THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 27
Those reading my previous post about my views of Thanksgiving Day may not realize that I am very much a patriot and I truly believe in honoring my ancestors. I have a few original Mayflower ancestors and a couple more Pilgrims. At least I know why I rant and rave over Thanksgiving Dinner. I’m a direct descendant of so darn many of these people (and their wives) that I can feel their pain. I have Miles Standish as a direct ancestor. We’re still trying to force the issue on Frances Blossom. Then there’s the Brewsters. So, if anyone can complain, I can.
I would like to have a day other than the 4th of July to honor the founders of our nation. Maybe that’s what Thanksgiving Day should be. I guess the bottom line is I’m from a long line of oppressive English jerks, right?
Remember one of the Star Trek (Operation Annihilate!) episodes where Spock talks himself out of his intense pain? Well, evidently science is now proving that pain is actually a thing of the mind.
A 5500 year old Peruvian settlement has been discovered.
The original Star Wars storyboard – okay I gotta say it – May the force be with you?
Born: Francoise d’Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon, second consort of Louis XIV, 1635, Niort; Henri Francois d’Aguesseau, chancellor of France, 1668, Limoges; Robert Lowth, bishop of London, biblical critic, 1710; John Murray, publisher, 177S.
Died: Horace, lyric and satirical poet, 8 B.C.; Clovis, first king of France, 611, Purls; Maurice, Roman emperor, beheaded at Chalcedon, 602; Louis, Chevalier de Rohan, executed at Paris for conspiracy, 1674; Basil Montagu, Q.C. (writings on philosophical and social questions, he.), 1851, Boulogne.
Feast Day: St. James, surnamed Intercisus, martyr, 421. St. Maharsapor, martyr, 421. St. Secundin or Seachnal, bishop of Dunseachlin or Dunsaghlin, in. Meath, 417. St. Maximus, bishop of Riez, confessor, about 460. St. Virgil, bishop of Saltzburg, confessor, 784.
The four weeks immediately preceding Christmas are collectively styled Advent, a term denoting approach or arrival, and are so called in reference to the coming celebration of the birth of our Saviour. With this period, the ecclesiastical or Christian year is held to commence, and the first Sunday of these four weeks is termed Advent Sunday, or the first Sunday in Advent. It is always the nearest Sunday to the feast of St. Andrew, whether before or after that day; so that in all cases the season of Advent shall contain the uniform number of four Sundays. In 1864, Advent Sunday falls on the 27th of November, the earliest possible date on which it can occur.
THE GREAT STORM
Early on the morning of Saturday, the 27th November 1703, occurred one of the most terrific storms recorded in our national history. It was not merely, as usually happens, a short and sudden burst of tempest, lasting a few hours, but a fierce and tremendous hurricane of a week’s duration, which attained its utmost violence on the day above mentioned. The preceding Wednesday was a peculiarly calm, fine day for the season of the year, but at four o’clock in the afternoon a brisk gale commenced, and increased so strongly during the night, that it would have been termed a great storm, if a greater had not immediately followed. On Thursday, the wind slightly abated; but on Friday it blew with redoubled force till midnight, from which time till daybreak on Saturday morning, the tempest was at its extreme height. Consequently, though in some collections of dates the Great Storm is placed under the 26th of November, it actually took place on the following day.
Immediately after midnight, on the morning of Saturday, numbers of the affrighted inhabitants of London left their beds, and took refuge in the cellars and lower apartments of their houses. Many thought the end of the world had arrived. Defoe, who experienced the terrors of that dreadful night, says:
“Horror and confusion seized upon all; no pen can describe it, no tongue can express it, no thought conceive it, unless some of those who were in the extremity of it.”
It was not till eight o’clock on the Saturday morning, when the storm had slightly lulled, that the boldest could venture forth from the shelter of their dwellings, to seek assistance, or inquire for the safety of friends. The streets were then thickly strewed with bricks, tiles, stones, lead, timber, and all kinds of building materials. The storm continued to rage through the day, with very little diminution in violence, but at four in the afternoon heavy torrents of rain fell, and had the effect of considerably reducing the force of the gale.
Ere long, however, the hurricane recommenced with great fury, and in the course of the Sunday and Monday attained such a height, that on Tuesday night few persons dared go to bed. Continuing till noon on Wednesday, the storm then gradually decreased till four in the afternoon, when it terminated in a dead calm, at the very hour of its commencement on the same day of the preceding week.
The old and dangerously absurd practice of building chimneys in stacks, containing as many bricks as a modern ordinary sized house, was attended by all its fatal consequences on this occasion. The bills of mortality for the week recorded twenty one deaths in London alone, from the fall of chimneys. After the tempest, houses bore a resemblance to skeletons. Fortunately, three weeks of dry weather followed, permitting the inhabitants to patch up their dwellings with boards, tarpaulins, old sails, and straw; regular repairs being in many instances, at the time, wholly impossible. Plain tiles rose in price from one guinea to six pounds per thousand; and pan tiles from fifty shillings to ten pounds, for the same number. Bricklayers’ wages rose in proportion, so that even in the case of large public edit lees, the trustees or managers bestowed on them merely a temporary repair, till prices should fall. During 1701, the Temple, Christ’s Hospital, and other buildings in the city of London, presented a remarkable appearance, patched with straw, reeds, and other thatching materials.
At Wells, the bishop of that diocese and his wife were killed, when in bed, by a stack of chimneys falling upon them. Defoe, from personal observation, relates that, in the county of Kent alone, 1107 dwelling houses and barns were leveled by the tremendous force of the hurricane. Five hundred grand old trees were prostrated in Penshurst, the ancient park of the Sidneys, and numerous orchards of fruit trees were totally destroyed.
The same storm did great damage in Holland and France, but did not extend far to the northward; the border counties and Scotland receiving little injury from it. The loss sustained by the city of London was estimated at one million, and that of Bristol at two hundred thousand pounds. Great destruction of property and loss of life occurred on the river Thames. The worst period of the storm there, was from midnight to daybreak, the night being unusually dark, and the tide extraordinarily high. Five hundred. watermen’s wherries, 300 ship boats, and 120 barges were destroyed; the number of persons drowned could never be exactly ascertained, but 22 dead bodies were found and interred.
The greatest destruction of shipping, however, took place off the coast, where the fleet, under the command of Sir Cloudesley Shovel, had just returned from the Mediterranean. The admiral, and part of his ships anchored near the Gunfleet, rode out the gale with little damage; but of the vessels lying in the Downs few escaped. Three ships of 70 guns, one of 64, two of 56, one of 46, and several other smaller vessels, were totally destroyed, with a loss of 1500 officers and men, among whom was Rear admiral Beaumont.
It may surprise many to learn that the elaborate contrivances for saving life from shipwreck date from no distant period. Even late in the last century, the dwellers on the English coasts considered themselves the lawful heirs of all drowned persons, and held that their first duty in the case of a wreck was to secure, for their own behalf, the property which Providence had thus east on their shores. That they should exert themselves to save the lives of their fellow creatures, thus imperiled, was an idea that never presented itself. Nay, superstition, which ever has had a close connection with self interest, declared it was unlucky to rescue a drowning man from his fate. In the humane endeavour to put an end to this horrible state of matters, Burke, in 1776, brought a bill into parliament, enacting that the value of plundered wrecks should be levied from the inhabitants of the district where the wreck occurred. The country gentlemen, resenting the bill as an attack on their vested interests, vehemently opposed it. The govermment of the day also, requiring the votes of the county members to grant supplies for carrying on the war against the revolted. American colonies, joined in the opposition, and threw out the bill, as Will Whitehead expresses it:
‘To make Squire Boobies willing,
To grant supplies at every check,
Give them the plunder of a wreck,
They’ll vote another shilling.’
This allusion to the change which has taken place in public feeling on the subject of wrecks, was rendered necessary to explain the following incident in connection with the Great Storm. At low water, on the morning after the terrible hurricane, more than two hundred men were discovered on the treacherous footing of the Goodwin Sands, crying and gesticulating for aid, well knowing that in a very short time, when the tide rose, they would inevitably perish. The boatmen were too busy, labouring in their vocation of picking up portable property, to think of saving life. The mayor of Deal, an humble slopseller, but a man of extraordinary humanity for the period, went to the custom house, and begged that the boats belonging to that establishment might be sent out to save some, at least, of the poor men. The custom house officers refused, on the ground that this was not the service for which their boats were provided. The mayor then collected a few fellow tradesmen, and in a short speech so inspired them with his generous emotions, that they seized the custom house boats by force, and, going off to the sands, rescued as many persons as they could from certain death. The shipwrecked men being brought to land, naked, cold, and hungry, what was to be done with them? The navy agent at Deal refused to assist then, his duties being, he said, to aid seamen wounded in battle, not shipwrecked men.
The worthy mayor, whose name was Powell, had therefore to clothe and feed these poor fellows, provide them with lodgings, and bury at his own expense some that died. Subsequently, after a long course of petitioning, he was reimbursed for his outlay by government; and this concession was followed by parliament requesting the queen to place shipwrecked seamen in the same category as men killed or wounded in action. The widows and children of men who had perished in the Great Storm, were thus placed on the pension list.
The Great Storm: Destruction of the first Eddystone Light House
The most remarkable of the many edifices destroyed during that dreadful night was the first Eddystone lighthouse, erected four years previously by an enterprising but incompetent individual, named Winstanley. He had been a mercer in London, and, having acquired wealth, retired to Littlebury, in Essex, where he amused himself with the curious but useless mechanical toys that preceded our modern machinery and engineering, as alchemy and astrology preceded chemistry and astronomy. As a specimen of these, it is related that, in one room of his house, there lay an old slipper, which, if a kick were given it, immediately raised a ghost from the floor; in another room, if a visitor sat down in a seemingly comfortable arm chair, the arms would fly round his body, and detain him a close prisoner, till released by the ingenious inventor. The light horse was just such a specimen of misapplied ingenuity as might have been expected from such an intellect. It was built of wood, and deficient in every element of stability. Its polygonal form rendered it peculiarly liable to be swept away by the waves.
It was no less exposed to the action of the wind, from the upper part being ornamented with large wooden candlesticks, and supplied with useless vanes, cranes, and other top hamper, as a sailor would say. It is probable that the design of this singular edifice had been suggested to Winstanley by a drawing of a Chinese pagoda. And this lighthouse, placed on a desolate rock in the sea, was painted with representations of suns and compasses, and mottoes of various kinds; such as Post TENEBRAS LUX, GLORY BE TO God, PAX IN BELLO. The last was probably in allusion to the building’s fancied security, amidst the wild war of waters. And that such peace might be properly enjoyed, the lighthouse contained, besides a kitchen and accommodation for the keepers, a stateroom, finely carved and painted, with a chimney, two closets, and two windows.
There was also a splendid bedchamber, richly gilded and painted. This is Winstanley’s own description, accompanying an engraving of the lighthouse, in which he complacently represents himself fishing from the stateroom window. One would suppose he had designed the building for an eccentric ornament to a garden or a park, were it not that, in his whimsical ingenuity, he had contrived a kind of movable shoot on the top, by which stones could be showered down on any side, on an approaching enemy. Men, who knew by experience the aggressive powers of sea waves, remonstrated with Winstanley, but he declared that he was so well assured of the strength of the building, that he would like to be in it during the greatest storm that ever blew under the face of heaven. The confident architect had, a short time previous to the Great Storm, gone to the lighthouse to superintend some repairs. When the fatal tempest came, it swept the flimsy structure into the ocean, and with it the unfortunate Winstanley, and five other persons who were along with him in the building.
There is a curious bit of literary history indirectly connected with the Great Storm. Addison, distressed by indigence, wrote a poem on the victory of Blenheim, in which he thus compares the Duke of Marlborough, directing the current of the great fight, to the Spirit of the Storm:
‘So when an angel, by divine command,
With rising tempests shakes a guilty land,
Such as of late o’er pale Britannia past,
Calm and serene, he drives the furious blast.
And pleased th’ Almighty’s orders to perform,
Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm.’
Lord Godolphin was so pleased with this simile, that he immediately appointed Addison to the Commissionership of Appeals, the first public employment conferred on the essayist.