October 6 1815: Southey at Waterloo

On October 6, 1815, Robert Southey writes to his friend, John May, from Liege in Belgium. Southey has embarked on his tour of the Low Countries, which commenced in September and will end in October. During this tour, Southey visited the battlefield of Waterloo, probably on October 3. His observations will form the basis for his work ‘The Poets’ Pilgrimage to Waterloo’.  In a letter to John Rickman, Southey provides a description of the battlefield, that will echo Byron’s description, after he too had made the pilgrimage to Waterloo in 1816. Southey writes to Rickman:

We have seen the whole field of battle, or rather all the fields, and vestiges enough of the contest, though it is almost wonderful to observe how soon nature recovers from all her injuries. The fields are cultivated again, and wild flowers are in blossom upon some of the graves. The Scotchmen – ’those men without breeches’ – have the credit of the day at Waterloo.

On his visit Byron will also remark how the fields show little of the damage and carnage of the great battle. This observation will be turned into lines in his poem:

As the ground was before, thus let it be; —

How that red rain hath made the harvest grow!

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Bonaparte played at piquet and Chess

Our fine weather still continues, and as our voyage shortens our squadron diminishes, having now only the Peruvian, Zenobia, and Bucephalus in company, the latter scarcely in sight. Nothing particular occurred to-day. Bonaparte played at piquet before dinner, and chess after.

— John Glover, secretary to Rear Admiral George Cockburn, on board HMS Northumberland, writes for October 5 1815.

October 4 1815: Madame Bertand Still Not Well

Fine weather, with south-southwest winds. The conversation of our passengers was confined to the fine weather we have had, and the probable speedy termination of the voyage. Every one has hitherto enjoyed good health except Madame Bertrand, whose complaints have been more mental than bodily ; she has, however, suffered of late so much as not to be able to quit her cabin. The children are remarkably healthy, and certainly much improved by the voyage. 
Our latitude and longitude to-day at noon were 7° 50′ S. and 7° 8′ E. 

— John Glover, secretary to Rear Admiral George Cockburn, on board HMS Northumberland, writes for October 4 1815.

October 3 1815: John Adams Writes to England

On October 3 1815, John Adams writes to his grandson John Adams in England.

Dear John – I know not whether you have read Tristram Shandy, or The Sentimental Journey or the Sermons or Epistles of Stearne.

I was never an enthusiastic Admirer of him, though he was amusing enough Sometimes; moral now and then; pathetic once in a while but tedious often and always Odd.

I See announced, a Publication of Dr John Ferriar, of Manchester under the Title of “Illustrations of Sterne, with other Essays and Verses in an Octavo Volume, in which are detected the sources from which Sterne borrowed many of the Ideas dispersed through his eccentric performances.”

The People of England, like all other People, are very fond, of discovering Plagiarisms in great Writers; Milton, Shakespeare, Franklin have undergone this Ordeal Tryall. And now Sterne is taken in hand. One loves to know what can be Said in Such cases; and therefore I wish you to pray your Father and Mother to make Some Slight Inquiry concerning this Book and another by the Same Dr Ferriar “An Essay towards a Theory of Apparitions, and another on the medical properties of The Fox Glove, or Digitatis purpurea,” which has lately wrought an almost miraculous cure upon our Neighbour Mr Charles Miller.

I went yesterday with your Grand Mother to Jamaica plain to visit Mr Ward Nicholas Boylston who has been dangerously Sick for a long time: and is yet in great danger. He charged me with many kind and respectful Messages to your Father and Mother. He is extremely anxious for your return to America. We Stopped at Mr Steuarts the Painter in Roxbury. I hope you will be introduced to all the American Painters in England, Mr West, Mr Copley, Mr Trumbull Mr Alston, who is also a Poet, of merit

Love to Parents and Brothers


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October 1 1815: Keats Enrolls in Guy’s Hospital

“When Keats was 14 years old he was apprenticed to the family’s doctor, Thomas Hammond. In the summer of 1810 Keats moved in above Hammond’s surgery in Edmonton, North London. While an apprentice, Keats would have performed such tasks as making up medicines, cleaning the surgery, preparing leeches (blood-sucking worms that were used to bleed patients), and bookkeeping; as he progressed he may have moved on to dressing wounds, drawing teeth and visiting the sick.He seems to have left before his apprenticeship was completed, but he had done enough to satisfy the requirements of the 1815 Apothecaries Act, which came in while Keats was in the next stage of his training at Guy’s Hospital. Keats entered Guy’s Hospital as a student on 1 October 1815 and, with incredible speed, was promoted to the role of ‘dresser’ on 29 October 1815, less than a month after he had arrived at the hospital and just before he turned 20. The Apothecaries Act had come into force on 12 July 1815, and was an attempt to regulate and professionalise apothecaries. To be allowed to practise, there was now a required minimum degree of training and an exam. Keats had done enough of his apprenticeship, the requisite six months of hospital training, and then passed the difficult exam (which his two housemates failed). He qualified for his apothecary licence on 25 July 1816. Continue reading