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ROYAL OAK DAY, (29th May) On the 29th of May,* the anniversary of the restoration of Charles the Second, it is still the custom for the common peopleto wear in their hats the leaves of the oak, which are sometimes covered on the occasion with leaf gold.
This is alone, as every body knows, in commemoration of the marvellous escape of that monarch from his pursuers, who passed under the very oak tree in which he had secreted himself. This happened after the battle of Worcester. The boys here had formerly a taunting rhyme on the occasion.
The Whigs to provoke. There is a retort courteous by others, who contemptuously wore plune tree leaves, of the same homely stuff.
Plane tree leaves,
The church folk are thieves. Puerile and low as these sarcasms may appear, yet they breathe strongly that party spirit, which it is the duty of every good citizen, and real lover of his country, to endeavour to suppress.
Well has party been called “ the madness of many, for the gain of a few.” It is a kind of epidemic fever, that in its boiling fury, stirs up, from the bottom, every thing gross, filthy, and impure in human society. Often has it raged, with prodigious virulence, in this island, and yet our strong constitution has always hitherto had the happiness of being able to throw it off.
* May the 29th, says the author of the Festa Anglo-Romana, London, 1678, is celebrated upon a double account, first in commemoration of the birth of our sovereign king Charles the 2d, the princely son of his royal father Charles the 1st, of happy memory, and Mary the daughter of Henry the 4th, king of France, who was born the 29th of May, Anno 1630. And also by act of parliament, 12 Car. 2, by the passionate desires of the people, in memory of his most happy restoration to his crown and dignity, after 12 years forced exile from his undoubted right, the crown of England, by barbarous rebels and regicides; and on the 8th of this month his majesty was, with universal joy and great acclamations, proclaimed in London and Westminster, and after through all his dominions: the 16th he came to the Hague ; the 23d, with his two brothers, he embarked for England; and on the 25th he happily landed at Dover, being received by General Monk, and some of the army: from whence he was, by several voluntary troops of the nobility and gentry, waited upon to Canterbury, and on the 29th, 1660, he made his magnificent entrance into that emporium of Europe, his stately and rich metropolis, the renowned city of London. On this very day, also, Anno 1662, the king came to Hampton Court with his Queen Catherine, after his marriage at Portsmouth : this, as it is a birth-day, is one of his Collar days without offering. P. 66.
AN IMPARTIAL VIEW OF TIIE BENEFITS WHICH THE
MONKS HAVE RENDERED TO SOCIETY.
Among the many glaring instances of the mutability of worldly power, I think that the fate of the monks appears the most interesting. In most of these great revolutions, whether produced by chance, or gradually effected by improvement, it has been too customary with the world to proceed from one extreme to another. Power once exerted with unlimited authority, once commanding the awful submission of a whole world, is no sooner overthrown, than it becomes the object of petulant derision. The now annihilated institutions to which our forefathers once paid so blind a veneration, are, in the present age, too generally ridiculed, even where the permanent benefits, which have resulted from their existence, are most enjoyed : amongst them, few have undergone a more severe or more unjust fate than the monasteries; not that the continuation of their power was a tribute due either to social good, or to social justice, but that the contempt with which we are too apt to look back to it, is both undeserved and ungenerous. It is too general a. practice to inveigh against the monks with no small degree of acrimony. Writers of almost every description, have delighted in tearing aside the mysterious veil, which concealed the interior regulations of monasteries, and in aiming at the memory of their inhabitants the keen shaft of satire. The comic and heroic Muse have both recorded their errors; the religious and the speculative philosopher have sometimes laid aside their benevolence and their dignity, to join the general sneer; and the historian has eternalized their vices, while he has forgotten, or only glanced at, the great claims they have upon our gratitude, and the great share they have had in bestowing upon society the perennial blessings of intellectual improvement. This may have been an involuntary act on the part of the monks; had they foreseen, as the result of their labours, the overthrow of their owy authority, they would probably bave pursued a different line of conduct, would have neglected learning as much as they promoted it, and, instead of rescuing from the destroying herds of barbarians the monuments of ancient wisdom, would have joined with them in consigning them to the dust of oblivion, or to the ravaging flame:—but still they have been our benefactors; they have conferred upon us more than common advantages; and surely such a conduct, on our part, betrays a want of grateful recollection, or of generous feeling. It is true that monastic institutions originated in, and were maintained by, error. The vices they encouraged, in the garb of sanctity, the temporary evils they caused in society, are palpable, are undeniable; but let not the bare recollection of these errors, these vices, and evils, now annihilated by that very learning they were the means of preserving, engross our attention so far as to make us forgetful of the actual enjoyment of those important and substantial benefits, which could most probably never have fallen to our lot, had not the sanctuary of the monastery afforded them an asylum from the destructive rage of barbarism! Where, but to such an asylum as this, could the persecuted genius of Knowledge retire, during the dark ages which succeeded the fall of Rome? The seat of the Eastern empire afforded a temporary refuge to the learned, while the “ destroyers of nations,” who broke the sceptre of “ all-conquering Rome,” marked their progress by the annihilation of every object, which reminded them of a state of civilization, to whose charms they were insensible; trampling beneath their feet the temples of devotion, and repositories of science; the trophies of victory, and monuments of the honoured dead; destroying the writings of former ages, the records of antiquity, and calling ignorance and barbarism to hold their lawless revels in those parts, which had once heard with rapture a Maro's lyre and a Tully's eloquence, and seen the wish for improvement stimulate the ardent comprehensive mind to the pursuits of useful knowledge. But the sun of science was soon to set upon Constantinople. The shocks of internal discord and external hostility, the incessant inroads of barbarity and insubordination, rendered this too insecure and harassed a retreat for the votaries of learning; they were again dispersed with the valuable relics of Grecian and Roman kiterature, which they had been able to preserve from the general devastation. But where were they now to find an asylum, capable of shielding them from the sword of the Saracen, or the fury of the illiterate tribes, which peopled Europe during the reign of feudal turbulence? The strong castle of the baron was vocal only to the din of arms, or the noisy carousals of licentious knights; the lowly hut of the vassal was bereft of the peasant's enjoyment, domestic security; the dwelling of the infatuated priest was the dark palace of contracted bigotry and consummate ignorance; the sequestered cell of the monk alone was openeach monastery became a willing and safe asylum to the learned
and there were deposited, as the harbingers of a brighter æra, the invaluable writings which had been rescued from the merciless hands that had pillaged Rome, or laid the rich library of Alexandria in ashes. The mere preservation of these writings is, surely, an act which deserves our gratitude, and ought to prevent our lavishing on the monks that indiscriminate censure, which, even if only partially applied, must materially affect the memory and character of a body of men, to whom we are indebted for that superiority which learning ever gives. The intrinsic merit of these works is established by the concurring admiration of all ages; they have been the models, the imitation of which has gained so many moderns the well-earned tribute of general approbation; they have been, too, the means of preserving to us the knowledge of Hebrew, Greek and Latin, which, without the aid of writings to hand them down to us, must have been lost like the ancient oriental languages; with them must have perished the art of writing, and the subsequent discovery of that of printing must have been deferred to some far distant period, in which chance, or the originality of genius, might have enabled some superior mind to annex to empty lines both sound and signification. Thanks to the monks, and thanks, too, even to that superstitious awe which deterred vulgar minds from scrutinizing their proceedings, we have not to look forward to this æra! Long since our ancestors have seen its dawn, and long since the genius of mankind, aroused from the lethargy of ignorance, has shaken off its trammels, and paid the matin song of gratitude to the rising orb of information! Viewed thus abstractedly from other considerations which I would urge, this preservation of the ancient writings deserves our warm and unfeigned gratitude. But the monks were not merely passive receivers and depositors of them. It is true that some fell into the hands of those who were ignorant of their value, and laid them aside to be discovered, buried in the dust of ages, by the more enlightened beings of later periods. But while some monks were employed in taking advantage of that credulous, wonder with which ' the vulgar gazed on their pretended miracles-in darkening the minds, contracting the feelings, and annihilating the principles of their dupes; others were devoting the hours of retirement and leisure to the study of ancient literature: some, conscious how valuable the works were thus entrusted to their care, laboriously increased the number of copies; others, animated by the example, recorded the annals of their own times, which, though often obscured by fiction, are the only authentic documents to which we can refer for the
history of those periods; others pursued different paths of science, pointed out new inventions, and renewed useful arts, for which men, not like them, objects of popular veneration, would have been branded like Faustus, with the odious title of magician, and exposed to the fury of an illiterate and bigoted multitude.
The superstition which marks the whole reign of monkism, and from which may be deduced all the acknowledged evils of the system, was thus requisite to aid the first growth of improvement. In some stages of society, different classes of men are exclusively privileged to do good with impunity. In that of which we are now speaking, this was the privilege of the monks. Let the vices of those who abused this unlimited prerogative be buried in endless oblivion, no more to be urged against a whole body of men, who were the means of effecting that great revolution, which enlightened a whole world, and released society from the long thraldom in which united priestcraft and despotism had restrained the human mind. Norwich, May 12th, 1804.
How can any person of real feeling agree with Lord Shaftsbary, that “ridicule is the test of truth."— Truth has courage—but na effrontery, and is very liable to be laughed out of countenance.
The recollection of having been of service to a fellow creature, conveys a pleasing kind of sensation, which it is difficult to describe, but which Shakespeare expressed thus :-“ It comes over the heart as soft music does over the ear;
“ Like the sweet south That breathes upon a bank of violets.” It is most fortunate for men to have hearts so framed that they desive pleasure from such recollections. They are constructed to do good to others for their own sakes.
Too true it is, that seminaries of learning, as well as particular shops, are frequented more on account of what they have been, than what they are. So many instances might be produced, that it seems to be a prevailing opinion, that talents, and genius, like cats, are more attached to particular walls, and houses, than the persons who reside within them.