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Hill, an eminence so called (if we will believe the monkish writers) from St. Joseph and his companions sitting down here, all weary with their journey. Here St. Joseph struck his stick into the earth, which, although a dry hawthorn staff, thenceforth grew and constantly budded on Christmas Day. It had two trunks or bodies till the time of Queen Elizabeth, when a puritan exterminated one, and left the other, which wes of the size of a common man, to be viewed in wonder by strangers; and the blossoms thereof were esteemed such curiosities by people of all nations, that the Bristol merchants made a traffick of them, and exported them into foreign parts. In the great rebellion, during the time of King Charles I., the remaining trunk of this tree was also cut down; but other trees from its branches are still growing in many gardens of Glastonbury and in the different nurseries of this kingdom. It is probable that the monks of Glastonbury procured this tree from Palestine, where abundance of the same sort grew, and flower about the same time. Where this thorn grew is said to have been a nunnery dedicated to St. Peter, without the pale of Weriel Park, belonging to the abbey. It is strange to say how much this tree was sought after by the credulous ; and though a common thorn, Queen Anne, King James, and many of the nobility of the realm, even when the times of monkish superstition have ceased, gave large sums of money for small cuttings from the original.
Taylor, the Water Poet, in his Wandering to see the Wonders of the West, 4to. 1649, p. 6, speaking of the thorn of Glastonbury, tells us that, during the great rebellion, “the soldiers, being over zealous, did cut it downe in pure devotion ; but a vintner dwelling in the towne did save a great slip or branch of it, and placed or set it in his garden; and he with others did tell me that the same doth likewise bloome on the 25th day of December yearly. I saw the sayd branch, and it was ten foote high, greene and flourishing: I did take a dead sprigge from it, wherewith I made two or three tobacco stoppers, which I brought to London.”
[“Nay, that miraculous thorn at Glassenbury, which was wont to celebrate the festival of Christ's Nativity, by putting forth its leaves and flowers, was cut in pieces by these militia men, that it might no longer preach unto men the birthday of their Saviour.” Symmons's Vindication of Charles I., 1648.]
VARIOUS VULGAR ERRORS.
kill a crow,
BARRINGTON, in his Observations on our Antient Statutes, p. 474, says, it is supposed to be penal to open a coal mine, or to
within five miles of London ; as also to shoot with a wind-gun. As to the wind-gun, he takes that to arise from a statute of Henry VII., prohibiting the use of a cross-bow.
To these vulgar errors may be added the supposing that the king signs the death-warrant (as it is called) for the execution of a criminal: as also that there is a statute which obliges the owners of asses to crop their ears, lest the length of them should frighten the horses which they meet on the road.
In the Gentleman's Magazine for September 1734, iv. 489, we have the following from Bayle : “ There is nothing strange in errors becoming universal, considering how little men consult their reason. What multitudes believe, one after another, that a man weighs more fasting than full ; that a sheepskin drum bursts at the beat of a wolfskin drum ; that young vipers destroy the old females when they come to the birth, and strike the male dead at the instant of their conception, with many other truths of equal validity!"
To these vulgar errors, adds Barrington, ut supra, p. 475, may be added perhaps the notion, that a woman's marrying a man uncler the gallows will save him from the execution. This probably arose from a wife having brought an appeal against the murderer of her husband, who afterwards repenting the prosecution of her lover, not only forgave the offence, but was willing to marry the appellee.
In Warning for Servants, or the Case of Margaret Clark, lately executed for firing her Master's House in Southwark, 1680, p. 31, we read : “Since this poor maid was executed, there has been a false and malicious story published concerning her in the True Domestick Intelligence of Tuesday, the 30th of March :'Kingstone, March the 21. There was omitted in thc Protestant Domestick Intelligence in relating the last words and confession of Mary Clark (so he falsely calls her), who was executed for firing the house of M. De La Noy, dyer in Southwark : viz. that at her execution there was a fellow who
1 Scaliger asserts the falsity of this from his own experience and obervation.
designed to marry her under the gallows (according to the antient laudable custome), but she, being in hopes of a reprieve, seemed unwilling; but when the rope was about her neck, she cryed she was willing, and then the fellow's friends disswaded him from marrying her; and so she lost her husband and her life together.' There is added : “We know of no such custome allowed by law, that any man's offering at a place of execution to marry a woman condemned shall save
Barrington, ut supra, p. 474, supposes that an exemption granted to surgeons from serving on juries is the foundation of the vulgar error, that a surgeon or butcher (from the barbarity of their business) may be challenged as jurors. It is difficult, he adds, to account for many of the prevailing vulgar errors with regard to what is supposed to be law. Such are that the body of a debtor may be taken in execution after his death, which, however, was practised in Prussia before Frederick the Great abolished it by his Code. Other vulgar errors are, that the old statutes have prohibited the planting of vineyards, or the use of sawing mills, relating to which I cannot find any statute; they are however established in Scotland, to the very great advantage both of the proprietor and the country:
An ingenious correspondent, to whom I have not only this obligation, suggests two additional vulgar errors.
When a man designs to marry a woman who is in debt, if he take her from the hands of the priest, clothed only in her shift, it is supposed that he will not be liable to her engagements. The second is, that there was no land-tax before the reign of William the Third.2
i I may likewise add to these, that any one may be put into the Crown Office for no cause whatsoever, or the most trifling injury. It is also a very prevailing error, that those who are born at sea belong to Stepney parish.
2 The following legend, intended to honour the Virgin Mother, is given in a Short Relation of the River Nile, &c., 12mo. Lond. 1672, p. 87. The writer says: “Eating some dates with an old man, but a credulous Christian, he said, 'that the letter O remained upon the stone of a date for a remembrance that our blessed lady, the Virgin, with her divine babe in her arms, resting herself at the foot of a palm tree, (which inclined her branches and offered a cluster of dates to her Creatour,) our lady plucked some of the dates, and eating them, satisfied with the taste and
There is a vulgar error that the hare is one year a male and the other a female. This deserves no serious consideration.
That a wolf, if he see a man first, suddenly strikes him dumb. To the relators of this Scaliger wishes as many blows as at different times he had seen wolves without losing his voice. This is well answered.
That men are sometimes transformed into wolves, and again from wolves into men. Of this vulgar error, which is as old as Pliny's time, that author exposes the falsehood.
That there is a nation of pigmies not about two or three feet high, and that they solemnly set themselves in battle array to fight against the cranes. Strabo thought this a fiction ; and our age, which has fully discovered all the wonders of the world, as fully declares it to be one. The race of giants too seems to have followed the fate of the pigmies; and yet what shall we say to the accounts of Patagonia ?
A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine for June 1771, xli. 251, refutes the following errors : asserting " that the scorpion does not sting itself when surrounded by fire, and that its sting 18 not even venomous ; that the tarantula is not poisonous, and that music has no particular effects on persons bitten by it, more than on those stung by a wasp; that the lizard is not friendly to man in particular, much less does it awaken him on the approach of a serpent; that the remora has no such power as to retard the sailing of a ship by sticking itself to its bottom; that the stroke of the cramp-fish is not occasioned by a muscle ; that the salamander does not live in fire, nor is it capable of bearing more heat than other animals; that the bite of the spider is not venomous, that it is found in Ireland too plentifully, that he has no dislike to fixing its web on Irish oak, and that it has no antipathy to the toad; that the porcupine does not shoot out his quills for annoying his enemy ; he only sheds them annually, as other feathered animals do; that the jackall, commonly called the lion's provider, has no connexion at all with the lion," &c.
["After milking, the dairy-maid's hands must be washed forthwith, or the cows will be dried. To eat cheese, or anything that has been nibbled by mice, gives a sore throat.”l flavour, cried out in amazement, Oh! how sweet they are! This excla. mation engraved the letter 0, the first word of her speech, upon the date. stone, which, being very hard, better preserved it.'”
In a curious book in my collection, already frequently quoted, entitled Whimzies, or a New Cast of Characters, 1631, p. 69, in the character of a jaylor is the following passage :
any of his more happy prisoners be admitted to his clergy, and by helpe of a compassionate prompter hacke out his necke verse, hee has a cold iron in store, if he be hot ; but a hot iron, if hee be cold. If his pulse (I meane his purse) bee hot, his fist may cry fizze, but want his impression; but if his pulse be cold, the poore beggarly knave must have his literal expression." In Lodge's Incarnate Devils, 1596, speaking of an intelligencer (an informer), he says: "Hee will give a shroud wound with his tongue, that may bring a man to his necke terse.
This verse has derived its name of neck verse from the circumstance of the prisoner's saving his neck, that is, his life, by repeating it. In the British Apollo, vol. iii. fol. Lond. 1710, No. 72, is the following query :
“Q. Apollo, prepare; l'll make you to stare;
For I'll put you to your neck verse :
Except you the matter rehearse:
Without any banter I charge ye)
The benefit of the clergy ?
And ignorance fill'd all the land,
And the reading a legible hand :
Was granted 'em by Holy Church,
Were certainly left in the lurch.
For burglary, murder, or rape,
He never could fail to escape.
Were able to see through the mist,
As well as a rascally priest."