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January 29.

1826. Sexagesima Sunday.

Accession of George IV.

1820. King George III. died. A contemporary kalendarian, in recording this memorable fact, observes, that "the slow and solemn sound of St. Paul's bell announced the event a short time after, and was heard to a great distance around the country." He adds, that he was reminded, by this "mournful proclamation of departed royalty," of the following lines in Heywood's "Rape of Lucrece," written to go to a funeral peal from eight bells:

Come list and hark, the bell doth toll
For some but now departing soul,
Whom even now those ominous fowle,
The bat, the nightjar, or screech owl,
Lament; hark! I hear the wilde wolfe howle
In this black night that seems to scowle,
All these my black book shall enscrole.
For hark! still still the bell doth toll
For some but now departing soul.

This opportunity the same agreeable writer improves to discourse on, thus:


The passing bell owes its origin to an idea of sanctity attached to bells by the early Catholics, who believed that the sound of these holy instruments of percussion actually drove the devil away from the soul of the departing Christian. Bells were moreover regarded formerly as dispelling storms, and appeasing the imagined wrath of heaven, as the following lines from Barnaby Googe will show:—

If that the thunder chaunce to rore
   and stormie tempest shake,
A woonder is it for to see
   the wretches howe they quake,
Howe that no fayth at all they have,
   nor trust in any thing,
The clarke doth all the belles forthwith
   at once in steeple ring:
With wondrous sound and deeper farre,
   than he was woont before,
Till in the loftie heavens darke,
   the thunder bray no more.
For in these christned belles they thinke,
   doth lie such powre and might
As able is the tempest great,
   and storme to vanquish quight.
I saw myself at Numburg once,
   a towne in Toring coast,
A bell that with this title bolde
   hirself did prowdly boast:
By name I Mary called am,
   with sound I put to flight
The thunder crackes, and hurtfull stormes,
   and every wicked spright.
Such things when as these belles can do,
   no wonder certainlie
It is, if that the papistes to
   their tolling always flie,
When haile, or any raging storme,
   or tempest comes in sight,
Or thunder boltes, or lightning fierce,
   that every place doth smight.


We find from Brand, that "an old bell at Canterbury required twenty-four men, and another thirty-two men, ad sonandum. The noblest peal of ten bells, without exception, in England, whether tone or tune be considered, is said to be in St. Margaret's church, Leicester. When a full peal was rung, the ringers were said 'pulsare classicum.'"

Bells were a great object of superstition among our ancestors. Each of them was represented to have its peculiar name and virtues, and many are said to have retained great affection for the churches to which they belonged, and where they were consecrated. When a bell was removed from its original and favourite situation, it was sometimes supposed to take a nightly trip to its old place of residence, unless exercised in the evening, and secured with a chain or rope. Mr. Warner, in his "Hampshire," enumerates the virtues of a bell, by translating two lines from the "Helpe to Discourse."

Men's deaths I tell by doleful knell.
Lightning and thunder I break asunder.
On sabbath all to church I call.
The sleepy head I raise from bed.
The winds so fierce I doe disperse.
Men's cruel rage I do asswage.

There is an old Wiltshire legend of a tenor bell having been conjured into the river; with lines by the ringer, who lost it through his pertinacious garrulity, and which say:

In spite of all the devils in hell
Here comes our old Bell.* [1]

Baron Holberg says he was in a company of men of letters, where several conjectures were offered concerning the origin of the word campana; a klocke, (i.e. bell) in the northern tongues. On his return home, he consulted several writers. Some, he says, think the word klocke to be of the northern etymology; these words, Ut cloca habeatur in ecclesia, occurring in the most ancient histories of the north. It appears from hence, that in the infancy of Christianity, the word cloca was used in the north instead of campana. Certain french writers derive the word cloca from cloche, and this again from clocher, i.e. to limp; for, say they, as a person who limps, falls from one side to the other, so do klocks (bells) when rung. Some have recourse to the latin word clangor, others recur to the greek καλεω, I call; some even deduce it from the word cochlea, a snail, from the resemblance of its shell to a bell. As to the latin word campana, it was first used in Italy, at Nola in Campania; and it appears that the greater bells only were called campana, and the lesser nola. The invention of them is generally attributed to bishop Paulinus; but this certainly must be understood only of the religious use of them; it being plain, from Roman writers, that they had the like machines called tintinnabula.

The use of bells continued long unknown in the east, the people being called to public worship by strokes of wooden hammers; and to this day the Turks proclaim the beginning of their service, by vociferations from the steeple. Anciently priests themselves used to toll the bell, especially in cathedrals and great churches, and these were distinguished by the appellation of campanarii. The Roman Catholics christen their bells, and godfathers assist at the solemnity; thus consecrating them to religious use. According to Helgaudus, bells had certain names given them like men; and Ingulphus says, "he ordered two great clocks (bells) to be made, which were called Bartholomeus and Bettelinus, and two lesser, Pega and Bega." The time is perhaps uncertain when the hours first began to be distinguished by the striking of a bell. In the empire this custom is said to have been introduced by a priest of Ripen, named Elias, who lived in the twelfth century; and this the Chronicon Anonymi Ripense says of him, hic dies et horas campanarum pulsatione distincxit. The use of them soon became extended from their original design to other solemnities, and especially burials: which incessant tolling has long been complained of as a public nuisance, and to this the french poet alludes:—

Pour honorer les morts, ils font mourir les vivans.

Besides the common way of tolling bells, there is also ringing, which is a kind of chimes used on various occasions in token of joy. This ringing prevails in no country so much as in England, where it is a kind of diversion, and, for a piece of money, any one may have a peal. On this account it is, that England is called the ringing island. Chimes are something very different, and much more musical; there is not a town in all the Netherlands without them, being an invention of that country. The chimes at Copenhagen, are one of the finest sets in all Europe; but the inhabitants, from a pertinacious fondness for old things, or the badness of their ear, do not like them so well as the old ones, which were destroyed by a conflagration.

The Rev. W. L. Bowles has an effusion agreeably illustrative of feelings on hearing the bells ring.


Written at Ostend, July 22, 1787.

How sweet the tuneful bells responsive peal!
   As when at opening morn, the fragrant breeze
   Breathes on the trembling sense of wan disease,
So piercing to my heart their force I feel!
And hark! with lessening cadence now they fall,
   And now, along the white and level tide,
   They fling their melancholy music wide;
Bidding me many a tender thought recall
Of summer days, and those delightful years
   When by my native streams, in life's fair prime,
   The mournful magic of their mingling chime
First wak'd my wondering childhood into tears!
But seeming now, when all those days are o'er,
The sounds of joy once heard, and heard no more.

"The Times"* [2] has a literary correspondent, who communicates information that it may be useful to record.


To the Editor of the Times.

MR. EDITOR,—Having read in your paper of to-day, that the king of France "has been pleased to grant to the parish of Notre-Dame, at Nismes, two unserviceable pieces of cannon from the arsenal of Montpellier, for the purpose of forming a parish bell," it has occurred to me that the following description of the practice of baptizing bells, used by the Roman Catholics, may not be unacceptable to your readers. This account is a true translation from a book entitled "Pontificale Romanum, Autoritate Pontificia, impressum Venetiis, 1698. Lib. ii. Cap. de Benedictione Signi vel Campanæ." I have run parallel with their method of baptizing children and bells, in twelve particulars, as follows:—


Of the Baptism of a Child.
Of the Baptism of a Bell.
The child must be first baptized, before it can be accounted one of the church.
The bell must be first baptized, before it may be hung in the steeple.
The child must be baptized by a priest or a minister.
The bell must be baptized by a bishop or his deputy.
In baptizing a child there is used holy water, cream, salt, oil, spittle, &c. &c.
In the baptism of a bell, there is used holy water, oil, salt, cream, tapers for lights, &c.
In baptism, the child receiveth a name.
And so it is in the baptism of bells.
The child must have godfathers, &c. &c.
The bell must have godfathers, and they must be persons of great rank.
The child must be washed in water.
The bell must be washed in water by the hands of the bishop and priests.
The child must be crossed in baptism.
The bell is solemnly crossed by the bishop.
The child must be anointed.
The bell is anointed by the bishop.
The child must be baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity.
The bell is washed and anointed, in the name of the Trinity, by the bishop.
At baptism they pray for the child.
At the baptism of the bell they pray literally for the bell.
At the child's baptism the scriptures are read.
There are more psalms read at the baptism of a bell than at the baptism of a child; and a gospel also.
At child-baptism there are public prayers made.
At the baptism of a bell there are more prayers used, and (excepting salvation) greater things are prayed for, and more...

... blessings on the bell, than on the child. But for the better proof of this point, I shall here give part of one of the very curious prayers put up for the bell at its baptism:—————— Lord grant that wheresoever this holy bell, thus washed (or baptized) and blessed, shall sound, all deceits of Satan, all danger of whirlwind, thunders, lightnings, and tempests, may be driven away, and that devotion may increase in Christian men when they hear it. O Lord, sanctify it by thy Holy Spirit; that when it sounds in thy peoples ears they may adore Thee! May their faith and devotion increase, the devil be afraid, and tremble and fly at the sound of it. O Lord, pour upon it thy heavenly blessing! that the fiery darts of the devil may be made to fly backwards at the sound thereof; that it may deliver from danger of wind and thunder, &c., &c. And grant, Lord, that all that come to the church at the sound of it, may be free from all temptations of the devil. O Lord, infuse into it the heavenly dew of thy Holy Ghost, that the devil may always fly away before the sound of it &c., &c.

The doctrine of the church of Rome concerning bells is, first, that they have merit, and pray God for the living and the dead; secondly, that they produce devotion in the hearts of believers; thirdly, that they drive away storms and tempests; and, fourthly, that they drive away devils.

The dislike of evil spirits to the sound of bells, is extremely well expressed by Wynkin de Worde, in the Golden Legend: —"It is said, the evil spirytes that ben in the region of th' ayre, doubte moche when they here the belles rongen: and this is the cause why the belles ringen whan it thondreth, and whan grete tempeste and to rages of wether happen, to the ende that the feinds and wycked spirytes should ben abashed and flee, and cease of the movynge of tempeste."

As to the names given to bells, I beg leave to add, that the bells of Little Dunmow Priory, in Essex, new cast A. D. 1501, were baptized by the following names:—

Prima in honore Sancti Michaelis Archangeli.

Secunda in honore S. Johannis Evangelisti.

Tertia in honore S. Johannis Baptisti.

Quarta in honore Assumptionis beatæ Mariæ.

Quinta in honore Sancti Trinitatis, et omnium Sanctorum.

In the clochier near St. Paul's stood the four greatest bells in England, called Jesus's bells; against these sir Miles Partridge staked 100l., and won them of Henry VIII. at a cast of dice.

I conclude with remarking, that the Abbé Cancellieri, of Rome, lately published a work relative to bells, wherein he has inserted a long letter, written by Father Ponyard to M. de Saint Vincens, on the history of bells and steeples. The Abbé wrote this dissertation on the occasion of two bells having been christened, which were to be placed within the tower of the capitol.

I am, sir,
Your obedient servant,
R. H. E.

Sept. 11.

R. H. E. "wise and good" as he was, and he was both—he is now no more—would not willingly have misrepresented the doctrines of the Romish church, though he abhorred that hierarchy. It seems, however, that he may be mistaken in affirming, that the Romish church maintains of bells that "they have merit, and pray God for the living and the dead." His affirmation on this point may be taken in too extensive a sense: It is no doubt a Romish tenet that there is "much virtue in bells," but the precise degree allowed to them at this period, it would be difficult to determine without the aid of a council.

At Hatherleigh, a small town in Devon, exist two remarkable customs:—one, that every morning and evening, soon after the church clock has struck five and nine, a bell from the same steeple announces by distant strokes the number of the day of the month—originally intended, perhaps, for the information of the unlearned villagers: the other is, that after a funeral the church bells ring a lively peal, as in other places after a wedding; and to this custom the parishioners are perfectly reconciled by the consideration that the deceased is removed from a scene of trouble to a state of rest and peace.

When Mr. Colman read his Opera of "Inkle and Yarico" to the late Dr. Mosely, the Doctor made no reply during the progress of the piece. At the conclusion, Colman asked what he thought of it. "It won't do," said the Doctor, "Stuff—nonsense." Every body else having been delighted with it, this decided disapprobation puzzled the circle; he was asked why? "I'll tell you why," answered the Critic; "you say in the finale—

'Now let us dance and sing,
While all Barbadoes bells do ring.'

It won't do—there is but one bell in all the island!"

With a citation from the poet of Erin, the present notice will "ring out" delightfully.

Evening Bells.

Those evening bells, those evening bells,
How many a tale their music tells,
Of youth and home, and that sweet time
Since last I heard their soothing chime.

Those joyous hours are passed away,
And many a friend that then was gay,
Within the tomb now darkly dwells,
And hears no more those evening bells.

And so 'twill be when I am gone,
That tuneful peal will still ring on,
While other bards shall walk these dells,
And sing thy praise, sweet evening bells!


Mean Temperature   . . .   36 . 64.

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

1. Dr. Forster's Perennial Calendar. [return]

2. Sept. 17, 1816. [return]