Isaac Disraeli.

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ered the feeble frame of the sufferer ; she died — leaving a
son, who inherited the rich accession of fortune so fatally
obtained by his injured and suffering mother.

Such is the tale of which the party story of Kirk appeared
to Ritson to have been a rifacimento ; but it is rather the
foundation than the superstructure. This critic was right in
the general, but not in the particular. It was not necessary
to point out the present source, when so many others of a
parallel nature exist. This tale, universally told, Mr. Douce
considers as the origin of '' Measure for Measure," and was
probably some traditional event; for it appears sometimes

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with a change of names and places, without any of incident
It always turns on a soldier, a brother, or a husband exe-
cuted ; and a wife, or sister, a deceived victim, to save them
from death. It was therefore easily transferred to Kirk, and
Pomfret's poem of " Cruelty and Lust " long made the story
popular. It could only have been in this form that it reached
the historian, who, it must be observed, introduces it as a
" story commonly told of him ; " but popular tragic romances
should not enter into the dusty documents of a history of
England, and much less be particularly specified in the
index ! Belleforest, in his old version of the tale, has even
the circumstance of the " captain, who having seduced the
wife under the promise to save her husband's life, exhibited
him soon afterwards through the window of her apartment
suspended on a gibbet^' This forms the horrid incident in
the history of " the bloody Colonel," and served the purpose
of a party, who wished to bury him in odium. Kirk was a
soldier of fortune, and a loose liver, and a great blusterer,
who would sometimes threaten to decimate his own regi-
ment ; but is said to have forgotten the menace the next day.
Hateful as such military men va\[ always be, in the present
instance Colonel Kirk has been shamefully calumniated by
poets and historians, who suffer themselves to be duped by
the forgeries of political parties !

While we are detecting a source of error, into which the
party feelings of modem historians may lead them, let us
confess that they are far more valuable than the ancient ; for
to us, at least, the ancients have written history without pro-
ducing authorities ! Modem historians must furnish their
readers with the truest means to become their critics, by pro-
viding them with their authorities ; and it is only by judi-
ciously appreciating tjiese that we may confidently accept
their discoveries. Unquestionably the ancients have often
introduced into their histories many tales similar to the story
of Kirk — popular or party forgeries ! The mellifluous copi-
ousness of Livy conceals many a tale of wortder; the graver

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of Tacitus etches many a fatal stroke ; and the secret history
of Suetonius too often raises a suspicion of those whispers,
Quid rex in aurem regince dixerit, quid Junofabulata sit cum
Jove, It is certain that Plutarch has often told, and varied
too in the telling, the same story, which he has applied to dif-
fei^ent persons. A critic in the Ritsonian style has said
of the grave Plutarch, Mendax ille Plutarchus qui vitas
oratorum, dolis et erroribus, consutas, olim conscribillavit,*
" That lying Plutarch, who formerly scribbled the lives of the
orators, made up of falsities and blunders ! " There is in
Italian a scarce book, of a better design than execution, of
the Abbate Lancellotti, Farfalloni degli Antichi Historici.
— " Flim-flams of the ancients." Modem historians have to
dispute their passage to immortality step by step ; and how-
ever fervid be their eloquence, their real test as to value must
be brought to the humble references in their margin. Yet
these must not terminate our inquiries ; for in tracing a story
to its original source, we shall find that fictions have been
sometimes grafted on truths or hearsays, and to separate
them as they appeared in their first stage, is the pride and
glory of learned criticism.


A PEOPLE denied the freedom of speech or of writing,
have usually left some memorials of their feelings in that
silent language which addresses itself to the eye. Many
ingenious inventions have been contrived, to give vent to
their suppressed indignation. The voluminous grievance
which they could not trust to the voice or the pen, they have
carved in wood, or sculptured on stone ; and have sometimes
even facetiously concealed their satire among the playful

♦ Taylor, Annot. ad Lysiam.

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ornaments designed to amuse those of whom they so fruit-
lessly complained I Such monuments of the suppressed feel-
ings of the multitude are not often inspected by the historian
— tjieir minuteness escapes all eyes but those of the phi-
losophical antiquary : nor are these satirical appearances
always considered as grave authorities, which unquestionably
they wiU be found to be by a close observer of human nature.
An entertaining history of the modes of thinking, or the dis-
contents, of a people, drawn from such dispersed efforts, in
every aera, would cast a new light of secret history over many
dark intervals.

Did we possess a secret history of the Saturnalia, it would
doubtless have afforded some materials for the present article.
In those revels of venerable radicalism, when the senate was
closed, and the Pileus, or cap of liberty, was triumphantly
worn, all things assumed an appearance contrary to what
they were ; and human nature, as well as human laws, might
be said to have been parodied. Among so many whimsical
regulations in favour of the licentious rabble, there was one
which forbad the circulation of money ; if any one offered
the coin of the state, it was to be condemned as an act of
madness, and the man was brought to his senses by a peni-
tential fast for that day. An ingenious French antiquary
seems to have discovered a class of wretched medals, cast in
lead or copper, which formed the circulating medium of these
mob lords, who, to ridicule the idea of money, used the basest
metals, stamping them with grotesque figures, or odd devices
— such as a sow ; a chimerical bird ; an imperator in his car,
with a monkey behind him ; or an old woman's head, Acca
Zaurentia, either the traditional old nurse of Eomulus, or an
old courtesan of the same name, who bequeathed the fruits
of her labours to the Roman people ! As all things were
done in mockery, this base metal is stamped with s. c, to
ridicule the Senatus consuUo, which our antiquary happily
explains,* in the true spirit of this government of mockery,

* Baudelot de Dairval, de V UtiUtd des Voyages, ii. 645. There is a work,

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Satumalium consuUo, agreeing with the legend of the re-
verse, inscribed in the midst of four tali, or bones, which they
used as dice, Qui ludit arram det, quod satis sit — " Let them
who play give a pledge, which will be sufficient.'* This mock-
money served not only as an expression of the native irony
of the radical gentry of Rome during their festival, but had
they spoken their mind out, meant a ridicule of money itself;
for these citizens of equality have always imagined that
society might proceed without this contrivance of a medium
which served to represent property, in which they themselves
must so little participate.

A period so glorious for exhibiting the suppressed senti-
ments of the populace, as were these Saturnalia, had been
nearly lost for us, had not some notions been preserved by
Lucian ; for we glean but sparingly from the solemn pages
of the historian, except in the remarkable instance which
Suetonius has preserved of the arch-mime who followed the
body of the Emperor Vespasian at his funeral. This officer,
as well as a similar one who accompanied the general to
whom they granted a triumph, and who was allowed the un-
restrained licentiousness of his tongue, were both the organs
of popular feeling, and studied to gratify the rabble, who
were their real masters. On this occasion the arch-mime,
representing both the exterior personage and the character
of Vespasian, according to custom, inquired the expense of
the funeral ? He was answered, " ten millions of sesterces I "
In allusion to the love of money which characterized the
emperor, his mock representative exclaimed, " Give me the
money, and, if you will, throw my body into the Tiber ! "

by Ficoroni, on these lead coina or tickets. They are found in the cabinets
of the curious medallist. Pinkerton, in referring to this entertaining work,
regrets that " Such curious remains have almost escaped the notice of
medallists, and have not yet been arranged in one class, or named. A
special work on them would be highly acceptable." The time has perhaps
arrived when antiquaries may begin to be philosophers, and philosophers
antiquaries ! The unhappy separation of erudition from philosophy, and
of philosophy from erudition, has hitherto thrown impediments in the
progress of the human mind, and the history of man.

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All these mock offices and festivals among the ancients, I
consider as organs of the suppressed opinions and feelings of
the populace, who were allowed no other, and had not the
means of the printing ages to leave any permanent records.
At a later period, before the discovery of the art, which
multiplies, with such facility, libels or panegyrics ; when the
people could not speak freely against those rapacious clergy,
who sheared the fleece and cared not for the sheep, many a
secret of popular indignation was confided not to books (for
they could not read), but to pictures and sculptures, which
are books which the people can always read. The sculptors
and illuminators of those times, no doubt shared in common
the popular feelings, and boldly trusted to the paintings or
the carvings which met the eyes of their luxurious and in-
dolent masters, their satirical inventions. As far back as in
1300, we find in Wolfius,* the description of a picture of
this kind, in a MS. of -^sop's Fables, found in the Abbey
of Fulda, among other emblems of the corrupt lives of the
churchmen. The present was a wolf, large as life, wearing
a monkish cowl, with a shaven crown, preaching to a flock
of sheep, with these words of the apostle in a label from his
mouth, — ** God is my witness how I long for you all in my
bowels ! " And underneath was inscribed — " This hooded
wolf is the hypocrite of whom is said in the Gospel, * Beware
of false prophets ! ' " Such exhibitions were often introduced
into articles of furniture. A cushion was found in an old
abbey, in which was worked a fox preaching to geese, each
goose holding in his bill his praying beads ! In the stone
wall, and on the columns of the great church at Strasburg
was once viewed a number of wolves, bears, foxes, and other
mischievous animals, carrying holy water, crucifixes, and
tapers ; and others more indelicate. These, probably as old
as the year 1300, were engraven in 1617, by a protestant;
and were not destroyed till 1685, by the pious rage of the
catholics, who seemed at length to have rightly construed
* Lect. Mem. I. ad an. 1800.

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these silent lampoons ; and in their turn broke to pieces the
protestant images, as the others had done the papistical dolls.
The carved seats and stalls in our own cathedrals exhibit
subjects, not only strange and satirical, but even indecent
At the time they built churches they satirized the ministers ;
a curious instance how the feelings of the people struggle to
find a vent It is conjectured that rival orders satirized each
other, and that some of the carvings are caricatures of cer-
tain monks. The margins of illuminated manuscripts fre-
quently contain ingenious caricatures, or satirical allegories.
In a magnificent chronicle of Froissart, I observed several.
A wolf, as usual, in a monk's frock and cowl, stretching his
paw to bless a cock, bending its head submissively to the
wolf: or a fox with a crosier, dropping beads, which a cock
is picking up ; to satirize the blind devotion of the bigots ;
perhaps the figure of the cock alluded to our Gallic neigh-
bours. A cat in the habit of a nun, holding a platter in its
paws to a mouse approaching to lick it; alluding to the
allurements of the abbesses to draw young women into their
convents ; while sometimes I have seen a sow in an abbess's
veil, mounted on stilts : the sex marked by the sow's dugs.
A pope sometimes appears to be thrust by devils into a
caldron ; and cardinals are seen roasting on spits ! These
ornaments must have b^en generally executed by the monks
themselves ; but these more ingenious members of the eccle-
siastical order appear to have sympathized with the people,
like the curates in our church, and envied the pampered
abbot and the purple bishop. Churchmen were the usual
objects of the suppressed indignation of the people in those
days ; but the knights and feudal lords have not always
escaped from the " curses not loud, but deep," of their satir-
ical pencils.

As the Reformation, or rather the Revolution, was hasten-
ing, this custom became so general, that in one of the dia-
logues of Erasmus, where two Franciscans are entertained
by their host, it appears that such satirical exhibitions were

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hung up as common furniture in the apartments of inns.
The facetious genius of Erasmus either invents or describes
one which he had seen of an ape in the habit of a Francis-
can sitting by a sick man's bed, dispensing ghostly counsel,
holding up a crucifix in one hand, while with the other he is
filching a purse out of the sick man's pocket Such are
*' the straws " by which we may always observe from what
corner the wind rises ! Mr. Dibdin has recently informed
us, that Geyler, whom he calls " the herald of the Reforma-
tion," preceding Luther by twelve years, had a stone chair
or pulpit in the cathedral at Strasburg, from which he de-
livered his lectures, or rather rolled the thunders of his
anathemas against the monks. This stone pulpit was con-
structed under his own superintendence, and is covered with
very indecent figures of monks and nuns, expressly designed
by him to expose their profligate manners. We see Geyler
doing what for centuries had been done ! "

In the curious folios of Sauval, the Stowe of France, there
is a copious chapter entitled " Heretiques, leurs attentats^*
In this enumeration of their attempts to give vent to their
suppressed indignation, it is very remarkable, that preceding
the time of Luther, the minds of many were perfectly Lu'
theran respecting the idolatrous worship of the Roman
church ; and what I now notice would have rightly entered
into that significant Historia Reformationis ante Reformat
tionem, which was formerly projected by continental writers.

Luther did not consign the pope's decretals to the flames
till 1 520 — this was the first open act of reformation and in-
surrection, for hitherto he had submitted to the court of
Rome. Yet in 1490, thirty years preceding this great event,
I find a priest burnt for having snatched the host in derision
from the hands of another celebrating mass. Twelve years
afterwards, 1502, a student repeated the same deed, tramp-
ling on it ; and in 1523, the resolute death of Anne de Bourg,
a counsellor in the parliament of Paris, to use the expression
of Sauval, "corrupted the world." It is evident that the

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Huguenots were fast on the increase. From that period I
find continued accounts which prove that the Huguenots of
France, like the Puritans of England, were most resolute
iconoclasts. They struck off the heads of Virgins and little
Jesuses, or blunted their daggers by chipping the wooden
saints, which were then fixed at the comers of streets.
Every morning discovered the scandalous treatment they had
undergone in the night. Then their images were painted on
the walls, but these were heretically scratched and disfigured :
and, since the saints could not defend themselves, a royal
edict was published in their favour, commanding that all
holy paintings in the streets should not be allowed short of
ten feet from the ground ! They entered churches at night,
tearing up or breaking down the prians, the hemtotres, the
crucifixes, the colossal ecce-homos, which they did not always
succeed in dislodging for wrfnt of time or tools. Amidst
these battles with wooden adversaries, we may smile at the
frequent solemn processions instituted to ward off the ven-
geance of the parish saint ; the wooden was expiated by a
silver image, secured by iron bars and attended by the king
and the nobility, carrying the new saint, with prayers that he
would protect himself from the heretics !

In an early period of the Reformation, an instance occurs
of the art of concealing what we wish only the few should
comprehend, at the same time that we are addressing the
public Curious collectors are acquainted with " The Olive-
tan Bible ; " this was the first translation published by the
protestants, and there seems no doubt that Calvin was the
diief, if not the only translator; but at that moment not
choosing to become responsible for this new version, he made
use of the name of an obscure relative, Robert Pierre
Olivetan. Calvin, however, prefixed a Latin preface, re-
markable for delivering positions very opposite to those
tremendous doctrines of absolute predestination, which in his
theological despotism he afterwards assumed. De Bure
describes this first protestant Bible not only as rare, but

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when found, as usually imperfect, much soiled and dog-eared,
as the well-read first edition of Shakspeare, by the perpetual
use of the multitude. But a curious fact has escaped the
detection both of De Bure and Beloe ; at the end of the
volume are found ten verses, which, in a concealed manner,
authenticate the translation ; and which no one, unless initi-
ated into the secret, could possibly suspect. The verses are
not poetical, but I give the first sentence :—

** Lectear entends, si v4rit4 adresse
Yiens done onyr instament sa promesse
Etvifparler" &o.

The first letters of every word of these ten verses form a per-
fect distich, containing information important to those to
whom the Olivetan Bible was addressed.

** Les Vaudols, peuple ^vang^lique,
Ont mis ce thr^sor en publiqn«/'

An anagram would have been too inartificial a ccmtrivance
to have answered the purpose of concealing from the world
at large this secret. There is an adroitness in the invention
of the initial letters of all the words through these ten verses.
They contained a communication necessary to authenticate
the version, but which, at the same time, could not be sus-
pected by any person not intrusted with the secret.

When the art of medal-engraving was revived in Europe,
the spirit we are now noticing took possession of those less
perishable and more circulating vehicles. Satiric medals
were almost unknown to the ancient mint, notwithstanding
those of the Saturnalia, and a few which bear miserable
puns on the unlucky names of some consuls. Medals illus-
trate history, and history reflects light on medals ; but we
should not place such unreserved confidence on medals, as
their advocates, who are warm in their favourite study. It
has been asserted, that medals are more authentic memorials
than history itself; but a medal is not less susceptible of the

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bad passions than a pamphlet or an epigram. Ambition haa
its vanity, and engraves a dubious victory; and Flattery
will practise its art, and deceive us in gold ! A calumny or
a fiction on metal may be more durable than on a fugitive
page ; and a libel has a better chance of being preserved,
when the artist is skilful, than simple truths when miserably
executed. Medals of this class are numerous, and were the
precursors of those political satires exhibited in caricature
prints. There is a large collection of wooden cuts about the
time of Calvin, where the Bomish religion is represented by
the most grotesque forms which the ridicule of the early
Reformers could invent. More than a thousand figures
attest the exuberant satire of the designers. This work is
equally rare and costly." *

Satires of this species commenced in the freedom of the
Reformation ; for we find a medal of Luther in a monk's
habit, satirically bearing for its reverse Catherine de Bora,
the nun whom this monk married ; the first step of his per-
sonal reformation ! Nor can we be certain that Catherine
was not more concerned in that great revolution than appears
in the voluminous lives we have of the great reformer.
However, the reformers were as great sticklers for medals as
the " papelins." Of Pope John VIIL, an effeminate volup-
tuary, we have a medal with his portrait, inscribed Pope
Joan! and another of Innocent X., dressed as a woman
holding a spindle ; the reverse, his famous mistress, Donna
Olympia, dressed as a Pope, with the tiara on her head, and
the keys of St Peter in her hands I

When, in the reign of Mary, England was groaning under
Spanish influence, and no remonstrance could reach the
throne, the queen's person and government were made ridic-
ulous to the people's eyes, by prints or pictures, " represent-
ing her majesty naked, meagre, withered, and wrinkled, with
every aggravated circumstance of deformity that could dis-

* Mr. Donoe possessed a portion of this verj curions oollection: for a
eomplete one De Bnre asked about twenty pounds.

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grace a female figure, seated in a regal chair ; a crown on
her head, surrounded with M. R. and A. in capitals, accom-
panied by small letters ; Maria Regina Anglice ! a number
of Spaniards were sucking her to skin and bone, and a speci-
fication was added of the money, rings, jewels, and other
presents with which she had secretly gratified her husband
Philip." * It is said that the queen suspected some of her
own council of this invention, who alone were privy to these
transactions. It is, however, in this manner that the voice,
which is suppressed by authority, comes at length m another
shape to the eye.

The age of Elizabeth, when the Roman pontiff and all his
adherents were odious to the people, produced a remarkable
caricature, and ingenious invention — a gorgon's head! A
church bell forms the helmet ; the ornaments, instead of the
feathers, are a wolfs head in a mitre devouring a lamb, an
ass's head with spectacles reading, a goose holding a rosary :
the face is made out with a fish for the nose, a chalice and
water for the eye, and other priestly ornaments for the shoulder
and breast, on which rolls of parchment pardons hang, t

A famous bishop of Munster, Bernard de Galen, who, in
his charitable violence for converting protestants, got him-
self into such celebrity that he appears to have served as an
excellent sign-post to the inns in Grermany, was the true
church militant : and his figure was exhibited according to
the popular fancy. His head was half mitre and half
helmet; a crosier in one hand and a sabre in the other;
half a rochet and half a cuirass : he was made performing
mass as a dragoon on horseback, and giving out the charge
when he ought the Ite^ missa est ! He was called the con-^
verier ! and the " Bishop of Munster " became popular as a
sign-post in German towns ; for the people like fighting men,
though they should even fight against themselves.

* Warton's Life of Sir Thomas Pope, p. 58.

t This ancient caricature, so descriptive of the popular feelings, is
tolerably given in Malcolm's history of" Caricaturing," plate ii. fig. I.

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It is rather curious to observe of this new species of satire,
BO easily distributed among the people, and so dii*ectly ad-
dressed to their understandings, that it was made the vehicle
of national feeling. Ministers of state condescended to in-
vent the devices. Lord Orford says, that caricatures on
cards were the invention of Greorge Townshend in the affair

Online LibraryIsaac DisraeliCuriosities of literature → online text (page 3 of 43)