Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Little Circumstance is Recorded

Curiosities of Literature, by Isaac D’Israeli

... an incrementally-published online presentation of Isaac D’Israeli’s Curiosities of Literature, a compilation of book-lore whose first volume was issued in 1791, with further instalments being added in 1793, 1807, 1817 and 1823. Most of the articles were scanned from an undated (but probably 1870s or 1880s) single-volume edition of the work, the text in which was reproduced from an older (1820s) edition.

A sample:

In Houssaie’s Memoirs, Vol. 1. p. 435, a little circumstance is recorded concerning the decapitation of the unfortunate Anne Bullen, which illustrates an observation of Hume. Our historian notices that her executioner was a Frenchman of Calais, who was supposed to have uncommon skill; it is probable that the following incident might have been preserved by tradition in France, from the account of the executioner himself.—Anne Bullen being on the scaffold, would not consent to have her eyes covered with a bandage, saying that she had no fear of death. All that the divine who assisted at her execution could obtain from her was, that she would shut her eyes. But as she was opening them at every moment, the executioner could not bear their tender and mild glances; fearful of missing his aim, he was obliged to invent an expedient to behead the queen. He drew off his shoes, and approached her silently; while he was at her left hand, another person advanced at her right, who made a great noise in walking, so that this circumstance drawing the attention of Anne, she turned her face from the executioner, who was enabled by this artifice to strike the fatal blow without being disarmed by that spirit of affecting resignation which shone in the eyes of the lovely Anne Bullen.

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