corillant. Confronted with his two accomplices, Giles at first denied all knowledge of them; but a threat of the torture having alarmed him, he made what is called a clean breast of it' by revealing everything. The judges were frozen with horror at the obscene and atrocious recital which he made.

There is no doubt as to the authenticity of the horrible transactions; and a biographer of the marshal, in the Biographic Universelle, states that manuscript reports of the trial (which lasted a month) exist in the Bibliothèque Imperiale at Paris, and also among the archives of the Chateau at Nantes. What the wretched young victims (who varied from eight to eighteen years of age) were made to endure before being put to death, cannot be described here. During a period of at least eight years, and at his several castles of Machecoul, Chantocé, and Tiffanges, as well as in his mansions at Nantes and Suze, were these atrocities carried on. In most cases he burned the bodies; but sufficient remains were found to indicate forty-six victims at Chantocé, and eighty at Machecoul. Giles did not boast of his atrocities; he confessed them, and publicly asked pardon of the parents of the murdered innocents. Condemned to be strangled, he exhibited once more a characteristic of his strange nature, by begging that the bishop of Nantes would head the procession which was formed on this occasion. his execution took place in 1440, about or a little before Christmas-day—some say December 22.

Probably on account of some personal peculiarity, Giles de Laval became remembered as Barbe-bleue, whence our Bluebeard. It seems to have speedily become a name of terror; for Holinshed, speaking of the committal of the Duke of Suffolk to the Tower, in the reign of Henry VI, says:

'This doing so much displeased the people, that if politic provision had not been made, great mischief had immediately ensued. For the commons, in sundry places of the realm, assembled together in great companies, and chose to them a captain, whom they called Bluebeard; but ere they had attempted any enterprise, their leaders were apprehended, so that the matter was pacified without any hurt committed.'

As to the children's Bluebeard, it was written by Perrault in the time of Louis XIV, and has been translated from the French into nearly all the languages of Europe. This Bluebeard's propensity is not to kill children, but to marry wife after wife in succession, kill them, and deposit them in the fatal closet which curiosity would not leave untouched. We all know how another victim was saved, and how Bluebeard met his death.

RICHARD PLANTAGENET  

December 22, 1550, died a poor workingman, named Richard Plantagenet, who was believed to be a son of Richard III, king of England. The story has been preserved by Dr. Thomas Brett, who saw the entry of the man's death in the parish register of Eastwell, and who, about 1720, obtained other particulars from the Earl of Winchelsea at Eastwell House.

Sir Thomas Moyle having, about 1545, purchased the estate of Eastwell, began to build the mansion alluded to. He was surprised to observe that one of the bricklayers, a man well advanced in years, was accustomed, on leaving off work, to take out a book and begin to read. Sir Thomas's curiosity was excited to know what book occupied the man's attention; but the extreme shyness of the student for some time baffled his desires. At length, taking him by surprise, he found, to his increased astonishment, that the man perused a Latin book. He then inquired how he came to be able to read a book in that language, and after some conversation, obtained from him a series of particulars which he said had hitherto been told to none.

He was, in his earliest years, boarded with a school-master, and there was occasionally visited by a gentleman, who paid regularly for his maintenance and education, but who did not let him know his parentage. At length, when he was about sixteen, this gentleman took him on a journey, and introduced him to a stately house, where another personage of distinguished appearance, and wearing a star and the Order of the Garter, came to see him, conversed kindly with him, and then dismissed him. Some time after, he was conducted into Leicestershire, and brought before the king in his tent, in the midst of an army, and was surprised to find that the king was the same distinguished person whom he had lately seen. Richard embraced him, acknowledged him as his son, and said that if he should, as he hoped, survive the battle about to be fought, the son should be duly provided for; after which he was desired to take a position at some distance till the end of the conflict. The king also warned him, in the event of his defeat and death, to conceal the relationship now acknowledged, as it would be sure to be fatal to him.

Finding the battle go against King Richard, he made his way from the field, and as he entered Leicester, he saw a dead man brought in naked, laid across a horse, and learned that it was the monarch he had yesterday seen at the head of a gallant army.

Chance directed him into the occupation of a bricklayer, in which he had spent his life in contented obscurity.

Sir Thomas Moyle, feeling for the misfortunes of this scion of royalty, built a small house for him on his grounds, and requested him to take what food he should henceforth require from his kitchen. But it would appear that the old man did not live above three or four years in the enjoyment of the ease at last accorded to him.

This story is of so romantic a nature, that it might well be doubted. Mr. Jesse, however, in his Memoirs of King Richard III (8vo, 1861), expresses a general faith in it, and shews several reasons for thinking it true.

'Anciently, when any person of noble family was interred at Eastwell, it was the custom to affix a special mark against the name of the deceased in the register of burials. The fact is a significant one, that this aristocratic symbol is prefixed to the name of Richard Plantagenet. At Eastwell, his story still excites curiosity and interest ... A well in Eastwell Park still bears his name; tradition points to an uninscribed tomb in Eastwell churchyard as his last resting place; and, lastly, the very handwriting which, more than three centuries ago, recorded his interment, is still in existence.'

In further connection with the subject of the Plantagenet family, Sir Bernard Burke, in his work, entitled Vicissitudes of Families, remarks:

'What race in Europe surpassed in royal position, personal achievement, or romantic adventure, our Plantagenets, equally wise as valiant, no less renowned in the cabinet than the field? Yet, as late as 1637, the great-grandson of Margaret Plantagenet, herself daughter and heir of George, Duke of Clarence, was following the cobbler craft at Newport, in Shropshire. Among the lineal descendants of Edmund Woodstock, Earl of Kent, son of Edward the First, entitled to quarter the royal arms, occur a butcher and a toll-gatherer, the first a Mr. Joseph Smart, of Hales Owen (Salop), the latter Mr. G. Wymot, keeper of the turnpike-gate, Cooper's Bank, Dudley. Among descendants of Thomas 'Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester, son of Edward III, we discover Mr. Penny, late sexton at St. George's, Hanover Square—a strange descent from sword and sceptre to spade and pick.'

MRS. MAPP, THE BONE-SETTER  

'Died last week, at her lodgings, near the Seven Dials, the much-talked of Mrs. Mapps, the bone-setter, so miserably poor, that the parish was obliged to bury her.'—London Daily Post, 22nd December 1737.

The subject of this melancholy obituary notice was for a time the object of popular wonder and enthusiasm. The daughter of a country bone-setter, she had, after wandering about from place to place, settled herself at Epsom, where she soon became famed for wonder-working cures—cures apparently effected more by boldness and personal strength than skill. She married a mercer's servant, but the match seems to have been an unfortunate one, for the Grub-Street Journal of April 19, 1736, says:

'We hear that the husband of Mrs. Mapp, the famous bone-setter at Epsom, ran away from her last week, taking with him upwards of a hundred guineas, and such other portable things as lay next to his hand. Several letters from Epsom mention that the footman, whom the fair bone-setter married the week before, had taken a sudden journey from thence with what money his wife had earned; and that her concern at first was very great, but as soon as the surprise was over, she grew gay; and seems to think the money well disposed of, as it was like to rid her of a husband.'

He must have been a bold man to marry her, and still bolder to have ventured to incur her wrath, if her portrait does her justice—a more ill-favoured, or a stronger-framed woman, it would have been difficult to find.

Her professional success, however, must have gone far to solace her for matrimonial failure. Besides driving a profitable trade at home, she used to drive to town once a week, in a coach-and-four, and return again bearing away the crutches of her patients as trophies of honour. She held her levees at the Grecian Coffee-house, where she operated successfully upon a niece of Sir Hans Sloane. The same day, she straightened the body of a man whose back had stuck out two inches for nine years; and a gentleman who went into the house with one shoe-heel six inches high, came out again cured of a lameness of twenty years' standing, and with both his legs of equal length. She was not always so successful. One Thomas Barber, tallow-chandler, of Saffron Hill, thought proper to issue the following warning to her would-be patients:

'Whereas it has been industriously (I wish I could say truly) reported that I had found great benefit from a certain female bone-setter's performance, and that it was from a want of resolution to undergo the operation that I did not meet with a perfect cure;—This is to give notice, that any persons afflicted with lameness (who are willing to know what good and harm others may receive, before they venture on desperate measures them-selves), will be welcome any morning to see the dressing of my leg, which was sound before the operation, and they will then be able to judge of the performance, and to whom I owe my present unhappy confinement to my bed and chair.'

The cure of Sir Hans Sloane's niece made Mrs. Mapp the town-talk, and if it was only known that she intended to make one of the audience, the theatre favoured with her presence was sure to be crowded to excess. A comedy was announced at the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, called The Husband's Relief, or The Female Bone-setter and the Worm-doctor. Mrs. Mapp attended the first night, and was gratified at hearing a song in her praise, of which we give two verses as a specimen:

You surgeons of London who puzzle your pates,
To ride in your coaches and purchase estates;
Give over for shame, for your pride has a fall,
And the doctress of Epsom has outdone you all.

Dame Nature has given her a doctor's degree,
She gets all the patients and pockets the fee;
So if you don't instantly prove it a cheat,
She'll loll in a chariot whilst you walk the street.'

She seems to have been accompanied on this occasion by two noted quacks—Ward the worm-doctor, and Taylor the oculist. A rhymster in the Grub-street Journal, alluding to this strange conjunction, says:

While Mapp to th' actors shewed a kind regard,
On one side sat Taylor, on th' other side Ward.
When their mock persons of the drama came,
Both Ward and Taylor thought it hurt their game.
'Wondering how Mapp could in good-humour be—
Zounds! cries the manly dame, it hurts not me,
Quacks, without art, may either blind or kill,
But demonstration shows that mine is skill.'

Mrs. Mapp soon afterwards removed from Epsom to Pall Mall, but she did not forget her country friends. She gave a plate of ten guineas to be run for at Epsom, and went to see the race. Singularly enough, the first heat was won by a mare called 'Mrs. Mapp,' which so delighted the doctress, that she gave the jockey a guinea, and promised to make it a hundred if he won the plate, but to his chagrin he failed to do so. The fair bone-setter's career was but a brief one. In 1736, she was at the height of her prosperity, and at the end of 1737, she died in the miserable circumstances set forth in our opening paragraph.

December 23rd

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