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Posted in Historical articles, History, Music, Theatre on Saturday, 15 June 2013
This edited article about Jenny Lind originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 299 published on 7 October 1967.
Johanna Maria Lind was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on 6th October, 1820, and it was apparent almost from the start that she would have a stage career. She played many roles as a child actress, and then, when she was 16, made her debut in opera. Her stage deportment and the purity of her voice made her an instant success with Swedish opera-lovers, and in 1839 she had the honour of being made a member of her country’s Academy of Music.
‘Jenny Lind’, as she became known to the world, first sang in England at the Haymarket Theatre in 1847. As in Stockholm, her success with English audiences was immediate, and she remained singing in this country for the next three years. In 1849, she decided to give up singing operatic roles and concentrated on concerts and oratorios.*
In 1850, Jenny Lind went to the USA, where she was greeted with remarkable enthusiasm. In 1852, she returned to England, where she was to spend the rest of her life.
In 1883, she was appointed chief professor at the Royal College of Music in London. She was not only famous for the clarity of her singing and her amazing voice control, but also for the warmth of her personality. She was noted for her kindness to her pupils, and during her lifetime her gifts to charity amounted to ¬£30,000. She died at Malvern on 2nd November, 1887.
Jenny Lind was known as ‘The Swedish Nightingale’, and even today reference books describe her as probably the greatest soprano singer the world has ever heard.
*An oratorio is a semi-dramatic musical composition, usually on a religious theme, performed without costume or scenery.
Posted in Bible, Historical articles, History, Religion on Saturday, 15 June 2013
This edited article about William Tyndale originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 299 published on 7 October 1967.
William Tyndale translating the New Testament
Living in the freedom of twentieth-century Britain, it is hard for us to realise that it was once a most serious crime against Church and State to read a Bible printed in English.
And the fate of the first man ever to translate the Latin Bible into the English tongue was to be strangled and then burnt at the stake.
William Tyndale was born about 1492. A native of Gloucestershire, he was ordained as a priest in 1521 and became a chaplain at Little Sodbury.
In those days, England was a Catholic country, and it was the policy of the Church to keep the Scriptures in Latin. But Tyndale believed passionately that it was the right of every Christian to be able to read the Bible in his own language, and accordingly, in 1523 in London, he began the long task of translating the Scriptures.
In the following year, realising it would be safer to leave England, Tyndale went to Hamburg, where he continued his secret work. In 1525, the printing of his New Testament in English was begun in Cologne, and was later continued at Worms.
When the books were ready, a number of copies were smuggled into England. This was done at great risk because Tyndale had refused to obtain authority from the Pope to make his translation.
News of the arrival of the illegal Bibles reached the ears of the authorities, and a hunt for them was begun. When a number had been confiscated, a bonfire was lit in St. Paul’s Churchyard and the Tyndale Bibles were publicly burned. The supporters of Tyndale were driven out of London, many seeking refuge abroad.
Tyndale was betrayed by a false friend at Antwerp at the instigation of Henry VIII who, though he turned England into a Protestant country, suspected Tyndale of sedition. His punishment was to be strangled and his body burned at the stake. This happened at Vilvorde, near Brussels, on 6th October, 1536.
Though Tyndale suffered a cruel death, his work was continued. Later, his Bibles, once outlawed, were placed in the churches and were considered so valuable that they were chained in place so that they could not be removed.
For the first time, Englishmen were able to read their Holy Book in their everyday language.
Posted in Famous battles, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Scotland on Saturday, 15 June 2013
This edited article about Bonnie Prince Charlie originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 299 published on 7 October 1967.
Bonnie Prince Charlie and Flora Macdonald by Pat Nicolle
After his defeat at the Battle of Culloden in April, 1746, Prince Charles Edward – the Young Pretender, as he is called – took refuge on the island of Benbecula, in the Hebrides.
Flora Macdonald was living there and she obtained passes to the mainland for herself, a manservant and her Irish spinning maid, Betty Burke. The Prince, disguised as the spinning maid, managed to reach the mainland and from there escaped to France. His life was saved, entirely due to the courageous intervention of the beautiful Flora, and the Prince never forgot the debt he owed her.
Unfortunately, Flora herself was arrested and imprisoned. She was released when the Act of Indemnity was passed, and she later married Allan Macdonald.
Flora Macdonald died in 1790, but she is still remembered by all Jacobite supporters.
Prince Charles Edward, the grandson of James II, never became King of England. In fact, he died in exile. But his name is forever linked with Scotland and the young girl who befriended him.
Posted in Historical articles, History, Royalty on Saturday, 15 June 2013
This edited article about originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 299 published on 7 October 1967.
In 1798 in Vienna a mob attacked the French embassy, and during the riot Bernadotte distinguished himself by holding off the rioters single-handed
When Napoleon had established himself as Emperor in France, he began to create a new aristocracy to replace the one the French Revolution had destroyed. His brothers and his marshals succeeded to the thrones of Europe and were endowed with titles and princedoms.
One of these, Marshal Bernadotte, whom Napoleon created Prince of Ponte Corvo in 1806, realised a destiny outside the Emperor’s sphere, and the line of kings which he founded was the only one of the Napoleonic era that survived.
Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (1763-1844) was a thorn in Napoleon’s side. The Emperor could not fail to respect his talents, both as a general and as an administrator, but he found Bernadotte’s independence of thought and action extremely irritating.
Bernadotte’s personality was an attractive mixture of independence, stirring bravery and humanity. A significant episode in his career occurred when he captured the town of Lubeck in Germany in 1806. True to character, he treated his prisoners kindly. About 1,000 of them were Swedish.
Bernadotte little realised what this apparently unimportant action would lead to.
The sequel came several years later when Bernadotte, temporarily out of favour with Napoleon, was living quietly in Paris with his wife (Napoleon’s ex-fiancee, Desiree Clary) and his young son, Oscar. Out of the blue, he was invited to become Crown Prince and heir to the throne of Sweden.
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Posted in Historical articles, History, Travel on Saturday, 15 June 2013
This edited article about Jack Metcalf originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 298 published on 30 September 1967.
Jack Metcalf supervising the making of a road
Jack Metcalf was six years old when a deadly smallpox epidemic swept through the West Riding of Yorkshire. The disease cost him his eyesight, but to the great relief of his parents, Jack did not allow his blindness to blight the whole of his life. Within two months of his recovery, he was ‘feeling’ his way through the streets of his home town of Knaresborough.
By the time he was 12, in 1729, Jack had so much confidence that he acted as a visitors’ guide. The few coppers this brought him was a tremendous help to his labourer father, and it set Jack on a career that was to make him respected throughout Britain.
Although Jack’s activities and enterprises stopped him ever feeling sorry for himself, his mother thought he should be trained in some suitable profession, and she decided that he should learn to play the fiddle. The cost of the cheapest instrument was well beyond his parents’ pocket, but by doing without tobacco, his father was eventually able to buy him a violin.
Jack concentrated on playing the lively jigs and reels popular in the district, and soon he had mastered some fifty tunes.
He became a much sought-after celebrity and was hired by the gentry to play at their homes.
After a time, however, Jack grew dissatisfied with life in Knaresborough. He sought wider horizons and spent several months touring England on horse and foot. He visited London, where his fiddle-playing brought him both money and renown, and it was there that he first met Colonel Liddell, the Member of Parliament for Berwick-on-Tweed.
The colonel, who was about to journey north to relax in the Pump Rooms at Harrogate, offered Jack a seat in his carriage. But Jack turned the offer down. He said that he would rather walk the 207 miles from London to the resort.
“Afoot, say you?” exclaimed the colonel. “Why you would be a month or more upon the way!”
“On the other hand, sir,” countered Jack, “I make so bold as to say that I shall be there before you. On these vile roads a man may walk as fast as a chaise can travel.”
This claim resulted in the colonel wagering 10 guineas that he would reach Harrogate before the ‘stone-blind’ fiddler. So Jack slung his fiddle-case over his shoulder, grasped a stout staff, and set out in pursuit of the colonel and his 16 mounted servants.
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Posted in Historical articles, History, Leisure, Trade on Saturday, 15 June 2013
This edited article about the British fair originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 298 published on 30 September 1967.
The strident notes of music, the hum and bustle of machinery and the cries of delight and anticipation by young and old alike have echoed across the English countryside for hundreds of years. They mean just one thing – the fair has arrived.
Fairs have been part of our way of life since medieval days.
The right, or “franchise”, to hold a fair was a valuable privilege granted by our early kings to selected churches, towns and Lords of the Manor.
The authority was embodied in a Charter which set out the dates on which the fair was to be held – usually before, during and after a Saint’s day. It empowered the holders to levy tolls and dues from stall-holders and offered protection against rival fairs. Very often considerable sums of money were demanded by the sovereign for the privilege of granting the right to hold a fair.
In the early days, fairs were something of a necessity, for they enabled people from very wide areas to meet for both pleasure and business purposes.
As towns developed and shops became more numerous, the trading aspect of fairs declined and they began to assume their modern form as centres of amusement. Many, however, continued in their original form, principally for the sale of animals. Nottingham Goose Fair and Wibsey Horse Fair are examples of this.
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Posted in Discoveries, Historical articles, History, Sea on Saturday, 15 June 2013
This edited article about Vasco Nunez de Balboa originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 298 published on 30 September 1967.
A look of almost fanatical triumph burned in the eyes of the explorer as he gazed over the vast blue sheet of water which sparkled in the tropical sunshine. He was the first European ever to behold the Pacific Ocean. His name was Vasco Nunez de Balboa. The date was the 25th September, 1513.
Balboa, the son of a Spanish gentleman, was born at Jerez de los Caballeros in 1475. When he grew up, he was inspired by reports he heard of the New World, which was being opened up for Spain by the Conquistadores. In 1501, he decided to try his fortune there himself, and he sailed to Santo Domingo.
Here Balboa obtained a tract of land and tried to cultivate it. Luck was against him and he fell deeper and deeper into debt. At last his creditors became so pressing that, in 1510, he decided to join an expedition which was setting out to San Sebastian. One story says that Balboa had to conceal himself in a ‘cask of victuals for the voyage’ so that he could avoid the people to whom he owed money.
The expedition was not a success, but Balboa went on to Darien (Panama), and here his luck changed. His hard work and ability to organise were recognised, and before long he was appointed governor of the colony.
It was here, in Darien, that he heard from the natives rumours of a great sea to the west. In 1513, with a force of 190 Spaniards and 1,000 friendly Indians, he set out to investigate these stories.
Balboa returned to Darien in 1514, and found he had been superseded as governor by a man called Pedrarias Davila, who was jealous of Balboa and his success. As a reward for his discovery, Balboa was given the title of ‘Admiral of the Pacific’, but this did little to help him when Davila began to plot against him.
Finally Balboa was arrested on a trumped-up charge of treason. Davila used false evidence against him at his trial, with the result that in 1517, the man who discovered the Pacific Ocean was publicly beheaded in Acla.
Posted in Historical articles, History, Missionaries on Saturday, 15 June 2013
This edited article about missionaries originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 298 published on 30 September 1967.
Kathmandu, capital of Nepal
From the rim of the plains of North India to the borders of Tibet there lies a fascinating little country which may well claim to be ‘the roof of Asia’. Less than half the size of the British Isles, Nepal contains several of the world’s highest mountains, including Everest. Glaciers and waterfalls run into its lovely valleys, where a variety of crops grow in sufficient abundance to feed the ten million people of the land.
Among the people of Nepal are the Gurkhas, who, noted for their fighting qualities, have supplied men for regiments of the British and Indian armies for over a century. Many other Nepalis have settled in India as traders, but until recently Nepal was a closed land to foreigners.
Missionaries had long wanted to take the Christian faith to Nepal, but were unable to do so. The Hindu religion was the official state religion, and the only Nepalis to become Christians, or even to hear about Christianity, were those living in India. With their help, however, the Bible was translated into the Nepali language about 50 years ago.
Then, in 1954, there came a change in the centuries-old resistance to Christian missions. Permission was given for missionaries to enter Nepal under certain conditions and to undertake certain kinds of work. These included the opening of clinics and small hospitals, and the building of a number of schools. Also welcomed was a new type of missionary who would help in the improvement of agriculture and give technical training in light industries.
All this is a very long way from the popular idea that missionaries simply want to teach people how to read Bibles and use pocket handkerchiefs. The pioneer missionary in Nepal must be an expert in something which will be of help in the development of the country, otherwise he will find it hard to gain an entry, let alone a hearing for his message.
One of the sad things about Christian missions in the past 150 years has been the fact that different branches of the Christian faith have competed with one another in the countries where they have worked. This problem has sometimes been overcome by allocating different areas to the missions, but rivalries have still occurred. In Nepal, it was decided that this must, at all costs, be avoided. All the missionaries there are invited to work under the board of the Nepal United Mission. This pioneer organisation unites workers of 28 different organisations which have supplied 130 missionaries to Nepal. They include doctors, nurses, teachers, agriculturists and technicians from 13 other countries.
As well as being a pioneer mission to one of the world’s remotest areas, the work in Nepal is also a pioneer enterprise in unity.
Posted in America, Geography, Historical articles, History, Politics on Saturday, 15 June 2013
This edited article about Alaska originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 298 published on 30 September 1967.
Russia and America signed the Alaska Treaty in 1867
The 16th and 17th centuries were periods of discovery and colonisation all over the world. While French fur-trappers, for instance, explored the Canadian forests, their Russian counterparts were pushing through the Siberian forests towards the Pacific coast. They reached it in 1639.
Thereafter, the question in Russian minds was whether there was any land-link between Siberia and America. The Russian Tsar, Peter the Great (1672-1725), sent Vitus Jonassen Bering to find out.
Bering set sail on his first voyage in 1728, after Tsar Peter’s death, and found that there was no land-connection. But he did not sight the American mainland until his second voyage of 1741, when his party landed in Alaska. Bering died on this expedition, but a tempting variety of fur pelts was brought back to Russia, and during the next 50 years a steady flow of fur traders crossed the Bering Strait, eager to profit by the untapped resources of Alaska.
Russia was not the only country to grow interested in Alaska. Spain made a general claim to authority over the western coast of North America, although no Spanish explorers had ever been there. A Spanish vessel arrived in 1775 to weigh up the possibilities of the place. Then, in 1778, Britain’s Captain Cook sailed into the Gulf of Alaska. Eight years later, a French expedition arrived to observe scientific phenomena, and in 1788, ships from the United States also came.
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Posted in Historical articles, History, Politics, Revolution, Royalty on Saturday, 15 June 2013
This edited article about the French Revolution originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 297 published on 23 September 1967.
France in the 1770s and 1780s seemed to be tottering on the verge of financial collapse. Part of the trouble lay in the distribution of the tax burden. It was so unevenly spread, and with such disregard for means, that the peasant ended up shouldering most of it.
French society was corrupt. Not only did the privileged classes – the nobles of State and Church – escape the main tax burden, but their position gave them other advantages for which they performed no compensating services. Few nobles actually lived on the estates from which they derived their wealth: and they obtained the highest honours in Church, State and Army solely because of their birth.
Louis XVI came to the throne in 1774. After the long and unspectacular reign of his grandfather, Louis XV, men hoped that a new era was about to begin. Unfortunately, though Louis had many virtues, statesmanship was not one of them. And he was harassed by the views of his strong-willed Austrian queen, Marie Antoinette.
The record of Louis’ reign became even more dismal than that of his predecessor: the years passed and one minister after another failed – either through lack of ability or because of dismissal – to pull the country back to solvency. Charles Alexander de Calonne, among the more impressive of those who tried, remarked with a wise accuracy which was not regarded. “France is a kingdom . . . where certain districts are completely free from burdens, the whole weight of which is borne by others; where the richest class is the most lightly taxed; where privilege has upset all harmony; . . . necessarily it is a most imperfect kingdom, very full of abuses, and in its present condition impossible to govern.”
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