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November 24th

Born: Laurence Sterne, sentimental writer and novelist, 1713, Clonmel; John Bacon, sculptor, 1740, Southwark; Grace Darling, Northumbrian heroine, 1815, Bamborough.

Died: John Knox, Scottish Reformer, 1572, Edinburgh; William Sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the seven prelates in their celebrated petition to James II, 1693, Fresingfield, Suffolk; Dr. Robert Henry, historian, 1790, Edinburgh; William Lamb, Viscount Melbourne, statesman, 1848, Melbourne House, Derbyshire; Rev. Dr. George Croly, poet, and romance writer, 1860, London.

Feast Day: St. Chrysogonus, martyr, beginning of 4th century. St. Cianan or Kenan, bishop of Duleek, in Irelanal, 489. Saints Flora and Mary, virgins and martyrs, 851. St. John of the Cross, confessor, 1591.

THE CIRCE OF CARLISLE HOUSE, SOHO SQUARE

In the bankrupt list of The London Gazette for November 1772, the attention of the public was called, somewhat significantly, to 'Teresa Cornelys, Carlisle House, St. Ann, Soho, dealer.' It will not be uninteresting to the reader to have some account of the nature of Teresa Cornelys's dealings.

This lady, by birth a German, and during many years a public singer in Italy and Germany, settled in London somewhere about the year 1756 or 1757: and for twenty years after that time she entertained the public, 'the votaries of fashion of both sexes,' with a series of entertainments, masked balls, and the like, at once fascinating and elegant. These entertainments were held in the suitable mansion of Carlisle House, Soho Square, and figure largely in contemporary papers.

The first printed document referring to Mrs. Cornelys, convinces us at once that she must have been a woman of tact. The date of it is, February 18, 1763:

'On Saturday last, Mrs. Cornelys gave a ball at Carlisle House, to the upper servants of persons of fashion, as a token of the sense she has [did not Circe herself insert this little notice?] of her obligations to the nobility and gentry, for their generous subscription to her assembly. The company consisted of 220 persons, who made up fourscore couple in country dances; and as scarce anybody was idle on this occasion, the rest sat down to cards.'

The nobility and gentry who patronised Carlisle House, did so by paying an annual subscription, in consideration of which they received a ticket, which gave them the run of all that was there, whether it were 'a ball, or a masked ball, or a grand concert of vocal and instrumental music.' Also, it appears, they had the privilege of lending these tickets to friends a great convenience provided they wrote the name of the person upon the back of the said ticket, to whom they have lent it; [here the English is again a little Germanized], 'to prevent any mistake.' No doubt single tickets for particular evenings, and the special benefit of non subscribers, were to be had.

Notwithstanding her great success, for it seems to have been by no means inconsiderable, Mrs. Cornelys had her troubles. It was natural that competition should originate opposition establishments. But on her part the best of feeling is always to be premised.

'Whereas it has been industriously reported, to the disadvantage of Mrs. Cornelys, that she has expressed herself dissatisfied with a subscription now on foot, to build a large room in opposition to hers; she esteems it her duty, in this public manner, to declare that she never once entertained a thought so unjust and unreasonable. Nay, so satisfied is she with matters in general, that her longing for fatherland is perceptibly on the decline. She humbly hopes she has not been wanting in duty and gratitude to her protectors, and cannot sufficiently be thankful for the comfort she enjoys in this happy country, which she hopes never to leave.'

Mrs. Cornelys seems to have spared no money or pains to have everything in keeping with the tastes of her illustrious friends. The expense of the 'alterations and additions to Carlisle House in Soho Square', and of the 'new embellishments and furniture', amounted for the year 1765, alone to 'little less than 2000', and made that house, in the news writer's opinion, 'the most magnificent place of public entertainment in Europe.

To one of the rooms we find added, 'the most curious, singular, and superb ceiling that ever was executed or even thought of:' and to obviate certain 'complaints of excessive heat', she arranged to have 'tea below stairs and ventilators above', and succeeded so admirably, that subscribers were no longer subjected to 'the least danger of catching cold'. To relieve the press of the distinguished crowd, in its entrance and exit, she provided an additional door, and also a new gallery for the dancing of cotillons and allemandes, and a suite of new rooms adjoining; in consequence of which she was most reluctantly compelled to charge subscribers an additional guinea.

On February 27, 1770, Mrs. Cornelys's continued efforts were rewarded with a most magnificent masquerade.

First, as to the numbers who attended:

'Monday night the principal nobility and gentry of this kingdom, to the number of near eight hundred, were present at the masked ball, at Mrs. Cornelys's, in Soho Square.'

Next, as to the stir it made in the neighbourhood:

'Soho Square and the adjacent streets were lined with thousands of people, whose curiosity led them to get a sight of the persons going to the masquerade; or was any coach or chair suffered to pass unreviewed, the windows being obliged to be let down, and lights held up to display the figures to more advantage.'

One does not wonder at the anxiety of the rabble to see all that was to be seen, for:

'the richness and brilliancy of the dresses, we are told, were almost beyond imagination; or did any assembly ever exhibit a collection of more elegant and beautiful female figures.'

And now for the company. The reader may form a faint idea:

'Among them were Lady Waldegrave, Lady Pembroke, the Duchess of Hamilton, Mrs. Crewe, Mrs. Hodges, Lady Almeria Carpenter, &c.

The characters assumed by the company were extremely various. Sir R. Phillips appeared as 'a double man, half miller, half chimney sweeper.' There was also a figure of Adam in flesh coloured silk, with an apron of fig Leaves, who, in spite of the fig leaves, must have seemed rather out of keeping. The Earl of Carlisle figured as a running footman; Mr. James, the painter, as Midas. The Duke of Devonshire was 'very fine, but in no particular character'. And Lord Edg---b, in the character of an old woman, was full as lovely as his lady.

But the ladies were net to be outdone on this festive occasion. 'The Countess Dowager of Waldegrave wore a dress richly trimmed with beads and pearls, in the character of' - we are sorry to observe it 'Jane Shore'. Many indulged a classical fancy. 'The Duchess of Bolton, in the character of Diana, was captivating'. 'Lady Stanhope, as Melpomene, was a striking fine figure'. 'Lady Augustus Stuart, as a Vestal, and Lady Caroline, as a Fille de Patmos, showed that true elegance may be expressed without gold and diamonds'. Others took a more modern turn. 'The Countess of Pomfret, in the character of a Greek sultana, and the two Miss Fredericks, who accompanied her, as Greek slaves, made a complete group; and to eclipse all, Miss Monckton, daughter to Lord Galway, appeared in the character of an Indian sultana, in a robe of cloth of gold, and a rich veil. The seams of her habit were embroidered with precious stones, and she had a magnificent cluster of diamonds on her head: the jewels she wore were valued at 30,000.'

But all these brilliant achievements, it seems, were to have an end. The opening of the Pantheon shattered Mrs. Cornelys to some extent. Then, unfortunately, there were certain 'Bills of Indictment' preferred to the Grand Jury. These indictments insinuated of Mrs. Cornelys, 'that she does keep and maintain a common disorderly house, and did permit and suffer divers loose, idle, and disorderly persons, as well men as women, to be and remain during the whole night, rioting and other-wise misbehaving themselves.'

Upon this the obility and gentry, we presume, to be on the safe side of rumour, transferred their patronage mostly to the Pantheon. For in July 1772, 'the creditors of Mrs. Cornelys, of Carlisle House, Soho Square, were most earnestly requested to deliver forthwith a particular account of their several and respective demands on the said Mrs. Cornelys, to Mr. Hickey, in St. Albans's Street. And at last our little register, from the London Gazette, of Teresa Cornelys, Carlisle House, St. Ann, Soho, dealer, closes the scene.

We hear a great deal more of Carlisle House, and the desperate struggle which it made, apparently with not much success, to regain its position; but it is enough. Mrs. Cornelys ultimately retired into private life, and died at a very advanced age, August 19, 1797, in the Fleet Prison.

MERMAIDS  

Mermaids have had a legendary existence from very early ages; for the Syron of the ancients evidently belomged to the same remarkable family. Mermen and mermaids and men of the sea, and women of the sea have been as stoutly believed in as the great sea serpent, and on very much the same kind of evidence. Sometimes, as expressed in Haydn's Mermaid's Song, there is a delightful bit of romance connected with the matter: as where the mermaid offers the tempting invitation:

'Come with me, and we will go
Where the rocks of coral grow.'

But the romance is somewhat damped when the decidedly fishy tail is described. The orthodox mermaid is half woman, half fish; and the fishy half is sometimes depicted as being doubly tailed. The heraldry of France and Germany often exhibits mermaids with two tails among the devices; and in the Basle edition of Ptolemy's Geography, dated 1540, a double tailed mermaid figures on one of the plates. Shakspeare makes many of his characters talk about mermaids. Thus, in the Comedy of Errors, Antipholus of Syracuse says:

'Oh, train me not, sweet mermaid, with the note!'

And in aother place:

'I'll stop mine ears against the mermaid's song.'

In the Midsummer Night's Dream, Oberon says:

'I heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back.'

In Hamlet, the queen, speaking of Ophelia's death, says:

'Her clothes spread wide; and mermaid like,
Awhile they bare her up.'

In two other passages, he makes his characters say:

'I'll drown more sailors than the mermaids shall.'

And:

'At the helm a seeming mermaid steers.'

But in all these cases Shakspeare, as was his wont, made his characters say what they were likely to think, in their several positions and periods of life.

Notices of mermaids are scattered abundantly in books of bygone times; sometimes in much detail, sometimes in a few vague words. In Merollo's Voyage to Congo, in 1682, mermaids are said to be very plentiful all along the river Zaire. A writer in Notes and Queries, in November 1858, lighted upon an old Scotch almanac, called the Aberdeen Almanac, or New Prognostications for the Year 1688; in which the following curious passage occurs:

'To conclude for this year 1688. Near the place where the famous Dee payeth his tribute to the German Ocean, if curious observers of wonderful things in nature will be pleased thither to resort the 1, 13, and 29 of May, and in divers other times in the ensuing summer, as also in the harvest time, to the 7 and 14 October, they will undoubtedly see a pretty company of MARMAIDS, creatures of admirable beauty, and likewise hear their charming sweet melodious voices:

"In well tun'd measures and harmonious lays,
Extol their Maker and his bounty praise;
That godly honest men, in everything,
In quiet peace may live, GOD SAVE THE KING!"

The piety and loyalty of these predicted mermaids are certainly remarkable characteristics. In another part of Scotland, about the same period, a real mermaid was seen, if we are to believe Brand's Description of Orkney and Shetland, published in 1701. Two fishermen drew up with a hook a mermaid, having face, arms, breast, shoulders, &c., of a woman, and long hair hanging down the neck; but the nether part from below the waist hidden in the water. One of the fishermen, in his surprise, drew a knife and thrust it into her heart; where upon she cried, as they judged, "Alas!" and the hook giving way, she fell backwards, and was seen no more. In this case the evidence went thus Brand was told by a lady and gentleman, who were told by a bailie to whom the fishing boat belonged, who was told by the fishers; and thus we may infer as we please concerning the growth of the story as it travelled.

In 1775, there was a very circumstantial account given of a mermaid, which was captured in the Grecian Archipelago, in the preceding year, and exhibited in London. It has, as the Annual Reviewer of that day said, the features and complexion of a European. Its face is like that of a young female; its eyes of a fine light blue; its nose small and handsome; its mouth small; its lips thin, and the edges of them round like those of a codfish; its teeth small, regular, and white; its chin well shaped; its neck full; its ears like those of the eel, but placed like those of the human species; and behind them are the gills for respiration, which appear like curls.

Some (mermaids) are said to have hair upon the head; but this has none, only rolls instead of hair, that at a distance may be mistaken for curls. But its chief ornament is a beautiful membrane or fin, rising from the temples, and gradually diminishing till it ends pyramidically, forming a foretop like that of a lady's headdress. It has no fin on the back, but a bone like that of the human species. Its breasts are fair and full, but without nipples; its arms and hands are well proportioned, but without nails on its fingers; its belly is round and swelling, but no navel. From the waist downwards, the body is in all respects like a codfish. It has three sets of fins, one above another, below the waist, which enables it to swim out upon the sea; and it is said to have an enchanting voice, which it never exerts except before a storm: Here there is no great intricacy of evidence, for a writer in the Gentlemen's Magazine also said he saw this particular mermaid which, however, he described as being only three feet long, tail and all. But a sad blow was afterwards given to its reputation, by a statement that it was craftily made up out of the skin of the angle shark.

In Mrs. Morgan's Tour to Milford Haven in the Year 1795, there is an equally circumstantial account of a mermaid observed by one Henry Reynolds, in 1782.

Reynolds was a farmer of Pen-y-hold, in the parish of Castlemartin. One morning, just outside the cliff, he saw what seemed to him a person bathing, with the upper part of the body out of the water. Going a little nearer, to see who was bathing in so unusual a place, it seemed to him like a person sitting in a tub. Going nearer still, he found it to resemble a youth of sixteen or eighteen years of age, with a very white skin. The continuation of the body below the water, seemed to he a brownish substance, ending with a tail, which seemed capable of waving to and fro. The form of its body and arms was entirely human; but its arms and hands seemed rather thick and short in proportion to its body. The form of the head and all the features of the face were human also; but the nose rose high between the eyes, was pretty long, and seemed to terminate very sharp. Some peculiarities about the neck and hack are then noticed, as also its way of washing its body.

It looked attentively at him and at the cliffs, and seemed to take great notice of the birds flying over its head. Its looks were wild and fierce; but it made no noise, or did it grin, or in any way distort its face. When he left it, it was about a hundred yards from him; and when he returned with some others to look at it, it was gone. We hear nothing further of this merman or merboy; but on looking at the roundabout evidence of the story, we find it to he thus A paper containing the account was lent to Mrs. Morgan; the paper had been written by a young lady, pupil of Mrs. Moore, from an oral account given to her by that lady; Mrs. Moore had heard it from Dr. George Phillips; and he had heard it from Henry Reynolds himself from all of which statements we may infer that there were abundant means for converting some peculiar kind of fish into a merman without imputing intentional dishonesty to any one.

Something akin to this kind of evidence is observable in the account of a mermaid seen in Caithness in 1809, the account of which attracted much attention in England as well as in Scotland, and induced the Philosophical Society of Glasgow to investigate the matter. The editor of a newspaper who inserted the statement had been told by a gentleman, who had been shown a letter by Sir John Sinclair, who had obtained it from Mrs. Innes, to whom it had been written by Miss Mackay, who had heard the story from the persons (two servant girls and a boy) who had seen the strange animal in the water.

So it is with all these stories of mermaids when investigated. There is always a fish at the bottom of it either a living fish of peculiar kind, which an ignorant person thinks bears some resemblance to a human being; or a fish which becomes marvellous in the progress of its description from mouth to mouth; or a dead fish's skin manufactured into something that may accord with the popular notions regarding these beings. Mr. George Cruikshank, in 1822, made a drawing of a mermaid, which was exhibited in St. James's Street, and afterwards at Bartholomew Fair; it drew crowds by its ugliness, and showed what wretched things will suffice to gull the public although, of course, outside the booth at the fair there was a picture of the orthodox mermaid, with beautiful features and hair, comb in one hand, mirror in the other, and so forth. This was probably the identical mermaid, respecting which the lord chancellor was called upon to adjudicate, towards the close of November 1822. There was a disputed ownership, and his lordship expressed his satisfaction that he was not called upon to decide whether the animal was man, woman, or mermaid, but only to say to whom it rightfully belonged.

THANKSGIVING DAY IN AMERICA

The great social and religious festival of New England, from which it has spread to most of the states of the American republic, is a legacy of the Puritans. They abolished Christmas as a relic of popery, or of prelacy, which they held in nearly equal detestation, and passed laws to punish its observance; but, wanting some day to replace it, the colonial assemblies, and, later, the governors of the states, appointed every year some day in autumn, generally toward the end of November, as a day of solemn prayer and thanksgiving for the blessings of the year, and especially the bounties of the harvest.

Thanksgiving day is always celebrated on Thursday, and the same day is chosen in most of the states. The governor's proclamation appointing the day, is read in all the churches, and there are appropriate sermons and religious exercises. Families, widely scattered, meet at the bountiful thanksgiving dinners of roast turkeys, plum pudding, and mince and pumpkin pies. The evenings are devoted by the young people to rustic games and amusements.

The subjects of the thanksgiving-sermons are not infrequently of a political character, and in the chief towns of the union, those of the most popular preachers are generally published in the newspapers. The thanksgiving festival, though widely celebrated, is Not so universally respected as formerly, as the influx of Roman Catholics and Episcopalians has brought Christmas again into vogue, which is also kept by the Unitarians with considerable solemnity. As a peculiar American festival it will, however, long be cherished by the descendants of the Puritans.

November 25th

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