vol II date / index
St. Peter's Chair at Rome. St. Paul and Thirty-six Companions in Egypt. St. Prisca. St. Deicolus. St. Ulfrid.
The Feast of St. Peter's chair is kept by the Romish church on this day. Lady Morgan says that it is one of the very few functions as they are called (funzioni) celebrated in the cathedral of St. Peter, at Rome. She briefly describes this celebration, and says something respecting St. Peter's chair. "The splendidly dressed troops that line the nave of the cathedral, the variety and richness of vestments which clothe the various church and lay dignitaries, abbots, priests, canons, prelates, cardinals, doctors, dragoons, senators, and grenadiers, which march in procession, complete, as they proceed up the vast space of this wondrous temple, a spectacle nowhere to be equalled within the pale of European civilisation. In the midst of swords and crosiers, of halberds and crucifixes, surrounded by banners, and bending under the glittering tiara of threefold power, appears the aged, feeble, and worn-out pope, borne aloft on men's shoulders, in a chair of crison and gold, and environed by slaves, (for such they look,) who waft, from plumes of ostrich feathers mounted on ivory wands, a cooling gale, to refresh his exhausted frame, too frail for the weight of such honours. All fall prostrate, as he passes up the church to a small choir and throne, temporarily erected beneath the chair of St. Peter. A solemn service is then performed, hosannas arise, and royal votarists and diplomatic devotees parade the church, with guards of honour and running footmen, while English gentlemen and ladies mob and scramble, and crowd and bribe, and fight their way to the best place they can obtain.
"At the extremity of the great nave behind the altar, and mounted upon a tribune designed or ornamented by Michael Angelo, stands a sort of throne, composed of precious materials, and supported by four gigantic figures. A glory of seraphim, with groups of angels, sheds a brilliant light upon its splendours. This throne enshrines the real, plain, worm-eaten, wooden chair, on which St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, is said to have pontificated; more precious than all the bronze, gold, and gems, with which it is hidden, not only from impious, but from holy eyes, and which once only, in the flight of ages, was profaned by mortal inspection.
"The sacrilegious curiosity of the French broke through all obstacles to their seeing the chair of St. Peter. They actually removed its superb casket, and discovered the relic. Upon its mouldering and dusty surface were traced carvings, which bore the appearance of letters. The chair was quickly brought into a better light, the dust and cobwebs removed, and the inscription (for an inscription it was) faithfully copied. The writing is in Arabic characters, and is the well-known confession of Mahometan faith—'There is but one GOD, and MAHOMET is his prophet!' It is supposed that this chair had been, among the spoils of the crusaders, offered to the church at a time when a taste for antiquarian lore, and the deciphering of inscriptions, were not yet in fashion. The story has been since hushed up, the chair replaced, and none but the unhallowed remember the fact, and none but the audacious repeat it. Yet such there are, even at Rome!"
This saint's festival stands in the calendar of the church of England this day, as well as in that of the Romish church. Nothing is certainly known of her except that she was a Roman, and martyred about 275.
POWERFUL OPTICAL ILLUSION.
In the London journals of January, 1824,the following anecdote from a Carlow paper bears the above title:—"A young lady, who died in this town, had been some time previous to her death attended by a gentleman of the medical profession. On the eveing of her decease, as this gentleman was sitting in company with a friend of his, and in the act of taking a glass of punch, he imagined he saw the lady walking into the room where himself and his friend were sitting, and, having but a few hours before visited her, and found her in a dying state, the shock that his nerves experienced was so great, that the glass which held the punch fell from his hands, and he himself dropped on the floor in a fainting fit. After he had perfectly recovered himself, and made inquiry about the lady, it was ascertained that a few minutes before the time the medical gentleman imagined he had seen her in his friend's apartment, she had departed this life." Perhaps this vision may be illustrated by others.
The Editor of the Every-Day Book now relates an appearance to himself.
One winter evening, in 1821, he was writing in a back room on an upper floor of the house No. 45, Ludgate-hill, wherein he now resides. He had been so closely engaged in that way and in reading during several preceding days, that he had taken every meal alone, and in that room, nor did he usually go to bed unto two or three o'clock in the morning. In the early part of the particular evening alluded to, his attention had become wearied. After a doze he found himself refreshed, and was writing when the chimes of St. Paul's clock sounded a quarter to two: long before that dead hour all the family had retired to rest, and the house was silent. A few minutes afterwards he moved round his chair towads the fire-place, and opposite to a large pane of glass which let the light from the room into a closet otherwise dark, the door of which opened upon the landing-place. His eye turning upon the glass, pane, he was amazed by the face of a man anxiously watching him from the closet, with knit inquiring brows. The features were prominent and haggard, and, though the look was somewhat ferocious, it indicated intense curiosity towards the motions of the writer, rather than any purpose of immediate mischief to him. The face seemed somewhat to recede with a quick motion when he first saw it, but gazing on it with great earnestness it appeared closer to the glass, looking at him for a moment, and then with more eager anxiety bending its eyes on the writing-table, as though it chiefly desired to be acquainted with the books and papers that lay upon it. The writer shut and rubbed his eyes, and again the eyes of the face were intently upon him; watching it, he grasped the candlestick, strode hastily towards the room door, which is about two feet from the pane, observed the face as hastily draw back, unlatched the closet door on the landing, was in an instant within the closet, and there to his astonishment found nothing. It was impossible that the person could have escaped from the closet before his own foot was at its door, yet he examined nearly every room in the house, until reflecting that it was folly for what, he was convinced, had no bodily existence, he returned up stairs and went to bed, pondering on the recollection of the spectre.
To the preceding narative [sic] the Editor adds an account of a subsequent apparition, which he saw, and for greater ease he writes it in the first person, as follows:
In January, 1824, one, whose relationship commanded my affection, was about to leave England with his family for a distant part of the world. The day or two preceding his departure I passed with him and his wife and children. Our separation was especially painful; my mind was distressed, and I got little sleep. He had sailed from Gravesend about three days, and a letter that he had promised to write from the Downs had not arrived. On the evening of the 29th I retired late, and being quite wearied slept till an unusually late hour the next morning, without a consciousness of having dreamed, or being, as I found myself, alone. With my head on the pillow I opened my eyes to an extraordinary appearance. Against the wall on the opposite side of the room, and level with my sight, the person, respecting whom I had been so anxious, lay a corpse, extended at full length, as if resting on a table. A greyish cloth covered the entire body except the face; the eyes were closed, the countenance was cadaverous, the mouth elongated from the falling of the jaws, and the lips were purpled. I shut my eyes, rubbed them, and gently raising my head continued to gaze on the body, till from weariness of the attitude and exhausted spirits, I dropped on the pillow, and insensible sunk to sleep, for perhaps a quarter of an hour. On again awaking, the spectre was not there. I then arose, and having mentioned the circumstance to some of my family, caused a memorandum to be made of what I had seen. In the course of the forenoon a person arrived who had gone round with the vessel to the Downs, from whence he had been put ashore the morning before, and saw the ship in full sail. He was the bearer of the letter I had expected from the individual aboard, whose appearance I had witnessed only a few hours previous to its being put into my hands; it of course relieved no apprehension that might have been excited by the recent spectre.
"That the dead are seen no more," said Imlac, "I will not undertake to maintain against the concurrent and unvaried testimony of all ages and of all nations. There is no people, rude or learned, among whom apparitions of the dead are not related and believed. This opinion, which, perhaps, prevails as far as human nature is diffused, could become universal only by its truth; those, that never heard of one another, would never have agreed in a tale which nothing but experience can make credible. That it is doubted by single cavillers can very little weaken the general evidence, and some who deny it with their tongues confess it by their fears."
No man is privileged to impugn the knowledge of existences which others have derived from their experience; but he who sees, without assenting to realities, audaciously rejects positive proof to himself, where presumptive testimony would be satisfactory to most: he daringly falsifies what knows to be indubitably true, and secret convictions belie the shameless hardihood of pretended incredulity. These, it is presumed, would be the sentiments of the great author of Rasselas, upon the expression of disbelief in him who had witnessed spectral appearances; and yet the writer of these pages, with a personal knowledge upon the subject, declines to admit that knowledge as good evidence. He would say untruly were he to affirm, that when he saw the corpse-like form, and for some time afterwards, he had no misgivings as to the safety of his friend. It was not until a lapse of six months that the vessel was reported to have touched at a certain port in good condition, and this was followed by a letter from the individual himself, wherein he affirmed his good health; he subsequently wrote, that he and his family were at the place of their destination. This spectral appearance therefore at Ludgate-hill, between eight and nine o'clock of the morning on the 30th of January, was no indication of his death, nor would it have been had he died about that time, although the coincidence of the apparition and his decease would have been remarkable. The case at Carlow only differs from the case at Ludgate-hill by the decease of the lady having been coeval with her spectral appearance to the gentleman who was depressed by her illness. The face which the writer saw looking at him from a closet in the dead of night was no likeness of any one he knew, and he saw each spectre when his faculties had been forced beyond their healthful bearing. Under these circumstances, his eyesight was not to be trusted, and he refuses to admit it, although the spectres were so extraordinary, and appeared under such circumstances that probably they will never be forgotten.
Coupled with the incidents just related, the death of the king of Naples in January 1825, which was first announced in the "News" Sunday paper on the 16th of the month, recalls the recollection of a singular circumstance in the bay of Naples. The fact and the facts preceding it are related by Dr. Southey in his "Life of Nelson." Having spoken of Nelson's attachment to lady Hamilton, and his weariness of the world, Dr. Southey proceeds thus:—
"Well had it been for Nelson if he had made no other sacrifices to this unhappy attachment than his peace of mind; but it led to the only blot upon his public character. While he sailed from Palermo, with the intention of collecting his whole force, and keeping off Maretimo, either to receive reinforcements there, if the French were bound upwards, or to hasten to Minorca, if that should be their destination, capt. Foote, in the Seahorse, with the Neapolitan frigates and some small vessels under his commands, was left to act with a land force consisting of a few regular troops, of four different nations, and with the armed rabble which cardinal Ruffo called the Christian army. His directions were to cooperate to the utmost of his power with royalists, at whose head Ruffo had been placed, and he had no other instructions whatever. Ruffo advancing with out any plan, but relying upon the enemy's want of numbers, which prevented them from attempting to act upon the offensive, and ready to take advantage of any accident which might occur, approached Naples. Fort St. Elmo, which commands the town, was wholly garrisoned by the French troops; the castles of Uovo and Nuovo, which commanded the anchorage, were chiefly defended by Neapolitan revolutionists, the powerful men among them having taken shelter there. If these castles were taken, the reduction of Fort St. Elmo would be greatly expedited. They were strong places, and there was reason to apprehend that the French fleet might arrive to relieve them. Ruffo proposed to the garrison to capitulate, on condition that their persons and property should be guaranteed, and that they should, at their own option, either be sent to Toulon, or remain at Naples, without being molested either in their persons or families, This capitulation was accepted: it was signed by the cardinal, and the Russian and Turkish commanders; and, lastly, by capt. Foote, as commander of the British force. About six and thirty hours afterwards Nelson arrived in the bay, with a force which had joined him during his cruise, consisting of seventeen sail of the line, with 1700 troops on board, and the prince royal of Naples in the admiral's ship. A flag of truce was flying on the castles, and on board the Seahorse. Nelson made a signal to annul the treaty; declaring that he would grant rebels no other terms than those of unconditional submission. The cardinal objected to this: nor could all the arguments of Nelson, sir W. Hamilton, and lady Hamilton, who took an active part in the conference, convince him that a treaty of such a nature, solemnly concluded, could honourably be set aside. He retired at last, silenced by Nelson's authority, but not convinced. Capt. Foote was sent out of the bay; and the garrisons taken out of the castles under pretence of carrying the treaty into effect, were delivered over as rebels to the vengeance of the Sicilian court.—A deplorable transaction! a stain upon the memory of Nelson, and the honour of England! To palliate it would be in vain; to justify it would be wicked: there is no alternative, for one who will not make himself a participator in guilt, but to record the disgraceful story with sorrow and with shame.
"Prince Francesco Caraccioli, a younger branch of one of the noblest Neapolitan families, escaped from one of these castles before it capitulated. He was at the head of the marine, and was nearly seventy years of age, bearing a high character both for professional and personal merit. He had accompanied the court to Sicily; but when the revolutionary government, or Parthenopæan republic, as it was called, issued an edict, ordering all absent Neapolitans to return, on pain of confiscation of their property, he solicited and obtained permission of the king to return, his estates being very great. It is said that the king, when he granted him this permission, warned him not to take any part in politics; expressing, at the same time, his own persuasion that he should recover his kingdom. But neither the king, nor he himself, ought to have imagined that, in such times, a man of such reputation would be permitted to remain inactive; and it soon appeared that Caraccioli was again in command of the navy, and serving under the republic against his late sovereign. The sailors reported that he was forced to act thus: and this was believed, till it was seen that he directed ably the offensive operations of the revolutionists, and did not avail himself of opportunities for escaping when they offered. When the recovery of Naples was evidently near, he applied to cardinal Ruffo, and to the duke of Calvirrano, for protection; expressing his hope, that the few days during which he had been forced to obey the French, would not outweigh forty years of faithful services:—but, perhaps, not receiving such assurances as he wished, and knowing too well the temper of the Sicilian court, he endeavoured to secrete himself, and a price was set upon his head. More unfortunately for others than for himself, he was brought in alive, having been discovered in the disguise of a peasant, and carried one morning on board lord Nelson's ship, with his hands tied behind him.
"Caraccioli was well known to the British officers, and had been ever highly esteemed by all who knew him. Capt. Hardy ordered him immediately to be unbound, and to be treated with all those attentions which he felt due to a man who, when last on board the Foudroyant, had been received as an admiral and a prince. Sir William and lady Hamilton were in the ship; but Nelson, it is affirm ed, saw no one, except his own officers, during the tragedy which ensued. His own determination was made; and he issued an order to the Neapolitan commodore, count Thurn, to assemble a court-martial of Neapolitan officers, on board the British flag-ship, proceed immediately to try the prisoner, and report to him, if the charges were proved, what punishment he ought to suffer. These proceedings were as rapid as possible; Caraccioli was brought on board at nine in the forenoon, and the trial began at ten. It lasted two hours; he averred, in his defence, that he acted under compulsion, having been compelled to serve as a common soldier, till he consetned to take command of the fleet. This, the apologists of lord Nelson say, he failed in proving. They forget that the possibility of proving it was not allowed him; for he was brought to trial within an hour after he was legally in arrest; and how, in that time, was he to collect his witnesses? He was found guilty, and sentenced to death; and Nelson gave orders that the sentence should be carried into effect that evening, at five o'clock, on board the Sicilian frigate La Minerva, by hanging him at the fore-yard-arm till sunset; when the body was to be cut down, and thrown into the sea. Caraccioli requested lieutentant Parkinson, under whose custody he was placed, to interceded with lord Nelson for a second trial,—for this, among other reaons, that count Thurn, who presided at the court-martial, was notoriously his personal enemy. Nelson made answer, that the prisoner had been fairly tried by the officers of his own country, and he could not interfere: forgetting that, if he felt himself justified in ordering the trial and the execution, no human being could ever have questioned the propriety of his interfering on the side of mercy. Caraccioli then entreated that he might be shot.—-'I am an old man, sir,' said he: 'I leave no family to lament me, and therefore cannot be supposed to be very anxious about prolonging my life; but the disgrace of being hanged is dreadful to me.' When this was repeated to Nelson, he only told the lieutenant, with much agitation, to go and attend his duty. As a last hope, Caraccioli asked the lieutenant, if he thought an application to lady Hamilton would be beneficial? Parkinson went to seek her. She was not to be seen on this occasion,—but she was present at the execution. She had the most devoted attachment to the Neapolitan court; and the hatred which she felt against those whom she regarded as its enemies, made her, at this time, forget what was due to the character of her sex, as well as of her country. Here, also, a faithful historian is called upon to pronounce a severe and unqualified condemnation of Nelson's conduct. Had he the authority of his Sicilian majesty for proceeding as he did? If so, why was not that authority produced? If not, why were the proceedings hurried on without it? Why was the trial precipitated, so that it was impossible for the prisoner, if he had been innocent, to provide the witnesses who might have proved him so? Why was a second trial refused, when the known animosity of the president of the court against the prisoner was considered? Why was the execution hastened, so as to preclude any appeal for mercy, and render the prerogative of mercy useless:—Doubtless, the British admiral seemed to himself to be acting under a rigid sense of justice; but, to all other persons, it was obvious, that he was influenced by and infatuated attachement—a baneful passion, which destroyed his domestic happiness, and now, in a second instance, stained ineffaceably his public character.
"The body was carried out to a considerable distance, and sunk in the bay, with three double-headed shot, weighing 250 pounds, tied to its legs. Between two and three weeks afterward, when the king was on board the Foudroyant, a Neapolitan fisherman came to the ship, and solemnly declared, that Caraccioli had risen from the bottom of the sea, and was coming, as fast as he could, to Naples, swimming half out of the water. Such an account was listened to like a tale of idle credulity. The day being fair, Nelson, to please the king, stood out to sea; but the ship had not proceeded far before a body was distinctly seen, upright in the water, and approaching them. It was soon recognised to be, indeed, the corpse of Caraccioli, which had risen and floated, while the great weights attached to the legs kept the body in a position like that of a living man. A fact so extraordinary astonished the king, and perhaps excited some feeling of superstitious fear, akin to regret. He gave permission for the body to be taken on shore, and receive christian burial."
The late Dr. Clarke mentions in his "Travels," that as he was "one day leaning out of the cabin window, by the side of an officer who was employed in fishing, the corpse of a man, newly sewed in a hammock, started half out of the water, and continued its course, with the current, towards the shore. Nothing could be more horrible: its head and shoulders were visible, turning first to one side, then to the other, with a solemn and awful movement, as if impressed with some dreadful secret of the deep, which, from its watery grave, it came upwards to reveal." Dr. Ferriar observes, that "in a certain stage of putrefaction, the bodies of persons which have been immersed in water, rise to the surface, and in deep water are supported in an erect posture, to the terror of uninstructed spectators. Menacing looks and gestures, and even words, are supplied by the affrighted imagination, with infinte facility, and referred to the horrible apparition." This is perfectly natural; and it is easy to imagine the excessive terror of extreme ignorance at such appearances.