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was rewarded by a sight of six moons, which revolve around the planet, thus completing, to use the words of Arago, the world of a system that belongs entirely to himself."
Time went on in the Slough Observatory unmarked by any incident external to the scientific labours of its inmates, if we except the birth of his son, Sir John Herschel. Their work, their pleasures, and the events of their lives, were all astronomical. Sir William's position as Astronomer to the King brought a constant succession of guests to the Observatory who were distinguished by their rank, and his own eminence in science attracted those who were best worth knowing in the world of letters, whether Englishmen or foreigners. Miss Herschel, who liked a quiet joke as well as any one, tells some good stories of her visitors. Some of them, it must be acknowledged, asked very remarkable questions; amongst others, one is recorded of the Prince of Orange, who called one day at the Observatory to see Sir William Herschel, but, not finding any one at home, wrote the following note :—
'The Prince of Orange has been at Slough to call at Mr. Herschel's, and to ask him, or if he was not at home, to Miss Herschel, if it is true that Mr. Herschel has discovered a new star whose light was not as that of the common stars, but with swallow-tails as stars in embroidery.'
About the time when Sir John Herschel, having arrived at man's estate, took his degree as Senior Wrangler, Sir William's health began to fail. He still pursued his labours, but no longer with his wonted energy, and the journals are filled with remarks which show the bitter grief with which Miss Herschel noted his declining strength. He died in 1822, in the seventysecond year of his age.
The terrible blow of her brother's death seemed to paralyse the energies of his sister, who determined to leave England for ever, as soon as the beloved remains were buried out of her sight. She collected the few things which she desired to keep, and retired to Hanover. Her letters from thence to her nephew, Sir John Herschel, are full of recollections of the past, and abound with anecdotes of the great astronomer with whom she passed so many years.
The reader of the Memoir' will be well able to appreciate the efficient service which Miss Herschel gave to her brother during the forty years of his astronomical work; but she herself did not think so. She always said that a well-trained puppydog would have done for her brother everything that she had done; that she was a tool fashioned and polished by him; and 2 B 2 that
that if the tool performed anything worth doing, he was entitled to the credit of it. Thinking nothing of herself, seeking nothing for herself, with an intense power of sympathy, and a noble love of giving herself for the service of others, she transferred her whole personality to the object of her affection. After her brother's death she transferred that affection to his son; she often said that she would have willingly remained at the old Observatory at Slough to work under the son, as she had done under the father, but that her strength and health would no longer serve her.
It is sad to think of her in her old age. She was then seventytwo, going back desolate and broken-hearted to the home of her youth. Still more sad when we remember that she was still removed by twenty-six weary years from her rest. She found everything changed. She had been removed from the old familiar paths, and the authoress of the Memoir' truly applies to her words borrowed from one of Miss Edgeworth's sisters, 'You don't know the blank of life after having lived within the radiance of genius.'
Caroline Herschel died at Hanover in 1848, at the age of ninety-eight. Her death-bed was attended by the daughter of the Madame Beckedorff, whose acquaintance she had made at the house of the Hanover milliner eighty years before.
One of her nieces, writing to Sir John Herschel an account of her aunt's death, said of her, with true appreciation of her character, 'I but too well know that even in England she must have felt the same blank. She looked upon progress in science as so much detraction of her brother's fame, and even your investigations would have been a source of estrangement if she had been with you.' A curious illustration of the truth of this remark is found in one of her latest letters.* They talk of nothing in the clubs here but of the great mirror (Lord Rosse's telescope), and the great man who made it; but I have but one answer for all, which is, Der Kerl is ein Narr-the man's a fool."
Her coffin was covered with garlands of laurel and cypress, and palm-branches sent from Herrenhausen, and the service was read over it in the same garrison church in which nearly a century before she had been christened. A lock of her brother's hair, and an old almanack which had been used by her father, were, at her own desire, buried with her.
* To Sir John Herschel, June, 1844.
ART. III.—1. Hall-marks on Gold and Silver Plate, Illustrated with Tables of Annual Date Letters employed in the Assay Offices of England, Scotland and Ireland, &c. By William Chaffers. 5th edition. London, 1875.
2. Various Catalogues of Plate Sales at Christie's.
T is not so very long ago since two English country-gentlemen entered into an angry altercation as to the comparative importance of their families, in which one of them rested his claim to superiority on his sideboard of plate. We have no wish to depreciate the merits of that splendid array, which no -doubt fully deserved all the veneration with which its worthy owner regarded it; all we wish to observe is, as we are about to write on English plate and on ancient English plate in particular-that if any of the medieval ancestors of the contending parties could have looked down on the sideboard in question, they would in all probability not have exhibited such admiration of its quantity and quality as its fortunate owner evidently entertained; the fact being, that what we in these degenerate days would call a fine collection of plate would have seemed to English lords and knights and squires of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries rather an insignificant -amount of paltry pieces. If our reader desires proof of this, let him turn to the inventory of Sir John Fastolf's plate, that old soldier of Henry V.'s wars, who, after his retirement to his native Norfolk, figures as a close-fisted landowner in the Paston Letters.' There he will find page after page of great pieces weighed by the pound, and clearly of a form and fashion never seen on a modern sideboard. The inventories of kings and dukes, as those of France and Burgundy, we purposely set aside as exceptional; but the centuries we have named, and to them we might have added the seventeenth, on the authority of Pepys's Diary,' were emphatically plate-buying and plate-giving times; all who had any money to invest laid it out in manufactures of silver and gold, so that the schedule of the effects left behind him by any person of rank or station teems with white plate, or parcel-gilt, or whole gilt plate, in thousands of ounces. Such a schedule may still be seen annexed in the Depository of London Wills to the Will of Nicholas Bacon, Queen Elizabeth's fat and witty Lord Keeper, a self-made man, who, besides being the father of Francis Bacon, built Gorhambury, and left a fine estate both in land and chattels to his heirs. Nor were the collections of Church and College plate less important; the treasuries of great abbeys and monasteries were stored with plate; as that of the Shrine of Becket, at Canterbury, carried away in
huge chests, and the plate at Westminster Abbey, of which the inventory still exists, to make collectors' mouths water at its weight and beauty.
We have reached so far in our inquiry therefore, the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries were rich in plate; the next question is, what has become of it? You might as well ask what has become of the last winter's snow, for the answer is the same. Melted, not once, but over and over again; so that our shillings and sixpences may contain the very metal which glowed, richly gilt and beaming with enamels, on Becket's mitre or his pastoral staff. Sooner or later the golden bowl and the silver beaker go the same way, their end is the crucible and the melting-pot; their form and fashion changes, while the red and white substance remains the same. In four successive centuries old English plate had as many arch-enemies. In the fifteenth century the Wars of the Roses caused many a noble piece to melt; in the sixteenth, Henry VIII., and the dissolution of monasteries, were even more fatal to gold and silver-work; in the seventeenth the Great Rebellion and the Civil War again swept the sideboards and plate-closets of each side with equal impartiality; and, at the beginning of the eighteenth, the need of bullion, under which William III. laboured, brought to the melting-pot much of the old plate which still remained after the ravages it had suffered in three preceding centuries. Taking all this into consideration, the wonder is not that so little English plate exists prior to the reign of Anne, but that any of it at all is left to give us some insight into the magnificence with which the halls and tables and sideboards of our ancestors were decked on great festive occasions.
And yet, wonderful to relate, there is, some people tell us, abundance of old plate still left. A buyer, if he be not toofastidious, and has money in his purse, may return home, after traversing our great thoroughfares for a day, with a whole cabload of real old English plate. We shall see in a little while how this seeming anomaly is to be explained; but let us first consider a few pieces of old English plate which a buyer, if he longs for them ever so much, cannot buy any day of the year, and bring them home with him in a cab. To do this, however, the reader must accompany us out of town, and allow us to set him down at the door of the house of the President of Corpus, Oxford, that unpretentious little College which stands wedged in between stately Christ Church and medieval Merton, but with both of which foundations it may, like that worthy English gentleman to whom we have alluded, vie, and utterly vanquish in the matter of plate. And here let us linger for a moment to
say that, Christ Church, of all Oxford houses, ought to surpass her sister foundations in a portion of her plate, for to her it is recorded that Henry VIII., the munificent founder of Christ Church,' as he is called in the old University Bidding Prayer, handed over the Communion Plate of Osney Abbey, which, in the older Saxon times, had been the gift of no less a potentate than King Offa of Mercia. That is the tradition; but if tradition be true, Christ Church has been woefully wanting in respect to Offa, for about the middle of the last century, in evil times, she actually melted down the gift of the great Mercian King, and recast her Communion Plate. This is the fact; and there the plate in question stands on the altar with an eighteenth century hall-mark. We, however, advise no visitor to Saint Frideswide's Cathedral even to hint or to whisper this heresy to the virago who guards or used years ago to guardthat sacred plate, for at the mere suggestion, we were all but expelled the Church; nor was the wrath of the custodian at all mitigated when we pointed out the London hall-marks on chalice and alms-dish? Get along with your London hallmarks,' was all the answer vouchsafed to us. This is the very plate given by King Offa to Osney Abbey, and by King Henry VIII. to this house,' for, be it remembered, Christ Church is to her alumni and dependants not a College but a House.
But to return to Corpus and her plate. It is well known that the founder of that College was Fox, one of the last of those great ecclesiastics who, in the reigns of Henry VII. and his son, revived the memory and piety of prelates like Wykeham and Waynflete. It seemed as if the setting sun of the medieval English Church sent up in them an afterglow which shed its beams on the edifice just tottering to its fall. Born in a lowly Lincolnshire manor-house, the career of Fox in some measure illustrates the remark of a distinguished writer on the social state of England in the Middle Ages, when he says that the son of a villain could, if fortune or merit favoured him, reach from the hut of his parents to the mitre of a parliamentary abbot, to the crosier of the bishop, to the custody of the Great Seal, to the wand of the Lord High Treasurer, to the princely state of the Roman cardinal.' Fox was, so far as we can learn, not the son of a villain, nor could the manor-lodge of his parents be called a hut; but he quitted it at an early age to be trained for the Church; and clinging to the fortunes of Henry of Richmond, and having amply proved his capacity in his service, was richly rewarded by that monarch, in whose will he was named one of his executors. It was, if we remember right, when he was journeying to his see at Durham-he was Bishop of Exeter, Bath and