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March 12.

St. Gregory the Great. St. Maximilian, A.D. 296. St. Paul, Bishop of Leon, about 573.

St. Gregory the Great.

He was prætor of Rome in 574, under the emperor Justin; next year he became a monk, and by fasting and study so weakened his stomach, that he swooned if he did not frequently eat. "What gave him the greatist affliction," says Butler, "was, his not being able to fast on an Easter-eve; a day on which, says St. John the deacon, 'every one, not even excepting little children are used to fast;' whereupon, by praying that he might be enabled to fast, he not only fasted, but quite forgot his illness." He determined to come to Britain to propagate the faith; but the whole city rose in an uproar to prevent his departure, and the pope constrained him to remain. Pope Pelagius II. sent him as nuncio to Constantinople, where Eutychius fell into an error, importing that after the resurrection glorified bodies would not be palpable, but of a more subtile texture than air. Whereupon, says Butler, St. Gregory was alarmed, and clearly demonstrated that their bodies would be the same which they had on earth, and Eutychius retracted his error: on his return to Rome he took with him an arm of St. Andrew, and the head of St. Luke. Pelagius made him his secretary, and after his death was elected pope himself. To escape from the danger of this elevation, he got himself carried out of Rome in a wicker basket, and lay concealed in woods and caverns for three days. He was afterwards consecrated with great pomp, and on that occasion sent a synodal epistle to the other patriarchs, wherein he declared that "he received the four councils as the four gospels." Butler says, he extended his charity to the heretics, and "to the very Jews," yet he afterwards adds, that in Africa "he extirpated the Donatists." He subscribed himself in his letters, "Servant of the Servants of God." He sent to the empress Constantina a veil which had touched the relics of the apostles, and assured her that miracles had been wrought by such relics, and promised her some dust-filings of the chains of St. Paul. He sent St. Austin and other monks to convert the English. (See February 24, St. Ethelbert.) He died on the 25th of January, 604.*[1] His devotion to the church was constant; he was learned, enterprising, sincere, and credulous, and, for the times wherein he lived, charitable, and merciful. It should be observed, that he was the author of the church-singing called the Gregorian chaunt.

Many miracles are related of St. Gregory, as that going to bless a church in honour of St. Agnes, which had been used by the Arians, he caused the relics to be placed on the altar, whereon a hog went grunting out of the church with a fearful noise; whence it was averred that the devil, who had been served in it by the heretic Arians, was driven out by the relics. Sometimes the lamps were miraculously lighted. One day a bright cloud descended on the altar, with a heavenly odour, so that from reverence no one dared to enter the church. At another time, when Gregory was transubstantiating the wafers a woman laughed; he asked her why she laughed? to which at length she answered, "because you call the bread which I made with my own hands the body of our Lord;" whereupon he prayed, and the consecrated bread appeared flesh to every one present; and the woman was converted, and the rest were confirmed. At another time, some ambassadors coming to Rome for relics, Gregory took a linen cloth which had been applied to the body of a saint, and enclosing it in a box gave it to them. While on their journey home they were curious to see the contents of the box; and finding nothing within it but the cloth, returned to St. Gregory complaining that he had deceived them. On this he took the cloth, laid it on the altar, prayed, pricked it with a knife, the cloth shed blood, and the astonished ambassadors reverently took back the box. Another time one who had been excommunicated by St. Gregory for having put away his lawful wife, bargained with certain sorcerers and witches for revenge; who, when the holy pope rode through the city, sent the devil into his horse, and made him caper, so that he could not be held; then with the sign of the cross the pope cast out the devil, and the witches by miracle becoming blind were converted, and St. Gregory baptized them; yet he would not restore their sight, lest they should read their magical books again, but maintained them out of the church rents. After his death there was a famine in Rome, and the people being falsely persuaded that St. Gregory had wasted the church property, gathered his writings to burn them; wherefore Peter, the deacon, who had been intimate with Gregory, affirmed, that "he had often seen the Holy Ghost in form of a dove upon St. Gregory's head whilst he was writing, and that it would be an insufferable affront to burn those books, which had been written by his inspiration;" and to assure them of this he offered to confirm it by oath, but stipulated that if he died immediately after he had taken the oath, they should believe that he had told them the truth: this being assented to, he took the oath, and thereupon died, and the people believed; and "hence the painters came to represent St. Gregory, with a dove at his ear, to signify that the Holy Ghost inspired and dictated what he writ."*[2]

It is also a legend concerning St. Gregory, that when he fled from Rome to avoid the dignity of popedom and lay hid, a bright pillar of fire descending from heaven, glittered above his head, and angels appeared descending and ascending by the same fiery pillar upon him, wherefore he was "miraculously betrayed."* [3]

After St. Gregory's death there was a hermit, who had left all his goods, and left the world, and kept nothing but his cat, and this cat he used to play with, and hold in his lap tenderly: one day he prayed that it might be revealed to him, to the joy of what saint he should hereafter come; then St. Gregory was revealed to him, and that he should come to his joy; wherefore the hermit sighed, and disliked his poverty, because St. Gregory had possessed so much earthly riches: and in revelation it was commanded him to be quiet, because he had more pleasure in stroking and playing with his cat, than St. Gregory had in all his riches. Then the hermit prayed that he might have the like merit and reward with St. Gregory; and in this story, lieth great moral.


Although this is not a family receipt-book, yet a prescription is extracted from the "Yea and Nay Almanack for 1678," because the remedy has been tried and approved.

For the Eyes.

In the morning as soon as you rise, instead of fasting spittle, or a cat's tail, rub your eyes with a hundred broad pieces of your own gold; and I tell thee friend, it will not only do thy eyes good, but thy purse also.


1689. King James II. landed at Kinsale in Ireland, with an army he brought from France, to assist in the recovery of the throne he had abdicated. He afterwards made a public entry into Dublin, and besieged Londonderry, which vigorously defended itself under the rev. George Walker, and suffered dreadful privations till it was relieved, and the siege abandoned. He then held a parliament in Dublin, coined base money, and committed various outrages, till William III. signally defeated him at the battle of the Boyne, and compelled him to fly to France.


Among the proposals in 1825, a year prolific of projects, [4] there is one for a Joint Stock Company of Society for the Encouragement of Literature; the capital to be £100,000. in shares of £25. to be increased, if advisable; shareholders to be allowed to subscribe at par; each shareholder to be entitled to a copy of every work published by the society, at two-thirds of the publication price; interest 5 per cent., to be paid half yearly on the instalments subscribed; a deposit of £1. per share to be paid on subscribing, the remainder by instalments as the extension of the society's concerns may demand; of the profits one-fourth to form a fund for the benefit of authors, at the discretion of the society; two-fourths to be divided among the proprietors annually; the remaining one-fourth to accumulate into a perpetual triennial fund, to meet unforeseen expenditure, the possibility of loss, &c. &c. &c. There is not one word about the Encouragement of Literature beyond the title. This absence is the most intelligible part of the proposals.

There was a Society for the Encouragement of Learning, established in May, 1736. The duke of Richmond was president, sir Hugh Smithson, (afterwards duke of Northumberland,) and sir Thomas Robinson, bart., were vice-presidents. The trustees were the earl of Hertford, earl of Abercorn, Harley, earl of Oxford, earl Stanhope, lord Percival, Dr. Mead, Dr. Birch, Paul Whitehead, Ward, the professor at Gresham college, Sale, the translator of the Koran, and other really eminent men; Alexander Gordon, the author of "Iter Septentrionale," a "History of Amphitheatres," and other learned and antiquarian works, was their secretary. In the December of the same year, Gordon wrote a letter to Dr. Richardson, master of Emanuel college Cambridge, soliciting his interference with Dr. Conyers Middleton, to obtain for the society the publication of the life of Cicero. "They have already entirely paved the way for the reception of authors," says Gordon; "appointed booksellers for their service; settled the regulations concerning printers, and the printing part;" and, "in fine nothing is wanting but to set out with some author of genius and note." Dr. Middleton chose to publish his life of Cicero with a bookseller, notwithstanding an army of really great names had made all those arrangements, and courted him to their encouragement. In the outset of this society Mr. Clarke in a letter to Mr. Bowyer expressed his conviction, that "it must be at last a downright trading society," and said "I hope you will take care to be one of their printers, for there will certainly be a society for encouraging printing." Mr. Bowyer took the hint, and printed for them. The security was good, because each member of such a society is answerable individually for its debts. At the end of three years "Dr. Birch, as treasurer to the society, handed over to Mr. Stephen le Bas, his successor in office, the astonishing balance of 59l 3s. 91/2d. During that period the society had printed only four bookis; and then, deeming the assistance of booksellers necessary, they entered into a contract for three years with A. Millar, J. Gray, and J. Nourse; afterwards they contracted with six other booksellers, whose profits they retrenched: then they became their own booksellers; then they once more had recourse to three other booksellers; and finally, finding their finances almost exhausted, they laid before the public a memorial of the Present State of Affairs of the Society, April 17, 1748," whereby it appeared that they had incurred so considerable a debt they could proceed no further.*[5]

Less than fifty years ago another society existed, under the very title of the Joint Stock Society proposed in 1825. Mr. Tyson, in a letter of June 21, 1779, to his friend Mr. Gough, the antiquary, mentions that a bequest of £5. was "left at the disposal of the Society for the Encouragement of Literature."[6] If the literature of the present day owes its existence to that society, its offspring is most ungrateful; the foster-parent is not even remembered, nor is the time of its birth or death recorded in any public register. That it survived the bequest alluded to, only a very short period, appears certain; for in the very next year, 1780, Dr. Lettsom issued "Hints for establishing a Society for promoting useful Literature." The doctor, a most benevolent man, and a good physician, dispensed much charity in private as well as in public, and patronized almost every humane institution for the relief and cure of human infirmity; and hence his eye was as microscopic in discernment, as his hand was experimental in the healing of griefs. Literature seems to have been to him as a gentle river that he rilled into, and which he thought could be diverted, or regulated by new channels and sluices; he appeared not to know, that it is an ocean of mighty waters, with countless currents and varying tides. He proposed largesses to indigent writers, and their widows and orphans, and "honorary rewards" to successful ones. Robertson, Bryant, Melmoth, Johnson, Gibbon, and many other "useful and accomplished writers," were to have had the "honorary rewards" of the encouraging society. Such honours, such a society was to have forced on such men! The doctor's "hints" were not adopted, except that to relieve the casualties of minor literary men, and their dependents, there now exists the Literary Fund.

In the records of former days there is mention of a project for extracting, bottling, and preserving sunbeams from cucumbers, for use at that season when sunbeams are rare, and cucumbers not at all. The projector seems to have inferred, that as cucumbers derived their virtue from sunbeams, it would be virtuous in cucumbers to return the deposit. Whatever virtue cucumbers had, it would not be forced. Experiment, doubtless, disappointed hope; the promising project absorbed the capital advanced, as completely as the cholicky vegetables tenaciously retained the solar rays; and the deposit never found its way to the shareholders.

Any Society for the Encouragement of Literature, save one, is a fallacy—that one is society itself. All interposition in its behalf is feeble and doting interference. A public Joint Stock Company can neither create literary talent, nor by divided efforts obtain so much; nor with capital, however great, reward it so well, as the undivided interest, industry, and unshared purse of the private publisher.

If a Society for the Encouragement of Literature be instituted, when more institution is threatened, and less institution is necessary, than at any former period, such society will be a hot-bed for the cultivation of little more than hopeful weeds. A few literary shoots may be set in warm borders, and drawn up under frames, to look handsome, but they will not bear transplanting to open ground. Their produce will be premature, of inferior quality, and not repay the trouble and expense of rearing. If left unsheltered, the first chill will kill them. Weak suckers, however well favoured, will never come to trees.

The monarch of the forest, in natural solitude, drinking sunshine and dews, uninterrupted and untainted by human encroachments, and striking deep root beneath virgin earth, attains, in fulness of time, to majestic growth. In like manner the silent spirit of man, seeking peace in solitary imaginings, penetrating below the foundations of human knowledge, and generalizing and embodying the objects of sight and feeling, arrives to a grandeur astonishing to men's eyes, because not the work of men's hands. This self-created power, is denominated Genius. In an incipient state it evaporates beneath the meddling touch, and at maturity soars above its reach. Talent is ungovernable. It directs itself, appoints its own trustees for uses, and draws drafts upon the public which are honoured at sight. The demand for talent is greater than the supply.

What is to be done? —nothing. What can be done? —nothing. Literature must be let alone. Under bounties and drawbacks, it becomes tortuous and illicit.


Channelled Ixia. Ixia Bulbocodium.
Dedicated to St. Gregory.


Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:

1. Butler's Saints. [return]

2. Ribadeneira's Saints. [return]

3. Porter's Flowers. [return]

4. See the issue for January 24, especially entitled Joint Stock Companies of 1825, at column 172. [Editor's note; return]

5. Nichols's Anecdotes. [return]

6. Ibid. [return]