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SUNDAY, DECEMBER 14

I know, it sounds strange, but when we’re dealing with Bubbles Silverman and her criminally minded associates, what else can one expect?  This latest venture requires creativity, stealth, and perfect timing.

In other words, I started arranging the gifts under my tree.  Bubbles was teaching little Hoss (who is living up to his name.  He’s turned into a three cans of Fancy Feast a day guy) to cannonball into the tree using the stack of packages as a diving platform.

A good time was had by all, except for moi.

Doc Holiday has been acting like a kitten the past couple of days, playing in the wrapping mess, and helping me tie ribbon on packages.  Yea, you can guess the rest.

That legendary archaeopteryx fossil is going to be undergoing a complete “physical, including an x-ray!

Those amazing jellyfish swarms? The fascinating NSF report

What do you think about a new chip that can go into an ignition key and stop cell use?

Have you heard the one about the giant manta ray?

I have a question.  If Bigfoot is a creation of modern pulp culture, why are there renditions of something like it dating back 100s of years?

Then there’s the one about the giant croc in Mass?

THE CHAMBERS BOOK OF DAYS

Born: Michael Nostradamus, famous prophet, 1503, St. Penny, in Provence; Tycho Brahe, astronomer, 1546, Knudsthorp, near the Baltic; Barthélemi d’Herbelot, orientalist, 1625, Paris; Daniel Neal, divine and author (History of the Puritans), 1678, London; James Bruce, Abyssinian traveller, 1730, Kinnaird, Stirlinyshire; Rev. Charles Wolfe, author of The Burial of Sir John Moore, 1791, Dublin.

Died: Pope Anastasius I, 402; Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, burned as a Lollard, 1417, St. Giles’ Fields, London; Dean Henry Aldrich, of Christ-Church, Oxford, eminent scholar and divine, 1710; Thomas Rymer, historical writer, 1713; Thomas Tenison, archbishop of Canterbury, 1715, Lambeth; Sir William Trumbull, statesman and man of letters, 1716; General George Washington, American patriotic commander and states-man, 1799, Mount Vernon, Virginia; Conrad Malte-Brun, geographer, 1826, Paris; J. C. London, botanical writer, 1843, Bayswater, London; Earl of Aberdeen, statesman, 1860, London; Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, 1861, Windsor Castle.

Feast Day: St. Spiridion, bishop and confessor, 348. Saints Nicasius, archbishop of Rheims, and his companions, martyrs, 5th century.

VEGETABLES, HERBS, AND FRUITS IN ENGLAND IN THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY

In connection with the improvements in the art of gardening, effected by Mr. Loudon, the subject of the foregoing article, it may not be uninteresting to contemplate the condition of horticulture in England in the thirteenth century; and the nature and extent of the supplies of fruit, vegetables, and similar produce procurable by our ancestors. From the roll of the household expenses of Eleanor, Countess of Leicester, third daughter of King John, and wife of the celebrated Simon de Montfort, who fell at Evesham, we gather the following curious details; this roll being the earliest known memorial of the expenditure of an English subject.

It cannot fail to be remarked, in perusing the roll, that very few esculent plants are mentioned. Dried pease and beans, parsley, fennel, onions, green-pease, and new beans, are the only species named. Pot-herbs, of which the names are not specified, cost 6d.; and here, on the authority of Mr. Hardy, we may mention that one shilling then would purchase as much as fifteen now. If any other vegetables were in general use at the time, they were, perhaps, comprised under the term potagium. There is, however, much uncertainty upon the subject of the cultivation of vegetables, in this country, during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Cresses, endive, lettuce, beets, parsneps, carrots, cabbages, leeks, radishes, and cardoons, were grown in France during the reign of Charlemagne; but it is doubtful whether many of these varieties had penetrated into England at an early period. The most skilful horticulturists of the Middle Ages were ecclesiastics, and it is possible that in the gardens of monasteries many vegetables were raised which were not in common use among the laity. Even in the fifteenth century, the general produce of the English kitchen-garden was contemptible, when compared with that of the Low Countries, France, and Italy. Gilbert Kymer can enumerate only, besides a few wild and for-gotten sorts, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, beet-root, trefoil, bugloss, borage, celery, purslaine, fennel, smallage, thyme, hyssop, parsley, mint, a species of turnip, and small white onions. According to him, all these vegetables were boiled with meat. He observes that some were eaten raw, in spring and summer, with olive-oil and spices, but questions the propriety of the custom. This is, perhaps, the earliest notice extant of the use of salads in England.

The roll furnishes but little information respecting fruit. The only kinds named are apples and pears; three hundred of the latter were purchased at Canterbury, probably from the gardens of the monks. It is believed, however, that few other sorts were generally grown in England before the latter end of the fifteenth century; although Matthew Paris, describing the bad season of 1257, observes that ‘apples were scarce, and pears scarcer, while quinces, vegetables, cherries, plums, and all shell-fruits were entirely destroyed.’ These shell-fruits were, probably, the common hazel-nut, walnuts, and perhaps chestnuts: in 1256, the sheriffs of London were ordered to buy two thousand chestnuts for the kin’s own use. In the Wardrobe Book of the 14th of Edward I., we find the bill of Nicholas, the royal fruiterer, in which the only fruits mentioned are pears, apples, quinces, medlars, and nuts. The supply of these from Whitsuntide to November, cost £21, 14s. 1½d.

This apparent scarcity of indigenous fruits naturally leads to the inquiry, what foreign kinds, besides those included in the term spicery, such as almonds, dates, figs, and raisins, were imported into England in this and the following century. In the time of John, and of Henry III, Rochelle was celebrated for its pears, and conger-eels; the sheriffs of London purchased a hundred of the former for Henry in 1223. In the 18th of Edward I, a large Spanish ship came to Portsmouth; out of the cargo of which the queen bought one frail of Seville figs, one frail of raisins or grapes, one bale of dates, and two hundred and thirty pomegranates, fifteen citrons, and seven oranges. The last item is important, as Le Grand d’Aussy could not trace the orange in France to an earlier date than 1333; here we find it known in England in 1290; and it is probable that this was not its first appearance. The marriage of Edward with Eleanor of Castile naturally led to a greater intercourse with Spain, and, consequently, to the introduction of other articles of Spanish produce than the leather of Cordova, olive-oil, and rice, which had previously been the principal imports from that fertile country, through the medium of the merchants of Bayonne and Bordeaux.

It is to be regretted that the series of wardrobe books is incomplete, as much additional information on this point might have been derived from them. At all events, it appears certain that Europe is indebted to the Arab conquerors of Spain for the introduction of the orange, and not to the Portuguese, who are said to have brought it from China. An English dessert in the thirteenth century must, it is clear, have been composed chiefly of dried and preserved fruits, dates, figs, apples, pears, nuts, and the still common dish of almonds and raisins.

With respect to spices, the arrival of a ship laden with them was an event of such importance, and perhaps rarity, that the king usually hastened to satisfy his wants before the cargo was landed.

Thus, in the reign of Henry III, the bailiffs of Sandwich were commanded to detain, upon their coming into port, two great ships laden with spices and precious merchandises, which were exported from Bayonne; and not to allow anything to be sold until the king had had his choice of their contents.

Returning to the roll, cider is mentioned only once, and in such a manner as to convey the impression that it was not in much estimation, the Countess having distributed one ton among eight hundred paupers.

ALBERT, PRINCE CONSORT

On no occasion subsequent to the death of the Princess Charlotte of Wales, in 1817, was any royal demise so deeply lamented in England as that of Albert, Prince Consort to Queen Victoria. Born on the 26th of August 1819—only two months after the royal lady whom he was destined to espouse—he passed his early days in receiving an education unusually complete in all that could grace a prince and a gentleman, both as regards solid learning and high-bred accomplishments. He and his elder brother, Ernest Augustus, had lasting reason to be grateful for the care bestowed upon them by their father, the reigning Duke of Saxe Coburg Gotha. The two young princes visited England in 1836, while William IV was king; and then, it is understood, took place the interview between Albert and Victoria, which led ultimately to their union.

On the return of the two brothers to Germany, both princes continued their studies with great assiduity, at various universities. Albert is believed, too, to have profited greatly during a temporary residence with his uncle, Leopold, the sagacious king of the Belgians; who, being uncle to Victoria as well as to Albert, was well fitted to instruct the young man concerning the delicate and responsible position of one who might become husband to the Queen of England.

In 1839, when he was declared of age, Prince Albert came into possession of estates worth about £2500 a year: and this was all the patrimonial property which he inherited. On the 10th of October in that year, Ernest and Albert again visited England. Victoria was then Queen. Her ministers had already agreed on the suitableness of Albert as her husband, in all that concerned political, national, and religious considerations; and the graces and accomplishments of the Prince now fairly won the heart of the young Queen.

It was not for an almost portionless young Prince to pay addresses to the greatest queen in Europe; nor was it an easy matter for an English maiden, at twenty, to shew her preference towards him; but one of the many memoirs of the Prince gives the denouement in the following form

‘On a certain occasion, at one of the palace balls, the Queen presented her bouquet to the Prince at the conclusion of a dance; his close uniform, buttoned up to the throat, did not permit him to place the bouquet where the Persian-like compliment would dictate; but he drew forth a penknife, ripped a hole in the breast of his coat, and placed the treasure there. On another occasion, when he was thanking the Queen for the very kind and gracious reception which he had met with in England, she replied: ‘If, indeed, your Highness is so much pleased with this country, perhaps you would not object to remaining in it and making it your home.’

These narrations may not either of them, perhaps, be strictly correct, but there is not a doubt that the alliance proceeded from mutual affection. On the 14th of November, Prince Albert left England; and on the 23rd, at a privy council summoned for the purpose, the Queen said:

‘I have caused you to be summoned, in order that I may acquaint you with my resolution in a matter which deeply concerns the welfare of my people, and the happiness of my future life. It is my intention to ally myself in marriage with Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg Gotha. Deeply impressed with the solemnity of the engagement which I am about to contract, I have not come to this decision without mature consideration, nor without feeling a strong assurance that, with the blessing of Almighty God, it will at once secure my domestic felicity, and serve the interests of my country.’

By an unusual combination of circumstances, the Tory, or Church-and-King party of the day, appeared in the character of economical reformers; for they, in the House of Commons, cut down to £30,000 a year, an allowance to Prince Albert, which Viscount Melbourne’s government had proposed should be £50,000. On the 24th of January 1840, the Prince was made Knight of the Garter; on the 9th of February, he arrived in England; and on the next day he became husband to Queen Victoria.

During the twenty-two years of his married life, this exemplary man laboured incessantly to be worthy of his high position, and to foster all good and ennobling schemes. His merits were partially known to the nation during his life-time, but never so fully as after his decease. He went through a regular course of study of the system of English law and jurisprudence, and of the rise and progress of the English constitution, under Mr. Selwyn. He studied agriculture, both scientifically and practically, and became a regular exhibitor at agricultural shows. He revived the drooping Society of Arts, and made it more flourishing than it had ever been before. He was, more than any other person, the originator of International Exhibitions; and to him the world owed especially the Great Exhibition of 1851. He took a decided part in the establishment of the South Kensington Museum, and of schools of art in various parts of the country. He advocated popular education in various ways, calculated to shew the liberal tendency of his mind.

He made speeches and addresses at the York and Aberdeen meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, which shelved a very extensive acquaintance with science in its principles, its history, and its practical applications. He had something to say worth hearing and attending to at the Educational, Statistical, and Social Science Congresses. He was the promoter of a new branch or department of the Order of the Bath, designed to recognise civil in addition to military and naval merit. He might, at one time, have become commander-in-chief of the Queen’s armies; but his own appreciation of the delicate position which he occupied towards her Majesty—at once a husband and a subject—led him to decline the honour, although urged to accept it by the Duke of Wellington.

There were two or three occasions in his life when he was a little misunderstood; especially in 1851 and 1854, during political discussions, which led many persons to accuse him of using ‘German’ influence injurious to English interests; but the leaders of both parties, in and out of office, ‘uniformly acknowledged the purity of his intentions, and the care with which he sought always to keep strictly within the constitutional limits of his position.

Such was the Prince whose death, on the 14th of December 1861, was a source of great national grief.

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