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Title: Devonshire Characters and Strange Events
Author: Baring-Gould, S. (Sabine)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          Transcriber’s Note:

    This e-text is based on the 1908 edition of the book. Minor
    punctuation errors have been tacitly corrected. Inconsistencies
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    # p. 126: ‘1852’ → ‘1825’
    # p. 685: ‘fro mthe’ → ‘from the’

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                         DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS
                          AND STRANGE EVENTS

                        BY THE SAME AUTHOR

                        YORKSHIRE ODDITIES
                        TRAGEDY OF THE CÆSARS
                        CURIOUS MYTHS
                        LIVES OF THE SAINTS

                        ETC. ETC.


    _G. Clint, A.R.A., pinxt._      _Thos. Lupton. sculpt._


                          AND STRANGE EVENTS
                       BY S. BARING-GOULD, /M.A./

                    WITH 55 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS

                                           O Jupiter!
            Hanccine vitam? hoscine mores? hanc dementiam?

                                 /Terence/, _Adelphi_ (Act IV).




In treating of Devonshire Characters, I have had to put aside the chief
Worthies and those Devonians famous in history, as George Duke of
Albemarle, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake, Sir Joshua Reynolds,
the Coleridges, Sir Stafford Northcote, first Earl of Iddesleigh, and
many another; and to content myself with those who lie on a lower
plane. So also I have had to set aside several remarkable characters,
whose lives I have given elsewhere, as the Herrings of Langstone (whom
I have called Grym or Grymstone) and Madame Drake, George Spurle the
Post-boy, etc. Also I have had to pretermit several great rascals,
as Thomas Gray and Nicholas Horner. But even so, I find an _embarras
de richesses_, and have had to content myself with such as have had
careers of some general interest. Moreover, it has not been possible to
say all that might have been said relative to these, so as to economize
space, and afford room for others.

So also, with regard to strange incidents, some limitation has been
necessary, and such have been selected as are less generally known.

I have to thank the kind help of many Devonshire friends for the
loan of rare pamphlets, portraits, or for information not otherwise
acquirable--as the Earl of Iddesleigh, Lady Rosamond Christie, Mrs.
Chichester of Hall, Mrs. Ford of Pencarrow, Dr. Linnington Ash, Dr.
Brushfield, Capt. Pentecost, Miss M. P. Willcocks, Mr. Andrew Iredale,
Mr. W. H. K. Wright, Mr. A. B. Collier, Mr. Charles T. Harbeck, Mr.
H. Tapley Soper, Miss Lega-Weekes, who has contributed the article
on Richard Weekes; Mrs. G. Radford, Mr. R. Pearse Chope, Mr. Rennie
Manderson, Mr. M. Bawden, the Rev. J. B. Wollocombe, the Rev. W. H.
Thornton, Mr. A. M. Broadley, Mr. Samuel Gillespie Prout, Mr. S. H.
Slade, Mr. W. Fleming, Mrs. A. H. Wilson, Fleet-Surgeon Lloyd Thomas,
the Rev. W. T. Wellacott, Mr. S. Raby, Mr. Samuel Harper, Mr. John
Avery, Mr. Thomas Wainwright, Mr. A. F. Steuart, Mr. S. T. Whiteford,
and last, but not least, Mr. John Lane, the publisher of this volume,
who has taken the liveliest interest in its production.

Also to Messrs. Macmillan for kindly allowing the use of an engraving
of Newcomen’s steam engine, and to Messrs. Vinton & Co. for allowing
the use of the portrait of the Rev. John Russell that appeared in
_Bailey’s Magazine_.

I am likewise indebted to Miss M. Windeatt Roberts for having
undertaken to prepare the exhaustive Index, and to Mr. J. G. Commin for
placing at my disposal many rare illustrations.

For myself I may say that it has been a labour of love to grope among
the characters and incidents of the past in my own county, and with
Cordatus, in the Introduction to Ben Jonson’s _Every Man out of his
Humour_, I may say that it has been “a work that hath bounteously
pleased me; how it will answer the general expectation, I know not.”

                   *       *       *       *       *

I am desired by my publisher to state that he will be glad to
receive any information as to the whereabouts of pictures by another
“Devonshire Character,” James Gandy, born at Exeter in 1619, and a
pupil of Vandyck. He was retained in the service of the Duke of Ormond,
whom he accompanied to Ireland, where he died in 1689. It is said that
his chief works will be found in that country and the West of England.

Jackson of Exeter, in his volume _The Four Ages_, says: “About the
beginning of the eighteenth century was a painter in Exeter called
Gandy, of whose colouring Sir Joshua Reynolds thought highly. I heard
him say that on his return from Italy, when he was fresh from seeing
the pictures of the Venetian school, he again looked at the works of
Gandy, and that they had lost nothing in his estimation. There are many
pictures of this artist in Exeter and its neighbourhood. The portrait
Sir Joshua seemed most to value is in the Hall belonging to the College
of Vicars in that city, but I have seen some very much superior to it.”

Since then, however, the original picture has been taken from the
College of Vicars, and has been lost; but a copy, I believe, is still
exhibited there, and no one seems to know what has become of the

Not only is Mr. Lane anxious to trace this picture, but any others in
Devon or Ireland, as also letters, documents, or references to this
artist and his work.



    /Hugh Stafford and the Royal Wilding/                              1
    /The Alphington Ponies/                                           16
    /Maria Foote/                                                     21
    /Caraboo/                                                         35
    /John Arscott, of Tetcott/                                        47
    /Wife-sales/                                                      58
    /White Witches/                                                   70
    /Manly Peeke/                                                     84
    /Eulalia Page/                                                    95
    /James Wyatt/                                                    107
    /The Rev. W. Davy/                                               123
    /The Grey Woman/                                                 128
    /Robert Lyde and the “Friend’s Adventure”/                       136
    /Joseph Pitts/                                                   152
    /The Demon of Spreyton/                                          170
    /Tom Austin/                                                     175
    /Frances Flood/                                                  177
    /Sir William Hankford/                                           181
    /Sir John Fitz/                                                  185
    /Lady Howard/                                                    194
    /The Bidlakes, of Bidlake/                                       212
    /The Pirates of Lundy/                                           224
    /Tom D’Urfey/                                                    238
    /The Bird of the Oxenhams/                                       248
    /“Lusty” Stucley/                                                262
    /The Bideford Witches/                                           274
    /Sir “Judas” Stukeley/                                           278
    /The Sampford Ghost/                                             286
    /Philippa Cary and Anne Evans/                                   292
    /Jack Rattenbury/                                                301
    /John Barnes, Taverner and Highwayman/                           320
    /Edward Capern/                                                  325
    /George Medyett Goodridge/                                       332
    /John Davy/                                                      351
    /Richard Parker, the Mutineer/                                   355
    /Benjamin Kennicott/, /D.D./                                     369
    /Captain John Avery/                                             375
    /Joanna Southcott/                                               390
    /The Stoke Resurrectionists/                                     405
    /“The Beggars’ Opera” and Gay’s Chair/                           414
    /Bampfylde-Moore Carew/                                          425
    /William Gifford/                                                436
    /Benjamin R. Haydon/                                             457
    /John Cooke/                                                     478
    /Savery and Newcomen, Inventors/                                 487
    /Andrew Brice, Printer/                                          502
    /Devonshire Wrestlers/                                           514
    /Two Hunting Parsons/                                            529
    /Samuel Prout/                                                   564
    /Fontelautus/                                                    581
    /William Lang, of Bradworthy/                                    594
    /William Cookworthy/                                             600
    /William Jackson, Organist/                                      608
    /John Dunning, First Lord Ashburton/                             618
    /Governor Shortland and the Princetown Massacre/                 633
    /Captain John Palk/                                              700
    /Richard Weekes, Gentleman at Arms and Prisoner in the Fleet/    709
    /Steer Nor’-West/                                                718
    /George Peele/                                                   726
    /Peter Pindar/                                                   737
    /Dr. J. W. Budd/                                                 754
    /Rear-Admiral Sir Edward Chichester, Bart./                      772


    /Maria Foote, afterwards Countess of
    Harrington/                                           _Frontispiece_

    From an engraving by Thomas Lupton, after a picture by
    G. Clint, /A.R.A./
                                                            to face page

    /Hugh Stafford/                                                    2

    From the original painting in the collection of the
    Earl of Iddesleigh

    /The Roasted Exciseman, or the Jack Boot’s Exit/                   4

    From an old print

    /The Tyburn Interview: a New Song/                                 8

    By a Cyder Merchant, of South-Ham, Devonshire.
    Dedicated to Jack Ketch

    /The Misses Durnford. The Alphington Ponies/                      16

    From a lithograph

    /The Misses Durnford. The Alphington Ponies/
    (Back View)                                                       18

    Lithographed by P. Gauci. Pub. Ed. Cockrem

    /Maria Foote, afterwards Countess of Harrington/                  22

    From an engraved portrait in the collection of A. M.
    Broadley, Esq.

    /Caraboo, Princess of Javasu,/ _alias_ /Mary Baker/               36

    From an engraving by Henry Meyer, after a picture by E.

    /Mary Wilcocks, of Witheridge, Devonshire,/ _alias_
    /Caraboo/                                                         44

    Drawn and engraved by N. Branwhite

    /Arscott of Tetcott/                                              48

    From the picture by J. Northcote, /R.A./

    /Old Tetcott House/                                               54

    /Mariann Voaden, Bratton/                                         74

    /Mariann Voaden’s Cottage, Bratton/                               74

    /A Village “Wise Man”/                                            78

    /Manly Peeke in his Encounter with Three Adversaries
    Armed with Rapiers and Poignards/                                 90

    /James Wyat/, /ÆTAT./ 40                                         108

    Reproduced from the frontispiece to _The Life and
    Surprizing Adventures of James Wyatt, Written by
    Himself_, 1755

    /Rev. W. Davy/                                                   124

    From an engraving by R. Cooper, after a picture by Wm.

    /Slanning’s Oak/                                                 188

    From an oil painting by A. B. Collier, 1855

    /Frontispiece to “The Bloudie Booke; or the Tragical
    End of Sir John Fitz”/                                           192

    /Lady Howard/                                                    194

    /Bidlake/                                                        212

    /Thomas D’Urfey/                                                 238

    From an engraving by G. Virtue, after a picture by E.

    /Frontispiece to “A True Relation of an Apparition,”
    etc., by James Oxenham/                                          248

    /John Rattenbury, of Beer, Devonshire, “The Rob Roy of
    the West”/                                                       302

    From a lithograph

    /Edward Capern, the Postman-Poet of Devonshire/                  326

    From a painting by William Widgery, in the Free
    Library, Bideford

    /Charles Medyett Goodridge in his Seal-skin Dress/               332

    /Richard Parker/                                                 356

    From a drawing by Bailey

    /B. Kennicott/, /S.T.P./                                         370

    From the portrait at Exeter College, Oxford

    /Captain Avery and his Crew taking one of the Great
    Mogul’s Ships/                                                   376

    From a drawing by Wm. Jeit

    /Joanna Southcott/                                               390

    Drawn from life by Wm. Sharp

    /Silver Pap-boat prepared for the Coming of Shiloh,
    presented to Joanna Southcott in June, 1814/                     402

    From the original in the collection of A. M. Broadley,

    /Crib presented to Joanna Southcott in anticipation
    of the Birth of the Shiloh by Believers in her Divine
    Mission as “A Goodwill Offering by Faith to the
    Promised Seed”/                                                  402

    Reproduced from the original print in the collection of
    A. M. Broadley, Esq.

    /Mr. Gay/                                                        414

    From an old print

    /The Grammar School, Barnstaple, where Gay was
    Educated/                                                        416

    /Gay’s Chair/                                                    422

    /Bampfylde Moore Carew, “King of the Beggars”/                   426

    From an engraving by Maddocks

    /W. Gifford/                                                     436

    From an engraving by R. H. Cromek, after a picture by
    I. Hoppner, /R.A./

    /B. R. Haydon/                                                   458

    From a drawing by David Wilkie

    /Captain Cooke, 1824, aged 58/                                   478

    Drawn, from nature, on the stone by N. Whittock

    /The Noted John Cooke of Exeter, Captain of the
    Sheriff’s Troop at Seventy-four Assizes for the County
    of Devon/                                                        482

    From a lithograph by Geo. Rowe

    /Thomas Savery/                                                  488

    /Sketch of Newcomen’s House, Lower Street, Dartmouth,
    before it was demolished/                                        494

    /The Chimney-piece at which Newcomen sat when he
    Invented the Steam Engine/                                       494

    /The Steam Engine, near Dudley Castle./ Invented by
    Capt. Savery and Mr. Newcomen. Erected by y^e later,
    1712                                                             496

    From a drawing by Barney. Reproduced by kind permission
    of Messrs. Macmillan & Co.

    /Andrew Brice, Printer/                                          502

    Reproduced by kind permission from a print in the
    possession of Dr. Brushfield

    /The Wrestling Champion of England, Abraham Cann/                518

    From a drawing

    /Rev. John Russell/                                              530

    Reproduced by permission of the Editor of _Bailey’s

    /The Rev. John Russell’s Port-wine Glass, Chamberlain
    Worcester Breakfast Service, and Barometer/                      558

    Purchased at the sale of his effects in 1883 by Mrs.
    Arnull and presented by her to Mr. John Lane, in whose
    possession they now are

    /Samuel Prout/                                                   564

    From a drawing in the possession of Samuel Gillespie
    Prout, Esq.

    /William Cookworthy of Plymouth/                                 600

    From the original portrait by Opie in the possession of
    Edward Harrison, Esq., of Watford

    /Mr. Jackson, the Celebrated Composer/                           608

    From an engraving after J. Walker

    /Lord Ashburton/                                                 618

    From an engraving by F. Bartolozzi, after a picture by
    Sir Joshua Reynolds

    /Horrid Massacre at Dartmoor Prison, England/                    648

    From an old print

    /Plan of Dartmoor Prison/                                        650

    /North Wyke/                                                     710

    /Dr. Wolcot/                                                     738

    /Dr. John W. Budd/                                               754

    From a photograph by his brother Dr. Richard Budd, of

    /Rear-Admiral Sir Edward Chichester, Bart./                      772



Hugh Stafford, Esq., of Pynes, born 1674, was the last of the Staffords
of Pynes. His daughter, Bridget Maria, carried the estate to her
husband, Sir Henry Northcote, Bart., from whom is descended the present
Earl of Iddesleigh. Hugh Stafford died in 1734. He is noted as an
enthusiastic apple-grower and lover of cyder.

He wrote a “Dissertation on Cyder and Cyder-Fruit” in a letter to a
friend in 1727, but this was not published till 1753, and a second
edition in 1769. The family of Stafford was originally Stowford, of
Stowford, in the parish of Dolton. The name changed to Stoford and
then to Stafford. One branch married into the family of Wollocombe,
of Wollocombe. But the name of Stowford or Stafford was not the most
ancient designation of the family, which was Kelloway, and bore as its
arms four pears. The last Stafford turned from pears to apples, to
which he devoted his attention and became a connoisseur not in apples
only, but in the qualities of cyder as already intimated.

To a branch of this family belonged Sir John Stowford, Lord Chief Baron
in the reign of Edward III, who built Pilton Bridge over the little
stream of the Yeo or Yaw, up which the tide flows, and over which the
passage was occasionally dangerous. The story goes that the judge one
day saw a poor market woman with her child on a mudbank in the stream
crying for aid, which none could afford her, caught and drowned by the
rising flood, whereupon he vowed to build the bridge to prevent further
accident. The rhyme ran:--

    Yet Barnstaple, graced though thou be by brackish Taw,
    In all thy glory see that thou not forget the little Yaw.

Camden asserts that Judge Stowford also constructed the long bridge
over the Taw consisting of sixteen piers. Tradition will have it,
however, that towards the building of this latter two spinster ladies
(sisters) contributed by the profits of their distaffs and the pennies
they earned by keeping a little school.

I was travelling on the South Devon line some years ago after there
had been a Church Congress at Plymouth, and in the same carriage with
me were some London reporters. Said one of these gentry to another:
“Did you ever see anything like Devonshire parsons and pious ladies?
They were munching apples all the time that the speeches were being
made. Honour was being done to the admirable fruit by these worthy
Devonians. I was dotting down my notes during an eloquent harangue on
‘How to Bring Religion to Bear upon the People’ when chump, chump went
a parson on my left; and the snapping of jaws on apples, rending off
shreds for mastication, punctuated the periods of a bishop who spoke
next. At an ensuing meeting on the ‘Deepening of Personal Religion’
my neighbour was munching a Cornish gilliflower, which he informed me
in taste and aroma surpassed every other apple. I asked in a low tone
whether Devonshire people did not peel their fruit before eating. He
answered _leni susurro_ that the flavour was in the rind.”

[Illustration: HUGH STAFFORD

_From the original painting in the collection of the Earl of

Cyder was anciently the main drink of the country people in the West of
England. Every old farmhouse had its granite trough (circular) in which
rolled a stone wheel that pounded the fruit to a “pummice,” and the
juice flowed away through a lip into a keeve. Now, neglected and cast
aside, may be seen the huge masses of stone with an iron crook fastened
in them, which in the earliest stage of cyder-making were employed for
pressing the fruit into pummice. But these weights were superseded by
the screw-press that extracted more of the juice.

In 1763 Lord Bute, the Prime Minister, imposed a tax of 10s. per
hogshead on cyder and perry, to be paid by the first buyer. The
country gentlemen, without reference to party, were violent in their
opposition, and Bute then condescended to reduce the sum and the mode
of levying it, proposing 4s. per hogshead, to be paid, not by the first
buyer, but by the grower, who was to be made liable to the regulations
of the excise and the domiciliary visits of excisemen. Pitt thundered
against this cyder Bill, inveighing against the intrusion of excise
officers into private dwellings, quoting the old proud maxim, that
every Englishman’s house was his castle, and showing the hardship
of rendering every country gentleman, every individual that owned a
few fruit trees and made a little cyder, liable to have his premises
invaded by officers. The City of London petitioned the Commons, the
Lords, the throne, against the Bill; in the House of Lords forty-nine
peers divided against the Minister; the cities of Exeter and Worcester,
the counties of Devonshire and Herefordshire, more nearly concerned in
the question about cyder than the City of London, followed the example
of the capital, and implored their representatives to resist the tax
to the utmost; and an indignant and general threat was made that the
apples should be suffered to fall and rot under the trees rather than
be made into cyder, subject to such a duty and such annoyances. No
fiscal question had raised such a tempest since Sir Robert Walpole’s
Excise Bill in 1733. But Walpole, in the plenitude of his power and
abilities, and with wondrous resources at command, was constrained to
bow to the storm he had roused, and to shelve his scheme. Bute, on
the other hand, with a power that lasted but a day, with a position
already undermined, with slender abilities and no resources, but with
Scotch stubbornness, was resolved that his Bill should pass. And it
passed, with all its imperfections; and although there were different
sorts of cyder, varying in price from 5s. to 50s. per hogshead, they
were all taxed alike--the poor man having thus to pay as heavy a duty
for his thin beverage as the affluent man paid for the choicest kind.
The agitation against Lord Bute grew. In some rural districts he was
burnt under the effigy of a _jack-boot_, a rustic allusion to his name
(Bute); and on more than one occasion when he walked the streets he was
accused of being surrounded by prize-fighters to protect him against
the violence of the mob. Numerous squibs, caricatures, and pamphlets
appeared. He was represented as hung on the gallows above a fire, in
which a jack-boot fed the flames and a farmer was throwing an excised
cyder-barrel into the conflagration, whilst a Scotchman, in Highland
costume, in the background, commented, “It’s aw over with us now, and
aw our aspiring hopes are gone”; whilst an English mob advanced waving
the banners of Magna Charta, and “Liberty, Property, and No Excise.”

[Illustration: The ROASTED EXCISEMAN



I give one of the ballads printed on this occasion: it is entitled,
“The Scotch Yoke, and English Resentment. To the tune of _The Queen’s

    Of Freedom no longer let Englishmen boast,
    Nor Liberty more be their favourite Toast;
    The Hydra Oppression your Charta defies,
    And galls English Necks with the Yoke of Excise,
            The Yoke of Excise, the Yoke of Excise,
            And galls English Necks with the Yoke of Excise.

    In vain have you conquer’d, my brave Hearts of Oak,
    Your Laurels, your Conquests are all but a Joke;
    Let a rascally Peace serve to open your Eyes,
    And the d--nable Scheme of a Cyder-Excise,
            A Cyder-Excise, etc.

    What though on your Porter a Duty was laid,
    Your Light double-tax’d, and encroach’d on your Trade;
    Who e’er could have thought that a Briton so wise
    Would admit such a Tax as the Cyder-Excise,
            The Cyder-Excise, etc.

    I appeal to the Fox, or his Friend John a-Boot,
    If tax’d thus the Juice, then how soon may the Fruit?
    Adieu then to good Apple-puddings and Pyes,
    If e’er they should taste of a cursed Excise,
            A cursed Excise, etc.

    Let those at the Helm, who have sought to enslave
    A Nation so glorious, a People so brave,
    At once be convinced that their Scheme you despise,
    And shed your last Blood to oppose the Excise,
            Oppose the Excise, etc.

    Come on then, my Lads, who have fought and have bled,
    A Tax may, perhaps, soon be laid on your Bread;
    Ye Natives of Worc’ster and Devon arise,
    And strike at the Root of the Cyder-Excise,
            The Cyder-Excise, etc.

    No longer let K--s at the H--m of the St--e,
    With fleecing and grinding pursue Britain’s Fate;
    Let Power no longer your Wishes disguise,
    But off with their Heads--by the Way of Excise,
            The Way of Excise, etc.

    From two Latin words, _ex_ and _scindo_, I ween,
    Came the hard Word Excise, which to _Cut off_ does mean.
    Take the Hint then, my Lads, let your Freedom advise,
    And give them a Taste of their fav’rite Excise,
            Their fav’rite Excise, etc.

    Then toss off your Bumpers, my Lads, while you may,
    To Pitt and Lord Temple, Huzza, Boys, huzza!
    Here’s the King that to tax his poor Subjects denies,
    But Pox o’ the Schemer that plann’d the Excise,
            That plann’d the Excise, etc.

The apple trees were too many and too deep-rooted and too stout for the
Scotch thistle. The symptoms of popular dislike drove Bute to resign
(8 April, 1763), to the surprise of all. The duty, however, was not
repealed till 1830. In my _Book of the West_ (Devon), I have given an
account of cyder-making in the county, and I will not repeat it here.
But I may mention the curious Devonshire saying about Francemass, or
St. Franken Days. These are the 19th, 20th, and 21st May, at which time
very often a frost comes that injures the apple blossom. The story goes
that there was an Exeter brewer, of the name of Frankin, who found that
cyder ran his ale so hard that he vowed his soul to the devil on the
condition that his Satanic Majesty should send three frosty nights in
May annually to cut off the apple blossom.

And now to return to Hugh Stafford. He opens his letter with an account
of the origin of the Royal Wilding, one of the finest sorts of apple
for the making of choice cyder.

“Since you have seen the Royal Wilding apple, which is so very much
celebrated (and so deservedly) in our county, the history of its
being first taken notice of, which is fresh in everybody’s memory, may
not be unacceptable to you. The single and only tree from which the
apple was first propagated is very tall, fair, and stout; I believe
about twenty feet high. It stands in a very little quillet (as we call
it) of gardening, adjoining to the post-road that leads from Exeter
to Oakhampton, in the parish of St. Thomas, but near the borders of
another parish called Whitestone. A walk of a mile from Exeter will
gratify any one, who has curiosity, with the sight of it.

“It appears to be properly a wilding, that is, a tree raised from the
kernel of an apple, without having been grafted, and (which seems well
worth observing) has, in all probability, stood there much more than
seventy years, for two ancient persons of the parish of Whitestone,
who died several years since, each aged upwards of the number of years
before mentioned, declared, that when they were boys, probably twelve
or thirteen years of age, and first went the road, it was not only
growing there, but, what is worth notice, was as tall and stout as it
now appears, nor do there at this time appear any marks of decay upon
it that I could perceive.

“It is a very constant and plentiful bearer every other year, and then
usually produces apples enough to make one of our hogsheads of cyder,
which contains sixty-four gallons, and this was one occasion of its
being first taken notice of, and of its affording an history which, I
believe, no other tree ever did: For the little cot-house to which it
belongs, together with the little quillet in which it stands, being
several years since mortgaged for ten pounds, the fruit of this tree
alone, in a course of some years, freed the house and garden, and its
more valuable self, from that burden.

“Mr. Francis Oliver (a gentleman of the neighbourhood, and, if I
mistake not, the gentleman who had the mortgage just now mentioned) was
one of the first persons about Exeter that affected rough cyder, and,
for that reason, purchased the fruit of this tree every bearing year.
However, I cannot learn that he ever made cyder of it alone, but mix’d
with other apples, which added to the flavour of his cyder, in the
opinion of those who had a true relish for that liquor.

“Whether this, or any other consideration, brought on the more happy
experiment upon this apple, the Rev. Robert Wollocombe, Rector of
Whitestone, who used to amuse himself with a nursery, put on some heads
of this wilding; and in a few years after being in his nursery, about
March, a person came to him on some business, and feeling something
roll under his feet, took it up, and it proved one of those precious
apples, which Mr. Wollocombe receiving from him, finding it perfectly
sound after it had lain in the long stragle of the nursery during all
the rain, frost, and snow of the foregoing winter, thought it must be
a fruit of more than common value; and having tasted it, found the
juices, not only in a most perfect soundness and quickness, but such
likewise as seemed to promise a body, as well as the roughness and
flavour that the wise cyder drinkers in Devon now begin to desire.
He observed the graft from which it had fallen, and searching about
found some more of the apples, and all of the same soundness; upon
which, without hesitation, he resolved to graft a greater quantity of
them, which he accordingly did; but waited with impatience for the
experiment, which you know must be the work of some years. They came at
length, and his just reward was a barrel of the juice, which, though
it was small, was of great value for its excellency, and far exceeded
all his expectations.



By a /Cyder Merchant/, of South-Ham, Devonshire.

Dedicated to _JACK KETCH_.

To the Tune _A Cobler there was_, &c.

    As Sawney from _Tweed_ was a trudging to Town,
    To rest his tir’d Limbs on the Grass he sat down;
    When growsing his Oatmeal, he turn’d up his Eyes,
    And kenn’d a strange Pile on three Pillars arise.
                                  _Derry down_, &c.

    Amaz’d he starts up, “Thou Thing of odd Form,
    That stand’st here defying each turbulent Storm;
    What art thou? Thy Office declare at my Word,
    Or thou shalt not escape this strong Arm and broad Sword.”
                                  _Derry down_, &c.

    Quoth the Structure, “Altho’ I’m not known unto thee,
    Thy Countrymens Lives have been shorten’d by me;
    To strike thee at once, know that _Tyburn’s_ my Name,
    In _Scotland_, no doubt, you have heard of my Fame.
                                  _Derry down_, &c.

    When arm’d all rebellious, like Vultures you rose,
    A Set of such Shahrags, you frighten’d the Crows;
    To rid the tir’d land of such Vermin as you,
    I groan’d with receiving but barely my Due.
                                  _Derry down_, &c.

    And still I’m in Hopes of another to come,
    For _Tyburn_ will certain at last be his Home;
    He’ll come from the Summit of Honour’s vast Height,
    With a Star and a Garter to dubb me a Knight.”
                                  _Derry down_, &c.

    His Passion now _Sawney_ no more could contain,
    “My Sword shall strait prove all thy Hopes are in vain”;
    So saying; he brandish’d it high in the Air,
    When strait a _Scotch_ Voice cry’d out--_Sawney_ forbear!
                                  _Derry down_, &c.

    The Phantom that spoke now appear’d in a trice,
    And to the fear’d _Scotsman_ thus gave his Advice:
    “Calm thy Breast that now boils with Vexation and Rage,
    And let what I speak thy Attention engage.
                                  _Derry down_, &c.

    No longer with Fury pursue this old Tree,
    His Back shall bear Vengeance for you and for me;
    For know, my dear Friend, the Time is at Hand,
    When with _Englishmen_, _Tyburn_ shall thin half the Land.
                                  _Derry down_, &c.

    The Case is revers’d by a good Friend of ours,
    All Treason is _English_, and Loyalty yours:
    Posts, Honour, and Profit all _Scotsmen_ await,
    While the Natives shall tremble and curse their hard Fate.
                                  _Derry down_, &c.

    The War is no more, and each Soldier and Tar,
    The Strength and the Bulwark of _England_ in War,
    Are coming to prove our Friend’s deep Penetration,
    As the first Sacrifice to our _Scotch Exaltation_.”
                                  _Derry down_, &c.

    Here ended the Phantom, and sunk in the Ground,
    While the blue Flames of Hell glar’d terrible round;
    When for _London_ young _Sawney_ around turn’d his Eyes,
    Where he march’d for a Place in the _new-rais’d_ /Excise/.
                                  _Derry down_, &c.

    Ye National Schemers, come tell me, I pray,
    Your Intention in this. _To bring more Scotch in play_!
    For this must the Tax be enforc’d with all Speed,
    For Thousands are coming between _here_ and _Tweed_.
                                  _Derry down_, &c.

    Ah! hapless _Old England_, no longer be merry,
    Since _B--_ has thus tax’d your Beer, Cyder and Perry;
    Look sullen and sad, for now this is done,
    No doubt in short Time they’ll tax _Laughing_ and _Fun_.
                                  _Derry down_, &c.

    Yet let the Proud Laird, who presides at the Helm,
    Extend his Excise to each Thing in the Realm:
    A Tax on _Spring-Water_ I think would be right,
    For _Water_, ’tis known, is as common as _Light_.
                                  _Derry down_, &c.

    _Meat_, _Butter_, and _Cheese_, “By my Saul that will do!
    ’Twill affect all the _Land_, and bring _Money_ in too;”
    Proceed, my good Laird, and may the _H-lt-r_ or _A--e_,
    Reward you for saying each _infamous_ T--x.
                                  _Derry down_, &c.

“Mr. Wollocombe was not a little pleased with it, and talked of it
in all conversations; it created amusement at first, but when time
produced an hogshead of it, from raillery it came to seriousness, and
every one from laughter fell to admiration. In the meantime he had
thought of a name for his British wine, and as it appeared to be in the
original tree a fruit not grafted, it retained the name of a Wilding,
and as he thought it superior to all other apples, he gave it the title
of the Royal Wilding.

“This was about sixteen years since (i.e. about 1710). The gentlemen of
our county are now busy almost everywhere in promoting it, and some of
the wiser farmers. But we have not yet enough for sale. I have known
five guineas refused for one of our hogsheads of it, though the common
cyder sells for twenty shillings, and the South Ham for twenty-five to

“I must add, that Mr. Wollocombe hath reserved some of them for hoard;
I have tasted the tarts of them, and they come nearer to the quince
than any other tart I ever eat of.

“Wherever it has been tried as yet, the juices are perfectly good
(but better in some soils than others), and when the gentlemen of the
South-Hams will condescend to give it a place in their orchards, they
will undoubtedly exceed us in this liquor, because we must yield to
them in the apple soil. But it is happy for us, that at present they
are so wrapt up in their own sufficiency, that they do not entertain
any thoughts of raising apples from us; and when they shall, it must be
another twenty years before they can do anything to the purpose, though
some of their thinking gentlemen, I am told, begin to get some of them
transported thither, (by night you may suppose, partly for shame and
partly for fear of being mobbed by their neighbours) and will, I am
well assured, much rejoice in the production.

“The colour of the Royal Wilding cyder, without any assistance from
art, is of a bright yellow, rather than a reddish beerish tincture;
its other qualities are a noble body, an excellent bitter, a delicate
(excuse the expression) roughness, and a fine vinous flavour. All the
other qualities you may meet with in some of the best South-Ham cyder,
but the last is peculiar to the White-Sour and the Royal Wilding only,
and you will in vain look for it in any other.”

Mr. Stafford goes on to speak of his second favourite, the White Sour
of the South Hams.

“The qualities of the juices are precisely the same with those of
the Royal Wilding, nay, so very near one to the other, that they are
perfectly rivals, and created such a contest, as is very uncommon,
and to which I was an eye-witness. A gentleman of the South-Hams,
whose White-Sour cyders, for the year, were very celebrated, (for our
cyder vintages, like those of clarets and ports, are very different
in different years) and had been drank of by another gentleman, who
was a happy possessor, an uncontested lord, _facile princeps_, of the
Royal Wilding, met at the house of the latter gentleman a year or two
after: the famed Royal Wilding, you may be sure, was produced, as
the best return for the White-Sour that had been tasted at the other
gentleman’s; and what was the effect? Each gentleman did not contend,
as is usual, that his was the best cyder; but such was the equilibrium
of the juices, and such the generosity of their breasts (for finer
gentlemen we have not in our country) that each affirmed his own
was the worst; the gentleman of the South-Hams declared in favour of
the Royal Wilding, and the gentleman of our parts in favour of the

As to the sweet cyder, Mr. Stafford despises it. “It may be acceptable
to a female, or a Londoner, it is ever offensive to a bold and generous
West Saxon,” says he.

Mr. Stafford flattered himself one year that he had beaten the Royal
Wilding. He had planted pips, and after many years brewed a pipe of the
apples of his wildings in 1724. Mr. Wollocombe was invited to taste
it. “The surprise (and even almost silence) with which he was seized
at first tasting it was plainly perceived by everyone present, and
occasioned no small diversion.” But, alas! after it was bottled this
“Super-Celestial,” as it had been named, as the year advanced, appeared
thin compared with the cyder of the Royal Wilding, and Hugh Stafford
was constrained after a first flush of triumph to allow that the Royal
Wilding maintained pre-eminence.

According to our author, the addition of a little sage or clary to
thin cyder gives it a taste as of a good Rhenish wine; and he advises
the crushing to powder of angelica roots to add to cyder, as is done
in Oporto by those who prepare port for the English market. It gives a
flavour and a bouquet truly delicious.

At the English Revolution, when William of Orange came to the throne,
the introduction of French wines into the country was prohibited, and
this gave a great impetus to the manufacture of cyder, and care in the
production of cyder of the best description. But the imposition of a
duty of ten shillings a hogshead on cyder that was not repealed, as
already said, till 1830, killed the industry. Farmers no longer cared
to keep up their orchards, and grew apples only for home consumption.
They gave the cyder to their labourers, and as these were not
particular as to the quality, no pains were taken to produce such as
would suit men’s refined palates. The workman liked a rough beverage,
one that almost cut his throat as it passed down; and this produced the
evil effect that the farmers, who were bound by their leases to keep
up their orchards, planted only the coarsest sort of apples, and the
higher quality of fruit was allowed to die out. The orchards fell into,
and in most cases remain still in a deplorable condition of neglect.
Hear what is the report of the Special Commissioner of the _Gardeners’
Magazine_, as to the state of the orchards in Devon. “They will not,
as a rule, bear critical examination. As a matter of fact Devonshire,
compared with other counties, has made little or no progress of late
years, and there are hundreds of orchards in that county that are
little short of a disgrace to those who own or rent them. The majority
of the orchards are rented by farmers, who too often are the worst of
gardeners and the poorest of fruit growers, and they cannot be induced
to improve on their methods.” The writer goes on to say, that so long
as the farmers have enough trees standing or blown over, to bear
fruit that suffices for their home consumption, they are content, and
with complete indifference, they suffer the cattle to roam about the
orchards, bite off the bark, and rend the branches and tender shoots
from the trees.

“If you tackle the farmers on the subject, and in particular strongly
advise them to see what can be done towards improving their old
orchards and forming new ones, they will become uncivil at once.”

It is sad to have to state that the famous “Royal Wilding” is no longer
known, not even at Pynes, where it was extensively planted by Hugh

Messrs. Veitch, the well-known nurserymen at Exeter and growers of
the finest sorts of apples, inform me that they have not heard of it
for many years. Mr. H. Whiteway, who produces some of the best cyder
in North Devon, writes to me: “With regard to the _Royal Wilding_
mentioned in Mr. Hugh Stafford’s book, I have made diligent inquiry in
and about the neighbourhood in which it was grown at the time stated,
but up to now have been unable to find any trace of it, and this
also applies to the _White-Sour_. I am, however, not without hope of
discovering some day a solitary remnant of the variety.”

This loss is due to the utter neglect of the orchards in consequence
of the passing and maintenance of Lord Bute’s mischievous Bill. This
Bill was the more deplorable in its results because in and about
1750 cyder had replaced the lighter clarets in the affections of all
classes, and was esteemed as good a drink as the finest Rhenish, and
much more wholesome. Rudolphus Austen, who introduced it at the tables
of the dons of Oxford, undertook to “raise cyder that shall compare
and excel the wine of many provinces nearer the sun, where they abound
with fruitful vineyards.” And he further asserted: “A seasonable and
moderate use of good cyder is the surest remedy and preservative
against the diseases which do frequently afflict the sedentary life of
them that are seriously studious.” He died in 1666.

Considerable difference of opinion exists as to the advantage or
disadvantage of cyder for those liable to rheumatism. But this
difference of opinion is due largely, if not wholly, to the kinds of
cyder drunk. The sweet cyder is unquestionably bad in such cases,
but that in which there is not so much sugar is a corrective to the
uric acid that causes rheumatism. In Noake’s _Worcestershire Relics_
appears the following extract from the journal of a seventeenth-century
parson. “This parish (Dilwyn), wherein syder [_sic_] is plentiful,
hath and doth afford many people that have and do enjoy the blessing
of long life, neither are the aged here bed-ridden or decrepit as
elsewhere, but for the most part lively and vigorous. Next to God, wee
ascribe it to our flourishing orchards, which are not only the ornament
but the pride of our country, yielding us rich and winy liquors.” At
Whimple, in Devon, the rectors, like their contemporary, the Rev.
Robert Wollocombe, the discoverer of the Royal Wilding a century or
so later than the Dilwyn parson, were both cyder makers and cyder
drinkers. The tenure of office of two of them covered a period of over
a century, and the last of these worthy divines lived to tell the story
of how the Exeter coach set down the bent and crippled dean at his
door, who, after three weeks ‘cyder cure’ at the hospitable rectory,
had thrown his crutches to the dogs and turned his face homewards
“upright as a bolt.”[1]

The apple is in request now for three purposes quite distinct: the
dessert apple, to rival those introduced from America; that largely
employed for the manufacture of jams--the basis, apple, flavoured
to turn it into raspberry, apricot, etc.; and last, but not least,
the cyder-producing apple which is unsuited for either of the former

In my _Book of the West_ I have given a lengthy ballad of instruction
on the growth of apple trees, and the gathering of apples and the
making of cyder, which I heard sung by an old man at Washfield, near
Tiverton. The following song was sung to me by an aged tanner of
Launceston, some twenty years ago, which he professed to have composed

    In a nice little village not far from the sea,
    Still lives my old uncle aged eighty and three;
    Of orchards and meadows he owns a good lot,
    Such cyder as his--not another has got.

        Then fill up the jug, boys, and let it go round,
        Of drinks not the equal in England is found.
        So pass round the jug, boys, and pull at it free,
        There’s nothing like cyder, sparkling cyder, for me.

    My uncle is lusty, is nimble and spry,
    As ribstones his cheeks, clear as crystal his eye,
    His head snowy white as the flowering may,
    And he drinks only cyder by night and by day.

        Then fill up the jug, etc.

    O’er the wall of the churchyard the apple trees lean
    And ripen their burdens, red, golden, and green.
    In autumn the apples among the graves lie;
    “There I’ll sleep well,” says uncle, “when fated to die.”

        Then fill up the jug, etc.

    “My heart as an apple, sound, juicy, has been,
    My limbs and my trunk have been sturdy and clean;
    Uncankered I’ve thriven, in heart and in head,
    So under the apple trees lay me when dead.”

        Then fill up the jug, etc.


During the forties of last century, every visitor to Torquay noticed
two young ladies of very singular appearance. Their residence was in
one of the two thatched cottages on the left of Tor Abbey Avenue,
looking seaward, very near the Torgate of the avenue. Their chief
places of promenade were the Strand and Victoria Parade, but they were
often seen in other parts of the town. Bad weather was the only thing
that kept them from frequenting their usual beat. They were two Misses
Durnford, and their costume was peculiar. The style varied only in
tone and colour. Their shoes were generally green, but sometimes red.
They were by no means bad-looking girls when young, but they were so
berouged as to present the appearance of painted dolls. Their brown
hair worn in curls was fastened with blue ribbon, and they wore felt or
straw hats, usually tall in the crown and curled up at the sides. About
their throats they had very broad frilled or lace collars that fell
down over their backs and breasts a long way. But in summer their necks
were bare, and adorned with chains of coral or bead. Their gowns were
short, so short indeed as to display about the ankles a good deal more
than was necessary of certain heavily-frilled cotton investitures of
their lower limbs. In winter over their gowns were worn check jackets
of a “loud” pattern reaching to their knees, and of a different
colour from their gowns, and with lace cuffs. They were never seen,
winter or summer, without their sunshades. The only variation to the
jacket was a gay-coloured shawl crossed over the bosom and tied behind
at the waist.


_From a Lithograph_]

The sisters dressed exactly alike, and were so much alike in face as to
appear to be twins. They were remarkably good walkers, kept perfectly
in step, were always arm in arm, and spoke to no one but each other.

They lived with their mother, and kept no servant. All the work of
the house was done by the three, so that in the morning they made no
appearance in the town; only in the afternoon had they assumed their
war-paint, when, about 3 p.m., they sallied forth; but, however highly
they rouged and powdered, and however strange was their dress, they
carried back home no captured hearts. Indeed, the visitors to Torquay
looked upon them with some contempt as not being in society and not
dressing in the fashion; only some of the residents felt for them in
their solitude some compassion. They were the daughters of a Colonel
Durnford, and had lived at Alphington. The mother was of an inferior
social rank. They had a brother, a major in the Army, 10th Regiment,
who was much annoyed at their singularity of costume, and offered to
increase their allowance if they would discontinue it; but this they
refused to do.

When first they came to Torquay, they drove a pair of pretty ponies
they had brought with them from Alphington; but their allowance being
reduced, and being in straitened circumstances, they had to dispose of
ponies and carriage. By an easy transfer the name of Alphington Ponies
passed on from the beasts to their former owners.

As they were not well off, they occasionally got into debt, and were
summoned before the Court of Requests; and could be impertinent even
to the judge. On one occasion, when he had made an order for payment,
one of them said, “Oh, Mr. Praed, we cannot pay now; but my sister
is about to be married to the Duke of Wellington, and then we shall
be in funds and be able to pay for all we have had and are likely to
want!” Once the two visited a shop and gave an order, but, instead of
paying, flourished what appeared to be the half of a £5 note, saying,
that when they had received the other half, they would be pleased to
call and discharge the debt. But the tradesman was not to be taken in,
and declined to execute the order. Indeed, the Torquay shopkeepers
were very shy of them, and insisted on the money being handed over the
counter before they would serve the ladies with the goods that they

They made no acquaintances in Torquay or in the neighbourhood, nor did
any friends come from a distance to stay with them. They would now
and then take a book out of the circulating library, but seemed to
have no literary tastes, and no special pursuits. There was a look of
intelligence, however, in their eyes, and the expression of their faces
was decidedly amiable and pleasing.

They received very few letters; those that did arrive probably
contained remittances of money, and were eagerly taken in at the door,
but there was sometimes a difficulty about finding the money to pay for
the postage. It is to be feared that the butcher was obdurate, and that
often they had to go without meat. Fish, however, was cheap.


_Lithographed by P. Gauci. Pub. Ed. Cockrem_]

A gentleman writes: “Mr. Garrow’s house, The Braddons, was on my
father’s hands to let. One day the gardener, Tosse, came in hot
haste to father and complained that the Alphington Ponies kept coming
into the grounds and picking the flowers, that when remonstrated with
they declared that they were related to the owner, and had permission.
‘Well,’ said father, ‘the next time you see them entering the gate
run down and tell me.’ In a few days Tosse hastened to say that the
ladies were again there. Father hurried up to the grounds, where he
found them flower-picking. Without the least ceremony he insisted on
their leaving the grounds at once. They began the same story to him
of their relationship to the owner, adding thereto, that they were
cousins of the Duke of Wellington. ‘Come,’ said father, ‘I can believe
_one_ person can go mad to any extent in any direction whatever, but
the improbability of _two_ persons going mad in identically the same
direction and manner at the same time is a little too much for my
credulity. Ladies, I beg you to proceed.’ And proceed they did.”

After some years they moved to Exeter, and took lodgings in St.
Sidwell’s parish. For a while they continued to dress in the same
strange fashion; but they came into some money, and then were able
to indulge in trinkets, to which they had always a liking, but which
previously they could not afford to purchase. At a large fancy ball,
given in Exeter, two young Oxonians dressed up to represent these
ladies; they entered the ballroom solemnly, arm in arm, with their
parasols spread, paced round the room, and finished their perambulation
with a waltz together. This caused much amusement; but several ladies
felt that it was not in good taste, and might wound the poor crazy
Misses Durnford. This, however, was not the case. So far from being
offended at being caricatured, they were vastly pleased, accepting
this as the highest flattery. Were not princesses and queens also
represented at the ball? Why, then, not they?

One public ball they did attend together, at which, amongst others,
were Lady Rolle and Mr. Palk, son of the then Sir Lawrence Palk.
Owing to their conspicuous attire, they drew on them the attention
of Lady Rolle, who challenged Mr. Palk to ask one of the sisters for
a dance, and offered him a set of gold and diamond shirt studs if he
could prevail on either of them to be his partner. Mr. Palk accepted
the challenge, but on asking for a dance was met in each case by the
reply, “I never dance except my sister be also dancing.” Mr. Palk then
gallantly offered to dance with both sisters at once, or in succession.
He won and wore the studs.

A gentleman writes: “In their early days they made themselves
conspicuous by introducing the bloomer arrangement in the nether
latitude.[2] This, as you may well suppose, was regarded as a scandal;
but these ladies, who were never known to speak to any one, or to each
other out of doors, went on their way quite unruffled. Years and years
after this, you may imagine my surprise at meeting them in Exeter, old
and grey, but the same singular silent pair. Then, after an interval of
a year or two, only one appeared. I assure you, it gave me pain to look
at that poor lonely, very lonely soul; but it was not for long. Kind
Heaven took her also, and so a tiny ripple was made, and there was an
end of the Alphington Ponies.”


“If there was ever a creature who merited the sympathy of the
world, it is Maria Foote. If there was ever a wife who deserved its
commiseration, it is her mother.” With these words begins a notice of
the actress in _The Examiner_ for 1825.

About the year 1796 an actor appeared in Plymouth under the name of
Freeman, but whose real name was Foote, and who claimed relationship
with Samuel Foote, the dramatist and performer. He was of a respectable
family, and his brother was a clergyman at Salisbury. Whilst on a
visit to his brother, he met the sister of his brother’s wife, both
daughters of a Mr. Charles Hart; she was then a girl of seventeen,
in a boarding-school, and to the disgrace of all parties concerned
therein, this simple boarding-school maid was induced to marry a man
twenty-five years older than herself, and to give great offence to her
parents, who withdrew all interest in her they had hitherto shown.
Foote returned to Plymouth with his wife, a sweet innocent girl. He was
at the time proprietor and manager of the Plymouth Theatre; and as, in
country towns, actors and actresses were looked down upon by society,
no respectable family paid Mrs. Foote the least attention, and although
the whole town was interested in her appearance, it regarded her simply
with pity.

Deserted by the reputable of one sex, she threw herself into the
society of the other; and in Plymouth, her good humour, fascinating
manner, long silken hair, and white hat and feather made havoc among
the young bloods. The husband was too apathetic to care who hovered
about his wife, with whom she flirted; and she, without being vicious,
finding herself slighted causelessly, became indifferent to the world’s
opinion. Her elderly husband, seeing that she was not visited, began
himself to neglect her.

The produce of this ill-assorted union was Maria Foote, ushered into
the world without a friend on the maternal, and very few on the
paternal side, who took any interest in her welfare, and she was
brought up amid scenes little calculated to give her self-respect,
sense of propriety, or any idea of domestic love and happiness.

From the disappointment and weariness of mind that weighed on the
slighted wife, Mrs. Foote sought relief in attending the theatre
nightly and acting on the stage. Daily and hourly seeing, hearing, and
talking of little else but the stage, as might be expected, a wish to
become an actress took possession of the child’s mind at an early age.

When Maria was twelve years of age, her mother was so far lost to all
delicacy of feeling, and her father so insensible to the duties of a
father, that he suffered his only daughter to act Juliet to the Romeo
of his wife.

Plymouth was disgusted, thoroughly disgusted, and whatever claims
Mr. Foote had before to the notice of some private friends, they now
considered these as forfeited for ever. From this moment a sort of
reckless indifference seemed to possess the whole family. Nothing came
amiss, so that money could be obtained; and Foote, who had been brought
up as a gentleman, and his wife as a lady, took a small inn in
Exeter, in 1811, lost his wife’s fortune, became the dupe of rogues,
and was ruined.


_From an engraved portrait in the collection of A. M. Broadley, Esq._]

The fame of Maria Foote’s beauty and charm of manner had reached
London, and in May, 1814, she made her first appearance at Covent
Garden Theatre, and personated Amanthis in “The Child of Nature”
with such grace and effect that the manager complimented her with an
immediate engagement. Young, beautiful, intelligent, and with natural
refinement, she was almost the creature she represented. A liberal
salary was assigned to her, and the managers always considered the
announcement of her name as certain of obtaining for them a crowded
house. That she had no pretensions to a rank higher than that of a
second-rate actress must, perhaps, be allowed. “I was never a great
actress,” she used to say in later life, “though people thought me
fascinating, and that I suppose I was.”

She was always dressed tastefully, looked charming, and was a universal
favourite among the lobby loungers. A writer in _The Drama_ for 1825
says: “To those who know nothing of a theatre, it may be new to tell
them that an interesting girl is in the jaws of ruin, who enters
it as an actress, unless watched and protected by her family and
friends. Constantly exposed to the gaze of men--inflaming a hundred
heads, and agitating a thousand hearts, if she be as Maria was,
fascinating and amiable--surrounded by old wretches as dressers, who
are the constant conveyers of letters, sonnets and flattery--dazzled
by the thunders of public applause, and softened by the incense of a
thousand sighs, breathed audibly from the front of the pit or the stage
boxes--associating in the green-room with licensed married strumpets,
because she must not be affected! Or supping on the stage, after the
curtain is dropped, with titled infamy or grey-headed lechery!--Let the
reader fancy an innocent girl, from a country town, plunged at once
into the furnace of depravity--let him fancy her father sanctioning her
by his indifference or helping her by his example, and then let him
say, if she be ultimately seduced and abandoned, whether it ought not
to be a wonder she was innocent so long.”

In spite of an education that never cherished the best feelings of a
child, Maria had a far sounder understanding than her parents, and
an instinctive modesty that withstood the evil with which she was

In the summer of 1815, Maria Foote was engaged as a star to perform at
Cheltenham, and there attracted the attention of Fitzharding Berkeley,
better known as Colonel Berkeley. This gentleman was the son of
Frederick Augustus, fifth Earl of Berkeley, by Mary Cole, the beautiful
daughter of a butcher at Gloucester, to whom he was married in 1796.
The Colonel was born in 1786. The Earl, indeed, affirmed that a private
marriage had taken place in 1785; the House of Lords disallowed the
proofs, in consequence of which one of the Colonel’s younger brothers,
born after 1796, became entitled to the earldom; he, however, always
refused to assume the title. Colonel Berkeley was an enthusiastic
amateur of the stage, and he offered his services to perform at the
benefit of Miss Foote, and she accepted his offer. The house was full
to the ceiling, and Maria, of course, felt grateful for the aid thus
lent her. After thus ingratiating himself, he seized the opportunity
to plead the passion with which she had inspired him. The old Earl,
his father, had died in 1810, and the Colonel was endeavouring to
establish his claim to the earldom. He pleaded with her, that till his
claim was allowed he could not well marry her, as such a marriage, he
asserted, would prejudice his suit to recover the forfeited earldom of
Berkeley, but he solemnly vowed his intention to make her his wife the
moment that he could do so without injuring his cause. By this means
he deluded the unfortunate girl into a connexion with him that lasted
for five years, and during all that time he made her no allowance
beyond the payment of those expenses which he himself had led her
to incur, and the presents he made to her did not in all that time
amount to £100. In 1821, Maria bore the Colonel a child, and had again
expectations of becoming a mother in 1824, and in the June of that year
all connexion ceased between them.

In the spring of 1823, Mr. Joseph Hayne, a young man of fortune,
commonly known, from the colour of his coat, as “Pea-green” Hayne,
saw Maria Foote at Covent Garden Theatre, was struck with her beauty,
called at her house in Keppel Street, and invited Mr. Foote to spend
some days with him at Kitson Hall in Staffordshire, one of his seats.
The invitation was accepted, and there Hayne informed the father that
he desired to pay his addresses to his charming daughter. Mr. Foote
hurried back to town, and as Maria was expecting her confinement,
sent off his wife with her into the country under the feigned name of
Forbes, to remain in concealment till after that event.

In the following January, Hayne again called at Keppel Street, and
announced to Mrs. Foote that he seriously desired to be united in
marriage to her daughter. Mrs. Foote informed him that Maria was
engaged to be married to Colonel Berkeley, and that her daughter
could not listen to his suit unless the Colonel failed to fulfil his
promise. Hayne then said that he was about to go into the country,
and asked permission to escort Mrs. and Miss Foote to the opera, and
to tender to them his private box. To this the lady consented. As it
happened, Colonel Berkeley with a Mr. Manse happened to be in the pit
that evening, and the Colonel at once dispatched his friend to the box
to request Hayne to speak with him in the pit. When the young buck
came to him, Berkeley asked him for an explanation of his conduct with
respect to Miss Foote, and desired a meeting on the following day.
When they met the Colonel disclosed to Hayne everything relative to
his connexion with Maria Foote, and told him that he was the father by
her of two children. On hearing this Mr. Hayne at once wrote to the
lady to withdraw his proposal of marriage. She, in reply, requested an
interview with him in order to explain the circumstances. This took
place at Marlborough in the presence of Mrs. Foote. The young man (he
was aged only twenty-two) was moved by her sad story, and on his return
to town found that his flame had not been quenched by the revelation.
So he penned a letter to Maria, stating that his feelings remained
unaltered, and begging her to marry him. After some negotiation she
agreed to this, and at Hayne’s advice the children were sent to Colonel
Berkeley, who had asked for them. Hayne proposed to settle £40,000
on Miss Foote, for himself and her to receive the dividends during
their joint lives, and after the death of the survivor of them, to be
distributed equally among the children of the marriage, if any; and
if, at the death of Mr. Hayne, his wife should survive him, but have
no children, then £20,000 was to become the absolute property of the
widow. The day for the wedding was fixed to take place on the ensuing
4th September, and “May God strike me dead,” asseverated the young
man, “if ever I consent to separate myself from you, dearest Maria.”

A few days later, Mr. Bebb, “Pea-green” Hayne’s solicitor, called in
Keppel Street, at Mr. Foote’s house, and left a verbal message to
the effect “that Mr. Hayne would never see Miss Foote again.” Great
consternation was produced in the family, and the young actress at once
wrote to her new lover to entreat an interview and an explanation. The
bearer of the letter encountered Hayne in Bond Street, and he returned
with the servant in a coach to Keppel Street. Hayne informed Maria that
it was not his fault that he had acted in so strange a manner towards
her; that it had been his firm intention to fulfil his engagement, but
that, on his return home on Sunday, some persons had first plied him
with liquor, so as to make him in such a beastly state of intoxication
that he knew not what he did; that they afterwards locked him up in a
little back room, from which he had only that moment made his escape,
which his exhausted appearance would prove, and that when he met the
servant with the letter he was on his way to see his dearest Maria.
The explanation was received, a reconciliation was effected, and as
“Pea-green” was so evidently a weak young man, liable to be swayed
this way or that according to whom he was with, it was resolved that
a special licence should at once be procured, and that the marriage
should take place on the following morning at nine o’clock.

The night passed anxiously enough on the part of Miss Foote, who
realized that there was many a slip between the cup and the lip. At
length the morning arrived, everything was prepared, the bride’s maid
was in attendance, as were also Mr. Gill, the lawyer with the marriage
settlement, and Mr. Robins, the trustee; but the bridegroom did not
turn up, or send any notice that he was kept away. The parties waited
till three o’clock, and then a note was dispatched to him at Long’s
Hotel, where he was staying. The servant who took it was ushered into a
private room, and was there detained, under one pretext or another, for
a considerable time, and was finally informed that Joseph Hayne, Esq.,
had gone into the country, to his seat at Burdeson Park, Wiltshire. For
six days did the young lady wait in anxious expectation of receiving
some communication from the defaulting bridegroom. At length, on the
sixth day, she wrote to him a distressed and piteous appeal. To this
she received an answer: “My dearest Maria, you are perfectly correct
when you say that my heart and thoughts are still with you.” Hayne then
stated that the world was censorious, that he was divided between love
for her and esteem for his friends and dread of their disapproval. The
letter then went on to state, “I am resolved to sacrifice friends to
affection; I cannot, will not lose you.”

After a short interval, Hayne returned to London and called on Miss
Foote, at her father’s residence, and they became perfectly reconciled,
and the 28th September was finally fixed for the day of their marriage.
This fell on the Tuesday, and Monday was appointed for the execution of
the marriage settlement. On Saturday, Hayne, accompanied by Mr. Foote,
went to Doctors’ Commons, and there procured the marriage licence,
which Hayne himself delivered into the hands of his intended bride,
and solicited leave to wait on her the following morning. But instead
of calling himself, a gentleman named Manning appeared at the house of
the Footes, and brought a letter from Mr. Hayne to the father of Maria,
which stated that poor Joseph was so wretched as to be unable himself
to call, but that the bearer would explain everything, and finally
concluded by breaking off the match.

After this, Miss Foote received another letter from Hayne: “My dearest
Maria,--We know each other well; but with all my faults, you have a
regard for my honour,--my attachment to you is unabated. I entreat you
to grant me an interview in any other place than Keppel Street.”

To this letter the fair Maria replied: “Is this the way of proving your
love and regard for me? To my honour and your shame be it spoken, that
I am now suffering under a painful illness, brought on entirely by your
conduct; but that you are actuated by the advice of bad counsels, I
have no doubt. I will, however, once more consent to see you, but it
must be in the presence of my family: if I am well enough, on Saturday,
at one o’clock, it will be convenient to me to grant you an interview.”
In reply “Pea-green” wrote: “Farewell for ever.--Hayne.”

For his breach of promise, Miss Foote brought an action for damages.
The Attorney-General was retained on behalf of the plaintiff; and Mr.
Scarlett on behalf of the defendant. The case was heard on 21 December,

It then transpired that Mr. Foote, the father, had been given by Mr.
Hayne, to secure his goodwill, the sum of £1150; that Miss Foote had
received presents from the defendant to the value of £1000. It was
shown that gross deception had been practised on Hayne, at the time of
Maria’s expected confinement, to conceal from him her condition, and it
had been represented to him that she had been taken into the country as
suffering from a pulmonary complaint.

However, after he had learned all the circumstances, and knew that she
had been “under the protection” of Colonel Berkeley and had borne him
two children, he renewed his offer of marriage. Miss Foote demanded
£20,000 damages. The jury, after a brief consultation, agreed to accord
her £3000; a large slice of which sum, if not the largest portion of
it, was eaten up by the lawyers employed in the case by her.

None came out well in the matter. As the Attorney-General remarked:
“He could not trust himself in using language he thought sufficient to
express his detestation of Colonel Berkeley’s conduct.” Joseph Hayne
appeared as a public fop who did not know his own mind from one day to

Mrs. Foote was revealed to be a scheming unprincipled woman, but Mr.
Foote came out worst of all. As _The Examiner_ said of him: “There is
scarcely a family living, or a family dead, that he has not treated
with the dirtiest selfishness, whatever were his obligations--spunging
till he was insulted, lying till he was discovered, puffing till he
was the butt of the town. The people of Plymouth can relate a thousand
instances of this description.”

Maria Foote came out best of all. She, brought up by such detestably
mean parents, without protection, exposed to temptation at every
turn, was more to be pitied than blamed. This the town felt, and
when, on 5 February, 1825, her benefit was given at Covent Garden
Theatre, the house was packed. _The Drama, or Theatrical Magazine_,
says: “The fullest house of this season, indeed of any season within
our experience, assembled this evening. The performance was not
the attraction; the overruling anxiety was to be present at the
reappearance of Miss Foote. A more intense interest could not have
been displayed; it was without parallel in the records of theatrical
history. For many weeks past every seat in the boxes--in the dress
circle--of the first circle--in the slips--all were engaged, and would
have been engaged had the theatre been double its dimensions. Even part
of the orchestra was appropriated to the accommodation of visitors
with guinea tickets; and an additional _douceur_ was in the course of
the evening given even for tolerable sight-room. Not the fraction of
a seat was to be had; and before the rising of the curtain the whole
interior of the theatre was crowded almost to suffocation. During the
first scenes of the performance (_The Belle’s Stratagem_) little else
was heard than the din and bustle consequent on the adjustment and
regulation of places. At length, at an advanced period of the first
act, Miss Foote appeared. The utmost stillness prevailed in the house
immediately previous to her expected entrée; she at length appeared,
and was received with a burst of loud, continued, and enthusiastic
acclamation, such as we never remember to have heard or known to have
been equalled at any theatre. All the persons in the pit and, with
scarcely an exception, in the boxes and other parts of the house,
stood up and welcomed her return to the stage with the most marked and
emphatic kindness. The waving of hats, handkerchiefs, was resorted
to. There was something, too, in the manner of her appearance, which
contributed greatly to enhance, while it seemed to entreat, the
indulgent consideration with which the audience were inclined to
receive her. She advanced with downcast look and faltering step to
the front of the stage, and became affected even to tears. There was
a diffidence, a timidity, and a truly distressing embarrassment in
her mode of coming forward, which, together with her beauty and the
recollection of her sufferings, was calculated to compel pity. It was
a scene which did equal honour to the audience, who duly appreciated
the distress of her situation, and to the object of their sympathy,
who gave such a pathetic attestation of her consciousness of it. Many
ladies--and there were many present--could not refrain from tears.
Those parts, and there were several throughout the play, capable of
being applied to Miss Foote’s peculiar situation, were seized on by the
audience, and followed by loud plaudits. At the delivery of the lines

    What is your fortune, my pretty maid?
    My face is my fortune, sir, she said,

a burst of acclamation was sent forth, almost equal to that which
greeted her entrance. The two lines which succeeded were, if possible,
still more applicable to recent events, which have occupied so much of
the attention of the Bar and of the public.

    Then I’ll not marry you, my pretty maid.
    There’s nobody asking you, sir, she said.

The good-humoured approval that followed these lines, which was in no
degree abated by the arch air with which Miss Foote gave them, cannot
be conveyed by verbal description. At the expression of the sentence,
‘This moment is worth a whole existence,’ Miss Foote bowed to the
audience in grateful acknowledgment of the reception she had met with.
Altogether Miss Foote’s reappearance has been most gratifying. She has
been hailed as a favourite of the public, who has been basely lured
from virtue, but who is not on that account treated as an alien from
its path.”

The total receipts that evening amounted to £900. 16s. At the latter
end of 1830, Madame Vestris took the Olympic Theatre, and opened it, on
3 January of the following year, with a drama on the subject of Mary
Queen of Scots, in which Miss Foote, who appears for a time to have
been in partnership with her, played the heroine. But she soon after
quitted the stage, and on 7 April, 1831, was married to the eccentric
Charles Stanhope, eighth Earl of Harrington and Viscount Petersham. He
was aged fifty-one and she aged thirty-three. They had one daughter; he
died in 1851, and she, as Dowager Countess of Harrington, lived until
27 December, 1867.

Mrs. Bancroft, in _On and Off the Stage_ (London, 1888), gives us a
pleasant recollection of Maria Foote in her old age as Dowager Countess
of Harrington.

“My father had known her slightly when she was in her zenith, and
would often speak of her as one of the loveliest and most amiable of
women. He would often recall not only the charm she possessed as an
accomplished actress, but her good-nature to everybody, high and low,
in the theatre.... My mother had never met Lady Harrington, but she
soon grew much attached to one who became a true friend to me, and as
time went on seemed more and more endeared to me. She must have been
very beautiful when young, being still extremely handsome as an old
lady. She was as good, too, as she was handsome; and I can never forget
her kindness to me. When I was once seriously ill with an attack of
bronchitis, Lady Harrington was unwearying in her attention to me, and
would, day after day, sit by my bedside reading to me, and would bring
with her all the delicacies she could think of. When I had sufficiently
recovered my strength, she sent me to the seaside to recruit my health.
To record all the kindnesses she bestowed on me and mine would fill
up many pages, but my gratitude is indelibly written on my heart. She
gave me a portrait of herself, as Maria Darlington in _A Roland for
an Oliver_, and by it one can see how lovely she must have been. Among
her other gifts was a beautiful old-fashioned diamond and ruby ring,
which she told me was given to her by the Earl when he was engaged to
be married to her.... Lady Harrington was much attached to (her old
butler) Payne, and also to her maid, who, I believe, had been in her
service since she was quite young, and often spoke of them as Romeo and
Juliet. I recall many a happy visit to Richmond Terrace, and until her
last illness I had no better friend than Lady Harrington.

“On the afternoon of Friday, 27 December, 1867, my mind was
unaccountably full of thoughts about her. I had been making some
purchases in Regent Street, and on my way home in a cab was wondering,
as I was driven through the crowd of vehicles, if I should ever see her
in her well-known carriage again, with its snuff-coloured ‘Petersham
brown’ body, the long brown coats, the silver hat cords of the coachman
and footman, the half-crescents of white leather which formed part of
the harness across the foreheads of the horses.

“On the following day I received the sorrowful news that Lady
Harrington was dead at the time I had thought so much of her, and that
I had lost a friendship for which Time can never lessen my gratitude.”


On Thursday evening, 3 April, 1817, the overseer of the parish of
Almondsbury, in Gloucestershire, called at Knole Park, the residence
of Samuel Worall, Esq., to inform him that a young female had entered
a cottage in the village, and had made signs to express her desire to
sleep there; but not understanding her language, the good folk of the
cottage communicated with the overseer, and he, as perplexed as the
cottagers, went for counsel to the magistrate. Mr. Worall ordered that
she should be brought to Knole, and presently the overseer returned
with a slim damsel, dressed poorly but quaintly, with a sort of turban
about her head, not precisely beautiful, but with very intelligent
speaking eyes.

Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Worall could make heads or tails of what she said.
He had a Greek valet who knew or could recognize most of the languages
spoken in the Levant, but he also was at fault; he could not catch a
single word of her speech that was familiar to him. By signs she was
questioned as to whether she had any papers, and she produced from her
pocket a bad sixpence and a few halfpence. Under her arm she carried
a small bundle containing some necessaries, and a piece of soap wound
up in a bit of linen. Her dress consisted of a black stuff gown with a
muslin frill round her neck, a black cotton shawl twisted about her
head, and a red and black shawl thrown over her shoulders, leather
shoes, and black worsted stockings.

The general impression produced from her person and manners was
favourable. Her head was small, her eyes black, hair also black; the
forehead was low, nose short, in complexion a brunette. The cheeks were
faintly tinged with red. The mouth was rather wide, teeth pearly white,
lips large and full, the underlip slightly projecting. The chin small
and round. Her height was 5 ft. 2 in. Her hands were clean and small
and well cared for. Obviously they had not been accustomed to labour.
She wore no ear-rings, but the marks of having worn them remained. Her
age appeared to be twenty-five.

After consultation, it was thought advisable to send her to the village
inn; and as Mrs. Worall was interested in her, she sent her own maid
and the footman to attend the stranger to the public-house, it being
late in the evening, and to request the landlady to give her a private
room and a comfortable bed.

The young woman seemed to be greatly fatigued and walked with
difficulty. When shown the room in which she was to sleep, she prepared
to lie down on the mat upon the floor; whereupon the landlady put her
own little girl into the bed, so as to explain its purport to her
guest. The stranger then undressed and went to bed.

Next morning Mrs. Worall went to the inn at seven o’clock and found her
sitting dejectedly by the fire. The clergyman of the parish had brought
some books of travel and illustrated geographies to show her, so that
she might give some clue as to whence she came. She manifested pleasure
at the pictures of China and the Chinese.


_alias MARY BAKER_.]

Mrs. Worall now took her to Knole, where by signs, pointing to herself
and uttering the word Caraboo, she explained to her hostess that this
was her name. At dinner she declined all animal food, and took nothing
to drink but water, showing marked disgust at beer, cyder, and meat.

Next day she was conveyed to Bristol and examined before the mayor
and magistrates, but nothing was made out concerning her, and she was
consigned to St. Peter’s Hospital for Vagrants.

There she remained till the ensuing Monday--three days--refusing food
of every description. On that day Mrs. Worall went into Bristol and
visited her at the hospital. The friendless situation of the foreign
lady had in the interim become public, and several gentlemen had called
upon her, bringing with them foreigners of their acquaintance, in the
hope of discovering who she was. Caraboo expressed lively delight at
seeing Mrs. Worall again, and that lady, deeply touched, removed her
from the hospital to the office of Mr. Worall, in Bristol, where she
remained for ten days under the care of the housekeeper.

Daily efforts were made to discover her language and country, but
without effect. At last a Portuguese of the name of Manuel Eynesso, who
happened to be in Bristol, had an interview, and he professed that he
was able to interpret what she said. The tale he revealed was that she
was a person of consequence in her own country, and had been decoyed
from an island in the East Indies, brought to England against her
wishes, and then deserted. He further added that her language was not a
pure dialect, but was a mixture of several tongues spoken in Sumatra.
On this Mrs. Worall removed Caraboo to Knole, and from 3 April to 6
June her hostess, the whole family, and the domestics treated her with
the utmost consideration and regard.

Among the visitors at Knole was a gentleman who had made many voyages
in the East Indies, and he took a lively interest in the girl, and
conversed with her, partly by word of mouth and partly--when at fault
for words--by signs.

It must have been an interesting sight, the travelled gentleman
interrogating Caraboo and taking notes of her reply, with an admiring
circle around of the family and visitors, wondering at his linguistic
acquirements and facility of speech in Oriental tongues. This traveller
committed to writing the following particulars obtained from Caraboo.

She was daughter of a person of high rank, of Chinese origin, by a
_Mandin_, or Malay woman, who was killed in war between the Boogoos
(cannibals) and the Mandins (Malays). Whilst walking in her garden at
Javasu attended by three _sammen_ (women), she was seized by pirates
commanded by a man named Chee-ming, bound hand and foot, her mouth
covered, and carried off. She herself in her struggles wounded two of
Chee-ming’s men with her creese; one of these died, the other recovered
by the assistance of a _justee_ (surgeon). After eleven days she was
sold to the captain of a brig called the _Tappa-Boo_. A month later
she arrived at a port, presumably Batavia, remained there two days,
and then started for England, which was reached in eleven weeks. In
consequence of ill-usage by the crew, she made her escape to shore. She
had had a dress of silk embroidered and interwoven with gold, but she
had been induced to exchange this with a woman in a cottage whose doors
were painted green, but the situation of which she could not describe.
The garments she now wore were those she had received from the cottager.

After wandering over the country for six weeks, she had arrived at
Almondsbury. She spoke of her mother’s teeth as artificially blackened
(i.e. by chewing betelnut); her face and arms were painted, and she
wore a jewel in her nose, and a gold chain from it was attached to her
left temple. Her father had three more wives, and he was usually borne
upon the shoulders of _macratoos_ (common men) in a palanquin.

She described the dress she wore at home. Seven peacock’s feathers
adorned the right side of her cap or turban. Upon being furnished with
calico, she made herself a dress in the style she had been accustomed
to. It was short in the skirt, the sleeves wide and long enough
to reach to the ground. A broad embroidered band passed round her
waist, and the fringe of the skirt, of the sleeves and the bosom, was
embroidered. She wore no stockings, and was furnished with sandals of
Roman fashion. She sometimes twisted her hair and rolled it up at the
top of her head and fastened it with a skewer.

During the ten weeks she resided at Knole and in Bristol, she was never
heard to pronounce a word or syllable that at all resembled a European
tongue. Mrs. Worall’s housekeeper, who slept with her, never heard on
any occasion any other language, any tone of voice other than those she
had employed when she first entered the house.

She was equally constant in her choice of food, and showed great nicety
as to her diet. She dressed everything herself, preferring rice to
anything else, did not care for bread, rejected meat, and drank only
water or tea. She refused a pigeon, which she called a _rampue_, that
had been dressed by the cook; but when given a bird that was alive,
she pulled off the head, poured the blood into the earth and covered it
up, then cooked the bird herself and ate it. This was the only animal
food she could be induced to touch, except fish, which she treated in
the same manner.

On every Tuesday she fasted rigidly, on which day she contrived to
ascend to the roof of the house, frequently at the imminent peril of
her life. Ablutions she was particularly fond of; she regularly knelt
by the pond in Knole Park and washed her face and hands in it.

After three weeks’ residence at Knole, she was one morning missing. But
she returned in the evening with a bundle of clothes, her shoes and
hands dirty. Then she fell seriously ill.

On Saturday, 6 June, she again took flight. She had not taken with
her a pin or needle or ribbon but what had been given to her. She
bent her way to Bath, and on the following Sunday, Mrs. Worall
received information of the place to which her protégée had flown. She
determined to reclaim her, and started for Bath, which she reached on
Sunday afternoon.

Here she found the Princess of Javasu, as she was called, at the
pinnacle of her glory, in the drawing-room of a lady of the _haut ton_,
one fair lady kneeling at her feet and taking her hand, and another
imploring to be allowed the honour of a kiss.

Dr. Wilkinson, of Bath, was completely bewildered when he visited
her, and wrote to the _Bath Chronicle_ a glowing account of Caraboo,
in full belief that she was all she pretended to be. “Nothing has yet
transpired to authorize the slightest suspicion of Caraboo, nor has
such ever been entertained except by those whose souls feel not the
spirit of benevolence, and wish to convert into ridicule that amiable
disposition in others.”

Dr. Wilkinson resolved on going to London to consult the Foreign
Office, and to obtain funds for the present relief of the Princess, and
her restoration to her native land.

Mrs. Worall left Bath, taking Caraboo with her. But the wide
circulation of the story led to her detection.

On the following Monday, a Mrs. Neale called on a Mr. Mortimer, and
urged him to go to Knole and tell Mrs. Worall that she knew the girl
very well, for she had lodged in her house in the suburbs of Bristol.
At the same time a youth arrived from Westbury, a wheelwright’s
son, who had met her upon her first expedition to Almondsbury, and
remembered seeing her at a public-house by the roadside, where a
gentleman, feeling compassion for her weariness, had taken her in and
treated her to beefsteak and hot rum and water.

Mrs. Worall was much disconcerted, but wisely said nothing to her guest
of what she had heard, and took Caraboo next day in her carriage to
Bristol under the plea that she was going to have Mr. Bird, the artist,
complete the portrait of the princess on which he was engaged, and
desired a final sitting. But instead of driving to Mr. Bird’s studio,
the princess was conveyed to the house of Mr. Mortimer, where she was
shown into a room by herself, whilst Mrs. Worall had an interview with
Mrs. Neale elsewhere. This lady was attended by her daughter, and
their story both surprised and confounded the kind magistrate’s wife.
After a protracted discussion, she returned to Caraboo, and told her
plainly that she was convinced that she was an impostor. When Caraboo
heard that Mrs. Neale had denounced her, she burst into tears and her
fortitude gave way. She made a few feeble attempts to keep up the
deception, but finally made a full confession.

Her name was Mary Baker. She was born at Witheridge in Devonshire in
1791, and had received no education, being of a wild disposition and
impatient of study. At the age of eight she was employed spinning wool
during the winter, and in summer she drove her father’s horses, weeded
the corn, etc. At the age of sixteen her father and mother procured a
situation for her at a farmhouse with a Mr. Moon, at Brushford, near
Witheridge. She remained there two years as nurse and general help, but
left because paid only tenpence a week, and she demanded that her wage
should be raised to a shilling, which Mr. Moon refused.

Her father and mother were highly incensed at her leaving, and treated
her so ill that she ran away from home and went to Exeter, where she
knew no one, but had a written character from her former mistress. She
was engaged by a shoemaker named Brooke at the wage of £8 per annum.
But she remained in this situation only two months. She spent her
wage on fine clothes, especially a white gown, and went home in it.
Her father was angry at seeing her dressed in white like a lady, and
peremptorily ordered her to take the gown off. She refused and left,
returned to Exeter, and went about begging. She wandered to Taunton
and thence to Bristol, begging from house to house. From Bristol she
made her way to London, where she fell ill with fever, and was taken
into St. Giles’s Hospital. There she enlisted the pity and sympathy
of a dissenting preacher, who, when she was well enough to leave,
recommended her to a Mrs. Matthews, 1 Clapham Road Place, and with her
she tarried for three years. Mrs. Matthews was very kind to her, and
taught her to read; but she was a strict woman, and of the straitest
sect of Calvinists. One day Mary heard that there was to be a Jews’
wedding in the synagogue near by, and she asked leave to be allowed
to witness it. Her mistress refused, but Mary was resolved not to be
debarred the spectacle, so she persuaded a servant in a neighbouring
house to write a letter to Mrs. Matthews, as if from a friend of hers,
to say that she was hourly expecting her confinement and was short of
domestics: would Mrs. Matthews lend her the aid of Mary Baker for a
while? Mrs. Matthews could not refuse the favour and sent Mary out of
the house, and Mary went to the synagogue and saw what was to be seen

Meanwhile, Mrs. Matthews had sent to inquire how her dear friend was
getting through with her troubles, and expressed a hope that Mary had
been of assistance in the house. To her unbounded surprise, she learned
that the good lady was not in particular trouble just then, and that
she really did not comprehend what Mrs. Matthews meant about Mary’s
assistance. When Mary returned to the house, having seen the breaking
of the goblet and heard some psalm singing, she found that a storm was
lowering. Her mistress had sent for the dissenting minister to give it
hot and strong to the naughty girl. To escape this harangue Mary ran
away, wandered about the streets, and seeing a Magdalen Reformatory,
applied at the door for admission. “What! so young and so depraved!”
was the exclamation with which she was received. She was admitted and
remained in the institution some time, and was confirmed by the Bishop
of London. Then it was discovered that she had all along not been
qualified for admission, and was expelled.

She then exchanged her female garments for a boy’s suit at a Jew’s
pawnshop, and started to walk back to Devonshire, begging her way. On
Salisbury Plain she fell in with highwaymen, who offered to take her
into their company if she could fire a pistol. A pistol was put into
her hand, but when she pulled the trigger and it was discharged, she
screamed and threw the weapon down. Thereupon the highwaymen turned
her off, as a white-livered poltroon unfit for their service. She
made her way back to Witheridge to her father, and then went into
service at Crediton to a tanner, but left her place at the end of
three months, unable further to endure the tedium. Then she passed
through a succession of services, never staying in any situation longer
than three months, and found her way back to London. There, according
to her account, she married a foreign gentleman at a Roman Catholic
chapel, where the priest officiated to tie the knot. She accompanied
her husband to Brighton and thence to Dover, where he gave her the
slip, and she had not seen him or heard from him since. She returned
to London, was eventually confined, and placed her child in the
Foundling Institution; then took a situation not far off and visited
the child once a week till it died. After a while she again appeared
at Witheridge, but her reception was so far from cordial that she left
it and associated with gipsies, travelling about with them, telling

It was now, according to her account, that the idea entered her head of
playing the part of a distinguished stranger from the East, and when
she quitted the gipsies, she assumed that part--with what success we
have seen.

Mrs. Worall sent into Devon to ascertain what amount of truth was in
this story. It turned out that her father was named Willcocks, and was
a cobbler at Witheridge, and badly off. He confirmed Mary’s tale as far
as he knew it. She had had an illness when young, and had been odd,
restless, and flighty ever since; especially in spring and autumn did
she become most impatient and uncontrollable. He denied that he had
treated her cruelly, but he had taken the stick to her occasionally, as
she was specially aggravating by throwing up every situation obtained
for her after staying in it for but a short while.


_Drawn and Engraved by N. Branwhite_]

Finally Mrs. Worall got her embarked on board a vessel, the _Robert and
Anne_, at Bristol, Captain Richardson, under her mother’s maiden name
of Burgess, for the United States, in the hopes that she might be able
to find a situation in Philadelphia.

The reason why she was entered in her mother’s name was to prevent her
from being overwhelmed by the visits and attentions of the curious.
As it was, the Earl of Cork and the Marquess of Salisbury obtained
interviews, got the girl to tell her story, speak her lingo, and
doubtless did not leave without having put gold into her palm.

She was certainly a remarkable character, with astounding
self-possession. Once or twice the housekeeper at Knole would rouse her
by some startling cry or call when she was asleep, but even then she
never passed out of her assumed character.

At Bath, the lady who had received her into her house proposed that a
collection should be made to defray her expenses in returning home to
Javasu. Bank-notes were thrown on the table, and some fell off on the
floor. Caraboo looked on with stolid indifference. If she picked one up
she replaced it on the table without glancing at the note to see how
much it was worth; in fact, she acted as if she did not understand that
bank-notes were other than valueless scraps of paper.

She was, moreover, insensible to flattery. A young gentleman seated
himself by her one day and said, “I think that you are the loveliest
creature I ever set eyes on!” She remained quite unmoved, not a
flutter of colour was in her cheek.

The Greek valet mistrusted her at first, but after a while was
completely won over to believe that she was a genuine Oriental
princess. She was entirely free from vicious propensities beyond that
of feigning to be what she was not. She never purloined anything; never
showed any token of wantonness. Vanity and the love of hoaxing people
were her prevailing passions; there was nothing worse behind.

So over the blue sea she passed to the West, and what became of her
there, whether there she gulled the Americans into believing her to be
an English countess or marchioness, is unknown.

Of one thing we may be pretty certain, that the gentleman who had
visited the Far East, and who pretended to understand her language and
thereby drew out her history, never again dared to show his face at

The authority for this story is: “A narrative of a Singular Imposition
practiced ... by a young woman of the name of Mary Willcocks _alias_
Baker, ... _alias_ Caraboo, Princess of Javasu.” Published by Gutch,
of Bristol, in 1817. This contains two portraits, one by E. Bird,
/R.A./, the other a full-length sketch of her in her costume as
a princess.


The family of Arscott, of Dunsland, is one of the most ancient in
the county. Its certified pedigree goes back to 1300, when they were
Arscotts, of Arscott, in the parish of Holsworthy. The elder branch
remained at Dunsland, one of the finest houses in North Devon, or
rather cluster of houses, for it consists of the early mansion of the
reign, at latest, of Henry VII, probably much earlier, of another
portion erected in the reign of James I, and of a stately more modern
mansion erected in the seventeenth century. Dunsland came into the
possession of the Arscotts through marriage with the heiress of Battyn
in 1522. In 1634 the heiress of Arscott married William Bickford, and
it remained in the Bickford family till 1790, when the heiress conveyed
it to her husband, William Holland Coham. In 1827 the heiress of Coham
conveyed Arscott and Dunsland to her husband, Captain Harvey Dickenson,
of the Madras Army, whose son now owns the estate and resides at

So far the elder branch. The junior branch of Arscott was settled at
Tetcott in 1550, where it continued till 1783, when died John Arscott,
of Tetcott, the last of that stock, whereupon the Tetcott estate passed
to the Molesworths through the descendant of a great-aunt.

Tetcott House--the older--remains, turned into stables and residence
for coachmen and grooms. A stately new mansion was erected in the reign
of Queen Anne. But when the property passed to the Molesworths this was
pulled down, and all its contents dispersed. The family portraits, the
carved oak furniture, the china fell to the contractor who demolished
the mansion. But the park remains with its noble oak trees, and of this
more anon.

John Arscott, of Tetcott, was born in 1718 or 1719; he lived all his
life at the family mansion, and was a mighty hunter before the Lord.

On the presentation of Sir W. Molesworth, Bart., the Rev. Paul W.
Molesworth was presented to the living of Tetcott, and he, in 1855,
succeeded to the baronetcy.

In the register of Tetcott he made the following entry in Latin, which
is here given in translation:--

“Of the Rectors who preceded me I know almost nothing. John Holmes,
whose name appears first in the list of Rectors, was inducted by ‘Quare
impedit’--to use the legal term--in face of the Bishop’s objection. Of
this I was assured by the Rev. G. C. Gorham, who about the year 1848,
as the Bishop of Exeter--H. Phillpotts--refused to institute him to a
benefice on account of his unsoundness on Baptism, attempted to get
himself instituted compulsorily in the same manner.

“James Sanxay, whose name comes lower down in the list, was a man of
no small classical learning, as is proved by his editing a Lexicon of

“I have heard it said of him, that on the title page of a book he
added after his name the letters--O.T.D., and on being asked what
these signified, he replied: ‘I have noticed that most Authors, when
publishing their writings, have the greatest objection to their bare
name, always add something to it, such as--F.R.S., LL.D., M.A. So
to keep up the old custom, I myself have added O.T.D., that is--Of
Tetcott, Devon.’”


    “The good old Squire! once more along the glen,
    Oh, for the scenes of old! the former men!”

    _R. S. Hawker_

_From the picture by J. Northcote. R.A._]

[Between the above and what follows a leaf has been cut out of the
register. Perhaps other rectors were told of on this missing leaf.]

“Of the ‘Lords’ who have held the manor of Tetcott in an unbroken line,
there are not many surviving memories.

“I have heard a story told by the old parishioners of one known as
‘The wicked Arscott,’ so named because he used to keep poor people
and beggars from his doors by big dogs. He still, they say, pays the
penalty of his cruelty in an old oak near the Church.

“He was succeeded, though I cannot say whether at once or after an
interval, by John Arscott, the last of that name in Tetcott, and the
most famous. You will find him described with no small literary skill
on a following page. He was benevolent to poor children, and a generous
and attentive host. He kept open house, as they say, thinking more of
love than of money. An eager student of the laws of nature, and at the
same time a devoted follower of the chase, whether of stag, or fox,
or any other such beast, he was at once the enemy and the patron of
dumb animals. He used to keep a toad on the doorsteps of his house
with such care, that that hateful and loathsome animal, moved by such
unusual kindness, used to come out of its hiding place, when its master
called it, and take its food on the table before his astonished guests,
until it lost its life through the peck of a tame raven. This fact, I
believe, has escaped the notice of every writer on British reptiles.
May the toad be reverenced in Tetcott for ever. Not even the rapacious
spider was forgotten. For when one had spun its fatal toils in a
corner of a pew in the Church, our Knight used to bring a bottle full
of flies into the sacred building itself, that he might while away
the tediousness of Divine Service by feeding his Church pet. He used
to go in an old soiled coat into a wood where the ravens nested, and
the birds would come down and settle on his shoulder, looking for the
favours of a bountiful hand.

“When he had to go to the neighbouring town of Holsworthy on judicial
business, it was his custom to take a bag containing fighting cocks.
The present inhabitants would smile at such a proceeding, but a certain
simple rudeness is excusable in our forefathers.

“Nor may I be silent about an irreverence which an otherwise upright
man used to show in the House of God. He would accost the country
people he knew in a friendly manner. If a Clergyman was reading the
Bible badly [for it was customary for a Cleric to read the Lessons now
and then] when he finished with, ‘Here endeth the second lesson’--our
Knight would call out, ‘Thee’st better never begun it.’ He would throw
apples at the Priest in the middle of Divine Service.

“Like Ajax and Peleus and other heroes he was not ashamed to woo a
handmaid, and married one of his father’s servants. He died without
issue, most widely mourned. His estate went to his kinsman, William
Molesworth. The poor people, I believe, still cherish the memory of so
dear a man, and give his name to their little ones in Baptism, as they
might the name of a Saint.

“If in these brief narratives, gathered here and there, I have in any
way transgressed the rules of more classical Latin, I beg the kind
reader to pardon me. If in any way I have departed from the truth, I
have done so unwittingly. God be merciful.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                     [John Arscott died in 1788.]”

Sir Paul W. Molesworth has dealt with John Arscott more tenderly than
that man deserved.

A modern writer[3] thus describes the sort of man that John Arscott

“A familiar figure in the eighteenth century was the country squire,
familiar the long wig, long coat, silver buttons, breeches and
top-boots, the bluff, red face, the couple of greyhounds and the
pointer at heel. When not hunting the fox, the popular sport of the
day, he settled the disputes of the parish, or repaired to the nearest
ale-house to get drunk in as short a space of time as possible. Usually
he only drank ale, but on festive occasions a bowl of strong brandy
punch, with toast and nutmeg, added to his already boisterous spirits.
On Sundays he donned his best suit, which often descended from father
to son through several generations, repaired to the parish church, and
entered the family pew, where he slumbered during a great part of the
somewhat dismal service. He seldom went further than his own country
town, for a journey to London was still full of danger and discomfort.”

Who that has read Fielding and other novelists of the period does not
know the figure, full-blooded, coarse to brutality, with a certain
amount of kindliness in his disposition, whose talk is of bullocks or
horses or dogs, and who, after the ladies had withdrawn, spent the
rest of the evening at his hospitable table singing ribald songs and
telling obscene stories? I possess, myself, a little book in MS. of the
after-dinner stories told by a great-great-uncle, that has to be kept
under lock and key, so unfit is it for perusal by clean-minded persons.
The songs were from Tom D’Urfey’s _Pills to Purge Melancholy_, or other
collections of the sort. I had a collection of them that belonged to
an _ancestress_, or rather near kinswoman of an ancestor, engraved on
copper plate. I gave the volume to the British Museum. It was not a
book to be kept on one’s shelves when there were children in the house.

John Arscott was never married, or if he did marry, no trace of such a
ceremony is forthcoming. He lived with a certain Thomasine Spry as his
mistress. If he did “make an honest woman of her,” it was, as reported,
on his death-bed. She survived him, and was buried at Tetcott in 1796,
aged seventy-six. They had no issue.

Mr. Hawker, in his _Footprints of Former Men in Far Cornwall_, has told
several stories of John Arscott’s favourite, the last of the jester
dwarfs, Black John, one of whose jokes, that entertained the company
after dinner, was to tie together by the legs several live mice and
swallow them one by one, and then, by means of a string, pull them up
from his interior parts again. Another of his tricks was to mumble a
sparrow. The living bird was gripped by the legs by his teeth, and then
with his lips and teeth he would rip off the feathers, till he had
plucked the unfortunate sparrow bare. A couple of projecting fangs were
of especial value as sparrow-holders to Black John. His hands all the
while were knotted or tied behind his back.

One evening he fell asleep by the hearth in the hall at Tetcott.
Suddenly he started up with a cry, “Oh, Master,” said he, “I was in a
sog [sleep] and I thought I was dead and in hell.”

“Well, John,” said Arscott, “and what did you see there?”

“Sir, everything very much like what it is here in Tetcott Hall, the
gentlefolks nearest the fire.”

John Arscott had, as already related, an enormous tame toad that came
out on the doorstep to be fed every morning, and went by the name of
“Old Dawty.” The country people thought that it was John Arscott’s
“familiar.” When he whistled, the creature would hop up to him, and
leap to his hand or to his knee. One day a visitor with his stick
killed it; but seeing this Black John flew at him and knocked him down
and belaboured him soundly. John Arscott came out, and when he heard
what the visitor had done, turned on his heel, and when the gentleman
had picked himself up and drew near, slammed the house door in his face.

This is Mr. Hawker’s version of the story of the end of the pet toad,
which is at variance with that related by the Rev. P. W. Molesworth,
whose authority is more trustworthy than that of Mr. Hawker, a
gentleman given to romancing.

“Black John’s lair was a rude hut, which he had wattled for a snug
abode close to the kennels. He loved to retire to it, and sleep near
his chosen companions, the hounds. When they were unkennelled he
accompanied and ran with them on foot, and so sinewy and so swift was
his stunted form that he was very often in their midst at the death.”

John Arscott had another follower called Dogget. “My son Simon”
or simply “Simon” he was wont to call him. He also ran after the

There exists a fine ballad on the “Hunting of Arscott, of Tetcott,” in
which Simon is mentioned. Mr. Frank Abbott, gamekeeper at Pencarrow,
but born at Tetcott, informed me, concerning Dogget:--

“Once they unkennelled in the immediate neighbourhood of Tetcott,
and killed at Hatherleigh. This runner was in at the death, as was
his wont. John Arscott ordered him a bed at Hatherleigh, but to his
astonishment, when he returned to Tetcott, his ‘wife’ told him all the
particulars of the run. ‘Then,’ said Arscott, ‘this must be the doing
of none other than Dogget: where be he?’”

Dogget was soon found in the servants’ hall, drinking ale, having
outstripped his master and run all the way home.

The ballad above mentioned begins as follows:--

    In the month of November, in the year fifty-two,
    Three jolly Fox-hunters, all sons of the Blue,
    Came o’er from Pencarrow, not fearing a wet coat,
    To take their diversion with Arscott of Tetcott.
            Sing fol-de-rol, lol-de-rol, etc.

    The daylight was dawning, right radiant the morn
    When Arscott of Tetcott he winded his horn;
    He blew such a flourish, so loud in the hall,
    The rafters resounded, and danced to the call.
            Sing fol-de-rol, etc.

    In the kitchen the servants, in kennel the hounds,
    In the stable the horses were roused by the sounds,
    On Black-Bird in saddle sat Arscott, “To-day
    I will show you good sport; lads, hark, follow, away!”
            Sing fol-de-rol, etc.

To return to Black John. His wonted couch when he could not get back to
Tetcott at night was a bed among the reeds or fern of some sheltering
brake or wood, and he slept, as he himself used to express it, “rolled
up, as warm as a hedge-boar, round his own nose.” One day he was
covered with snow, and found to all appearance dead. He was conveyed
to Tetcott and put in a coffin. But as he was about to be buried, and
whilst the service was proceeding, a loud thumping noise was heard
within the coffin. The lid was removed, and he sat up. He had been in
a long trance, but the funeral ride and jolting had revived him, and,
said he, “When I heard the pa’sson say ‘Earth to earth and dust to
dust,’ I thought it high time to bumpy.”

[Illustration: OLD TETCOTT HOUSE]

After that he had no love for parsons of the Church or indeed ministers
of any denomination, for every one of them, he said, would bury him
alive, if they could. Once an itinerant Methodist preacher came across
him and asked his way. Black John volunteered to show him a short cut
across the park, and led him to a paddock, in which his master kept a
favourite bull. He thrust the preacher into it and fastened the gate.
What ensued is matter of guess-work. A yell and a bellow were heard,
and some object was seen projected into the air over the hedge. Soon
after Black John appeared at the Hall with a white tie in his hands,
which he gave to his master, and said, “This be the vag-ends of the
minister--all I could recover.”

“When gout and old age had imprisoned Mr. Arscott in his easy chair,
Black John nuzzled among the ashes of the vast wood fires of the
hearth, or lay coiled upon his rug like some faithful mastiff watching
every look and gesture of his master; starting up to fill the pipe or
tankard of old ale, and then crouching again. At the squire’s death and
funeral, the agony of the misshapen retainer was unappeasable. He had
to be removed by force from the door of the vault, and then he utterly
refused to depart from the neighbourhood of the grave. He made himself
another lair, near the churchyard wall, and there he sobbed away the
brief remnant of his days.”

The story goes that on one long and tremendous chase, Dogget running by
his master’s horse--

    “How far do you make it?” said Simon the son.
    “The day that’s declining will shortly be done.”
    “We’ll follow till Doomsday,” quoth Arscott,--before
    They hear the Atlantic with menacing roar.

On this occasion the chase continued to Penkenner.

    Through Whitstone, and Poundstock, St. Genny’s they run,
    Like a fire-ball, red, in the sea set the sun.
    Then out on Penkenner--a leap, and they go,
    Full five hundred feet to the ocean below.

In this memorable run, the fox went over the cliffs and the hounds
after him; but Arscott and the rest of the hunters drew up, and
though he lost his hounds, he did not lose his life. Penkenner is
a magnificent and sheer cliff, west of St. Genny’s Church. A deep
cleft is on one side, and Crackington Cove on the other. There was no
possible escape for the fox. As to the “sons of the Blue” who were in
this memorable run with Arscott, of Tetcott, opinions differ.

The versions of the ballad vary greatly. I have had a copy, written in
1820, with explanatory notes. The date of the song is sometimes set
down as 1752, sometimes as 1772. The “sons of the Blue” are taken to
have been Sir John Molesworth, of Pencarrow, Bart., William Morshead,
of Blisland, and Braddon Clode, of Skisdon. But neither Sir John
Molesworth nor Mr. Morshead was, as it happens, a naval man. If the
date were either 1652 or 1672, it would fit an earlier John Arscott,
of Tetcott, who died in 1708; and Sir John Molesworth of the period
was Vice-Admiral of Cornwall; and the sons of the blue were his sons,
Hender, Sparke, and John. The second John Molesworth married Jane,
daughter of the elder John Arscott, in 1704. It seems probable,
accordingly, that the ballad belonged originally to the earlier John
Arscott, and that it was adapted a century later to the last John
Arscott. The melody to which it is still sung at the rent-audit of the
Molesworth estate at Tetcott is a very ancient one, which was employed
by Tom D’Urfey, in his _Pills to Purge Melancholy_, 1719, for a song
entitled “Dear Catholic Brother.” I have given it in my _Songs of the

Since the death of Arscott, he still hunts.

    When the full moon is shining as clear as the day,
    John Arscott still hunteth the country, they say;
    You may see him on Black-Bird, and hear in full cry,
    The pack from Pencarrow to Dazzard go by.

    When the tempest is howling, his horn you may hear,
    And the bay of his hounds in their headlong career;
    For Arscott of Tetcott loves hunting so well,
    That he breaks for the pastime from Heaven or Hell.

The belief that he is to be heard winding his horn and in full gallop
in chase through the park at Tetcott is still prevalent, and there are
those alive who assert positively that they have heard and seen him.

Curiously enough much the same belief adheres to Dunsland, and there
one of the Bickfords is thought to be the Wild Huntsman. I know of one
who is so convinced that he and his hounds rushed past her through the
grounds along a certain drive, that nothing afterwards would induce her
on any consideration to go along that drive at night.


There is no myth relative to the manners and customs of the English
that in my experience is more tenaciously held by the ordinary
Frenchman than that the sale of a wife in the market-place is an
habitual and an accepted fact in English life.

It is--so far as my experience goes--quite useless to assure a
Frenchman that such transfer of wives is not a matter of everyday
occurrence, and is not legal: he replies with an expression of
incredulity, that of course English people endeavour to make light of,
or deny, a fact that is “notorious.”

In a book by the antiquary Colin de Plancy, on _Legends and
Superstitions connected with the Sacraments_, he gives up some pages to
an account of the prevalent English custom. I heard a country curé once
preach on marriage, and contrast its indissolubility in Catholic France
with the laxity in Protestant England, where “any one, when tired of
his wife, puts a halter round her neck, takes her to the next market
town and sells her for what she will fetch.” I ventured to call on this
curé and remonstrate, but he answered me he had seen the fact stated
in books of the highest authority, and that my disputing the statement
did not prove that his authorities were wrong, but that my experience
was limited, and he asked me point blank whether I had never known such
cases. There, unhappily, he had me on the hip. And when I was obliged
to confess that I _did_ know of one such case, “Mais, voilà, mon
Dieu,” said he, and shrugged his shoulders with a triumphant smile.

Now it must be allowed that such sales have taken place, and that
this is so is due to rooted conviction in the rustic mind that such a
transaction is legal and morally permissible.

The case I knew was this.

When I was a boy there lived a tall, thin man in the parish who was
the village poet. Whenever an event of any consequence took place
within the confines of the parish, such as the marriage of the squire’s
daughter, he came down to the manor-house with a copy of verses he had
composed on the occasion, and was then given his dinner and a crown.
Now this man had actually bought his wife for half a crown. Her husband
had led her into Okehampton and had sold her there in the market. The
poet purchased her for half the sum he had received for one of his
poems, and led her home with him a distance of twelve miles, by the
halter, he holding it in his hand, she placidly, contentedly wearing
the loop about her neck.

The report that Henry Frise was leading home his half-crown wife
preceded the arrival of the couple, and when they entered the village
all the inhabitants turned out to see the spectacle.

Now this arrangement was not very satisfactory to my grandfather, who
was squire, or to my uncle, who was rector of the parish, and both
intervened. Henry Frise maintained that Anne was his legitimate wife,
for “he had not only bought her in the market, but had led her home,
with the halter in his hand, and he’d take his Bible oath that he never
took the halter off her till she had crossed his doorstep and he had
shut the door.”

The parson took down the Bible, the squire opened Burns’ _Justice of
the Peace_, and strove to convince Harry that his conduct was warranted
by neither Scripture nor the law of the land. “I don’t care,” he said,
“her’s my wife, as sure as if we was spliced at the altar, for and
because I paid half a crown, and I never took off the halter till her
was in my house; lor’ bless yer honours, you may ask any one if that
ain’t marriage, good, sound, and Christian, and every one will tell you
it is.”

Mr. Henry Frise lived in a cottage that was on lives, so the squire
was unable to bring compulsion to bear on him. But when Anne died,
then a difficulty arose: under what name was she to be entered in
the register? The parson insisted that he could not and he would not
enter her as Anne Frise, for that was not her legal name. Then Henry
was angry, and carried her off to be buried in another parish, where
the parson was unacquainted with the circumstances. I must say that
Anne proved an excellent “wife.” She was thrifty, clean, and managed a
rough-tempered and rough-tongued man with great tact, and was generally
respected. She died in or about 1843.

Much later than that, there lived a publican some miles off, whom I
knew very well; indeed, he was the namesake of and first cousin to
a carpenter in my constant employ. He bought his wife for a stone
two-gallon jar of Plymouth gin, if I was informed aright. She had
belonged to a stonecutter, but as he was dissatisfied with her, he put
up a written notice in several public places to this effect:--


    This here be to hinform the publick as how James Cole be dispozed
    to sell his wife by Auction. Her be a dacent, clanely woman, and be
    of age twenty-five ears. The sale be to take place in the New Inn,
    Thursday next at seven o’clock.

In this case I do not give the name of the purchaser, as the woman is,
I believe, still alive. I believe--so I was told--that the foreman of
the neighbouring granite-works remonstrated, and insisted that such
a sale would be illegal. He was not, however, clear as to the points
of law, and he believed that it would be illegal unless the husband
held an auctioneer’s licence, and if money passed. This was rather a
damper. However, the husband was desirous to be freed from his wife,
and he held the sale as had been advertised, making the woman stand on
a table, and he armed himself with a little hammer. The biddings were
to be in kind and not in money. One man offered a coat, but as he was a
small man and the seller was stout, when he found that the coat would
not fit him, he refused it. Another offered a “phisgie,” i.e. a pick,
but this also was declined, as the husband possessed a “phisgie” of his
own. Finally, the landlord offered a two-gallon jar of gin, and down
fell the hammer with “Gone.”

I knew the woman; she was not bad-looking. The new husband drank, and
treated her very roughly, and on one occasion she had a black eye when
I was lunching at the inn. I asked her how she had hurt herself. She
replied that she had knocked her face against the door, but I was told
that this was a result of a domestic brawl. Now the remarkable feature
in these cases is that it is impossible to drive the idea out of the
heads of those who thus deal in wives that such a transaction is not
sanctioned by law and religion. In Marytavy parish register is the
following entry:--

    1756. Robert Elford was baptized, child of Susanna Elford by her
    sister’s husband. She was married with the consent of her sister,
    the wife, who was at the wedding.

In this instance there is no evidence of a _sale_, but we may be sure
that money did pass, and that the contractor of the new marriage
believed it was a right and proper union, although perhaps irregular;
and the first wife unquestionably believed that she was acting in
observance of a legal right in transferring her husband to her sister.
There are instances in which country people have gone before a local
solicitor and have had a contract of sale drawn up for the disposal
of their wives. The Birmingham police court in 1853 had to adjudicate
on such a case, and the astounding thing in this instance was that a
lawyer could be found to draw up the contract. It is no wonder that
the magistrates administered a very severe reprimand. But there was a
far earlier case than this, that of Sir William de Paganel; the lady
stoutly and indignantly resisted the transfer and appealed against the
contract to the law, which declared the sale to be null and void.

Mr. Whitfeld, in his _Plymouth and Devonport, in Times of War and
Peace_, mentions a case that occurred at the former, but without giving
the date, of one John Codmore, who was indicted for burglary and for
having married without his father’s consent, and then tiring of his
wife, having sold her for five pounds--which was a large sum as the
price of wives went--to a miller. In December, 1822, the Plymouth crier
announced to all and singular: Oh yes! Oh yes! that James Brooks was
about to dispose of his wife by public auction. The lady was advertised
as young and handsome, and as likely to succeed to an inheritance of

Expectation was whetted by the intimation that the lady would attend
the sale herself, that all might judge of her personal charm, and
that she would be mounted on horseback. A curious and babbling crowd
assembled to witness the transaction, and precisely at midday,
according to the announcement, she rode up, attended by the ostler
of the “Lord Exmouth.” The husband, James Brooks, officiated as
auctioneer. The first bid was five shillings, then the sums offered
mounted to ten and to fifteen; but none rose, and that slowly, over two
pound. Whereupon the ostler called out “Three pounds,” and she would
have been knocked down to him had not at this conjuncture a couple of
watchmen intervened, one laying hands on the husband and the other
on the wife, and escorted the pair to the Guildhall, followed by the

When the mayor took them to task, the husband declared that for the
life of him he could not see that he was doing wrong. He and his wife
had agreed to the sale, as they had not lived together for long, and
were ill-assorted, and therefore desired fresh partners. The ostler
was prepared to pay twenty pounds for her--three pounds down and the
balance at Christmas--and the woman was quite agreeable. What, then,
was wrong? He assured the mayor that there was nothing “below board” in
the transaction; the auction had been “called” three times in Modbury
Market, and the wife also considered that she ought and would like to
be sold in a public fair.

The mayor now examined the woman. She admitted that the ostler was
buying her in at a reserved price, at which she had valued herself.
There was a gentleman, a Mr. K., who she expected would have attended
and bid for her, and with whom she had intended to go. But Mr. K. had
not turned up, much to her annoyance. “I was very much annoyed,” said
she, “to find that he had not kept his promise. But I was so determined
to be loosed from Mr. Brooks, that when Mr. K. did not attend, I asked
the ostler to buy me with my own money, unless I went for more than
twenty pounds.”

The justices bound them over in sureties to be of good behaviour, and
dismissed them.

In 1823, an army sergeant in residence in Devonport Dock tracked his
faithless wife to Liskeard, and there engaged the bell-man to announce
that it was his intention to dispose of her by sale to the highest
bidder. Procuring a rope, he placed it round the neck of his spouse,
and led her unresisting to the Higher Cross, opposite the Market, where
the offers were taking a spirited turn when the police interfered.
In the same year, William Hodge was indicted at Plymouth for putting
his wife up to auction, and William Andrews for purchasing her. It
was shown that Hodge had repeatedly threatened to sell his wife,
that she had cheerfully welcomed the proposition, and that Andrews
had anticipated the transaction of the sale by abducting her. At the
Quarter Sessions “the auctioneer” was conspicuous by his absence; the
wife pleaded that he had frequently assaulted her; and Andrews was
condemned to prison “by way of warning.”[4]

The Rev. W. H. Thornton, vicar of North Bovey, in _Devon Notes and
Queries_, Vol. IV, 1906, writes: “A sale may apparently be effected
either by private arrangement or by public auction, and in neither case
do the prices obtainable seem, as a rule, to run high. The husband
naturally considers the result more satisfactory if a good sum can be
obtained for his wife, but when the course of matrimony has arrived
at a crisis, he commonly feels that it is better to accept the market
price of the day than it is to lead her home again to resume conjugal

“My attention was recently called to the matter, when, in March of this
year (1906), I was investigating in North Devon a remarkable instance
of suicide, and a still more remarkable verdict thereon. My informant
was an old poacher and fisherman, and speaking of the deceased, he
said casually that he came of a curious family, and that he himself
could well remember to have seen the dead man’s grandfather leading
his grandmother on a halter to be sold by public auction in Great
Torrington Market. The reserve price was, in this instance, fixed at
eighteen pence, but as no one would give so much money, the husband
had to take his wife home again and resume matrimonial intercourse.
Children were born to them, and the ultimate result was the suicide.

“On being asked whether, in such instances, the neighbours generally
considered the transaction legitimate, old John Badger replied in the
affirmative; he declared that the vendor was held to be free to wed
again, and the purchaser to be liable for the maintenance of the woman,
but not till the money had changed hands over the bargain.

“This statement reminded me of a case which occurred at North Bovey
shortly before I became incumbent of the living in 1868. This can
easily be verified. A man, whose name I can give, walked into Chagford,
and there by private agreement sold his wife to another man for a quart
of beer. When he returned home with the purchaser the woman repudiated
the transaction, and, taking her two children with her, went off at
once to Exeter, and only came back to attend her husband’s funeral, at
which, unless I am mistaken, I officiated.

“Mr. Roberts, the present old clerk at Wolborough, tells me that he has
heard his father say that he knew of several instances of the kind now
under consideration, but that he does not think that in South Devon
the arrangement was often considered legal. In the north of the county
people were less enlightened.”

Devon was not alone the scene of these wife-sales, though they were
probably more common there than elsewhere. Still, there is evidence
that such transactions went on elsewhere, and one or two instances may
be quoted, to relieve Devon of exclusive discredit in such matters.

The story is well known of the Silesian noble whose house was raided
by Tartars, one of whom carried off the nobleman’s wife on his horse
behind him. The Silesian looked after the disappearing bandit, rubbed
his hands, and said, “Alas, poor Tartar!” Doubtless there were many
husbands who would have been glad to be rid of their wives at any
price, even for nothing at all.

In 1815, a man held a regular auction in the market-place at
Pontefract, offering his wife at a minimum bidding of one shilling, but
he managed to excite a competition, and she was finally knocked down
for eleven shillings.

In 1820, a man named Brouchet led his wife, a decent, pleasant-looking
woman, but with a tongue in her mouth, into the cattle market at
Canterbury from the neighbouring village of Broughton. He required a
salesman to dispose of her, but the salesman replied that his dealings
were with cattle only, and not with women. Brouchet, not to be beaten,
thereupon hired a cattle-pen, paying sixpence for the hire, and led his
wife into it by the halter that was round her neck. She did not fetch
a high figure, being disposed of to a young man of Canterbury for five

In 1832, on 7 April, a farmer named Joseph Thomson came into Carlisle
with his wife, to whom he had been married three years before; he sent
the bell-man round the town to announce a sale, and this attracted a
great crowd. At noon the sale took place. Thomson placed his wife on
a chair, with a rope of straw round her neck. He then said--according
to the report in the _Annual Register_--“Gentlemen, I have to offer to
your notice, my wife, Mary Anne Thomson, otherwise Williams, whom I
mean to sell to the highest and fairest bidder. Gentlemen, it is her
wish as well as mine to part for ever. She has been to me only a born
serpent. I took her for my comfort, and the good of my home; but she
became my tormentor, a domestic curse. Gentlemen, I speak the truth
from my heart when I say may God deliver us from troublesome wives and
frolicsome women! Avoid them as you would a mad dog, or a roaring lion,
a loaded pistol, cholera morbus, Mount Etna, or any other pestilential
thing in nature. Now I have shown you the dark side of my wife, and
told you her faults and failings, I will introduce the bright and sunny
side of her, and explain her qualifications and goodness. She can read
novels and milk cows; she can laugh and weep with the same ease that
you could take a glass of ale when thirsty. Indeed, gentlemen, she
reminds me of what the poet says of women in general:--

    Heaven gave to women the peculiar grace
    To laugh, to weep, to cheat the human race.

She can make butter and scold the maid; she can sing Moore’s melodies,
and plait her frills and caps; she cannot make rum, gin, or whisky,
but she is a good judge of the quality from long experience in tasting
them. I therefore offer her with all her perfections and imperfections
for the sum of fifty shillings.”

That this address was spoken by Thomson is most improbable--it is
doubtless put into his mouth by the editor of the _Annual Register_; it
was not to his interest to depreciate the article he desired to sell.
After about an hour, the woman was knocked down to one Henry Mears,
for twenty shillings and a Newfoundland dog. They then parted company
in perfect good humour, each satisfied with his bargain; Mears and the
woman went one way, and Thomson and the dog another.

In 1835 a man led his wife by a halter, in precisely the same way, into
the market at Birmingham, and sold her for fifteen pounds. She at once
went home with the purchaser. She survived both buyer and seller, and
then married again. Some property came to her in the course of years
from her first husband; for notwithstanding claims put forth by his
relatives she was able to maintain in a court of law that the sale did
not and could not vitiate her rights as his widow.

Much astonishment was caused in 1837 in the West Riding of Yorkshire
by a man being committed to prison for a month with hard labour for
selling or attempting to sell his wife by auction in the manner already
described. It was generally and firmly believed that he was acting
within his rights.

In 1858, in a tavern at Little Horton, near Bradford, a man named
Hartley Thompson put up his wife, who is described by the local
journals as a pretty young woman, for sale by auction, and he had the
sale previously announced by sending round the bell-man. He led her
into the market with a ribbon round her neck, which exhibits an advance
in refinement over the straw halter; and again in 1859, a man at Dudley
disposed of his wife in a somewhat similar manner for sixpence. A
feature in all these instances is the docility with which the wife
submitted to be haltered and sold. She would seem to have been equally
imbued with the idea that there was nothing to be ashamed of in the
transaction, and that it was perfectly legal.

If we look to discover whence originated the idea, we shall probably
find it in the conception of marriage as a purchase. Among savage
races, the candidate for marriage is expected to pay the father for
his daughter. A marriageable girl is worth so many cows or so many
reindeer. The man pays over a sum of money or its equivalent to
the father, and in exchange receives the girl. If he desires to be
separated from her he has no idea of giving her away, but receives what
is calculated to be her market value from the man who is disposed to
relieve him of her. In all dealings for cattle, or horses, or sheep, a
handsel is paid, half a crown to clinch the bargain, and the transfer
of coin constitutes a legal transfer of authority and property over the
animal. This is applied to a woman, and when a coin, even a sixpence,
is paid over and received, the receiver regards this as releasing him
from all further responsibility for the wife, who at once passes under
the hand of the purchaser. There is probably no trace in our laws of
women having been thus regarded as negotiable properties, but it is
unquestionable that at an early period, before Christianity invaded the
island, such a view was held, and if here and there the rustic mind is
unable to rise to a higher conception of the marriage state, it shows
how extremely slow it is for opinions to alter when education has been


Some years ago I wrote a little account of “White Witches” in the
_Daily Graphic_, in which I narrated some of my experiences and my
acquaintance with their proceedings. This brought me at the lowest
computation fifty letters from all parts of the country from patients
who had spent much of their substance upon medical practitioners, and,
like the woman with the issue of blood in the Gospel, “had suffered
many things of many physicians and was nothing bettered, but rather
grew worse.” These entreated me to furnish them with the addresses of
some of these irregular practitioners, that they might try them. I did
not send what was desired, and that for a very good reason, that I
regard these individuals as impostors and the occasion of a good deal
of mischief.

At the same time _distinguez_, as the French would say. They are not
all so, and I have seen and can testify to very notable and undeniable
cures that they have effected. That they believe in their powers and
their cures is true in a good many cases, and I quite admit that they
may be in possession of a large number of valuable herbal recipes,
doubtless of real efficacy. Some of our surgeons are far too fond
of using the knife, and the majority of them employ strong mineral
medicines that, though they may produce an immediate effect, do injury
in the long run. I take it that one reason why our teeth are so bad in
the present generation is due largely to the way in which calomel was
administered in times past, a medicine that touches the liver but is
rottenness to the bones.

What Jesus the son of Sirach said centuries ago is true still: “The
Lord hath created medicines out of the earth, and he that is wise will
not abhor them ... by such doth he heal men, and taketh away their
pains. Of such doth the apothecary make a confection” (Ecclus. XXXVIII.
4, 7, 8). What the writer meant was herbs and not minerals. The simples
employed by the wise old women in our villages were admirable in most
cases, but they were slow, if sure of action, and in these days when we
go at a gallop we want cures to be rapid, almost instantaneous.

But the professed herbalist in our country towns is very often not a
herbalist at all, but a mere impostor. He puts up “herbalist” on a
brass plate at his door, but his procedure is mere quackery.

Moreover, the true White Witch is consulted not for maladies only,
but for the discovery of who has cast the evil eye, “overlooked” and
“ill-wished” some one who has lost a cow, or has been out of sorts,
or has sickness in his pig-sty. The mode of proceeding was amusingly
described in the _Letters of Nathan Hogg_, in 1847. Nathan in the
form of a story gives an account of what was the general method of
the White Witch Tucker in Exeter. A farmer whose conviction was that
disorders and disasters at home were the result of the ill-wishing of a
red-cloaked Nan Tap, consulted Tucker as to how the old woman was to be
“driven” and rendered powerless.

I modify the broad dialect, which would not be generally intelligible.

    When into Exeter he had got
    To Master Tucker’s door he sot;
    He rung’d the bell, the message sent,
    Pulled off his hat, and in he went,
    And seed a fellow in a room
    That seem’d in such a fret and fume.
    He said he’d lost a calf and cow,
    And com’d in there to know as how,
    For Master T., at little cost,
    Had often found the things he’d lost.

Thereupon the farmer opened his own trouble, and told how he and his
were bewitched by Nan Tap. And as he told his tale, it seemed so sad
that the man in the room bade him go in first to consult the White

Now this fuming man was employed by Tucker to draw out from the gulls
what their trouble was, and there was but a sham wall of paper between
the room where the interview took place and that in which he received
the farmer, whom he greatly astonished by informing him of all the
circumstances that led to the visit. The remedy he prescribed was to
carry a little bag he gave him, in which were some stones, and to dash
water in the direction of the old woman, and say, “I do it in the name
of Tucker,” and if this did not answer, he was to put a faggot up his
chimney, set fire to it, and say a prayer he taught him while it was
burning. We need not follow the account any further.

There was a few years ago a notable White Witch of the name of Snow,
at Tiverton, who did great business. In a case with which I am well
acquainted, he certainly was the means of curing a substantial farmer.
The man had caught a severe chill one night of storm, when a torrent
threatened to inundate his house. He had stood for hours endeavouring
to divert the stream from his door. The chill settled on his chest, and
he became a wreck; he drew his breath with difficulty, walked bent,
almost double, and as I was convinced would not live out the twelve
months. He consulted the most famous and experienced physicians, and
they did him no good. Then in desperation he went to “Old Snow.” From
that day he mended. What the White Witch gave him I do not know; but
the man is now robust, hearty, and looks as if many years were before

I know another case, but this is of a different nature. A young farmer,
curious as to the future, visited a White Witch to learn who his
future wife would be. Said she--this witch was a woman, and an old
one: there are female witches who are young and exercise very powerful
charms--said she: “Next Sunday, you go along Narracott lane, and the
first young woman you see pass, look her well in the face, and when
you’ve gone by, turn your head and look, and if she’s also turned her
head and is looking at you, that’s the one.”

“Well now,” said this farmer in later years, “it were a coorious thing
it were, but as I were goin’ along thickey lane there I seed Bessie
Baker, and I turn’d, and sure enough her were lookin’ over her shoulder
to me, and wot’s most coorious of all--her’s my missus now. After
that, don’t ee go and tell me as how White Witches knows nothin’. But
there’s somethin’ more to the tale. I heerd afterwards as Bessie, her’d
consulted old Nan, and Nan had said to her, ‘Go along Narracott lane,
and the first man as you sees, when you’ve past, turn and look; and if
he’s lookin’ over his shoulder to you, that’s the one.’ There’s facts;
and wi’ them facts staring of you in the face, don’t you go and say
White Witches is nort.”

There is an old woman I know--she is still alive. It was six years
since she bought a bar of yellow or any other soap. But that is neither
here nor there. She was esteemed a witch--a white one of course. She
was a God-fearing woman, and had no relations with the Evil One, of
that one may be sure. How she subsisted was a puzzle to the whole
parish. But, then, she was generally feared. She received presents from
every farm and cottage. Sometimes she would meet a child coming from
school, and stay it, and fixing her wild dark eye on it, say, “My dear,
I knawed a child jist like you--same age, red rosy cheeks, and curlin’
black hair. And that child shrivelled up, shrumped like an apple as is
picked in the third quarter of the moon. The cheeks grew white, the
hair went out of curl, and she jist died right on end and away.”

Before the day was out, a chicken or a basket of eggs as a present from
the mother of that child was sure to arrive.

I have given an account of this same old woman in my _An Old English
Home_, and will here add a few more particulars about her. She
possessed of her own a two-storied house, thatched, built mainly of
cob, but with two chimneys of brick. Some five-and-twenty years ago the
house was habitable enough. The thatch had given way in several places,
but she could not or would not have it repaired. Perhaps she had not
the means; but the farmers offered her straw, and a thatcher would
have done the work for her gratis, or only for her blessing. She would
not. “God made the sky,” she said, “and that is the best roof of all.”
After a while, however, the roof became leaky everywhere. Then she
sought shelter for her head by stuffing up the chimney of her bedroom
fireplace with a sack filled with chaff, and pushing her bed to the
hearth, she slept with her head and pillow under the sack. But access
to this bedroom became difficult, as the stairs, exposed to the rain,
rotted and gave way, and she was compelled to ascend and descend by an
improvised ladder.



The rector of the parish went to her and remonstrated at the dangerous
condition of the tenement.

“My dear,” said she, “there be two angels every night sits on the rungs
of the ladder and watches there, that nobody comes nigh me, and they be
ready to hold up the timbers that they don’t fall on me.”

The rector’s daughter carried her some food every now and then. One day
the woman made her a present of some fine old lace. This was gratefully
accepted. As the young lady was departing, “Old Marianne” called after
her from the bedroom door, “Come back, my dear, I want that lace again.
If any one else be so gude as to give me aught, I shall want it to
make an acknowledgment of the kindness.” The lace was often given as
acknowledgment, and as often reclaimed.

After a while the ladder collapsed. Then the old woman descended for
good and all, and took up her abode on the ground floor--kitchen and
parlour, dining-room and bedroom all in one.

Finally the whole roof fell in and carried down the flooring of the
upper story, but in such manner that the “planchin” rested at one end
against the wall, but blocked up door and fireplace. Then she lived
under it as a lean-to roof, and without a fire for several winters,
amongst others that bitter one of 1893-4, and her only means of egress
and ingress was through the window. Of that half the number of panes
was broken and patched with rags. As the water poured into her room
she finally took refuge in an old oak chest, keeping the lid up with a

I knew her very well; she was a picturesque object. Once she and I
were photographed together standing among the ruins of her house. She
must have been handsome in her day, with a finely-cut profile, and
piercing dark eyes. She usually wore a red kerchief about her head or
neck and an old scarlet petticoat. But she was dirty--indescribably
so. Her hands were the colour of mahogany. She promised me her book
of charms. I never got it, and this was how. The huntsmen were wont,
whenever passing her wretched house, to shout “Marianne! Marianne!” and
draw up. Then from amidst the ruins came a muffled response, “Coming,
my dears, coming!” Presently she appeared. She was obliged to crawl
out of her window that opened into the garden and orchard at the back
of the house, go round it, and unlace a gate of thorns she had erected
as a protection to her garden; there she always received presents. One
day as usual the fox-hunters halted and called for her; she happened
at the time to have kindled a fire on the floor of her room to boil a
little water in a kettle for tea, and she left the fire burning when
she issued forth to converse with the gentlemen and extend her hand
for half-crowns. Whilst thus engaged the flames caught some straw that
littered the ground, they spread, set fire to the woodwork, and the
room was in a blaze. Everything was consumed, her chest-bed, her lace,
her book of charms. After that she was conveyed to the workhouse, where
she is still, and now is kept clean.

Once, before this catastrophe, I drove over to see her, taking my
youngest daughter with me. The child had breakings-out on her face;
Marianne noticed this. “Ah, my dear,” said she, “I see you want my
help. You must bring the little maiden to me, she must be fasting, and
then I will bless her face, and in two days she will be well.” Her cure
for whooping-cough was to cut the hair off the cross on a donkey’s
back, fasten it in silk bags, and tie these round the children’s
necks. “You see,” she said, “Christ Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an
ass, and ever since then asses have the cross on their backs, and the
hair of those crosses is holy and cures maladies.”

Although I did not obtain her book of charms, she gave me many of her
recipes. For fits one was to swallow wood-lice, pounded if one liked,
better swallowed _au naturel_.

_For Burns or Scalds._--Recite over the place:--

    There were three Angels who came from the North,
    One bringing Fire, the other brought Frost,
    The other he was the Holy Ghost.
            In Frost, out Fire! In the Name, etc.

_For a Sprain._--Recite: “As Christ was riding over Crolly Bridge, His
horse slid and sprained his leg. He alighted and spake the words: Bone
to bone, and sinew to sinew! and blessed it and it became well, and so
shall ... become well. In the Name, etc.” Repeat thrice.

_For Stanching Blood._--Recite: “Jesus was born in Bethlehem, baptized
in the river of Jordan. The water was wide and the river was rude
against the Holy Child. And He smote it with a rod, and it stood still,
and so shall your blood stand still. In the Name, etc.” Repeat thrice.

_Cure for Toothache._--“As our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
were walking in the garden of Jerusalem, Jesus said unto Peter, Why
weepest thou? Peter answered and said, Lord, I be terrible tormented
with the toothache. Jesus said unto Peter, If thou wilt believe in Me
and My words abide in thee, thou shall never more fill [_sic_] the pain
in thy tooth. Peter cried out with tears, Lord, I believe, help thou my
onbelieve [_sic_].”

_Another receipt for a Sprain._

    2 oz. of oil of turpentine.
    2 oz. of swillowes.
    2 oz. of oil of earthworms.
    2 oz. of nerve.
    2 oz. of oil of spideldock (? opodeldoc).
    2 oz. of Spanish flies.

I recommend this recipe to be taken to an apothecary. Order it to be
made up, and observe his face as he reads it.

Marianne had the gift of stanching blood even at a distance. On one
occasion when hay was being cut, a man wounded himself at Kelly, some
eight miles distant, and the blood flowed in streams. At once the
farmer bade a man take a kerchief dipped in his blood and gallop as
hard as he could to the tumble-down cottage, and get Marianne to bless
the blood. He did so, and was gone some three hours. As soon as the old
woman had charmed the kerchief the blood ceased to flow.

At one time, now thirty to forty years ago, it was not by any means
uncommon for one to meet the village postman walking with one hand
extended holding a kerchief that was sent to the White Witch to be
blessed. The rag must touch no other human being till it reached her.
Moreover, at my own village inn, people from a distance frequently
lodged so as to be able to consult the White Witch, and my tenant, the
landlady of the inn, was absolutely convinced of the efficacy of the
cures wrought.

The rector’s son went to call on Marianne, and she brought out for
him a filthy glass with poppy wine she had made, thick and muddy, and
offered it to him. “I am almost a teetotaler,” said he; “and so can
do no more than just sip this to your health and happiness,” and he
put his lips to the glass.

“Ah! Mr. Edward, dear,” said she, “I’ve offered thickey glass o’ wine
to some, and they’m so proud and haughty as they wouldn’t titch it; but
you’m no so--and now my blessing shall be wi’ you night and day--and
gude fortune shall ever attend you--that I promise you.”

[Illustration: A VILLAGE “WISE MAN”]

A writer in _Devon Notes and Queries_, October, 1906, writes:--

“Fifty-nine years ago, two years after breaking my arm, I evidently
chilled it by violent exercise and perspiring in a lengthened snowball
battle on Northernhay (Exeter). This caused a large surface wound which
neither doctor nor chemist could heal for months, but I had to renew
on all opportunities daily the application of bandages wetted with
Goulard’s Extract (acetate of lead and water). Months went by, still
no cure, and at last, in sheer despair, my mother, who had not long
left the country to live in Exeter, resolved to take me to a Seventh
Son whose fame was current in Exeter. He was at the time the carrier to
and from Moretonhampstead. He saw my arm as he stood by his wagon, and
bade my mother bring me the following Friday, when something was said
over the wound, and I was invested with a small velvet amulet, which I
believe contained the leg of a toad.

“The wet bandages were continued, and from that day to this I have
never been able to tell which effected the ultimate cure, the wet
bandages or the toad.

“About thirty years later I had of my own a seventh daughter, born
in succession. The news got about, and within a fortnight we had two
applications from troubled mothers. Would we let our dear baby lay her
hand on their child’s arm or leg, as may be, for it would not harm
mine and might cure theirs of King’s Evil?

“During the early years that I have named, there were several notable
white witches in Exeter who took lots of good fees for pretended good
services. Superstition dies slowly, for within the last seven years a
friend of mine with the same surname as the White Witch of 1840-50,
but a comparative new-comer to Exeter, was startled by an application
of which he, knowing nothing of old wives’ stories of Devon, could not
fathom the meaning until asking the writer if he could explain. About
1880 my wife was met at the door by a man who might by appearance have
been a small farmer. ‘Missus, be I gwain right?’ ‘Where do you want to
go?’ (A little hesitation.) ‘I waant to vind thickey wuman that tells
things. My cows be wished and I waant to vind out who dood it.’ So he
was told to go to a cottage behind Friars’ Green, where old Mrs.----
had a crop of fools for clients every Friday, and told them their
fortunes by tea-grounds and cards, much to her and their satisfaction;
but I certainly was amused to hear my wife say, ‘Oh, Jenny So-and-so,
Polly What’s-her-name, and various others, and I, have gone there lots
of times, and had our fortunes told for twopence.’”

At the beginning of this article I mentioned a farmer, a tenant of
mine, who professed to have been cured by “Old Snow,” of Tiverton.

Nine years after this I wrote the article on our Devonshire White
Witches in the _Daily Graphic_. This was transferred to one or two
Plymouth papers. Shortly after that, at our harvest festival, the
farmer turned up. He had left my farm and taken another elsewhere;
but he had a hankering after Lew Trenchard, and at our festival he
appeared, robust and hearty. He came to me and said, “Why, sir, you
have been putting me in the papers.” “Well, old friend,” said I, “I
said in it nothing but what was true.” “True, aye, aye, sir, true as
gospel. The doctors in Plymouth and Mr. Budd, of North Tawton, gave
me up, but Old Snow cured me. I met him on the platform of Tiverton
station, and told him my case. He looked me hard in the eye, and said
some words, and bade me go home and I was cured. Well, sir, from that
day I mended. You see now what I am.”

A friend wrote to me: “In 1891, my head man had an attack of influenza,
and this fell on his nerves, and convinced that he had been ill-wished,
he consulted a White Witch at Callington, who informed him that he had
been ‘overlooked’ by one of his own profession, and that he had applied
too late for a cure to be effected.”

Now the person who exhorted him to have recourse to the White Witch was
his daughter, who was mistress at the school of the parish.

The man eventually recovered, but not through the aid of the White

I know a farmer, a God-fearing, sensible man, and thriving in his farm
and piling up money, to whom recourse is continually had to stanch
wounds, and to cure abscesses, by striking the place and reciting
certain mystic sentences.

A witch, white or black, must communicate the secret of power to one of
an opposite sex before he or she can die--that is well known.

That in many cases the imagination acting on the nervous system acts
curatively “goes without saying.” It is that which really operates in
the faith cures and in the Lourdes miracles. What a bad time witches,
white or black, must have had when the short way with any one
suspected was to throw her into a pond! If she sank, why she sank and
was drowned, but had the satisfaction of being aware that her character
was cleared, whereas if she floated, she was a convicted witch and was

I am not, however, sure that we are not too lenient with the
professional White Witch nowadays, as the following incident will show.
I do not name the locality, certainly not the persons, for nothing was

A certain cattle-dealer three years ago was much troubled because his
daughter who had had influenza did not rally, but was rather strange
in her head. He went to the county capital to consult the White Witch.
The latter showed him a glass of water, and said that the person who
had overlooked his child was fair-haired and stout. Further, that she
had never been inside his doors, but that she would enter them on the
following Saturday.

The cattle-jobber looking into the glass of water thought he saw a
face--it was that of a woman who lived not far from him. What he really
saw was, of course, his own reflected, but with the words of the witch
ringing in his ears and guided by his imagination he conceived that he
saw a neighbour.

He returned home full of conviction and wrath. Next night the husband
of the fair-haired, stout woman woke after midnight, and heard a
strange crackling sound. He hastily dressed, and went outside his door,
when he saw that the thatch of his house was in flames. He hastened
to rouse his wife and family, there were six who slept in the house,
and he had barely drawn them outside, before the roof fell in and the
cottage was converted into one great bonfire. By the merest accident
it was that six persons were not burned in their beds. Next morning
the police, who investigated the matter, found evidence that the house
had been wilfully and deliberately set fire to. Some one had stepped
on to a hedge, and had lighted three lucifer matches, and in drawing
them from his pocket had drawn out and dropped at the same time two
halfpenny stamps. The first two matches had failed. The third took
effect. Who had been the incendiary was not discovered.

Of course the circumstance first mentioned may be entirely unconnected
with the second. But there can be no doubt that bitter animosities are
bred by the charges of “ill-wishing” and “overlooking” which are made
by the White Witches. They are far too shrewd to name names, but they
contrive to kindle and direct suspicions in their dupes which may lead
to serious results.

It is very difficult to bring these cases home, and on this immunity
they trade. But it is devoutly to be hoped that some day certain of
these gentry will be tripped up, and then, though magistrates can no
more send them to the stake, they will send them to cool their heels in
gaol, and richly they will deserve the punishment.


The pirates of Algiers had for some years been very troublesome, not
in the Mediterranean only, but also along the European coasts of the
Atlantic. Several English vessels trading to Smyrna had been plundered,
and the corsairs had even made descents on the coasts of England and
Ireland and had swept away people into slavery. James I proposed that
the different Christian powers should unite to destroy Algiers, the
principal port of these pirates. Spain, whose subjects suffered most,
engaged to co-operate, but withdrew at the last moment. Sir Robert
Mansell was placed in command of the English fleet, but provided with
an inefficient force, and given strict orders from the timid and
parsimonious James not on any account to endanger his vessels.

On 24 May, 1621, Sir Thomas sailed into the harbour of Algiers
and set fire to the Moorish ships and galleys; but had scarcely
retired--unwilling to follow up the advantage--when “a great cataract
of rain” hindered the spread of the fire; and the Algerines succeeded
in recovering all their ships with the exception of two, which burnt
to the water’s edge. The enemy brought their artillery to bear on the
English fleet, mounted batteries on the mole, and threw booms across
the mouth of the harbour. Mansell, hampered by his instructions, dared
not expose his vessels further and withdrew, having lost only eight
men; and returned to England. Among those who had sailed with him was
Richard Peeke, of Tavistock, who returned home much disgusted, “My Body
more wasted and weather-beaten, but my purse never the fuller nor my
pockets thicker lyned.”

Charles I came to the throne in 1625; and one of his first acts was to
organize and start an expedition against the Spanish. It was devised
for the sake of plunder. His treasury was empty; he was obliged to
borrow £3000 to procure provisions for his own table. Plate ships,
heavy-laden argosies, were arriving in the port of Spain from the New
World, and Buckingham suggested to him to fill his empty coffers by
the capture of these vessels. The English fleet counted eighty sail;
the Dutch contributed a squadron of sixteen sail; it was the greatest
joint naval power that had ever spread sail upon salt water--and this
made the world abroad wonder what the purpose was for which it was
assembled. Ten thousand men were embarked on the English vessels, and
the command of both fleet and army was given to Sir Edward Cecil, now
created Lord Wimbledon, a general who had served with very little
success in the Palatinate and the Low Countries. This appointment of a
mere landsman surprised and vexed the seamen. The position belonged to
Sir Robert Mansell, Vice-Admiral of England, in case the Admiral did
not go; but Buckingham had made the choice and persisted in it. The
fleet set sail in the month of October, and shaped its course for the
coast of Spain.

Richard Peeke had remained in Tavistock after his return from Algiers
till October, 1625, when--“The Drumbe beating up for a New Expedition
in which many noble Gentlemen, and Heroical Spirits, were to venture
their Honors, Lives and Fortunes: Cables could not hold me, for away I
would, and along I vowed to goe, and did so.” Peeke entered as sailor
on board the _Convertine_, under Captain Thomas Porter.

In the Bay of Biscay the ships were damaged and in part scattered by a
storm. One vessel foundered with a hundred and seventy men on board.
This was the beginning of misadventure. The confusion of orders was
such that the officers and soldiers scarcely knew who were in command
and whom they were to order about. When Wimbledon got in sight of the
Spanish shores, he summoned a council of war, the usual and dangerous
resource of an incompetent commander. His instructions were to
intercept the plate ships from America, to scour the Spanish shores and
destroy the shipping in the ports. But where should he begin? In the
council of war some recommended one point, some another; in the end it
was resolved to make for Cadiz Bay. But whilst they were consulting,
the Spaniards had got wind of their approach, and prepared to receive
them. Moreover, Wimbledon allowed seven large and rich Spanish vessels
to sail into the bay under his nose, and these afterwards did him much
damage. “’Tis thought,” says Howell, who had many friends with the
expedition, “that they being rich would have defrayed well near the
charge of our fleet.”

A sudden attack on the shipping at Cadiz and Port St. Maria could
hardly have failed even now, but the blundering and incompetent
Wimbledon preferred to land all his troops, and he succeeded in
capturing the paltry fort of Puntal, whilst his fleet remained inactive
outside the bay. Then he moved towards the bridge which connects the
Isle de Laon with the continent, to cut off communications. No enemy
was visible; but in the wine-cellars of the country, which were broken
open and plundered, a foe was found which has ever been more dangerous
to undisciplined English troops than bullets and sabres. The men, under
no control, got drunk, and became totally unmanageable; and if the
Spaniards had been on the alert they might have cut them to pieces.
Lord Wimbledon then ordered a retreat, but this was conducted in such a
manner that hundreds of stragglers were left behind to fall under the
knives of the enraged peasantry.

Richard Peeke, not being a soldier, did not accompany the army; but at
midday thought that he might as well also go ashore to refresh himself.
He did so, and met some of the men laden with oranges and lemons. He
inquired of them where the enemy was. They replied that they had not
seen a Spaniard. Thereupon “we parted, they to the shippes, I forward,
and before I reached a mile, I found three Englishmen starke dead,
being slayne, lying in the way, and one, some small distance off, not
fully dead.” Whilst Peeke was assisting the wounded man, a Spanish
cavaliero, whose name he afterwards learned was Don Juan de Cadiz, came
up and attacked him, but Peeke flapped his cloak in the eyes of the
horse, which swerved, and Peeke mastered the Don, and threw him down.
The Spaniard pleaded for mercy, and Peeke, after emptying the Don’s
pocket of a few coins, bade him depart. At that moment, however, up
came fourteen Spanish musketeers. “Thus farre, my Voyage for Oranges
sped well, but in the end prooved sower sauce to me.” The musketeers
overpowered Peeke, and the ungrateful Don stabbed at him, “and wounded
me through the face from eare to eare, and had there killed me, had not
the foureteen muskatiers rescued me from his rage. Upon this I was led
in triumph into the town of Cales [Cadiz]; an owl not more wondered
and hooted at, a dog not more cursed. In my being ledde thus along the
streets, a Flemming spying me cryed out alowde, Whither do you leade
this English dogge? Kill him, kill him, he’s no Christian. And with
that, breaking through the crowde, in upon those who held mee, ranne me
into the body with a halbert, at the reynes of my back, at least foure

He was taken before the Governor, who had him well treated and attended
by surgeons, and when he was better, dispatched him to Xeres, which he
calls Sherrys. Meanwhile his captain, Porter, induced Lord Wimbledon to
send a messenger on shore and offer to ransom Peeke at any reasonable
price; but the Spanish Governor, supposing him to be a man of far
greater consequence than he was, refused this, and at Xeres he was had
up on 15 November before a council of war, consisting of three dukes,
four counts, four marquesses, and other great persons. Two Irish friars
attended as interpreters. These men had been in England the year before
acting as spies and bringing to Spain reports of the number of guns
and troops in Plymouth. “At my first appearing before the Lordes my
sword lying before them on a table, the Duke of Medina asked me if I
knew that weapon. It was reached to me, I tooke it, and embraced it in
mine armes, and with tears in mine eyes kist the pomell of it. He then
demanded, how many men I had kild with that weapon. I told him if I
had kild one I had not bene there now, before that princely Assembly,
for when I had him at my foote begging for mercy, I gave him life, yet
he then very poorely did me a mischiefe. Then they asked Don John what
wounds I gave him. He sayd, None. Upon this he was rebuked and told
that if upon our first encounter he had run me through, it had been
a faire and noble triumph, but so to wound me being in the hands of
others, they held it base.”

He was now closely questioned as to the fleet, the number of guns in
the vessels, the fortifications of Plymouth, the garrison and the
ordnance there, and was greatly surprised to find how accurately the
Council was informed on every point.

“By the common people who encompast me round, many jeerings, mockeries,
scorns and bitter jests were to my face thrown upon our Nation. At
the length one of the Spaniards called Englishmen _gallinas_ (hens);
at which the great lords fell a laughing. Hereupon one of the Dukes,
poynting to the Spanish soldiers, bid me note how their King kept them.
And indeed, they were all wondrous brave in apparell, hattes, bandes,
cuffes, garters, etc., and some of them in chaines of gold. And asked
further if I thought these would prove such hennes as our English, when
next year they should come into England? I sayd no. But being somewhat
emboldened by his merry countenance, I told him as merrily, I thought
they would be within one degree of hennes, and would prove pullets or
chickens. Darst thou then (quoth Duke Medina, with a brow half angry)
fight with one of these Spanish pullets?

“O my Lord, said I, I am a prisoner, and my life is at stake, and
therefore dare not be so bold to adventure upon any such action; yet
with the license of this princely Assembly, I dare hazard the breaking
of a rapier; and withall told him, he was unworthy the name of an
Englishman that should refuse to fight with one man of any nation
whatsoever. Hereupon my shackells were knocked off, and my iron ring
and chayne taken from my neck.

“Roome was made for the combatants, rapier and dagger the weapons. A
Spanish champion presents himselfe, named Signior Tiago, Whom after we
had played some reasonable good time, I disarmed, as thus--I caught his
rapier betwixt the barr of my poignard and there held it, till I closed
in with him, and tripping up his heeles, I tooke his weapons out of his
hands, and delivered them to the Dukes.

“I was then demanded, If I durst fight against another. I told them,
my heart was good to adventure, but humbly requested them to give me
pardon if I refused, for I too well knew that the Spaniard is haughty,
impatient of the least affront, and when he receives but a touch of any
dishonour, his revenge is implacable, mortall and bloody.

“Yet being by the noblemen pressed again and again to try my fortune
with another, I sayd, That if their Graces and Greatnesses would
give me leave to play at mine owne Countrey weapon, called the
Quarter-staffe, I was then ready there, an opposite against any comer,
whom they would call foorth; and would willingly lay doune my life
before those princes, to doe them service, provided my life might by no
foule means be taken from me.

“Hereupon, the head of a halbert which went with a screw was taken off,
and the steall [staff] delivered to me; the other but-end of the staffe
having a short iron pike in it. This was my armor, and in my place I
stood, expecting an opponent.

“At last, a handsome and well-spirited Spaniard steps foorth with his
rapier and poignard. They asked me what I sayd to him. I told them I
had a sure friend in my hand that never failed me, and made little
account of that one to play with. Then a second, armed as before,
presents himselfe. I demanded if there would come no more. The Duke
asked, how many I desired. I told them any number under six. Which
resolution of mine they smiling at it in a kind of scorne, held it not
manly nor fit for their own honors and glory of their nation, to worry
one man with a multitude; and therefore appointed three only to enter
the lists.

    Three to One:

    Being, An Engliſh-Spaniſh Combat,

    Performed by a _Weſterne_ Gentleman, of _Tauyſtoke_ in _Deuon
    ſhire_, with an Engliſh Quarter-Staffe, againſt Three _Spaniſh_
    Rapiers and Poniards, at _Sherries_ in _Spaine_,

    The fifteene day of Nouember, 1625.

    In the Preſence of Dukes, Condes, Marqueſſes, and other Great
    Dons of _Spaine_, being the Counſell of Warre.

    The Author of this Booke, and Actor in this Encounter, _Richard


    Printed an London for _I. T._ and are to be sold at his Shoppe.


“The rapier men traversed their ground, I mine. Dangerous thrusts were
put in, and with dangerous hazard avoyded. Showtes echoed to heaven, to
encourage the Spaniards, not a shoute nor a hand to hearten the poore
Englishman; only Heaven I had in mine eye, the honour of my Countrey in
my heart, my fame at the stake, my life on a narrow bridge, and death
both before me and behind me.

“Plucking up a good heart, seeing myself faint and wearied, I vowed to
my soule to do something ere she departed from me; and so setting all
upon one cast, it was my good fortune with the but-end where the iron
pike was to kill one of the three; and within a few boutes after, to
disarme the other two, causing one of them to fly into the armie of
soldiers then present, and the other for refuge fled behind the bench.

“Now was I in greater danger; for a generall murmure filled the ayre,
with threatenings at me; the soldiers especially bit their thumbes, and
how was it possible for me to scape?

“Which the noble Duke of Medina Sidonia seeing called me to him, and
instantly caused proclamation to be made, that none, on paine of death,
should meddle with mee. And by his honourable protection I got off. And
not off, only, with safety, but with money, for by the Dukes and Condes
were given me in gold to the value of foure pounds tenne shillings
sterling, and by the Marquesse Alquenezes himself as much; he embracing
me in his armes and bestowing upon me that long Spanish russet cloake
I now weare, which he tooke from one of his men’s backs; and withall
furnished me with a cleane band and cuffes.”

The Spaniards, nobly appreciating the bravery of their captive, and
discovering that instead of being a man of great consequence he was a
mere sailor before the mast, and not likely to be redeemed at a great
price, resolved to give him liberty, and under the conduct of four
gentlemen attached to the suite of the Marquess Alquenezes, he was
sent to Madrid to be presented to the King. During Peeke’s stay in
Madrid, which he calls Madrill, he was the guest of the Marquess. The
Marchioness showed him great kindness, and on his leaving presented him
with a gold chain and jewels for his wife, and pretty things for his
children. On Christmas Day he was presented to the King, the Queen, and
Don Carlos, the Infante.

“Being brought before him, I fell (as it was fitt) on my knees. Many
questions were demanded of me, which so well as my plaine witte
directed me, I resolved.

“In the end, his Majesty offered me a yearly pension (to a good vallew)
if I would serve him, eyther at land or at sea; for which his royal
favour, I confessing myself infinitely bound, most humbly intreated,
that with his princely leave, I might be suffered to returne into mine
own Countrey, being a subject onely to the King of England my sovereign.

“And besides that bond of allegiance there was another obligation due
from me, to a wife and children. And therefore most submissively beg’d,
that his Majesty would be so princely minded as to pitty my estate and
to let me goe. To which he at last granted, bestowing upon me, one
hundred pistoletts, to beare my charges.

“Having thus left Spaine, I took my way through some part of France,
and hoysting sail for England I landed on the 23rd day of Aprill, 1626,
at Foy in Cornwall.”

Whilst Peeke was in Spain, Lord Wimbledon had been blundering with his
fleet and army worse than before. After he had reshipped his army,
there still remained the hope of intercepting the plate fleet, but
an infectious disorder broke out in the ships of Lord Delaware, and
in consequence of an insane order given by Wimbledon, that the sick
should be distributed into the healthy ships, the malady spread. After
beating about for eighteen days with a dreadful mortality on board,
and without catching a glimpse of the treasure vessels from the New
World, Lord Wimbledon resolved to carry his dishonoured flag home
again, “which was done in a confused manner, and without any observance
of sea orders.” The plate fleet, which had been hugging the coast of
Barbary, appeared off the coast of Spain two or three days after his
departure, and entered safely into the harbour of Cadiz. Moreover,
whilst he was master of these seas, a fleet of fifty sail, laden with
treasure, got safe into Lisbon, from Brazil. With the troops and crews
dreadfully reduced in numbers, with sickness and discontent in every
vessel, and without a single prize of the least value, Lord Wimbledon
arrived in Plymouth Sound, to be hissed and hooted by the indignant
people, and to have his name of Cecil ridiculed as Sit-still. This
sorry and unsuccessful expedition which had cost Charles so much was a
grievous blow to him. A thousand men had perished in the expedition,
a great sum of money had been thrown away, and the whole country was
roused to anger. The Privy Council was convened and an examination
into the miscarriage was instituted, but the statements of the
officers were discordant, their complaints reciprocal, and after a long
investigation, it was deemed expedient to bury the whole matter in

It has been well said, that the only man who of the whole expedition
came out with credit to himself and to his country was Richard Peeke,
of Tavistock, who earned for himself the epithet of “Manly.”

What became of Peeke afterwards we do not know; in the troubles of the
Civil War he doubtless played a part, and almost certainly on the side
of the Crown. The authority for the story is a rare pamphlet by Peeke
himself, entitled, “Three to One, Being, An English-Spanish Combat,
Performed by a Westerne Gentleman, of Tavystoke in Devonshire, with an
English Quarter-Staffe, against Three Spanish Rapiers and Poniards, at
Sherries in Spaine, The fifteene day of November, 1625 ... the Author
of this Booke, and Actor in this Encounter, _Richard Peeke_.” There is
no date to it. This has been reprinted by Mr. Arber in his _English
Garner_, and large extracts have been given by Mr. Brooking-Rowe in
his article, “Manly Peeke, of Tavistock,” in the _Transactions_ of the
Devonshire Association, 1879. Reprinted also as supplement to _Devon
Notes and Queries_, 1905. I have not in the above extracts strictly
confined myself to the spelling, nor have I reproduced the capital
letters employed profusely that are somewhat teasing to the eye of the
modern reader.


Mrs. Bray, in her _Borders of the Tamar and the Tavy_, written in
1832-3, quoting a letter from her husband, the Rev. E. Atkins Bray, to
Mr. Lysons, dated 16 January, 1819, tells the following story relative
to Judge Glanville, of Kilworthy, near Tavistock:--

“The Judge’s daughter was attached to George Stanwich, a young man
of Tavistock, lieutenant of a man-of-war, whose letters, the father
disapproving of the attachment, were intercepted. An old miser of
Plymouth, of the name of Page, wishing to have an heir to disappoint
his relations, who perhaps were too confident in calculating upon
sharing his wealth, availed himself of the apparent neglect of the
young sailor, and settling on her a good jointure obtained her hand.
She took with her a maid-servant from Tavistock; but her husband was
so penurious that he dismissed all the other servants, and caused
his wife and her maid to do all the work themselves. On an interview
subsequently taking place between her and Stanwich, she accused him
of neglecting to write to her; and then discovered that his letters
had been intercepted. The maid advised them to get rid of the old
gentleman, and Stanwich at length, with great reluctance, consented
to their putting an end to him. Page lived in what was afterwards the
Mayoralty House (at Plymouth), and a woman who lived opposite hearing
at night some sand thrown against a window, thinking it was her own,
arose, and, looking out, saw a young gentleman near Page’s window, and
heard him say, ‘For God’s sake stay your hand!’ A female replied, ‘’Tis
too late, the deed is done.’ On the following morning it was given
out that Page had died suddenly in the night, and as soon as possible
he was buried. On the testimony, however, of his neighbour, the body
was taken up again; and it appearing that he had been strangled, his
wife, Stanwich, and the maid, were tried and executed. It is current
among the common people here, that Judge Glanville, her own father,
pronounced her sentence.”

In another place, Mrs. Bray says:--

“Respecting Sir John, or ‘Old Page,’ I am informed by Mr. Hughes
(who is well acquainted with many locally interesting stories and
traditions) that he was an eminent merchant in his day, commonly called
‘Wealthy Page.’ He lived in Woolster Street, Plymouth, in the house
since known by the name of the Mayoralty. It stood untouched till the
rebuilding of the Guildhall, when it was taken down. The old house
was long an object of curiosity on account of the atrocious murder
there committed. Mr. Hughes likewise tells me that some years ago,
previous to the repairs in St. Andrew’s Church, Plymouth, Page’s coffin
was discovered, on breaking the ground near the communion table for
the interment of a lady named Lovell. The inscription on the coffin
proved it to contain the body of the ‘wealthy Page.’ It was opened;
the remains were found in a remarkably perfect state, but crumbled to
dust on being exposed to the air. So great was the curiosity of the
populace, that during several days hundreds pressed in to gratify it,
and every relic that could be stolen, if but a nail from the coffin,
was carried off.”

Judge Glanville, M.P. for Tavistock in 1586, was the third son of
John Glanville, of Tavistock, merchant. The family had been settled
at Holwell, in Whitchurch, hard by, where they had been tanners, and
though the house has been pulled down and rebuilt, yet the old tan-pits

Judge Glanville married Alice, daughter of John Skirett, of Tavistock,
and widow of Sir Francis Godolphin. By her he had a numerous family,
but Mistress Page, whose Christian name was Eulalia, is not recorded in
the _Heralds’ Visitation_ as one of them. This, however, is in itself
no evidence against her having been his daughter, as having disgraced
the family she would be omitted from the pedigree. Thus, in the family
of Langford, of Langford, in Bratton Clovelly, Margaret, daughter
of Moses Langford, born in February, 1605, had a base child who was
christened Hilary, in January, 1618, when she was aged thirteen, and
married Hilary Hill, of Chimsworthy, presumedly the father, in 1619.
When the family recorded their pedigree in 1620, they omitted Margaret
from it altogether.

It is therefore no evidence that Eulalia was not Judge Glanville’s
daughter that her name does not appear in the recorded pedigree. We
shall see presently, however, that she was his niece, and not his

The whole of the portion relating to Page is printed in the
_Shakespeare Society’s Papers_, II (1845, 80-5). From this we learn
that Mrs. Page made an attempt to poison her husband, and when that
failed, induced “one of her servants, named Robert Priddis [i.e.
Prideaux],” to murder him, and “she so corrupted him ... that he
solemnly undertook and vowed to performe the task to her contentment.
On the other side, Strangwidge hired one Tom Stone to be an actor in
this tragicall action.” The deed was accomplished about ten o’clock on
the night of 11 February, 1590-1.

A full and particular account of the murder is in “A true discourse
of a cruel and inhumane murder, committed upon M. Padge, of Plimouth,
the 11th day of February last, 1591, by the consent of his own wife
and sundry others.” From this we learn that a Mr. Glandfeeld, a man
of good wealth and account as any in the county, lived at Tavistock,
and that he favoured a young man named George Strangwidge, and turned
over to him his shop and wares, as an experienced man in business,
having learned it in the shop of Mr. Powell, of Bread Street, London.
Mr. Glandfeeld was so pleased with him, that he proposed taking
Strangwidge into partnership and marrying his daughter to him. But he
changed his mind, being moved by ambition and avarice, and he and his
wife insisted on her marrying a widower named Page, of Plymouth, an
elderly man and a miser, and as Glandfeeld purposed himself removing
to Plymouth, he thought that it would be best to have his daughter
near him. This daughter was with difficulty persuaded to consent,
but did so in the end. The result was that she took the old husband
in detestation, and plotted with Strangwidge how to get rid of him.
For about a year she made sundry attempts to poison him, but his good
constitution prevailed. She on her part worked on one of her servants,
Robert Priddis or Prideaux, and induced him for the sum of £140 reward,
to murder the old man. On the other hand, Strangwidge induced one Tom
Stone to assist in the deed, also for the sake of payment. “These two
instruments wickedly prepared themselves to effect this desperate and
villainous deed on the 11th February, being Wednesday, on which night
following the act was committed; but it is to be remembered that this
Mistress Page lay not then with her husband, by reason of the untimely
birth of a child ... dead born; upon which cause she kept her chamber,
having before sworn that she would never bear child of his getting that
should prosper; which argued a most ungodly mind in this woman, for in
that sort she had been the death of two of her own children.

“About ten of the clock at night, Mr. Page being in bed slumbering,
could not happen upon a sound sleep, and lay musing to himself, Tom
Stone came softly and knocked at the door, whereupon Priddis, his
companion, did let him in; and by reason that Mistress Page gave them
straight charge to dispatch it that night, whatsoever came of it, they
drew towards the bed, intending immediately to go about it. Mr. Page,
being not asleep, asked who came in, whereat Priddis leaped upon his
master, being in his bed, who roused himself and got upon his feet,
and had been hard enough for his man, but that Stone flew upon him,
and took the kerchief from his head, and knitting the same about his
neck, they immediately stifled him; and, as it appeareth, even in the
anguish of death, Mr. Page greatly laboured to put the kerchief from
about his neck, by reason of the marks and scratches which he had made
with his nails upon his throat, but therewith he could not prevail, for
they would not slip their hold until he was full dead. This done, they
laid him overthwart the bed, and against the bedside broke his neck;
and when they saw he was surely dead, they stretched him and laid him
on his bed again, spreading the clothes in ordinary sort, as though no
such act had been attempted, but that he had died on God’s hand.

“Whereupon Priddis immediately went to Mistress Page’s chamber and
told her that all was dispatched; and about an hour after he came to
his mistress’s chamber door, and called aloud, ‘Mistress, let somebody
look into my master’s chamber, methinks I heard him groan.’ With that
she called her maid, who was not privy to anything, and had her light a
candle, whereupon she slipped on a petticoat and went thither likewise,
sending her maid first into the chamber, when she herself stood at the
door. The maid simply felt on her master’s face and found him cold and
stiff, and told her mistress so; whereat she bade the maid warm a cloth
and wrap it about his feet, which she did; and when she felt his legs,
they were as cold as clay; whereat she cried out, saying her master was

“Whereupon her mistress got her to bed, and caused her man Priddis to
go call her father, Mr. Glandfeeld, then dwelling in Plymouth, and
sent for one of her husband’s sisters likewise, to make haste if ever
she would see her brother alive, for he was taken with the disease
called the pull (palsy), as they call it in that country. These persons
being sent for came immediately; whereat Mistress Page arose, and in
a counterfeit manner swooned; whereby there was no suspicion a long
time concerning any murder performed upon him, until Mrs. Harris,
his sister, spied blood about his bosom, which he had with his nails
procured by scratching for the kerchief when it was about his throat.
They then moved his head, and found his neck broken, and on both
knees the skin beaten off, by striving with them to save his life.
Mistress Harris hereupon perceiving how he was made away, went to the
Mayor and the worshipful of the town, desiring of them justice, and
entreated them to come and behold this lamentable spectacle, which they
immediately performed, and by searching him found that he was murdered
the same night.

“Upon this the Mayor committed Priddis to prison, who, being examined,
did impeach Tom Stone, showing that he was a chief actor in the same.
This Thomas Stone was married upon the next day after the murder was
committed, and being in the midst of his jollity, was suddenly attached
and committed to prison to bear his fellow company.

“Thus did the Lord unfold this wretched deed, whereby immediately
the said Mistress Page attached upon murder, and examined before
Sir Francis Drake, Knight, with the Mayor and other magistrates of
Plymouth, who denied not the same, but said she had rather die with
Strangwidge than live with Page.

“At the same time also the said George Strangwidge was nearly come
to Plymouth, being very heavy and doubtful by reason he had given
consent to the murder; who, being in company with some of London, was
apprehended and called before the justices for the same, whereupon he
confessed the truth of all and offered to prove that he had written
a letter to Plymouth before coming thither, that at any hand they
should not perform the act. Nevertheless, Mr. Page was murdered before
the coming of this letter, and therefore he was sent to prison with
the rest to Exeter; and at the Assizes holden this last Lent, the
said George Strangwidge, Mistress Page, Priddis, and Tom Stone, were
condemned and adjudged to die for the said fact, and were all executed
accordingly upon Saturday the 20th February last, 1591.”

This is circumstantial enough, and contemporary, and it shows how that
the story travelling down traditionally has been altered.

The tract above quoted--we have modernized the spelling--does not,
however, give the Christian name of Mistress Page, and gives us the
name of her father, Glandfeeld, a merchant tradesman of Tavistock.
Glandfeeld is the same as Glanville, just as Priddis is the same as
Prideaux, and as Grenville appears in the registers and in deeds as
Grenfeeld and Greenfield.

That she was not the daughter of Justice Glanville is plain from the
above account, but she was a niece, for Eulalia was the daughter of
Nicolas, the eldest son of John Glanville, merchant, of Tavistock;
he and another brother, Thomas, were in trade at Tavistock, and they
were both brothers of Judge Glanville. This we learn from the Heralds’
Visitation of Cornwall for 1620, where Eulalia is entered as daughter
of Nicolas, but with no details concerning her.

There appeared several ballads concerning the tragedy.

1. “The Lamentation of Master Page’s wife of Plimouth, who being
enforced by her parents to wed against her will, did most wickedly
consent to his murther, for the love of _George Strangwidge_, for which
fact she suffered death at Bar[n]staple in Devonshire. Written with her
own hand a little before her death.” This is, of course, untrue. It is
one of those supposititious confessions written by the common ballad
monger. By this we know that her Christian name was _Ulalia_.

2. “The Lamentation of _George Strangwidge_, who for consenting to the
death of Master _Page of Plimouth_, suffered Death at Bar[n]staple.” In
this occurs the statement that she was the daughter of “Glandfield.”

    O Glandfield, cause of my committed crime,
    Snared in wealth, as Birds in bush of lime,

         *       *       *       *       *

    I would to God thy wisdome had been more,
    Or that I had not entered in the door;
    Or that thou hadst a kinder Father beene
    Unto thy Child, whose yeares are yet but greene.

    The match unmeete which thou for much didst make,
    When aged _Page_ thy Daughter home did take,
    Well maist thou rue with teares that cannot dry.
    Which was the cause that foure of us must dye.

    _Ulalia_ faire, more bright than Summer’s sunne,
    Whose beauty hath my heart for ever won,
    My soule more sobs to thinke of thy disgrace,
    Than to behold mine own untimely race.

In this also, as will be seen, Mistress Page is Eulalia, and her father
Glandfield is said to have been rich.

3. “The Sorrowful Complaint of _Mistress Page_ for causing her husband
to be murdered, for the love of _George Strangwidge_, who were executed
together.” This contains no particulars relative to her relationship to
the Glanvilles.

It may at first sight seem strange that a crime committed at Plymouth
should be expiated at Barnstaple, but the reason is simple enough.
In September, 1589, the plague broke out in Exeter, and it was very
fatal in that year, according to Lysons. Under ordinary circumstances
the murderers of Page would have been tried at Exeter; but with the
terrible remembrance of the “Black Assize” in that city in 1586, when
the judge, eight justices, and all the jury except one, fell victims to
the gaol fever; and the plague continuing there, the assizes of 1590
(o.s.) were removed to Barnstaple.

The Diary of Philip Wyot, town clerk of Barnstaple from 1586 to 1608,
has been printed by Mr. J. R. Chanter in his _Literary History of
Barnstaple_, and he records that the assize was held in 1590 at Honiton
and at Great Torrington, “the plague being much at Exeter,” and he
gives particulars of the assizes held at Barnstaple in the ensuing
March, 1591 (n.s.), and he terminates thus:--

“The gibbet was set up on the Castle Green and xvii prisoners hanged,
whereof iiij of Plymouth for a murder.”

The parish register gives the particulars and the names:--

“Here ffolloweth the names of the Prysoners w^{ch} were Buryed in the
Church yeard of Barnistaple ye syce [assize] week.

    “March 1590-1.

                   *       *       *       *       *

“George Strongewithe, Buryed the xx^{th} daye.

“Thomas Stone, Buryed the xx^{th} daye.

“Robert Preidyox, Buryed at Bishopstawton y^e xx^{th} daye.”

The three men were hanged, but Eulalia Page was burnt alive, as guilty
of petty treason. Moreover, her uncle, Justice Glanville, did not
condemn her to the stake. He was serjeant-at-law, and was not made a
Justice of the Common Pleas till 1598, when he was knighted. He died in
1600, and his stately monument is in Tavistock Church.

The judge who sentenced Eulalia Page was, as Wyot tells us, “Lord
Anderson,” who tried all the cases “and gave judgment upon those who
were to be executed.” But John Glanville, serjeant-at-law, was present
at these assizes; for Wyot gives the list of the lawyers present at the
time, and he names “Sergt. Glandyl” as lodging at Roy Cades. Glandyl is
a mistake for Glandvyl.

As the crime of Eulalia Page was one of petty treason, she would be
burnt alive, and not hanged. Petty treason, according to a statute 25
Edward III, consists in (1) a servant killing his master; (2) a wife
her husband; (3) an ecclesiastic his superior, to whom he owes faith
and obedience. The punishment of petty treason in a man was to be drawn
and hanged, and in a woman to be drawn and burned.

Catherine Hayes was burned alive in 1726 for the murder of her husband.
She is the Catherine whom Thackeray took as heroine of the story
under that name. In 1769 Susanna Lott was burned for the murder of
her husband at Canterbury. A poor girl, aged fifteen, was burnt at
Heavitree by Exeter, in 1782, for poisoning her master. A woman was
burnt for causing the death of her husband, at Winchester, in 1783.

A writer in _Notes and Queries_, August 10, 1850, says: “I will state
a circumstance that occurred to myself in 1788. Passing in a hackney
coach up the Old Bailey to West Smithfield, I saw unquenched embers of
a fire opposite Newgate. On my alighting, I asked the coachman, ‘What
was that fire in the Old Bailey over which the wheel of your coach
passed?’ ‘Oh, sir,’ he replied, ‘they have been burning a woman for
murdering her husband.’”

In 1790, Sir Benjamin Hammett in the House of Commons called attention
to the then state of the law. He said that it had been his painful
office and duty in the previous year to attend the burning of a female,
he being at the time Sheriff of London; and he moved to bring in a Bill
to alter the law. He showed that the sheriff who shrank from executing
the sentence of burning alive was liable to a prosecution, but he
thanked Heaven that there was not a man in England who would carry such
a sentence literally into execution. The executioner was allowed to
strangle the woman condemned to the stake before flames were applied;
but such an act of humanity was a violation of the law, subjecting
executioner and sheriff to penalties. The Act was passed 30 George III,
c. 48.

Popular tradition has erred on many points. It has made Eulalia the
daughter instead of the niece of John Glanville, it has represented
him as a judge to try her seven years before he was created a judge.
Tradition will have it that after the sentence of Eulalia he never
smiled again. That is possible enough, as he may have defended her at
the assizes, and may have witnessed her execution.

Information concerning, and republication of tracts and ballads
relative to the murder of Page are in H. F. Whitfeld’s _Plymouth and
Devonport, in Times of War and Peace_, Plymouth, 1900. This also gives
extracts from, and mention of, plays founded on the story.


James Wyatt was born at Woodbury on the Exe in the year 1707. His
father was a shoemaker, but James lost both him and his mother when
he was very young. He had a brother and two sisters, and he was the
youngest of the four. After the death of his parents his eldest sister
took care of him, sent him to school, and when old enough to work
got him employment on a farm, where he remained till he was fourteen
years of age; but, not liking farm work, his sister apprenticed him
to a woolcomber and dyer at Wembury. His master was a very honest,
good-natured man, and taught him his business well, and this, as we
shall see in the sequel, was of the highest advantage to him.

As soon as his time of apprenticeship was up he entered as gunner’s
server on board the _York_ man-of-war. In 1726 he went with Sir
John Jennings to Lisbon and Gibraltar. Next he served on board the
_Experiment_ under Captain Radish; but his taste for the sea failed for
a while, and he was lured by the superior attractions of a puppet-show
to engage with the proprietor, named Churchill, and to play the trumpet
at his performances. During four years he travelled with the show,
then tiring of dancing dolls, reverted to woolcombing and dyeing at
Trowbridge. But a travelling menagerie was too much for him, and he
followed that as trumpeter for four years. In 1741, he left the wild
beasts and entered as trumpeter on board the _Revenge_ privateer,
Captain Wemble, commander, who was going on a cruise against the
Spaniards. The privateer fell in with a Spanish vessel from Malaga, and
gave chase. She made all the sail she could, but in four or five hours
the _Revenge_ came up with her. “We fir’d five times at her. She had
made everything ready to fight us, but seeing the number of our hands
(which were one hundred in all, though three parts of them were boys)
she at length brought to. We brought the captain and mate on board our
ship, and put twelve men on board theirs, one of which was the master,
and our captain gave him orders to carry her into Plymouth.” Of the
prize-money Wyatt got forty shillings. The capture did not prove to be
as richly laden as had been anticipated.

We need not follow his adventures in the privateer, though they are
interesting enough, and give a lively picture of the audacity of these
venturers, till we come to his capture. The _Revenge_ was cruising
about among the Canary Islands, when a Spanish vessel ran for Teneriffe
from Palma, and was at once pursued. She sped for Gomera, but unable to
weather the point came to anchor within half a cable’s length of the
shore. She was a bark of sixty tons burthen, and as the _Revenge_ drew
more water and the captain feared sunken rocks, he ordered the yawl to
be hoisted out and to be manned with eleven hands.

[Illustration: James Wyat Ætat. 40.

_Reproduced from the frontispiece to “The Life and Surprizing
Adventures of James Wyatt, Written by Himself,” 1755_]

“We were three hours after we left the ship before we got within
musket-shot of the bark. Our master ask’d us if we were all willing
to board her. We answered, one and all, we were. We saw twelve men
ashore, and made directly towards them. Our master said, ‘My boys,
the bark’s our own, for these men belong’d to her, but have left her;
let us give them one volley, and then board the bark.’ We had two
brass blunderbusses, mounted on swivels, in the bow of the boat. Our
master stepp’d forward to one of them himself, and order’d me to the
other. We had no sooner discharged the blunderbusses, but two or three
hundred men came from behind the rocks. We had been so long getting to
the bark that the men belonging to her, unknown to us, had got out of
her, gone up country, and brought these people to their assistance. Our
blunderbusses being discharged, the men from behind the rocks kept up a
constant fire at us; and, at the very first fire, our master received
a ball just above his right eye, and another went almost through my
right shoulder. We rowed directly to the bark. The lieutenant, myself,
and four more leapt into her, and those that were in the boat handed in
our arms. As soon as we were in the bark, the lieutenant order’d one of
our men to take a pole-axe and cut the cable, saying she would drive
off. I told him if the cable was cut she would certainly drive ashore,
for she was then almost upon the breakers. He seem’d a little angry at
what I said, though had my advice been followed, it had been better for
us all; for, as soon as the cable was cut, she turn’d broadside to the
sea, and in a few minutes after struck ashore against the rocks.

“By the bark’s swinging round, our boat was exposed to the fire of the
enemy; upon which Mr. Perry, our master-at-arms (he had been organist
at Ross parish church) order’d the three men in the boat to row off. In
less than a minute I saw Mr. Perry drop to the bottom of the boat, shot
through the heart.

“While the Spaniards were firing at our boat, we that were in the bark
kept firing at them. We fired as fast as possible, and threw all our
hand-granades ashore, which did some execution. Our lieutenant being
shot, and our powder almost exhausted, we laid down our arms. As soon
as the Spaniards saw this, they came on board us. The first man they
saw was our lieutenant, who, although he was dead, they began to cut in
a very cruel manner. The next man they came to was William Knock, whom
they butcher’d in a most barbarous manner, several of them cutting him
with their long hooks at once, though he cry’d out for mercy all the
time. In the same manner they serv’d all in the bark but myself.

“Being in the bow of the bark, seeing their cruelty to our men, and
expecting the same fate every moment, I took the blunderbuss which I
had in one hand, and laid it on a pease cask, being unable to hold it
high enough to fire, as the ball remain’d still in my right shoulder.
When I saw them coming towards me, I rais’d it up with all my might, as
though I was going to fire it at them, upon which they all ran to the
other side of the bark, and from thence leapt ashore.

“At that very instant a great sea came in, and turned the bark on one
side, with her keel towards the shore. This gave me an opportunity of
pulling off my clothes and jumping into the water, in order to swim to
my ship. As soon as they saw me they began to fire at me from every
side. Five small shot lodg’d between my shoulders, three in the poll of
my neck, and one ball graz’d my left shoulder; besides the ball which I
had before receiv’d in my right shoulder.

“I kept on swimming till I was out of the reach of their balls; and
I should have been able to have swam to our own ship, had not the
Spaniards launch’d their boat and come after me. As soon as they came
up to me, one of the men who stood in the bow of the boat, and had a
half-pike in his hand, pointed towards me and said in the Spanish
language, ‘Down, down, you English dog.’ Then they pulled me into the
boat. As I stood upright in the boat, one of the Spaniards struck me a
blow on the breast with such violence, that it beat me backwards, and
I fell to the bottom of the boat; after which they row’d ashore. When
they came ashore, they haul’d me out of the boat as though I had been
a dog; which I regarded not at the time, being very weak and faint
with swimming and the loss of blood. On their bringing me ashore, the
enraged multitude crowded round me, and carried me a little way from
the place where they had landed; they placed me against a rock to shoot
me, and threatened to run me through with a half-pike if I offered to

“While I was plac’d against the rock, and expecting death every moment,
I saw a gentleman expostulating with the mob, and endeavouring to
prevail with them to spare my life. After a small time he came directly
to me and said in English, ‘Countryman, don’t be afraid; they want to
kill you, but they shall not.’ He then turn’d his back to me, stood
close before me, opened his breast, and said if they shot me they
should shoot him likewise.”

His preserver was an Irishman, named William Ryan, who spoke Spanish
fluently, and had been in the bark on his way to Santa Cruz in
Teneriffe. He was apparently a man who had lived some time in the
Canaries, and had been a trader. He was very kind to James Wyatt, gave
him some clothes, and washed his wounds with brandy.

After that he was taken to Gomera, where the deputy-governor lived, and
by means of an interpreter Wyatt was able to explain to him that he
was in great pain and had a ball in his shoulder. The deputy-governor
sent for a barber, who with a razor cut across the wound this way and
that till he saw the ball, which he hooked out with a bent nail. The
ball had gone eight inches through the fleshy part of the shoulder
and was lodged against the bone. From Gomera Wyatt was sent by boat
to Teneriffe to the head governor, who received and examined him. The
governor’s mother took compassion on him, saw that he was well fed, and
sent a proper surgeon to dress his wounds, and made him a present of
three shirts and two handkerchiefs to make into a sling for his arm.
Next day the kind old lady sent him a pair of silk stockings, a hat, a
black silk waistcoat, and a dollar in money.

Wyatt was now transferred to the castle at Laguna, above Santa Cruz,
where he found five-and-twenty English prisoners, among whom was a
physician, Dr. Ross. It was some time before he was healed of his
wounds, but eventually did recover.

One day a man came to the castle with a drum on his back, and Wyatt
at once asked him to be allowed to beat it. To this he consented, and
Wyatt beat a march. Though not a skilled drummer, his performance
greatly delighted the owner of the drum, and he rushed off to an
acquaintance, a gentleman, to announce that among the English prisoners
was the first drummer in the world.

The gentleman was much excited and sent for him, and was delighted.
After that at every dinner party, entertainment, gathering, Wyatt was
in requisition to rattle the drum, on which occasions he received
little sums of money, which he employed in relieving the needs of his
fellow prisoners.

After he had been twenty-eight days in the castle he was sent for to
Santa Cruz to the general, who had heard that he drummed, and was eager
to hear the performance. This pleased him so well that he asked Wyatt
if he would teach the black boy of a friend of his how to handle the
drum-sticks. Wyatt consented, and thus obtained much liberty, for the
owner of the black boy, whom he called Don Mathias Caster, took him
into his own house. As instructing the boy did not occupy the whole
of Wyatt’s time, he resolved on turning his knowledge of dyeing to
advantage. The Spanish love black; and as the gentleman told him, black
cloaks and dresses in the sun and with the dust soon turned rusty. He
gave him an old kettle and lent him an outhouse, and Wyatt converted
the latter into a dye-house and re-dyed the cloth garments of most of
the gentlemen of Santa Cruz, and received from each a remuneration.

Dr. Ross had been released from prison on condition that he set up as
a physician in Santa Cruz, where the Spanish doctors were ignorant and
unsuccessful. But Ross had no house to go into. He consulted Wyatt.
“I will build you one of wood,” said this Jack-of-all-trades. “I know
something of carpentering.” Accordingly he set to work, built a shanty,
painted it gaily, enclosed a garden, surrounded it with a palisade, and
dug the ground up for flowers and vegetables and herbs.

A Spanish gentleman was so delighted with the house of Dr. Ross that
he asked Wyatt to build him one. Wyatt agreed, but in the midst of the
work was arrested by soldiers from Grand Canary and conveyed thither to
be examined by the Inquisition, which supposed him to be a Freemason.
He had happily provided himself with letters of recommendation from
a number of leading men in the isle of Teneriffe to whom he had done
services, and in return for blackening their suits they did their best
to whiten his character. After several hearings he was discharged, but
one unfortunate Englishman languished for two years in their dungeons,
labouring under the suspicion of being a Freemason.

On his return to Santa Cruz, Wyatt completed the house on which he had
begun, and then looked about for more work. Don Mathias Caster said to
him one day, “Our hats cost us a deal of money and soon get shabby.” “I
know how to dye, and I know something about the hatting trade,” said
Wyatt promptly, “for when I was an apprentice, there was a hatter next
door, and I kept my eyes open and watched his proceedings.”

Accordingly Don Mathias gave him one of his old hats to dress. Wyatt
immediately had a hat-block made, dyed the hat, cleaned the lace, and
carried it to the Don the same day.

“When I show’d it to him, he was surpriz’d to see how well I had made
it look. He told me, if I would do other gentlemen’s hats as well as I
had done his, I might get an estate in a few years, and that he would
help me to business enough.” That same evening in came two hats, next
morning five--and then they rained on him, and he charged half a dollar
for renovating each. He had soon realized £20.

One night he was roused by the cry of fire, and running out saw a crowd
standing gaping at the house of the Portuguese consul that was on fire
in the top story. No one did anything--there was no one to take the
lead, and the family was fast asleep within. Wyatt got a crowbar and
an axe, broke down the door, and rescued the consul and his wife and
all the family save one child that was burnt. The fire rapidly spread,
as the houses were of wood, to the next house belonging to the French
consul. He and his were rescued. The next, but not adjoining, house
was that of the general. But what intervened made its destruction
probable, for this was a cellar full of brandy and rum casks. The
general’s house had a flat roof. Wyatt organized a chain of water
carriers, and standing on the roof poured water incessantly over the
side of the house licked by the flames, and this he continued to do
till the fire burnt itself out.

Next day the general sent for him, thanked him for having saved his
house, and presented him with a passport authorizing him to carry on
his trade and travel freely between the seven islands.

In the beginning of June, 1742, an English vessel was brought into
harbour, the _Young Neptune_, Captain Winter, that had been captured
by a Spanish privateer. Wyatt soon became intimate with the captain
and his mate, and after a while they confided to him a plan they had
discussed of escaping to Madeira, whence they could easily obtain a
passage to England or Holland. The scheme was that he, Winter, the
captain, Burroughs, the mate, and four other Englishmen should steal
a boat from a galleon laid up in the bay and make their escape in
the night. Wyatt eagerly agreed to be one of the party; and the plan
was carried into effect on the 29th of June. There were seven in
the boat, the captain and mate aforenamed, Smith, Swanwick, Larder,
Newell, and Wyatt. The boat had five oars and a sprit-sail. The
captain had a compass, but no quadrant. At first the wind blew fair,
but speedily turned to the contrary direction desired, so that all
hopes of making Madeira had to be abandoned. The wind rose to a gale
and the men were worn out with bailing. They had to clear the boat of
water with two pails and their hats. On 2 July they sighted a point of
land which they took to be Cape Bojadore, and they steered south in
hopes of reaching Gambia. On 7 July they saw a low sandy island, and
a sloop ashore, and made at once for land. On disembarking they were
surrounded by a swarm of Moors and negroes, the former of whom could
speak a little Portuguese, and two of them spoke broken English. Wyatt
and the rest were conducted inland to where there was a village of
squalid huts. Here they were given some fish and a little water. They
speedily discovered that the Moors had no intention of letting them go
to Gambia, but purposed making off with their boat and leaving them
to perish on the island where there was no water, all that was used
having to be brought in skins from the mainland. Presently a number
of the Moors departed in the boat of the Europeans, leaving behind
only one large boat that was rotten, and a small one; and some of the
Moors remained to see that the English carpenter repaired the decayed
vessel, intending when that was done to leave the Europeans behind.
These consulted and resolved on getting possession of the little boat
and escaping in it. As a precaution they contrived to get hold of the
fishing spears of the Moors, so that these might have as few weapons as
possible, should it come to a fight.

The carpenter then, with the tools that had been given to him for the
purpose of repairing the large boat, set to work to knock holes in her
bottom, so that she might not be used in pursuit.

Then the little party, having got together, made for the small boat.
“I had got the hammer and the adze, the carpenter had the hatchet, and
the rest of our people had fishing spears. The Moors, perceiving us
make towards the boat, ran between that and us, in order to prevent our
getting into her. This began the fight, for the carpenter beat Marta
into the water, which was about three feet deep, with the hatchet,
and Duckamar presently after him. I struck Mahomet with the adze, and
took off a piece of flesh and part of his ear. In an instant every one
was out of their huts, and pulling them down in order to get sticks to
fight us. Seeing this, we ran to the assistance of our countrymen as
fast as we could, leaving the two Moors that fell into the water for

“The Moors came very near us with the sticks they pulled out of their
huts, and threw them at us, one of which hit Robert Larder and broke
his thumb. One of our men, looking round, saw the two Moors who we
thought were dead standing up against the side of the boat. Upon his
saying they were there, I ran towards them, having still the hammer in
one hand and the adze in the other. When they saw me coming, they ran
round the boat, got to their companions, and fought as well as though
they had not been hurt.

“We were obliged to keep our ground, for fear some of the Moors should
get into the little boat, in which we intended to make our escape, and
which was not an hundred yards behind us. At length one of the Moors
came running behind Mr. Burroughs, and gave him a terrible blow on the
head with a stick. Mr. Burroughs immediately turned round and struck
at him, but missed him. The man ran directly up the island; and Mr.
Burroughs, in the hurry not thinking of the consequence, ran after him.
We kept calling to him to come back to us, when, on a sudden, the Moors
took to their heels and ran after him. Some of them presently came up
with him, knocked him down with their sticks, and cut his throat from
ear to ear. Some of them then turned back and made towards their little
boat, thinking to have got her off in order to prevent our escape. As
soon as we saw that, we all ran as fast as possible to secure the
boat. As I was the nearest to the boat I got soonest to her; but there
was one of the Moors had got to the boat before me, and was getting up
her side. I gave him a blow on his back with the hammer; upon which he
let go his hold and fell into the water. As he was falling I hit him
another blow on the head; upon which he fell under the boat, and rose
on the other side.

“While we were in the fight, three of our men got into the boat, and
kept calling to the rest to come in likewise; which at length we did,
retreating all the way with our faces towards the Moors. When we came
to the boat, the other three, with the fishing spears, kept off the
Moors till we got in, cut the grappling loose, and drove away with the

It was not possible to get far in this little boat, and the party made
for the mainland, where they were at once set upon by other Moors,
who stripped them of their shirts, and held them prisoners till those
from the island arrived, and these latter fell on them and beat and
trampled on them unmercifully, and would have cut their throats had not
the mainland Moors restrained them by saying that the King or Sultan
of the Gum Coast must be informed that there were European prisoners
there, and that he would decide what was to be done with them. They
were then tied in pairs back to back and carried back to the island,
where they were cast on the floor of a tent, and left thus without food
or water for four days. After that they were sparingly fed, untied,
and made to work as slaves. After some weeks an officer called Abede
arrived with nineteen men, reviewed them, and left. As soon as he was
gone Swanwick, the carpenter, was taken away by the island Moors, and
no tidings of what became of him ever reached the rest. Sixteen days
after the officer had left he returned with orders from the King or
Sultan that all who remained of the prisoners were to be transferred to
the mainland and conducted across the desert to the French factory at
Senegal, where he hoped to receive pay from the French for surrendering

The party had been taken prisoners by the Moors on 7 July, 1742, and
they were not released and committed to the charge of Abede till
13 November, so that they had remained in durance and in miserable
condition for four months and six days. At one time, when deprived of
their shirts and exposed to the sun, their faces and bodies were so
blistered that they were unable to recognize each other, save by their
voices. They had now a long and painful journey over the desert, under
the charge of Abede, that lasted till the 23rd December, when they were
near Senegal, and Abede dispatched a messenger to the French factors to
announce that the European prisoners were at hand, and to bargain for a
sum to be paid for their release. They had been tramping over burning
sands, insufficiently fed, for forty days. Whilst waiting for news from
the factory the Moors killed an ox, and gave the head and guts to the
English prisoners. They boiled the meat on the sand and devoured it
greedily--it was the first flesh they had tasted for upwards of six

“Sometime after we got some caravances. Having eaten no pulse for
several months, we hardly knew when we had enough. But we suffered
severely for it, for we were presently afterwards taken extremely ill.
The Moors seeing we were very bad, gave us the urine of goats to drink.
This purged us prodigiously, and we remained ill for several hours;
but, when it had worked off, we grew speedily well.”

Five days more elapsed before an answer arrived from the factory. On 28
December the messenger returned in a sloop sent from the factory to
bring the prisoners to Senegal. The captain brought clothes for them,
and gave them “an elegant entertainment, consisting of fowls, fresh
meat, etc.”

On 29 December they were conveyed to the factory at Senegal, and were
most kindly received by the French, and they remained there for a month
all but a day; and then were sent in a French sloop to Gambia, on 28
January, 1743, which they reached on 31 January. Gambia was an English
settlement, a fort, and a factory; and there also the poor fellows were
kindly and hospitably entertained, provided with money and all they

The time of their sufferings was now over.

“The 1st February I went on board the _Robert_, Captain Dent,
commander, lying in Gambia River. He was hir’d by the African Company
and was laden with gum arabick, elephants’ teeth, bees-wax, &c. I told
him our case, and that I wanted to come to England; upon which he
kindly promised me, or all of us, if we were so disposed, our passage
to England _gratis_, provided we would work our way home. Captain
Winter, however, had business to transact in Jamaica, and preferred
to wait till a vessel would take him thither; two of the men remained
at Gambia, and the rest, saying that they had no homes or friends in
England, preferred to go to the West Indies and earn some money before
they returned to the right and tight little island.

“It was an unfortunate decision of Captain Winter. He and Larder sailed
in a schooner bound for Jamaica, but never reached his destination,
as the vessel was lost, and every one of the crew and passengers was

“We set sail from Gambia the 3rd of February, 1743, and arrived in the
river Thames on the 16th of April following; so that we were just two
months and thirteen days in our passage to England.”

On the 29th May, 1741, James Wyatt had entered as trumpeter on board
the _Revenge_, privateer, and was away on her almost two years, during
which time he had undergone as many hardships as ever man did--enough
to break down the health of one who did not possess a constitution of

Wyatt now visited his friends, and was warmly welcomed, and all would
have given him money to start him in some business. One gentleman
offered to advance him a thousand pounds; but he declined these
generous offers. The French at Senegal and the English at Gambia had
been so liberal that he had enough for his purpose. He now bought an
electrical machine, and turned showman in London, giving people shocks
at a shilling a head. This answered for a while, and then public
interest in the machine slackened there, so he toured in the country.

“At some towns I scarce took money enough to bear my expenses, the
people not knowing the meaning of the word Electricity; nor would they
give the price I usually got in London; for, talking of a shilling each
person, frightened them out of their wits. In some towns in Kent I had
very good business, and saved a pretty deal of money; but, even then,
I was forced to lower my price. In these towns the people knew what it
meant, and that the thing was very curious and surprising. They came,
when the price was not so high, in great numbers, and sometimes many
miles, to be electrified.”

He remained in Kent two months and made twelve pounds. Then it occurred
to him that he would go with his battery to Jamaica, where the novelty
of the machine was certain to create a stir.

Whilst preparing for the voyage, he undertook to manufacture an optical
contrivance for a gentleman, and was well paid for it.

Then he bought a pair of gloves and abundance of clothes, as clothes he
learned were very dear in the West Indies.

“At length the time of the ship’s sailing being near at hand, I settled
my affairs, took my leave of my friends, and went on board the ship on
the 25th April, 1747.

“After having experienced various vicissitudes of fortune, I am once
more going into a strange land: for, though there is nothing new under
the sun, yet the eye is never satisfied with seeing.”

Wyatt had committed his adventures to paper before starting, and had
disposed of the MS. to a publisher. The book sold well, and the sixth
edition was called for in 1755, but in it no further particulars are
given of Wyatt, so that it must be assumed either that he was then dead
or that he was still abroad.

What strikes one in reading his Memoirs is the indefatigable energy and
the resourcefulness of the man. He could turn his hand to anything. He
kept his eyes open, and was ever eager to acquire information.

His _Life and Surprising Adventures_ has his portrait in copper plate
prefixed to it. He wears a wig, and a laced and embroidered waistcoat,
open at the breast to display his fine frilled shirt.


This is the story of the life of an able, versatile, and learned man,
neglected, and his “unregarded age in corners thrown.”

He was born 4 March, 1743, at Downhouse, in the parish of Tavistock,
of respectable parents. They moved whilst he was still an infant to a
farm belonging to them, Knighton, in the parish of Hennock. As a child
he was fond of mechanics, and amused himself with contriving various
pieces of machinery. When aged eight years he watched the construction
of a mill, and imitated it in small in wood, thoroughly grasping all
the points in the mechanism. After a while the workmen engaged on the
mill came to a difficulty, and the mill stopped, nor could they rectify
the fault. Little Will Davy pointed out the defects; they saw that he
was right, remedied the defects, and the mill ran “suently.”

He was educated at the Exeter Grammar School, and at the age of
eighteen matriculated at Balliol College, Oxford. Whilst there the idea
came into his head to produce a great work of divinity, a compendium of
evidence of the origin of the Christian Faith; but the idea lay dormant
for a few years.

On leaving college he was ordained to the curacy of Moreton Hampstead,
and married Sarah, daughter of a Mr. Gilbert, of Longabrook, near
Kingsbridge. When settled into his curacy he began to reduce to order
the plan he had devised of writing a _General System of Theology_, and
wrote twelve volumes of MS. on the subject.

Then he shifted to Drewsteignton. His preaching was complained of to
the Bishop of Exeter, who sent for him. He took his twelve volumes of
MS. with him and showed them to the Bishop, and bade him look through
them and mark any lapse from orthodoxy.

This was more than the Bishop was disposed to do; he ran his fingers
through the pages, he could do no more. “What the parishioners
objected to,” said Davy, “was not that I taught false doctrine, but
that I rebuke vicious habits that prevail.” Actually, doubtless,
it was his long-winded discourses on the evidence for a God, and
for the immortality of the soul, that the people objected to. They,
simple souls, no more needed these evidences than they did that they
themselves lived and talked and listened.

The Bishop was courteous, and promised Davy that he would give him any
living that fell vacant, and asked him if he had a preference for one.
Davy humbly replied that there was a certain benefice likely to be
vacated very shortly that would suit him exactly. The Bishop promised
to remember this, and of course forgot, and appointed some one else,
one more of a toady, or better connected.

Davy continued his mechanical work and executed several ingenious
pieces of machinery.

Then he was appointed to the curacy of Lustleigh at £40 per annum; but
from that sum was deducted £5 for the rent of the rectory in which he
had to live, the incumbent being non-resident.

Whilst at Lustleigh he published by subscription six volumes of sermons
and lost £100 by the transaction, as many of the subscribers failed to
pay for the books sent to them.


    Printed by W^m. Sharland.        R. Cooper sculp.


Then he took to farming, but he had no experience and lost money by it,
and had to abandon the farm.

The ambition of his life was to publish his _System of Divinity_, which
would utterly refute atheism, deism, and every _ism_ under the sun, and
establish the doctrine of the Church on a sound basis. But no publisher
or printer would undertake the mighty work unless sure of payment; and
the price asked was far beyond the means of Davy. Determined to bring
his great work before the world, he constructed his own printing press,
and bought type, but could not afford to purchase more than would
enable him to set up four pages of his book at a time.

Accordingly he did this, struck off forty copies, broke up the type
and printed four more, and so on. He taught his servant, Mary Hole, to
compose type, and these two worked together, and at last completed the
work in twenty-six volumes, each of nearly five hundred pages. When
the first volume was completed he sent copies to the Bishop, the Dean
and Chapter, the Archdeacon, the Universities, and other persons of
repute for learning. But he received no encouragement. Some of those to
whom he sent his book did not trouble to acknowledge having received
it. When the vast work was complete in twenty-six volumes, he sent a
copy to his diocesan, Dr. Fisher, who ungraciously said to Davy, when
he called at the Palace, “I cannot be supposed to be able to notice
every trifle that appears in print.” To this Davy replied, “If your
Lordship considers twenty-six volumes 8vo, the labour of fifty years in
collecting, compiling, and printing, to be a trifle, I most certainly
cannot allow myself to expect from your Lordship either approbation or

At last he retired from the parsonage of Lustleigh, discountenanced
and discouraged, to a small farm of his own, called Willmead. His
curacy was now advanced to £60, and he had not to keep up the large
rectory. At Willmead he amused his leisure hours with gardening. He
moved the granite boulders, arranged terraces among the rocks, and
formed a herbaceous garden, in which he took the liveliest interest.
Whilst here he invented a diving-bell, and prepared his contrivance for
use to raise the guns and other property lost in the _Royal George_
(1782), but he had not the means to cause a model of his machine to be
made, and his idea was taken up and carried out by others. But Davy was
by no means the first inventor of the diving-bell, Dr. Halley had made
one in or about 1720; it was of wood covered with lead, and air was
supplied through barrels attached to it. But the plan proposed by Davy
was far in advance of this, and was, in fact, practically that of the
diving-bell as now in use. It was not till 1817 that the _Royal George_
was surveyed by means of a diving-bell, and portions of the cargo, the
guns, etc., were not raised till 1839-42. At length, at the age of
eighty-two, Davy was presented in 1825 to the vicarage of Winkleigh,
and that not by either the Bishop or the Dean and Chapter.

But this preferment coming so late in life was rather a cruelty to him
than a favour granted. It removed him from his garden, in which he had
spent such happy hours, and which was crowded with his collections
of rare plants procured with difficulty and from distances, from all
his little contrivances, and from the comforts of his own residence.
He had to shift quarters in December, caught a chill in the raw damp
vicarage to which he removed, and after holding the benefice for five
months, expired there on 13 June, 1826, and was laid in the chancel of

After his death three volumes of extracts from his _System of Divinity_
were published, together with a Memoir, by the Rev. C. Davy, Exeter,
1827, and fell as flat as had the twenty-six volumes from which
these withered arguments were culled, and no man--not a theologian
even--would think it worth his while now to read a dozen pages of the
work. But the intention was good--he was persistent in carrying it out,
he had the honour and glory of God before his eyes, and he worked for
that, and certainly will receive the commendation, “Well done, good and
faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” though bishops
and deans and archdeacons and the well-beneficed clergy, “bene nati,
bene vestiti et moderate docti,” showed him the cold shoulder here

But one cannot fail to regret that, placed where he had been, at
Moreton, at Drewsteignton, at Lustleigh, his active mind had not been
turned to more profitable pursuits. What might he not have gleaned,
then, among the traditions of the people! What stores of ballads might
he not have collected! What careful plans and descriptions he might
have made of the prehistoric relics that then abounded around him, then
almost intact, now to such a large extent wrecked and swept away.

At Drewsteignton there was a most remarkable collection of stone
circles and avenues and menhirs, and all have gone, not one is now
left, only the dolmen of Shilstone remains. One accurate plan drawn
by Davy, and draw and plan he could, would have been worth all his
twenty-six volumes of _System of Divinity_.


The following curious story is from the pen of the lady whose
experience is recorded. I know both her and the localities; also a good
many of the particulars, and all the names; but for good reasons it has
been thought advisable to disguise both the name of the place and of
the persons mentioned. Every particular is absolutely true, excepting
the names that are fictitious.

“On the 1st August, 1904, we heard that we had succeeded by the death
of an aunt of my husband to a considerable property in South Devon, and
as bad luck would have it, the mansion on the estate had been let just
two months before on a short lease. It was our duty to make Devonshire
our home at once and for the future, and the wearying undertaking was
before us of looking out for a suitable house.

“A few days after this I had a dream remarkably distinct and
impressive, so impressive was it that on awaking every particular
therein was stamped indelibly on my mind.

“I thought that I was looking over a large empty house, and I was
conscious at the time that it was in Devonshire. A man was showing me
through it, and we had just reached the top of the front and principal
staircase, and stood on a broad landing, with many bedroom doors
opening on to it. I observed one short narrow passage that led down to
a door, and in that doorway, at the end of the passage, I saw a tall
handsome woman in grey, deadly pale, with clean-cut features, carrying
a little child of about two years of age or under upon her arm. The
thought struck me, ‘Who can she be?’ But I almost immediately said to
myself, ‘What can it matter to me who she is?’

“The caretaker of the house immediately, and without noticing her, led
me to that very room, and went past her without a word or turning his
head towards her. I followed, and in so doing brushed past the Grey
Woman, also without a word.

“On entering the room I saw that in it was a second door in the same
end wall in which was that by which I had come in, and that between
these two doors was a broad space. I at once decided that this should
be my bedchamber, and that I would place my bed between the two doors,
as most convenient for the light and for the fireplace.

“Then, suddenly, without awaking, my dream shifted, and I thought that
I was in that identical room, and in my own bed, placed where I had
designed to place it; that all my belongings were about me.

“Next, the second door, that by which I had not entered, was opened,
and again I saw the Grey Woman come in, with the little one toddling
before her pushing before it a round wheel-toy with coloured beads on
the spokes. I nudged my husband and said, ‘Alex, there is a nurse with
a child in the room.’ True to life he answered, ‘_Bosh!_’ Nevertheless,
I repeated, ‘Alex, look there--a nurse and child really are in the

By this time the pair had walked round the foot of the bed, almost to
his side. He raised himself on one arm, and exclaimed, ‘Good Lord! so
there is.’ Then I said, ‘And they have both been dead long years ago.’

“After that I remember nothing further till I awoke in the morning.

“The dream had made such an impression on me, that at breakfast I told
my daughter, and in the afternoon some friends came in to tea, and I
again repeated my story, provoking great interest in the sweet ghost
babe--much more so than in the nurse.

“I forgot to state that in my dream I felt quite aware that the doorway
through which the Grey Woman and the child had passed did not open out
of another bedroom, but communicated with the back part of the house.

“Weeks went by, and the dream, without being forgotten in any single
particular, passed from my thoughts, now occupied with more practical
matters--considering the lists of houses sent to us by various agents.
One of these gentry had forwarded to us a special notice of a house
that read like the description of a palace. We, having no ambition that
way, put it down, without considering it for a moment.

“Some days later I called on the agent, and then put down the palatial
notice on his table, with the remark that this was not at all the sort
of mansion that we required.

“Towards the end of September we made another expedition to Devon to
see a particular house near B----. I took the train to the station and
visited this house, but in ten minutes satisfied myself that it would
not do. We had about five hours on hand before the train was due that
would take us back to Exeter, and we were at a loss how to spend the
time. Suddenly the thought struck me that the impossible house was
somewhere in the neighbourhood, and rather than spend hours dawdling on
the railway platform, I proposed to my daughter that we should go and
see it. The driver of the carriage we had hired said that the distance
was seven miles, but that he could very well take us there and back so
as to catch the up train. We thought so too--but speedily discovered
that his horse was extremely leisurely in its movements, and that we
should not be able to spend much time in viewing the house. The day was
beautiful, the sun was bright, the sky blue, and the trees just touched
with autumn frost, and turning every colour.

“We traversed a maze of lanes and finally reached a lonely house, shut
up, and standing in something of a jungle, trees all round it. A farm
was near by, and we sent to ask if the keys were kept there. They were,
and we were soon inside. We were delighted, and said at once, ‘This is
just what we want; the very house to suit us.’ We returned full of it,
but it must be admitted after a very hurried run through the inside.
There was an entrance hall, thence led a staircase to a broad landing,
out of which opened many bedroom doors, and there was a passage leading
a short way to another room. But that all this was precisely like my
dream did not occur to me at the time. We were in a hurry, afraid to
miss our train, and my mind was occupied with house-hunting and the
dream was temporarily forgotten. In my dream, it must be remembered,
I had _not_ seen the exterior of the house in which appeared the Grey

“On our return to Exeter we made a full report to my husband of what we
had seen and decided; he had been kept from accompanying us by illness.

“We now entered into negotiations, and speedily all was settled. The
drains had all to be looked to and put in order before we could take
possession, which was not till the first week in December.

“About a fortnight before we moved into the house, after it had been
repainted and furnished, my daughter rushed to my room one morning
exclaiming, ‘Mother--you have after all taken the Ghost-dream House,’
and so it was in every particular, and I had chosen the very room for
mine and arranged to place my bed in the very position I had determined
on in my dream.

“At last the move was made, I feeling sure that the Grey Nurse and
Little Child were part and parcel of the house.

“In coming into the property an astonishing number of old deeds in
many chests had been handed over to us, and demanded sorting and
investigation. A large number of them pertained to the estates that
my husband owned, some of them going back five hundred years and
impossible for those inexperienced in court-hand and legal documents
full of contractions to decipher. But there were others that did not
belong to our property, that had come into the hands of a collateral
great-great-uncle, a noted lawyer, who had taken the remainder of a
lease for ninety-nine years of manors and estates, and which manors
and estates on the termination of the lease had reverted to the
proprietors; nevertheless, the deeds had been retained relative to this
particular lease.

“Whilst I was engaged along with an upholsterer daily in hanging
curtains, arranging carpets, choosing wall-papers, hanging pictures and
the like, my husband and daughter occupied themselves in wading through
and cataloguing and assorting the vast accumulation of deeds, to the
best of their ability.

“At the end of a fortnight they both came to me in great excitement,
to inform me that they had come across all the papers, deeds, and
parchments for generations back concerning the very house we had just
rented, and into which we had settled. This was strange indeed. Till
this moment we had entertained not the smallest suspicion that this
particular house and manor had ever in any way belonged to one of the
family from which my husband had inherited his estate.

“The deeds showed that in 1747, the great-great-uncle--if he may be so
termed, there being no blood-relationship--had taken this particular
house and property along with another much larger for the rest of the
term of ninety-nine years, i.e. for the remaining eighty-eight years.
The lease had terminated in 1835. The old parchments had been locked up
and probably had never been looked at since.

“A week later, a new surprise. My husband and daughter in overhauling
these deeds had come, as they declared, on the nurse. On the margin of
an old deed were written these words:--

“‘Anna Maria Welland, daughter of John Welland, married Mr. Cresford
in 1771, and died in 1772, having only been married fourteen months.
She left an only child, born March 8th, 1772, died the following year.
Mrs. Lock, of Old Bond Street, took the body in a box to Barclay, in
Gloucestershire; Mrs. Runt, who nursed the child that died, had two
herself by Mr. Cresford, one of whom she substituted for the dead
child of Anna Maria, the wife of Mr. Cresford. Harkett, a servant of
Mr. Cresford, on a search being made about two years ago at Barclay,
admitted in the presence of the Hon. Mr. Maxwell and others, the fact
of the child having been placed there for that purpose, and then went
to the spot under Mr. Cresford’s [word illegible] room, and found the
box which is now in London. Mrs. Runt (the nurse) died in 1826. She
married a miller named Harris, and she admitted to Miss Birdwood (who
is now living) that she had bastard children, and that one of such was
Mrs. Francis.’”

This substituted child grew up and inherited the Welland property and
married a Mr. Francis, to whom the estate went after her death. There
were no children. Here is the pedigree:--

                                Samuel Welland,
                                 _d._ 1735.
      |                              |                  |
    Walter,                        John=...           Richard=...
    _d._ 1742.    _d._ 1746. |                     |
                                       |                     |
                  +--------------------+                     |
                  |                                          |
             Anna Maria=S. Cresford     =...Runt.          Samuel,
       _d._ 1772. | _d._ 1823.: _d._ 1826.   _d._ 1780.
                       |                :
           +-----------+                :.......
           |                                   :
         Anna,                               Anna=Thos. Francis.
        _b._ 1772,        (substituted child),
        _d._ 1773.             _d._ 1811.

In the above account and in the pedigree all the names are fictitious
except those of Mrs. Runt and the servant, Harkett.

Now, was Mr. Cresford in the plot? Did Mrs. Runt make away with Anna,
the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Cresford? That he should have connived
at the murder of his child is improbable. When he heard that Anna was
dead, did he agree to have the body smuggled away in a box to his own
family seat in Gloucestershire, and hidden under the floor in his room?
That is not so unlikely. That he was an utterly unprincipled man is
clear. At the same time that he married the heiress of the Wellands, he
was carrying on an intrigue with Mrs. Runt, and he had a daughter by
her of the same age--or thereabouts--as his legitimate daughter by his

It may be suspected with some probability that Mrs. Runt did purposely
make away with the little heiress, and then, having told Mr. Cresford
that it had died a natural death, induced him to agree to the
substitution of his bastard daughter for his legitimate child who was
dead, so that this bastard might inherit the Welland estate.

The stay of the lady who wrote the above, and her husband and daughter,
at this Welland House was short. Unexpectedly their own mansion became
vacant, and they moved at once to it. But during the time they were at
Welland she never saw the Grey Woman.


“A True and Exact Account of the Retaking a ship, called the _Friend’s
Adventure_ of Topsham, from the French; after She had been taken six
days, and they were upon the Coasts of France with it four days. When
one Englishman and a Boy set upon seven Frenchmen, killed two of them,
took the other Five prisoners, and brought the said Ship and them safe
to England. Their Majesties’ Customs of the said Ship amounted to £1000
and upwards. Performed and written by Robert Lyde, Mate of the same
ship.” London, 1693.

In February, 1689, Robert Lyde, of Topsham, shipped on board a pink
of the same port, eighty tons, Isaac Stoneham, master, bound for
Virginia, and on 18 May following arrived there, took in a lading, and
set sail in company with a hundred merchantmen for home under convoy
of two men-of-war. A fortnight after, storms separated the Topsham
boat from the convoy, so that she had to make the best of her way home
alone, and on 19 October came up with two Plymouth vessels of the
fleet about forty leagues west of Scilly, the wind easterly. On the
21st the crew saw four other ships to leeward which they took to be
some of their consorts, but which proved to be French privateers. They
managed to escape them, but were captured by a privateer of St. Malo,
of twenty-two guns and over a hundred men, on 24 October, and were
taken to St. Malo as prisoners, where they were detained and treated
with gross inhumanity, during seventeen days. Lyde says: “If we had
been taken by Turks, we could not have been used worse. For bread we
had 6 lbs. and one cheek of a Bullock for every 25 men for a day; and
it fell out that he that had half a Bullock’s eye for his lot, had the
greatest share.” After seventeen days they were all removed to Dinan,
where were many other English prisoners confined in the cramped tower
of the fortification that is still standing, with its small cells. Here
they were herded together in a place not fit to contain one quarter of
the number, and there they were retained for three months and ten days.
“Our allowance was 3 lb. of old Cow-Beef without any Salt to flavour
it, for seven men a day; but I think we had 2 lbs. of Bread for each
Man, but it was so bad that Dogs would not eat it, neither could we eat
but very little, and that that we did eat did us more hurt than good,
for ’twas more Orts than Bread, so we gave some of it to the Hogs, and
made Pillows of the rest to lay our Heads on, for they allowed us fresh
Straw but once every five weeks, so that we bred such swarms of lice
in our Rags that one Man had a great Hole eaten through his Throat by
them, which was not perceived till after his Death, and I myself was so
weak that it was 14 weeks after my releasement before I recovered any
tolerable strength in me.

“They plundered us of our Clothes when we were taken, and some of
us that had Money purchased Rugs to cover our Rags by day, and keep
us warm by night; but upon our return home from France, the Deputy
Governor of Dinan was so cruel as to order our said Rugs to be taken
from us, and staid himself and saw it performed; and when some of our
fellow Prisoners lay a dying they inhumanly stript off some of their
Cloaths, three or four days before they were quite dead. These and
other Barbarities made so great an Impression upon me, as that I did
then resolve never to go a Prisoner there again, and this Resolution I
did ever after continue in and by the Assistance of God always will.”

Lyde returned to his home at Topsham, an exchange of prisoners having
been effected, but not till four hundred out of the six hundred English
prisoners crowded into the dungeons at Dinan had perished of disease
and starvation.

In his Preface, Lyde says: “I here present you with a Token of God
Almighty’s Goodness in relieving me from the Barbarity, Inhumanity
and most cruel Slavery of the Most Christian Turk of France, whose
Delight it was to make his own Subjects Slaves, and his chief Study to
put Prisoners of War to the most tedious and cruel lingering Death of
Hunger and Cold, as I have been experimentally (to my own Damage both
felt and seen), by a five Months’ Confinement in this Country.”

Shortly after his return to Topsham Lyde shipped as mate of a vessel,
the _Friend’s Adventure_, eighty tons, bound for Oporto, and sailed
on 30 September, 1691. Oporto was reached in safety, but on the
way back, off Cape Finisterre, the vessel was taken by a French
privateer. Resistance had been impossible, at all events must have been
unavailing, but before surrendering Lyde concealed a blunderbuss and
ammunition between decks among the pipes of wine. When the _Friend’s
Adventure_ was boarded the lieutenant ordered Lyde and a boy to remain
on her, and the master, four men, and another boy were conveyed on
board the privateer. Seven Frenchmen were left on the _Friend’s
Adventure_ to navigate her and take her to St. Malo. This done, the
privateer departed. Lyde was determined not to go through his former
experiences as a prisoner in France, and he endeavoured to induce the
boy to assist him against the French crew, but the lad was timorous,
thought such an attempt as Lyde promised must fail, and repeatedly
refused to take any part in it. The boat was not very seaworthy, and
needed much bailing. As the boy represented to the mate, even if they
did overmaster the French crew, how could they navigate the vessel and
keep the pumps going till they reached England?

After a few days they approached St. Malo, and the repugnance in
Lyde’s mind against renewing his experiences there and at Dinan became

“At 8 in the morning all the Frenchmen sat round the Cabbin’s Table
at Breakfast, and they call’d me to eat with them, and accordingly I
accepted, but the Sight of the Frenchmen did immediately take away
my Stomach, and made me sweat as if I had been in a Stove, and was
ready to faint with eagerness to encounter them. Which the Master
perceiving, and seeing me in that condition, asked me (in French) if
I were sick, and I answered Yes! But could stay no longer in sight of
them, and so went immediately down between Decks to the Boy and did
earnestly intreat him to go presently with me into the Cabbin, and to
stand behind me, and I would kill and command all the rest presently.
For now I told him was the best Time for me to attack them, while they
were round the Table, and knock down but one man in case Two laid
hold upon me, and it may be never the like opportunity again. After
many importunities, the Boy asked me after what manner I intended to
encounter them; I told him I would take the Crow of Iron and hold it in
the Middle with both Hands, and I would go into the Cabbin and knock
down him that stood at the end of the Table on my right Hand, and stick
the point of the Crow into him that sat at the end of the Table, on
my left Hand, and then for the other five that sat behind the Table.
But still he not consenting, I had second thoughts of undertaking it
without him, but the Cabbin was so low that I could not stand upright
in it by a foot, which made me at that time desist.

“By this time they had eat their Breakfast, and went out upon Deck;
then I told the boy with much trouble, We had lost a grave opportunity,
for by this time I had had the ship under my command. Nay, says the
Boy, I rather believe that by this time you and I should have both been

Lyde then, to stimulate the slack fellow to action, recounted to him
the miseries to which he would be subjected in prison in France.

“In a little time after they had been upon Deck, they separated from
each other, viz. the Master lay down in his Cabbin and two of the Men
lay down in the Great Cabbin and one in a Cabbin between Decks, and
another sat down upon a low Stool by the Helm, to look after the Glass,
to call the Pumps, and the other two men walked upon the Decks. Then,
hoping I should prevail with the Boy to stand by me, I immediately
applied myself to Prayer, desiring God to pardon my Sins, and I prayed
also for my Enemies who should happen to dye by my Hands. And then I
endeavoured again to persuade the Boy--but could not prevail with him
to Consent.

“Then the Glass was out, it being half after eight, and the two men
that were upon Deck went to pump out the Water. Then I also went upon
Deck again, to see whether the Wind and Weather were like to favour my
Enterprize, and casting my Eyes to Windward, I liked the Weather, and
hop’d the Wind would stand. And then immediately went down to the Boy,
and beg’d of him again to stand by me, while two of the men were at the
Pumps (for they pumpt on the starboard side, and the Steeridge Door
open on the starboard side, so that they could not see me going aft to
them in the Cabbin). But I could by no Persuasions prevail with the
Boy, so that by this Time the Men had done Pumping; whereupon losing
this opportunity caused me again to be a little angry with the Boy.”

Again Lyde warned the lad of the horrors before him if taken a prisoner
to S. Malo. The boy replied that rather than endure such distresses
he would turn Papist, and volunteer on board a French privateer. This
roused Lyde’s wrath, and he said some very strong things. He told him
that this would not help him; some of the English prisoners of war with
himself had turned Papists, but had already become so attenuated by
disease and suffering that they had died.

“The Boy asked What I would have him do? I told him to knock down that
Man at the Helm, and I will kill and command all the rest. Saith the
Boy, If you be sure to overcome them, how many do you count to kill? I
answered that I intended to kill three of them. Then the Boy replied,
Why three and no more? I answered that I would kill three for three of
our men that died in Prison when I was there. And if it should please
God that I should get home safe I would if I could go in a Man-of-War
or Fireship, and endeavour to revenge on the Enemy for the Death of
those 400 Men that died in the same Prison of Dinan. But the Boy said
Four alive would be too many for us. I then replied that I would kill
but three, but I would break the Legs and the Arms of the rest if they
won’t take quarter and be quiet without it.”

After a long discussion and much inquiry, the boy was finally induced
to give a reluctant consent to help. The attempt was to be made that
day. “At 9 in the morning the two men upon Deck were pumping; then I
turned out from the Sail, where the Boy and I then lay’d, and pull’d
off my Coat that I might be the more nimble in the Action. I went up
the Gunroom Scuttle into the Steeridge, to see what Position they were
in, and being satisfied therein. Then the Boy coming to me, I leapt up
the gunroom Scuttle, and said, Lord be with us! and I told the Boy that
the Drive Bolt was by the Scuttle, in the Steeridg; and then I went
softly aft into the Cabbin, and put my Back against the Bulkehead and
took the Jam Can, and held it with both my Hands in the middle part,
and put my legs abroad to shorten myself, because the Cabbin was very
low. But he that lay nighest to me, hearing me, opened his eyes, and
perceiving my intent, endeavoured to rise, to make resistance; but I
prevented him by a Blow upon his Forehead, which mortally wounded him,
and the other Man which lay with his Back to the dying Man’s side,
hearing the Blow, turned about and faced me, and as he was rising with
his left Elbow, very fiercely endeavouring to come against me, I struck
at him, and he let himself fall from his left Arm, and held his Arm for
a Guard, whereby did keep off a great part of the Blow, but still his
Head received a great part of the Blow.

“The Master lying in the Cabbin on my right Hand, hearing the two
Blows, rose and sate in the Cabbin and called me--bad names; but I
having my eyes every way, I push’t at his Ear with the Claws of the
Crow, but he, falling back for fear thereof, it seemed afterwards that
I struck the Claws of the Crow into his Cheek, which Blow made him
lie Still as if he had been Dead; and while I struck at the Master,
the Fellow that fended off the Blow with his Arm, rose upon his Legs,
and running towards me, with his Head low, to ram his Head against my
Breast to overset me, but I pusht the point at his Head. It struck it
an inch and a half into his Forehead, and as he was falling down, I
took hold of him by the Back, and turn’d him into the Steeridg.

“I heard the Boy strike the Man at the Helm two Blows, after I had
knock’d down the first Man, which two Blows made him lye very still,
and as soon as I turn’d the Man out of the Cabbin, I struck one more
Blow at him that I struck first and burst his Head, so that his Blood
and Brains ran out upon the Deck.

“The Master all the while did not stir, which made me conclude that I
had struck him under the Ear, and had killed him with the Blow.

“Then I went out to attack the two Men that were at the Pump, where
they continued Pumping, without hearing or knowing what I had done;
and as I was going to them, I saw that Man that I had turn’d into the
Steeridg crawling out upon his Hands and Knees upon the Deck, beating
his Hands upon the Deck, to make a Noise, that the Men at the Pump
might hear, for he could not cry out, nor speak. And when they heard
him, and seeing his Blood running out of his Forehead, they came
running aft to me, grinding their Teeth; but I met them as they came
within the Steeridg Door, and struck at them, but the Steeridg being
not above 4 ft. high, I could not have a ful Blow at them, whereupon
they fended off the Blow, and took hold of the Crow with both their
Hands close to mine, striving to hawl it from me. Then the Boy might
have knockt them down with much ease, while they were contending with
me, but that his heart failed him, so that he stood like a Stake at a
distance on their left side, and 2 Foots length off, the Crow being
behind their Hands. I called to the Boy to take hold of it, and hawl
as they did, and I would let go all at once, which the Boy accordingly
doing, I pusht the Crow towards them, and let it go, and was taking out
my Knife to traverse amongst them, but they seeing me put my right hand
into my Pocket, fearing what would follow, they both let go of the Crow
to the Boy, and took hold of my right Arm with both their Hands.

“The Master, that I thought I had killed in his Cabbin, coming to
himself, and hearing they had hold of me, came out of his Cabbin, and
also took hold of me with both his Hands about my Middle. Then one of
the Men that had hold of my right Arm let go, and put his Back to my
Breast, and took hold of my left Hand and Arm, and held it close to
his Breast, and the Master let go from my Middle, and took hold of my
right Arm, and he with the other that had hold of my right Arm did
strive to get me off my Legs; but knowing that I should not be long in
one piece if they got me down, I put my right Foot against the Ship’s
side, on the Deck, for a support, and with the assistance of God, I
kept my Feet, when they three and one more did strive to throw me down,
for the Man at the Helm that the Boy knocked down rose up and put his
Hands about my Middle and strove to hawl me down. The Boy seeing that
Man rise and take hold of me, cried out, fearing then that I should be
overcome of them, but did not come to help me, nor did not Strike one
Blow at any of them neither all the time.

“When I heard the Boy cry out, I said, ‘Do you cry, you Villain, now
I am in such a condition! Come quickly, and knock this Man on the Head
that hath hold of my left Arm’; the Boy perceiving that my Heart did
not fail me, took some courage from thence, and endeavoured to give
that man a Blow on the Head, with the Drive-Bolt, but struck so faintly
that he mist his Blow, which greatly enraged me against him.

“I, feeling the Frenchman that held about my middle hang very heavy, I
said to the Boy, ‘Do you miss your Blow, and I in such a Condition? Go
round the Binkle and knock down that Man that hangeth upon my Back,’
which was the same Man the Boy knock’t down at the Helm. So the Boy
did strike him one Blow upon the Head, which made him fall, but he
rose up again immediately, but being uncapable of making any further
resistance, he went out upon Deck staggering to and fro, without any
further Molestance from the Boy. Then I look’t about the Beams for a
Marlin-Speek, and seeing one hanging with a strap to a nail on the
Larboard Side, I jerk’t my right Arm forth and back, which clear’d the
two Men’s Hands from my right Arm, and took hold of the Marlin-Speek,
and struck the Point four times, about a quarter of an inch deep into
the Skull of that man that had hold of my left Arm, before they took
hold of my right Arm again. And I struck the Marlin-Speek three times
into his Head after they had hold of me, which caused him to Screech
out, but they having hold of me, took off much of the force of the
three Blows, and being a strong-hearted Man, he would not let go his
hold of me, and the two men, finding that my right Arm was stronger
than their four Arms were, and observing the Strap of the Marlin-Speek
to fall up and down upon the back of my Hand, one of them let go his
right Hand and Took hold of the Strap and hawl’d the Marlin-Speek
out of my Hand, and I, fearing what in all likelyhood would follow, I
put my right Hand before my Head as a Guard, although three Hands had
hold of that Arm; for I concluded he would knock me on the Head with
it;--but, through God’s Providence it fell out of his Hand and so close
to the Ship’s side that he could not reach it again without letting go
his other Hand from mine, so he took hold of my Arm with the other Hand

“At this time the Almighty God gave me strength enough to take one Man
in one Hand, and throw at the other’s Head. Then it pleased God to put
me in mind of my Knife in my Pocket, and although two of the Men had
hold of my right Arm, yet God Almighty strengthened me so that I put my
right Hand into my Pocket, and took out my Knife and Sheath, holding
it behind my Hand that they should not see it; but I could not draw
it out of the Sheath with my left Hand, because the Man that I struck
on the Head with the Marlin-Speek had still hold of it, with his Back
to my Breast; so I put it between my Legs, and drew it out, and then
cut the Man’s Throat with it, that had his Back to my Breast, and he
immediately dropt down, and scarce ever stirr’d after. Then with my
left Arm I gave both the Men a Push from me, and hawl’d my right Arm
with a jerk to me, and so clear’d it of both of them; and fetching a
strike with intent to cut both their Throats at once, they immediately
apprehended the Danger they were in, put their Hands together and held
them up, crying, _Corte, corte_ (i.e. Quarter), _Mounseer, moy allay
par Angleterre si vou plea_. With that I stopt my Hand, and said Good
Quarter you shall have. _Alle a pro_ (Go to the Fore), and then I put
up my Knife into the Sheath again.

“Then I made fast the Steeridg Door, and ordered the Boy to stand by
it, and to keep it fast, and to look through the Blunderbuss Holes, and
if he did see any Man coming towards the Door, he should tell me of it,
and come into the Cabbin for the Blunderbuss and Amunition which I had
hid away before we were taken.

“After that I had loaden, I came out with it into the Steeridg and
look’t forward, out of the Companion, to see if any Man did lye over
the Steeridg Door--but seeing no Man there, I went out upon Deck and
look’t up to the Maintop, for fear the two wounded Men were there and
should throw down anything upon my Head; but seeing no Man there, I
asked the Boy if he could tell what was become of the two wounded Men
that came to themselves and went out upon the Deck whilst I was engaged
with the three Men in the Steeridg. The Boy told me they had scrambled
over-board. But I thought it very strange that they should be accessary
to their own deaths. Then I ordered the Boy to stand by the Steeridg
Door to see if that Man betwixt Decks did come up, and if he did, to
tell me.

“Then I went forward to the Two Men that had cried for Quarter, but
they, being afraid, ran forward and were going up the Fore-shrouds,
but I held up the Blunderbuss at them, and said, _Veni abau et montea
Cuttelia et ally abau_,[5] and then they put off their Hats and said,
_Monsieur, moy travally pur Angleterre si vous plea_; but I answered
_Alle abau_, for I don’t want any Help; and then they unlid the
Scuttle, and went down. Then I went forward, and as I came before
the foot of the Mainsail I look’t up to the Foretop, and seeing no
Man there, I look’t down in the Forecastle, and showed the two men a
Scuttle on the larboard side that went down into the Forepeak, and
said: _Le Monte Cuttelia et ally abau_. They unlid the Scuttle, and put
off their Hats and step’t down.

“Then I call’d down to them and asked them if they saw any Men betwixt
Decks as they went down, and they answered No. Then I call’d forward
the Boy and gave him the Blunderbuss and bid him present it down the
Forecastle, and if he saw any Men take hold of me, or if I call’d on
him for help, then he should be sure to discharge the Blunderbuss at
us, and kill us all together, if he could not shoot them without me.

“Then I took the Boy’s Bolt and put my head down the Scuttle, and
seeing no Man there I leap’t down in the Forecastle and laid the
Scuttle and nail’d it fast, and thought myself fast, seeing two killed
and two secured.

“Then I went upon Deck, and took the Blunderbuss from the Boy and gave
him the Bolt, and went aft, and ordered the Boy as before to stand
by the Steeridg Door, and give me an account if he saw any Man come
towards him with a Handspike; and then I went aft into the Cabbin, and
cut two Candles in four pieces and lighted them, one I left burning
upon the Table, the other three I carried in my left Hand, and the
Blunderbuss in my right Hand; and I put my Head down the Gun-room
Scuttle and look’t around, and seeing no Man there, I leap’t down and
went to the Man that lay all the time asleep in a Cabbin betwixt Decks,
and took him by the Shoulder with my left Hand, and wakened him, and
presented the Blunderbuss at him with my right Hand, and commanded him
out of his Cabbin, and made him stand still, till I got up into the
Steeridg. Then I call’d the Man, and he standing on the Scuttle and
seeing the Man that had his Throat cut almost buried in his Blood, he
wrung his Hands, crying out, O Jesu Maria! I told him I had nothing
to do with Maria now. _Monte, monte et allez a pro!_ Then he came up
and went forward looking round to see his Companions, but I followed
him, and made him go down into the Forecastle. Then I gave the Boy the
Blunderbuss and ordered him to present it at the Man if he perceived
him to come towards me while I was opening the Scuttle, then to shoot

“Then I took the Crow and leap’t down with it into the Forecastle and
drew the Spikes and opened the Scuttle, and bid the Man come down and
joyn his Companions. And after that I nailed down the Scuttle again,
and went aft and ordered the Boy to stand by the Steeridg Door again,
and I took the Candles and the Blunderbuss and went down between Decks
and looked in all Holes and Corners for the two wounded Men and found
them not. Then I went on Deck, and told the Boy I could not find the
Men, and he said they were certainly run overboard. I told him I would
know what was become of them before I made sail.

“Then I told the Boy I would go up into the Maintop, and see if they
were there; and so I gave him the Blunderbuss and bid him present it at
the Maintop, and if he saw any man look out over the Top with anything
in his Hand to throw at me, he should then shoot them. Then I took the
Boy’s Bolt, and went up, and when I was got to the Puddick Shrouds I
look’d forwards to the Foretop, I saw the two Men were cover’d with the
Foretopsail, and their Sashes bound about their Heads to keep in the
Blood, and they had made a great part of the Foretopsail Bloody, and as
the Ship rould, the Blood ran over the Top. Then I call’d to them, and
they turn’d out and went down on their knees, and wrung their Hands,
and cried, _O corte, corte, Monsieur_. Then I said, Good Quarter shall
you have, And I went down and call’d to them to come down, and he that
the Boy wounded came down, and kissed my Hand over and over, and went
down into the Forecastle very willingly. But the other Man was one of
the three that I designed to kill; he delayed his Coming. I took the
Blunderbuss and said I would shoot him down, and then he came a little
way and stood still, and begged me to give him Quarter. I told him if
he would come down he should have quarter. Then he came down and I gave
the Boy the Blunderbuss”--and then ensued the redrawing of the nails
and the reopening of the scuttle, so as to thrust these two wounded
men in with the others. But Lyde called up one of the men, a fellow of
about four-and-twenty, and who had shown Lyde some kindness when he was
a prisoner on the ship. We need not follow Lyde in his voyage home. He
made the Frenchman help to navigate the vessel. But they had still many
difficulties to overcome, the weather was rough, the ship leaked, and
there were but Lyde and the Frenchman and the boy to handle her.

Even when he did reach the mouth of the Exe, though he signalled for
a pilot, none would come out to him, as he had no English colours on
board to hoist, and he was obliged to beat about all night and next day
in Torbay till the tide would serve for crossing the bar at Exmouth.
Again he signalled for a pilot. The boat came out, but would approach
only near enough to be hailed. Only then, when the pilot was satisfied
that this was not a privateer of the enemy, would he come on board, and
steer her to Starcross, which Lyde calls _Stair_-cross. Thence he sent
his prisoners to Topsham in the Customs House wherry. There they were
examined by the doctor, who pronounced the condition of two of them

Lyde’s troubles were by no means over; for the owners of the _Friend’s
Adventure_ were vastly angry at her having been brought safely back.
She had been insured by them for £560, and when valued was knocked down
for £170; and they did much to annoy and harass Lyde, and prevent him
getting another ship.

However, his story got about, and the Marquess of Carmarthen introduced
him to Queen Mary, who presented him with a gold medal and chain, and
recommended him to the Lords of the Admiralty for preferment in the

With this his narrative ends. He expresses his hope to serve their
Majesties, and to have another whack at the Frenchmen.


Joseph Pitts, of Exeter, was the son of John Pitts of that city.
When aged fourteen or fifteen he became a sailor. After two or three
voyages, very short, he shipped on board the _Speedwell_, on Easter
Tuesday, 1678, at Lympston, bound for the Western Islands, from thence
to Newfoundland, thence to Bilbao, and so by the Canaries, home.
Newfoundland was reached, but on the voyage to Bilbao the ship was
boarded and taken by Algerine pirates.

“The very first words they spake, and the very first thing they did
was Beating us with Ropes, saying: ‘Into Boat, you English Dogs!’ and
without the least opposition, with fear, we tumbled into their Boat, we
scarce knew how. They having loaded their Boat, carried us aboard their
Ship, and diligent Search was made about us for Money, but they found
none. We were the first Prize they had taken for that Voyage, and they
had been out at Sea about six weeks. As for our vessel, after they had
taken out of her what they thought fit and necessary for their use,
they sunk her; for she being laden with Fish, they thought it not worth
while to carry her home to Algier.

“About Four or Five Days after our being thus taken, they met with
another small English Ship, with Five or Six Men aboard, which was
served as ours was. And Two or Three Days after that, they espied
another small English Vessel, with Five or Six men aboard laden with
Fish, and coming from New England. This Vessel was at their first view
of her some Leagues at Windward of them, and there being but little
Wind, and so they being out of hopes of getting up to her, they us’d
this cunning device, They hawled up their Sails, and hang’d out our
English King’s Colours, and so appearing Man of War like decoyed her
down, and sunk her also.

“Two or Three days after this, they took a fourth little English Ship
with four or five Men a-board laden with Herrings, of which they took
out most part, and then sunk the Ship.”

The pirates now returned to Algiers, and their captured Christians were
driven to the palace of the Dey, who had a right to select an eighth of
them for the public service and also to retain an eighth part of the
spoils taken from the prizes. His selection being made, the rest were
driven to the market-place and put up to auction.

Joseph Pitts was bought by one Mustapha, who treated him with excessive

“Within Eight and forty Hours after I was sold, I tasted of their
(Algerine) Cruelty; for I had my tender Feet tied up, and beaten
Twenty or Thirty Blows, for a beginning. And thus was I beaten for a
considerable Time, every two or three days, besides Blows now and then,
forty, fifty, sixty, at a time. My Executioner would fill his Pipe, and
then give me ten or twenty Blows, and then stop and smoak his Pipe for
a while, and then he would at me again, and when weary stop again; and
thus cruelly would he handle me till his Pipe was out. At other times
he would hang me up by Neck and Heels, and then beat me miserably.
Sometimes he would hang me up by the Armpits, beating me all over my
Body. And oftentimes Hot Brine was order’d for me to put my Feet into,
after they were sore with beating, which put me to intolerable Smart.
Sometimes I have been beaten on my Feet so long, and cruelly, that
the Blood hath run down my Feet to the Ground. I have oftentimes been
beaten by my Patroon so violently on my Breech, that it hath been black
all over, and very much swollen, and hard almost as a Board; insomuch,
that I have not been able to sit for a considerable Time.”

After two or three months, Mustapha sent him to sea in a pirate vessel,
in which he was interested, to attend on the gunner. The expedition
was not very successful, as only one ship was taken, a Portuguese,
with a crew of eighteen who were enslaved. On his return to Algiers,
after having been a couple of months at sea, he was sold to a second
“Patroon,” named Ibrahim, who had “two Brothers in Algiers and a third
in Tunis. The middle Brother had designed to make a Voyage to Tunis
to see his Brother there; and it seems I was bought in order to be
given as a Present to him. I was then cloth’d very fine, that I might
be the better accepted. The Ship being ready we put to Sea, and in
about fourteen Days time we arrived at Tunis, and went forthwith to my
Patroon’s Brother’s House. The next Day my Patroon’s Brother’s Son,
taking a Pride to have a Christian to wait upon him, made me walk
after him. As I was attending upon my new Master through the Streets,
I met with a Gentleman habited like a Christian, not knowing him to
be an Englishman, as he was. He look’d earnestly upon me, and ask’d
me whether I were not an Englishman. I answered him, Yea! How came
you hither? said he. I told him I came with my Patroon. What, are you
a slave? said he. I replied, Yes. But he was loath to enter into any
further Discourse with me in the public Street, and therefore desired
of the young Man on whom I waited, that he would please to bring me to
his House. The young Man assured him he would; for being a drinker of
Wine, and knowing the Plenty of it in the said Gentleman’s House, he
was the rather willing to go. After the Gentleman was gone from us, my
young new Master told me, that he whom we talk’d to was the English

The Consul kindly invited Joseph Pitts to go to his house as often
as he had an opportunity. After spending thirty days in Tunis, Pitts
learned to his dismay that the “Patroon’s Brother” did not care to have
him, and that consequently he would have to return to Algiers. The
Consul and two merchants then endeavoured to buy Pitts, but his master
demanded for him five hundred dollars; they offered three hundred,
which was all that they could afford, and as Ibrahim refused to sell at
this price, the negotiation was broken off, and he returned with his
master to Algiers.

Here he was subjected to the persecution of his master’s youngest
brother, who endeavoured to induce Joseph to become a renegade. As
persuasion availed nothing, the young man went to his elder brother
Ibrahim, and told him that he had been a profligate and debauched man
in his time, as also a murderer; and that his only chance of Paradise
lay in making atonement for his iniquities by obtaining or enforcing
the conversion of his slave.

Ibrahim was alarmed, and being a superstitious man believed this,
and began to use great cruelty towards Pitts. “He call’d two of his
Servants, and commanded them to tye up my Feet with a Rope to the Post
of the Tent; and when they had so done, he with a great Cudgel fell
to beating of me upon my bare Feet. He being a very strong Man, and
full of Passion, his Blows fell heavy indeed; and the more he beat me,
the more chafed and enraged he was; and declared, that if I would not
Turn, he would beat me to death. I roar’d out to feel the Pains of his
cruel Strokes; but the more I cry’d, the more furiously he laid on upon
me; and to stop the Noise of my Crying, he would stamp with his Feet
on my Mouth; at which I beg’d him to despatch me out of the way; but
he continued beating me. After I had endured this merciless Usage so
long, till I was ready to faint and die under it, and saw him as mad
and implacable as ever, I beg’d him to forbear and I would turn. And
breathing a while, but still hanging by the Feet, he urg’d me again
to speak the Words, yet loath I was, and held him in suspense awhile;
and at length told him that I could not speak the Words. At which he
was more enrag’d than before, and fell at me again in a most barbarous
manner. After I had received a great many Blows a second Time, I
beseech’d him again to hold his Hand, and gave him fresh hopes of my
turning Mohammetan; and after I had taken a little more Breath, I told
him as before, I could not do what he desired. And thus I held him in
suspense three or four times; but, at last, seeing his Cruelty towards
me insatiable, unless I did turn Mohammetan, through Terrour I did it,
and spake the Words, holding up the Fore-finger of my Right-hand; and
presently I was lead away to a Fire, and care was taken to heal my Feet
(for they were so beaten, that I was unable to go on them for several
Days), and so I was put to Bed.”

Algiers was bombarded thrice by the French whilst Joseph Pitts was
living there as a slave, their purpose being to obtain the surrender of
French captives who had been enslaved. “They then threw but few Bombs
into the Town, and that by night; nevertheless the Inhabitants were
so Surprized and Terrifi’d at it, being unacquainted with Bombs, that
they threw open the Gates of the City, and Men, Women, and Children
left the Town. Whereupon the French had their Country-men, that were
Slaves, for nothing. In a little while after the French came again to
Algiers, upon other Demands, and then the Dey Surrendered up all the
French Slaves, which prov’d the said Dey’s Ruine. And then they came
a third time (1682). There were nine Bomb-Vessels, each having two
Mortars, which kept fireing Day and Night insomuch that there would
be five or six Bombs flying in the air at once. At this the Algerines
were horribly Enrag’d, and to be Reveng’d, fired away from the mouth of
their Cannon about forty French slaves, and finding that would not do,
but d’Estrée (the Marshall) was rather the more enraged. They sent for
the French Consul, intending to serve him the same Sause. He pleaded
his character, and that ’twas against the Law of Nations, etc. They
answered, they were resolv’d, and all these complements would not serve
his turn. At which he desir’d a day or two’s Respite, till he should
despatch a Letter to the Admiral. Which was granted him; and a Boat
was sent out with a White Flag. But after the Admiral had perused and
considered the Consul’s Letter, he bid the Messenger return this answer
(_viz._): That his Commission was to throw 10,000 Bombs into the Town,
and he would do it to the very last, and that as for the Consul, if he
died, he could not die better than for his Prince.

“This was bad News to the Consul; and highly provoked the Algerines,
who immediately caused the Consul to be brought down and placed him
before the mouth of a Cannon, and fired him off also.”

D’Estrée’s success was by no means so great as he had anticipated and
as was expected. He was compelled by the stubborn defence of Algiers to
content himself with an exchange of prisoners for French slaves, nor
did he recover more than forty or fifty.

Meanwhile, what was the English Government doing for the protection of
its subjects, for the recovery of Englishmen who were languishing as
slaves in Algiers and Tunis? Nothing at all.

Under the Commonwealth, Blake in 1654 had severely chastised the nest
of pirates. He had compelled the Dey to restrain his piratical subjects
from further violence against the English. He had presented himself
before Tunis, where, incensed by the violence of the Dey, he had
destroyed the castles of Porto Farino and Goletta, had sent a numerous
detachment of sailors in their long-boats into the harbour, and burned
every vessel which lay there.

But now the despicable Charles II was king, and the power of England
to protect its subjects was sunk to impotence. Every three years the
English fleet appeared off Algiers to renew a treaty of peace with
the Dey, that meant nothing; the piratical expeditions continued, and
Englishmen were allowed to remain groaning in slavery, tortured into
acceptance of Mohammedanism, and not a finger was raised for their
protection and release. The Consuls were impotent. They could do
nothing. There was no firm Government behind them.

In Algiers, Pitts met with an Englishman, James Grey, of Weymouth, with
whom he became intimate. This man often appealed to Pitts for advice,
whether he should turn Mussulman or not; but Pitts would give him no
counsel one way or the other. Finally, he became a renegade, but moped,
lost all heart, and died.

Pitts tells us how that secretly he received a letter from his father,
advising him “to have a care and keep close to God, and to be sure,
never, by any methods of cruelty that could be used towards him, to
deny his blessed Saviour; and that he--his father--would rather hear
of his son’s death than of his becoming a Mahommedan.” The letter was
slipped into his hands a few days after he had become a renegade. He
dared to show this to his master, and told him frankly, “I am no Turk,
but a Christian.” The master answered, “If you say this again, I will
have a fire made, and burn you in it immediately.”

The then Dey, Baba Hasan, died in 1683, and Pitts’ master being rich
and having friends, attempted a revolt against Hasein “Mezzomorto,” his
successor, and was killed in the attempt. This led to the sale of Pitts
again, and he was bought by an old bachelor, named Eumer, a kindly old
man, with whom he was happy. “My Work with him was to look after his
House, to dress his Meat, to wash his Clothes; and, in short, to do all
those things that are look’d on as Servant-maids’ work in England.”
With the old master he made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and thence went
on to Medina, and he was the first Englishman to give a description of
these sacred towns. Moreover, his account is remarkably exact. He was a
young fellow full of observation and intelligence, and he made good use
of his eyes. At Mecca, Eumer gave Pitts his freedom, and Pitts remained
with him, not any longer as a slave, but as a servant.

By being granted his freedom this did not involve the liberty to return
to his home and his Christian religion. But he looked out anxiously
for an opportunity to do both. This came in a message arriving from
Constantinople from the Sultan to demand the assistance of Algerine
vessels, and Joseph Pitts volunteered as a seaman upon one of these
vessels, in the vain hope of its being captured by some Christian
vessel--French, for there was nothing to be expected from English ships.

At Algiers, he became acquainted with a Mr. Butler, and as Pitts was
suffering from sore eyes, Mr. Butler got an English doctor, who was
a slave, to attend to him and cure him. Mr. Butler introduced him to
the English Consul, whom he saw once, and once only, and who could do
nothing for him further than give him a letter to the English Consul at
Smyrna, at the same time imploring him to conceal the letter and not
let it get into the hands of the Turks, or it might cost him his life.

“Being got about thirty Days’ voyage towards Smyrna, where I design’d
to make my Escape, we espied seven or eight Venetian Gallies at Anchor
under the Shoar. The Turks had a great Tooth for these Gallies, but
knew not how to come to them, not being able to adventure so far as
Gallies safely may. At length they consulted, being fifteen Ships in
number, to hoist French Colours. Having done this we haul’d up our
Sails and brought to, pretending as if we were desirous of some News
from the Levant. They, at this, thinking we were French Men-of-War,
sent out two of their Gallies; upon which the Turks were ordered to
lie close, and not stir, for fear of showing their Turbants, and such
Officers, that were obliged to be moving, took off their Turbants to
avoid discovery, and put on a Hat and Cap instead thereof; but the
Slaves were all ordered to be upon Deck to colour the matter, and make
us look more like Christians. At length one of the Gallies being within
Musquet-shot, we fired upon him, and soon made him strike. The other,
seeing that, turns and rows with all his Might and Main to get ashoar,
the Algerines all the while making what sail they could after him, but
’twas in vain, for the Venetian got clear, the Wind being off Shoar
just in our Mouth. In that Galley which we took, there were near four
hundred Christians, and some few Turks that were Slaves.

“When we came to Scio, we were joyn’d with ten Sail of the Grand Turk’s
Ships, carrying seventy or eighty Brass Cannon Guns each; and now being
twenty-five in number, we had the Courage to cruize about the Islands
of the Archipelago.

“Some time after we arrived at Scio, the Turks had liberty, for one
Month’s time, to go home to visit the respective Places of their
Nativity. I went to Smyrna and hired a Chamber there. And after I knew
where the Consul’s House was I went thither. The Consul not knowing who
I was, Complemented me much, because I was handsomely Apparel’d, and
I returned the Complement to him after the Turkish manner; and then
delivered him my Letter of Recommendation. The Consul, having perused
the Letter, he bid the Interpreter to withdraw, because he should not
understand anything of the matter. After the Interpreter was gone, the
Consul ask’d me whether I was the Man mentioned in the Letter. I told
him I was. He said the Design was very dangerous, and that if it should
be known to the Turks that he was any way concerned in it, it was as
much as his Life, and his all was worth. But after he had discours’d me
further and found that I was fully resolv’d in the matter, he told me
that, Truly were it not for Mr. Butler’s Request he would not meddle in
such a dangerous Attempt; but for the friendship and Respect he bore to
him, would do me all the kindness he could; which put Life into me.

“We had no English nor Dutch Ships at Smyrna then, but daily expected
some; and he told me, I must wait till they came, and withall caution’d
me not to frequent his House. A day or two after this I was sitting in
a Barber’s Shop, where both Christians and Turks did Trim, and there
was a-triming then an English Man, whose Name was George Grunsell,
of Deptford. He knew me no otherwise than a Turk; but when I heard
him speak English, I ask’d him in English, Whether he knew any of the
Western Parts of England to be in Smyrna. He told me of one, who he
thought was an Exeter man, which, when I heard, I was glad at Heart. I
desired him to shew me his House; which he very kindly did; but when
I came to speak with Mr. Elliott, for so was his Name, I found him
to be of Cornwall, who had serv’d some part of his Apprenticeship in
Exon, with Mr. Henry Cudmore a Merchant. He was very glad to see me for
Country’s-sake. After some Discourse, I communicated to him my Design.
He was very glad to hear of it, and promised to assist me; and told me,
that I need not run the hazard of going to the Consul’s House, but that
if I had anything of Moment to impart to him, he would do it for me.

“In a Month’s time it was cry’d about the City of Smyrna, that all
Algerines should repair to their Ships, which lay then at Rhodes.

“All this while no English or Dutch Ships came to Smyrna; the Consul
and Mr. Elliott therefore consulted which was my best way to take;
to tarry in Smyrna after all the Algerines were gone, would look
suspiciously; and therefore they advised me not to tarry in Smyrna, but
either to go to Scio with the Algerines, which is part of our way back
to Rhodes, or else to go up to Constantinople; and when I was there,
to write to the said Mr. Elliott to acquaint him where I was; and to
stay there till I had directions from them to return to Smyrna, or what
else to do.

“I pursued their Advice, and went with some of the Algerines to Scio,
and there I made a stop till all the Algerines were gone from thence,
and writ to Mr. Elliott where I was. A short Time after, he writ me,
that he was very glad that I was where I was, but withal, gave a damp
to my Spirits, with this bad News, that our Smyrna Fleet were said to
be interrupted by the French; with the cold reserve of Comfort, that it
wanted Confirmation.

“Now the Devil was very busy with me, tempting me to lay aside all
thoughts of Escaping, and to return to Algiers, and continue Mussulman.
For it was suggested to me, first, That it was a very difficult, if not
a desperate Attempt, to endeavour to make my Escape; and that if I were
discovered in it, I should be put to death after the most cruel and
exemplary way. Also, in the next place, the Loss that I should sustain
thereby, in several respects, viz. The Loss of the profitable Returns
which I might make of what Money I had to Algiers; and the Loss of
receiving eight Months Pay due to me in Algiers; and the frustrating
of my Hopes and Expectation which I had from my Patroon, who made me
large Promises of leaving me considerable Substance at his Death; and I
believe he meant as he promised; for I must acknowledge he was like a
father to me.

“In the midst of all I would pray to God for his Assistance, and found
it. For I bless God, that after all my Acquaintance were gone from Scio
to Rhodes, I grew daily better and better satisfied; though my Fears
were still very great; and I was indeed afraid every-body I met did
suspect my Design. And I can truly say, that I would not go through
such a Labyrinth of Sorrows and Troubles again, might I gain a Kingdom.

“The first Letter that Mr. Elliott sent me while I was at Scio, he
directed to a Greek at Scio, who did business with the Consul at
Smyrna, to be delivered to me, naming me by my Turkish Name. I was
altogether unknown to the Greek, so that he was forced to enquire among
the Algerines for one of that Name; and indeed there were two Men of
that Name with myself; but by good hap, they were gone to Rhodes,
otherwise ’tis odds but the Letter had come to the Hands of one of
them, and then my Design had been discovered, and I should undoubtedly
have been put to Death.

“I receiv’d another Letter from Mr. Elliott, in which he informed me
that the reported bad News concerning our Ships was true, but that he
and the Consul had Conferr’d that Day what was best to be done for my
safety; and were of opinion that it would be in vain for me to wait for
any English Ships, and therefore they advised me to go off in a French
Ship, tho’ somewhat more expensive, and in order thereto, to hasten
back again to Smyrna, in the first boat that came.

“Accordingly I came to Smyrna again and lodg’d at Mr. Grunsell’s House,
and kept myself very private for the space of twenty Days, ’till the
French Ship was ready to sail.

“Now the French Ship, in which I was to make my escape, was intended
to sail the next Day, and therefore in the Evening I went on Board,
Apparel’d as an English Man, with my Beard shaven, a Campaign
Perrywigg, and a Cane in my Hand, accompanied with three or four of my
Friends in the Boat. As we were going into the Boat, there were some
Turks of Smyrna walking by, but they smelt nothing of the matter. My
good Friend Mr. Elliott had agreed with the Captain of the Ship to pay
Four Pounds for my Passage to Leghorn, but neither the Captain nor any
of the French Men knew who I was. My Friends, next Morning, brought
Wine and Victuals a board; upon which they were very merry, but, for my
part, I was very uneasy till the Ship had made Sail. I pretended myself
Ignorant of all Foreign Languages, because I would not be known to the
French, who,--if we had met with any Algerines,--I was affraid would be
so far from showing me any Favour so as to Conceal me, would readily
Discover me.

“We had a Month’s passage from Smyrna to Leghorne, and I was never at
Rest in my Mind till we came to Leghorne, where, as soon as ever I came
ashore, I prostrated myself, and kissed the earth, blessing Almighty
God for his Mercy and Goodness to me, that I once more set footing on
the European, Christian part of the World.”

Arrived at Leghorn, Joseph Pitts was put in quarantine, but for
five-and-twenty days only. Whilst in the Lazaret he met with some
Dutchmen, one of whom had been a near neighbour in Algiers. He
suggested that Pitts should join company with him and his party
travelling homewards by land. To this Joseph agreed, and they all set
off at Christmas, in frosty weather, and travelled for twenty days
through heavy snow. After a while Joseph’s leg gave way, and he could
not proceed with the others. They were constrained to leave him behind,
for fear that their money would run short.

After having travelled two hundred miles in their company, he was now
forced to travel five hundred on foot through Germany alone. One day
as he was passing through a wood he was attacked by a party of German
soldiers, who robbed him of his money. Happily, they did not strip him
and so discover that he had a good deal more than was in his pockets
sewn into a belt about his waist.

“When I came to Franckfort, the Gates of the City were just ready to be
shut, and I offering to go in, the Centinel demanded of me who I was. I
told them I was an Englishman. They bid me show my Passport, but I had
none. I having therefore no pass, they would not let me into the City.
So the Gate was shut. I sat down upon the Ground and wept, bewailing my
hard Fortune and their Unkindness, having not a bit of Bread to eat,
nor Fire to warm myself in the extreme cold Season which then was.

“But there being just outside the Gate a little Hutt, where the
Soldiers Kept Guard, the Corporal seeing me in such a condition as I
was, called me in, where they had a good Fire, and he gave me some of
his Victuals; for which seasonable Kindness I gave him some money to
fetch us some good Liquor. And I told the Corporal, if he would get me
into the City the next Day, I would Requite him for it. Accordingly he
did. He brought me to a Frenchman’s House, who had a Son that lived in
England some time, and was lately come home again, who made me very
Welcome. He ask’d me what my Business was; I told him ’twas to get a
Pass to go safe down the River, (for they are so strict there in time
of War, that they’ll even examine their own Countrymen), and withal,
desired him to change a Pistole for me, and to give me instead of it
such Money as would pass current down the River. For (as I told him)
I have sometimes chang’d a Pistole, and before the Exchange of it had
been expended in my Travels, some of the money would not pass current.
He chang’d my Pistole for me, and told me what Money would pass in such
a place, and what in such a place, and what I should reserve last to
pass in Holland. And he was moreover so civil, as to go to the public
Office and obtain a Pass for me. After which he brought me to his House
again, and caused one of his Servants to direct me to an Inn, where I
should Quarter, and bid me come again to him the next Morning, when
he sent his Servant to call me, and also to pay off my Host, but I
had paid him before, for which he show’d Dislike. After all which, he
conducted me to the River’s side where was a Boatfull of Passengers
ready to go to Mentz. This obliging Gentleman (whose name was Van der
Luh’r) told the Master of the Boat, that he would satisfy him for my
Passage to Mentz; and moreover desired an Acquaintance of his in the
Boat to take care of me; and when at Mentz, to direct me to such a
Merchant, to whom he gave a Letter, and therewith a piece of Money to
drink his Health.

“When we came to Mentz, we were every Man to produce his Passport;
and as the Passes were looking over, the Person in the Boat, who was
desired to take care of me, sent a Boy to call the Merchant to whom I
was to deliver the Letter; who immediately came, and invited me to his

“It hap’ned that this Gentleman was a Slave in Algier at the same time
I was. He enquired of me about his Patroon, whom I knew very well; and
we talk’d about many other things relating to Algier. I received much
kindness and Hospitality from the Gentleman; he paid off my Quarters
for that Night; and also gave me Victuals and Money, and paid for my
Passage from Mentz to Cologne; and moreover, sent by me a Letter of
Recommendation to his Correspondent there.

“At Cologne I received the like Kindness, and had my Passage paid to
Rotterdam; and if I would, I might have had a Letter of Recommendation
to some Gentle-man there too; but I refus’d it (with hearty Thanks for
the offer) being loath to be too troublesome to my Friends.

“I found great Kindness at Rotterdam and Helversluyce, whither our
English Packquet-Boats arrive. But when I came into England, my own
native Country, here I was very badly treated; for the very first Night
that I lay in England, I was impressed for to go in the King’s Service.
And notwithstanding that I made known my Condition, and used many
Arguments for my Liberty, with Tears, yet all this would not prevail,
but away I must; and was carried to Colchester Prison, where I lay some
Days. While I was in Prison I Writ a Letter to Sir William Falkener,
one of the Smyrna Company in London, on whom I had a Bill for a little
Money; he immediately got a Protection for me, and sent it me, which
was not only my present Discharge, but prevented all further Trouble
to me on my Road Homeward, which otherwise I must unavoidably have met

“When I came from Colchester to London, I made it my Business, as in
Duty bound, to go and pay my Thanks to the honourable Gentleman, from
whom I received fresh Kindness. After this I made what hast I could to
dear Exeter, where I safely came, to the great Joy of my Friends and

“I was in Algier above Fifteen Years. After I went out of Topsham, it
was about Half a Year before I was taken a Slave. And after I came out
of Algier it was well nigh Twelve Months ere I could reach home.”

This interesting narrative is from “A true and Faithful Account of the
Religion and Manners of the Mohammetans. In which is a particular
Relation of their Pilgrimage to Mecca ... by Joseph Pitts of Exon.”
Exon, 1704. A second edition was published at Exeter in 1717; and a
third edition corrected, at London, in 1731.


“About the month of November last in the Parish of Spraiton, one
Francis Fey (servant to Mr. Philip Furze) being in a Field near
the Dwelling house of the said Master, there appeared unto him the
resemblance of an old Gentleman, like his Master’s Father, with a Pole
or Staff in his hand, like that he was wont to carry when living, to
kill Moles withal. The Spectrum approached near the young Man, who was
not a little surprised at the Appearance of one whom he knew to be
dead, but the Spectrum bade him have no Fear, but tell his Master that
several Legacies, which by his Testament he had bequeathed were unpaid,
naming ten shillings to one, ten shillings to another, both which he
named. The young man replied that the party last named was dead, and
so it could not be paid to him. The Ghost answered, He knew that, but
it must be paid to the next relative, whom he also named. The Spectrum
likewise ordered him to carry twenty shillings to a Gentlewoman, sister
of the Deceased, living at Totness, and promised if these things were
done, to trouble him no more. At the same time the Spectrum speaking
of his second wife (also dead) called her a wicked Woman, though the
Relater knew her and esteemed her as a good Woman.”

The spectre vanished. The young man did as enjoined and saw that
the legacies were duly paid, and he took twenty shillings to the
gentlewoman near Totnes; but she utterly refused to receive it,
believing it to have been sent to her by the devil.

That same night, the young man, who was lodging in the house of his
former master’s sister, saw the ghost again. The youth thereupon
remonstrated with it and reminded it of the promise made no more to
annoy him, and he explained that the deceased man’s sister refused
to accept the money. Then the spirit bade the young man take horse,
ride into Totnes, and buy a ring of the value of twenty shillings, and
assured him that the lady would receive that.

Next day, after having delivered the ring, that was accepted, the young
man was riding home to his master’s, accompanied by a servant of the
gentlewoman near Totnes, and as they entered the parish of Spreyton,
the ghost was seen sitting on the horse behind the youth. It clasped
its long arms about his waist and flung him from his saddle to the
ground. This was witnessed by several persons in the road, as well as
by the serving man from Totnes.

On entering the yard of Mr. P. Furze’s farm, the horse made a bound of
some twenty-five feet, to the amazement of all.

Soon after this a female ghost appeared in the house, and was seen by
the same young man, as also by Mrs. Thomasine Gidley, Anne Langdon,
and a little child. She was able to assume various shapes: sometimes
she appeared as a dog, belching fire, at another she went out of the
window in the shape of a horse, breaking one pane of glass and a piece
of iron. It was certainly vastly considerate of her in the bulk of a
horse to do so little damage! But usually she stalked along the passage
and appeared in the rooms in her own form. No doubt could exist as to
who this troublesome ghost was. The “spectrum” of the old gentleman
had already hinted that his second wife was a bad woman, and could make
herself unpleasant.

On one occasion, invisible hands laid hold of the young man, and rammed
his head into a narrow space between the bedstead and the wall, and it
took several persons to extricate him; and then, what with fright and
what with the pressure, he was so unwell that a surgeon was sent for to
bleed him. No sooner was this operation performed, than the ligatures
about the arm were suddenly snatched at and torn off, and slung about
his waist, and there drawn so tight that he was nearly suffocated. They
had to be cut through with a knife to relieve him. At other times his
cravat was drawn tight.

The spectre was of a playful humour sometimes, and would pluck the
perukes off the heads of people, and one that was on top of a cabinet
in a box, with a joint-stool on it, was drawn out and ripped to
shreds--and this was the most costly wig in the house.

At another time the youth’s “shoe-string” was observed without
assistance of hands to come out of his shoe of its own accord and cast
itself to the other side of the room, whereupon the other shoe-lace
started crawling after its companion. A maid espying this, with her
hand drew it back, when it clasped and curled round her hand like an
eel or serpent.

The young man’s clothes were taken off and torn to shreds, as were
those of another servant in the house, and this while they were on
their backs. A barrel of salt was seen to march out of one room and
into another, untouched by human hands. When the spectre appeared in
her own likeness she was habited in the ordinary garments of women
at the time, especially like those worn by Mrs. Philip Furze, her

On Easter Eve the young man was returning from the town when he was
caught by the female spectre by his coat and carried up into the air,
head, legs, and arms dangling down.

Having been missed by his master and fellow servants, search was made
for him, but it was not till half an hour later that he was found at
some distance from the house plunged to his middle in a bog, and in
a condition of ecstasy or trance, whistling and singing. He was with
difficulty extracted and taken to the house and put to bed. All the
lower part of his body was numbed with cold from long immersion in the
morass. One of his shoes was found near the doorstep of the house,
another at the back of the house, and his peruke was hanging among the
top branches of a tree. On his recovery he protested that the spirit
had carried him aloft till his master’s house had seemed to him no
bigger than a haycock.

As his limbs remained benumbed he was taken to Crediton on the
following Saturday to be bled. After the operation he was left by
himself, but when his fellows came in they found his forehead cut and
swollen and bleeding. According to him, a bird with a stone in its beak
had flown in at the window and dashed it at his brow. The room was
searched; no stone, but a brass weight was found lying on the floor.

“This is a faithful account of the Contents of a Letter from a Person
of Quality in Devon, dated 11 May, 1683. The young man will be 21 if he
lives to August next.”

The title of this curious pamphlet is: “A Narrative of the Demon of
Spraiton. In a Letter from a Person of Quality in the County of Devon,
to a Gentleman in London, with a Relation of an Apparition or Spectrum
of an Ancient Gentleman of Devon who often appeared to his Son’s
Servant. With the Strange Actions and Discourses happening between
them at divers times. As likewise, the Demon of an Ancient Woman, Wife
of the Gentleman aforesaid. With unparalell’d varieties of strange
Exploits performed by her: Attested under the Hands of the said Person
of Quality, and likewise a Reverend Divine of the said County. With
Reflections on Drollery and Atheism, and a Word to those that deny the
Existence of Spirits.” London, 1683.

It is pretty obvious that the mischievous and idle youth was at the
bottom of all this bedevilment. This was but an instance of the
Poltergeist that so exercised the minds of Körner, Mrs. Crowe, and the
like, but which can all be traced back to a knavish servant.


Tom Austin was a native of Collumpton, and was the son of a respectable
yeoman, who, at his death, left him his little property, which was
estimated at that time as worth £80 per annum. As he bore a good
character, he soon got a wife with a marriage portion of £800.
Unhappily this accession to his means completely turned his head. He
became wild and extravagant, and in less than four years had dissipated
all his wife’s fortune and mortgaged his own farm. Being now somewhat
pinched in circumstances, he was guilty of several frauds on his
neighbours, but they did not prosecute him, out of respect for his
family. Then, unable to satisfy his needs, he took to the highway, and
stopped Sir Zachary Wilmot on the road between Wellington and Taunton
Dean, and as the worthy knight resisted being robbed, Austin shot him
dead. From Sir Zachary he got forty-six guineas and a silver-hilted
sword. With this plunder he made haste home to Collumpton undiscovered.
This did not last long, as he continued in the same course of riot.
When it was spent he started to visit an uncle of his, living at a
distance of a mile.

On reaching the house he found nobody within but his aunt and five
small children, who informed him that his uncle had gone away for the
day on business, and they invited him to stay and keep them company
till his return. He consented, but almost immediately snatched up an
axe and split the skull of his aunt with it, then cut the throats
of all the children, laid their bodies in a heap, and proceeded to
plunder the house of the money it contained, which amounted to sixty
guineas. Then he hastened home to his wife, who, perceiving some blood
on his clothes, asked whence it came. In reply he rushed upon her with
a razor, cut her throat, and then murdered his own two children, the
eldest of whom was not three years of age.

Hardly had he finished with these butcheries before his uncle arrived,
calling on his way home. On entering the house this man saw what had
been done, and though little suspecting what would meet his eyes when
he returned home, with great resolution flung himself upon Tom Austin,
mastered him, bound his hands, and brought him before a magistrate, who
sent him to Exeter Gaol.

In August, 1694, this inhuman wretch was hanged. He seemed quite
insensible as to the wickedness of his acts, as well as to the
senselessness of them, and there can be little doubt that he was a
victim to homicidal madness.

When on the scaffold, when asked by the chaplain if he had anything to
say before he died: “Only this,” was his reply, “I see yonder a woman
with some curds and whey, and I wish I could have a pennyworth of them
before I am hanged, as I don’t know when I shall see any again.” Tom
Austin had many errors, many faults, many crimes to expiate, but he
carried with him into the next world one merit--his undying love of
Devonshire junket, the same as curds and whey.


“Frances Flood was born in Gitsom (Gittisham), near Honiton in Devon,
and on the 22nd January, 1723, being thirty-two years of age, I went
from Philip’s Norton to the town of Saltford, where I had for lodging
an Inn. I arose well in the Morning, thinking to go about my Business:
but being come out of the Door, I was taken very ill, and before I came
to the Village I was not sensible in what condition I was in, and not
able to go, was forced to hold by the Wall as I went along: With great
Difficulty I got to the Overseer’s House, and desired him to get me a
lodging, but he denied me; whereupon I went up the Street and lay in a
Hogsty, where many People came to see me. I lay there till the Evening
in a sad Condition, when the Overseer’s Wife of that Place led me to
the Overseer’s again, but he still denied me Relief; and, not being
very sensible, I returned again to the same Place, but they had been
so inhuman as to put some Dung into it, to prevent my lodging there
again; but at last I got into another which had no Cover over it as the
other had. In the Morning when I awoke, I went up the Street and with
Weakness fell down, so that Streams of Water ran over me, till helped
up by the Clerk of the Parish’s Wife, who led me till I came to the
wall, by which I held, and with great Trouble got to the Barn, but the
Owner of the Barn was so barbarous as to unhang the Door the next Day;
a young Man, out of Compassion, hung the Door again. The Owner was so
displeased, that he came a second Time and unhung it.

“The next Day, the Small-Pox appeared on me, and was noised about;
insomuch that the Overseer came and put up the Door, and then I had
both Meat and Drink, but took no further Care of me for 14 days; the
Small-Pox appeared very kind and favourable and might have done very
well, had I not been taken in my Legs, and should have been able to go
away in a Fortnight; after which I was taken on my Calfs, which turned
black and cold and looked much like Scalds, and broke out. I applied to
them first of all a Bathe, but the Flesh speedily parted from the small
of my Legs to the Bones. I had there by me some Ointment, which was
brought me by the Overseer; but had no one to dress my Wounds, but did
all myself.

“I freely forgive all the Parish, and as for the Overseers, they did to
the utmost of their power, when my Flesh was separated; and whatever I
desired of them, they sent me, so I desire that all may be blameless
of my Misfortunes. My Pains increased to a wonderful Degree and my
Legs grew worse, and was driven to dismal Extremity, and lay in that
Condition three Weeks.

“On the 18th Day of March about 8 o’clock in the Evening there came a
Woman to the Barn-door to ask me how I did. I was going to show her
how my Legs were, and how the Flesh was separated from the Bones, and
leaning a little harder than Ordinary upon my left leg, it broke off as
though it were a rotten Stick, a little below the Calf; the woman left
me, and I was surprised, but God enabled me to bind up my Leg again
with the same Medicines as before; and when most of the People of the
Village were at rest, then a Man that liv’d over against the Barn came
to see me, and asked me how I did. I desired him to get me some Beer at
the Overseers, but he fetched me some of his own and left me; so there
was no one with me. I submitted myself to God, and after some time fell
asleep, and slept till the morning. And as soon as ’twas Light, dressed
the wound before any came to me, and the Flesh covered the Bone,
but had no Loss of Marrow, and but little of Blood, nor hardly any
Pain. The Mercies there received at the Hands of God exceeded all the
Punishment was due to me thro’ Sin, and His Mercy I never did deserve.
I was visited by abundance of People, and amongst them God sent me the
Minister of Keinsham, and Mr. Brown of the same Town came along with
him, and they afforded me much Comfort; they told me they never saw the
like, and it was God’s handy Work, and not Man’s, so taking leave of
me, they wished that the God of Heaven might be my Physician, and it
gave me a merry Heart and cheerful Countenance, and gave them Thanks
for what Favours I had received from them, and my Pains still ceased.
Abundance came both far and near all the Week to see me, and amongst
the rest a Surgeon, who persuaded me to have the Bone of my right Leg
taken off, to which I gave Consent. On the 25th about 6 in the Morning,
when I arose and opened the Cloaths, I found my Legs were fallen from
me, and the Pains I then suffered were not worthy to be called Pains;
so I dressed it with the same Medicine I made use of before; within two
Hours after came several People to visit me. I unbound the Cloaths and
the Flesh was closed over the Bone, and the Blood was stopp’d. So I had
great Reason to praise the Lord for all His Mercies and Favours I had
received from Time to Time.”


Buried in Saltford Churchyard

    Stop Reader, and a Wonder See,
      As strange as e’er was known!
    My Feet drop’d off from my Body,
      In the Middle of the Bone.
    I had no Surgeon for my Help
      But God Almighty’s Aid,
    In Whom I ever will rely
      And never be afraid.
    Though here beneath (the Mold) they lie
      Corruption for to see,
    Yet they shall one Day reunite
      To all Eternity.

The last line might have been amended to--

    And walk away with me.

This curious tract is entitled _The Devonshire Woman: or a Wonderful
Narrative of Frances Flood_. It bears no date, but is of about 1724.
At the end stands: “Printed for Frances Flood, and sold by Nobody but

In fact, the poor creature went about on crutches selling the story of
her misfortunes. The tract is very scarce, but there is a copy in the
British Museum.


In the Second Part of _Henry IV_, Shakespeare makes his hero, Prince
Hal, behave with splendid generosity to Judge Gascoigne, who had
committed him to prison for striking him in open court.

The King says to him:--

    How might a prince of my great hopes forget
    So great indignities you laid upon me?
    What! rate, rebuke, and roughly send to prison
    The immediate heir of England! Was this easy?
    May this be wash’d in Lethe, and forgotten?

The Chief Justice replies:--

    I then did use the person of your father;
    The image of his power lay then in me:
    And, in the administration of his law,
    Whiles I was busy for the commonwealth,
    Your highness pleasèd to forget my place,
    The majesty and power of law and justice,
    The image of the king whom I presented,
    And struck me in my very seat of judgment;
    Whereon, as an offender to your father,
    I gave bold way to my authority,
    And did commit you.

Shakespeare makes King Henry V recognize that Gascoigne was in the

    You are right, justice, and you weigh this well;
    Therefore still bear the balance and the sword.

But here Shakespeare has not been true to history. His ideal king
was not so generous as he represented him. In fact, directly on his
accession Henry displaced Gascoigne from the Chief-Justiceship, and
elevated to his place the Devonshire lawyer Sir William Hankford,
Knight of the Bath.

Prince, indeed, in his _Worthies of Devon_, claims that it was Hankford
who committed Prince Hal to prison; but this is a mistake, the brave
and resolute judge was Sir William Gascoigne, who was displaced, and
Sir William Hankford installed as Chief Justice in his room by Henry V
eight days after his accession.

Sir William was probably born at Hankford, the ancient seat of the
family, in the hamlet of Bulkworthy, a chapel-of-ease to Buckland
Brewer. He was made Serjeant-at-law in 1391 in the reign of Richard
II, and was advanced to be one of the lords-justices in the Court of
Common Pleas in 1397. He was made Knight of the Bath at the coronation
of Henry IV, and, as already said, he was called up higher to be Chief
Justice by Henry V on his accession to the throne. He retained his
office for part of a year under Henry VI, so that he served under
four kings. He moved from Hankford, the family seat, to Annery, in
the parish of Monkleigh, near Great Torrington, a beautiful spot on
the Torridge. Here he had a stately mansion “famous for a large upper
gallery, wherein might be placed thirty standing beds, fifteen of a
side, and yet not one to be seen there. Nor could you from one bed
see another: for this gallery being very long and wainscotted on each
hand, there were several doors in it, which led into little alcoves or
apartments, well plaistered and whited, large and convenient enough for
private lodgings.”

Annery still stands in its beautiful park, but the gallery has
disappeared; it was pulled down in the year 1800.

Towards the end of his days Hankford fell into deep fits of depression
in retirement at Annery, where, weary of life and despondent at the
prospect of the new reign with an infant as king, and with furious
rivalries ready to break forth and tear the kingdom to pieces, he was
impatient that death might end his troubles.

“On a fit time for the purpose, he called to him the keeper of his
park, which adjoined his house at Annery, and charged him with
negligence in his office, suffering his deer to be killed and stolen;
whereupon he left it in strict charge with him, that he should be more
careful in his rounds by night, and that if he met any one in his
walk that would not stand and speak, he should shoot him, whoever he
was, and that he would discharge him (i.e. free him of blame). This
the keeper directly promised, and too faithfully performed. The judge
having thus laid the design, meaning to end his doleful days, in a
dark tempestuous night, fit for so black an action, secretly conveyed
himself out of the house, and walked alone in his park, just in the
keeper’s way; who being then in his round, hearing somebody coming
towards him, demanded, Who was there. No answer being made, he required
him to stand; the which when he refused to do, the keeper shot and
killed him upon the place: and coming to see who he was, found him to
be his master.”

So relates Prince, following Baker’s _Chronicle_, 1643, and Risdon and
Westcote. But Sir Richard Baker’s account is full of errors: he makes
Hankford die in the reign of Edward IV, whereas he died in the same
year as Henry V (1422). Prince objects that the story may not be true
or only partly true. That Sir William was killed by his keeper is a
fact not to be disputed, but that he purposely contrived his own death
is very doubtful--it is a conjecture and no more.

Sir William was a liberal and religious man: he built the chapel
at Bulkworthy, as well as the Annery Aisle to Monkleigh Church. In
this latter he lies interred, and a noble monument was erected over
him, with the epitaph: “Hic jacet Willielmus Hankford, Miles, quondam
Capitalis Justiciarius Domini Regis de Banco, qui obiit xx die mensis
Decembris, Anno Domini /MCCCCXXII/. Cujus Animae propicietur
Deus. Amen.”

He is represented kneeling in his robes alongside of his wife. Out of
his mouth proceeds this prayer: “Miserere mei Deus, secundum magnam
misericordiam tuam.” A book in his hand is inscribed with “Miserere mei
Deus secundum magnam justiciam divinam,” and over his head is “Beati
qui custodiunt judicium et faciunt justiciam omni tempore.”


Tavistock, in the reign of Elizabeth, was a more picturesque town than
it is at present. Then the abbey walls, crenellated and with towers
at intervals, were still standing in complete circuit, and the abbey
church, the second finest in the county and diocese, though unroofed,
was still erect. The houses, slate-hung in quaint patterns representing
fleurs-de-lis, oak leaves, swallow-tails, pomegranates, with gables to
the street, were very different from the present houses, stuccoed drab
and destitute of taste. Moreover the absurd, gaunt market hall erected
last century was not a central and conspicuous disfigurement to the

But a few strides to the west, on the Plymouth road, stood Fitzford
House, a mansion recently erected, consisting of a court, entered
through a massive gate-house, and the mansion standing back, with porch
and projecting wings.

In this house lived the Fitz family. They had been there for four
generations and had married well. They were also well estated, with
property in Cornwall, in Kent and Southwark, as well as in Devon.
John Fitz, the father of the man whose tragic history we are about to
relate, married Mary, daughter of Sir John Sydenham, of Brimpton, in
Somerset, and had late in life one son, the “unfortunate” Sir John.
The Fitzes had been a family bred to the law; the first known of them,
John Fitz, had been a bencher of Lincoln’s Inn, and the John Fitz who
married Mary Sydenham was also a counsellor-at-law, and he managed
considerably to add to the wealth of the family. When he had got as
much as he wanted out of the pockets of his clients, he retired to his
family place of Fitzford and there amused himself with astrology and
the casting of horoscopes. When his son John was about to be born in
1575, John Fitz studied the stars, and, says Prince, “finding at that
time a very unlucky position of the heavens, he desired the midwife, if
possible, to hinder the birth but for one hour; which, not being to be
done, he declared that the child would come to an unhappy end and undo
the family.”

John Fitz was riding over the moor one day with his wife, when they
lost their direction, were, in fact, pixy-led, and they floundered
through bogs, and could nowhere hit on the packhorse track that led
across the moors from Moreton Hampstead to Tavistock. Exhausted and
parched with thirst they lighted on a crystal stream, dismounted, and
drank copiously of the water. Not only were they refreshed, but at
once John Fitz’s eyes were opened, the spell on him was undone, and
he knew where he was and which direction he should take. Thereupon
he raised his hand and vowed he would honour that well, so that such
travellers as were pixy-led might drink at it and dispel the power over
them exercised by the pixies. The spring still flows and rises under
a granite structure erected in fulfilment of his vow by John Fitz; it
bears his initials and the date 1568 in raised figures and letters on
the covering stone. Formerly it was on a slope in the midst of moorland
away from the main track, near the Blackabrook. Now it is enclosed in
the reclaimed tract made into meadows by the convicts of Princetown.
Happily the structure has not been destroyed: it is surrounded by a
protecting wall.

In the same year that John Fitz erected this well, he obtained a lease
to carry water in pipes of wood or of lead through the garden of one
John Northcott to his mansion at Fitzford. The little house that he
built over the spring in his close, called Boughthayes, still stands,
picturesquely wreathed in ivy.

He died 8 January, 1589-90, aged sixty-one, and by his will made his
wife executrix and guardian of his son, who was then rather over
fourteen years old. There is a stately monument in Tavistock Parish
Church to John Fitz and his wife, he clothed in armour, which in life
he probably never wore, as he was a man of the long robe. The effigies
are recumbent, and by them is a smaller, kneeling figure of the son and
heir--their only child, the “unfortunate” John Fitz. But the widow did
not have charge of her son; as a ward under the Queen he was committed
to Sir Arthur Gorges, “who tended more to the good of the child than
his own private profit,” which was perhaps unusual. Mary Fitz retired
to Walreddon, near Tavistock, another house belonging to the family,
for her initials “M. F.” and the date 1591 are cut in granite over the
doorway. But presently she married Christopher Harris, of Radford, when
she moved to his house near Plymouth.

The young John Fitz is described as having been “a very comlie person.”
He was married, before he had attained his majority, to Bridget, sixth
daughter of Sir William Courtenay. Of this marriage one child, Mary,
was born 1 August, 1596, when her father was just twenty-one years old.
John Fitz was now of age, considered himself free of all restraint,
owner of large estates, and was without stability of character or any
principle, and was inclined to a wild life. He took up his residence at
Fitzford, and roystered and racketed at his will.

One day (it was 4 June, 1599) he was dining at Tavistock with some of
his friends and neighbours. The hour was early, for in the account of
it we are told that “with great varietie of merriments and discourse
they outstript the noontide.”

John Fitz had drunk a good deal of wine, and he began to brag of his
possessions, and boasted that he had not a foot of land that was not
his freehold. Among those present was Nicholas Slanning, of Bickleigh.
He interrupted Fitz, and said, “That is not so. You hold of me a
parcel of land that is copyhold, and though of courtesy it has been
intermitted, yet of due, you owe me so much a year for that land.”

John started from his seat, and told Slanning to his face that he lied,
and mad with rage, drew his dagger and would have stabbed him. Slanning
with a knife beat down Fitz’s blade, and the friends at the table threw
themselves between them and patched up the quarrel as they supposed.
Nicholas Slanning then left the apartment and departed for Bickleigh
with his man, both being on horseback.

They had not ridden far when they came to a deep and rough descent,
whereupon Slanning bade his man lead the horses, and he dismounting
walked through a field where the way was easier.

At that moment he saw John Fitz with four attendants galloping along
the lane after him. Without ado, Slanning awaited the party and
inquired of John Fitz what he desired of him. Fitz replied that he had
followed that he might avenge the insult offered him. Thereupon Fitz
called to his men, and they drew their blades and fell on Slanning, who
had to defend himself against five men. The matter might even then
have been composed, but one of Fitz’s men, named Cross, twitted his
master, saying, “What play is this? It is child’s play. Come, fight!”
Fitz, who had sheathed his sword, drew it again and attacked Slanning.
The latter had long spurs, and stepping back they caught in a tuft of
grass, and as he staggered backward, Fitz ran him through the body. At
the same time, one of Fitz’s men struck him from behind. Slanning fell
to the ground and died. He was conveyed home, and buried in Bickleigh
Church, where his monument still exists, but in a mutilated condition.
It was of plaster, and when the church was “restored” fell to pieces;
but the curious Latin inscription has been preserved.

[Illustration: SLANNING’S OAK

_From an oil painting by A. B. Collier, 1855_]

Nicholas Slanning had been married to Margaret, daughter of Henry
Champernowne, of Modbury, and he died leaving as his heir a child,
and the administration of his estates was committed to that son’s
great-uncle. Of Ley, the fine Slanning place, nothing now remains
except the balls that stood on the entrance gates, that have been
transferred to the vicarage garden at Bickleigh. The situation was
incomparably beautiful, and it is to be regretted that the grand old
Elizabethan mansion has been levelled with the dust. Sir Nicholas
Slanning, created a baronet in 1663, moved to Maristowe in Tamerton
Foliot, but the second and last baronet died without issue in 1700, and
in 1798 John Modyford Heywood, who inherited the extensive Slanning
estates through a female line, sold them all to Sir Manasseh Lopes, a
Portuguese Jew diamond merchant, who had obtained a baronetcy by buying
up rotten boroughs in Cornwall and putting in members whose votes could
be relied on by the ministry of the day. The baronetcy was created in
1805. The first baronet was the son of Mordecai Lopes, of Jamaica.

“Great,” we are informed, “was the lamentation that the countryside
made for the death of so beloved a gentleman as Maister Slanning was.”

John Fitz, then aged twenty-four, escaped to the Continent and stayed
in France, until the exertions of his wife and mother succeeded in
December, 1599, in procuring a pardon for him; whereupon he returned
home, unsubdued by the past, insolent, riotous, and haughty. At the
coronation of James I, 1603, he was knighted, not for any services
done to the Crown or State, but because he was of good family, well
connected, and with property.

He returned to Fitzford, where, finding his wife and child something
of a drag upon him in his wild and dissipated career, he turned them
out of doors, and his wife had to go for shelter to her father. Left
now to himself and his evil associates, “Men of dissolute and desperate
fortunes,” chief among whom was “Lusty Jacke, one whose deedes were
indeed meane, whose qualities altogether none,” he behaved in such sort
that “the Towne of Tavistocke, though otherwise orderly governed with
sobriety, and likewise of grave magistrates, was thereby infected with
the beastly corruption of drunkenesse. Sir John, of his own inclination
apte, and by his retained copesmates urged, persevered evermore to
run headlong into such enormities as their sensuality and pleasures
inclined unto, spending their time in riotous surfettinge and in all
abominable drunkenness, plucking men by night out of their beddes,
violently breaking windows, quarrelling with ale-conners [ale-tasters],
fighting in private brables amongst themselves. And when they had
abused the townsmen and disturbed their neighbours, Sir John’s own
house was their sanctuary or receptacle to cloak their outrages; so as
it seemed they lyved as, in time of old, the common outlaws of the
land did, neither worshipping God nor honouringe Prince, but wholly
subject to their contentes alone.”

According to Prince, about this time Fitz committed another murder; but
what seems to be better authenticated is that he all but killed one of
the town constables.

In the summer of 1605, Sir John Fitz was summoned to London to appear
before the courts, in answer to a claim of compensation for their
father’s murder, made by the children of Nicholas Slanning, the eldest
of whom, Gamaliel, was now about eighteen years old. He set out on
horseback, attended by a servant. Dissipation had weakened his mind
and shattered his nerves. He was in deadly alarm. Not only would he
be heavily fined for the assassination of Slanning, but he had been
playing ducks and drakes with his property which had been settled by
deed of 20 March, 1598-9, on his wife, and he expected to be called
to task for this by Sir William Courtenay, his wife’s father. He
took it into his head that his life was in danger, that the friends
and kinsfolk of Slanning would ambuscade and murder him; that Sir W.
Courtenay would be willing to have him put out of the way so as to
save the property from being further dissipated. At every point on his
journey he showed himself suspicious of being waylaid or pursued. Every
day his fancies became more disordered.

At length he reached Kingston-on-Thames, and put up for the night
there. But he could not sleep, noises disturbed him, and rising from
his bed he insisted on the servant getting ready his nag, and away he
rode over Kingston Bridge, alone, having peremptorily forbidden his man
to accompany him, entertaining some suspicion that the man had been
bought by his enemies and would lead him into a trap. He drew up at
the “Anchor,” a small tavern at Twickenham, kept by one Daniel Alley;
it was now 2 a.m., and all Twickenham was asleep. He hammered at the
door and shouted; presently the casement opened, and the publican put
out his head and inquired what the gentleman wanted. Sir John demanded
a bed and shelter for the rest of the night. Daniel Alley begged to be
excused, he had no spare room, his house was small and not fitted for
the reception of persons of quality. However, on Sir John’s further
insistence he put on his clothes, struck a light, descended, and did
his utmost to make the nocturnal visitor comfortable, even surrendering
to him his own bed, and sending his wife to sleep with the children.
Sir John cast himself on the bed. He tossed; and host and hostess
heard him cry out, and speak of enemies who pursued him and sought his
blood. There was no sleeping for Daniel or his wife, and the host rose
at dawn to join a neighbour in mowing a meadow. But when he was about
to go forth, his wife begged not to be left in the house alone with
the strange gentleman. The neighbour came up, and he and Alley spoke
together at the door. Their voices reached Sir John, who had fallen
into a disordered sleep. Persuaded that the enemies were arrived and
were surrounding the house, he rushed out in his nightgown, with his
sword drawn, fell on his host, and killed him. Then he ran his sword
against the wife, wounding her. But now, with the gathering light, he
discovered what he had done, and in a fit of despair stabbed himself in
two places. He was secured now by neighbours who had come up, and taken
to the bed he had just quitted. A surgeon was sent for, and his wounds
were bound up. But Sir John angrily refused the assistance of the
leech, and tore away the bandages, and bled to death.


Daniel Alley was buried on the 8th day of August, 1605, and Sir
John Fitz on the 10th, and “because he was a Gentleman borne and of
good kindred, hee was buried in the Chancell at Twickenham.” The
representative of the Fitz family was now his little daughter Mary,
whose story is also sufficiently curious to deserve a place here.

The authority for the story of Sir John Fitz’s death is _The Bloudie
Booke; or, the Tragical End of Sir John Fitz_. London, 1605. Probably
enough written by a chaplain to the Earl of Northumberland, then at
Sion House, who hearing of what had happened, sent this chaplain to
Twickenham, and to Sir John, at the “Anchor,” “To put him in mind what
he had done and persuade him to repent.”


The Earl of Northumberland had shown himself solicitous for the welfare
of the soul of Sir John Fitz when he heard of the murder and suicide
at Twickenham; he was even more solicitous over his estate. He was
aware that Sir John had left an only daughter, still a child, who was
with her mother at Radford. He posted up to London at once, saw the
King, and bought of him the wardship of the little orphan for £465,
to be paid in instalments, and raised out of the estate of the little
heiress, who was then aged nine years and one week.

“The law of wardship,” says Mrs. G. Radford, “seems so cruel and
tyrannical that it is wonderful that it should have endured so long. By
it, when any man who held land _in capite_, or direct from the Crown,
died, his heir, if a minor, belonged to the king, who had a right to
receive all rents and profits from these lands until the heir became
of age. He could also marry the ward to whom he would. Henry VIII
established the Court of Wards and Liveries, the number of estates held
_in capite_ being so great that some organized system was necessary.
By it the wardship and marriage of minors were sold to the highest
bidder, who was sometimes the child’s mother or the executors of the
father’s will. But if they were not very prompt in applying, or did
not offer the largest sum, then to any stranger. The guardian would
have complete control over the ward, who generally lived in his
house, could marry the ward as he liked, this also being generally an
affair of money, and received the rents of the minor’s estate without
any liability to account.”[6]

[Illustration: LADY HOWARD]

Accordingly, at the age of nine, little Mary Fitz was taken from her
mother, but under whose charge she was placed at first does not appear.
A year or two later, she was living in the house of Lady Elizabeth
Hatton, second wife of Sir Edmund Coke, then Master of the Court of
Wards. At once the Earl of Northumberland sent his brother, Sir Allan
Percy, into Devon to look over the estates of Mary Fitz and make what
money he could out of them by felling timber.

Sir Allan was, apparently, quite satisfied with what he saw; he was a
needy man, and resolved on marrying the heiress, and this he did about
1608, when he was aged thirty-one and she twelve. But as she was so
young it was arranged that she should not live with her husband till
she reached a nubile age. She never did live with him, for he caught a
severe chill through lying on the damp ground when hot and tired with
hunting, and he died in November, 1611. She was the wealthiest heiress
in Devonshire, and the Earl of Suffolk schemed to obtain her for his
third son, Sir Thomas Howard. She was not only rich, but beautiful.
Her father had been a remarkably handsome man, and Lord Clarendon,
long after this date, speaks of her as “having been of extraordinary
beauty.” But she balked all schemers by running away with Thomas Darcy,
a young man of her own age, son of Lord Darcy, of Chiche, afterwards
Earl Rivers. Lord Darcy could not object to the match, but Mary Fitz
was still a minor, and a ward. If proceedings were threatened, nothing
came of it, for the young bridegroom died. The exact date is not known,
but he could not have lived with her more than a few months after his

Mary, still a ward, was now married, for the third time before she was
sixteen, to Sir Charles Howard, fourth son of the Earl of Suffolk, not
to Sir Thomas, his third son, as had been at first designed. The young
couple resided with the Earl at Audley End, and there her first child
was born, a daughter, Elizabeth, born on 21 September, 1613, who does
not seem to have lived long, as she disappears altogether within a few
years. There was a second daughter, Mary, born in London, the date
not known; but Sir Charles Howard died on 22 September, 1622, without
leaving male issue. It was when a widow about this time, apparently,
that Lady Howard was painted by Vandyke, and this was engraved by
Hollar. The painting cannot now be traced. She was now one of the
stateliest dames of the Court of Henrietta Maria, where she cultivated
the friendship of the Duke of Buckingham, who exerted his influence
with her so as to render her propitious to the addresses of one of
his own dependents, Sir Richard Grenville. The Duke considered that a
rich wife would help on the fortunes of his favourite, and thus did
the heiress of Fitzford and Walreddon give herself to her fourth and
worst husband. But before marrying him she was cautious to tie up her
estate in such a manner that he could not touch it. Without breathing
a word of what she was doing, she conveyed all her lands to Walter
Hele, Anthony Short, and William Grills in trust to permit her during
her life, whether sole or married, to receive the rents and dispose of
them at her own goodwill and pleasure. Sir Richard Grenville went with
his wife to Fitzford, and there in May, 1630, their first child was
born, and christened Richard after his father. Sir Richard was mightily
incensed when he discovered that he could not handle the revenues of
the estates, and this led to incessant bickerings. Clarendon says:--

“He had nothing to depend upon but the fortune of his wife: which,
though ample enough to have supported the expense a person of his
quality ought to have made, was not large enough to satisfy his vanity
and ambition. Nor so great as he, upon common reports, had promised
himself by her. By not being enough pleased with her fortune, he
grew less pleased with his wife; who, being a woman of a haughty
and imperious nature, and of a wit far superior to his own, quickly
resented the disrespect she received from him, and in no degree studied
to make herself easy to him. After some years spent together in these
domestic unsociable contestations, in which he possessed himself of
all her estate, as the sole master of it, without allowing her out of
her own any competency for herself, and indulging to himself all those
licences in her own house which to women are most grievous, she found
means to withdraw herself from him, and was with all kindness received
into the family in which she had before married, and was always very
much respected.”

Before proceeding with the quotation from Clarendon, it will be well
to give at once some illustrative touches as to the annoyances she
underwent at the hands of Sir Richard, and as to her own conduct
towards him. He confined her to a corner of her own house, Fitzford,
excluded her from the government of the house, and installed his aunt,
Mrs. Katherine Abbott, as his housekeeper, with control over the
servants and the keeping of the keys.

This was bad enough, but there was worse to come; his violence and
language towards her were so intolerable that she was constrained to
appeal to the justices of the peace, who ordered him to allow her forty
shillings a week. This, after a time, he refused to pay, unless she
would grant him an acquittance. All this is stated in the lady’s plea
to obtain a divorce in 1631-2. He also called her bad names before the
justices, “she being a vertuous and a chaste lady”--a pretty scene in
the court at Tavistock for the citizens to witness and listen to.

“He gave directions to one of his servantes to burn horse-haire, wooll,
feathers and parings of horse hoofes, and to cause the smoke to goe
into the ladye’s chamber, through an hole made in the plaistering
out of the kitchen. He broke up her chamber doore, and came into her
chamber at night with a sword drawn. That for the key of his closett
which she had taken away and denyed to give him, he tooke hold of her
petty coate and tore it, and threw her upon the ground, being with
childe, and, as one witness deposeth, made her eye blacke and blewe.”

Sir Richard, on his side, complained, “That they had lived quietly
together for the space of two years, and till they came to this
Court.... That she hath often carried herself unseemly both in wordes
and deedes, and sunge unseemly songs to his face to provoke him, and
bid him goe to such a woman and such a woman, and called him a poore
rogue and pretty fellow, and said he was not worth ten groates when
she married him; that she would make him creepe to her, and that she
had good friends in London would beare her out of it. That she swore
the peace against him without cause, and then asked him, ‘Art thou not
a pretty fellow to be bound to the good behaviour?’ Then she said he
was an ugly fellow, and when he was once gone from home, she said, ‘The
Devill and sixpence goe with him, and soe shall he lacke neither money
nor company!’ That she said such a one was a honester man than her
husband, and loved Cuttofer (George Cutteford, her steward) better than
him. That there were holes made in the kitchen wall by the lady or her
daughter (i.e. Mary Howard), that he gave direction that they should be
stopped up, that she might not harken to what the servants said in the
kitchen, that she had ten roomes at pleasure, and had whatsoever in the
house she would desire. That she locked him into his closett and tooke
away the key, and it is true he endeavoured to take away the key from
her, and hurt his thumb and rent her pocket.”

Sir Richard certainly comes out best in the case. She was a woman of
insuperable pride, and with a violent temper and abusive, insulting
tongue. Having fled from Fitzford, and taken refuge with the family
of the Earl of Suffolk, Sir Richard for a while breathed free, and
rejoiced at her absence, till the tenants refused to pay rent into
his hands, whereupon he found himself without money; her pre-nuptial
settlement was put in force, and the trustees required the tenants to
pay their rents to them. To return to Clarendon. “This begat a suit in
Chancery between Sir Richard Grenville and the Earl of Suffolk, before
the Lord Coventry, who found the conveyance in Law to be so firm, that
he could not only not relieve Sir Richard Grenville in equity, but that
in justice he must decree the land to the Earl, which he did. This very
sensible mortification transported him so much, that being a man who
used to speak bitterly of those he did not love, after all endeavours
to engage the Earl in a personal conflict, he revenged himself upon
him in such opprobrious language as the Government and justice of
that time would not permit to pass unpunished; and the Earl appealed
for reparation to the Court of the Star Chamber, where Sir Richard was
decreed to pay three thousand pounds to the King, who gave the fine
likewise to the Earl; so that Sir Richard was committed to the prison
of the Fleet in execution for the whole six thousand pounds, which
at that time was thought by all men to be a very severe and rigorous
decree, and drew a general compassion towards the unhappy gentleman.

“For some years Sir Richard endured this imprisonment, which made him
the more bitter against his wife; he at length escaped his captivity,
and fled beyond seas. There he remained till the great change in
England having caused many decrees of the Star Chamber to be repealed,
and the persons awarded to pay penalties absolved, he came home and
petitioned to be heard in mitigation of his case. Before this came on,
the rebellion broke out in Ireland.” The proceedings for a divorce were
taken by Lady Grenville against her husband whilst he was a prisoner in
the Fleet, no doubt acting on the advice of the Earl of Suffolk, elder
brother of her late husband; and it was whilst she was in London at his
house that her second daughter, Elizabeth, was born. The court after
hearing arguments from counsel, decreed divorce _a mensa et thoro_, but
that one-half of her means should be paid to Sir Richard annually. In
August of the same year (1632), a commission was sent to Fitzford to
search the house, as Sir Richard was suspected of clipping the current
coin and of coining as well. Sir F. Drake and William Strode visited
the house, but notice of their coming had in some way been given.
They thoroughly searched “tronkes, chests and cabinetts,” and closely
examined Mrs. Abbott, Sir Richard’s aunt “who had the rule of the
house.” Pincers, holdfasts, files “smoothe and ruffe,” one of which had
been employed for yellow metal, were found, and the servants admitted
that they had melted silver lace, etc. All this, though suspicious, was
not conclusive, and the charge was not pressed. On 17 October, 1633,
Sir Richard escaped from the Fleet and entered the Swedish service in
Germany. Nothing is heard of him again till 1639. During these seven
years his emancipated wife lived in various places, for the first four
or five years with the Earl of Suffolk, and afterwards at her own house
in London. She had thrown off her name of Grenville and resumed that of

Theophilus, Earl of Suffolk, was born in 1584, and was married to Lady
Elizabeth Hume, who died in 1533, the year after the divorce. To this
period probably belongs an episode that is shrouded in mystery. Lady
Howard had a son, George Howard, when born is not recorded.

He is first mentioned in 1644 in a petition made by his mother to the
King, and then and afterwards is alluded to as Lady Howard’s son. He
certainly was not the son of Sir Charles Howard, for seven years after
that gentleman’s death, in 1628, it is stated, in his wife’s pleading
before the Court of Chancery, that Sir Charles died “without heires
male, leaving only twoe daughters, Elizabeth and Mary.” It is a curious
fact that none of the contemporary writers who mention Lady Howard make
any aspersions on her morals. That George passed in Tavistock as the
son of Sir Charles is certain, but it is just as certain that he was
not this. We cannot but suspect a _liaison_ with Theophilus, Earl of
Suffolk, in whose house Lady Howard continued to live after the death
of his wife. In the confusion of the Civil Wars, and the distraction
of men’s minds from family scandals to events of public import, it
would have been quite possible for Lady Howard to mislead the Tavistock
people as to the true parentage of her son George. The Earl was by no
means an old man when the Countess died, in fact, was aged forty-nine

During the seven years of Sir Richard’s absence, Lady Howard wrote
many letters to her steward Cutteford, who occupied Walreddon and
managed her estates in Devon and Cornwall. Whether it was intended as
humour or not we cannot say, but she invariably addressed her agent as
“Guts,” “Honest Guts,” “Good Guts,” and once “Froward Guts,” and almost
every letter was for money. In all the seven years since the decree of
divorce, Sir Richard had certainly not received one penny of the sum
allotted to him to be paid annually from his wife’s income, and when
he returned to England in 1639 he carried his cause before the King’s
Council, and claimed of the Earl of Suffolk arrears to the amount of

A committee was appointed to hear Sir Richard’s cause, in December,
1640, and so hopeful was he of success, that he actually went down
to Fitzford, turned out the caretakers, and installed his aunt there
again. Lady Howard wrote to her steward in “a very great distraction”
on hearing of these proceedings. But before his case was decided, he
was sent by the King to Ireland in command of a troop, and arrived
in Dublin in March, 1641-2. He remained in Ireland for more than
a year, and earned distinction as a commander. On his return, he
learned that the King, who was at Oxford, was short of money, and that
the Parliament in London had plenty. He had not been paid for his
services in Ireland, so he rode to where the money bags were, assumed
the Puritan cant and nasal twang, recounted his great service, and
protested his desire to quit the “Tents of Shem and cast in his lot
with the righteous,” i.e. to desert the royal cause. The Parliament was
delighted, he was at once paid all arrears, was made a major-general
of horse in the Parliamentary army, with a regiment of five hundred
horse, and power to choose his own officers. On 2 March, 1643-4, he
set out with his regiment, riding through London amidst the plaudits
of the citizens. His banner was carried in front, displaying a map
of England and Wales on a crimson ground, with “England bleeding” in
golden letters across the top. The regiment rode on as far as Bagshot,
when a halt was called. Then Sir Richard harangued the officers and
men, set forth the sinfulness of fighting against their anointed King,
and concluded by inviting them to follow him to Oxford, to fight for
the King instead of against him. The officers, whom he had not failed
to pick out from among his most trusty friends and dependents, all
cheerfully assented, and followed by most of his soldiers, Sir Richard
rode straight to Oxford and presented himself to the King at the
head of a well-equipped troop, and placed his sword at His Majesty’s
disposal. The Parliament, duped, was furious, a price was set on Sir
Richard’s head, and he was hanged in effigy. A Proclamation was issued,
declaring him “traytor, rogue, villain and skellum”--this last word
was deemed so appropriate that henceforth he was known as Skellum
Grenville. William Lilly, the astrologer, refers to him when he says:
“Have we another Red Fox like Sir R. G. acting his close devotions to
do our Army mischief? Let’s be wary!”

Sir Richard being now in high favour with the King made petition
to be given his wife’s estates in Devonshire, on the ground that
her continued residence in London made her a rebel. The King, with
monstrous injustice, granted what was asked, and at once--a fortnight
after his having marched out of London--he arrived in Tavistock, with
powers from the King to take possession of all his wife’s estates.
Armed with a warrant from Prince Maurice, then quartered at Tavistock,
Sir Richard threw Cutteford and his wife and son into prison, and
proceeded to plunder his house, and scrape together what money he could
from the tenants. Plymouth was at this time invested by the Royal
army; Sir Richard was placed in command, and he remained there till
the approach of Essex with a large army compelled him to retreat into
Cornwall with his troops, leaving only a few soldiers in his wife’s
house, Fitzford, to defend it.

Essex was not slow to avail himself of the chance of punishing Skellum
Grenville--the Red Fox--and his own regiment and another proceeded to
Fitzford, and after damaging it with cannon, compelled the garrison of
one hundred and eighty to lay down their arms. Those who agreed to take
the Covenant, about sixty, were enrolled in the Parliamentary army, the
rest were detained as prisoners. The house was given up to plunder.
There was in it “excellent pillage for the soldiers, even at least
£3000 in money and plate, and other provisions in great quantity.”

Unhappily, the plate, the money, the furniture, the provisions did not
belong to Skellum Grenville at all, but to Lady Howard, accounted a
Parliamentarian. They were his by usurpation only. After the defeat of
Essex in Cornwall, the King gave Sir Richard all the Earl of Bedford’s
estates and those of Sir Francis Drake, and he resumed command at the
siege of Plymouth. He was made Sheriff of Devon in the same year, 1645,
and his exactions were great, both as sheriff and as the “King’s
General in the West.” But he was not a man to behave with moderation;
he speedily abused all these favours, and his acts were so notoriously
tyrannical and cruel that they were formally brought as charges against
him before the Council, where he was summoned to appear in person
and answer for his misdeeds whilst governor of Lydford Castle. One
instance of his cruelty deserves particular notice, as it shows the
bitterness wherewith he recollected his quarrels with his wife. During
the time of her proceedings against him in Chancery she employed an
attorney-at-law whose name was Brabant; he bore the character of being
an honest man, and loyal to the King. He lived somewhere in this part
of Devonshire. Many years elapsed since the decision of that suit
against him, before Sir Richard became a man of so much importance by
his high military command in the west. No sooner did Brabant learn the
news of his arrival, than, well knowing he was not of a disposition to
forget or forgive an old adversary, Brabant judged it prudent to keep
as much as possible out of the way. Having occasion, however, to make a
journey that would take him near Sir Richard’s quarters, he disguised
himself as well as he could and put on a montero cap. Sir Richard,
who probably had been on the watch to catch him, notwithstanding all
these precautions, received intelligence of the movements of the man of
law. He caused him to be intercepted on his road, made prisoner, and
brought before him. In vain did Brabant protest that he was journeying
on no errand but his own private affairs; for Sir Richard affecting,
on account of his montero cap, to believe him to be a spy, without a
council of war, or any further inquiry, ordered the luckless lawyer to
be hanged on the spot. The offences of Sir Richard were so gross that
he was sent a prisoner to St. Michael’s Mount, in Cornwall; but on the
approach of the Parliamentary army he was allowed to escape on 3 March,
1645-6. He sailed to Brest, and joined his son at Nantes.

Lady Howard, so soon as she heard that Sir Richard was out of England,
hastened down to Fitzford, where she found that her steward was dead
and her mansion wrecked. When the country was somewhat more peaceful
she brought down to it from London her furniture, books, and plate, and
set to work to repair the damage that the house had sustained. Her son,
George Howard, was with her and managed her affairs eventually, not at
first, for if he were born in 1634 he would be still a child.

Sir Richard Grenville and his son Richard wandered about the Continent
till 1647, when he formed the rash intention to return to London.
What induced him to take this desperate step can only be conjectured.
Perhaps he had money in London, which it was only possible to secure
personally; possibly he may have desired to get possession of his
daughter Elizabeth and take her abroad with him, rightly conjecturing
that her mother had no affection, but the contrary, for a child of his.
Indeed, it is probable that the tradition of Lady Howard’s persistent
hatred displayed towards one of her daughters pertains to this
Elizabeth Grenville.

There must have been some very strong reason for Sir Richard’s
venturing to England, for he knew perfectly in what estimation he was
held by the Puritans. He disguised himself, cutting his hair short
and wearing “a very large periwigg hanging on his shoulders,” and
blackening his foxy-red beard with a lead comb, so that “none would
know him but by his voyse.”

How he fared in England we know not; he did secure his daughter and
escaped with his life to Holland, but of his son we hear nothing more,
and it is possible that he met his death while in England.

Lord Lansdowne, in his _Vindication_ of his uncle, says, “His only son,
unluckily falling afterwards into whose hands, was hanged.”

In 1652 Sir Richard Grenville, being in the Low Countries, seized goods
belonging to the Earl of Suffolk that were at Bruges, to the value of
£27,000, as some abatement of the debt he considered was due to him out
of Lady Howard’s estate.

In 1655 that lady’s son, George Howard, married Mistress Burnby, and
by her had a son George who died young, and he had no more children,
so that with this child died his grandmother’s hopes of a descendant
in the male line. If George Howard, the father, were born in 1634, he
would have been one-and-twenty when he married.

Sir Richard Grenville died at Ghent about 1659, attended by his
daughter Elizabeth, who shortly after married a privateer captain
named Lennard, who cruised the Channel stopping and plundering English
vessels, on the principle that all who did not fight for King Charles
were his enemies and the enemies of his country. He was taken prisoner
8 February, 1659-60, and only escaped being hanged by the Restoration.
He was set at liberty and given the post of captain of the Black Horse
at Tilbury; but he did not long enjoy the post, as he died in 1665.

Something must now be said about this daughter, Elizabeth Grenville,
concerning whom tradition has a good deal to say, but it is unsupported
by documentary evidence.

The story is that Lady Howard hated the child with a deadly hate as
the offspring of the plague of her life, Sir Richard Grenville. As she
was unkind to it, a lady carried it away, and without the knowledge
of the mother brought it up as her own. In after years this lady
introduced Elizabeth to her mother under a fictitious name, and Lady
Howard became quite attached to her. Seeing this, the lady revealed to
her who the young girl was. At this Lady Howard started to her feet,
her eyes flaming with rage, and drove Elizabeth from her presence.

A few years passed, and this Elizabeth Grenville made another attempt
to see and soften her mother. She went to her at Walreddon, but when
Lady Howard saw her she rushed from the room up the stairs pursued by
her daughter, who implored her to stay and hear and love her. Elizabeth
clung to her mother’s dress on the landing, as Lady Howard passed into
one of the upper rooms. The unnatural mother swung back the door with
such violence that it broke her daughter’s arm. If this took place at
all it was probably before Elizabeth departed for the Continent with
her father, when she was aged sixteen. She never after met her mother.

Lady Howard was getting on in life; her son George lived with her at
Fitzford and managed her property. Feeling old age creeping on, she
by deed made over all her estates to him, in the hopes that when she
was gone he would live on in her ancestral home. But in the prime
of life George Howard died on 17 September, 1671. To his mother the
shock was so great that she did not recover from it, and she also
died, just one month after him. Hearing that she was ill, her first
cousin, Sir William Courtenay, hurried to her bedside, and gained such
power over Lady Howard as to induce her to make a will leaving all her
possessions to him, to the exclusion of her daughters. Mary Howard,
married to one Vernon, was to be given £500 within four years after
her decease, and £1000 to her daughter Elizabeth, married to Captain
Lennard, to be paid within two years, and £20 within one year; but
should she protest against the will, then what she was to receive would
be reduced to £20. The will was signed on 14 October, 1671, and she
died on the seventeenth of the same month. “This is the one action of
Lady Howard’s life,” says Mrs. Radford, “that seems to have shocked
her contemporaries. They have not a word to say against her moral
character; but she disinherited her children. Could anything be more

Walreddon to the present day belongs to the Earl of Devon; but Fitzford
was sold in 1750 to the Duke of Bedford.

Lady Howard was a person of strong will and imperious temper, and left
a deep and lasting impression on the people of Tavistock. Mrs. Bray
collected several traditions relative to her, which she published in
her _Notes to Fitz, of Fitzford_, in 1828. She bore the reputation
of having been hard-hearted in her lifetime. For some crime she had
committed (nobody knew what), she was said to be doomed to run in the
shape of a hound from the gateway of Fitzford to Okehampton Park,
between the hours of midnight and cock-crowing, and to return with a
single blade of grass in her mouth to the place whence she had started;
and this she was to do till every blade was picked, when the world
would be at an end.

“Dr. Jago, the clergyman of Milton Abbot, however, told me that
occasionally she was said to ride in a coach of bones up West Street,
Tavistock, towards the moor; and an old man of this place told a friend
of mine the same story, adding that ‘he had seen her scores of times.’
A lady also who was once resident here, and whom I met in company,
assured me that, happening many years before to pass the old gateway at
Fitzford, as the church clock struck twelve, in returning from a party,
she had herself seen the hound start.”

When a child I heard the story, but somewhat varied, that Lady Howard
drove nightly from Okehampton Castle to Launceston Castle in a black
coach driven by a headless coachman, and preceded by a fire-breathing
black hound; that when the coach stopped at a door, there was sure to
be a death in that house the same night. There was a ballad about it,
of which I can only recall fragments. Mr. Sheppard picked it up also at
South Brent from old Helmore the miller; but being more concerned about
the tune than the words, and thinking that I had the latter already, he
did not trouble himself to take down the whole ballad.

In the first edition of _Songs of the West_, I gave the ballad
reconstructed by me from the poor fragments that I recollected; and as
such I give it here:--

    My ladye hath a sable coach,
      And horses two and four;
    My ladye hath a black blood-hound
      That runneth on before.
    My ladye’s coach hath nodding plumes,
      The driver hath no head;
    My ladye is an ashen white,
      As one that long is dead.

    “Now pray step in!” my ladye saith,
      “Now pray step in and ride.”
    I thank thee, I had rather walk
      Than gather to thy side.
    The wheels go round without a sound,
      Or tramp or turn of wheels;
    As cloud at night, in pale moonlight,
      Along the carriage steals.

    “Now pray step in!” my ladye saith,
      “Now prithee come to me.”
    She takes the baby from the crib,
      She sits it on her knee.
    “Now pray step in!” my ladye saith,
      “Now pray step in and ride.”
    Then deadly pale, in waving veil,
      She takes to her the bride.

    “Now pray step in!” my ladye saith,
      “There’s room I wot for you.”
    She wav’d her hand, the coach did stand,
      The Squire within she drew.
    “Now pray step in!” my ladye saith,
      “Why shouldst thou trudge afoot?”
    She took the gaffer in by her,
      His crutches in the boot.

    I’d rather walk a hundred miles,
      And run by night and day,
    Than have that carriage halt for me
      And hear my ladye say--
    “Now pray step in, and make no din,
      Step in with me to ride;
    There’s room, I trow, by me for you,
      And all the world beside.”

As a fact, Lady Howard did not have a carriage but a Sedan-chair. An
inventory of her goods was taken at her death for probate, and this
shows that she had no wheeled conveyance. The story of the Death Coach
is probably a vague reminiscence of the Goddess of Death travelling
over the world collecting human souls.

The authorities for the Life of Lady Howard are:--

Lord Lansdowne’s _Vindication of Sir Richard Grenville_, printed in
Holland, 1654, reprinted in Lord Lansdowne’s _Works_, 1732; also
Clarendon’s _History of the Great Rebellion_, and Mrs. G. Radford’s
“Lady Howard, of Fitzford,” in the _Transactions_ of the Devonshire
Association, 1890.


THE Bidlake family can be traced back to the thirteenth century. Their
original seat was Combe or Combebow, in the parish of Bridestowe,
where they had a mansion on a knoll of limestone rising out of a
narrow valley. The site is of interest. The old Roman road, probably a
pre-Roman road from Exeter to Launceston and the West, ran through this
contracted glen, on the south-east side of which rises steeply a lofty
chain of hills cut sharply through by the Lew River. This ridge goes by
the name of Galaford, or the Forked Way, because the ancient roads did
fork--that already mentioned ran along one side, and that leading to
Lydford ran on the other, the fork being on Sourton Down. At the point
or promontory above the cleft cut by the Lew, and immediately above the
knoll of Combe, is an extensive series of earthworks, prehistoric and
Saxon. The prehistoric camp is oval, with outworks to the south, where
the tongue of hill is cut through from one side to the other by an
artificial moat with bank.

[Illustration: BIDLAKE]

If I am not mistaken, here was the scene of the final contest of the
Britons against the Saxons in 823, fought at Gavulford, when the former
were routed. This was, in fact, the best position along the road
into Cornwall at which they could make a stand. That the Saxons
considered it a point of importance is shown by their erecting here a
_burh_ or burg in addition to the powerfully entrenched prehistoric
fortress. The knoll in the valley below was also probably fortified,
but all traces have been swept away by quarrymen who have dug the hill
over for lime, only sparing one point that was heaped up with the ruins
of the mansion of the Combes.

William de Combe early in the fifteenth century had a son John, who
moved to Bidlake, built himself a house there, and called himself John
de Bidlake. His grandson, John de Bidlake, married a cousin Alice,
daughter of Richard de Combe of Bradstone, and this John had a son,
another John, who married a Joan of Bridestowe, his cousin in the
fourth degree. Combe came thus to be united to the possessions of the
Bidlakes, for one or other of these ladies was an heiress.

There was in Bridestowe another family ancient and well estated, the
Ebsworthys, of Ebsworthy, and the Bidlakes and Ebsworthys were too near
neighbours to be good friends. In fact, there was an hereditary feud
between them. One of the Ebsworthys had married a daughter of Gilbert
Germyn, the rector. This was quite enough for the Bidlakes to look with
an evil eye on the parson. William Bidlake and Agnes his wife drew up
charges against the parson in 1613.

But before coming to the complaints of 1613, we must see what sort of
man this Gilbert Germyn was. The convulsions and changes in religion
that had succeeded each other in waves since the year 1531 had
unsettled men’s minds; with the exception of fanatics on one side or
the other--the staunch adherents to the Papacy, and the thorough-going
Puritans--dead apathy had settled down on the majority with regard
to religion: they knew not what to believe and how worship was to
be conducted, and they did not much care. Having been taught to
abhor the distinctive errors of the Church of Rome, they had not
been instructed in the distinctive errors of the Church of England
that they were required to embrace. The clergy to fill the vacant
benefices were ignorant and brutish. They had no religious convictions
and no culture. So long as they had pliant consciences, Elizabeth
was content. In many dioceses in England, a third of the parishes
were left without a pastor, resident or non-resident. In 1561 there
were in the Archdeaconry of Norfolk a hundred and eighty parishes,
in the Archdeaconry of Suffolk a hundred and thirty parishes in this
condition. Cobblers and tailors occupied the pulpits, where there were
no incumbents. “The Bishops,” said Cecil, “had no credit either for
learning, good living or hospitality. The Bishops ... were generally
covetous, and were rather despised than reverenced or beloved.” The
Archbishop of York was convicted of adultery with the wife of an
innkeeper at Doncaster. Other prelates bestowed ordination “on men of
lewd life and corrupt behaviour.” And a good many of them sold the
livings in their gift to the highest bidder.

Gilbert Germyn was the son of an apothecary in Exeter. At the time,
Bridestowe cum Sourton, one of the best livings in the gift of the
Bishop, was held by Chancellor Marston. The apothecary, it is stated,
bribed the Chancellor to resign, with a present of £100, and then
negotiated with the Bishop--at what price is not known--to present his
son to the united benefices.

When so many livings were without incumbents, all sorts of
unscrupulous men, of a low class, rushed into Orders, without
university education, indeed without any education at all, so as to
secure a living in which they could draw the tithe and farm the glebe,
without a thought as to their religious responsibilities.

Such a man Gilbert Germyn seems to have been. In 1582 articles of
misdemeanours were drawn up against him by Henry Bidlake and some of
the parishioners, but as far as can be learnt without effect. The
Bishop had presented him, for reasons best known to himself, and was
indisposed to take cognizance of his conduct.

It is worth while looking at some of the charges brought against a man
whom the Bishop, John Woolton, delighted to honour.

He was complained of for his grasping character. Although the glebe
comprised a manor of eight or nine tenements, yet he did not rest till
he got into his own hands “by dyvers meannes three of the best and most
fruitfull tenements in the two parishes.”

That, in addition to being rector of Bridestowe and Sourton, he was
vicar of another parish in Cornwall.

That he was litigious, citing his tenants and the tithe payers even for
a halfpenny.

That he refused at Easter to give the Holy Communion to a bedridden
woman, eighty years old, named Jane Adams, till she paid him a penny
for his trouble.

“He is a great skold and faller owte with his neybors, for lyght
occasyons, as with Mr. William Wrays, and other the best of the
parishes; and stycketh not to saye yn the churche Thou lyest; and to
skold yn the Churchyerde.

“For his pryde, Skoldyng, Avarice and Crueltye his manner is hated
and abhorred of all the 2 parishes, and so driveth them awaye from the

“He marryed hys wyffe, a notorryowse lyght woman, and of lyke parents
descended being notoryusly suspectyd with the sayd German of [causing]
her first husband’s death; after whose deathe one Edmonds, her servant
claymed her in promise, to be his wyffe, and that openly, and yn the
presence of dyvers requyred the Parson German to procleme the bannes
bytwene them. But German refused to doo yt but presently shyfted
secretly to marry her hymself, having a lycence, and yn a marryng
before sun rysyng so dyd, having a lyttle before cyted the said Edmonds
to ... prove his contract with her, came too late, and thuse were
they marryed withowt clearyng of the woman, to the offence of both
parishioners and others, knowyng before her lyght behavyor.”

It seems that this widow whom Germyn married had some money. Her former
husband had left a will making several bequests, but Parson Germyn
having got the money of the deceased into his hands refused to pay the
bequests, as also the debts of the man and of his widow, now his wife;
also refused to pay annuitants.

It was further complained that Mrs. Germyn baked bread and sold it in
the rectory.

It may be worthy of remark that there is no trace in the Episcopal
Registers of Mr. Germyn having obtained a licence to marry this widow.
It was probably a bit of bluff on his part to say that he had one. Who
performed the ceremony we are not told. Unfortunately the Bridestowe
registers do not go back sufficiently far to help us.

From 1582 to 1613 we hear no more of Parson Germyn. At this latter date
fresh complaints were made against him. Another bishop now occupied
the see, William Cotton, a man of some character and worth, and not
one interested in protecting the disreputable priest.

It was now charged against Mr. Germyn that “he preached that John
Baptist and Mary Magdalen wear married in a citie called Cana in
Galilee,” also that “the said Parson readeth the usuall divine prayers
soe fast that few can understand what he sayeth or the clarke can spare
to answere him accordinge to what is sett fourth in the booke of Common
prayer,” also that “he setteth out the Church yard for 8 shillings
and sixpence, and suffereth the horses and sheepe to use the Church
porche as a common folde, the smell being verie loathesome to the

Then came in an accusation of Peter Ebsworthy, “for usurpinge of place
in the Churche, being a man of no discent, or parentage, and claiminge
a Seate unfittinge for a man of his ranke or position.”

This was not a reasonable charge. The Ebsworthys, it is true, in
1620 could prove only three descents, but one had married an heiress
of Shilston, another an heiress of Durant, and they were allied by
marriage with the Calmadys, the Harrises, and the Ingletts. The
Ebsworthys, of Ebsworthy, had probably lived on their paternal acres as
long as had the Bidlakes, of Bidlake, but as yet they had laid no claim
to bear coat-armour. The Bidlakes bore two white doves, but naturalists
say that doves and pigeons are the most quarrelsome of birds.

The spiteful remark about Peter Ebsworthy being of no descent and
parentage was intended to wound the feelings of the rector, who had
married one of his daughters to Peter Ebsworthy. The ancients said that
doves were without gall.

“Next for his wief abusing of my wief in goinge to the Communion, by
blowes and afterwards with disgracefull words.” Also, “Paule Ebsworthy
for layinge of violent handes upon my wief in the Church yard: and his
wiefs scouldinge, Katheren Ebsworthy using these wordes before the
Parson unto her sister, Peter’s wief, that her sister might be ashamed
to suffer such to goe before her as my wief was.”

It seems that Agnes Bidlake, the wife of William, sought assistance
of her uncle, Sir Edward Giles, to bring these complaints before the
Bishop. He replied to this by writing to William Bidlake:--

“I would intreat you and my niece your wife at the time of hearinge of
these differences before his Lordshipp to be very temperate in your
utterances. You know it is an old sayinge, A good matter may be marred
in the handlinge; and I know if passion doe not overcome you all, it
will be to my Lord’s good likeinge.”

Mr. Bidlake went up about the matter and interviewed the Bishop, who
agreed to hear the case at Okehampton on the following Thursday.

The Bishop wrote to Parson Germyn: “Being credibly informed that Mr.
Bidlake and his wief were latlie by your sonne Peter Ebsworthy and his
wief verie disgracefully wronged at a Communion ... as alsoe for your
scandalous and indiscreete doctrine which you usually teach I may not
att any hande suffer,” he summoned him to appear before him at his
approaching visitation at Okehampton.

On 13 May, 1613, the Bishop of Exeter summoned plaintiffs and
defendants and witnesses before him for the following Friday at

The Rev. Gilbert Germyn indignantly denied that he had ever preached
scandalous and indiscreet doctrine; but what was the result of the suit
before the Bishop does not transpire.

Old John Bidlake, the father of William, mightily disapproved of this
contention. He wrote to his son: “Commend me heartily to your wief whom
I pray God to give patience and charitie unto in all these troubles,
and that yourselfe forgett not that which I said I lately dreamed of 2
snakes whereof the one seemed to me to ate up the other before me. And
that which I formerly dreamed of the Man that firstlie riding from me
said, Commend me to my friends that are like to be lost if they repent
not er time be past. Good sonne, seeke peace and ensue it in what you
may, for to live peaceably with all men maketh a man and woman long
to seme younge. And if you knewe the hindrances and losses besides
heartburnings, weariness of bodye and unquietness innumerable that
suits of Lawe doe bring, as well as I, you would rather goe with your
wief even unto all such as have donne you offence and openly imbrace
them as brethren and sisters and fully forgive them and desier them to
accept of your lives ever hereafter; as honest quyet neighbours should
doe, rather than vex your neighbours by suits of laws therein, whereof
are as variable as the turnings of a weathercock.”

This was dated 10 April, 1613.

William died before his father.

Old John was a fine and loyal man; the date of his death is not known.
The estates devolved on Henry Bidlake, the son of William, born in 1606
or 1607.

After Henry Bidlake came of age, he married Philippa, daughter of
William Kelly, of Kelly; whereupon his mother, the quarrelsome Agnes,
retired to the south of Devon, there indulged in some costly lawsuits,
and died in 1651.

Henry, while yet young, joined the army of King Charles, and in 1643
was made a captain of horse under Colonel Sir Thomas Hele, Baronet.
In 1645 he was one of the defenders of Pendennis Castle; a copy of
the articles for its surrender is preserved among the Bidlake Papers.
These articles were signed on 18 August, and the besieged went forth.
From that time misfortune after misfortune befell Henry Bidlake. On 18
January, 1646, the Standing Committee of Devon “ordered upon Perusall
of the inventory of the goods of Mr. Henry Bidlake amounting to Thirtie
pounds that upon payment of fower and Twentie pounds unto the Treasurer
or his Deputie by Mr. William Kelley, the sequestration of the said
goods shall be removed and taken off, and the other six pounds is to be
allowed to Mrs. Bidlake for her sixth part.”

Several stories are told of Henry hiding from Cromwell’s soldiers,
who were sent to surround Bidlake in order to take him prisoner.
He was warned, and dressed himself in rags in order to pass them.
Some soldiers met him and asked him if he had seen Squire Bidlake.
“Aye, sure,” he replied, “her was a-standin’ on ’is awn doorstep a
foo minutes agoo.” So they went on to search Bidlake House while he
escaped to the house of a tenant of his named Veale in Burleigh Wood.
The troopers went there also, and Mrs. Veale made him slip into the
clock-case; they hunted high and low, but could not find him. One of
the soldiers looking up at the dial and seeing the hand at the hour
said, “What, doant he strike?” “Aye, aye, mister,” replied Mrs. Veale,
“there be a hand here as can strike, I tell ’ee.”

Mr. Bidlake suffered from a chronic cough, and just at that moment it
began, but he had the art to dip his head, let the weight down behind
his back, and the clock struck the hour and drowned the cough in the

According to another version of the story, his cough was heard, the
clock-case was opened, and he taken. But I doubt this. An old man,
William Pengelly, who had been with my grandfather, and father, and
myself, told me that Henry Bidlake was concealed by the Veales in
Burleigh Wood--that is, the wood over the promontory where are the
camps--and they supplied him with blankets and food for some weeks till
it was safe for him to reappear. Their farm is now completely ruined,
but I can recall when it was occupied. According to Pengelly’s story,
later on, Henry Bidlake granted that farm to the Veale family to be
held in perpetuity on a tenure of half a crown per annum, so long as
there remained a male Veale in the family. Pengelly informed me that
the last Veale had died when the Rev. John Stafford Wollocombe held the
estate, 1829-66, and that the tenure had remained the same till then.
The Rev. J. H. Bidlake Wollocombe, present owner of the Bidlake estate,
tells me that he can find no evidence of the grant to the Veales among
the deeds, and that he never heard of the story save from me.

If Henry Bidlake had been secured on this occasion, it would certainly
have been recorded. We have a narrative of the visit of a troop of
horse sent to Bridestowe by the Earl of Stamford in 1647. In the
_Mercurius Rusticus_ of that year is an account of this expedition,
but not a word about the capture of Henry Bidlake. There is, however,
one of a barbarous act committed in the cottage of a husbandman in
Bridestowe, whose name, however, is not given, but possibly enough
it may have been Veale. This man having openly adhered to the King’s
party, the Earl of Stamford sent a troop of horse to apprehend him in
his cottage or farm. “When they came thither, they found not the good
man at home, but a sonne of his, about ten or twelve years old, they
ask him where his Father was, the childe replyed that he was not at
home, they threaten him, and use all arts to make him discover where
his Father had hid himselfe, the childe being ignorant where his father
was, still persisted in the same answer, that he knew not where he was;
hereupon they threaten to hang him, neither doth that prevail; at last
they take the poore innocent childe and hang him up, either because he
would not betray his Father, had he been able to satisfie their doubt,
or for not having the spirit of Prophecy, not being able to reveale
what by an ordinary way of knowledge he did not know; having let him
hang a while, they cut him downe, not intending to hang him unto death,
but being cut downe they could perceive nothing discovering life in
him, hereupon in a barbarous way of experiment, they pricke him with
their swords in the back and thighs, using the means leading to death
to find out life; at last after some long stay, some small symptoms of
life did appear; yet so weake, that they left him nearer the confines
of death than life; and whether the child did ever recover, is more
than my informer can assure me.”

In 1651 a fine of £300 was put upon Henry Bidlake, and his estates
were sequestrated to the Commonwealth until it should be paid. He had
to borrow money from his friends in order to pay his fine. Money was
lent him by Nicholas Rowe, of Lamerton, by Daniel Hawkins, of Sydenham,
by David Hore, of Coryton, by Prudence Lile, of Lifton, by Richard
Edgecombe, of Milton Abbot, by John Baron, of Lawhitton, and by John
Cloberry, of Bradstone. His mother-in-law, Philippa Kelly, of Kelly,
seems to have repaid these friends, or paid the interest due to them.
As security, Henry Bidlake alienated and sold to her his goods and
chattels, only reserving his wearing apparel. He got back his property
in 1654, but his account with the Parliament seems never to have been
settled, and he was liable to repeated vexations. As late as December,
1658, he received a summons along with his wife, from Richard, Lord
Protector, to appear before the Chancery Court at Exeter. But next year
he died, too early to see--what would have gladdened his heart--the
Restoration, and to have learned by painful experience the ready
forgetfulness by kings of services rendered in the past.

Bidlake House is a very interesting example of a simple mansion such
as suited the small squires of Devon in the seventeenth century. It
is Elizabethan, and has a quaint old garden at the back. Like so many
old houses, the aspect was not considered, and the sun pours into the
kitchen, but hardly a gleam can reach the hall and parlour.

But our ancestors had their reasons for burying their mansions at the
foot of hills, and turning their backs against the sun. The great enemy
was the south-west wind which they could not exclude. It drove through
the walls. Therefore by preference they planted their houses under the
lee of a bank of hill that intervened between them and the south, and
turned their backs like horses against the driving rain.


“In the Bristol Channel,” says Mr. Chanter, “twenty miles from
Barnstaple Bar, and nearly equidistant from the two headlands of the
bay, lies the island of Lundy, sometimes invisible from the shore,
but generally looming dim and mysterious and more or less shrouded
in mists, or capped with cloud-reefs; occasionally standing out
lofty, clear, and distinct, bright with varied hues of rock, fern,
and heather, its granite cliffs glittering as they reflect the rays
of the morning sun, and the graceful lighthouse tower and buildings
plainly defined; or at night traceable by its strange intermittent
light--either suddenly shining out as a star and as suddenly vanishing,
or gradually rising and fading according to the atmospheric conditions;
but in all its aspects, varying much from day to day. And to those who
know how to read them aright, the changing aspects of Lundy are the
surest indications of approaching changes of weather--of winds, storms,
or settled sunshine.

“As seen nearer the island shows itself a lofty table-headed granite
rock, rising to the height of 500 feet, surrounded by steep and
occasionally perpendicular cliffs, storm-beaten, riven, and scarred
over with grisly seams and clefts, and hollowed out here and there
along the shore into fantastic coves and grottoes, with huge piles
of granite thrown in wild disorder. The cliffs and adjacent sea are
alive with sea-birds, every ledge and jutting rock being dotted with
them, or they are whirling round in clouds, filling the air with their
discordant screams.

“This island, so little known, so little visited, so wild and
mysterious in aspect, possesses an interest in its remote history,
its antiquities, its physical features and peculiarities, and in its
natural history, almost unrivalled.”[7]

Lundy is an outcrop of the granite that heaved up Exmoor on its back,
but there never broke through. Here the superincumbent carboniferous
rocks have been cleared away by the action of the sea, and Lundy stands
forth a naked shaft of granite. It possesses but a single harbour, at
the southern extremity of the island.

Lundy takes its name from the puffins, in Scandinavian _Lund_, that at
all times frequented it; but it had an earlier Celtic name, Caer Sidi,
and is spoken of as a mysterious abode in the Welsh _Mabinogion_.

From an early period, its peculiar position, commanding the entrance to
the Bristol Channel, its inaccessibility, its remoteness, rendered it
a resort of pirates. Thomas Wyke, Canon of Oseney, in 1238, speaks of
it as the haunt of a notable pirate, William de Marisco. This William
had a son Jordan, who held the island in defiance of the King, and
descended from it to make raids on the adjoining coasts. The island had
been granted by Henry II to the Templars, but they had been unable to
dislodge the De Mariscoes and obtain possession of it. A special tax
was levied on the counties of Devon and Cornwall for the siege of Lundy
and the defence of their maritime ports, but it does not seem that
Sir William was ever dispossessed. Marisco was one of the prisoners
captured from the French in a sea fight in 1217, and was afterwards
reinstated in his island, along with his wife and children, who had
also been taken. In 1222 he removed to Lundy some guns he had taken
from his lordship of Camley in Somerset, and, turbulent to the end, he
was, in 1233, amerced in a fine of 300 marks to the King for his ransom.

His younger son, Sir William, was outlawed in 1235 for slaying in
London an Irish messenger. His elder brother Jordan, or Geoffrey, had
made a descent on Ireland and was killed at Kilkenny in 1234.

Sir William got into further trouble on an accusation of an attempt to
assassinate Henry III, and this led to the breaking up of the robbers’
nest, and its being wrested from the Marisco family for many years.

But before telling the story, it will be well to say a few words about
the castle erected by this turbulent family, of which some remains may
still be seen. It was probably originally erected by the first Sir
Jordan, in the reign of Henry II.

The keep is all that now remains, and it is turned into cottages. The
basement wall is nine feet thick, and the lines of bastion and fosse
may still be traced. Two engravings and a plan of the castle, as it was
in 1775, appear in Grose’s _Antiquities_. He thus describes it:--

“The castle stood on two acres of ground, and was surrounded by a stone
wall, with a ditch, except towards the sea, where the rock is almost
perpendicular. The ditch is very visible, and part of the wall. The
walls of the citadel (i.e. keep) are very perfect, of a square form.
It is converted into cottages, the turrets, of which there are four,
one at each angle, serving as chimneys. The S. W. wall is 51 feet,
the N. W. wall 38 feet, in length. In front of the house five guns
were placed. The garrison was supplied with water from a spring, which
rises above the (mansion) house. It was conveyed from thence by earthen
pipes. At the extremity of the rock, within the fortification, is a
cave, supposed to be cut out of the rock for a store-room, or magazine,
for the garrison.”

We come now to the attempted assassination. Matthew Paris tells the
story under the date 1238, in the reign of Henry III.

“On the day after the Nativity of St. Mary, a certain learned esquire
came to the King’s Court at Woodstock pretending that he was insane,
and said to the King, ‘Resign thy kingdom to me’; he also added, that
he bore the sign of royalty on his shoulder. The King’s attendants
wanted to beat him, and drive him away from the royal presence, but
the King interfered, saying, ‘Let the madman rave--such people’s words
have not the force of truth.’ In the middle of the night, however, the
same man entered the King’s bedchamber window, carrying an open knife,
and approached the King’s couch, but was confused at not finding him
there. The King was, by God’s providence, then sleeping with the Queen.
But one of the queen’s maids, Margaret Bisett, was by chance awake,
and was singing psalms by the light of a candle (for she was a holy
maid and one devoted to God), and when she saw this madman searching
all the private places to kill the King, she was greatly alarmed, and
began to utter repeated cries. At her cry the King’s attendants awoke,
and leaped from their beds with all speed, and running to the spot,
broke open the door, which this robber had firmly secured with a bolt,
and seized him, and notwithstanding his resistance, bound him fast.
He, after a while, confessed that he had been sent to kill the King
by William de Marisco, son of Geoffrey (or Jordan) de Marisco, and he
stated that others had conspired to commit the same crime. On learning
this, the King ordered him to be torn limb from limb by horses, at

The evidence incriminating William de Marisco was clearly worthless. If
the would-be assassin had not been insane he would not have asserted
a claim to the crown and drawn attention to himself before making the
murderous attempt. De Marisco had nothing to gain by the King’s death,
and he may certainly be acquitted of participation.

William fled to Lundy, “impregnable from the nature of the place, and
having attached to himself many outlaws and malefactors, subsisted
by piracies, taking more especially wine and provisions, and making
frequent sudden descents on the adjacent lands, spoiling and injuring
the realm by land and by sea, and native as well as foreign merchants.
Many English nobles, having learnt how that the said William and his
followers could not be surprised save by stratagem, apprised the King
that the securing of this malefactor must be effected not by violence,
but by craft. The King therefore ordered his faithful subjects to
exert themselves strenuously in order to capture him and relieve their

Nothing, however, was done for four years, during which the piracies
continued. There was this excuse for De Marisco, that as the island
grew neither corn nor wine, he was dependent on the mainland or on
merchant vessels for his subsistence. As all those on the mainland were
on the look-out to capture him as the supposed mover of the plot to
kill the King, he was forced to live by piracy. In 1242, William of
Worcester informs us, he was caught: how, he does not say, save that
it was by surprise. “He was thrown into chains, and he and sixteen
accomplices were condemned and sentenced to death. He was executed at
the Tower on a gibbet with special ignominy, his body suspended in a
sack, and when stiff in death, disembowelled, his bowels burnt, and his
body divided into quarters.”

After the execution of Sir William, his father, Geoffrey (or Jordan)
fled to France, and the island was then seized by the King, who
appointed to it governors. But in 1281 Lundy was again granted to a
Marisco, Sir William, son of Jordan, another of the progeny of old
Geoffrey. He died in 1284, and his son John in 1289, leaving Herbert
as his son and heir. But Edward II granted the island to the elder
Despenser, and Herbert was unable to obtain possession of it. He died
in 1327, and from that date no more is heard of the Mariscoes in
connexion with the island.

From their time, however, other pirates obtained a footing on it. In
the days of Henry VIII a gang of French pirates, under their captain,
De Valle, seized Lundy and waylaid the Bristol traders, but the
Clovelly fishermen made an expedition against them, burnt their ship,
and killed or made prisoners of the whole gang.

A few years later, Lord Seymour, High Admiral of England, uncle of
Edward VI, was charged, among other misdemeanours, with trying to get
hold of Lundy, “being aided with shipps and conspiring at all evill
eventes with pirates, (so that) he might at all tymes have a sure and
saufe refuge, if anything for his demerites should have been attempted
against him.” He was executed, having refused to answer the charges
made against him.

In Sir John Maclean’s _Life and Times of Sir Peter Carew, Knt._,
are printed two letters written by Queen Elizabeth in the year 1564,
directing Sir Peter--“forasmuch as that cost of Devonshyre and Cornwall
is by report mucch hanted with pyratts and Rovers ... to cause on or
twoo apt vessells to be made redy with all spede in some portes ther
about.” In the apprehension of such pirates, with her characteristic
economy the Queen bargains that the parties “must take ther benefitt of
y^e spoyle, and be provijded only by us of victell.” She goes a little
further in thriftiness, and suggests that possibly “ye sayd Rovers
might be entyced, with hope of our mercy, to apprehend some of the rest
of ther Company, which practise we have knowen doone good long agoo in
the lyke.”

Although Lundy is not specified in this as the rendezvous of the
pirates, we know that at this time it was so.

In the year 1587 the authorities of Barnstaple appear to have
undertaken on their own account a raid upon the pirates who were
accustomed to shelter themselves under Lundy Island.

Connected with the “setting forth of divers men from this town to
apprehend divers rovers and pirates at Londey,” the following items of
expenditure in the municipal records show that the expedition was not
unsuccessful: “Paid to six watchmen for watching the prisoners that
were taken, 12^s 1^d. Paid for a watch put, and for candlelyght for the
same prisoners, 11^d. Paid for meat and drink for the same prisoners,

Stow tells us that a batch of ten sea-rovers were hanged at once at
Wapping. They distributed among their friends their murrey velvet
doublets with great gold buttons and crimson taffeta, and great
Venetians laid with broad gold lace, “too sumptuous apparel,” Stow
remarks, “which they had worn at the seas.”

In 1608, a commission was issued to the Earl of Bath, who took the
depositions of three persons at Barnstaple, to the effect that the
merchants were daily robbed at sea by pirates who took refuge in Lundy.
In 1610, another commission was issued to the Earl of Nottingham to
authorize the town of Barnstaple to send out ships for the capture of
pirates, and the deposition was taken of one William Young, who had
been made prisoner by Captain Salkeld, who entitled himself “King of
Lundy,” and was a notorious pirate.

On 31 August, 1612, the town of Barnstaple sent out a ship and a
bark--the _John of Braunton_ and the _Mayflower_--to capture pirates
who had robbed a London vessel and also a pinnace of the Isle of
Wight, in the roads of Lundy. It is satisfactory to learn that the
offenders--“as notorious Rogues as any in England”--were caught at
Milford Haven, brought to Barnstaple, and lodged in Exeter Gaol. What
their ultimate fate was is not known.

In 1625, the Mayor of Bristol reported to the Council that three
Turkish pirate vessels had surprised and taken the island of Lundy, and
had carried off the inhabitants, to sell them as slaves, and that they
were threatening Ilfracombe.

In 1628, it was the headquarters of some French pirates. In June, 1630,
Captain Plumleigh reported that “Egypt was never more infested with
catterpillars than the Channel with Biscayers. On the 23rd instant
there came out of St. Sebastian twenty sail of sloops; some attempted
to land on Lundy, but were repulsed by the inhabitants.”

In 1632, a notorious buccaneer, Captain Robert Nutt, made Lundy one
of his stations, and defied the efforts of several ships of war and
smaller vessels called “whelps” to capture him.

In 1633, Sir Bernard Grenville reported to the Secretary of State that
a great outrage had been committed by a Spanish man-of-war of Biscay,
which had landed eighty men on the island of Lundy, where, after some
small resistance, they had killed one man, called Mark Pollard, and
bound the rest, and surprised and took the island, which they rifled
and cleared of all the best provisions they could find, and then
departed to sea again.

From the depositions of William Skynner, of Kilkhampton, dyer, and
others, it appears that the _Biscayner_ was a vessel of 150 tons
with about 120, under a Captain Meggor, and that these pirates had
previously robbed a French bark, and also a pinnace of George Rendall,
which happened to be at Lundy, taking from him his money and all the
provisions of his pinnace.

Capt. John Pennington, of the _Vanguard_, was commissioned to put down
the pirates, and he appears to have proclaimed martial law on the
island. In the year 1663, a Frenchman, Captain Pressoville, established
himself on Lundy. In consequence of these events one Thomas Bushell was
appointed governor of the island to hold it for the King.

Grose, in his _Antiquities_, gives a curious story of an occurrence
during the reign of William and Mary. “A ship of force pretending to
be a Dutchman, and driven into the roads by mistaking the channel,
sent a boat ashore desiring some milk for their captain who was sick,
which the unsuspecting inhabitants granted for several days. At length
the crew informed them of their captain’s death, and begged leave,
if there were any church or consecrated ground on the island, to
deposit his corpse in it, and also requested the favour of all the
islanders to be present, which was accordingly complied with. After the
corpse was brought in, the islanders were required to quit the chapel
for a few minutes when they should be readmitted to see the corpse
interred. They had not waited long without the walls before the doors
were suddenly thrown open, and a body of armed men furnished from the
feigned receptacle of the dead marched out and made them prisoners.
The poor islanders then discovered the pretended Dutchmen to be their
natural enemies the French. They then seized 50 horses, 300 goats, 500
sheep, and some bullocks, and reserving what they required, hamstringed
the rest of the horses and bullocks, threw the goats and sheep into
the sea, and stripped the inhabitants of every valuable, even to their
clothes, and spoiled and destroyed everything, and then, satiated with
plunder and mischief, they threw the guns over the cliffs, and left the
island in a most desolate and disconsolate condition.”

There is no other evidence that this really occurred, and the same
story is told of the island of Sark, so that it is very doubtful
whether the story be true.

It is, however, certain that for a considerable portion of the reigns
of William and Mary and of Queen Anne, Lundy was a continual resort of
the outcasts of the various parties who betook themselves to piracy as
a means of subsistence, as also that it was for a time in the hands
of the French in the reign of Queen Anne, and that they used it as a
privateering station, and preyed upon the merchant-men who sailed from
Barnstaple and Bideford, and that they made so many prizes that they
termed Barnstaple Bay as “the Golden Bay.”

In 1748, Thomas Benson obtained a lease of the island from Lord Gower.
He was a man of substance, a native of Bideford, and had inherited a
fortune of £40,000. His predecessors had been successful merchants,
carrying on trade with France, Portugal, and the colonies.

In 1749 he aspired to get into Parliament, and was elected for
Barnstaple. He had in 1745 presented to the mayor and corporation a
large silver punch-bowl, which still forms one of their cherished
possessions, and has recently been copied in Barum ware for
presentation to the association of “Barumites in London.”

When, however, the borough authorities received the bowl, they
discovered that they had no ladle, and this they humbly and
respectfully intimated to the donor. So Benson added to his gift a
silver ladle, with the inscription, “He that gave the Bowl gave the

Soon after he entered into a contract with the Government for the
exportation of convicts to Virginia and Maryland, and gave the usual
bond to the sheriff for so doing. But instead of doing this he shipped
them to Lundy, where he employed them in building walls and other work
in the island. Every night they were locked up in the old keep of the
Mariscoes. He regarded himself as king of Lundy, and ruled with a high

Presently he got into difficulties through smuggling and piracy. In a
cave he stored his smuggled goods, and a raid was made upon these. He
was exchequered, and fined £5000.

A _fieri facias_ was directed to the Sheriff of Devon to levy the
penalties, under which the officers seized a large quantity of tobacco
and other goods secreted in the caves of Lundy. He excused himself for
not fulfilling his compact to transport the convicts to Virginia and
Maryland by saying that he considered Lundy to be quite as much out of
the world as these colonies. As the _fieri facias_ did not realize the
sum of his fine, an extent was issued in 1753 for £7872 duties, under
which his patrimonial estate of Napp was seized, and retained during
his life by the Government.

“The most villainous transaction, however, in which he was implicated
was the conspiracy to defraud the insurance offices, by lading a vessel
with a valuable cargo of pewter, linen, and salt, which he heavily
insured. The vessel sailed for Maryland, but by a secret arrangement
between the Master and Benson, put back in the night and landed
the greater part of the cargo at Lundy, where Benson had repaired,
concealing it in the caves there; and then the Master, Lancey, put to
sea, and burnt and scuttled his vessel, some leagues to the westward,
the crew being taken off by a homeward-bound vessel. The roguery was,
however, discovered by the confession of one of the crew. Lancey was
apprehended with some of his shipmates, seized and condemned, hung at
Execution Dock and afterwards in chains. Benson escaped to Portugal; he
is said, however, to have returned to Napp incognito for a time, some
years afterwards, when the affair was nearly forgotten, but ultimately
returned to Portugal, and died there.” I quote from a manuscript
journal of a visit to Lundy by a friend of Benson’s some particulars of
the island and of Benson himself at this time.

“In the month of July, 1752, I sailed from Appledore on a Monday
morning with Sir Thomas Gunstone in a little vessel bound to Wales
which dropped us at Lundy road. We came from Benson’s house, of Napp,
who rented the island of the Lords Carteret and Gower for £60. We
landed about two o’clock. Mr. Benson did not accompany us, expecting
letters from the insurance office for the vessel and cargo which was
to have taken us there. The vessel then lay off his quay with convicts
bound for Virginia, but he came to us on Wednesday. The island was at
this time in no state of improvement, the houses miserably bad, one on
each side of the platform, that on the right inhabited by Mr. Benson
and his friends, the other by the servants. The old fort was occupied
by the convicts whom he had sent there some time before, and occupied
in making a wall across the island. They were locked up every night
when they returned from their labour. About a week before we landed
seven or eight of them took the long-boat and made their escape to
Hartland, and were never heard of afterwards. Wild fowl were exceeding
plenty and a vast number of rabbits. The island was overgrown with
ferns and heath, which made it almost impossible to go to the extreme
of the island. Had it not been for the supply of rabbits and young
sea-gulls our tables would have been but poorly furnished, rats being
so plenty that they destroyed every night what was left of our repast
by day. Lobsters were tolerably plenty, and some other fish we caught.
The deer and goats were very wild and difficult to get at. The path to
the house was so narrow and steep that it was scarcely possible for a
horse to ascend it. The inhabitants by the assistance of a rope climbed
up a rock in which were steps cut to place their feet, to a cave or
magazine where Mr. Benson lodged his goods. There happened to come into
the roads one evening near 70 sail of vessels. The colours were hoisted
on the fort, and they all as they passed that island returned the
compliment except one vessel, which provoked Mr. Benson to fire at her
with ball, though we used every argument in our power to prevent him.
He replied that the island was his, and every vessel that passed it and
did not pay him the same compliment as was paid to the King’s forts he
would fire on her. He talked to us about his contract for exportation
of convicts to Virginia, and often said that the sending of convicts to
Lundy was the same as sending them to America; they were transported
from England, it mattered not where it was, so long as they were out of
the kingdom.”[10]


Tom D’Urfey was born in Exeter in the year 1653. The date usually
given, 1649, is incorrect. He came of a very ancient and well-connected
family. Under Charles VII of France, Pierre d’Ulphé was Grand Master
of the crossbow-men of France. His son, Peter II, changed the spelling
of his name from Ulphé to Urfé. He died in 1508, after having served
with distinction under Charles VIII and Louis XII. Francis, the nephew
of Peter II, Baron d’Oroze, fought along with Bayard in a combat of
thirteen Frenchmen against thirteen Spaniards. The son of Peter II,
Claude, was ambassador of France at the Council of Trent, and governor
of the royal children. He loved letters, had a fine library at his
Château de la Bâtie, near Montbrison. Jacques, his son, was chamberlain
to Henry II; he died in 1574, leaving several sons, of whom two were
Anne and Honoré, both staunch Leaguers, and in their day considered
to be poets. Honoré, however, made his fame by his interminable and
tedious romance of _Astrée_. The _Dictionary of National Biography_
says that Tom’s uncle was this same Honoré; but this is impossible.
Honoré, the fifth son of Jacques I, was born 1572. He had four elder
brothers--Anne, who died without issue; Claude, who died young; Jacques
II, who had one son; Claude Emmanuel, who died in 1685. Christopher
died without issue, and Antoine became a bishop. Consequently it is
not possible to fit Tom D’Urfey into the pedigree. It is possible
enough that the grandfather who quitted La Rochelle before the end of
the siege in 1628 and brought his son with him to England, and who
settled at Exeter, may have been a connexion by blood, possibly enough
illegitimate, as no trace of him can be found in the D’Urfé pedigree.
The grandfather broke away from the traditions of the family entirely
by becoming a Huguenot, for not only were Anne and Honoré Leaguers, but
Anne entered Orders and Antoine became Bishop of Saint Flores.


    _Whilst D’urfey’s voice his verse do’s raise._}
    _When Durfey sings his Tunefull Layes._       }
    _Give D’urfeys Lyrick-Muse the Bayes._        }

    _E. G._

    _E. Gouge pinx._

    _G. Vertue sculp._

Charles Emmanuel called himself De Lascaris, and was created Marquis
D’Urfé and De Baugé, Count of Sommerive and St. Just, Marshal, and
died in 1685 at the age of eighty-one. His son Louis became Bishop of
Limoges; another, Francis, became Abbé of St. Just, and devoted himself
to missionary work in Canada; he died in 1701. The third son, Claude
Yves, became a priest of the Oratoire; the fourth, Emmanuel, Dean of
Le Puy, died in 1689; the fifth, Charles Maurice, was the only one who
did not enter the ministry, and he died unmarried; thus the family
came to an end, and it is characteristic of it that it was intensely
Catholic. Thus if the grandfather of Tom D’Urfey did belong to the
stock, he was a sport of a different colour. The father of Tom D’Urfey
married Frances of the family of the Marmions, of Huntingdonshire. Tom
certainly claimed kinship with the D’Urfés, of Forez, and was proud of
the fame that attached to his relative Honoré.

The elder of the sons of Jacques I, viz. Anne, had married a splendid
beauty, Diana de Château Morand, who was also an heiress. But the union
was not happy, and it was annulled by the Ecclesiastical Court at Lyons
(1598) at the joint petition of husband and wife. Then Anne, after
trifling with the Muses, took Holy Orders. Thereupon Honoré, having
money to pay for it, bought a dispensation at Rome, and married his
brother’s late wife, not out of love, but for the purpose of retaining
in the family her great estates. He was then aged thirty-two, and she
was in her fortieth year. She was haughty, vain of her beauty, which
had made her famous at one time, and spent her time in trying to
disguise the ravages of time on her face. She lived mainly in her room
surrounded by dogs, “qui répandaient partout, jusque dans son lit, une
saleté insupportable.”

Very different was the life of Tom D’Urfey’s father, and one of the
touching incidents in his character was his devotion and tenderness
towards his wife to her dying day.

Tom had been intended for the law, but, as he said, “My good or ill
stars ordained me to be a knight errant in the fairy fields of poetry.”

He wrote plays that were well received for the most part, but all were
tainted with intolerable grossness. But at this period of revulsion
from Puritanism, licentiousness of intrigue, indelicacy of wit, most
strongly appealed to the popular taste, at least in London, and among
the hangers-on of a profligate court. In 1676, he produced _The Siege
of Memphis_ and _The Fond Husband; or, The Plotting Sisters_. In
1677, _Madame Pickle_. In all, down to his death, thirty-two dramatic
pieces. But that which obtained for D’Urfey his greatest reputation
was a peculiarly happy knack that he possessed in writing satires and
songs. In the latter style of composition he knew how to start with a
telling line. There was in his composition a vein of genuine poetry,
but the trail of the serpent was over it all: he could not leave his
best pieces without something foul to spoil it. Many of his songs were
set to music by his friends Henry Purcell, Thomas Farmer, and Dr. John
Blow; but a good many were adapted to folk airs. In 1683, he brought
out his _New Collection of Songs and Poems_, in which was “The Night
her Blackest Sables Wore,” which was afterwards claimed for Francis
Semple, of Beltrees. D’Urfey wrote a good many songs in fancy Scottish
dialect, as a taste for North-country songs came in after James, Duke
of York, afterwards James II, was sent to govern Scotland in 1679 and
1680. Although there can be no doubt whatever as to the authorship of
“The Night her Blackest Sables Wore,” about fifty years after its first
publication the song and tune in a corrupt form appear in Thomson’s
_Orpheus Caledonicus_ (1733), with some change in the words so as to
make it appear to be Scottish, as “She rose and let me in,” altered to
“She raise and loot me in.” Mr. Chappell says: “It is a common error to
suppose that England was inundated with Scotch tunes at the union of
the two Crowns. The first effect was directly the reverse.” In fact, a
stream of English popular melodies flowed into Scotland, and this in a
flood in the reign of Charles II, carrying with them the English words,
which Scottish compilers adapted and appropriated, and these have come
back to us as “made in Scotland,” whereas they are genuine English
songs, words and music and all.

Tom Brown, venomous and scurrilous as Tom D’Urfey was not, lampooned
the latter, and called him “Thou cur, half French, half English breed,”
and mocked him regarding a duel at Epsom, in 1689, with one Bell, a

    I sing of a Duel, in Epsom befell
    ’Twixt Fa-so-la D’Urfey and Sol-la-mi Bell.

Tom took it in good part. It was only by Jeremy Collier that he could
be prevailed to reply, and even then it was chiefly in a song.

Jeremy Collier had published in 1697 his famous _Short View of
the Profaneness and Immorality of the English Stage_, which dealt
a terrible blow at what little prosperity the theatres enjoyed,
and aroused a wholesome spirit of resentment against the outrages
committed on the stage against Christian virtue and common decency. The
castigation was well deserved, for the licentiousness of the stage both
before and behind the curtain had become a monstrous evil.

The sensation created by the book was enormous, scores of pamphlets
refuting or defending its views were written, and the falling off
in the audiences plainly showed that its remonstrances had struck
home. D’Urfey was one of those hardest hit; he winced, cried out,
but did not mend. D’Urfey was a good, witty, and genial companion,
and this obtained him favour with a great many persons of all ranks
and conditions. The Duke of Albemarle, son of General Monk, had him
frequently at his table to divert the company; of which he was not a
little vain, as we may gather from part of a song made upon him at that

      He prates like a parrot;
    He sups with the Duke,
      And he lies in a garret.

Crowned heads condescended to admit him to their presence, and were not
a little diverted by him. It is not surprising to hear this of so merry
a monarch as Charles II; but even King William, so glum and reserved
in temper, and so little appreciative of music, or of any amusements
of that kind, must needs have D’Urfey one night to him; and D’Urfey
extorted a hearty laugh even from him, and departed with a present.
D’Urfey had inherited his grandfather’s Huguenot prejudices; he was a
staunch Protestant in his feelings if not a Christian in his morals,
and he wrote satirical songs against the Roman Catholics, so that
William III felt it well to show him favour.

One of his anti-papal songs, and one that was very popular among the
Whigs, was “Dear Catholic Brother,” and this he set to a very fine
ancient tune, to which to this day “The Hunting of Arscott of Tetcott”
is sung in Devon. But D’Urfey did not take the complete tune, as he did
not need it for his piece of verse, and his incomplete version of the
tune travelled into Wales and Scotland as well as throughout England.
It is an early, genuine English melody in the Dorian mode.

Charles II had leaned familiarly on D’Urfey’s shoulder, holding a
corner of the same sheet of music from which the poet was singing his
burlesque song, “Remember, ye Whigs, what was formerly done.”

James II continued the friendship previously shown him when he was Duke
of York. He had no wish to offend one who could turn a song against him
and his religion. Queen Anne delighted in his wit and gave him fifty
guineas when she admitted him to her at supper, because he lampooned
the Princess Sophia, then next in succession to herself, by his
ditty, “The Crown’s too weighty for shoulders of eighty.” She herself
entertained great dislike towards the Electress Dowager of Hanover.
D’Urfey was attached to the Tory interest; and in the latter part of
the Queen’s reign frequently had the honour of diverting her with witty
catches and humorous songs, suited to the spirit of the times, written
by himself and sung in a droll and entertaining manner.

The Earl of Dorset welcomed him at Knole Park, and had his portrait
painted there. At Wincherdon, Buckingham’s house, Philip, Duke of
Wharton, enjoyed in company D’Urfey singing his songs, which he did
with vivacity, although in speech he stammered. D’Urfey said: “The
town may da-da-da-mn me as a poet, but they sing my songs for all that.”

He collected his songs into six volumes, published under the title
of _Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy_, which went through
several editions. In that for 1719 all the songs in the first two
volumes are his own; other songs, many of them folk ballads, he
tampered with, and added coarsenesses of his own not in the original.
The book was published by Playford, and the melodies are not always
correctly printed. Most of his airs were folk melodies; many of them,
doubtless, heard by him when he was young in Devonshire, for there they
are still employed to ballads he recast.

Writing to Henry Cromwell, 10th April, 1710, Alexander Pope says: “I
have not quoted one Latin author since I came down, but have learned
without book a song of Mr. Thomas Durfey’s, who is your only poet of
tolerable reputation in this country. He makes all the merriment in our
entertainments, and but for him, there would be so miserable a dearth
of catches, that, I fear, they would put either the Parson or me upon
making some of ’em. Any man, of any quality, is heartily welcome to
the best topeing-table of our gentry, who can roar out some rhapsodies
of his works; so that in the same manner as it was said of Homer to
his detractors, What! dares any man speak against him who has given so
many men to _eat_? (meaning the rhapsodists who lived by repeating his
verses). Thus may it be said of Mr. Durfey to his detractors, Dares
any one despise him, who has made so many men _drink_? Alas, Sir! this
is a glory which neither you nor I must ever pretend to. Neither you
with your Ovid, nor I with my Statius, can amuse a board of Justices
and extraordinary Squires, or gain one hum of approbation, or laugh of
admiration. These things (they would say) are too studious, they may do
well enough with such as love reading, but give us your ancient Poet,
Mr. Durfey! ’Tis mortifying enough, it must be confess’d.”

There is a slight allusion to D’Urfey in the _Dunciad_, iii. 146.

Gay mentions that Tom ran his Muse with what was long a favourite
racing song, “To horse, brave boys, to Newmarket, to horse!”

Tom was very irregular in his metres. He had the art of jumbling long
and short quantities so dexterously together that order resulted from
confusion. Of this happy talent he gave various specimens, in adapting
songs to tunes, composing his songs in such measures as scarcely any
instrument but a drum could accompany; as to the tune, it had to
take care of itself. To be even with the musicians who complained of
the irregularity of his metres, and their unusual character, he went
further, composing songs in metres so broken and intricate, that few
could be found who could adapt tunes to them that were of any value. It
is said that he once challenged Purcell to set to music such a song as
he would write, and gave him the ballad that speedily became popular,
“One Long Whitsun Holiday,” which cost the latter more pains to fit
with a tune than the composition of his _Te Deum_.

Tom, at least in the early part of his life, was a Tory by principle,
and never let slip an opportunity of representing his adversaries, the
Whigs, in a ridiculous light. Addison says that the song of “Joy to
Great Cæsar” gave them such a blow that they were not able to recover
during the reign of Charles II.

This song was set to a tune called “Farinelli’s Ground.” Divisions were
made on it by some English master, and it soon became a favourite
air. D’Urfey set words to it in which his old Huguenot execration of
the Papists breaks forth. Farinelli was a Papist, a circumstance that
gave occasion to Addison to remark that his friend Tom had made use
of Italian tunes for promoting the Protestant interest; and turned a
considerable part of the Pope’s music as a battery against the chair of
St. Peter.

D’Urfey’s _Pills to Purge Melancholy_ is a book nowadays to be kept
under lock and key, or else to be bound and lettered “Practical
Sermons,” to avoid its being taken down from its shelf and being looked
into by young people. And yet--“Tempora mutantur et nos mutantur in
illis.” Addison speaks of his songs in No. 67 of _The Guardian_ thus:
“I must heartily recommend to all young ladies, my disciples, the case
of my old friend, who has often made their grandmothers merry, and
whose sonnets have perhaps lulled to sleep many a pleasant toast, when
she lay in her cradle.” In No. 29, 1713, Addison wrote: “A _judicious_
author, some years since, published a collection of sonnets, which
he very successfully called ‘Laugh and be Fat; or, Pills to Purge
Melancholy.’ I cannot sufficiently admire the facetious title of these
volumes, and must censure the world of ingratitude, while they are so
negligent in rewarding the jocose labours of my friend, Mr. D’Urfey,
who was so large a contributor to this treatise, and to whose numerous
productions so many rural squires in the remotest parts of the island
are obliged for the dignity and state which corpulency gives them.”

D’Urfey was the last English poet that appeared in the streets attended
by a page. Many an honest gentleman, it is said, got a reputation in
his county by pretending to have been a boon companion of D’Urfey;
yet, so universal a favourite as he was, towards the latter part of
his life he stood in need of assistance to prevent his passing the
remainder of it in a cage like a singing-bird; for, to use his own
words, “after having written more odes than Horace, and about four
times as many comedies as Terence, he found himself reduced to great
difficulties by the importunities of a set of men who of late years had
furnished him with the accommodations of life, and would not, as we
say, be paid with a song.”

Addison, to relieve the old man, whose sight was then failing, but
whose spirits had not been extinguished, applied to the directors
of the play-house, and they agreed to act _The Plotting Sisters_,
one of his earliest productions, for the benefit of the author. What
the result of this benefit was does not appear, but it was probably
sufficient to make him easy, as we find him living and continuing to
write with the same humour and liveliness to the time of his death,
which happened on 26 February, 1723. He was buried in the churchyard of
St. James’s, Westminster, against the wall on the south-west angle of
which church, on the outside, was erected a stone to his memory, with
this inscription: “Tom Durfey died Feb. 26, 1723.”


The Lysons brothers, in their _Magna Britannia_, Devon, tell the
following story, under the head of South Tawton: “Oxenham gave its
name to an ancient family, who possessed it at least from the time
of Henry III till the death of the late William Long Oxenham, Esq.,
in 1814. Captain John Oxenham, who had been the friend and companion
of Sir Francis Drake, and who, having fitted out a ship on a voyage
of discovery and enterprise on his own account, lost his life in an
engagement with the Spaniards in South America, in 1575, is supposed
to have been of this family. The family has been remarkable also for
the tradition of a bird having appeared to several of its members
previously to their death. Howell, who had seen mention of this
circumstance on a monument at a stonemason’s in Fleet Street, which
was about to be sent to Devonshire, gives a copy of the inscription
in one of his letters. It is somewhat curious that this letter proves
the fact alleged by Wood, that Howell’s work does not consist of
entirely genuine letters, but that many of them were first written
when he was in the Fleet prison to gain money for the relief of his
necessities. This letter, dated July 3, 1632, relates that, as he
passed by the stonecutter’s shop ‘last Saturday,’ he saw the monument
with the inscription relating the circumstance of the apparition. It
appears, however, by a very scarce pamphlet ... that the persons
whose names are mentioned in the epitaph, given in Howell’s letter,
all died in the year 1635, three years after the date of his letter.
The persons to whom the apparition is stated in the pamphlet to have
appeared were John Oxenham, son of James Oxenham, gentleman, of Zeal
Monachorum, aged twenty-one,[11] and said to have been six feet and
a half in height, who died Sept. 5, 1635, a bird with a white breast
having appeared hovering over him two days before; Thomazine, wife of
James Oxenham, the younger, who died Sept. 7, 1635, aged twenty-two;
Rebecca Oxenham, who died Sept. 9, aged eight years; and Thomazine, a
child in the cradle, who died Sept. 15. It is added that the same bird
had appeared to Grace, the grandmother of John Oxenham, who died 1618.
It is stated also that the clergyman of the parish had been appointed
by the Bishop (Hall) to enquire into the truth of these particulars,
and that a monument, made by Edward Marshall, of Fleet Street, had been
put up with his approbation, with the names of the witnesses of each


“Another proof that Howell’s letter must have been written from memory
is, that most of the Christian names are erroneous. The pamphlet adds,
that those of the family who had been sick and recovered never saw
the apparition.” The pamphlet to which the brothers Lysons refer is
entitled: “A True Relation of an Apparition in the likeness of a Bird
with a white brest that appeared hovering over the Death-Beds of some
of the children of Mr. James Oxenham, of Sale Monachorum, Devon, Gent.
Confirmed by sundry witnesses as followeth in the ensuing Treatise.
London, printed by I. O. for Richard Clutterbuck, and are to be sold
at the signe of the Gun, in Little Britain, neere St. Botolph’s Church,

Now in the first place it is well to observe that the name of the
place is wrong. The Oxenhams did not live at Zeal Monachorum, but at
South Zeal in South Tawton. No Oxenham entries are to be found in the
registers of Zeal Monachorum, no monuments of the family are in the
church. The brothers Lysons examined the registers there, and certified
to this. The Devon volume of the _Magna Britannia_ was published in
1822. Since that date a portion of the page in the Burial Register,
containing the entries of burials in 1635, has been cut out by some
person who has by this means destroyed the evidence that no such
Oxenhams were buried at Zeal Monachorum. Now the pamphlet states that
John, son of James Oxenham, aged twenty-two, died on 5 September, 1635.
The register of South Tawton informs us that John Oxenham was buried on
20 May, 1635, i.e. four months, two weeks, and two days before he died,
according to the tract. He was born in 1613 and baptized 17 October in
that year. His father, James Oxenham, was married to Elizabeth Hellier
in 1608. In 1614, a John Oxenham and his wife Mary had a son John as
well. Others reported to have had the white-breasted bird appear on
their deaths in the same year, were Thomasine, wife of James Oxenham
the younger, Thomasine, their babe, and Rebecca Oxenham, aged eight

There is no entry in the register of the baptism of either Thomasine or
Rebecca, nor of the burial of Thomasine the elder, Thomasine the babe,
or of Rebecca.

The second John Oxenham, son of John and Mary, was buried 31 July,
1636, at least we presume it was he; the registers do not state in
either case whose son each of the Johns was.

There is no trace of the younger James to be found in the register, nor
of any of the Oxenhams in North Tawton registers at or about the time
of the supposed apparition.

The witnesses to the vision were, in the case of John Oxenham, Robert
Woodley and Humphry King. Robert Woodley does occur in the register
under date 1664. Mary Stephens was witness to the visions when
Rebecca and Thomasine the babe died, and Mary Stephens does occur in
the register under the date 1667, but none of the other witnesses,
Humphry King, Elizabeth Frost, Joan Tooker, and Elizabeth Averie,
widow. Consequently there is negative evidence that Thomasine, elder
and younger, and Rebecca never existed save in the imagination of the
author of the catch-penny tract.

We come now to James Howell’s account, in his _Epistolæ Ho-Elianæ;
or Familiar Letters_. The first edition of the first series of these
letters was published in the year 1645, four years after the tract had
appeared. About the year 1642 he had been committed to the Fleet, and
there confined for eight years. He states in his Letter IX, in Sect. 6,
in a letter to Mr. E. D.:--

    “/Sir/,--I thank you a thousand times for the Noble
    entertainment you gave me at _Berry_, and the pains you took in
    shewing me the Antiquities of that place. In requitall, I can tell
    you of a strange thing I saw lately here, and I beleeve ’tis true:
    As I pass’d by Saint Dunstans in Fleet street the last Saturday, I
    stepp’d into a Lapidary or Stone-cutters Shop, to treat with the
    Master for a Stone to be put upon my Father’s Tomb; And casting
    my eies up and down, I might spie a huge Marble with a large
    inscription upon ’t, which was thus to my best remembrance:--

    “_Here lies_ John Oxenham, _a goodly young man, in whose
    Chamber, as he was strugling with the pangs of death, a Bird with
    White-brest was seen fluttering about his Bed, and so vanish’d._

    “_Here lies also_ Mary Oxenham, _the sister of the said John,
    who died the next day, and the same Apparition was seen in the

    “Then another sister is spoke of. Then, _Here lies hard by_ James
    Oxenham,_ the son of the said_ John, _who died a child in his
    cradle a little after, and such a Bird was seen fluttering about
    his head a little before he expir’d, which vanish’d afterwards_.

    “At the bottom of the Stone ther is--

    “_Here lies_ Elizabeth Oxenham, _the Mother of the said_
    John, _who died 16 yeers since, when such a Bird, with a
    White-Brest, was seen about her Bed before her death._

    “To all these ther be divers Witnesses, both Squires and Ladies,
    whose names are engraven upon the Stone: This Stone is to be sent
    to a Town hard by _Excester_, wher this happend.”

It will be noticed that Howell has got all the Christian names wrong,
but then, as he states, he gave the inscription from memory. If the
date of the letter be correct, 1632, that, as Lysons pointed out, was
before the deaths that took place in 1635. But in the first edition of
the letters this particular one is undated, and little or no reliance
can be placed on the dates that are given; indeed, the bulk of the
letters, if not all, were written by Howell when in prison and never
had been sent to the persons to whom addressed, any more than at the
dates when supposed to be written. Probably in his second edition he
dated this letter to E. D. sufficiently early to account for his
walking abroad in Fleet Street “last Saturday,” caring only that it
should not appear as a composition written in prison.

That he ever saw the marble monument is improbable, as it is almost
certain that no such monument existed. He had read the tract, and
pretended to have seen the stone so as to furnish a theme for an
interesting letter. It is extremely unlikely that the names of
witnesses to the apparition should be inscribed on the stone. Howell
saw these names in the tract; he did not know who they were, but
supposed them to be squires and ladies. There were no such gentry
about South Tawton at the period. As to the statement made in the
tract that the Bishop had commissioned the vicar of the parish to
examine into the case, and that he and the parson bore testimony to
its genuine character, that is as worthless as the witnessing to the
ballad concerning the “Fish that appeared upon the Coast, on Wednesday
the four score of April, forty thousand fathom above water.... It was
thought she was a woman turned into a cold fish. The ballad is very
pitiful, and as true.... Five justices’ hands at it; and witnesses more
than my pack will hold.”

It was a common trick of ballad-mongers and pamphleteers to add a
string of names of witnesses--all fictitious, every one.

The monument is probably as fictitious as the names of the witnesses.
There is not, and there never was, such in South Tawton Church any more
than in that of Zeal Monachorum. Lysons gives the Oxenham monuments as
he found them there: William Oxenham, gent., 1699; William Oxenham,
Esq., 1743; George Oxenham, Esq., 1779. “It is proper to add,” says
Lysons, “that there is no trace of the Oxenham family, nor of
the monument before mentioned, either in the register, church, or
churchyard of Zeal Monachorum, nor have I been able to learn that it
exists at Tawton, or elsewhere in the county.”

I was at South Tawton in 1854, staying with Mr. T. Burkett, the then
vicar, and I drew some of the monuments in the church, and am certain
this particular stone was neither in the church nor outside.

So also Polwhele, in his _History of Devonshire_, 1793, says: “The
prodigy of the white bird ... seems to be little known at present to
the common people at South Tawton; nor can I find anywhere a trace of
the marble stone which Mr. Howell saw in the lapidary’s shop in London.”

In Sir William Pole’s _Collections_, published in 1791, there stood
originally: “Oxenham, the land of Wm. Oxenham [the father of John,
the grandfather of Will, father of another John, grandfather of
James; whose tombstone respects a strange wonder of this famyly, that
at theire deaths were still seen a bird with a white brest, which
fluttering for a while about theire beds suddenly vanisht away, which
divers of ye same place belive being eyewitnesses of]”.

Sir William Pole died in 1635, and he said not one word about the bird
of the Oxenhams; that which has been placed within brackets was an
addition made by his son, Sir John, who had probably read the pamphlet
or Howell’s Letters. Risdon, who lived not far from South Tawton, knew
nothing about the bird. In fact, the whole legend grew out of the story
in the tract.

That this story is not wholly baseless may be allowed in the one case
of John Oxenham. As he was dying the window very probably was opened,
and a ring ouzel, attracted by the light, may have entered, fluttered
about, and then flown out again. That the window was open I said was
probable, for it is an idea widely spread in England that when a person
is near death the casement should be thrown open so as to allow the
soul to escape. I said once to a nurse who had attended a dying man:
“Why did you open the window?” “You wouldn’t have had his soul go up
the chimney, sir?” was the answer.

The appearance--accidental--of a bird in the death chamber would, in
a superstitious age, be regarded as supernatural. I was attending the
wife of an old coachman who had been with my father and myself. She
was bed-ridden. One day she said to me: “I know I shall go soon, for a
great bird came fluttering at the window.” She did not, however, die
till two months later.

The story of John Oxenham and the bird got about, and then some one
remarked that a similar sort of thing had happened, so it was said,
when the young man’s grandmother died. That sufficed to set the ball
rolling. For the purpose of the pamphleteer, three additional cases
were invented, cases of Oxenhams who never existed, and the account
of the stone was added, so as to give the tale greater appearance of

Kingsley introduces the white bird as an omen of the navigator Oxenham.
He was justified as a novelist in predating the tradition which did not
exist in his time, and was hatched out of the tract of 1641.

I have said white bird--for as the story went on the white-breasted
bird became white, hoary with attendance on generations of Oxenhams. It
may be interesting, at all events it is amusing, to note, how out of
this pious hoax serious convictions have grown that the bird really has
been seen, and that repeatedly.

Messrs. Lysons say: “This tradition of the bird had so worked upon the
minds of some of the members of the family, that it is supposed to
have been seen by William Oxenham, who died in 1743.” Then they go on
to relate this particular instance, which is given on the authority of
a note in the manuscript collections of William Chapple. Mr. Chapple
“had the relation from Dr. Bent, who was brother-in-law to Mr. Oxenham,
and had attended him as a physician. The story told is, that when the
bird came into his chambers he observed upon the tradition as connected
with his family, but added, he was not sick enough to die, and that he
should cheat the bird; and that this was a day or two before his death,
which took place after a short illness.”

The story is told more fully in a letter printed in the _Gentleman’s
Magazine_ of April, 1862, from J. Short, Middle Temple, to George
Nares, jun., of Albury.

“I have received an answer from the country in relation to the strange
bird which appeared to Mr. Oxenham just before his death, and the
account which Dr. Bertie gave to Lord Abingdon of it is certainly true.
It first was seen outside the window, and soon afterwards by Mrs.
Oxenham in the room, which she mentioned to Mr. Oxenham, and asked him
if he knew what the bird was. ‘Yes,’ says he, ‘it has been upon my face
and head, and is recorded in history as always appearing to our family
before their deaths; but I shall cheat the bird.’ Nothing more was said
about it, nor was the bird taken notice of from that time; but he died
soon afterwards. However odd this affair may seem, it is certainly
true, for the account was given of it by Mrs. Oxenham herself, but she
never mentions it to any one, unless particularly asked about it, and
as it was seen by several persons at the same time, I can’t attribute
it to imagination, but must leave it as a phenomenon unaccounted for.”

In both these accounts we have the story at second hand. The Hon.
Charles Barker, /LL.D./, was rector of Kenn at the time, and
during his tenure of the rectory, Mrs. Oxenham erected a monument in
the church to her father and mother. But who was the J. Short, Middle
Temple, who wrote the above letter to George Nares, jun., Albury? And
what is more to the point, how came it to be dated December 24th, 1741,
when Mr. William Oxenham, whose death it records, died on 10 December,
1743? Discrepancies and anachronisms meet us at every point in the
story of the Oxenham omen.

In the _Gentleman’s Magazine_ of the year 1794, the following paragraph
occurs recording the death of one of the Oxenhams: “13th (January)
at Exeter, aged 80, Mrs. Elizabeth Weston ... the youngest daughter
of William Oxenham, Esq., of Oxenham. The last appearance of the
bird, mentioned by Howell and Prince, is said to have been to Mrs. E.
Weston’s eldest brother on his death-bed.” Who said it? What was the

In Mogridge’s _Descriptive Sketch of Sidmouth_, is given a letter
relative to the death of a Mr. Oxenham at Sidmouth:--

    “/My dear Sir/,

    “I give you, as well as I can recollect, the story related to
    me by a much respected baronet of this county. He told me that,
    having read in Howell’s _Anecdotes_ of the singular appearance of
    a white bird flying across, or hovering about the lifeless body of
    divers members of the Devonshire Oxenham family, immediately after
    dissolution, and also having heard the tradition in other quarters,
    wishing rather for an opportunity of refuting the superstitious
    assertion than from an idea of meeting with anything like a
    confirmation; having occasion to come to Sidmouth shortly after
    the death of his friend Mr. Oxenham, who resided in an old mansion,
    not now standing, he questioned the old gardener, who had the care
    of the house, as to who attended his master when he died, as Mr.
    O. had gone there alone, meaning only to remain for a day or two.
    ‘I and my wife, sir,’ was the reply. ‘Were you in the room when
    he expired?’ ‘Yes, both of us.’ ‘Did anything in particular take
    place at that time?’ ‘No, sir, nothing.’ But then, after a moment’s
    pause, ‘There was indeed something which I and my wife could almost
    swear we saw, which was a white bird fly in at the door, dart
    across the bed, and go into one of the drawers; and as it appeared
    in the same way to both of us, we opened all the drawers to find
    it, but where it went to we could never discover.’ If I recollect
    rightly, the man on being questioned had not heard of the tradition
    respecting such appearances.”

Unfortunately Mr. Mogridge does not name the writer of this letter.
But it matters little--the story comes third hand. The “much-respected
baronet” had a bad memory. He thought Howell called the apparition a
“white bird,” and that he related that it crossed the bed after the
body was dead. Accordingly the gardener sees things after the erroneous
fashion of the story remembered so badly by the “much-respected
baronet.” Who this Mr. Oxenham was, when he died, and where he is
buried is unknown.

In _Glimpses of the Supernatural_, published in 1875, is a
communication of the Rev. Henry Nutcombe Oxenham, and a still more
detailed account from his pen is in Mr. Cotton’s article on “The
Oxenham Omen” in the _Transactions_ of the Devonshire Association for

“Shortly before the death of my late uncle, G. N. Oxenham, Esq., of
17 Earl’s Terrace, Kensington, who was then head of the family, this
occurred: His only surviving daughter, now Mrs. Thomas Peter, but then
unmarried, and living at home, and a friend of my aunt’s, Miss Roberts,
who happened to be staying in the house, but was no relation, and had
never heard of the family tradition, were sitting in the dining-room,
immediately under his bedroom, about a week before his death, which
took place on the 15th December, 1873, when their attention was roused
by a shouting outside the window. On looking out they discerned a white
bird--which might have been a pigeon, but if so was an unusually large
one--perched on the thorn-tree outside the windows, and it remained
there for several minutes, in spite of some workmen on the opposite
side of the road throwing their hats at it in a vain attempt to drive
it away. Miss Roberts mentioned this to my aunt at the time, though not
of course attaching any special significance to it, and my aunt, since
deceased, repeated it to me soon after my uncle’s death. Neither did my
cousin, though aware of the family tradition, think of it at the time.
Miss Roberts we have lost sight of for some years, and do not even
know if she is still living; but Mrs. Thomas Peter confirms in every
particular the accuracy of the statement. Of the fact, therefore, there
can be no reasonable doubt, whatever interpretation may be put upon it.
My cousin also mentioned another circumstance which either I did not
hear of or had forgotten: viz. that my late aunt spoke, at the time, of
frequently hearing a sound like a fluttering of a bird’s wings in my
uncle’s bedroom, and said that the nurse testified to hearing it also.”

Here we have a development of the story. The bird is _white_, not
white-breasted, and it appears before the death of the head of the
family, whereas in the original story it appeared before the decease
of any member of the Oxenham family. This looks like a shrinkage of
the story. So many had died without the apparition, that it was reduced
in significance to the appearance before the death of the head of the

Mr. Cotton says: “On my pointing out to Mr. Oxenham that at least the
earlier notices of his family tradition did not seem to warrant his
supposition that the apparition was limited to the head of the family,
he informed me that, so far as he was aware, it had always been the
oral tradition in the family that the bird was bound to appear before
the death of the head of the family, and that it might or might not
appear at other deaths, but certainly not that it always did so. Mr.
Oxenham, who was himself a boy at the time, does not remember hearing
of any appearance of the omen to his great uncle, Richard Oxenham, the
head of the family in the previous generation, who died August 24th,
1844, at Penzance. He was a bachelor, and lived alone, and only his
sister, Mrs. Oddy, who herself died in 1861, was with him at the time
of his death. It certainly was not seen at the death of the Rev. W.
Oxenham, Vicar of Cornwood and Prebendary of Exeter, younger brother
of the above, six months earlier, Feb. 28th, 1844, nor at the death
of either of the younger brothers of the late head of the family, G.
N. Oxenham, Esq., before mentioned. On the other hand, it is stated
by a relative of the family now living, that when Mrs. Oddy died, her
daughter, now dead, spoke of birds flapping and hopping at the bedroom
window the night before.”

My mother was most intimate with Miss Anne Oxenham, who lived in the
Close, Exeter, one whom I remember and loved. My mother informed me
that the bird was seen when Miss Anne Oxenham’s sister died. But on
what authority she received this I am unable to say.

Finally, in September, 1891, on the death of a female descendant of
the Oxenhams, the Rev. C. S. Homan states that, while at Oxenham Manor
(Oxenham, by the way, never was a manor), he was one day up very early
by daylight, and as he went out of the front door, he just caught sight
of what in the early light looked like a very large white bird. His
father said, “Perhaps it is the Oxenham white bird; if so, there ought
to be a death in the family.” Within a few days they noticed in the
newspaper the death of a connexion of the family, and were struck by
the coincidence.[12]

In these last cases, it will be seen that the bird has grown plump and
big. It was first white-breasted, then white, and finally a big white
bird. So fables grow. One wonders where the bird nests, how many little
white-breasted ones it has had, what has become of them! For that it is
the old hoary humbug there can be little doubt becoming blanched with
age, and stout, “going in for its fattenings,” as the Yorkshire folk


If Devonshire has turned out a number, and a very considerable number,
of gallant and honourable gentlemen, she has also given birth to some
great scoundrels, and one of these was Thomas Stucley or Stukeley.

His life was worked out with great pains and elaboration by the late
Richard Simpson in his _School of Shakespeare_, London, 1878. Indeed,
it occupies one hundred and thirty-nine pages in the first volume of
that work. To give the biography at all fully here is not possible,
space is not at one’s disposal for all details; it is also unnecessary,
since that exhaustive account by Simpson is accessible to every one.
The utmost we can do is to give a summary of the chief events of his
chequered career. Captain Thomas Stucley was the third son of Sir Hugh
Stucley, of Affeton in the parish of West Worlington, near Chumleigh.
Hugh Stucley, the father of our Thomas, was Sheriff of Devon in 1544;
his wife was Jane, daughter of Sir Lewis Pollard. Sir Hugh died in 1560.

The eldest son, Lewis Stucley, was aged thirty at the death of his
father. He became standard-bearer to Queen Elizabeth.

It was rumoured during the life of Thomas that he was an illegitimate
son of Henry VIII, like Sir John Perrot. “Stucley’s birth,” says Mr.
Simpson, “must have occurred at the time when the King, tired of his
wife Catherine, was as yet ranging among favourites who were contented
with something less than a crown as the price of their kindness.
Elizabeth Tailbois had been succeeded by Mary Boleyn; and as Mary
Boleyn was married to William Carey at Court, and in the presence of
the King, 31 January, 1521, it is clear that some one else had already
succeeded to her place.”

Whether Thomas ever claimed to be of royal blood we do not know. If so,
Lady Stucley, like Lady Falconbridge, might have cried out:--

    Where is that slave--where is he,
    That holds in chase mine honour up and down?

But he was certainly treated at foreign courts as one of birth superior
to that of a younger son of a Devonshire knight; and the tradition
obtains some support from the familiar way in which he was received by
both queens, Mary and Elizabeth, and the peculiar terms of intimacy
which he assumed towards royal personages; moreover the Duke of
Northumberland treated him with the same jealousy with which he might
have treated Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, had he been still alive.
In the play Vernon says:--

    Doubtless, if ever man was misbegot,
    It is this Stucley.

As a retainer of the Duke of Suffolk, into whose household he had
entered, and whose livery he wore, he was present at the siege of
Boulogne, 1545-50; and he acted as standard-bearer, with the wage of
six shillings and eightpence a day, from 1547 until its surrender to
the French in March, 1549-50. Then he returned to England, and attached
himself closely to the Protector Somerset.

As one of the Protector’s retainers, he was probably involved in his
plot to revolutionize the government. The gendarmerie upon the muster
day were to be attacked by two thousand men under Sir Ralph Vane, and
by a hundred horse of the Duke of Somerset’s, besides his friends, who
were to stand by, and the idle people who, it was calculated, would
take part. After this was done, the Protector intended to run through
the city and proclaim, “Liberty! Liberty!” But the plot was discovered
in time, and Somerset and his chief accomplices were committed to
the Tower, 17 October, 1551. The Council gave orders for Stucley’s
apprehension, but he escaped in time, and took refuge in France, where
he devoted his sword to the service of Henry II, who entitled him “mon
cher et bon ami.”

He must have fought in the campaign of Henry against the Emperor
Charles V in 1552, when Metz was taken by fraud. He was certainly
received as a disaffected subject, and was admitted to the French
counsels. In 1552 he returned to England with a story which he hoped
would purchase his pardon. This was to the effect that Henry II
meditated a sudden attack upon Calais.

According to his account the French King himself had spoken to him
of the weak points in the defences, had pointed out the very plan of
assault by which, six years later, Calais was actually taken. Moreover,
according to his scheme, the Scots were to enter Northumberland; Henry
II would land troops at Falmouth, and the Duke of Guise would land at
Dartmouth, which he knew to be undefended. Cecil suggested that Stucley
should be sent back to France to acquire further information; but the
Duke of Northumberland sent Stucley’s report to the French King, and
committed Stucley to the Tower. Henry denied the truth of what had been
reported. The payment of his debts, which had been promised to Stucley
as a reward for his revelations, was now refused, and he remained in
prison to the end of Edward’s reign. He was released on 6 August, 1553,
but his debts compelled him again to leave England. Unable to return
to France, he betook himself to the Emperor, and he was at Brussels in
the winter of 1553-4, and served with the Imperial army at St. Omer.
Philibert, Duke of Savoy, invited Stucley to accompany him to England
in October of 1554, and Stucley accordingly appealed to Queen Mary for
security against arrest whilst in her dominions, and this was granted
to him for six months, and at the end of December he accompanied the
Duke to England.

During his visit he attempted, Othello-like, to bewitch Anne, the
grand-daughter and sole heiress of Sir Thomas Curtis, a wealthy
alderman of London, with his tales of adventure. Against her father’s
wishes the lady was beguiled into a secret marriage, and he retired
with her to North Devon. On 13 May, 1555, the sheriffs of Devon and
Cheshire were ordered to arrest him on a charge of coining false money.
His house was searched, his servants questioned. There was much that
was suspicious, but nothing certainly to convict. But Thomas Stucley
had taken himself off before the sheriff arrived, and again took
service under the Duke of Savoy, and shared in the victory of the
Imperialists over the French at St. Quintin, 10 December, 1557.

Then he went into the Spanish service, but in November old Sir Thomas
Curtis died, brokenhearted, it was asserted, at the match his favourite
grandchild had contracted with one so disreputable and unprincipled.

Stucley at once returned to England, and a correspondent of Challoner,
the Ambassador in Spain, writes of him in November, 1559: “The
Alderman Curtes is dead, and by this time is busy Stucley in the
midst of his coffers.” Speedily the accumulations of the merchant’s
industrious life were squandered in extravagance. We next hear of him
in April, 1561, when he was appointed to a captaincy in Berwick. There
he entertained Shan O’Neil, a famous, turbulent chief from Ireland, who
late in this year visited Elizabeth’s Court, where his train of kerns
and gallowglasses, clothed in linen kilts dyed with saffron, made a
great impression.

While at Court, Shan wrote to Elizabeth: “Many of the nobles, magnates,
and gentlemen treated me kindly and ingenuously, and, namely, Master
Thomas Stucley entertained me with all his heart, and with all the
favour he could.” The friendship was destined to bear fruit later.

In a few years but little of the alderman’s savings remained, and with
the wreck that was left, Stucley fitted out a small squadron, and
obtained permission from Elizabeth to colonize Florida; and the Queen
contributed “2000 weight of corn-powder, and 100 curriers; and besides
artillery to the value of £120 towards the furniture of his journey.”
This was her investment in the venture, though she did not furnish the
powder out of her own stores, but made one Bromefield go into debt for
it with a Dutchman.

Fuller says that, “having prodigally misspent his Patrimony, he entered
on several projects (the issue-general of all decaied estates), and
first pitched on the peopling of Florida, then newly found in the West
Indies. So confident his ambition, that he blushed not to tell Queen
Elizabeth ‘that he preferred rather to be sovereign of a Mole-hill
than the highest Subject to the greatest King in Christendom’; adding,
moreover, ‘that he was assured he should be a Prince before his
death.’ ‘I hope,’ said Queen Elizabeth, ‘I shall hear from you, when
you are seated in your Principality.’ ‘I will write to you,’ quoth
Stucley. ‘In what languidge?’ said the Queen. He returned, ‘In the
style of Princes, _To our dear Sister_.’”

He took leave of the Queen on 25 June, 1563. Cecil wrote in her name
to the Earl of Sussex, Lord Deputy of Ireland: “Our servant Thomas
Stucley, associated with sundry of our subjects, hath prepared a number
of good ships well armed and manned to pass to discover certain lands
to the West towards Florida, and by our licence hath taken the same
voyage.” But in the event of stormy winds or accidents he was to be
well received, should he put into a port in Ireland.

So he sailed, but Stucley had no real intention of going to Florida:
his squadron lived by piracy on the high seas for two years. He made
his head-quarters at Kinsale, where he resumed acquaintance with Shan
O’Neil, chief of Tyrone, who aspired to be king of Ulster, and was
repeatedly in arms against the English. Shan had offered Ireland as
a fief to Philip II of Spain. And now Stucley from Kinsale swept the
seas, and made prizes of Spanish galleons, and of French and Portuguese
merchantmen. Complaints were made by the foreign courts, and the
English Ambassador at Madrid confessed that “he hung his head for
shame.” Stucley filled his cellars with sherry from Cadiz, and amused
Shan O’Neil with his boastful speech, his flattery, and his utterance
of what he would do for him; and Shan had the impertinence to write to
Elizabeth in favour of “his so dearly loved friend, and her Majesty’s
worthy subject.”

In June, 1563, Stucley took a Zealand ship with £3000 worth of linen
and tapestry, and then, joining a small fleet of West-countrymen,
fourteen sail in all, he lay off Ushant, watching for the wine fleet
from Bordeaux professedly, but picking up gratefully whatever the gods
might send. No less a person than the Mayor of Dover himself was the
owner of one of these sea-hawks. Wretched Spaniards flying from their
talons were dashed to pieces upon the granite cliffs of Finisterre.

At length the remonstrances of foreign ambassadors took effect, and
Elizabeth disowned Stucley, and took measures for his apprehension.
Some ships were sent out with this object, and he was caught in Cork
harbour, in 1565, put under arrest, and sent to London, where he was
consigned to the Tower.

Stucley was all the while playing a double game. While professing
loyalty to the Queen he was in correspondence with Philip of Spain.
Shan O’Neil proposed to Elizabeth that she should divide all Ireland
between himself and Stucley, when they would make of it a paradise.
Stucley had purchased a good deal of land in Cork, and he hoped to
have more granted him and to share with St. Leger and Carew in the
partition of Munster. He had a plausible tongue, put on an air of great
frankness, and soon obtained his release, and was actually sent back
to Ireland with a letter of recommendation from Cecil. There he bought
of Sir Nicholas Bagnal for £300 down his office of Marshal of Ireland
and all Bagnal’s estate in the island. Elizabeth, however, refused to
sanction the transaction; she mistrusted him, and with reason, for he
was engaged in constant treasonable correspondence with the Spanish
Ambassador, and he was in receipt of a pension from Philip. She heard
reports of murders, robberies, and other outrages committed by him, and
ordered him back to England. He obeyed, cleared himself, and in 1567
was allowed to return to Ireland, where he purchased of Sir Nicholas
Heron the offices of seneschal and constable of Wexford and captainship
of the Kavanaghs, together with many estates. Again Elizabeth
interfered, and Stucley was turned out of his offices. Nicholas White,
Heron’s successor, now accused Stucley of felony and high treason, and
in June, 1569, he was imprisoned in Dublin Castle. It was high time; he
had in that same month proposed to Philip the invasion of Ireland, and
had demanded twenty fully armed ships for the purpose. As sufficient
evidence to convict him was not forthcoming, he was discharged, but
felt that he could no longer rely on Elizabeth’s forbearance. With
treachery in his heart he pretended to Sidney, the Queen’s deputy in
Ireland, that after such misinterpretation of his acts and doubts of
his fidelity, he desired to go in person to his royal mistress and
clear his reputation with her; and Sidney, instead of sending him over
under a guard, was contented with his parole--Stucley’s parole!

Stucley informed him that for his defence he needed a certain number
of Irish gentlemen to serve as witnesses to his conduct. The deputy
permitted him to purchase and fit out a ship at Waterford to transport
them and himself. He took with him some Irish cavaliers, along with
their servants and horses, and a miscellaneous crew of adventurers.
They embarked as for London, but when clear of the harbour made for the
ocean. A few days after they sailed for Galicia, and sent messengers to
Philip to announce their arrival.

The Archbishop of Cashel, then at Madrid, not knowing much of Stucley,
recommended Philip to receive the party. The King accordingly sent
for him to Court, knighted him, loaded him with presents, granted him
five hundred reales a day and a residence at Las Rozas, nine miles
from Madrid, where he lived in great state, with thirty gentlemen
about him. He made great brag of the vast estates of which the Queen
had deprived him--Wexford, Kinsale, the Kavanagh country, Carlow, and
the whole kingdom of Leinster, and an income of £2200 per diem--and
was believed. He assumed the title of Duke of Ireland, but Philip only
allowed him to be received as Duke of Leinster. He represented himself
as of vast influence in Ireland, and Philip was completely taken in by
his boasting. But the Archbishop of Cashel soon received tidings of his
real position in the island. He had robbed churches, despoiled abbeys,
was detested by the native Irish whom he had cruelly maltreated, and
was of no influence at all. Thenceforth two parties were formed in
the Spanish Court, one denouncing Stucley as an adventurer and so
unprincipled that if he thought it would suit his purpose would betray
everything to Elizabeth. The other party believed in his professions
and encouraged the King to trust him; and his assumption, his audacious
and enormous lies, his perfect self-assurance bore down all opposition,
and under Stucley’s auspices the Spanish Government began serious
preparations for the invasion and conquest of Ireland. Ships were
collected at Vigo with arms and stores. Ten thousand men were to be
raised, and Julian Romero was to be recalled from Flanders to command.

Meanwhile he amused the Spaniards with scandalous stories about
Elizabeth and her Court, and his fool’s boast of what he was about to

“Master Stukely said to the King’s Council that the Queen’s Majesty
will beat Secretary Cecil about the ears when he discontenteth her, and
he will weep like a child. The Spaniards asking him why the Queen’s
Highness did not marry, he said she would never marry, for she cannot
abide a woman with child, for she saith those women be worse than a
sow. He also said, ‘What hurt I can do her I will do it and will make
her vilely afraid.’”[13]

“The Duke’s Grace Stukely had received the Sacrament, and promised
to render unto the King of Spain not only entrance within his duchy,
but also possession of the whole realm of Ireland. The soldiers were
amassing from all parts of Spain--Spaniards, Burgundians, Italians, the
most part Bezonians, beggarly, ill-armed rascals, but their captains
old beaten men-of-war. The King was sparing no cost on the enterprise,
and no honours to Stukely, hoping by such means to enlarge his

Nothing, however, came of this at the time, and the party that
perceived Stucley to be a charlatan grew stronger, his boasting palled,
and the King at last became suspicious and withdrew his favour.
Perceiving himself to be regarded on all sides with mistrust, not to
say with contempt, in a huff he left Spain, went to Italy, and offered
his service to the Pope. In 1571 he was given command of three galleys,
and partook in Don John’s victory over the Turks at Lepanto; and thus
raised himself considerably in King Philip’s estimation. Then he went
back to Rome, where “it is incredible how quickly he wrought himself
into the favour, through the Court into the Chamber, yea Closet, yea
Bosom of Pope Pius V; so that some wise men thought his Holiness did
forfeit a parcel of his Infallibility in giving credit to such a
_Glorioso_, vaunting that with three thousand Soldiers, he would beat
all the English out of Ireland.”

The Pope created Stucley Baron of Ross, Viscount Murrough, Earl of
Wexford, and Marquess of Leinster, and furnished him with a few vessels
and eight hundred soldiers, but these were to receive their pay from
the King of Spain.

Some contention arose as to the division of spoil when Elizabeth was
overthrown and England and Ireland were at the feet of Gregory XIII and
Philip of Spain. The Pope gave Stucley a consecrated banner to plant
in Ireland, which was to become wholly his own, and to which he was to
appoint the Pope’s bastard son, Giacomo Buoncompagni, as king.

Stucley left Civita Vecchia in March, 1577-8, but soon found that the
vessels were unseaworthy, and the military the offscouring of Italy.
Stucley put into Lisbon for repairs, and found King Sebastian of
Portugal preparing for his attempt on North Africa, having with him two
Moorish kings. The King persuaded Stucley to accompany him. Landing in
Africa, Stucley gave wise counsel to Sebastian not to engage the enemy
till the soldiers had recovered from the voyage, they having suffered
severely in the stormy passage. But the young King would listen to no
advice, and in the battle of Alcazar, on 4 August, 1578, Stucley lost
his life, regretted probably by none.

    A fatal fight, where in one day was slain
    Three king’s that were, and one that would be fain.

Thus perished a man of whom Cecil had written some years before,
“Thomas Stucley, a defamed person almost through all Christendom, and
a faithless beast rather than a man, fleeing first out of England for
notable piracies, and out of Ireland for treacheries unpardonable.”

Lord Burghley wrote: “Of this man might be written whole volumes to
paint out the life of a man in the highest degree of vain-glory,
prodigality, falsehood, and vile and filthy conversation of life, and
altogether without faith, conscience, or religion.”

Stucley at once became the hero of ballads, chapbooks, and plays.
_The Famous History of the Life and Death of Captain Thomas Stukeley_
was printed in 1605, and Peele’s _Battle of Alcazar_ in 1594, but
both plays had been acted before these dates. In the _Life and Death_
Stucley is glorified, as an idol of the military or Essex party to
which Shakespeare is known to have belonged, and it has been thought
that his hand can be traced in the composition. But if so, he has left
in it but little trace of his genius.

In one of the ballads published about Stucley, he is thus spoken of:--

    Taverns and ordinaries--were his chiefest braveries,
      Golden angels there flew up and down;
    Riots were his best delights--with stately feasting day and night,
      In court and city thus he won renown.


At the assizes held at the castle of Exeter 14 August, 1682, three poor
old women from Bideford--Temperance Lloyd, aged eighty years, Mary
Trembles, and Susanna Edwards--were tried for witchcraft, were found
guilty, and were executed on 25 August ensuing.

They had all previously been examined before Thomas Gist, Mayor of
Bideford, and John Davie, Alderman, and also by the Rector. Before
these worthies they had made full confession of their misdeeds, but to
what an extent they had been drawn on by leading questions appears from
the _procès verbal_ of these examinations.

The worst of the three women was Temperance Lloyd, “intemperate
Temperance” as she is called in one account.

According to the information of Dorcas Coleman, she had suffered from
prickings in her body. She had consulted a physician, Dr. Beare, and he
had told her that he could do nothing for her, as she was bewitched.
When Susanna Edwards entered the room of Dorcas, the deponent was
sitting in her chair speechless, but on seeing Susanna she slid out of
her seat and tried to scramble towards her so as with her nails to draw
blood, for by that means alone can a spell be broken that has been cast
by a witch.

Grace Thomas also complained of pricking pains caused by Temperance
Lloyd, “just as though pins and awls had been thrust into her body,
from the crown of her head to the soles of her feet.” Temperance was
brought to confess that she had met the devil, as a little blackamoor,
in a lane, and that she had gone with him invisibly to the bedroom of
Grace Thomas, who lodged in the house of Thomas Eastchurch, and that
she “did then and there pinch with the nails of her fingers the said
Grace, in her shoulders, thighs, and legs.” She further admitted that
the black man had sucked her teats, and that he was about the length
of her arm. She was subjected to examination by some matrons, who
professed that they found suspicious marks upon her body. Before the
rector of Bideford she confessed that, having assumed the form of a
cat, she fetched out of Thomas Eastchurch’s shop a puppet, commonly
called a child’s baby, and left it near Grace’s bed, but she would
in no way admit that she had run pins into this figure. It appears
that Grace Thomas had been pricked in nine places about the knee, as
though pricked by a thorn, and according to the evidence of Elizabeth
Eastchurch, Temperance had confessed that she had taken a piece of
leather and driven a pin into it nine times, purposing thereby to cause
injury to the skin of Grace. She allowed that she had been accused of
assuming the form of a red pig, but would not admit that the accusation
was true. According to the evidence, the devil had appeared to her at
various times, sometimes in the form of a magpie, sometimes in that of
a grey or braget cat.

Susanna Edwards confessed that she first encountered the devil, dressed
very respectably and gravely in a black suit, in the Parsonage Close,
and that afterward, shrinking in size to a small boy, he had sucked
blood from her breast. She had pricked and pinched Grace Barnes; and
she stated that whilst her body lay motionless in bed, she could go to
any place she liked invisibly.

Mary Trembles confessed that the devil came to her “in the shape of a
Lyon” and sucked her so hard, that she was obliged to scream for pain,
and that she also could travel invisibly.

Among these witches, a certain Anne Fellow was said to have been done
to death by their practices. They had also bewitched cows so that
they would not yield their milk; and Temperance admitted that she
had caused several shipwrecks and been instrumental to the death of
several persons and many cattle. They could only say the Lord’s Prayer
backwards. They had squeezed Hannah Thomas to death. At their trial at
the assizes, all their confessions before the Mayor and Alderman at
Bideford were accepted against them. There was no evidence produced to
inculpate them beyond these confessions and the suppositions of women
who had felt pains and pricks in their bodies. Nevertheless, the three
poor creatures were sentenced to death. On the scaffold they were again
questioned, and denied almost everything that they had previously been
induced or frightened into admitting.

The authorities for this account are:--

“A True and Impartial Relation of the Informations against Three
Witches, Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles, and Susanna Edwards ...
London, 1682.”

“The Tryal, Condemnation and Execution of three Witches ... who were
arraigned at Exeter, on the 18th of August, 1682 ... London, 1682.” In
this the names are given inaccurately.

There is also a broadside ballad on the subject. At the top are two
rude woodcuts of witches, and a third of the devil dancing in the
middle of a ring of witches. He holds a candle in his right hand and a
broomstick in the other. Black owls are flying about; and a black cat
sits hard by looking on complacently. It has been reprinted by John
Ashton in his _Century of Ballads_, London, 1887.

It is wretched doggerel. Here are some stanzas:--

    So these Malicious Women at the last,
    Having done mischief, were by Justice cast;
    For it appear’d they children had destroy’d,
    Lamed Cattel, and the Aged much annoy’d.

    Having Familiars always at their Beck,
    Their Wicked Rage on Mortals for to wreck;
    It being proved they used Wicked Charms,
    To Murder Men, and bring about sad harms.

    The Country round where they did live came in,
    And all at once their sad complaints begin;
    One lost a Child, the other lost a Kine,
    This his brave Horse, that his hopeful Swine.

    One had his Wife bewitch’d, the other his Friend,
    Because in some things they the Witch offend:
    For which they labour under cruel pain,
    In vain seek remedy, but none can gain.


Sir Lewis Stukeley, or Stucley, who has been branded as the Judas of
Devonshire, was the eldest son of John Stukeley, of Affeton, by Frances
St. Leger. He had two brothers and several sisters. He was great-nephew
to “Lusty” Stucley, and partook of that vein of meanness and treachery
that characterized Thomas. He was married to Frances daughter of
Anthony Monk, of Potheridge, a family which, if not more ancient, was
free from the taint of baseness that savoured three of the Stukeleys.
By her he had five sons; none were knighted, the shame of the father
rested on them, and it was not till the next generation that knighthood
was again granted to the representative of the Stukeleys, of Affeton.

Lewis himself was knighted, not for any worthiness that he had shown,
but as the representative of a good family, when James I was on his
way to London in 1603. In 1617 he was appointed guardian of Thomas
Rolfe, the infant son of Pocahontas by J. Rolfe. Then he was created
Vice-Admiral of Devon, and in that capacity he left London in June,
1618, with verbal orders from the King to arrest Sir Walter Raleigh,
then arrived at Plymouth on his return from the Orinoco. Sir Walter
had been released from his long captivity in the Tower, because he
gave hopes to James of finding a gold-mine in Guiana. He had been
there before, had brought away auriferous spar, and had heard tidings
of deposits of gold. James was in debt and in need of money, and he
clutched at the chance of getting out of his difficulties through the
gold of Guiana. That there was gold there is certain; Raleigh’s mine
has been identified; but since he had left the Orinoco, the Spaniards
had pushed up the river and annexed land and built stations.

James did not want to break with the Spanish Government and gave
Raleigh instructions not to come to blows with the Spaniards.
Unhappily, Raleigh’s lieutenant, whom he had dispatched up the river,
did come to blows with them, and blood was shed; it was however in
self-defence, for the Spaniards had fallen upon the English party when
unprepared and killed some of them. This unfortunate business, and the
fact that Raleigh could not reach his gold-mine, the way to it being
intercepted by the Spaniards, made him turn back with a heavy heart. On
reaching Plymouth, he hasted towards London to state the case to the
King, when he was met at Ashburton by his cousin, Sir Lewis Stukeley,
with smiles and professions of love--but having war in his heart. His
rancour against his kinsman was due to a quarrel in 1584, when, as
Stukeley asserted, Sir Walter did “extreme injustice” to Stukeley’s
father, then a volunteer in Sir Richard Grenville’s Virginia voyage,
by deceiving him in a matter of a venture he had made. James was in a
great fright lest he should be plunged in war with the King of Spain,
and very angry because the gold-mine had not been found; and Stukeley
was promised £500 to worm out of his cousin some damning admissions, as
that there never had been any gold-mine at all, and to betray these to
James. Stukeley had received only verbal instructions from the King. He
therefore reconducted Raleigh back to Plymouth, where he placed him in
Radford, the house of Sir Christopher Harris, who was charged with his
custody, till Stukeley received orders from James. Raleigh was ill--or
feigned to be ill--the former is the more probable, and he being laxly
guarded formed a plan of escape to France. He commissioned Captain
King, the only one of his officers who remained faithful to the last,
to make arrangements for flight with the master of a French vessel
then lying in the Sound. At nightfall, the two stole from Radford and
got into a boat lying at the little quay below the house. They had not
rowed far, however, before qualms came over Raleigh; it seemed to him
unworthy of his past and of his honour to fly his native land; and he
perhaps counted too securely on the generosity of the despicable James.
He changed his mind, and ordered King to return to Radford. Next day
he sent money to the Frenchman, and begged him to wait for him another
night. Night came, but Raleigh did not stir. This singular irresolution
in a man so energetic, ready, and firm, points surely to the fact
that he was ill at the time, suffering from the ague which so often
prostrated him. Stukeley at length received orders to take his prisoner
to London, and the opportunity to escape was gone for ever. As Raleigh
passed through Sherborne, he pointed out the lands that had once been
his, and related how wrongfully they had been taken from him.

At Salisbury Raleigh complained of illness, and begged to be allowed to
halt there for a while. It was asserted by a French quack, Mannourie,
set as a spy over him, that he got the doctor to anoint him so as to
produce sores wherever the ointment was applied. This was one of the
charges afterwards brought against him, at the special insistence of
King James, who always kept his eye on trifles. Whilst Raleigh was at
Salisbury, Sir Lewis Stukeley robbed him of all his jewels and money,
leaving him only the emerald ring on his finger, engraved with the
Raleigh arms. It has been asserted that Sir Walter endeavoured here
to bribe his cousin to connive at his escape. Had this been the case,
Stukeley would certainly have mentioned it in his “Humble Petition,”
and justification of his conduct after the execution of Raleigh. He was
not the man to fail to flaunt such a feather in his cap as that he had
resisted a bribe, had such a bribe been offered him.

Whilst Raleigh lay ill at Salisbury, Captain King hurried up to London,
by his master’s direction, to hire a vessel to wait at Gravesend till
he should be able to go on board. The master of the vessel at once
betrayed the matter. Sir William St. John, a captain of one of the
King’s ships, immediately took horse and rode to meet Stukeley and his
prisoner on their way to town, and encountered them before he reached
Bagshot. Stukeley then confided to him certain charges against Raleigh
which he was to lay before the King.

Next day Stukeley had fresh matter to dispatch to the Court. It was
this: La Chesnée, the interpreter of the French Embassy, visited Sir
Walter at Brentford. He had brought with him a message from Le Clerc,
agent for the King of France, offering him a passage on board a French
vessel, together with letters of introduction which would secure him an
honourable reception in Paris. Raleigh thanked him for the offer, but
replied that he had already provided for his escape. All this Stukeley
learned by applying his ear to the keyhole or by worming the secret
out of Raleigh by professions of kindness and desire to assist him to

James at once took alarm. A plot with France was a serious matter at
that time. He accordingly directed Stukeley to continue to counterfeit
friendship with Raleigh, to assist him in his meditated escape, and
only to arrest him at the last moment; and to bring this attempt as one
more charge against Raleigh. So Stukeley continued to insinuate himself
into the confidence of his cousin, and endeavoured by all means in his
power to wheedle out of him such papers as might afford evidence of his
designs and might serve to help to bring him to the scaffold.

On his arrival in town, Raleigh was conducted to his own house in Broad
Street. There he was revisited by Le Clerc, who repeated his former

The next morning Sir Walter got into a boat attended by Stukeley, all
smiles, and the honest King; and, as prearranged, he was arrested at
Woolwich and at once lodged in the Tower.

On 29 October, 1618, Raleigh’s head fell under the executioner’s
axe. He was a victim to Spanish resentment and to James’s meanness
in offering him as a sacrifice to curry favour with Spain. Gardiner
says Raleigh was executed “nominally in accordance with the sentence
delivered in 1603; in reality because he had failed to secure the gold
of which James was in need. The real crime was the King’s, who had sent
him out without first defining the limits of Spanish sovereignty.”

The writer of the notice of Sir Lewis Stukeley in the _Dictionary
of National Biography_ takes a lenient view of Stukeley’s conduct.
“Stukeley certainly gave hostile, not necessarily false evidence
against Raleigh. He seems to have been a harsh, narrow-minded, and
vulgar man, glad to have his cousin in his power, to revenge himself on
him for the pecuniary loss his own father had entertained.” Gardiner
says: “Stukeley seems to have thought it no shame to act as a spy
upon the man who had called upon him to betray his trust;” but it
is precisely this charge that cannot be established. We have no good
evidence that Raleigh did attempt to bribe him. Popular opinion ran
strongly against Stukeley, and he was nicknamed Sir Judas. He tried
to hold up his head at Court, but no man would condescend to speak to
him. He met on all sides with glances full of contempt and gestures of
disgust. He hurried to James, and offered to take the Sacrament upon
the truth of a story Raleigh had denied on the scaffold--that he had
been offered a commission by the French King (the story came through
Mannourie); but no one would have believed Stukeley a whit the readier
had he done this.

Indeed, Mannourie subsequently admitted that it was false, when he
was arrested for clipping the gold, the blood money, he had received
for spying on Sir Walter. In a letter from the Rev. T. Lorkin to Sir
T. Puckering on 16 February, 1618-19, he says: “Manourie, the French
Apothecary, (who joigned with Stukely in the accusation of Syr Walter
Raleigh) is at Plimouth for clippyng of gold ... his examination was
sent up hether to the King, wherein ... (as I hear from Syr Rob.
Winde, cupbearer I thincke to his Majesty, who saith he read the
examination) that his accusation against Raleigh was false, and that
he was wonne thereto by the practise and importunity of Stukely, and
now acknowledges this his present miserable condition a judgment of God
upon him for that.”

When Stukeley made this offer to King James, a bystander dryly observed
that if the King would order him to be beheaded, and if he would then
confirm the truth of his story with an oath while on the scaffold, then
possibly he might be believed.

One day Sir Judas went to call on the old Earl of Nottingham, who
was Lord High Admiral, and asked to be allowed to speak to him. The
Earl turned on him instantly. “What,” he said, “thou base fellow! Thou
who art reputed the scorn and contempt of men, how darest thou offer
thyself into my presence? Were it not in my own house, I would cudgel
thee with my staff for presuming to be so saucy.” Stukeley ran off to
whine to the King, but even there he met with no redress. “What,” said
James, “wouldst thou have me do? Wouldst thou have me hang him? On my
soul, if I should hang all that speak ill of thee, all the trees in the
country would not suffice.” It was even said, probably without truth,
that James had said to Stukeley, “Sir Walter’s blood be on thy head.”

A few days after the scene with the King, it was discovered that
Stukeley had been for many years engaged in the nefarious occupation
of clipping coin. It was even said that he tampered in this way with
the very gold pieces which had been paid to him as the price of his
services for lodging Raleigh in the Tower and betraying him. When
arrested he endeavoured to excuse himself by inculpating his son. Could
meanness descend to a lower depth?

“1618-19. Jan. 12.... Upon Twelf night Stukely was committed close
prisoner in the Gate house for clipping of gould. He had receyved of
the Exchequer some weeks before £500 in recompense for the service he
had performed in the business of Syr Walter Raleigh, and beganne (as
is said) to exercise the trade upon that ill-gotten money (the price
of blood). Upon examination he endeavoured to avoid it from himself,
by casting the burden either upon his sonne or man. The former playes
least in sight and can not be found. The servant is committed to the
Marshalsay, who, understanding that his Master would shift over the
business to him, is willing to sett the saddle upon the right horse,
and accuses his Master.”[15]

But the accusation was not pressed. King James owed Stukeley too deep a
debt to let him suffer, and he threw him a pardon, so that the evidence
against him was not gone into. It may be remembered that “Lusty”
Stukeley had also been implicated in clipping and coining, and had only
escaped arrest by flying the country.

Stukeley, an outcast from society in London, went down to Affeton. But
even there he was ill-received. The gentry would not speak to him, his
own retainers viewed him with a cold, if not hostile, eye, and rendered
him but bare obedience.

The brand of Cain was on him, and he fled from the society of his
fellow men to the isle of Lundy, and shut himself up in the lonely,
haunted tower of the De Mariscoes. There he went raving mad and
perished (1620), a miserable lunatic on that rock, surrounded by
the roaring of the waves and the shrieks of the wind. His body was
conveyed to South Molton, so that he was denied even a grave beside his
ancestors at Affeton.

For authorities, see Gardiner, _Prince Charles and the Spanish
Marriage_, Vol. I, London, 1869; Dr. Brushfield’s _Raleghana_, Part
VII; the _Dictionary of National Biography, s.n._; and the various
Lives of Raleigh.


In 1810, considerable commotion was caused by the rumour that spread
concerning a house in Sampford Peverell reputed to be haunted. The
house belonged to a Mr. Tally, who let it to a Mr. Chave, son of
a well-to-do yeoman of the neighbourhood, for a general shop and
residence. The rumours reached the ears of the Rev. C. Colton,
/M.A./, a clergyman at Tiverton, and he visited Sampford to
investigate the matter, and wrote his experiences to the editor of the
_Taunton Courier_ on 18 August. The tone of the letter is frank and

“I am well aware that all who know me would not require the sanction
of an oath, but as I am now addressing the public, I must consider
myself before a tribunal of which my acquaintance constitutes a very
small part. And first, I depose that after six nights at Mr. Chave’s
house, and with a mind perfectly unprejudiced, after the most minute
investigation and closest inspection of the premises, I am utterly
unable to account for any of the phenomena.

“I further depose, that in my visits to Mr. Chave’s house, I never had
any other motive, direct or indirect, but an earnest wish to trace
these phenomena to their true and legitimate cause. Also that I have
in every instance found the people of the house most willing and ready
to contribute everything in their power to co-operate with me in the
detection of the cause of these unaccountable sights and violent blows
and sounds. Also, that I have affixed a seal with a crest to every
door, cavity, etc., in the house, through which any communication could
be carried--that this seal was applied to each end of sundry pieces of
paper in such a manner that the slightest attempt to open such doors,
or pass such cavities, must have broken these papers--that none of
these papers were deranged or broken; and also, that the phenomena that
night were as unaccountable as ever.

“Also, that it appears that this plot, if it be a plot, hath been
carried on for many months, that it must be in the hands of more than
fifty people, that the present owner is losing the value of his house,
the tenant the customers of his shop, whom fear now prevents from
visiting it after sunset.”

To this and more, Mr. Colton took oath before B. Wood, Master in
Chancery, Tiverton.

This letter was animadverted upon by the editor and by writers to the
_Taunton Courier_, as dealing in general, and giving no details.

To this Mr. Colton (14 September) replied, giving particulars of what
he had seen and heard.

The house rented by Chave had for some time been looked upon as
haunted. An apprentice boy lodging in it had been frightened by the
apparition of a woman. Persons passing at night had seen strange lights
in the windows. Mr. Colton goes on to say:--

“Rather more than four months ago, this house became extremely
troublesome. The inhabitants were alarmed in the following manner:
noises and blows by day were heard extremely loud, in every apartment
of the house. On going upstairs and stamping on any of the boards of
the floor, in any room, say five or six times, corresponding blows,
generally louder, and more in number, would be instantly returned. The
vibration of the boards caused by the violence of these blows would be
sensibly felt through a shoe or boot. Observe, the floors underneath
which these noises were heard are all of them immediately over rooms
that are ceiled. An effect not to be produced by any blows on the
ceiling was that the dust was thrown up from such boards as were beaten
with such velocity as to affect the eyes of the spectators.

“At midday the cause of these effects would announce its approach by
amazing and loud knockings in some apartment or other of the house,
above stairs or below, as might happen. The moment they were heard,
any person on ascending the stairs, and stamping with the feet, would
be answered somewhat louder; and then, what is extremely curious,
these noises would absolutely follow the persons through any of the
upper apartments. The joists and beams of the flooring opposed not the
slightest obstacle to its progress. Walls it would penetrate with equal
facility, as was manifest by its following any person into different

“These phenomena by day continued almost incessantly for about five
weeks, when they gradually gave place to others still more curious
and alarming, which succeeded at night. There are two apartments in
this house--one within the other. In this room there is but one door,
not a single cupboard, and one very small chimney. The walls are of
stone, the flooring of new deal, extremely close, and not covered by
a carpet. There is one large modern window in the room. There is no
visible access to this room but through another, in which they who wish
to satisfy their curiosity constantly sit. The partition is thin, there
is also a window in it (it is of lath and plaster). In the room where
strangers sit, there is also one door only; and there is a kind of
landing-room at the top of the stairs opposite to this door.”

In the further room the servant-maids were sent to sleep. These
were now violently beaten, during the night, producing bruises and
swellings. Those who sat in the outer room could hear the blows being
administered. Mr. Colton went into the inner room and stood by the bed
where the maids were, and heard the blows rained on them. When he cried
for a light, it was brought in, but no person could be seen by him who
could have administered these blows.

The next phenomenon was this, not witnessed by Mr. Colton. He says:
“Mr. Chave, of Mere, no relation at all to Mr. Chave who rents the
house, can swear to the following fact. Sitting up to hear and see
these phenomena, he was alarmed by one or two loud shrieks; on rushing
into the room his course at the threshold of the door was arrested by
the following phenomenon. Every curtain of that bed was agitated and
the knots thrown and whirled about with such rapidity, all at the same
time, that it would have been by no means pleasant to have been in
their vortex, or within the sphere of their action.” The moon at the
time was full, and was shining into the room.

“This scene, accompanied with such a violent noise of the rings as
could not have been exceeded by four persons stationed one at each
curtain for the purpose, continued for about two minutes, when it
concluded with a noise resembling the tearing of a sheet from top to
bottom. Candles were then instantly produced, and many rents, one
very large one _across_ the grain of strong new cotton curtains, were
discovered.” Mr. Colton, however, on other occasions professes to have
seen the curtains violently agitated and a heavy Greek Testament
placed on the bed flung across the room. But it is worth noticing that
these things only took place when the women were in the bed, and never
when the candle was in the room. The maids now pretended to be so
frightened that they dared no longer sleep in their room, whereupon Mr.
and Mrs. Chave allowed them to remove into their apartment. The noises
followed them, an iron candlestick was flung across the room at Mr.
Chave’s head. Another significant matter noted by Mr. Colton, was that
the maids after one of these violent exhibitions were found bathed in
perspiration, the drops rolling from their brows.

Such is a brief summary of Mr. Colton’s narrative. It called forth a
pamphlet by Mr. Marriott, the editor of the _Taunton Courier_, that
had been prompted by Mr. Tally who was much annoyed at the probable
depreciation of the value of his house, and who gave notice to Mr.
Chave to quit it.

Mr. Marriott was doubtless right in his conjecture that there was
a plot among the servants, and that it was they who produced the
phenomena. He conjectured that the raps were dealt by a mop-stick at
the ceiling below the floors that seemed to be struck. He pointed out
that there were marks on the ceiling as if the mop-stick had been so
used, and he intimated that the set of hauntings was due to Mr. Chave
trying by this means to avenge a quarrel he had had with his landlord
over a bill.

To this Mr. Colton promptly replied, that it was true that there was a
mop-stick in the house, but that by means of the mop-stick the sounds
heard and the vibration of the boards casting up dust could not have
been effected. He and others had tried, and the marks observed on the
ceiling were caused by these trials. As to the quarrel over a bill, it
had not occurred. It was not to Mr. Chave’s interest to give the house
a bad name, for he had but recently rented and fitted it up, and it
would be an inconvenience to him to move; moreover, these supernatural
phenomena were doing him much harm, in injuring his business.

Mr. Colton now added further mysterious sights, but they rested on
nothing better than the testimony of the maids. One had seen a white
hand come out from under the bed, another had seen a livid arm hanging
down from the ceiling.

There can, I think, be little doubt that it was not Mr. Chave, but
the servant-maids who managed the whole series of phenomena. These
knockings could easily be transmitted through boards, and the curtains
tossed about, and books and candlesticks flung across the room, by
having horsehair attached to them. That is the true secret of the
Poltergeist manifestations in England, France, and Germany.

The authorities are:--

“Sampford Ghost. A Plain and Authentic Narrative of those Extraordinary
Occurrences, etc., by the Rev. C. Colton, /M.A./, Reg. Col.
Soc., Tiverton” (1810).

“Sampford Ghost!!! A Full Account of the Conspiracy at Sampford
Peverell, near Tiverton; Containing the Particulars of the Pretended
Visitations of the Monster. Taunton, 1810.” (This by Marriott.)

“Sampford Ghost. Stubborn Facts against Vague Assertions, etc., by the
Rev. C. Colton, M.A., Reg. Col. Soc., Tiverton” (1810). Answer to Mr.

“Sampford Ghost! Facts Attested and Delivered to the Public Relative to
these Extraordinary Occurrences, etc., by the Rev. C. Colton.... London


In the month of August, 1672, the wife of a dyer of Plymouth, one
William Weeks, died after “many and frequent vomitings.” Shortly
after that Mr. Weeks and his daughter were seized with the same
symptoms--violent pains internally, cold sweats, faintings and
vomitings; and in an engraving of the period relative to the tragic
event about to be related, Mr. Weeks is shown in bed affected by this
last symptom. At the outset the physician who attended them suspected
poison, and he was confirmed in his suspicions when a neighbour who had
entered the house found a pot in the kitchen with “crude arsenick” in
it. Moreover, Mr. Weeks’s grand-daughter, child of a Mistress Pengelly,
was affected in precisely the same manner.

Philippa Cary, the nurse, together with Anne Evans, the servant, first
drew attention to themselves by counterfeiting sickness and vomiting,
but the general prostration and agony were lacking in their case. The
administration of emetics led to the recovery of the child and of Mr.
Weeks, but Mistress Pengelly died in great agonies.

This “horrid accident” caused much commotion, and the nurse and the
girl were arrested. The first brought before the mayor was Anne Evans,
“apprentice to the said Mistress Weeks, a poor child, whose mother
being dead, had been bound out in the Mayoralty of Mr. Peter Schaggel,
Anno 1672, by the Churchwardens and overseers of Charles parish, being
then about twelve or thirteen years old.”

The poor child Anne, on being questioned by the mayor, allowed that
she bought “a pottle of girts” in the market, and that when they had
been cooked she had noticed “some yellow thing in the girts,” and the
family were afflicted by incessant tortures after they had partaken
of it. There had been a dispute between Mrs. Weeks and the nurse, and
the latter had asked Evans whether she knew where she could get some
rat’s-bane. Cary admitted that there had been words between her and the
old lady, and said that it arose over the frying of some pilchards. She
added that Anne Evans was on bad terms with her mistress, and that the
girl had threatened to run away and join “the mountebanks.”

The mayor plied one witness against the other. Next Evans said that
as she was gathering herbs she found a packet of rat’s-bane, and on
showing it to Cary the latter exclaimed that was just the very thing
needed to “fit” Mrs. Weeks, and that a little dose of it would soon
“make work.” Next the girl mentioned that Cary abused her for removing
a great spider from some beer that Mrs. Weeks was about to drink. A
spider was, according to popular belief, a concentration of deadly
poison. Cary had said, “Thou shouldst have let it alone, thou Fool, and
not have taken it out, but shouldst have squatted it amongst the beer.”
When Cary was taxed with this, she denied having said any such thing,
but asserted that Evans had threatened to do away with her mistress “on
Saturday week was fortnight.”

The mayor continued his interrogations of each witness separately,
playing the statements of one against the other. Then Evans improved
her story by asserting that she saw Cary crush the rat’s-bane into
fine powder between two tiles, and she added that when she asked the
nurse what she was about Cary replied that she was making a medicine to
“fit” the old woman.

Having placed the powder in a cloam dish, she added small beer, and
allowed it to steep overnight. She then gave some of the poison to Anne
to put in the “Old Woman’s Dish” of porridge, adding, “You shall see
what sport we shall have with her to-morrow.”

But the amount then administered was small: it was designed to cause
only preliminary discomfort. After that, Cary said, “We shall live
so merry as the days are long.” She cautioned the girl to hold her
tongue, and told her that if she did so nothing could come out; and she
threatened that if Evans betrayed what had been done, she would lay all
the blame upon her. In due time Mrs. Weeks asked for her porridge, and
the girl put the arsenic into the bowl according to the instructions
she had received from the nurse. Later on Cary drank from a jug; and
after pouring in the poisoned liquor, administered it to Mr. Weeks, but
he did not relish the taste of it and passed it on to the others to
try. They all averred that it had a “keamy” taste, but, small though
the quantity was that they drank, all who tasted it had convulsions.
In some concern at seeing her master and mistress in such anguish, the
girl affirmed that she had exclaimed, “Alas! nurse, what have you done
that our master and mistress are so very ill?”

Cary replied, according to Anne’s statement, that “she had done God
good service in it to rid her out of the way, and that she had done no
sin in it.”

This confession was read over to Cary, who denied every particular.

Cary and the little girl--who, be it remembered, was only twelve or
thirteen years of age--were put in prison, and were to appear at the
next assizes. Cary and Evans found themselves “in the very suburbs
of Hell,” for the local prison was no better than “a seminary of all
vilainies, prophaneness and impieties.”

After months of waiting, the prisoners were sent to Exeter, where they
were tried for their lives. They responded “with heavy hearts though
with undejected countenances.” Sentence of death was pronounced against
them both, but they petitioned to be transported.

The unfortunate little girl was sentenced “to be drawn on a hurdle to
the place where she shall be executed, and there burnt to death.”

John Quicke was a Nonconformist minister, and he interested himself
in the criminals. “Methinks,” said he, “the very sentence should have
struck her dead; an emblem and lively picture of Hell’s torments. Drawn
as if dragged by devils. Burnt alive, as if in the Lake of Fire and
Brimstone already.”

The nurse, Philippa Cary, was ordered to hang till she was dead.
“Too gentle a death,” wrote the harsh Quicke, “for such a prodigy of
ungodliness. She pleads stiffly her innocence, disowns her guilt,
takes no shame, her brow is brass, she is impudent and hath a whore’s
forehead. If ever there were a daughter of Hell, this is one in her
proper colours. No evidence shall convince her. ‘Confess,’ saith she,
‘then I shall hang indeed. I deny the fact, none saw, none knew it but
the girl; it may be that vile person, my husband, hath a hand in it,
but he is gone. Some will pity me, though none will believe me, none
can help me.’” And now, according to Quicke, Satan helps Cary to “an
expedient that may help her life.” She pleaded before the judge that
she was in the family way. “If I must dye, let my child live.”

Thereupon the judge ordered a jury of matrons to be empanelled, but
they found that the plea of Cary was false.

As Plymouth had been the scene of the murder, the judge had little
difficulty in consenting to the petition of the relatives of Mrs.
Weeks that the execution should take place there. “Provided that
the magistrates of the towne, or Mr. Weeks, whose wife was by the
malefactors above named poysoned, shall defray the extraordinary
charges thereof, and shall undertake for the same before Easter Day,
being Sunday next. The day of execution is to bee on Thursday in Easter
weeke, but if you, the magistrate of the said towne, or Mr. Weeks,
shall fail to undertake before Easter Day to defray the extraordinary
charges thereof, then the execution on these malefactors is to be done
at the common-place of execution for this Countie,” i.e. at Exeter.

The local authorities gladly undertook the arrangements for carrying
out Lord Chief Justice North’s sentence, and for affording to the
citizens of Plymouth an exciting scene, and for the domestic servants
of that borough a moral warning.

Every endeavour was made to persuade Cary to confess, but she laid the
crime upon the girl. Of all the ministers who strove to turn her to
repentance, John Quicke, the Nonconformist, was the most importunate.
He warned her that “she had sworn a bargain with the Devil for secrecy
to her own destruction, that all would come out at last, as cunningly
and closely as she did carry it before men and angels; and, said I,
you are one of the most bloody women that ever came into gaol; you are
guilty of two murders, one of your master, another of your mistress,
and a third of having drawn in this poor girl like a Devil, as you are,
to joyn with you to ruin them and herself also.” Quicke further assured
her that he did “as verily believe she would be in Hell, unless there
were a very wonderful change wrought upon her, as that old Murderer,
her Father, the Devil, was.” Quicke was obviously not a man to move a
sinner to repentance. His exhortation made her cry, but extorted no
confession; and when Cary implored this sour and remorseless minister
to have some little pity and indulgence towards her, he declined to
tone his invectives till he knew that “her stony heart was riven and
shivered in pieces and her bones broken under her hellish wickedness.”

Waiting without the cell door whilst this appalling denunciation was
being delivered was “a crowd of vulgar persons,” all pressing and
impatient to obtain admission. The gaolers derived not a little revenue
by charging the inquisitive and curious with fees for admission to see
criminals condemned to death, and they reaped a good harvest on this

During a subsequent visit, influenced by apparent relenting, Quicke
assured the two criminals that it was quite as “easy going to Heaven
from the stake and the gallows as if it was from their beds,” but then,
they must confess their guilt. But Cary was not to be induced to admit
anything. He was highly incensed that his words produced no effect, and
he abused her roundly as “a brazen impudent hypocrite thus to dissemble
with God and man”; and he warned her that, as she kept the devil’s
counsel, to the devil she would go. He added that he saw no promise of
a good result if he expended any more labour upon her. “Look to it,
woman,” he shouted to her at parting, “that this do not make thy Hell
hotter than ordinary.”

As the prisoners were conducted from Exeter on horseback, we are told
that the nurse exchanged ribald and obscene jests with the spectators,
and at the entrance to Plymouth the procession was met by thousands.
Persons of every age and sex and quality rushed forth to the suburbs
to see the arrival of the two unfortunates. Although, we are informed,
many had “bowels of pity for the poor girl,” none “hath charity for the

On being conducted to their cells, various ministers attended them;
but crowds poured in, tipping the gaolers, to have a sight of the
criminals, and the ministers of religion could effect nothing. The
nurse remained resolute in denying her guilt, but the little girl
admitted hers.

On the appointed day Philippa Cary and Anne Evans were escorted to
the gallows erected on the heights of Prince Rock. “The streets were
crowded, the Mayor, the Magistrates and Under Sheriff can hardly pass
for the throng. The poor maid was drawn on the hurdle. The posture she
lay in was on her left side, her face in her bosom, her Bible under
her arm, seeming like one dead rather than alive. At length we came,
though slowly, to the place of execution. Plimouth was then naked
of inhabitants, the town was easy to be taken, and the houses to be
plundered, if an enemie had been at hand to have done it. Catdowne,
the Lambhay, the Citadel, and Catwater are pressed with a multitude of
twenty thousand persons. But commanders, who have lived in wars and
seen great armies, and are therefore the most competent judges in this
case, estimate them at one-half. I write within compass. The maid,
being nailed to the stake, and the iron hoop about her, and the nurse
mounted on the ladder, she desires that the Relater may pray with
her.” With passionate invocations to the Deity, Mr. Quicke complied;
the crowd were invited at the close to join in the singing of a psalm,
and in this part of the ceremony the clear childish voice of Anne Evans
was heard to rise like that of the lark. Then Quicke laboured through
extemporary prayers of inordinate length, smiting at the flinty heart
of Cary, hitting right and left at impenitent sinners in those around.
It has been said that as a front rank of soldiers kneels to shoot, so
do certain divines in their prayers aim, not at God, but at those who
hear them. It was so with Quicke. Then the poor sufferers were urged
to avow their theological opinions with regard to certain dogmas of
religion, not this time by Quicke, but by other ministers.

The rope was now drawn close round the child’s neck, “and the hangman
would have set fire unto the furze before she was strangled; but some,
more charitable and tender-hearted, cryed to him to take away the block
from under her feet, which having been done, she soon fell down and
expired in a trice.”

The executioner could cause neither powder, wood nor fuel to catch fire
till the girl had been dead a quarter of an hour; and then, as the
flames kindled, the wind blew the smoke into the face of the nurse, “as
if God had spoken to her; ‘the smoke of My Fury and Flames of My Fiery
Vengeance are now riding upon the wings of the wind towards thee.’”

For two hours Cary was compelled to remain and watch the death and
burning of the little girl, and again attempts were made to wring
a confession from her. Such she steadily and persistently put from
her. When the word went forth to dispatch her, the executioner could
not be found. He had run off with the halter under the cliffs; and,
on being found, was carried by the exploring party to the scene and
cast dead-drunk at the foot of the gallows, there to sleep off his
intoxication, whilst the nurse was still pestered by the Nonconforming
ministers to repent and confess.

But the last words she uttered before being swung into the air were:
“Judge and revenge my cause, O God.” “A sure proof,” concluded Quicke,
“that she went into the lake of brimstone and fire, there to be
tormented for ever and ever.”

We are inclined to judge otherwise, and that she was guiltless of
intent to poison the Weeks family. This was done by the child, in a
fit of temper and resentment. Only after this had been done, did Cary
find it out, and, frightened for the consequences, simulated sickness
and cramps, lest she should be accused of the poisoning. As to Quicke’s
statement that on the ride into Plymouth she used obscene and ribald
jests, we do not believe a word of it. He was furious against her
because she would not confess; and he was not with her on the ride
to hear what her words were. He invented this, and put it into his
narrative to prejudice the reader against her who was not amenable to
his exhortations, and who accordingly galled his self-conceit.

The authorities for this tragic story are three:--

“Horrid News of a Barbarous Murder committed at Plimouth ... 1676.”

“Hell Open’d, or the Infernal Sin of Murther Punished. Being a True
Relation of the Poysoning of a whole Family in Plymouth ... by J. Q.
(John Quicke), Minister of the Gospel. London, 1676.”

“The Poysoners Rewarded, or the Most Barbarous of Murthers detected and
Punished ... London, 1687.”

Mr. Whitfeld has summed them up in his book, _Plymouth and Devonport,
in War and Peace_. Plymouth, 1900.


The coasts of Devon and Cornwall, north and south, are bold, with
cliffs starting out of the sea, white near the Dorset frontier, then
red, and then of limestone marble, or, on the north coast, of slate
and schist. The rocks are riddled with caves, the highland is cleft by
narrow valleys sawn through their mass by descending streams. The whole
coast, north and south, lends itself to smuggling; and smuggling had
been carried on as a profitable speculation till it ceased to pay, when
heavy duties were removed, and when the coastguard became efficient.

The smugglers formerly ran their goods into the caves when the weather
permitted, or the preventive men, nicknamed _picaroons_, were not on
the look-out. They stowed away their goods in the caves, and gave
notice to the farmers and gentry of the neighbourhood, all of whom
were provided with numerous donkeys, which were forthwith sent down
to the _caches_, and the kegs and bales were removed under cover of
night or of storm. Few farmhouses and squires’ mansions were not also
provided with hiding-places in which to store the kegs obtained from
the free-traders. Only the week before writing this I was shown one
such in the depth of a dense wood, at Sandridge Park on the Dart;
externally it would have been taken for a natural mound or a tumulus.
But there are a concealed door and a descent by a flight of steps into
the subterranean cellar, that was carefully vaulted, and also carefully

The other day I saw an old farmhouse in process of demolition in the
parish of Altarnun, on the edge of the Bodmin Moors. The great hall
chimney was of unusual bulk, bulky as such chimneys usually are; and
when it was thrown down it revealed the explanation of this unwonted
size. Behind the back of the hearth was a chamber fashioned in the
thickness of the wall to which access might have been had at some time
through a low walled-up doorway, that was concealed behind the kitchen
dresser and plastered over. This door was so low that it could be
passed through only on all fours.

Now the concealed chamber had also another way by which it could be
entered, and this was through a hole in the floor of a bedroom above.
A plank of the floor could be lifted, when an opening was disclosed
by which any one might pass under the wall through a sort of door and
down steps into this apartment, which was entirely without light. Of
what use was this singular concealed chamber? There could be little
question. It was a place in which formerly kegs of smuggled spirits and
tobacco were hidden. The place lies some fourteen or fifteen miles from
Boscastle, a dangerous little harbour on the North Cornish coast, and
about a mile off the main road from London, by Exeter and Launceston,
to Falmouth. The coach-travellers in old days consumed a good deal of
spirits, and here in a tangle of lanes lay a little emporium always
kept well supplied with a stock of spirits which had not paid duty, and
whence the taverners along the road could derive the contraband liquor,
with which they supplied the travellers. Between this emporium and
the sea, the roads--parish roads--lie over wild moors or creep between
high hedges of earth on which the traveller can step along when the
lane below is converted into the bed of a stream, also on which the
wary smuggler could stride, and keep a look-out whilst his laden mules
and asses stumbled forward in the concealment of the deep-set lane.

[Illustration: JOHN RATTENBURY.

of Beer, Devonshire

“THE ROB ROY of the WEST”]

A very noticeable feature of the Devon and Cornwall coasts is the
trenched and banked-up paths from the little coves. By these paths the
kegs and bales were removed under cover of night.

As an excuse for keeping droves of donkeys, it was pretended that the
sea-sand and the kelp served as admirable dressing for the land; and
no doubt so they did; the trains of asses sometimes came up laden with
sacks of sand, but not infrequently with kegs of brandy.

Now a wary preventive man might watch too narrowly the proceedings of
these trains of asses. Accordingly squires, yeomen, farmers alike set
to work to cut deep ways in the face of the downs, along the slopes of
the hills, and bank them up, so that whole caravans of laden beasts
might travel up and down absolutely unseen from the sea and greatly
screened from the land side.

Undoubtedly the sunken ways and high banks are a great protection
against the weather. So they were represented to be--and no doubt
greatly were the good folks commended for their consideration for the
beasts and their drivers, in thus at great cost shutting them off from
the violence of the gale. Nevertheless, it can hardly be doubted that
concealment from the eye of the coastguard was sought by this means
quite as much as, if not more than the sheltering the beasts of burden
from the weather.

A few years ago, an old church-house in my own parish was demolished.
The church-house was originally the place where the parishioners from
a distance, in a country district, put up between the morning and
afternoon services on the Sunday, and was used for “church ales,” etc.
It was always a long building of two stories; that below served for
the men, that above for the women, and each had its great fireplace.
Here they ate and chattered between services, as already said, and
here were served with ale by the sexton or clerk. In a great many
cases these church-houses have been converted into taverns. Now this
one in the writer’s parish had never been thus altered. When it was
pulled down, it was found that the floor of large slate slabs in the
lower room was undermined with hollows like graves, only of much larger
dimensions--and these had served for the concealment of smuggled
spirits. The clerk had, in fact, dug them out, and did a little trade
on Sundays with selling contraband liquor from these stores.

The story is told of a certain baronet near Dartmouth, now deceased,
who had a handsome house and park near the coast. The preventive men
had long suspected that Sir Thomas had done more than wink at the
proceedings of the receivers of smuggled goods. His park dipped in
graceful undulations to the sea and to a lovely creek, in which was
his boathouse. But they never had been able to establish the fact that
he favoured the smugglers, and allowed them to use his grounds and

However, at last, one night a party of men with kegs on their shoulders
were seen stealing through the park towards the mansion. They were
observed also leaving without the kegs. Accordingly, next morning
the officer in command called, together with several underlings.
He apologized to the baronet for any inconvenience his visit might
occasion--he was quite sure that Sir Thomas was ignorant of the use
made of his park, his landing-place, even of his house--but there was
evidence that “run” goods had been brought to the mansion the preceding
night, and it was but the duty of the officer to point this out to Sir
Thomas, and ask him to permit a search--which would be conducted with
all the delicacy possible. The baronet, an exceedingly urbane man,
promptly expressed his readiness to allow house, cellar, attic--every
part of his house, and every outbuilding--unreservedly to be searched.
He produced his keys. The cellar was, of course, the place where wine
and spirits were most likely to be found--let that be explored first.
He had a cellar-book, which he produced, and he would be glad if the
officer would compare what he found below with his entries in the book.
The search was made with some zest, for the Government officers had
long looked on Sir Thomas with mistrust; and yet were somewhat disarmed
by the frankness with which he met them. They ransacked the mansion
from garret to cellar, and every part of the outbuildings, and found
nothing. They had omitted to look into the family coach, which was
full of rum kegs, so full that, to prevent the springs being broken or
showing that the carriage was laden, the axle-trees were “trigged up”
below with blocks of wood.

When a train of asses or mules conveyed contraband goods along a road,
it was often customary to put stockings over the hoofs to deaden the
sound of their steps.

One night many years ago, a friend of the writer--a parson on the north
coast of Cornwall--was walking along a lane in his parish at night. It
was near midnight. He had been to see, and had been sitting up with, a
dying person.

As he came to a branch in the lane he saw a man there, and he called
out “Good night.” He then stood still a moment, to consider which lane
he should take. Both led to his rectory, but one was somewhat shorter
than the other. The shorter was, however, stony and very wet. He chose
the longer way, and turned to the right. Thirty years after he was
speaking with a parishioner who was ill, when the man said to him
suddenly: “Do you remember such and such a night, when you came to the
Y? You had been with Nankevill, who was dying.”

“Yes, I do recall something about it.”

“Do you remember you said ‘Good night’ to me?”

“I remember that someone was there; I did not know it was you.”

“And you turned right instead of left?”

“I dare say.”

“If you had taken the left-hand road you would never have seen next

“Why so?”

“There was a large cargo of ‘run’ goods being transported that
night--and you would have met it.”

“What of that?”

“What of that? You would have been chucked over the cliffs.”

“But how could they suppose I would peach?”

“Sir! They’d ha’ took good care you shouldn’t ha’ had the chance!”

The principal ports to which the smugglers ran were Cherbourg and
Roscoff; but also to the Channel Islands. During the European War, and
when Napoleon had formed, and forced on the humbled nations of Europe,
his great scheme for the exclusion of English goods from all ports,
our smugglers did a rare business in conveying prohibited English wares
to France and returning with smuggled spirits to our shores, reaping a
harvest both ways. If a revenue cutter hove in sight and gave chase,
they sank their kegs, but with a small buoy above to indicate where
they were, and afterwards they would return and “creep” for them with
grappling irons. But the preventive officers were on the alert, and
although they might find no contraband on the vessel they overhauled,
yet the officers threw out their irons and searched the sea in the wake
of the ship, and kept a sharp look-out for the buoys. If the contraband
articles were brought ashore, and there was no opportunity to remove
them at once, they were buried in the sand, to be exhumed when the
coast was clear.

The smugglers had more enemies to contend with than the preventive men.
As they were known to be daring and experienced sailors, they were in
great request to man the navy, and every crib and den was searched for
them that they might be impressed.

The life was hard, full of risks, and although these men sometimes
made great hauls, yet they as often lost their cargoes and their
vessels. They were very frequently in the pay of merchants in England,
who provided them with their ships and bailed them out when they
were arrested. Rarely did a smuggler realize a competence, he almost
invariably ended his days in poverty. One of the most notorious of the
Devon free-traders was Jack Rattenbury, who was commonly called “The
Rob-Roy of the West.” He wrote his _Memoirs_ when advanced in life,
and when he had given up smuggling, not that the trade had lost its
attraction for him, but because he suffered from gout, and he ended his
days as a contractor for blue-lias lime for the harbour in course of
erection at Sidmouth.

It will not be necessary to give the life of this man in full. It was
divided into two periods--his career on a privateer and his career
as a smuggler--spent partly in fishing, partly as a pilot, mainly in
carrying on free trade in spirits, between Cherbourg, or the Channel
Islands, and Devon. Naturally, Rattenbury speaks of himself and his
comrades as all honourable men, it is the informers who are the spawn
of hell. The record year by year of his exploits as a smuggler,
presents little variety, and the same may be said of his deeds as a
privateer. We shall therefore give but a few instances illustrative of
his career in both epochs of his life.

John Rattenbury was born at Beer in the year 1778. Beer lies in a cleft
of the chalk hills, and consists of one long street of cottages from
the small harbour. His father was a shoemaker, but tired of his awl
and leather apron, he cast both aside and went on board a man-of-war
before John was born, and was never heard of more. It is possible that
Mrs. Rattenbury’s tongue may have been the stimulating cause of his
desertion of the last.

The mother of John, frugal and industrious, sold fish for her support
and that of her child, and contrived to maintain herself and him
without seeking parish relief. The boy naturally took to the water,
as all the men of Beer were fishermen or smugglers, and at the age of
nine he went in the boat with his uncle after fish, but happening one
day when left in charge to lose the rudder of the row-boat, his uncle
gave him the rope’s end so severely that the boy ran away and went as
apprentice to a Brixham fisherman; but this man also beat and otherwise
maltreated him, and again he ran away. As he could get no employment
at Beer, he went to Bridport and engaged on board a vessel in the
coasting trade. But he did not remain long with his master and returned
to Beer, where he found his uncle entering men for privateering, and
this fired John Rattenbury’s ambition and he volunteered.

“About the latter end of March, 1792, we proceeded on our first cruise
off the Western Islands: and even now, notwithstanding the lapse of
years, I can recall the triumph and exultation which rushed through my
veins as I saw the shores of my native land recede, and the vast ocean
opening before me.”

Instead of making prizes, the privateer and her crew were made a
prize of and conveyed to Bordeaux, where the crew were detained as
prisoners. John Rattenbury, however, contrived to make his escape to
an American vessel lying in the harbour, on which, after detention for
twelve months, he sailed to New York. There he entered on an American
vessel bound for Copenhagen, and on reaching that place invested all
the money he had earned and carried away with him from Bordeaux in
fiddles and clothes. Then he sailed in another American vessel for
Guernsey, where he profitably disposed of his fiddles and clothes. He
had engaged with the captain for the whole voyage to New York, but when
at Guernsey at his request the captain allowed him to return to England
to visit his family, on passing his word that he would rejoin the ship
within a specified time. Rattenbury returned to Beer, and broke his
promise, which he regards as a mistake. He remained at home six months
occupied in fishing, “but,” says he, “I found the employment very dull
and tiresome after the roving life I had led; and as the smuggling
trade was then plied very briskly in the neighbourhood, I determined
to try my fortune in it.” Fortune in smuggling as in gambling favours
beginners so as to lure them on. However, after a few months,
Rattenbury had lapses into the paths of honesty. In one of these, soon
after, he did one of the most brilliant achievements of his life. I
will give it in his own words:--

“Being in want of a situation, I applied to Captain Jarvis, and agreed
to go with him in a vessel called the _Friends_, which belonged to
Beer and Seaton. As soon as she was rigged we proceeded to sea, but,
contrary winds coming on, we were obliged to put into Lyme; the next
day, the wind being favourable, we put to sea again, and proceeded to
Tenby, where we were bound for culm. At eight o’clock the captain set
the watch, and it was my turn to remain below; at twelve I went on
deck and counted till four, when I went below again, but was scarcely
dropped asleep, when I was aroused by hearing the captain exclaim,
‘Come on deck, my good fellow! Here is a privateer, and we shall all
be taken.’ When I got up, I found the privateer close alongside of
us. The captain hailed us in English, and asked us from what port we
came and where we were bound. Our captain told the exact truth, and
he then sent a boat with an officer in her to take all hands on board
his own vessel, which he did, except myself and a little boy, who had
never been to sea before. He then sent the prize-master and four men
on board our brig, with orders to take her into the nearest French
port. When the privateer was gone, the prize-master ordered me to go
aloft and loose the maintop-gallant sail. When I came down, I perceived
that he was steering very wildly through ignorance of the coast, and
I offered to take the helm, to which he consented, and directed me to
steer south-east by south. He went below, and was engaged in drinking
and carousing with his companions. They likewise sent me up a glass of
grog occasionally which animated my spirits, and I began to conceive a
hope not only of escaping, but also of being revenged on the enemy. A
fog too came on, which befriended the design I had in view; I therefore
altered the course to east by north, expecting that we might fall
in with some English vessel. As the day advanced the fog gradually
dispersed, and, the sky getting clearer, we could perceive land; the
prize-master and his companions asked me what land it was; I told them
that it was Alderney, which they believed, though at the same time
we were just off Portland. We then hauled our wind more to the south
until we cleared the Bill; soon after we came in sight of land off
St. Alban’s: the prize-master then again asked what land it was which
we saw; I told him it was Cape La Hogue. My companions then became
suspicious and angry, thinking I had deceived them, and they took a dog
that had belonged to our captain, and threw him overboard in a great
rage and knocked down his house. This was done as a caution to intimate
to me what would be my fate if I had deceived them. We were now within
a league of Swanage, and I persuaded them to go on shore to get a
pilot: they then hoisted out a boat, into which I got with three of
them, not without serious apprehension as to what would be the event.
We now came so near the shore that the people hailed us, and told them
to keep further west. My companions began to swear, and said the people
spoke English: this I denied, and urged them to hail again; but as they
were rising to do so, I plunged overboard and came up the other side of
the boat; they then struck at me with their oars, and snapped a pistol
at me, but it missed fire. I still continued swimming, and every time
they attempted to strike me, I made a dive and disappeared. The boat
in which they were now took water, and finding they were engaged in a
vain pursuit, and endangering their own safety, they suddenly turned
round, and rowed away as fast as possible to regain the vessel. Having
got rid of my foes, I put forth all my efforts to get to the shore,
which I at last accomplished. In the meantime, the men in the boat
reached the brig, and spreading all canvas, bore away for the French
coast. Being afraid they would get off with the vessel, I immediately
sent two men, one to the signal-house at St. Alban’s and another to
Swanage, to obtain all the assistance they could to bring her back.

“Fortunately, there was at the time in Swanage Bay a small cutter,
belonging to His Majesty’s customs, called the _Nancy_, commanded by
Captain Willis; and as soon as he had received the information, he
made all sail after them; but I was not on board, not being able to
reach them in time. The cutter came up with the brig, and by retaking,
brought her into Cowes the same night, where the men were put in
prison. Captain Willis then sent me a letter, stating what he had
done, and advising me to go as quickly as possible to the owners, and
inform them of all that had taken place. This I did without delay, and
one of them immediately set off for Cowes, when he got her back by
paying salvage--but I never received any reward for the service I had
rendered, either from the owners or from any other quarter.”

John Rattenbury was then aged sixteen.

As Rattenbury was returning to Devon in a cutter, the vessel was
stopped and overhauled by a lieutenant and his gang seeking able-bodied
seamen to impress them.

“When it came to my turn to be examined, I told him I was an
apprentice, and that my name was German Phillips (that being the
name of a young man whose indenture I had for a protection). This
stratagem was of no avail with the keen-eyed lieutenant, and he took
me immediately on board the _Royal William_, a guard ship, then lying
at Spithead. I remained in close confinement for a month, hoping by
some chance I might be able to effect my escape; but seeing no prospect
of accomplishing my design, I at last volunteered my services for the
Royal Navy; if that can be called a voluntary act, which is the effect
of necessity, not of inclination.

“And here I cannot help making a remark on the common practice of
impressing seamen in time of war. Our country is called the land of
liberty; we possess a just and invincible aversion to slavery at home
and in our foreign colonies, and it is triumphantly said that a slave
cannot breathe in England. Yet how is this to be reconciled with the
practice of tearing men from their weeping and afflicted families, and
from the peaceable and useful pursuits of merchandise and commerce, and
chaining them to a situation which is alike repugnant to their feelings
and their principles?”

At Spithead Rattenbury succeeded in making his escape. But he had left
his pocket-book on board, and by this means the lieutenant found out
what were his real name and abode, and thenceforth he was hunted as a
deserter and put to great shifts to save himself from capture.

In 1800, when he was twenty-one, he was taken in a vessel by a Spanish
privateer and brought to Vigo; but on shore made himself so useful and
was so cheerful that he was given his liberty and travelled on foot to
Oporto, where he found a vessel bound for Guernsey, laden with oranges
and lemons, and worked his way home in her.

“Before I set out on my last voyage, I had fixed my affections on a
young woman in the neighbourhood, and we were married on the 17th of
April, 1801. We then went to reside at Lyme, and finding that I could
not obtain any regular employment at home, I again determined to try my
fortune in privateering, and accordingly engaged myself with Captain
Diamond of the _Alert_.”

But this expedition led to no results. No captures were made, and
Rattenbury returned home as poor as when he started, and almost at
once acted as pilot to foreign vessels. On one occasion a lieutenant
came on board to impress men, and took Rattenbury and put him in
confinement. Next day he told the lieutenant that if he would accompany
him to Lyme, he would show him a public-house where he was sure to
find men whom he could impress. The officer consented and landed with
Jack and some other seamen, and proceeded to the tavern; but finding
none there he ordered Rattenbury back to the boat. At that moment up
came Rattenbury’s wife, and he made a rush to escape whilst she threw
herself upon the lieutenant and had a scuffle with him; and as the
townfolk took her part, Rattenbury managed to escape.

On another occasion he was at Weymouth, and the same lieutenant,
learning this fact, tracked him to the tavern where he slept, and burst
in at 2 a.m. Rattenbury had just time to climb up the chimney before
the officer and his men entered. They searched the house, but could not
find him. When they were gone he descended much bruised, half-stifled,
and covered with soot.

“Wearied out by the incessant pursuit of my enemies, and finding that
I was followed by them from place to place like a hunted stag by the
hounds, I at last determined, with a view to getting rid of them, again
to go privateering.” Accordingly he shipped on board the _Unity_
cutter and cruised about Madeira and Teneriffe, looking out for prizes.
But this expedition was as unsuccessful as the other, and in August,
1805, he returned home; “and I determined never again to engage in
privateering, a resolution which I have ever since kept, and of which I
have never repented.”

We now enter on the second period of Rattenbury’s career.

“On my return home, I engaged ostensibly in the trade of fishing, but
in reality was principally employed in that of smuggling. My first
voyage was to Christchurch, in an open boat, where we took in a cargo
of contraband goods, and, on our return, safely landed the whole.

“Being elated with this success, we immediately proceeded to the same
port again, but on our way we fell in with the _Roebuck_ tender: a
warm chase ensued; and, in firing at us, a man named Slaughter, on
board the tender, had the misfortune to blow his arm off. Eventually,
the enemy came up with and captured us; and, on being taken on board,
found the captain in a great rage in consequence of the accident, and
he swore he would put us all on board a man-of-war. He got his boat out
to take the wounded man on shore; and, while this was going forward, I
watched an opportunity, and stowed myself away in her, unknown to any
person there. I remained without being perceived, amidst the confusion
that prevailed; and when they reached the shore, I left the boat, and
got clear off. The same night, I went in a boat that I had borrowed,
alongside the tender, and rescued all my companions; we likewise
brought three kegs of gin away with us, and landed safe at Weymouth,
from whence we made the best of our way home.

“The same winter I made seven voyages in a smuggling vessel which had
just been built; five of them were attended with success, and two of
them turned out failures.

“In the spring of 1806, I went to Alderney, where we took in a cargo;
but, returning, fell in with the _Duke of York_ cutter, in consequence
of getting too near her boat in a fog without perceiving her. Being
unable to make our escape, we were immediately put on board the
cutter, and the crew picked up some of our kegs which were floating
near by, but we had previously sunk the principal part. As soon as we
were secured, the captain called us into his cabin, and told us that
if we would take up the kegs for him, he would give us our boat and
liberty, on the honour of a gentleman. To this proposal we agreed,
and having pointed out where they lay, we took them up for him. We
then expected that the captain would have been as good as his word;
but, instead of doing so, he disgracefully departed from it, and a
fresh breeze springing up, we steered away hard for Dartmouth. When
we came alongside the castle, the cutter being then going at the rate
of 6 knots, I jumped overboard; but having a boat in her stern, they
immediately lowered her with a man. I succeeded, however, in getting on
shore, and concealed myself among some bushes; but two women who saw
me go into the thicket inadvertently told the boat’s crew where I was,
upon which they retook me, and I was carried on board quite exhausted
with the fatigue and loss of blood, for I had cut myself in different

Next morning Rattenbury was brought up before the magistrates at
Dartmouth along with his comrades in misfortune, and they were
sentenced to pay a fine of a hundred pounds each, or else to serve
on board a man-of-war, or go to prison. They elected the last, and
were confined in a wretched den where they could hardly move and
breathe. Worn out by their discomfort, they agreed to enlist, and were
liberated and removed to a brig in Dartmouth roads. On coming on board
he found all the officers drinking, and that the mainsail had been
partly hoisted so that the officers could not command a prospect of the
shore. Seizing his opportunity he jumped overboard, and seeing a boat
approaching held up his hand to the man in it, as a signal to be taken
up. The fellow did so, and in less than five minutes he was landed at
Kingswear, opposite Dartmouth. He paid the fisherman a pound, and made
his way to Brixham, where he hired a fishing-smack and got safely home.

Soon after he purchased part of a galley, and resumed his smuggling
expeditions, and made several successful trips in her, till he lost
his galley at sea. Then he went to Alderney in an open boat, with two
other men, to get kegs, but on their way back were chased, captured,
and carried into Falmouth, where he was sentenced to be sent to gaol at

“We were put into two post-chaises, with two constables to take
care of us. As our guards stopped at almost every public-house,
towards evening they became pretty merry. When we came to the ‘Indian
Queen’--a public-house a few miles from Bodmin--while the constables
were taking their potations, I bribed the drivers not to interfere.
Having finished, the constables ordered us again into the chaise, but
we refused. A scuffle ensued. One of them collared me, some blows
were exchanged, and he fired a pistol, the ball of which went close
to my head. My companion in the meantime was encountering the other
constable, and he called on the drivers to assist, but they said it
was their duty to attend the horses. We soon got the upper hand of our
opponents, and seeing a cottage near, I ran towards it, and the woman
who occupied it was so kind as to show me through her house into the
garden and to point out the road.”

Eventually he reached Newquay with his comrade. Thence they hired
horses to Mevagissey, where they took a boat for Budleigh Salterton. On
the following day they walked to Beer.

This is but a sample of one year out of many. He was usually engaged
in shady operations, getting him into trouble. On one occasion he
undertook to carry four French officers across the Channel who had made
their escape from the prison at Tiverton, for the sum of a hundred
pounds, but was caught, and narrowly escaped severe punishment. Soon
after that he was arrested as a deserter, by a lieutenant of the
sea-fencibles when he was in a public-house drinking along with a
sergeant and some privates. But he broke away and jumped into the
cellar, where he divested himself of shirt and jacket, armed himself
with a reaping-hook, and closing the lower part of a half-hatch door
stood at bay, vowing he would reap down the first man who ventured to
attack him. His appearance was so formidable, his resolution was so
well known, that the soldiers, ten in number, hesitated. As they stood
doubtful as to what to do, some women ran into the house crying out
that a vessel had drifted ashore, and a boy was in danger of being
drowned, that help was urgently needed. This attracted the attention
of the soldiers, and whilst they were discussing what was to be done,
Rattenbury leaped over the hatch, dashed through the midst of them, and
being without jacket and shirt slipped between their fingers. He ran to
the beach, jumped into a boat, got on board his vessel, and hoisted
the colours. The story told by the women was a device to distract the
attention of his assailants. The lieutenant was furious, especially
at seeing the colours flying, as a sign of triumph on the part of
Rattenbury, who spread sail and scudded away to Alderney, took in a
cargo of contraband spirits, and returned safely with it.

Occasionally, to give fresh zest to his lawless transactions, he did an
honest day’s work, as when he piloted safely into harbour a transport
vessel that was in danger. We need not follow him through a succession
of hair’s-breadth escapes, of successes and losses, imprisonments
and frauds. He carries on his story to 1836, when, so little had he
profited by his free-trading expeditions, that he was fain to accept a
pension from Lord Rolle of a shilling a week.

    /Note./--There is an article by Mr. Maxwell Adams on “Jack
    Rattenbury” in Snell’s _Memorials of Old Devonshire_.


The “Black Horse” was an old inn near Southgate, Exeter. The south
gate was perhaps the strongest of all the gates. It was defended by
two massive drums of towers, and there was a double access to the
town through it, the first gate leading into a yard with a second
gate behind. Holy Trinity Church, with a red tower and pinnacles, was
close to the inner gate, and nigh by that swung the sign of the “Black
Horse.” The whole group was eminently picturesque. All was effaced in
1819; the gabled houses have been destroyed, not a stone left upon
another of the noble gateway; even Trinity Church was pulled down, and
a despicable cardboard edifice erected in its room as a specimen of the
utter degradation to which art had fallen at that period.

John Barnes was taverner at the “Black Horse” in and about the years
1670-5, during which he had three children christened in Trinity
Church. He kept his tavern well. His wife was reputed to be a quiet,
tidy, and respectable woman, and John Barnes professed to be a hot and
strong Presbyterian, and he made of his house a rallying-place of the
godly who were in a low way after the Restoration and the ejection
from their benefices of the ministers who had been intruded into them
during the days of the Commonwealth, when the Church pastors were
ejected. It was turn and turn about. These latter had been thrown out
of their nest by Independent and Presbyterian cuckoos, and now the
cuckoos had to go and the original owners of the nests were reinstated.
But the cuckoos did not like it, and the Puritans were very sore
afflicted, and liked to meet and grumble and testify, over ale and
cyder, in John Barnes’ tavern. And when a private prayer meeting was
held, mine host of the “Black Horse” was sure to be there, and to give
evidence of his piety by sighs and groans. But he testified against
prelacy more efficaciously than by upturned eyes and nasal whines, for
he refused to have his children baptized by the Church clergy, and was
accordingly prosecuted in the Exeter Consistory.

About 1677 Barnes abandoned the “Black Horse” in Exeter, and took an
inn at Collumpton, where he threw off the “religious mask” and ran
into debt and evil courses. One of his creditors was a smith, “a stout
fellow of good natural courage.”

Barnes could not or would not discharge the debt, and he suggested to
the blacksmith that there was an opening for doing a fine stroke of
business that would at once liquidate the little bill and make him a
man for ever. The plan was to waylay and rob the Exeter carrier on his
way up to London, charged with a considerable amount of money sent to
town by the merchants for the purchase of sundry goods. The blacksmith
agreed, but it was deemed prudent to have another confederate, so a
woolcomber was prevailed on to join.

The old Exeter road, after leaving Honiton, ascends a barrier of hill
now pierced by the South Western Railway that there passes through a
tunnel. This ridge stands between the stream bottoms of the Otter
and the Corry, and is bleak, with habitations very wide apart along
it. The distance from Collumpton to Honiton was so considerable and
intercommunication so infrequent that the confederates hoped to escape
recognition and detection by making their attempt far from home.

We are not informed at what hour the carrier’s van was waylaid, but
there can be little doubt that it was early in the morning. One day out
of Exeter was the stage to Honiton, and there the carriers had put up.

    Upon a cold and stormy night, when wetted to the skin,
    I bear it with contented heart, until I reach the inn;
    And there I sit a-drinking, boys, with the landlord and his kin.
        Say wo! my lads, say wo! Drive on, my lads, I-ho!
        Who would not lead the stirring life we jolly waggoners do?

    When Michaelmas is coming on, we’ll pleasure also find,
    We’ll make the red gold fly, my boys, as chaff before the wind;
    And every lad shall take his lass, so merry, buck and hind.
        Say wo! my lads, say wo! Drive on, my lads, I-ho!
        Who would not lead the stirring life we jolly waggoners do?

The highwaymen heard the tinkle of the horse-bells, as the team of four
drew the carrier’s van up the long hill, and listened to the shout of
the walking driver to the horses to put a good breast to it, as the top
of the ascent was not far off. It would have been still dusk, when the
three men leaped from behind some thorn bushes upon the carriers, and
presented loaded pistols at their heads. It was customary for carriers
to start before daybreak, as we know from the scene on the way to
Gadshill in _Henry IV_, Part I.

Whilst two of the ruffians held the carriers and passengers quiet, with
their pistols presented at full cock, Barnes ransacked the van, and
secured six hundred pounds. Then the three men disappeared, mounted
their horses, and galloped back to Collumpton.

But Barnes had left out of count that he was well known by voice and
face in Exeter, and that a change of domicile and the space of one
year would not have eradicated from the memory of carriers and such as
frequented taverns the canting publican of the “Black Horse.”

The carrier’s men at once gave information, and before long both Barnes
and his confederates were apprehended and conveyed to Exeter Gaol,
but not before the blacksmith had managed to secrete a file about his
person. There they were fettered, but during the night by means of the
file the blacksmith relieved himself and the other two of their chains,
and all three broke out of prison.

One of them escaped, but the other two, including the taverner, were
retaken next morning, and both were sentenced to die. The narrative
proceeds to state that “there were many Women of Quality in Exeter that
made great intercession for the said innkeeper to get him a Reprieve,
not so much for his sake, as out of charity to his poor innocent Wife
and Children; for she was generally reputed a very good, careful,
industrious and pious Woman, and hath no less than nine very hopeful
children; but the nature of the Crime excluded him from mercy in this
World, so that he and his Comrade were on Tuesday, the 13th of this
instant August (1678), conveyed to the usual place of Execution, where
there were two that presently suffered; but the Innkeeper, desiring
two hours’ time the better to prepare himself, had it granted, which
he spent in prayer and godly conference with several Ministers; then,
coming upon the ladder, he made a long Speech, wherein he confessed not
only the Crime for which at present he suffered, but likewise divers
other sins, and particularly lamented that his Hypocrisie, earnestly
begging the Spectators’ prayers, and exhorting them not to despair
in any condition ... and so with all the outward marks of a sincere
Penitent, submitted to his sentence, and was executed.”

Dr. Lake, whose _Diary_ has been published by the Camden Society,
happened to be visiting a prisoner in the gaol when Barnes and his
accomplice were brought in. The doctor says that he was “a notorious
Presbyterian,” and that “the evening before hee went forth to execute
his design”--of robbing the carrier--“hee pray’d with his family two

The authority for this story is a unique tract in the Bodleian Library,
Oxford, of which the late Robert Dymond, of Exeter, made a copy, and to
which he refers in his paper on “The Old Inns and Taverns of Exeter,”
in the _Transactions_ of the Devonshire Association for 1880.


The Postman Poet, Edward Capern, has been hailed as the Devonshire
Burns, but he has no right to be so entitled. Burns, at his best, sang
in the tones and intonation of his class and country, and it was at
his worst that he affected the style of the period and of culture,
such as it was. Now Capern aspired to the artificiality and smoothness
of the highly educated and wholly unreal class of verse writers of
the Victorian period, of whom John Oxenford may be thrust forward as
typical, men who could turn out smooth and finished pieces, rhythm and
rhyme correct, but without a genuine poetical idea forming the kernel
of the “poem.”

What can be said for verses that begin as this to the Wild Convolvulus?

    Upon the lap of Nature wild
    I love to view thee, Beauty’s child;
    And mark the rose and lily white
    Their charms in thy fair form unite.

And this to the White Violet?

    Pale Beauty went out ’neath a wintry sky
    From a nook where the gorse and the holly grew by,
    And silently traversed the snow-covered earth
    In search of a sign of floriferous birth.

And this to an Early Primrose?

    Pretty flow’ret, sweet and fair,
    Pensive, weeping, withering there;
    Storms are raging, winds are high,
    I fear thy beauty soon will die.

Who is not familiar with this sort of stuff? It is to be found in
“Keepsakes,” in those old pocket-books in leather, with a dozen badly
engraved steel-plate landscape scenes at the beginning, and a budget of
verses and rhapsodies that follow, before we come to the calendar and
the sheets for notes.

Of himself, Capern wrote:--

    He owns neither houses nor lands,
      His wealth is a character good;
    A pair of industrious hands,
      A drop of poetical blood.

It was a drop, and a small drop. He had an ear for rhythm; he had a
warm appreciation of Nature; he had sentiment--but not ideas, the germs
of mental life to be carried on from generation to generation. The
leaves of poetic expression, graceful diction, fade and wither. It is
ideas alone that are the fruit of the tree of mental life that will
survive. Of such we find none in Capern’s volumes.

His verses are very creditable to the man, considering his position,
but he is not to be named in the same breath with Robert Burns and
Edwin Waugh. Capern had the poetic faculty, but he trod wrong paths,
with the result that nobody henceforth will read his verses, which are
not likely to be republished. Edward Capern was born at Tiverton on 21
January, 1819, where his father carried on business as a baker. When
Edward was about two years old, the family removed to Barnstaple, and
his mother becoming bed-ridden, young Edward, then about eight years
old, found employment at a local lace factory, toiling often, for a
scanty wage, twenty out of the twenty-four hours. The long hours and
the trying nature of the work permanently injured his eyesight, and
seriously affected his after life.

Compelled to abandon his work in the factory in 1847, he ultimately
obtained the post of letter-carrier from Bideford to Buckland Brewer
and its neighbourhood, distributing the mail through a discursive walk
of thirteen miles daily, and receiving a salary of half a guinea per


_From a painting by William Widgery, in the Free Library, Bideford_]

Capern’s first book of Poems was published in 1856. A Mr. W. F. Rock,
having seen his verses, thought there was merit in them, and undertook
to collect subscribers; and by worrying certain noblemen into taking
four, five, or six copies, and canvassing through the county, he
succeeded in getting enough subscribers to enable him to publish.

But Capern wanted to have all he had written included. Mr. Rock had to
be firm.

“What!” exclaimed Capern. “Exclude my ‘Morning’ and the ‘Apostrophe to
the Sun’! Why, sir, I wrote those pieces when I had but four shillings
a week to live upon, which gave but frugal meals.”

Precisely, but that did not constitute them poems. Mr. Rock says: “It
is not my intention even to touch upon the trying incidents of Mr.
Capern’s early life. He is a rural letter-carrier ... for which his
salary is ten shillings and sixpence per week. He has a real poet’s
wife; his Jane, a charming brunette, is intelligent, prudent, and good.
He has two children, Charles, a boy of seven, and Milly, a girl just
three years of age.

“Mr. Capern’s features have a striking resemblance to those of Oliver
Goldsmith; he has also the Doctor’s sturdy build, though not his
personal height. Nor is this the only point of resemblance to our dear
Goldy. Mr. Capern has an ear for music, he plays touchingly on the
flute, and sings his own songs to his own tunes with striking energy or

He certainly enjoyed his life as a postman. He says:--

    O, the postman’s life is as happy a life
        As any one’s, I trow;
    Wand’ring away where dragon-flies play,
        And brooks sing soft and low;
    And watching the lark as he soars on high,
        To carol in yonder cloud,
    “He sings in his labours, and why not I?”
        The postman sings aloud.

In 1858, Capern published a second volume, entitled _Ballads and
Songs_, and in 1865 a third, _Wayside Warbles_. There was yet another,
_The Devonshire Melodist_, in which he set his own songs to tunes of
his own composition. But here again he was at fault. Devonshire is full
of folk music of the first order. Burns set his songs to folk tunes
then sung by the people, but to gross words. He rescued the melodies
by giving to them verses that could be sung by decent and clean-minded
people. Now had Capern done this for the music of the neighbourhood of
Barnstaple he would have been remembered along with these delicious
airs, as is Burns along with the Scotch melodies. But not so, he must
set his verses to the tootling of his own pipe, entirely without
melodious idea in the tunes.

Probably Edward Capern had never heard of Edwin Waugh, who wrote the
most delicious, simple, and sweet poems in Lancashire and Yorkshire
dialect; every one is a gem. Probably, had he seen these, Capern would
have despised them. They breathe the life, the passion, the tenderness,
the genius of the North-countrymen. Capern’s verses have none of this
merit. They are respectable _vers de société_, such as any man of
culture could have written. His great achievement was, that, not being
a man of culture, he could write such respectable “poems.” He took a
wrong course from the outset; and unhappily he maintained it. What
tells its own tale is this. Next to the British Museum, the London
Library is the largest in the Metropolis, and it has not been deemed
worth while to include in it one of Capern’s volumes of verses.

His last volume published was _Sun-gleams and Shadows_ (1881), and,
unless I am mistaken, all owed their success to subscribers.

In 1866 Capern left Marine Gardens, Bideford, and went to live at
Harborne, near Birmingham. His verses found their way into various
periodicals, _Fun_ and _Hood’s Comic Annual_. But his heart was in
his native county and thither he returned. He received a pension from
the Civil List of £40 a year, which was afterwards increased to £60.
It was due to his wife’s ill-health that he left the neighbourhood
of Birmingham in 1884, and rented a pleasant cottage at Braunton.
There he lost his wife in February, 1894. The two old people had been
tenderly attached, and her admiration for and pride in her husband
were unbounded. He did not long survive her, for he died on 4 June in
the same year as his wife, and they were buried side by side in the
churchyard of Heanton Punchardon. The expenses of his funeral were
defrayed by the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, to whom he had dedicated the
second volume of his poems.

It was unfortunate for Capern in a measure that he had been patted
on the back by such men as James Anthony Froude, who wrote of him in
_Fraser’s Magazine_: “Capern is a real poet, a man whose writings
will be like a gleam of summer sunshine in every household which they
enter”; and Walter Savage Landor, who pronounced him to be “a noble
poet”; also Alfred Austin, who wrote of him:--

    O, Lark-like Poet: carol on,
    Lost in dim light, an unseen trill:
    We, in the Heaven where you are gone,
    Find you no more, but hear you still.

In the summer of 1864, the American literary blacksmith, Elihu Burritt,
spent three days with Capern, on his “Walk from London to the Land’s
End and back,” and gave an excellent description of his host. He says:
“Edward Capern, of Bideford, is a poet, and he is a postman, and both
at once, and good at each. He is as faithful and genial a postman as
ever dropped a letter in a cottage door, with an honest and welcome
face, itself a living epistle of good will and friendly cheer. I can
attest to that most confidently; for I went with him in his pony-cart
two days on his rural rounds. That he is a poet who has written songs
that will live and have a pleasant place among the productions of
genius, I am equally confident, though pretending to be no connoisseur
in such matters myself. Better judges have awarded to them a high
degree of merit. Already a considerable volume of his songs and ballads
has gone to its second edition; and he has sufficient matter on hand to
make another of equal size and character. His postal beat lies between
Bideford and Buckland Brewer, a distance of more than six miles. Up
to quite a recent date, he walked this distance twice a day in all
weathers; starting off on winter mornings while it was yet dark. Having
grown somewhat corpulent and short-winded, he has mounted, within a
year or two, a pony-cart, that carries him up and down the long, steep
hills on his course. It takes him till noon to ascend these to Buckland
and distribute letters and papers among the hamlet cottages and
roadside farmhouses on the way. Having reached the little town on the
summit-hill, and left his bag at the post-office, he has three hours to
wait before setting out on his return journey. These are his writing
hours; and he spends them in a little, antique, thatched cottage in one
of the village streets. Here, seated at one end of a long deal table,
while the cottager’s wife and daughters are plying their needles, and
doing all their family work at the other, he pens down the thoughts
that have passed through the flitting visions of his imagination while
alone on the road. Here he wrote most of his first book of ballads, and
here he is working up his glowing rollicking songs for a new volume.
Sometimes the poetic inspiration comes in upon him like a flood on
his way. He told me that he once brought home with him six sonnets on
six different subjects, which he had thought out and penned in one
of his daily beats. When the news of the taking of the Redan reached
England, the very inner soul of his patriotism was stirred within him
to the proudest emotion. As he walked up and down the long hills with
his letter-bags strapped to his side, the thoughts of the glory his
country had won came into his mind with a half-suffocating rush, and he
struggled, nearly drowned by them, to give them forms of speech. The
days were short, the road was long, and hard to foot, and the rules of
the postal service were rigid. He could not hold fast the thoughts the
event stirred within him until he reached the cottage. Some of the best
of them would flit out of his memory, if he delayed to pen them as they
arose. So he ran with all his might and main for a third of a mile,
all panting with the race for time, found he had caught enough of it
for pencilling on his knee a whole verse of the song. Thus he ran and
wrote, each stanza costing him a race that made the hot perspiration
fall upon the soiled and crumpled paper, on which he brought home to a
wife prouder than himself of the song,--‘The Lion Flag of England.’”


The record of the adventures of this man is fully as interesting as the
fictitious story of _Robinson Crusoe_ and well deserves republication.
It was first published in Exeter in 1837. Two editions of a thousand
copies each were exhausted, and a third was published in 1839, and a
fourth in 1841.

George Medyett Goodridge was born at Paignton on 22 May, 1796. At
the age of thirteen he hired himself as cabin-boy on board the _Lord
Cochrane_, an armed brig, stationed off Torquay to protect the fishing
craft from French cruisers. From that time till 1820 he was continually
at sea; in that year, on 1 May, he joined the _Princess of Wales_,
a cutter, burthen seventy-five tons, bound for the South Seas after
oil, fins, seal-skins, and ambergris. The arrangement was that out of
every ninety skins procured, each mariner should have one; the boys
proportionately less; and the officers proportionately more. Captain
Veale was commander, Mazora, an Italian, mate; there were in addition
three boys and ten mariners.

In descending the Thames from Limehouse, a Captain Cox went on board
and made a present to the crew of a Bible. “We thought little of the
gift at the time,” says Goodridge, “but the sequel will show that this
proved to be the most valuable of all our stores.” In passing down the
Channel, the vessel was wind-bound for several days, and Goodridge was
able to visit his friends at Paignton, and bid them farewell. “On
the 21st, being Whit Sunday, the weather proved fine, with a breeze
from the northward, we again weighed anchor and proceeded on our


On 2 November the vessel reached the Crozets, a group of five islands
in the South Pacific Ocean.

“As there is no harbour for shelter, the plan pursued is, for one party
to go on shore, provided with necessary provisions for several days,
while the remainder of the crew remain to take care of the vessel, and
to salt in the skins that have been procured. The prevailing winds
are from the westward, and we used to lie with our vessel under the
shelter of the island, and whenever the wind shifted to the eastward,
which it sometimes did very suddenly, we had to weigh our anchor, or
slip the cable, and stand out to sea. The easterly wind scarcely ever
lasted more than two days, when it would chop round to the northward,
with rain, and then come round to W.N.W. We should then return to our
shelter, take on board the skins collected, and again furnish the
sealing party with provisions. The most boisterous season of the year
in these latitudes commences in August, during which month the most
tremendous gales are experienced, with much snow, rain and hail.

“The hardships and privations experienced in procuring seal-skins
on these islands may be faintly conjectured, when I state the plan
pursued by the parties on shore. The land affords no shelter whatever,
there being neither tree nor shrub, and the weather is at most times
extremely wet, and snow frequently on the ground, indeed, there is
scarcely more than a month’s fine weather during the year. Their boat,
therefore, hauled on shore, serves them for their dwelling house by
day, and their lodging house by night. Their provisions consist of
salt pork, bread, coffee, and molasses; on this scanty fare, with the
shelter of their boat only turned upside down, and tussicked up, they
sometimes remain a fortnight at a time, each day undergoing excessive
labour in searching for and killing seals, and very often without
meeting with an adequate reward after all their privations. Added to
this, when a gale renders it necessary for their vessel to drive to
sea, each hour she is absent, the mind is harassed with fears for her
safety, and of the consequences that would result to themselves if thus
left on such a desolate spot, surrounded by a vast ocean, and where
years might pass without a vessel ever coming near them.”

The largest of the islands is about twenty-five miles in circumference,
and lies about thirty miles distant from one of the small ones, and
about twelve miles from the other. The other two islands lie about
twenty miles to the eastward of the three first.

On 5 February a sealing party, consisting of eight, was landed on the
easternmost island, and the remaining seven proceeded with the vessel
to the other island. Those in the vessel consisted of the master,
Captain Veale, of Dartmouth, and his brother, Jarvis Veale, Goodridge,
Parnel, Hooper, Baker, and a Hanoverian named Newbee. The vessel
visited the sealing party every seven days, took on board the skins
collected, and supplied them with a fresh stock of provisions; that
done it returned to the other island, where the crew also employed
themselves in collecting seal-skins.

The last visit made to the easternmost island was on 10 March, and the
next visit would have been on the 18th had not a gale come on, on the
17th, that compelled the captain to stand off, and gain the offing.

“We accordingly slipped our cable and stood to sea, but before we had
proceeded any distance, it came on a dead calm, so that we entirely
lost command of the vessel, the swell of the sea continuing at the same
time so heavy that our boat was useless; for any attempt at towing her
in such a swell, and against a strong current which was making directly
on the land, was utterly vain. The island presented to our view a
perpendicular cliff, with numerous rocks protruding into the sea, and
against them we were driven, victims to the unspent power of a raging
sea, lashed into fury by winds which now seemed hushed into breathless
silence, the more calmly to witness the effects of the agitation raised
by them in the bosom of the ocean. We attempted to sound for bottom,
in hope that we might have recourse to our anchor; but the hope was
vain, as our longest lengths of line were found inadequate to reach
it. It was now ten at night, and from this time till midnight we were
in momentary expectation of striking. The suspense was truly awful,
indeed, the horrors we experienced were more dreadful than I had ever
felt or witnessed in the most violent storms; for on such occasions the
persevering spirits of Englishmen will struggle with the elements to
the last blast and the last wave; but here there was nothing to combat;
we were driven on by an invisible power--all was calm above us--around
us the surface of the sea, although raised into a mountainous swell,
was smooth; but the distant sound of its continued crash on the
breakers to which we were drawn by irresistible force, broke on our
ears as our death knell. At last the awful moment arrived, and about
12 o’clock at night, our vessel struck with great violence. Although
previous to her striking all hands appeared paralysed, now arrived the
period of action. The boat was fortunately got out without accident,
and all hands got into her with such articles as we could immediately
put our hands on, among which were a kettle, a frying-pan, our knives
and steels, and a fire-bag (this article is a tinder-box supplied with
cotton matches, and carefully secured from damp in a tarpaulin bag),
but without any provisions or clothes except what we stood upright in.

“The night was dark and rainy, and the vessel was pitching bowsprit
under; we were surrounded by rocks, and the nearest shore was a
perpendicular cliff of great height. We however tugged at the oars, but
made little progress, the kelp being extremely thick, long and strong,
and the current running direct to the shore. After four hours incessant
labour, we succeeded in effecting a landing, on a more accessible
part of the island, but our boat was swamped, and it was with great
difficulty we succeeded at length in dragging her ashore; which however
we accomplished, and by turning her bottom upwards, and propping up
one side as before described, we crept under and obtained some little
shelter from the rain, being all miserably cold, wet and hungry.

“We remained huddled together till daylight appeared, and our craving
appetites then told us it was time to seek for sustenance; we therefore
sallied forth in search of a sea-elephant; and although they were
rather scarce at this period of the year, it was not long before we
found one; nor was it long before we dispatched it. With its blubber
we soon kindled a fire, and the heart, tongue, and such other parts as
were edible, with the assistance of our kettle and frying-pan, were
soon in a forward state of cookery. We also made a fire of some blubber
under our boat, and by it we dried our clothes, and made ourselves more

“When we were in some measure refreshed, and had recruited our strength
with the food we had procured, a party of us set out over the hills,
in the direction of the spot where the vessel was wrecked, in order to
ascertain her fate, and to see if there was a possibility of saving
anything out of her. They returned about the middle of the day, and
reported that she was lying on the rocks, on her beam ends, with a
large hole in her lower planks, and the sea breaking over her; so
that it was impossible she should hold together much longer; it was
evident, therefore, that all hope of saving her was at an end, and our
endeavours could now only be exerted for the purpose of saving any
portion of the wreck that might prove serviceable to us in our desolate

“On the following morning we succeeded in launching our boat, and we
then proceeded towards the wreck. In our progress we discovered a cove
much nearer the vessel than where we landed, and we resolved to make
this our immediate station.

“We next visited the wreck, and succeeded in saving the captain’s
chest, the mate’s chest, and also some planks. The last thing we saved,
and which we found floating on the water, was the identical Bible put
on board by Captain Cox. What made this circumstance more remarkable
was, that although we had a variety of other books on board, such as
our navigation books, journals, log-books, etc., this was the only
article of the kind that we found, nor did we discover the smallest
shred of paper of any kind, except this Bible.

“On the next day the wind blew very strong, and we saw that nothing
remained of our vessel but the mast, which had become entangled by the
rigging among the rocks and sea weed, and this was the last thing we
were enabled to secure.

“The weather continued so wet and boisterous for three weeks from this
time, that it was as much as we could well do to procure necessary
food for our sustenance, and we therefore contented ourselves with the
shelter our boat, tussicked up, afforded us during that period; the
weather at last proving less inclement, we set about collecting all the
materials we had saved, and then commenced erecting for ourselves a
more commodious dwelling-place. The sides we formed of stones and the
wood saved from the wreck, for there was not shrub or tree growing on
the whole island. The top we covered with sea-elephants’ skins, and at
the end of a few weeks we were comparatively well lodged. We made our
beds of the long grass, called tussick, with which the island abounded;
and the skins of the seals we chanced to kill served us for sheets,
blankets, and counterpanes. Wanting glass we were obliged to do without
windows; the same opening, therefore, that served us for entrance,
served us also for the admission of light and air; and when the weather
obliged us to shut out the cold, we were obliged to shut out the light
of day also.

“While constructing our hut, we found on the island traces of some
Americans who had visited these islands sixteen years before, and
who had built a hut. The sea-elephants, however, had trodden almost
everything into the ground; and as we had no tools wherewith to dig,
we could not search for anything they might have left. Providence,
however, at length threw the means in our way of effecting our wishes;
for one of our company, while searching for eggs at a considerable
distance from our building, found a pick-axe, and brought it home in
high glee. To men situated as we were, it was not to be wondered at
that we should deem this almost a miracle. Suffice it to say, we all
returned our hearty thanks for the favour, and set to work digging up
the place where traces of the hut remained. Our labour proved not to be
in vain, for we got up a quantity of timber; also part of a pitch-pot,
which would hold about a gallon. This proved highly valuable to us,
for, by the help of a piece of hoop-iron, we manufactured it into a
frying-pan, our other being worn so thin by constant use, that it
was scarcely fit to cook in. Digging further we found a broad axe, a
sharpening-stone, a piece of a shovel, and an auger; also a number of
iron hoops. These things were of essential service to us. We did not
save any of our lances from the ship, and we had often considerable
labour to kill the large male sea-elephants; but we now took the handle
of our old frying-pan, and with the help of the sharpening-stone, gave
it a good point; we then fixed it in a handle, and with this weapon we
dispatched these animals with ease.

“The dog-seals are named by South-seamen _Wigs_, and the female seals
are called _Clap-matches_. The Wigs are larger than the largest
Newfoundland dog, and their bark is somewhat similar. When attacked
they would attempt to bite; and it required some dexterity to avoid
their teeth, the wounds from which were difficult to heal. The flesh we
found very rank. The young ones are usually denominated _Pompeys_, and
are excellent for food.

“The supply of seals we found very scanty; our principal dependence,
therefore, was on the sea-elephants, which, from their great tameness,
became an easy prey. They served us for meat, washing, lodging, firing,
grates, washing-tubs, and tobacco pipes. The parts we made use of for
food, were the heart, tongue, sweetbread, and the tender parts of the
skin; the snotters (a sort of fleshy skin which hangs over the nose)
and the flappers. These, after boiling a considerable time, formed a
jelly, and made, with the addition of some eggs, adding a pigeon or
two, or a sea-hen, very good soup. The blood served to wash with, as
it quickly removed either dirt or grease. When we had articles that
needed washing, and had killed an elephant, we used to turn the carcase
on its back, and the intestines being taken out, a quantity of blood
would flow into the cavity. In this we cleansed the articles, and then
rinsing them in the stream, they were washed as well as if we had been
provided with soap.

“The skins served us for roofing, and of them we also formed our shoes
or moccasins, and these we used to sew together with thongs formed from
the sinews. Their teeth we formed into the bowls of pipes, and to this
attached the leg bone of some water-fowl, and together it formed a good
apparatus. Having no tobacco, we used the dried grass that grew on the

“Of sea-elephants’ blubber we made our fires, and their bones laid
across on some stones formed grates to lay the blubber on. Of a piece
of blubber also, with a piece of rope-yarn stuck in it, we formed our
lamps, and it produced a very good light. The largest elephants are
about 25 ft. long and 18 ft. round, and their blubber was frequently 7
in. thick and would yield a tun of oil. The brain of the animal, which
was almost as sweet as sugar, was frequently eaten by us raw. The only
kind of vegetable on the island, besides grass, was a plant resembling
a cabbage, but we found it so bitter that we could make no use of it.

“Mr. Veale had fortunately saved his watch uninjured, so we were able
to divide our time pretty regularly. We usually rose about 8 in the
morning, and took breakfast at 9 o’clock; after breakfast some of the
party would go catering for the day’s provisions, while the others
remained at home to fulfil the domestic offices. We dined generally
about 1 o’clock, and took tea about 5. For some months this latter
meal, as far as the beverage went, consisted of boiled water only, but
we afterwards manufactured what we named Mocoa as a substitute for tea,
and this consisted of raw eggs beat up in hot water. We supped about 7
or 8 o’clock, and generally retired to rest about 10.

“I have before said that the most valuable thing we preserved from the
wreck was our Bible, and here I must state that some portion of each
day was set apart for reading it; and by nothing perhaps could I better
exemplify its benefits than by stating that to its influence we were
indebted for an almost unparalleled unanimity during the whole time we
were on the island. Peace reigned among us, for the precepts of Him
who was the harbinger of Peace and Goodwill towards men were daily
inculcated and daily practised. The Bible when bestowed was thrown by
unheeded: it traversed wide oceans, it was scattered with the wreck
of our frail bark, and was indeed and in truth found upon the waters
after many days, and not only was the mere book found, but its value
was also discovered, and its blessings, so long neglected, were now
made apparent to us. Cast away on a desert island, in the midst of
an immense ocean, without a hope of deliverance, lost to all human
sympathy, mourned as dead by our kindred, in this invaluable book we
found the herald of hope, the balm and consolation, the dispenser of

“Another striking fact may here be stated. One of our crew was a
professed Atheist: he was, however, extremely ignorant, not being able
even to read. This man had frequently derided our religious exercises,
but having no one to second him, it did not disturb the harmony that
reigned among us.

“This man’s conversion was occasioned by an interposition which he
deemed supernatural. The story he gave of himself was as follows: He
had been out seeking for provender alone, and evening closed on him
before he could reach our dwelling. The darkness perplexed him, and the
ground which he had to cross being very uneven and interspersed with
many rocks and declivities, fear rather increased than decreased his
power of perception, and he became unable to proceed.”

It may here be added that one of the great dangers of the island
were the bog-holes, Goodridge supposes worked in the soil by the
bull-elephants; these are eight or nine feet deep and become full of
mire: any one stepping in would suddenly be engulfed.

“Here he first felt his own weakness; he hallooed loudly for help,
but he was far out of hearing of our abode. Bereft of all human aid,
and every moment adding to his fear, he at length called on the name
of his Maker and Saviour, and implored that assistance from Heaven
which he had before so often scorned. He prayed now most fervently for
deliverance, and suddenly, as he conceived, a light appeared around
him, by which he was enabled to discover his path and reach our hut
in safety. So fully satisfied was he himself that it was a miraculous
interposition of Providence that from that period he became quite
another man.

“Great numbers of birds visit these islands. There are three species of
Penguins beside the King Penguin, and these are named by South Sea men,
Macaroonys, Johnnys, and Rock Hoppers. The Macaroonys congregate in
their rookeries in great numbers, frequently three or four thousand;
they ascend very high up the hills, and form their nests roughly among
the rocks. They are larger than a duck, and lay three eggs, two about
the size of duck’s eggs, on which they sit; the other is smaller, and
is cast out of the nest, and we used to term it the pigeon’s egg, for
another kind of bird which frequent these islands, almost in every
respect resembling a pigeon, make their principal food of eggs, and
would rob the nests to procure them unless they found those cast-out
eggs, which most commonly satisfied them till the others by incubation
were unfit for food. A similar practice we observed with the Rock
Hoppers, but the Johnnys, like the King Penguins, lay only one egg
each, unless deprived of them.

“The Johnnys build their nests superior to either of the others among
the long grass. These birds lay in winter as well as in summer, and
by robbing their nests we kept them laying nearly all the year round.
We observed that when we robbed those which formed their nests on the
plain, that they rebuilt their nests higher up. When we took the eggs
of these birds, they would look at us most piteously, making a low,
moaning noise, as if in great distress at the deprivation, but would
exhibit no kind of resistance. The King Penguins, however, would strike
at us with their flippers, and their blows were frequently severe.

“The Rock Hoppers form their rookeries at the foot of high hills,
and make their nests of stones and turf. This is the only species of
Penguin that whistles; the King Penguins halloo, and the Johnnys and
Macaroonys make a sort of yawing noise.

“One kind of bird which proved very valuable to us are called Nellys.
They are larger than a goose, and resort to these islands in great
numbers. They make burrows in the ground, and were very easily caught.
These birds are so ravenous, that after we had killed a Sea-Elephant,
they would, in a few hours, completely carry off every particle of
flesh we did not make use of, leaving the bones clean as possible.
Their young became very good eating in March.”

Although this party knew that the other party of sealers had been left
on the larger island, they did not venture to cross to it, as the seas
were very rough, and winds were almost always contrary. However, this
party on the western island, in December, 1821, finding the seals very
scarce, and other provisions scanty, determined on visiting the eastern
island, but without the least expectation of finding any remnants of
the vessel, much less of meeting any of their comrades, whom they
supposed to be all drowned.

They arrived on the 13th December, and entered the same cove where
was the residence of those who had escaped the wreck. The joy of all
hands on meeting is better conceived than described. The new arrivals
had brought with them their kettle, frying-pan, and other implements;
and also the discovery they had made that the cabbage growing on the
islands if boiled for three or four hours lost its bitterness. This now
proved to be a rich delicacy after such long deprivation of vegetable

As the chance of any vessel coming to the Crozets became apparently
less and less, the whole party now resolved to attempt to construct a
vessel in which to make their escape. Those on the western isle had
found there remains of wooden huts, and some beams and planks had been
dug up on the eastern isle. It was found that the means of subsistence
on that island where the whole party was now settled would not suffice
for all. It was accordingly resolved again to separate. Captain Veale
and his brother, Goodridge, Soper, and Spesinick, an Italian, were to
go to the western isle and remain there, but the timber found there
was to be transferred to the eastern isle, where the vessel was to
be constructed. This accordingly was effected. Meanwhile Goodridge’s
clothes had worn out, and he had to clothe himself in seal-skins.

In building the ship numerous were the difficulties experienced. Tools
were few and imperfect. They had neither pitch nor oakum. The rigging
was made of the ropes taken on shore by the sealing party wherewith to
raft off to the boats the skins procured, as the surf on the beaches
prevented their landing to load with safety and convenience.

By the beginning of January, 1823, the vessel was completed by the ten
men on the eastern isle, and it was equipped with sails of seal-skins.
They also formed vessels for taking a stock of fresh water, from the
skins of pup elephants; and they provided a store of salted tongues,
eggs, and whatever could be got for a voyage in the frail bark. Then
the boat was sent over to the western isle to fetch away those on it to
assist in launching the ship; and lots were to be cast as to the five
whom alone it would accommodate, and who were to be sent off in this
frail vessel, without compass or chart, on the chance of falling in
with some ship in the Southern Seas.

Two years had now nearly passed since the party had been wrecked.

Seven had come over to the western isle to summon the Veales,
Goodridge, and the rest, but it was not possible to return the same
day; and during the night a violent gale of wind sprang up, and the
boat having been hauled up in an exposed situation, the wind caught
her, carried her to a distance of seventy yards, and so damaged her
as to render her unseaworthy, the stern being completely beat in. This
disaster produced consternation; for the other boat, that left on
the eastern isle, had been ripped up to line the ship that had been

On the 21st, “about noon, whilst most of us were employed in preparing
for our meal, Dominic Spesinick, who was an elderly man, left us to
take a walk; he had proceeded to a high point of land about three parts
of a mile distant from our hut, and saw a vessel passing round the next
point. He immediately came running towards us in great agitation, and
for some time could do nothing but gesticulate, excess of joy having
completely deprived him of the power of utterance. Capt. Veale, who
was with me, asked what the foolish fellow was at, and he having by
this time a little recovered himself, told us that he had certainly
seen a vessel pass round the point of the island. We had so often been
deceived by the appearance of large birds sitting on the water, which
we had mistaken for vessels at a distance, that we were slow to believe
his story; however, it was agreed that John Soper should go with him,
taking a direction across the island, so that they might, if possible,
intercept the vessel; and being supplied with a tinder-box, in order to
light a fire, to attract the notice of the crew should they gain sight
of her, off they started.

“The hours passed very slowly during their absence, and when night
approached, and they were not returned, a thousand conjectures were
started to account for their stay. Morning at length came, after a
tedious night. Some had not closed their eyes, whilst the others who
had caught a few minutes sleep had been disturbed by frightful dreams,
and wakened only to disappointed hopes.

“Our two companions had been fortunate enough to reach that part of
the island in which the vessel was still in sight; and by finding
the remains of a sea-elephant that had been recently killed, they
ascertained that the crew had been on shore, and they hastened to
kindle a fire; but finding they could not attract the attention of
those in the vessel from the beach, they proceeded with all haste to
ascend a hill in the direction she was still steering. Spesinick,
however, became exhausted, and was unable to proceed further. Soper
went on, but had to descend into a valley before he could gain another
elevated spot to make a signal from. Spesinick, returning to the beach
where they had kindled the fire, to his great joy, saw a boat from the
vessel coming on shore. The crew had reached the beach before Spesinick
got to it; but his voice was drowned by the noise of a rookery of
macaroonys he had disturbed on the hill. Seeing the fire, the smoke of
which had first attracted their attention, they were convinced that
there were human beings on the island, and had commenced a search. In
the interim, Spesinick had made for the boat, and having reached it
clung to it in a fit of desperate joy that gave him the appearance of
a maniac; and the crew, on returning, found him in such questionable
guise that they hailed him before approaching. Dressed in shaggy fur
skins, with a cap of the same material, and beard of nearly two years’
growth, it was not probable that they should take him for a civilized
being. They soon, however, became better acquainted, and he gave them
an outline of the shipwreck, the number of men on the island, and that
Soper was not far off.

“The vessel proved to be an American schooner called the _Philo_, Isaac
Perceval, master, on a sealing and trading voyage.

“Soper, being still unaware of the boat having gone ashore, as it must
have done so, while he was crossing the valley, on coming to a place
where, on a foraging excursion, we had erected a shelter at the opening
of a cave, he set the place on fire, and the boat which had returned
with Spesinick put off and took him on board also, much to his joy.
By this time it was nearly dark, and too late to send or make any
communication to us on that evening, but on the following morning, 22
January, the captain of the schooner sent his boat to fetch off the
remaining ten.

“We had by this time almost given up all hopes of our expected
deliverance, and had gone to a neighbouring rookery to gather all
the eggs we could collect. Shortly after ten a shout from one of our
companions, Millichant, aroused our attention, and we soon perceived
the American schooner’s boat coming round the point. Down went the
eggs. Some capered, some ran, some shouted, and three loud cheers from
us were quickly answered by those in the boat.

“Here I cannot help breaking off in my narrative to remark on the
providential nature of our succour. The damage done to our boat had
caused us much distress, but now how different were our views of the
accident; for had our boat _not_ been damaged, our return to the
other island would have followed as a matter of course; and, in all
probability, we should never have seen the vessel that now proved the
means of our deliverance.”

On 23 January, Captain Perceval steered for the east island, and took
off the remainder of the shipwrecked men.

“The day of departure now arrived, and after remaining on those islands
one year, ten months, and five days, we bade them adieu--shall I say
with great joy? Certainly; and yet I felt a mixture of regret. Whether
from the perverseness of my nature, or from any other cause, I can only
say--so it was.”

The American captain was bent on collecting seal-skins, and it was
his purpose to visit the islands of Amsterdam and St. Paul’s, and
then make his way to the Mauritius, where he would leave those whom
he had rescued. Meanwhile, he required them, like a shrewd, not
to say grasping Yankee, to work for him at the seal fishery; and
this they did till the 1st April, when he was at St. Paul’s. There
dissatisfaction broke out among those he had rescued. He had kept
them working hard for him during two months, and had not given them
even a change of clothing. The Italian Mazora spoke out, and Captain
Perceval was furious and ordered him to be set on shore; he would take
him no further in his ship. At this his comrades in misfortune spoke
out also. Having suffered so long together they would not desert a
comrade, and they all resented the way in which Captain Perceval was
taking an unfair advantage of them. They had, in fact, secured for
him five thousand seal-skins and three hundred quintals of fish. The
Yankee captain having now got out of them all he could, did not trouble
himself about taking them any further, and sent ten of them ashore:
only three--Captain Veale, his brother, and Petherbridge--went on with
the American ship. Two others, Soper and Newbee, had remained at their
own wish at Amsterdam, which they could leave when they wished, as it
lay in the direct track of all ships going from the Cape of Good Hope
to New South Wales.

The American captain gave a cask of bread and some necessaries to those
he put ashore on St. Paul’s.

Here they remained, renewing their hardships on the Crozets, but in a
better climate, till the first week in June, when a sloop, a tender to
the _King George_ whaler, arrived, looking for her consort in vain. The
sloop was only twenty-eight tons and could not accommodate more than
three, and the lot decided that Goodridge should be one of these three.
Then the sloop sailed for Van Diemen’s Land, and after a rough passage
of thirty-six days reached Hobart Town on 7 July.

We need not follow Goodridge’s narrative further, though what remains
is interesting: his observations on the condition of the convicts,
the settlers, and so forth. He there got into trouble, being arrested
and thrown into prison on the suspicion that he was a runaway sailor
from the _King George_, and he had great difficulty in obtaining his
discharge. He was also attacked and nearly murdered by bushrangers.

At length, in the beginning of 1831, he was able to start for home. He
embarked on 15 February. “On Sunday morning, 31st July, we came off
Torbay, and now I anxiously looked out for some conveyance to land: I
was in sight of my native village--my heart beat high. The venerable
tower of Paignton, forming as it does one of the most conspicuous
objects in the bay, was full in view, and with my glass I could trace
many well-remembered objects, even the very dwelling of my childhood
and the home of my parents.” On 2 August, Goodridge reached home
to find his parents still alive, though the old man was infirm and
failing. He had been away eleven years; but of these a good many had
been spent by him in business in Van Diemen’s Land.


John Davy was born at Upton Hellions, and was an illegitimate child,
baptized as Davie on Christmas Day, 1763. When he was about three years
old, he entered the room one day where his uncle, a blacksmith in the
same parish, was playing a psalm tune on the violoncello; but the
moment he heard the instrument he ran away crying, and was so terrified
that it was thought he would have a fit. For several weeks his uncle
repeatedly tried to reconcile him to the instrument; and at last, after
much coaxing and encouragement, he effected it by taking the child’s
fingers and making him strike the strings. The sound thus produced
startled him considerably at first, but in a few days he became so
passionately fond of the amusement, that he took every opportunity
of scraping a better acquaintance with the monster. With a little
attention he was soon able to produce such notes from the violoncello
as greatly delighted him.

Soon after this Davy’s uncle frequently took him to Crediton, where
a company of soldiers was quartered, and one day at the roll-call
he was greatly delighted at the music of the fifes; so much was he
pleased that he borrowed one, and very soon taught himself to play
several tunes decently. After this he began to make fifes from the
tubular reeds growing on the banks of the Creedy, and commonly called
“billers.” With these he made several imitations of the fife, and
bartered them to his playmates.

At the age of four or five years, his ear was so correct that he
could play any easy tune after once hearing it. Before he was quite
six years old, a neighbouring blacksmith, into whose house he went
frequently, lost twenty or thirty horseshoes. Diligent search was made
for them during many days. But one evening the blacksmith, John Davy’s
uncle, heard faint chimes, like those of Crediton Church, sounding
from the garret of his house, and having listened a sufficient time
to be convinced that his ears did not deceive him, he ascended to the
attic, and there found the boy with the horseshoes, or so many of them
as would form an octave, hung clear of the wall to nails, and he was
striking them with a hammer or iron rod, playing the chimes of Crediton
Church bells.

The story coming to the ears of Chancellor Carrington, then rector
of Upton Hellions, he felt interested in the child, and showed him a
harpsichord, on which he speedily acquired some proficiency. He applied
himself likewise to the violin, on which his uncle, who played in the
orchestra of the church choir, was able to give him some instruction,
and he found little difficulty in surmounting the preliminaries.
When eleven years old the Chancellor introduced him to the Rev. Mr.
Eastcott, who possessed a pianoforte, then an instrument of recent
introduction, at least in the west. With this also the boy soon became
familiar, and so impressed Mr. Eastcott with his intuitive genius for
music, that he advised his friends to place him with some musician of
eminence, under whom he would have free access to a good instrument,
and might learn the rules of composition. They applied to Mr. William
Jackson, the organist of Exeter Cathedral, and when John was about
twelve years of age, he was articled as a pupil and apprentice to this
able man.

His progress in the study of composition, and especially of church
music, was rapid. He also became an admirable performer on the organ,
and often took the place of Jackson in the cathedral. The first of his
compositions that appear to have attained any degree of celebrity were
some vocal quartettes.

Having completed his studies with Jackson, Davy went to London, where
he obtained a situation in the orchestra at Covent Garden; and he
employed his time in teaching, and soon had a considerable number of
pupils. He composed some dramatic pieces for the theatre at Sadler’s
Wells, and wrote the music to Mr. Holman’s opera of _What a Blunder_,
which was performed at the little theatre in the Haymarket in 1800.
In the following year, he was engaged with Moorhead in the music of
_Perouse_, and with Mountain in _The Brazen Mask_, for Covent Garden.

He was greatly lionized in Town, owing to the éclat attending his early
efforts, and was retained as composer of music by the managers of the
Theatres Royal until infirmities, rather than age, rendered him almost
incapable of exertion, unhappily a victim to drink. He died, before he
was sixty-two, in February, 1824, without a friend, and was buried in
St. Martin’s churchyard at the expense of two London tradesmen, one of
whom, Mr. Thomas, was a native of Crediton.

Davy at one time had an ambition to shine as an actor, and he actually
made his debut on the stage at Exeter, but failed.

Although Davy’s end was so wretched, many of his compositions will
never cease to be recollected and sung; notably that delicately
beautiful ballad, “Just Like Love”; others, more boisterous in
character, are, “May We Never Want a Friend,” “The Death of the
Smuggler,” and “The Bay of Biscay.”

For the life of Davy, see dictionaries of Musical Biography, and an
article by Dr. Edwards on “Crediton Musicians” in the _Transactions_ of
the Devonshire Association, 1882.


For the story of Richard Parker, I shall quote almost verbatim the
account, which is very detailed, by Camden Pelham in _Chronicles of
Crime_, London, 1840.

In the year 1797, when the threatening aspect of affairs abroad made
the condition of the naval force a matter of vital importance to
Britain, several alarming mutinies broke out among the various fleets
stationed around the shores of the country. In April of the year
mentioned, the seamen of the grand fleet lying at Portsmouth disowned
the authority of their officers, seized upon the ships, hoisted the
red flag, and declared their determination not to lift an anchor, or
obey any orders whatsoever, until certain grievances of which they
complained were redressed.

There is no denying or concealing the fact--the men had been ill-paid,
ill-fed, shamefully neglected by the country, which depended upon them
for its all, and, in many instances, harshly and brutally treated by
their officers, and belly-pinched and plundered by their pursers. They
behaved with exemplary moderation. The mutineers allowed all frigates
with convoys to sail, in order not to injure the commerce of the
country. The delegates of the vessels drew up and signed a petition to
Parliament and another to the Admiralty; their language was respectful,
and their demands were very far from exorbitant.

After some delay, satisfactory concessions were made to them by
Government, and the men returned to their duty. But the spirit of
insubordination had spread among other squadrons in the service, and
about the middle of May, immediately after the Portsmouth fleet had
sailed peaceably for the Bay of Biscay, the seamen of the large fleet
lying at the Nore broke out also into open mutiny. The most conspicuous
personage in the insurrection was one Richard Parker, a native of
Exeter, privately baptized, in St. Mary Major parish, 24 April, 1767.
His father was a baker in that parish, and had his shop near the
turnstile. It was afterwards burnt down. He rented it of the dean and
chapter, from 1761 to 1793, and acquired a little land near to Exeter
as his own. Young Parker received a good education, and at the age
of twelve went to sea. He served in the Royal Navy as midshipman and
master’s mate. But he threw up his profession on his marriage with Anne
McHardy, a young woman resident in Exeter, but of Scottish origin, a
member of a respectable family in Aberdeen.

This connexion led Parker to remove to Scotland, where he embarked
in some mercantile speculations that proved unsuccessful. The issue
was that before long he found himself in embarrassed circumstances,
and unable to maintain his wife and two children. In Edinburgh, where
these difficulties arose, he had no friends to whom he could apply
for assistance, and in a moment of desperation he took the King’s
bounty, and became a common sailor on board a tender at Leith. When he
announced to his wife the steps he had taken, she hastened to Aberdeen
in great distress to procure from her brother the means of hiring two
seamen as substitutes for her husband. But when she returned with the
money from Aberdeen it was too late, for the tender had just sailed
with her husband on board. Her grief was aggravated at this time by
the loss of one of her children. Parker’s sufferings were shown to be
equally acute by his conduct when the vessel sailed, crying out that he
saw the body of his child floating upon the waves; he leaped overboard,
and was with difficulty rescued and restored to life.

[Illustration: /Richard Parker/

_Who was executed on board the Sandwich off Sheerness on Friday Jun
30^{th} 1797 pursuant to the sentence of a Court Martial for having
been the Principal in a most daring Mutiny on board several of his
Majesty’s Ships at the Nore & which created a dreadful alarm through
the whole Nation_]

In the early days of May, 1797, Parker reached the Nore, a point of
land dividing the mouth of the Thames and the Medway. Probably on
account of his former experience as a seaman, he was drafted on board
the _Sandwich_, the guardship that bore the flag of Admiral Buckner,
the Port Admiral. The mutinous spirit which afterwards broke out
certainly existed on board the Nore squadron before Parker’s arrival.
Communications were kept up in secret between the various crews, and
the mischief was gradually drawing to a head. But though he did not
originate the feeling of insubordination, the ardent temper, boldness,
and superior intelligence of Parker soon became known to his comrades,
and he became a prominent man among them. Their plans being at last
matured, the seamen rose simultaneously against their officers, and
deprived them of their arms, as well as of all command in the ships,
though behaving respectfully to them in all other ways. Each vessel
was put under the government of a committee of twelve men, and, to
represent the whole body of seamen, every man-of-war appointed two
delegates and each gunboat one to act for the common good. Of these
delegates Richard Parker was chosen president, and in an unhappy hour
for himself he accepted the office. The representative body drew up a
list of grievances, of which they demanded the removal, offering return
immediately after to their duty. The demands were for increased pay,
better and more abundant food, a more equal division of prize-money,
liberty to go on shore, and prompt payment of arrears. A committee of
naval inquiry subsequently granted almost all their demands, thereby
acknowledging their justice. Parker signed these documents, and they
were published over the whole kingdom with his name attached, as well
as presented to Port Admiral Buckner, through whom they were sent to
the Government. When these proceedings commenced the mutineers were
suffered to go on shore, and they paraded the streets of Sheerness,
where lay a part of the fleet, with music and the red flag flying.

But on the 22nd of May, troops were sent to Sheerness to put a stop
to these demonstrations. Being thus confined to their ships, the
mutineers, having come to no agreement with Admiral Buckner, began
to take more decisive measures for extorting compliance with their
demands, as well as for securing their own safety. The vessels at
Sheerness moved down to the Nore, and the combined force of the
insurgents, which consisted of twenty-five sail, proceeded to block
up the Thames, by refusing a free passage, up or down, to the London
trade. Foreign vessels, and a few small craft, were suffered to go
by, after having received a passport, signed by Richard Parker, as
president of the delegates.

In a day or two the mutineers had an immense number of vessels under
detention. The mode in which they kept them was as follows: The ships
of war were ranged in a line, at considerable distances from each
other, and in the interspaces were placed the merchant vessels, having
the broadsides of the men-of-war pointed to them. The appearance of
the whole assemblage is described as having been at once grand and
appalling. The red flag floated from the mast-head of every one of the
mutineer ships.

The Government, however, though unable at the moment to quell the
mutiny by force, remained firm in their demand of “unconditional
surrender as a necessary preliminary to any intercourse.” This was,
perhaps, the best line of conduct that could have been adopted. The
seamen, to their great honour, never seemed to think of assuming an
offensive attitude, and were thereby left in quiet to meditate on
the dangerous position in which they stood in hostility to their own
country. Disunion began to manifest itself, and Parker’s efforts
to revive the cooling ardour of the mutineers resulted in rousing
particular hostility against himself.

Meanwhile, formidable preparations had been made by the Government for
the protection of the coast against a boat attack by the mutineers,
and to prevent the fleet advancing up the Thames and menacing London.
All the buoys and beacons in the three channels giving entrance to
the Thames had been removed. Batteries with furnaces for red-hot shot
were constructed at several points. Sheerness was filled with troops,
and at more distant places outposts were established to prevent the
landing of parties of the mutineers. Two ships of the line, some
frigates, and between twenty and thirty gunboats lying higher up the
river were fitted out in great haste, to co-operate, in the event of
an attack by the mutinous fleet, with the squadron from Spithead, that
had been summoned. Alarm and perplexity disorganized the council of
the mutineers. The supply of provisions had for some time been running

A price had been set on Parker’s head--£500. It was thought that
he might attempt to escape, and therefore a description of him was
published: “Richard Parker is about thirty years of age, wears his
own hair, which is black, untied, though not cropt; about five feet
nine or ten inches high; has a rather prominent nose, dark eyes and
complexion, and thin visage; is generally slovenly dressed, in a plain
blue half-worn coat and a whitish or light coloured waistcoat and

But Parker made no attempt to escape. The mutineering vessels held
together till the 30th May, when the _Clyde_ frigate was carried off
by a combination of its officers and some of the seamen, and was
followed by the _S. Fiorenzo_. These vessels were fired upon by the
mutineers, but escaped up the river. The loss was, however, more than
counterbalanced by the arrival of eight ships from the mutinous fleet
of Admiral Duncan, anchored in Yarmouth Roads.

On the 4th June, the King’s birthday, the Nore fleet showed that their
loyalty to their Sovereign was undisturbed by firing a general salute.

On the 6th June two more ships deserted under the fire of the whole
fleet, but the same evening four more arrived from Admiral Duncan’s
fleet. On this day Lord Northesk, having been summoned on board the
_Sandwich_, found the council, comprising sixty delegates, sitting in
the state cabin, with Parker at its head. After receiving a letter
containing proposals of accommodation to which the unfortunate Parker
still put his name as president, Lord Northesk left, charged to deliver
this letter to the King. The answer was a refusal to all concessions
till the mutineers had surrendered unconditionally. Disunion thereupon
became more accentuated, and on 10 June, Parker was compelled to shift
his flag to the _Montague_ and the council removed with him.

On the same day the merchantmen were permitted by common consent to
pass up the river, and such a multitude of ships certainly had never
before entered a port by one tide.

Fresh desertions now occurred every day, and all hope of concerted
action was ended by stormy discussions, in which contradictory
suggestions were made with such heat as to lead in many instances to
acts of violence. Upon ship after ship the red flag was hauled down and
replaced by one that was white, signifying submission. On the 12th only
seven ships had the red flag flying. Such was the confusion, every crew
being divided into two hostile parties, that five ships were taken up
the Thames by those in favour of surrender, aided by their opponents
under the belief that an attack was about to be made on the shore
defences. The discovery by the latter that they were betrayed aroused
terrible strife. The deck of the _Iris_ frigate became a battlefield;
one party in the fore, the others in the after-part, turned the great
guns against each other, and fought till the mutineers were worsted.

By the 16th the mutiny had terminated, every ship having been restored
to the command of its officers. A party of soldiers went on board the
_Sandwich_ to which Parker had returned, and to them the officers
surrendered the delegates of the ship, namely a man named Davies and
Richard Parker.

Richard Parker, to whom the title of admiral had been accorded by
the fleet and by the public during the whole of this affair, was the
undoubted ringleader, and was the individual on whom all eyes were
turned as the chief of the mutineers. He was brought to trial on the
22nd of June, after having been confined during the interval in the
Black-hole of Sheerness garrison. Ten officers, under the presidency
of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Pasley, Bart., composed the court-martial,
which sat on board the _Neptune_, off Greenhithe. The prisoner
conducted his own defence, exhibiting great presence of mind, and
preserving a respectful and manly deference throughout towards his

The prosecution on the part of the Crown lasted two days, and on the
26th, Parker called witnesses in his favour, and read a long and able
defence which he had previously prepared. The line of argument adopted
by him was--that the situation he had held had been in a measure
forced upon him; that he had consented to assume it chiefly from the
hope of restraining the men from excesses; that he had restrained them
in various instances; that he might have taken all the ships to sea,
or to an enemy’s port, had his motives been disloyal, etc. Parker
unquestionably spoke the truth on many of these points. Throughout the
whole affair, the injury done to property was trifling, the taking of
some flour from a vessel being the chief act of the kind. But he had
indubitably been the head of the mutineers. It was proved that he went
from ship to ship giving orders and encouraging the men to stand out,
and that his orders were given as though he were actually admiral of
the fleet. Nothing could save him. He was sentenced to death. When his
doom was pronounced, he rose, and said, in firm tones, “I shall submit
to your sentence with all due respect, being confident in the innocency
of my intentions, and that God will receive me unto His favour;
and I sincerely hope that my death will be the means of restoring
tranquillity to the Navy, and that those men who have been implicated
in the business may be reinstated in their former situations, and again
be serviceable to their country.”

On the morning of the 30th of June, the yellow flag, the signal of
death, was hoisted on board the _Sandwich_, where Richard Parker lay,
and where he was to meet his fate. The whole fleet was ranged a little
below Sheerness, in sight of the _Sandwich_, and the crew of every ship
was piped to the forecastle. Parker was awakened from a sound sleep
on that morning, and after being shaved, he dressed himself in a suit
of deep mourning. He mentioned to his attendants that he had made a
will, leaving to his wife some property in Devonshire that belonged to
him. On coming to the deck, he was pale, but perfectly composed, and
drank a glass of wine “to the salvation of his soul, and forgiveness of
all his enemies!” He said nothing to his mates on the forecastle but
“Good-bye to you!” and expressed a hope that “his death would be deemed
sufficient atonement, and save the lives of others.”

He was strung up to the yard-arm at half-past nine o’clock. A dead
silence reigned among the crews around during the execution. When cold,
his body was taken down, put in a shell, and interred within an hour
or two after his death in the new naval burying ground at Sheerness. A
remarkable and pathetic sequel to the account has served as the basis
of a popular ballad still sung.

Richard Parker’s unfortunate wife had not left Scotland, when the
news reached her ears that the Nore fleet had mutinied, and that the
ringleader was one Richard Parker. She could not doubt that this was
her husband, and immediately took a place in the mail for London, to
save him if possible. On her arrival, she heard that Parker had been
tried, but the result was not known. Being able to think of no way but
petitioning the King, she gave a person a guinea to draw up a paper,
praying that her husband’s life might be spared. She attempted to make
her way with this into His Majesty’s presence, but was obliged finally
to hand it to a lord-in-waiting, who gave her the cruel intelligence
that all applications for mercy would be attended to, except for
Parker. The distracted woman then took coach for Rochester, where she
got on board a King’s ship, and learnt that Parker was to be executed
next day. She sat up, in a condition of unspeakable wretchedness, the
whole of that night, and at four o’clock in the morning went to the
riverside to hire a boat to take her to the _Sandwich_, that she might
at least bid her poor husband farewell. Her feelings had been deeply
wrung by hearing every person she met talking on the subject of her
distress, and now the first waterman to whom she spoke refused to take
her as a single passenger. “The brave Admiral Parker is to die to-day,”
he said, “and I can get any sum I choose to ask for carrying over a

Finally, the wretched wife was glad to go on board a Sheerness market
boat, but no boat was allowed to run up alongside of the _Sandwich_. In
her desperation she called on Parker by name, and prevailed on the boat
people, moved by the sight of her distress, to attempt to approach, but
they were stopped by a sentinel who threatened to fire at them, unless
they withdrew.

    O Parker was the truest husband,
      Best of friends, whom I love dear;
    Yet when he was a-called to suffer,
      To him I might not then draw near.
    Again I ask’d, again I pleaded,
      Three times entreating,--all in vain;
    They even that request refused me,
      And ordered me ashore again.

As the hour drew nigh, she saw her husband appear on deck walking
between two clergymen. She called to him, and he heard her voice, for
he exclaimed, “There is my dear wife from Scotland.”

Then, happily, she fainted, and did not recover till some time after
she was taken ashore. By this time all was over, but the poor woman
could not believe it so. She hired another boat, and again reached the
_Sandwich_. Her exclamation from the boat must have startled all who
heard it. “Pass the word,” she cried in her delusion, “for Richard

The ballad says:--

    The yellow flag I saw was flying,
      A signal for my love to die;
    The gun was fir’d, as was requir’d,
      To hang him on the yard-arm high.
    The boatswain did his best endeavour,
      I on the shore was put straightway,
    And there I tarried, watching, weeping,
      My husband’s corpse to bear away.

On reaching the _Sandwich_ she was informed that all was over, and
that the body of her husband had just been taken ashore for burial.
She immediately caused herself to be rowed ashore again, and proceeded
to the cemetery, but found that the ceremony was over and the gate was
locked. She then went to the Admiral and sought the key, but it was
refused to her. Excited almost to madness by the information given her
that probably the surgeons would disinter the body that night and cut
it up, she waited around the churchyard till dusk, and then clambering
over the wall, readily found her husband’s grave. The shell was not
buried deep, and she was not long in scraping away the loose earth that
intervened between her and the object of her search. She tore off the
lid with her nails and teeth, and then clasped the hand of her husband,
cold in death, and no more able to return the pressure.

Her determination to possess the body next forced her to quit the
cemetery and seek the assistance of two women, who, in their turn,
got several men to undertake the task of lifting the body. This was
accomplished successfully, and at 3 a.m. the shell containing the
corpse was placed in a van and conveyed to Rochester, where, for the
sum of six guineas, the widow procured another wagon to carry it to
London. On the road they met hundreds of people all inquiring about,
and talking of, the fate of “Admiral Parker.”

The rude ballad thus relates the carrying away of the body:--

    At dead of night, when all was quiet,
      And many thousands fast asleep,
    I, by two female friends attended,
      Into the burial-ground did creep.
    Our trembling hands did serve as shovels
      With which the mold we moved away,
    And then the body of my husband
      Was carried off without delay.

At 11 p.m. the van reached London, but there the poor widow had no
private house or friends to go to, and was constrained to stop at the
“Hoofs and Horseshoe” on Tower Hill, which was full of people. Mrs.
Parker got the body into her room, and sat down beside it; but the
secret could not long be kept in such a place, more particularly as the
news of the exhumation had been brought by express that day to London.

An immense crowd assembled about the house, anxious to see the body of
Parker, but this the widow would not permit.

The Lord Mayor heard of the affair, and came to ask the widow what she
intended to do with her husband’s remains. She replied, “To inter them
decently at Exeter or in Scotland.” The Lord Mayor assured her that the
body would not be taken from her, and eventually prevailed on her to
consent to its being decently buried in London. Arrangements were made
with this view, and in the interim it was taken to Aldgate Workhouse,
on account of the crowds attracted by it, which caused some fears lest
“Admiral Parker’s remains should provoke a civil war.”

Finally, the corpse was buried in Whitechapel Churchyard, and Mrs.
Parker, who had in person seen her husband consigned to the grave, gave
a certificate that all had been done to her satisfaction. But, though
strictly questioned as to her accomplices in the exhuming and carrying
away of the body, she firmly refused to disclose the names.

Parker had, as he said, made a will, leaving to his wife the little
property he had near Exeter. This she enjoyed for a number of years,
but ultimately lost it through a lawsuit with Parker’s sisters,
who claimed that it was theirs by right. She was thrown into great
distress, and, becoming almost blind, was obliged to solicit assistance
from the charitable. King William IV gave her at one time £10, and at
another £20.

In 1836 the forlorn and miserable condition of poor Parker’s widow
was made known to the London magistrates, and a temporary refuge was
provided for her. But temporary assistance was of little avail to one
whose physical infirmities rendered her incapable of any longer helping
herself. When Camden Pelham wrote in 1840, she was aged seventy, blind,
and friendless; but time and affliction had not quenched her affection
for the partner of her early days. However, in 1828, John C. Parker,
the son of the mutineer, obtained a verdict against his aunts for the
possession of the little estate of Shute that had belonged to his
father’s elder brother. The question turned on the legitimacy of the
plaintiff, which was proved by his mother, a woman who then exhibited
the remains of uncommon beauty, and who was able to prove that she had
married Richard Parker in 1793.

    Then farewell, Parker, best beloved,
      That was once the Navy’s pride,
    And since we might not die together,
      We separate henceforth abide.
    His sorrows now are past and over,
      Now he resteth free from pain--
    Grant, O God, his soul may enter
      Where one day we meet again.[16]

The melody to which the ballad of the “Death of Parker” is set is much
more ancient, by two centuries at the least, than the ballad itself. It
is plaintive and very beautiful, and the words are admirably fitted to
the dainty and tender air.

Richard Parker was a remarkably fine man. The brilliancy and expression
of his eyes were of such a nature as caused one of the witnesses, while
under examination, to break down, and quail beneath his glance, and
shrink abashed, incapacitated from giving further testimony.

Douglas Jerrold wrote a drama upon the theme of the “Mutiny at the
Nore.” But it is a mere travesty of history. The true pathos and beauty
of the story of the devoted wife were completely put aside for vulgar
melodramatic incidents.

For authorities, the _Annual Register_ for 1797; _The Chronicles of
Crime_, by Camden Pelham, London, 1840; _The Mutiny at Spithead and the
Nore_, London, 1842; “Richard Parker, of Exeter, and the Mutiny of the
Nore,” by S. T. Whiteford, in _Notes and Gleanings_, Exeter, 1888.


Benjamin Kennicott was born at Totnes on 4 April, 1718, and was the
son of Benjamin Kennicott, the parish clerk of that town. The family
had been one of some respectability, as in 1606 one Gabriel Kennicott
was mayor of Totnes. Probably, if a well-to-do tradesman family at one
time, it had sunk, and Benjamin senior was quite content to act as
clerk on a small stipend. His son was educated at the Grammar School,
founded by King Edward VI in 1554, and held in a building adjoining the
Guildhall, both of which occupy a portion of the old dissolved priory
of Totnes, on the north side of the church. The trustees of Eliseus
Hele had endowed the school, and the corporation were empowered to send
three boys to the school to receive their education free of expense;
and there can be little doubt that Benjamin the younger was one so
privileged. After quitting school he was appointed master of a charity
school for poor children, male and female, at Totnes; which same
charity children were provided with quaint and antiquated garbs. Young
Kennicott now doubtless thought that he was provided for for life.

In 1732, when he was only fourteen years of age, the bells of Totnes
tower were recast, and at the same time the ringers presented to the
bell-ringing chamber an eight-light brass candlestick inscribed with
the names of the ringers. Benjamin Kennicott the elder headed the
list, and Benjamin Kennicott the younger brought up the tail. But in
1742, when new regulations were drawn up and agreed to by the ringers,
the youngest ringer had become the leader.

Bell-ringing was a pastime dearly loved and much practised in Devon at
the time. There were contests between the ringers of various churches,
and challenges, the prize being either money or a hat laced with gold.
All over the county one comes on old songs relating to these contests,
and in these songs are recorded the names of ringers who are now only
represented by moss-grown stones in the churchyard. A party of ringers,
say of Totnes, would sally forth to spend a day in contest with those
of Ashburton or Dartmouth, and all day long the tower would be reeling
with the clash of the bells. Here is one of the songs touching the
ringers of Torrington:--

    1. Good ringers be we that in Torrington dwell,
       And what that we are I will speedily tell.
         1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5 . 6; 6 . 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1.
       The first is called Turner, the second called Swete,
       The third is a Vulcan, the fourth Harry Neat.
         1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5 . 6; 6 . 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1.

    2. The fifth is a doctor, a man of renown,
       The tenor the tailor that clothes all the town.
         1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5 . 6; 6 . 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1.
       The breezes proclaim in their fall and their swell,
       No jar in the concord, no flaw in a bell.
         1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5 . 6; 6 . 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1.

    3. The winds that are blowing on mountain and lea,
       Bear swiftly my message across the blue sea,
         1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5 . 6; 6 . 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1.
       Stand all men in order, give each man his due,
       We can’t be all tenors, but each can pull true.
         1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5 . 6; 6 . 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1.

[Illustration: /B. Kennicott. S.T.P./

olim Socius.

_From the portrait at Exeter College, Oxford_]

There is another, wedded to an exquisitely sweet and expressive melody,
concerning the ringers of North Lew, who challenged Ashwater,
Broadwood, S. Stephen’s, and Callington. I give but the opening verse:--

      One day in October,
      Neither drunken nor sober,
    O’er Broadbury Down I was wending my way,
      When I heard of some ringing,
      Some dancing and singing,
    I ought to remember that Jubilee Day.
      ’Twas in Ashwater town,
      The bells they did soun’;
    They rang for a belt and a hat laced with gold.
      But the men of North Lew
      Rang so steady and true,
    That never were better in Devon, I hold.

On this song the late Rev. H. H. Sheppard remarked: “There is an
indolent easy grace about this tune which is quite in keeping with the
words and charmingly suggestive. The sunny valleys, the breezy downs,
the sweet bell-music swelling and sinking on the soft autumn air,
the old folk creeping out of their chimney-nooks to listen, and all
employment in the little town suspended in the popular excitement at
the contest for the hat laced with gold; all this, told in a few words
and illustrated by a few notes, quite calls up a picture of life, and
stamps the number as a genuine folk-song. The narrator is unhappily
slightly intoxicated, but no one thinks the worse of him; stern
morality on that or any other score will in vain be looked for in songs
of the West.”

Such a picture as this must have occurred again and yet again in young
Kennicott’s life whilst head of the ringers at Totnes.

Kennicott’s sister was in service as lady’s-maid to the Hon. Mrs.
Elizabeth Courtney, of Painsford in Ashprington, near Totnes; and
in 1743 that lady had a narrow escape from death, having eaten a
poisonous herb in mistake for watercress, which it much resembled.
The charity-school master, on hearing of this, composed a poem on her
recovery, which he dedicated to “Kelland Courtney, Esq., and his Lady.”
It consisted of no fewer than three hundred and thirty-four lines;
and this effusion having gained him the favour of the family, he was
taken in hand, and sent in 1744 to Oxford, where he became a student of
Wadham College. But the Courtneys, though his principal patrons, were
not the sole. Archdeacon Baker, the Rev. F. Champernowne, and H. Fownes
Luttrell, Esq., subscribed to send him to college.

At Oxford he speedily attracted attention by his industry and
abilities, and was elected Fellow of Exeter College in 1747, and was
admitted to his B.A. degree a year before the usual time. He took
his M.A. degree in 1750, about which time he entertained a design of
collating the Hebrew texts of the Old Testament. In 1753 he published
his first volume on the state of the printed text, and in 1760 his
second volume. In these works he pointed out various discrepancies, and
proposed an extensive collation of manuscripts.

Subscriptions were obtained, and between 1760 and 1769 no less than
£9117. 7s. 6d. had been raised for the work. This work occupied ten
years. To aid in it, persons were employed to examine the MSS. in all
parts of Europe. In 1769, Dr. Kennicott stated that of the 500 Hebrew
MSS. then in Europe he had himself seen and studied 250; and of the
16 MSS. of the Samaritan Pentateuch eight had been collated for him.
Subsequently other MSS. were heard of, and the collation extended in
all to 581 Hebrew and 16 Samaritan MSS.

In 1776 appeared the first fruit of all the labour, being the first
volume of his _Vetus Testamentum Hebraicum cum variis lectionibus_,
and the second appeared in 1780.

Kennicott took his degree of D.D. in 1761, and received from the Crown
a pension of £200. In 1770 he was made Prebendary of Westminster, but
this he afterwards exchanged for a canonry at Christchurch. He was
also rector of Culham, a valuable living, but resigned it, as owing to
his studies he was unable to reside and pay attention to his pastoral
duties there.

Against the garden wall of Exeter College grew a fig tree, and
Kennicott was very partial to figs. Now in a certain year there was
but a single fig on the tree. The Doctor watched it, eagerly expecting
when it would be ripe, for a fig is like a pear, it ripens and reaches
perfection all at once, before which moment it is no good at all. To
secure this fruit for himself he wrote out a label, “Dr. Kennicott’s
Fig,” and hung it above the fruit on the tree. But just as the fig was
fit to be gathered and eaten, some audacious undergraduate managed
to get it, plucked, ate, and then reversing the label wrote in large
letters thereon “A Fig for Dr. Kennicott.”

When the reverend divine was at the height of his fame he visited
Totnes, and was asked to preach in the parish church. This he consented
to do. In the vestry he found his old father, still parish clerk,
prepared to robe him. The Doctor protested. No--on no account would he
suffer that. He could perfectly well and unassisted encase himself in
cassock and surplice and assume his scarlet doctorial hood. But the old
man was stubborn. “But, Ben--I mean Reverend Doctor--do it I must, and
do it I will. You know, Ben--I mean Reverend Sir--I am your father and
you must obey.” So the Hebrew scholar was fain to submit and give to
the old parish clerk the proudest hour of his life. Dr. Kennicott died
on 18 September, 1783, in the sixty-sixth year of his age.

For authority see an article on “Benjamin Kennicott, /D.D./,” by
Mr. Ed. Windeatt, in the _Transactions_ of the Devonshire Association,

The portrait given with this article is from one in Exeter College.


Concerning this captain it is not easy to give a trustworthy account as
the discrepancies between the narratives of his life and adventures are
considerable, and the means of discriminating between the true and the
fictitious are not available. He is a Flying Dutchman who appears in
weird and terrible scenes, and then vanishes into mist.

The authorities for his adventures, such as they are, are these:--

    (_a_) _“The Life of Captain Avery” in Captain Charles Johnson’s
    General History of the Robberies and Murders of Notorious Pyrates,
    from 1717._ London, 1724.

    (_b_) _The Life and Adventures of Captain John Avery._ I. Baker.
    London, 1709.

    (_c_) _The Famous Adventures of Captain John Avery of Plymouth._
    Falkirk, 1809. Probably a reprint of an earlier Life.

    (_d_) _The King of Pirates._ (Supposed to be by Daniel Defoe.)
    London, 1720.

With regard to (_a_), Johnson gives no authority for his narrative, and
it widely differs in the sequel from (_b_) and (_c_).

(_b_) purports to be written by Adrian Van Broeck, a Dutchman, who was
a prisoner for some time with Avery in Madagascar, but he effected
his escape in a vessel of the East India Company, and his narrative
terminates abruptly with the severance of his connexion with the

(_c_). In this--as we have it--late version, all the early life of John
Avery is given totally different from (_a_) and (_b_). Little or no
reliance can be placed on it, and as to (_b_) it is hard to say whether
Van Broeck’s is a fictitious narrative or whether he records actual
facts. It is singular that Johnson should not have spoken explicitly
about this, the first published record of the pirate’s adventures.

(_d_) purports to be Avery’s story of his own life, but it is almost
certainly a product of Defoe’s lively imagination.

On the whole Johnson’s account is the most reliable, and we will
follow that, noticing the divergences from it in (_b_), and will take
no account of (_c_) and (_d_). Johnson begins: “None of the bold
adventurers on the Seas were ever so much talk’d of for a while as
Avery. He was represented in Europe as one that had rais’d himself
to the Dignity of a King, and was likely to be the Founder of a new
Monarchy; having, as it was said, taken immense Riches, and married
the Great Mogul’s Daughter, who was taken in an Indian Ship which fell
into his Hands; by whom he had many Children, living in great Royalty
and State: That he had built Forts, elected Magistrates, and was Master
of a stout Squadron of Ships, mann’d with able and desperate Fellows
of all Nations. That he gave Commissions out in his own Name to the
Captains of his Ships, and to the Commanders of the Forts, and was
acknowledg’d by them as their Prince. A Play was writ upon him,
call’d _The Successful Pyrate_;[17] and these Accounts obtained such
Belief that several Schemes were offer’d to the Council for sending
out a Squadron to take him; while others were for offering him and his
Companions an Act of Grace and inviting them to England with all their
Treasure, lest his growing Greatness might hinder the Trade of Europe
to the East Indies.

[Illustration: _Willm. Jeit delin.  W. Pritchard sculpt._

_CAP^/T/. AVERY and his Crew taking one of the

“Yet all these were no more than false Rumours, improv’d by the
Credulity of some, and the Humour of others who love to tell strange
Things; for, while it was said he was aspiring at a Crown, he wanted a
Shilling; and at the same Time it was given out he was in Possession of
such prodigious Wealth in Madagascar he was starving in England.”

John Avery was a native of Plymouth; according to (_b_) he was born in
1653. His father had served under Admiral Blake, then left the navy for
the merchant service, but died whilst John was still young, and to his
sixth year was brought up by his aunt, Mrs. Norris. The story in (_c_)
is that his mother kept the tavern with the “Sign of the Defiance,” and
because one night she refused to receive a drunken party of sailors,
in revenge they carried off her son and took him on board their ship,
where the captain, taking a liking to him, carried him with him to
Carolina. After three years he returned to Plymouth and was placed
under the guardianship of a Mr. Lightfoot. At the age of forty-four he
entered on board the _Duke_, a merchant vessel, Captain Gibson.

At this time, by the Peace of Ryswick, 1697, there was an alliance
betwixt Spain, England, and Holland against France; previous to this
the French had carried on a smuggling trade with the Spaniards in Peru,
which was against the law that reserved the trade with the Spanish
possessions in the New World to Spaniards alone. Accordingly a fleet
was ever kept at sea to guard the coast and seize as prizes any foreign
vessels that approached within a certain number of leagues. But as this
fleet was very inefficient, the French smugglers became vastly daring.
Accordingly, the Spanish Government, after the conclusion of the peace,
hired three large vessels, built at Bristol, to serve as preventive
ships on the South American coast. The merchants of Bristol at once
fitted out two of thirty guns each, and one hundred and twenty hands
apiece, for service under the Spanish Government, and one of them was
the _Duke_; and in it as mate sailed our hero, John Avery. These two
vessels were ordered to sail for Corunna, thence to take some Spanish
officers on board. Before sailing Avery, as first mate, got into close
communication with both crews and persuaded them to mutiny so soon as
they got to sea, and instead of serving the Spanish Government, to
sweep the Indian Sea as pirates. Captain Gibson was nightly addicted
to punch, and spent most of his time on land in drinking and getting
drunk. The day of sailing, however, he did not go ashore, but tippled
in his cabin. The men who were not privy to the design, as well as he,
turned into their hammocks, leaving none on deck but the conspirators.
At the time agreed upon, ten o’clock at night, the long-boat of the
consort, called the _Duchess_, approached. Avery hailed, and was
answered by the men, “Is your drunken boatswain on board?” which
was the watchword agreed upon between them. Avery replied in the
affirmative, and sixteen men from the boat came on board, joined the
company, and proceeded to secure the hatches. They did not slip the
anchor, but weighed it leisurely, and so put to sea without disorder,
though there were several ships lying around.

The captain awoke, roused by the motion of the vessel and the noise of
working the tackle, and rang his bell. Thereupon Avery and two others
went to him. He, half asleep, shouted out, “What is the matter?” To
which Avery replied coolly, “Nothing.” The captain retorted, “Something
is the matter. Does she drive? What is the weather?” “No, no,” said
Avery, “we are at sea with a fair wind.” “At sea!” exclaimed Captain
Gibson, “how can that be?” “Don’t be alarmed,” said Avery; “put on your
clothes, and I’ll let you into a secret. You must know that now I am
captain of the ship, and that henceforth this is my cabin, so please to
walk out of it. I am bound for Madagascar to seek my fortune, and that
of the brave fellows who have joined with me.”

The captain was now thoroughly roused, and in a great fright. Avery
bade him not fear. If he chose to throw in his lot with them, he would
be received, but must remain sober and mind his own business, and if
he conducted himself properly would be made lieutenant. If he refused
he might have the long-boat and go ashore in it. The captain preferred
the latter alternative; he was accordingly put into the boat along with
such seamen, five or six in all, who would not throw in their lot with
the mutineers. The two ships proceeded to Madagascar, and came across
a couple of sloops at anchor on the north-east of the island. These
were manned by mutineers as well, and both parties speedily came to
an agreement to hunt together, and they now sailed for India. Off the
mouth of the Indus they espied a large vessel flying the Great Mogul’s
colours. Avery opened fire, and the sloops ran close to her, one on
the bow, the other on the quarter, and boarded her. She at once struck
her colours. She was a vessel of the Great Mogul, bound with a load of
pilgrims for Arabia to make the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. On board
were also a lady with her retinue, whom they took to be a daughter of
the Mogul. The vessel was laden with treasure.

At this time much trouble and vexation to the East India Company was
caused by the interlopers. The Company had obtained their charter,
granting them exclusive rights to trade between India and England,
and they had certain determined ports where they had their factories.
But the trade was so profitable that companies of merchants and
private adventurers embarked on the trade in defiance of the rights
of the Company. They put into ports within the limits of the Company
concessions, but to which the ships of the latter did not resort, by
this means undermining and invading the rights of the Company. It
was more than that, it was a direct attack on the legal exercise of
the privileges of the Company. In 1695 the British Court informed
Sir John Gayer and the Presidency of Surat that the expedients which
had been adopted for suppressing the interlopers had failed at home
and abroad by their not being excluded from foreign markets, and the
Company’s servants were required to obstruct their sales in foreign
markets, and further to take measures against their entering the Indian
ports. In 1675-6, the interlopers being disappointed in the sales of
their cargoes and in the purchase of Indian produce, determined not
to return to Europe without realizing gains for themselves and their
employers, and they turned pirates and seized vessels belonging to the
native princes, and left the Company’s servants exposed to suspicion
and imprisonment and their property to seizure and confiscation. It
was precisely at this conjuncture that Avery’s little piratical fleet
made its capture. The vessel, the _Gunswek_, was bound from Bombay
for Daman. Avery cleared it of all its treasure, and only released
the pilgrims on payment of a heavy indemnity, and left the ship to be
steered back to Bombay by the native crew. As to the ladies on board,
Avery took to himself that one whom he supposed to be the daughter of
the Great Mogul, and let his crew toss up for the rest as partners.

John Bruce in his _Annals of the East India Company_ says nothing
of the retention of the ladies, nor of the capture of the Mogul’s
daughter. It is likely enough that some women were taken and retained,
but certainly no lady of so high a rank as the grand-daughter of

This outrage produced very unpleasant effects. Already in September,
1695, an interloping vessel turned pirate, and, bearing English
colours, had plundered a ship belonging to Abdul Gopher, a merchant
of Surat, and the governor of the place had been obliged to set a
guard on the house of the Company to prevent its being wrecked by the
enraged natives, and the servants of the Company from being massacred.
News now arrived that the same pirate had attacked a ship belonging
to the Mogul, conveying pilgrims to Mecca. If the first injury to an
individual merchant was resented, this which was deemed a sacrilege
roused fanatical resentment to fury, and obliged the Governor to put
the President and all the English in irons to prevent their being torn
to pieces by the inhabitants.

The Governor desired French, Dutch, and English to send vessels
in search of the pirate, that by her capture the fact might be
ascertained as to who really was responsible. The French and Dutch
hesitated to comply, and the readiness of the English to go on this
service served somewhat to abate the hostility entertained against them.

Sir John Gayer, as General of the Company’s affairs, wrote to the
Mogul to assure him that the Company were not only ignorant of the
existence of such a pirate, but were ready to employ two of their ships
completely armed to convey the pilgrims to Jedda, if he would grant
that all the English but the Company should be debarred from trading in
his dominions. The Mogul answered “that the English, French, and Dutch
must go to sea in search of the thieves, but that the embargo he had
placed on all trade must continue till the innocence or guilt of the
English Company was proved.”

Mr. Bruce does not name John Avery as the pirate, but this must be the
case spoken of in his Life. It will be noticed that the dates do not
accord. The capture of the pilgrim vessel took place in the winter of
1693-4, and, according to Johnson, it was not till after the Peace of
Ryswick, 10 September, 1697, that Avery made the capture, and it was in
consequence of this treaty that he was able to get hold of the vessels.
From the date 1693 the pilgrims were annually conveyed to Jedda by
ships of the Company, so that Avery could not have captured one of them
after that date. Charles Johnson must have blundered in his facts.

The sum demanded by Avery for the release of the pilgrims was three
hundred thousand pounds, and he got it.

He had already established himself at Perim, and levied toll on all
vessels passing in and out of the Red Sea, but after this affair,
when large rewards were offered by the Company and by the British
Government for his capture, he deemed it advisable to change his
quarters and establish himself in Madagascar.

As the four vessels were steering their course, he sent on board each
of the sloops, desiring the captains to come to his vessel and meet in
council. They did so, and he told them that he had a proposal to make.
The treasure of which they were possessed would not be sufficient for
all; they might be separated by bad weather, in which case the sloops,
if either of them should fall in with any large armed vessels would be
taken or sunk, and the treasure on board lost as well. As for himself,
he and the _Duchess_, his consort, were strong enough to hold their
own against any ship they were likely to meet on the high seas, and
he proposed, therefore, that all the spoil should be put on board his
ship, each chest sealed with three seals, whereof each was to keep
one, and to appoint a rendezvous in case of separation. This proposal
seemed reasonable and was agreed to, and the treasure was conveyed on
board Avery’s vessel, and the chests sealed. They kept company that
day and the next, the weather being fine; and during this time Avery
tampered with his men. “What should hinder us,” said he, “from going
to some strange country where we are not known, and living on shore
all the rest of our days in plenty?” They understood his design, and
all agreed to bilk their new allies in the sloops and other vessel.
Accordingly they took advantage of the night, changed their course,
and next morning the sloops and _Duchess_ found themselves deserted in
mid-ocean. Avery and his men resolved to make the best of their way to
America, and there change their names, and purchase settlements, and
spend the rest of their days at ease.

The first land they made was the island of Providence, then quite
recently settled, and there they disposed of their vessel, under the
pretence that the _Duke_ had been fitted out as a privateer, but that
having met with no success, Avery said that he had received orders from
the owners to dispose of her to the best advantage. He soon met with a
purchaser, and immediately bought a sloop. In this vessel he and his
mates embarked. They touched at several ports, where no one suspected
them, and some of the crew went on shore and dispersed about the
country, and with the dividends given them by Avery, settled there.

At length he arrived at Boston, in New England, and there again some
of the crew left to establish themselves, and no doubt founded there
some of the Bostonian families now flourishing. Avery advised those who
remained to sail for Ireland. He had concealed and kept for himself a
great store of diamonds that had been secured in the ship of the Mogul,
and which his present comrades had not known how to value. These he
could not dispose of in New England, but hoped to realize in Ireland.

On their voyage they avoided St. George’s Channel, and sailing north,
put into one of the northern ports. There they disposed of the sloop
and separated; some went to Dublin, others to Cork. Some afterwards
obtained their pardon from King William.

Avery was afraid to dispose of his diamonds in Ireland, lest inquiry
should be made as to how he had come by them. He therefore crossed
over to England, to Bideford; and knowing of a man in Bristol who was
an old acquaintance, and whom he thought he could trust, he sent to
appoint a meeting in Bideford. The man came, and after consultation the
friend advised that the jewels should be entrusted to certain Bristol
merchants, who being men of wealth and credit, no suspicion would be
aroused if they disposed of them. No better plan could be devised,
Avery consented, the merchants were communicated with and came to
Bideford, where they received the diamonds, undertook to sell them and
remit the money to Avery, reserving to themselves a commission; and to
this he consented. He now changed his name and took up his residence
at Bideford, attracting no notice, but communicating with some of his
relations. After a while his money was spent, and not a word reached
him from the merchants. He wrote to them, and they sent him a supply of
money--not much, doled out from time to time. At last he could endure
this no longer, and went to Bristol to see the merchants, who coolly
told him that if he troubled them any further they would disclose to
the authorities who he was; “so that our merchants were as good pirates
on land as he was at sea.”

Whether alarmed at their threats, or that he fancied he had been seen
and recognized by some old comrades in Bristol, is not known; but he
crossed into Ireland, where he remained till destitute. Then in despair
he worked his way over before the mast in a trading vessel to Plymouth,
and thence made his way on foot to Bideford, where a few days later he
fell ill and died without so much money in his pocket as would buy him
a coffin.

In the meantime, the companions in the _Duchess_ and the two sloops
when deserted by Avery, finding that they were running short of
provisions, made their way to Madagascar. On their course they fell in
with a privateer sloop, commanded by Captain Tew, who had just captured
a large vessel bound from India to Arabia, with three hundred soldiers
on board besides seamen. By this prize his men shared £3000 apiece. Tew
and the crew of the _Duchess_ and the sloops agreed together to form
a settlement in Madagascar. According to (_b_) the pirates established
themselves on the east coast, lat. 15° 30′, where there was a bay and
an island before it.

Probably Antongil Bay is meant. They built a fort, finding the natives
divided up into clans under their several chiefs, who were incessantly
at war with one another--“So,” says Johnson, “they sometimes joyned one
sometimes another; but wheresoever they sided, they were sure to be
victorious; for the Negroes here had no Fire arms; so that at length
these Pirates became so terrible to the Negroes, that if two or three
of them were only seen on one Side, when they were going to engage, the
opposite Side would fly without striking a Blow. By this means they
not only became feared, but powerful; all the Prisoners of War they
took to be their slaves; they married the most beautiful of the Negro
women, not one or two only but as many as they liked. Their Slaves
they employ’d in planting Rice, in Fishing, Hunting, etc. Besides
which, they had abundance of others, who lived, as it were, under their
protection. Now they began to divide from one another, each living with
his own Wives, Slaves and Dependants, like a separate Prince; and, as
Power and Plenty naturally beget Contention, they sometimes quarrelled
with one another, and attacked each other at the Head of their several
Armies. But an Accident happened, which oblig’d them to unite again
for their common Safety. They grew wanton in Cruelty, and nothing was
more Common than, upon the slightest Displeasure, to cause one of their
Dependants to be tied to a tree, and shot thro’ the Heart.[18] This
occasioned the Negroes to conspire together, to rid themselves of
these Destroyers, all in one Night; and as they lived separately, the
Thing might easily have been done, had not a Woman, who had been the
Wife or Concubine of one of them, run nearly twenty Miles, in three
Hours, to discover the Matter to them. Immediately upon the Alarm, they
ran together as fast as they could; so that when the Negroes approached
them, they found them up in Arms, and retired without making any
Attempt. This Escape made them very cautious from that Time.”

Thenceforth they fortified their dwellings and converted them into

“Thus Tyrant-like they lived, fearing and feared by all; and in this
situation they were found by Captain Woods Rogers when he went to
Madagascar in the _Delicia_, a ship of forty guns, with a Design of
buying Slaves in order to sell them to the Dutch at Batavia or New
Holland. He happened to touch upon a part of the Island where no Ship
had been seen for seven or eight Years before; here he met with some of
the Pyrates, when they had been upon the Island above 25 Years, having
a large motly Generation of Children and Grandchildren descended from
them, there being, at that Time, eleven of them remaining alive....
Thus he left them as he found them, in a great Deal of dirty State and
Royalty, but with fewer Subjects than they had. One of these great
Princes had formerly been a Waterman upon the Thames, where having
committed a Murder, he fled to the West Indies, and was of the number
of those who run away with the Sloops; the rest had been all foremast
men, nor was there a Man amongst them, who could either read or write.”

Such is Captain Charles Johnson’s account. There are several
difficulties about accepting his narrative about Avery. From whom
could he have obtained the story? Possibly a part of it from the
pirates who obtained their pardon from William III, but not as to the
end of John Avery.

The story as told in (_c_) is quite different. According to Adrian van
Broeck, Avery did not desert the _Consort_, the _Duchess_, nor the
sloops, but all together went to Madagascar and settled there. In that
settlement, his wife, the daughter of the Mogul, bore him a son, and
died of a broken heart.

The second in command was a M. de Sales, who after a while, impatient
at being second, organized a revolt among the Frenchmen who were there,
captives from a French vessel taken by the pirates. As soon as the
watch-bell sounded they were to seize the principal fort, and not spare
any man, woman, or child. One of de Sales’ crew, named Picard, betrayed
the plot to a Cornishman named Richardson, who told it to Avery, and
precautions were taken to surround the French on parade, and make all
prisoners. Avery had every man impaled who had been engaged in the

Avery was anxious to obtain his pardon, and wrote a letter to Captain
Pitt, Governor of Fort St. George, near Madras, which he was to
transmit to England, but the East India Company would not present it to
the Government.

Avery next attacked and destroyed Fort Ste. Marie of the French East
India Company on the north of Madagascar.

Adrian van Broeck managed to make his escape from the settlement
on board an East India Company vessel; and with that the narrative
abruptly terminates.

The two narratives are irreconcilable, and where the truth lies is
impossible to determine. It is conceivable that after van Broeck’s
visit--if it ever took place--Avery may have made his way to England
to dispose of his jewels, but we have no dates in the Dutchman’s
narrative, and no dates, and no authority quoted by Johnson for his
account of the last days of Avery. No reliance whatever can be placed
on Defoe’s _Life and Adventures of Captain John Avery_, “the King” in
Madagascar, 1720. Consequently the end of Avery remains, and probably
will remain, a mystery unsolved. Andrew Brice in his _Geographical
Dictionary_, published in 1759, under the heading of “Madagascar,”
says: “Pirates have had stations in these Harbours, among whom was
Avery, so much talked of 40 or 50 years ago.” Had Avery died at
Bideford, Brice as a Devonshire man would most likely have heard of it.
Salmon, in his _Universal Traveller_, 1759, says: “What became of Avery
himself I could never learn; but it is probable he is dead, or remains
concealed in the Island of Madagascar to this time; for he can expect
no Mercy from any of the Powers of Europe, if he should fall into their
hands, but as to being in such circumstances, as to lay the Foundation
of a New State or Kingdom in this Island, this report possibly deserves
little Credit. We should have heard more of him after so many years
elapsed, if he had made any figure there.”

According to Captain Johnson’s account, as we have seen, a Captain Wood
Rogers of the _Delicia_, a ship of forty guns, touched at Madagascar
with a design of purchasing slaves, and came on the settlement of the
crews of the two other vessels, but did not meet with Avery himself.


The life of this impostor or self-deluded woman is not pleasant to
write or to read, and it is only because in such a collection including
Devonshire oddities and unworthies she could not be excluded that her
story is here given.

Joanna was a native of Gittisham, the daughter of William and Hannah
Southcott, respectable people, the father a very small farmer. She
was baptized at Ottery St. Mary, on 6 June, 1750. There was nothing
remarkable in her during the first forty years of her life. She was
in domestic service, and then moved to Exeter, where she entered the
household of an upholsterer, in 1790.

What turned her head was the visit of a revivalist Methodist preacher,
who, combining the most fiery evangelic preaching with laxity of
morals, lived in adultery with her mistress, and endeavoured to seduce
the daughter. But his ministrations in the pulpit were acceptable. He
shrieked and threatened till sometimes the whole congregation fell flat
and rigid on the floor, when he would walk in and out among them and
revive them by assuring them they had received pardon for all their
sins, were elect vessels, and that their election was sealed in heaven.
He would declare that there never was a man so highly favoured of God
as himself, and that he would not thank God to make him other than what
he was, unless he made him greater than every other man on earth,
and placed supreme power in his hands; and he boasted, when he heard of
the death of a man who had derided his mission, that he had prayed this
man to death.

[Illustration: Joanna Southcott. Jan^y 1812

Published by Jane Townley London.  Drawn and Engraved from life by Wm

Isaiah Ch. LXV & LXVI., JOANNA SOUTHCOTT, Jan^y. 1812

_Published according to Act of Parliament Jany 12th 1812 by Jane
Townley London._]

All the servants in the house were afraid of this preacher; but Joanna
affirmed that he had no power over her, and that she was wont to think
that the room was full of spirits when he was engaged in prayer. But
though she fancied this man had no power over her, he certainly had,
and turned her into a fanatic, intoxicating her with his own spiritual

When first she went to Exeter, she attended the services in the
cathedral, but she left the Church and joined the Wesleyans in 1791, as
she affirmed, by Divine command, for she was already beginning to see
visions. The ministers of the sect frequented her master’s shop, and
took a good deal of notice of Joanna, and this encouraged her to launch
forth in the course she afterwards pursued. In 1792 she stated that
she had had a vision of the Lord, and a meeting of Methodist preachers
was summoned to discuss her spiritual condition. It concluded by their
signing a paper to the effect that her calling was of God.

One of the Methodist preachers in Exeter was named Pomeroy, and he at
first more than half believed in her mission. She gave him a number
of sealed packets, which she told him contained her prophecies, and
desired him to keep them till a time she mentioned, when they were to
be opened and would prove the truth of her claim to inspiration.

The minister received the precious papers; but afterwards, when Joanna
publicly announced that he was a believer and a recipient of her
prophecies, he got frightened, and committed the unopened predictions
to the flames. “From that time,” says Southey, “all the Joannians,
who are now a considerable number, regard him as the arch-apostate.
He is the Jehoiakim, who burnt Jeremiah’s roll; he is their Judas
Iscariot, a second Lucifer. They call upon him to produce those
prophecies, which she boldly asserts, and they implicitly believe,
have all been fulfilled, and therefore would convince the world of
the truth of her mission. In vain does Mr. Pomeroy answer that he has
burnt these unhappy papers: in an unhappy hour for himself did he burn
them! Day after day long letters are dispatched to him, sometimes from
Joanna herself, sometimes from her brother, sometimes from one of her
four-and-twenty elders, filled with exhortation, invective, texts of
Scripture, and denunciations of the law in this world and the devil
in the next; and these letters the prophetess prints, for the very
sufficient reason--that all her believers purchase them. Mr. Pomeroy
sometimes treats them with contempt; at other times he appeals to their
compassion, and beseeches them, if they have any bowels of Christian
charity, to have compassion on him and let him rest.”

Meanwhile, the falling away of this believer was abundantly compensated
to Joanna by the accession of other adherents, both lay and clerical.
Among the persons of superior station in the world who became ardent
disciples was the Rev. T. P. Foley, incumbent of Old Swinford, in
Leicestershire, who should have written his name Folly, not Foley.

In 1792 she had a serious illness, and went to Plymtree to recruit.
When she was recovered she set to work again with renewed vigour. She
pretended to have found, whilst sweeping the house, a die with J.S.
on it between two stars, and this she used henceforth for sealing her
prophecies and her passports to heaven.

But she had other disappointments, beside the defection of Mr.
Pomeroy. One of his elders, Elias Carpenter, of Bermondsey, after going
a certain way with her, fell off. This, however, was later. He was
followed by six others. Thereupon she wrote and printed five letters of
denunciation and woe to the back-sliders.

By the sale of her sealed passports to heaven Joanna obtained a very
respectable revenue, and from being a poor working drudge she blossomed
out into a woman of substance. Her followers in Exeter were recognized
by the peculiarity of their dress, somewhat in the fashion of that of
the Quakers, the men being particularly distinguished by wearing a long
beard at a time when beards were not generally adopted.

In 1798 she moved to Bristol, and in 1801 began to publish books of
prophecies and warnings, which were eagerly purchased by her followers.
In 1802 she moved to London, where she was patronized by Sharp, the
engraver, and had other influential friends, Brothers, the fanatic, who
had proclaimed himself the promised Messiah, and a certain Miss Cott,
whom he admitted to be the daughter of King David and the future Queen
of the Hebrews. But Richard Brothers was sent to Bridewell, and those
who had believed in him, amongst others an M.P., Mr. Halhead, member
for Lymington, were drifting about in quest of some new delusion.
Joanna suited them to a nicety, and they rallied about her.

The books which she sent forth into the world were written partly in
prose, partly in rhyme, all the prose and most of the rhyme being
given forth as the direct words of the Almighty. It is not possible
to conceive that any persons could have been deluded by such rambling
nonsense, did one not know that human folly is like the Well of Zemzem
that is inexhaustible. Joanna’s handwriting was illegibly bad; so that
at last she found it advisable to pretend that she had received orders
from heaven to discard the pen, and deliver her oracles verbally, and
the words flowed from her faster than the scribes could write them
down. Her prophecies were words, and words only, a rhapsody of texts
and vulgar applications; the verse the vilest doggerel ever written,
and the rhyme and grammar equally bad. She made a pretty penny, not
only by the sale of her books, but also by her “Certificates for the
Millennium,” and her “Sealings of the Faithful,” passports to paradise.
Of these she sold between six and seven thousand, some at twelve
shillings, but most at a guinea; and she continued the sale until a
woman, Mary Bateman, a Leeds murderess, who had poisoned a Mrs. Perigo,
and had attempted to poison Mr. Perigo, was hanged in 1809, and it was
ascertained that this poisoner had been furnished by Joanna with one of
her passports to paradise.

In 1813, she first announced that she was to become the mother of
Shiloh, that she was the Woman spoken of in the Apocalypse as having
the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; the
twelve stars were twelve evangelists or apostles whom she sent abroad
to declare her revelations. In herself, she asserted, the scheme of
redemption would be completed, by woman came the fall of man, and by
woman must come his restoration. She was the Bride, the promised seed
who was to bruise the serpent’s head. The evening-star was placed in
the firmament to be her type. The immediate object of her call was to
destroy the devil; of this Satan was fully aware; and that it might
not be said he had foul play, a regular dispute of seven days was
agreed upon between him and Joanna, in which she was to be alone; the
conditions were that if she held out her argument for seven days,
Satan should retire from troubling the earth, but if she yielded,
then his kingdom was to stand. Accordingly, she went alone into a
solitary house for this contest. Joanna on this occasion was her own
secretary, and the _procès verbal_ of the conference was printed from
her manuscript. She set down all Satan’s blasphemies with the utmost
frankness, and the proficiency he displayed in vulgar language and
Billingsgate abuse is surprising.

Of all Joanna’s books this is the most curious. The conference
terminated like most theological disputes. Both parties grew warm; but
Joanna’s tongue was more lightly slung on its pivots, and she talked
Satan out of all patience. She gave him, as he complained, ten words
to his one, and allowed him no time to speak. All men, he said, were
already tired of her tongue, and now she had tired the devil.

This was not unreasonable; but he proceeded to abuse the whole sex,
which would be ungracious in any one, but in him was peculiarly
ungrateful. He said that no man could tame a woman’s tongue; it were
better to dispute with a thousand men than with one woman.

Once she declared that she had scratched the devil’s face with her
nails, and had even bitten off one of his fingers, and that his blood
tasted sweet.

When she announced to the world her pregnancy, her followers were
filled with breathless expectation. Presents came pouring in for the
coming Shiloh. One wealthy proselyte sent a cradle that cost £200,
manufactured by Seddons, a cabinet-maker of repute in Aldersgate
Street; another sent a pap-spoon that cost £100; and that nothing
might be lacking at this accouchement laced caps, infant’s napkins,
bibs, mantles, some of white satin, pap-boats, caudle-cups arrived. A
Bible also, richly bound, was not forgotten as a present to the coming
Messiah. The cradle is now in Salford Museum.

But what was most extraordinary of all is that a regular London
physician, a Dr. Richard Reece, having on the 7th of August, 1814,
visited Joanna, “to ascertain the probability of her being in a state
of pregnancy, as then given out,” declared his opinion to be that she
was perfectly right in the view she had taken of her situation, and
according to his own admission in a four-shilling pamphlet, entitled
_A Correct Statement of the Circumstances, etc._, which he published,
declared his belief in the fact. No wonder that after this the Rev. Mr.
Foley, who had headed a deputation that waited on the doctor to obtain
an authentic declaration of the conclusion to which he had come after
his first visit, and the whole body of the believers were frantic with
exultation and confidence; and that even a portion of the hitherto
incredulous public began to have misgivings, and not to know very well
what to think of the matter.

When Dr. Reece first saw the prophetess she expected to lie-in in a few
weeks; months however passed without bringing the looked-for event.
Further, to strengthen the delusion, it was unblushingly asserted that
a number of medical men of the highest reputation had been called in,
and that they had expressed their opinion affirmatively as to her

Dr. Sims, however, published a statement to this effect in the _Morning
Chronicle_ of September 3, 1814: “I went to see her on August 18th,
and after examining her, I do not hesitate to declare, it is my firm
opinion, that the woman called Joanna Southcott is not pregnant; and,
before I conclude this statement, I feel it right to say, that I am
convinced the poor woman labours under strong mental delusion.”

A Mr. Want, also, a surgeon, who was called in by Dr. Reece,
unhesitatingly declared his opinion that she was not in the family way,
as also that there were no hopes of her recovery.

Before her death, which took place on the 27th of December, she had
been confined to her bed for above ten weeks. During this time she
had lived in a state of mental exaltation, but towards the end her
courage failed. A scene in the chamber of the dying woman, which Dr.
Reece relates that he witnessed on the 19th of November, is not without

Five or six of the believers, who had been waiting, having been
admitted, “She desired them to be seated round her bed; when, spending
a few minutes in adjusting the bed-clothes with seeming attention,
and placing before her a white handkerchief, she thus addressed them,
as nearly as I can recollect, in the following words: ‘My friends,
some of you have known me nearly twenty-five years, and all of you
not less than twenty. When you have heard me speak of my prophecies,
you have sometimes heard me say that I doubted my inspiration. But,
at the same time, you would never let me despair. When I have been
alone it has often appeared delusion; but when the communications
were made to me I did not in the least doubt. Feeling, as I now do
feel, that my dissolution is drawing near, and that a day or two may
terminate my life, it all appears a delusion.’ She was by this exertion
quite exhausted, and wept bitterly.” She then, the doctor proceeds to
inform us, after some further discourse about her death and funeral,
wept again, and some of those present also shed tears; but after a
little while, one of them, Mr. Howe, spoke up, and said: “Mother, your
feelings are human. We know you are a favoured woman of God, and that
you will produce the promised child, and whatever you may say to the
contrary will not diminish our faith.”

This assurance, we are told, revived her, and from crying she fell to
laughing. She however then made her will.

Immediately on her decease, Dr. Reece wrote to the editor of the
_Sunday Monitor_, which had lent itself to become an organ of the

“Agreeably to your request, I send a messenger to acquaint you, that
Joanna Southcott died this morning precisely at 4 a.m. The believers
in her mission, supposing that the vital functions are only suspended
for a few days, will not permit me to open the body until some symptom
appears, which may destroy all hopes of resuscitation.”

In fact, in 1792, Joanna had published a prophecy to the effect that
she, the mother of Shiloh, previous to his birth would be as dead for
four days, and at the end of that period would revive and be delivered.
No sooner was she dead than her friends proceeded to wrap her body
in warm blankets, to place bottles of hot water at her feet, and by
keeping the room warm, to endeavour to preserve the vital spark.

Manchester Street was thronged by a crowd watching the house, and
inquiries respecting her resuscitation were constant and anxious. To
all inquiries the answer given was consolatory. On Saturday the crowd
again assembled early, before 4 a.m., and the most zealous pronounced
their positive conviction that she would come to life again that day.

But the prescribed period of four days and nights elapsed, and so far
was the body from exhibiting appearances of a temporary suspension
of animation, that it began to display a discoloration which at once
brought home to conviction the fact that the wretched Joanna was but
mortal. Preparations were made to dissect her remains. A summons was
issued to the surgeons who had expressed a wish to be present, and
at 2 p.m. fifteen gentlemen assembled; in addition were the apostle
Tozer, Colonel Harwood, and one or two other of Joanna’s followers and
proselytes. Ann Underwood was in the ante-room, much chagrined at the
disappointment of her hopes, and the breakdown of her convictions.

The examination of the body showed that Joanna Southcott had been
suffering from dropsy, which had killed her.

The adherents of the prophetess, who had awaited the event, skulked
off in great tribulation, and were happy to escape the populace, who
were outrageous towards any whom they suspected of adhering to the
sect of Joanna. This excusable indignation had nearly proved fatal in
the morning to an old lady who had rapped at the door of the house, to
make inquiries as to whether Joanna was already resuscitated. No sooner
was she suspected to be a disciple, than she was assailed with mud and
cabbage stalks.

Some glimmerings of sanity had lightened the mind of Joanna previous
to her death, and she had indited a will, in which she professed that
she had been a deceiver, prompted to play her part by the devil,
and directing that after her death, cradle, caudle-cups, pap-boats,
etc., that had been sent for the use of the coming Shiloh, should be
returned to the donors. She was buried in Marylebone burying-ground on
2 January, 1815. On her stone was inscribed:--

        In Memory of Joanna Southcott,
    who departed this life December 27, 1814, aged 60 years.

        While through all my wondrous days,
        Heaven and earth enraptured gaze,
        While vain sages think they know
        Secrets _thou_ alone canst show,
        Time alone will tell what hour
        Thou’lt appear in greater power!

The composition evidently of one of her dupes, hoping on still. She
was really aged sixty-four years. Her tombstone was shattered by the
great gunpowder explosion in the Regent’s Park Canal in 1874. The
delusion was not at an end with the death and burial of Joanna. Sharp,
the engraver, ever after maintained that she was not really dead, and
would rise again and become the mother of Shiloh. When he was sitting
to Haydon for his portrait, he predicted that Joanna would reappear in
the month of July, 1822.

“But suppose she should not?” said Haydon.

“I tell you that she will,” retorted Sharp; “but if she should not,
nothing would shake my faith in her divine mission.”

Those who were near Sharp during his last illness, state that in this
belief he died.

Nor was he singular. Some of her one hundred thousand adherents fell
away, but a great many remained, waiting in yearly expectation for her
reappearance. The men bound themselves by a vow not to shave their
beards till her resurrection. It need scarcely be said that they
descended to their graves unshorn.

Under the date of January, 1817, the _Annual Register_ quotes the
following notice of the proceedings of the sect from a Lincoln
newspaper of the day: “An interdict arrived at Newark, on Sunday, the
19th instant, from a disciple of the Conclave at Leeds, inhibiting
those of the faith, amongst other things, from attending to their
ordinary business during the ensuing eight or nine days; and a
manufacturer’s shop at that place is at this time entirely deserted,
and the business of many small dealers suspended in consequence.” This
was due to the expectation of the resuscitation of Joanna.

Leeds was one of the strongholds of Joannism, and several of the
founder’s publications are dated from that place.

Two years after this, in January, 1817, the London disciples made a
remarkable outbreak. One morning, having assembled somewhere in the
West End of the metropolis, they made their way to Temple Bar, passing
through which, they set forward in procession through the City, each
decorated with a white cockade, and wearing a small star of yellow
riband on the left breast. In this guise, led by one of their number,
carrying a brazen trumpet ornamented with light blue ribands, while
two boys marching by his side bore each a flag of silk, they proceeded
along Fleet Street, up Ludgate Hill, and thence through St. Paul’s
Churchyard to Bridge Row, followed by the rabble in great force. Here,
having reached what they considered to be the centre of the great city,
they halted; and then their leader sounded his trumpet, and roared out
that the Shiloh, the Prince of Peace, was come again to the earth;
to which a woman who was with him, and who was said to be his wife,
responded with another wild cry of “Woe! woe! to the inhabitants of the
earth, because of the coming of Shiloh.” This terrific vociferation was
repeated several times, and joined in by the rest of the party. But at
last the mob, which now completely blocked up the street, from laughing
and shouting proceeded to pelting the enthusiasts with mud and harder
missiles. They struggled to make their escape, or to beat off their
assailants; this led to a general fight; the flags were torn, and the
affray ended in the trumpeter and his wife, five other men and the two
boys of the party, after having been rolled in the mire, being rescued
from the fury of the multitude by the constables, and conveyed to the

When they were brought up the next day before the alderman at
Guildhall, they maintained that they were only obeying the commands of
God in acting as they had done. Their spokesman, the trumpeter, who
turned out to be one Sibley, a City watchman, who appeared to exercise
great authority over the others, said that he had proclaimed the second
coming of the Shiloh in the same manner and with the same authority
as John the Baptist, who had announced the first coming; and his wife
asserted that she had had the Shiloh in her arms four times. In the end
they were all sent back to prison, to be detained till they could find
security for their peaceful demeanour in future.

A remnant of the sect, the Jezreelites, lingered on for long at
Chatham, remarkable for the general singularity of their manners and

The Joannites are now almost, if not wholly, extinct, leaving room for
some newer outbreak of religious folly.

If we did not live at a period when such charlatans as Dr. Dowie and
Mrs. Eddy have appeared, drawn about them crowds of adherents, and
conjured tens of thousands of pounds out of their pockets, we should
have supposed that such irruptions of religious mania, such eagerness
to believe in a lie, such credulous clinging to an impostor, were a
thing of the remote past. But the fools, like the poor, are always with
us, and--

    Still Dunce the Second reigns like Dunce the First.


_From the original in the collection of A. M. Broadley, Esq._]

[Illustration: JOANNA SOUTHCOTT]


_Reproduced from the original print in the collection of A. M.
Broadley. Esq._]

The question presents itself to the mind whether Joanna was a conscious
impostor, or whether she was self-deluded. With her dying confession
and her will before us, it would seem that she knew that she was
imposing on the credulity of men and women. She had seen a debauched
and dissolute Methodist preacher in her master’s house pose as an
apostle and as inspired, and draw crowds and convince them that he
was an oracle of God. She imitated him, and found that her imitation
was successful, and also that it paid well. She was able to command
thousands of pounds from her dupes, and it flattered her vanity to be
appreciated as one half divine.

She had occasional qualms of conscience, but her devotees had more
faith in her than she had in herself, and they overbore every feeble
attempt to retrace her steps.

The authorities for her life are numerous.

    Southey has given a full account of her in _Letters from England by
    Dom M. A. Espriella_. London, 1806.

    A full account of the dissection of her body is given in _Notes and
    Gleanings_, VI, 15 December, 1891. Exeter, 1891.

    A reproduction of one of her Passports to Heaven made out to
    Richard Hubbard, is in _Devon Notes and Queries_, Vol. II. Exeter,

    _Memoirs of the Life and Mission of Joanna Southcott_, to which
    is added a sketch of the Rev. W. Tozer, /M.J.S./, with
    portrait. London, 1814.

    _Life of Joanna Southcott the Prophetess: her Astounding Writings,
    etc., with Caricature Portrait._ London, 1814.

    _The Life of Joanna Southcott, the Prophetess, etc., with Portrait
    and View of the Crib for the Expected Messiah._ London, 1814.

    Fairburn’s edition of the _Prophetess_. Portrait and Prints.
    London, 1814.

    _The Life and Prophecies of Joanna Southcott, from her Infancy to
    the Present Time, etc._ Portrait. London.

    _The Life of Joanna Southcott, illustrative of her supposed
    Mission, etc._ By D. Hughson, /LL.D./ Portrait. London, 1814.

    _Full Particulars of the Last Moments of the Pretended Prophetess,
    Joanna Southcott._ London, 1815.

    _A Correct Statement of the Circumstances that attended the last
    illness and death of Mrs. Southcott._ By Richard Reece, m.d.
    London, 1815.

    _A Complete Refutation of the Statements and Remarks._ Published by
    Dr. Reece, relative of Mrs. Southcott. London, 1815.

    _The Case of Joanna Southcott, as far as it came under his
    professional observation, impartially stated._ By P. Mathias,
    Surgeon and Apothecary. Portrait. London, 1815.

    _The Life and Death of Joanna Southcott, with the particulars of
    her will, and an account of her dissection._ Woodcut. London (n.d.).

    _Memoirs of the Life and Mission of Joanna Southcott._ Portrait.
    London, 1814.

There are other tracts, but these are the principal.

    /Note./--Mr. A. M. Broadly, of Bridport, kindly supplies the
    following note:--

    Stourbridge, in the second decade of the nineteenth century, was
    a stronghold of the followers of Joanna Southcott. Amongst them
    was the Rev. T. P. Foley, a member of one of the leading county
    families of the district. In the spring of 1814 the coming of
    the Shiloh was announced, and a crib and a pap-bowl were among
    the presents which were made by the faithful. The pap-bowl was
    presented in June, and was engraved by Lowe of Birmingham. It
    has on it a portrait, cherubim in rays of light, the dove with
    the olive branch, and a crowned child leading a lion, with two
    repetitions of “Glory to God.” The reverse of the bowl contains,
    within two branches of laurel and oak, the following inscription:
    “A Token of Love to the Prince of Peace. From the Believers of
    Joanna Southcott’s Divine Mission in Stourbridge and its vicinity.”


In the year 1829 Mr. Warburton introduced a Bill into the House of
Commons for the prevention of the unlawful disinterment of human bodies
and for the regulation of schools of anatomy. The horrible revelations
of the murders--at least thirty--committed by Burke and Hare, in
Edinburgh, for the sake of providing subjects for the purposes of
anatomy to lecture on, had produced a profound emotion. The Bill passed
the House of Commons, but was thrown out by the Lords.

So long as the European war continued, the period of time required
for the completion of the education of medical students, so as to fit
them for the service in the Army or Navy, was unduly short, and the
study of anatomy was consequently much neglected. At that time the
dissecting-rooms were supplied by men who in general exhumed bodies.
The trade was lucrative; one resurrectionist at his death left nearly
£6000 to his family. Another resurrectionist, after a long career,
withdrew in 1817. He had attended the army in the Peninsula and in
France as a licensed sutler, and after a battle went over the field
extracting the teeth of those who had fallen and such as were dying,
and disposed of them to dentists in England. With the produce of these
sales he built a large hotel at Margate. A leading resurrectionist once
received £144 for twelve subjects in one evening. Sir Astley Cooper
expended hundreds of pounds in the purchase of bodies and in advancing
money to screen these useful auxiliaries of the anatomical school. To
obtain the liberation of one he paid £160.

The proper education of a surgeon demanded that he should be acquainted
with anatomy, and the only provision made by the legislature was that
the bodies of criminals who had been executed should be handed over
to the schools. This did not furnish by any means an adequate number,
and the professors of anatomy were obliged to have recourse to the
professional purveyor of corpses, knowing well enough, or suspecting,
whence they came.

A select committee of the House of Commons was appointed to inquire
into the matter, and several of the profession were had up for

Here is the evidence of one resurrectionist, condensed:--

“A man may make a good living at it if he is a sober man, and acts
with judgment. I should suppose there are at present in London between
forty and fifty men that have the name of raising subjects. If you are
friends with a grave-digger, the thing will be all right to know what
bodies to get; if you are not, you cannot get them. The largest number
of bodies I have got were twenty-three in four nights. It was only in
one year that I got one hundred. Perhaps the next year I did not get
above fifty or sixty. When I go to work I like to get those of poor
people buried from the workhouses, because, instead of working for one
subject, you may get three or four. I do not think, during the time I
have been in the habit of working for the schools, I got half a dozen
of wealthier people.”

A second said: “The course I should take would be to have the
workhouse subjects; we can get them out of the burial-ground without
any difficulty whatever.”

One of the largest dealers was Israel Cohen, commonly called Izzy,
a Jew, well known to surgeons and sextons. By the surgeons he was
patronized; of the sextons he was the patron; and so complete was
the understanding between the profession to which he belonged and
those with which he was connected, that the interest of all three was
advanced by coalition. He was a square-built, resolute ruffian, with
features indicative of his Hebrew origin, black whiskers, and a squint.

The Plymouth medical men memorialized the Government in 1827 relating
to the necessity they were in of having human bodies for dissection,
and the inadequacy of the legitimate supply. “In other countries,” they
said, “the dissection of the dead, so necessary to the well-being of
the living, is permitted and protected; and is actually prosecuted,
without shocking any existing prejudice or violating the sanctities of
the dead. It follows either that the professional gentlemen of this
kingdom must be contented with a very inferior medical education, or
that they must resort to the Continent to obtain that information which
is denied to them by the laws of Great Britain.” The alternative of
having recourse to resurrectionists they did not refer to. The memorial
produced no results.

In the recent alterations of Princetown Church, it was found that no
inconsiderable number of the graves of the French prisoners who died
during incarceration were empty. There can be little doubt that the
bodies were disposed of to the surgeons in Plymouth. It was generally
supposed that the body-snatchers in exhuming a corpse first proceeded,
as would a novice, in excavating the whole grave, and having arrived
at the coffin would then force off the lid and so get possession of
the body. But this would have been too slow an operation. To do the job
expeditiously they cleared away the earth above the head of the coffin
only, taking care to leave that which covered the rest of the coffin
undisturbed. As soon as about one-third of the chest was thus exposed,
they forced a very strong crowbar between the end of the coffin and the
lid, and easily prised it open. It usually happened at this stage of
the proceedings that the superincumbent weight of earth on the other
portion of the coffin-lid caused it to be snapped across. As soon as
this was effected the body was drawn out, the death-gear removed from
it and replaced in the coffin, and finally the body was tied up in
a bundle or thrust into a sack and taken away, the whole operation
lasting not over a quarter of an hour.

Very generally a hackney coach or a spring cart was in waiting to
receive the body. When corpses were sent from the country to London
they were generally packed in barrels or hat-crates. But when one was
to be taken to a dissecting-room in the same town it was laid on a
large piece of green baize, the four corners were tied together, and
so the body was rolled up in a bundle. The body-snatcher would then,
dressed as a porter, swing the load over his shoulder, and often, even
in broad daylight, carry it to its place of destination through the
most crowded streets.

Every means which ingenuity could suggest was put in practice to obtain
bodies which had not been buried. For this purpose the men, when they
heard of the body of a person being found--drowned, for instance, and
lying to be owned--trumped up a story of an unfortunate brother or
sister, humbugged a coroner’s jury, and thus obtained possession of
the body. In this sort of trickery the wives of the men were often
employed, as their application was attended to with less suspicion,
and it was never difficult to impose on the parochial officials, who
were always anxious to avoid the expense of burying the deceased.
Subjects were thus occasionally procured, but they were more frequently
obtained by pretending relationship to persons dying without friends in
hospitals and workhouses. As the bodies thus obtained were much fresher
than those which had been buried, they produced generally, independent
of the teeth, as much as twelve guineas each.

At the commencement of a new term at the hospitals, the lecturers on
anatomy were beset by the leading dealers in subjects, and “fifty
pounds down, and nine guineas a body,” was often acceded to. The larger
sum down secured to the lecturer the exclusive supply of that dealer’s
wares. The competition for subjects was great, and in some cases twenty
pounds were paid for a single corpse in good condition.

Stoke Church and yard lay solitary amid waste land. It had a wall round
it, but no houses very near, and there were no oil lamps burning in the
road that passed it.

A strong suspicion was entertained that the graves there had been
rifled, and were so continually, and it was proposed to the parish
authorities to have lamps and organize a night watch. But the officials
shrank from the expense, and many people reasoned that it were well
to allow the resurrectionists to get bodies from graves, as bodies
the surgeons must have, rather than run the risk of inducing these
scoundrels to imitate the proceedings of Burke by killing individuals
for the purpose. Within a stone’s throw of Mill Bridge was a commodious
residence called Mount Pleasant, with Stonehouse Lake or Creek on one
side, and Stoke Church on the other. A man, apparently well to do, a
Mr. Gosling, took the house, and brought in a somewhat mixed party
of men and women. The neighbours thought the family was peculiar,
but as he was a pleasant-spoken man and the ladies of the party were
affable and sympathetic, and as he paid his way with punctuality, they
were content. Indeed, they were more than content. The females of the
Gosling household attended every funeral, and expressed their tenderest
feelings of regard and pity for the mourners, asked all particulars
about the deceased, his or her age, and what malady had hurried the
lamented one to his grave, as also occasionally whether the deceased
had good teeth. At night, immediately after every funeral, the men of
the party stole forth, furnished with crowbar and spades, and equipped
with a sack or two, and made their way into the graveyard, where they
worked by the light of a dark lantern. The sexton had been squared,
and he had not made the grave very deep, nor had he heaped the earth
thickly over it.

But the gang did not confine operations to the last interment. They
opened other graves, and if the corpses were too much decomposed to
be of any commercial value they contented themselves with drawing all
their teeth.

Sometimes it happened that the subjects when removed to Mount Pleasant
underwent rapid decomposition. Then they were buried in the garden, and
restored to the graveyard on the next visit.

Neighbours now began to notice that lights were burning in Mount
Pleasant at all times of the night. It was also remarked that the grave
mounds bore a suspicious look of having been tampered with--not those
recently made only, but others more ancient.

In the nearest house was a shrewd, observant servant-girl, and
the lights, the way they moved about at night in the rooms of the
villa--not in the bedrooms, but downstairs, at times when every one
else was asleep--aroused her suspicions. Her bedroom window commanded
the villa of Gosling and Co., and wake at what time she might or
however early in the morning before daybreak, there the lights were.
She resolved on keeping watch; and she stationed herself where,
unseen, she could observe proceedings. Towards midnight she saw dark
figures emerge from Mount Pleasant and make their way to Stoke Church.
Follow she did not. Her courage was not equal to that; but she waited
and watched till the figures stole back, and on this occasion she
distinctly saw sacks being carried on the backs of two of the men.
She now remembered that she had often noticed packing-cases and casks
being taken from the villa to the water’s edge and placed on a barge
apparently waiting there for its load. In the morning the girl told her
master what she had seen, and he at once apprised the police.

These latter now placed themselves behind the wall at night to watch
what would happen; they were rewarded one night after there had been a
couple of funerals in the churchyard. The constables saw the men dig
and shovel for about ten minutes; heard them strike a coffin-lid, and
proceed to force it up. Then by the faint light they saw them remove
a corpse and put it into a sack. Thereupon one of the men came out
of the yard as a scout to see that the coast was clear. After that
they hoisted the body over the churchyard wall and made towards Mount
Pleasant. As the constables on this occasion were but two and there was
a considerable gang in the villa, they returned to Devonport, where
they collected a sufficient force of watchmen and special constables,
and surrounded the building, where the resurrectionists were enjoying
a refreshing sleep after their labours. Scaling the wall by means of a
ladder and advancing in their stocking-soles, they entered the various
bedrooms, and secured four men and two women, pinioned and gagged them.
They were taken completely by surprise.

In the kitchen were found two sacks. In one was the body of a girl
of eighteen, in the other that of an elderly man. The cupboards and
drawers were stocked with extracted teeth and implements of dentistry
for drawing them.

When on the following morning it was noised in Devonport that a
confederacy of body-snatchers had been captured, the greatest
excitement prevailed. The relatives of all who had died and been buried
within a couple of years and more crowded the cemetery demanding that
the graves of their kinsfolk should be examined. The graveyard turned
out to have been a mine well worked. Grave after grave was opened, and
dishevelled shrouds and mutilated bodies, teethless jaws, revealed to
the distracted relatives of the dead that the graves had been violated.

Gosling and his confederates were brought to trial, and confessed their
guilt, and even revelled in their horrible reminiscences. Gosling
grimly recalled how on one night the resurrection party had been so
drunk that they had fought in an open grave under the shadow of the

This took place in 1830. Gosling and his confederates were transported.

It was not till 1832 that Mr. Warburton’s Bill, already referred to,
passed both Houses; and public feeling had been further stirred on
the subject by the case of Bishop and Williams, who had murdered an
Italian boy in London for the sake of providing a subject for S.
Bartholomew’s Hospital, and Bishop had admitted that he had committed
sixty such murders.

The objection raised to the Bill in the House of Lords in the first
instance, and again in the second, was that Warburton’s project was
that such persons as died in a hospital, and whose bodies were not
claimed by relatives, should be given up for dissection. What the
Lords objected to was that this subjected the poor to what might be
considered an evil in which the rich did not participate. But the
serious condition of affairs, the evidence that many murders were
committed so as to provide the anatomical schools with subjects,
overrode the sentimental feeling, and the Bill passed. Happy indeed
would it have been if it had passed thirty years earlier.


It is not my intention to give a detailed biography of John Gay, for
such is easily procurable, either in Cox’s Life of the poet, or in the
_Dictionary of National Biography_, or, again, in the Life, prefixed to
his works, by J. Underhill, 1893. All here proposed is to give a brief
sketch, and fill out two points, the story of _The Beggars’ Opera_, and
that of the discovery of MSS. in Gay’s chair.

The Gays of Goldsworthy were an ancient Devonshire family, tracing back
in direct descent from a John Gay, already seated in his warm nest at
Goldsworthy, in Parkham, near Bideford, a parish that nursed as well
the Giffards of Halsbury and the Risdons of Babley. But if Parkham
nursed these families, it did not keep them; Giffards, Risdons, Gays
are all gone, and the Gays had sold Goldsworthy before Risdon wrote
his Survey between 1605 and 1630. But the Gays still retained the old
priory of Frithelstock which they held on a long lease from 1602, and
where lived the widow of a Gay in 1822, when Lysons published his
“Devonshire” in _Magna Britannia_.

John Gay was the son of William Gay, fourth son of John Gay of
Frithelstock. William had married the daughter of a Dissenting preacher
named Hanmer, in Barnstaple, and there John was born on 30 June, 1685.
William Gay died when John was but ten years old, and he was brought
up by his mother in Ivy Street, Barnstaple, and sent to school to
Robert Luck, a would-be poet, who wrote Latin and English verses, in
one of which, “The Female Phæton,” he depicted the career and lapse of
a fast young lady of fashionable life.

[Illustration: _M^r. Gay._]

Gay was bound apprentice to a London mercer, but, his health failing,
he returned to Barnstaple, where he dwelt with his uncle, the
Dissenting minister, John Hanmer. The association must have been most
unsuitable to both. John “_toujours gai_” with a poet’s fancy, a
buoyant heart, what more incongruous than to be lodged under the roof
and nourished at the table of a sour and moody Puritan!

How and when he broke away from this depressing and distressing
environment we do not know. All that is known of this early period
is to be found in a little work called _Gay’s Chair_, written by his
nephew, Joseph Ballard. At the age of twenty-one he wrote his first
piece, _Rural Sports_, which he dedicated to Pope, with whom he
became afterwards allied in intimate friendship. In 1712 we find him
secretary, or rather domestic steward, to the Duchess of Monmouth, in
which station he continued till the beginning of the year 1714, at
which time he accompanied the Earl of Clarendon to Hanover, whither
that nobleman was dispatched by Queen Anne. In the latter part of the
same year, in consequence of the Queen’s death, he returned to England,
where he lived in the highest estimation and intimacy of friendship
with many persons of rank; he became, in fact, the petted lap-dog of
fashionable society.

Queen Caroline, then Princess of Wales, was interested in him, and
sent to invite him to read his play, _The Captives_, before her at
Leicester House. The day was fixed, and Gay was commanded to attend.
He waited some time in a presence chamber, with his manuscript in his
hand, but being a modest man, and unequal to the trial into which he
was entering, when the door of the drawing-room was thrown open, where
the Princess sat with her ladies, he was so much confused and concerned
about making the proper obeisance that he did not see a low footstool
that happened to be in the way; and, stumbling over it, fell against
a large screen, which he upset, and threw the ladies into no small

In 1726 he dedicated his _Fables_, by permission, to the Duke of
Cumberland. From his countenance, and promises made of preferment, he
hoped to have obtained some office in which, without being overworked,
he might be well paid, and able to devote himself more at leisure to
the Muses. Instead of which, in 1727, he was offered the place of
gentleman-usher to one of the youngest princesses; an offer which, as
he regarded, it was insulting to make. In a fit of resentment, and in
ill-humour with the Court, he wrote _The Beggars’ Opera_ as a satire on
the Italian opera, then warmly patronized by the Court.

Swift had observed to Gay what an old, pretty sort of thing a Newgate
pastoral would make. Gay was inclined to consider the suggestion,
but afterwards, hot in his resentment against the Court, turned the
theme into a comedy. He began _The Beggars’ Opera_, and mentioned it
to Swift, but the Doctor did not much like the project. As he carried
it on, he showed what he had written to him and to Pope, and they now
and then gave him a correction or a word or two of advice; but it was
wholly of his own writing. When it was done, neither of them thought it
would succeed. The play was offered in 1727 to Cibber at Drury Lane,
and was by him rejected with contempt. Congreve read it over and
said, “It will either take greatly or be damned confoundedly.”


The play was, however, accepted by Rich, and produced at Lincoln’s
Inn Fields Theatre. When brought on the stage on the first night, 29
January, 1727-8, Gay’s friends sat in great uncertainty of the event,
till they were vastly encouraged by overhearing the Duke of Argyll, who
sat in the next box, say: “It will do--it must do! I see it in the eyes
of them!” When Polly Peachum sang her pathetic appeal to her parents--

    O ponder well, be not severe
      To save a wretched wife,
    For on the rope that hangs my dear
      Depends poor Polly’s life,

and this, to the air of “The Babes in the Wood,” familiar to the
entire audience from their nurseries, the effect was magical. The
audience broke into a roar of applause, and the success of the play was

The plot of the piece was thin and poor, but the people were refreshed,
and rejoiced to hear again the old familiar notes of English music.
There were sixty-nine airs in _The Beggars’ Opera_, and nearly every
one was an old English ballad or song air. Gay was not himself a
musician, but he had his head full of old ballads and their airs,
most, doubtless, picked up about Barnstaple or Bideford, and he set
to the tunes words suitable to his characters and the dialogue, and
then got a German named Pepusch to note them down for him and write a
simple orchestral accompaniment and an overture. The author, according
to Mace, got the entire receipts of four nights, amounting in the
aggregate to £693 13s. 6d., whereas Rich, the manager, after the piece
had been performed thirty-six times, had pocketed nearly £4000. It was
well said that this play made Rich _gay_, and Gay _rich_.

Lavinia Fenton had been tempted by Rich from the Haymarket to Lincoln’s
Inn Fields to act the part of Polly in _The Beggars’ Opera_ at a salary
of 15s. per week, but owing to the enormous success of the play he
raised it to 30s.; and such was the rage of the town respecting her
that she was obliged to be guarded home every night by a considerable
party of her confidential friends, to prevent her being hurt by the
crowd or being run away with. The Duke of Bolton became enamoured of
her--took her under his protection, as the euphemism went. The Duke
was then in the prime of life, living apart from his wife. “Polly” was
not remarkably pretty, but she had a charming manner and a delicious
voice. Wharton tells us that he knew her, and could testify to her
wit, intelligence, and good manners. “Her conversation,” says he, “was
admired by the first characters of the age, particularly the old Lord
Bathurst and Lord Grenville.” She and the Duke had several quarrels,
and after one very serious explosion he gave her notice to quit the

She retired to her room, assumed the costume of Polly Peachum,
returned, and presenting herself before him in all the grace and charm
with which she had first won him, with tears in her eyes, sang--

      Oh, what pain it is to part!
    Can I leave thee? Can I leave thee?
      Oh, what pain it is to part!
    Can thy Polly ever leave thee?

to the air “Gin thou wert mine ain thing,” to which it had been set by

Touched by the remembrance of the past and by her witchery of
manner, the Duke opened his arms, she flew to his heart, and the
reconciliation was complete. On the death of the Duchess, the Duke
married Lavinia Fenton at Aix in Provence, 21 October, 1751, just
one day beyond the month after the death of his wife, who died on 20

The children borne by “Polly” to the Duke before the marriage were
three sons, who all assumed the name of Powlett. The Duke died on 26
August, 1754, and was succeeded in the dukedom by his brother. “Polly”
Fenton died at West Combe Park, Kent, on 24 January, 1760, at the age
of fifty-two.

Assuredly never was a more sudden, complete, and unexpected success
achieved than that by the production of _The Beggars’ Opera_. It defied
the prevailing taste; it went contrary to all the received canons
of art, it was as audacious as a play as it was musically. Hitherto
the Opera had been in the hands of Italians. The themes selected for
musical setting had been classic and mythological. Then came Gay,
taking his subject from the lowest class--gaol-birds; and discarding
all intricate and foreign music, set his songs to melodies familiar to
all from their cradles.

It was said of the deserted stalls and boxes at the Italian Opera
whilst Gay’s piece held the town, that he had made of the Italian the
veritable Beggars’ Opera.

Sir Robert Walpole was frequently the subject of Gay’s satire.
Nevertheless he attended the first performance, and sat in one of the
stage lounges. When Lockit sang--

        When you censure the age,
        Be cautious and sage,
    Lest the courtiers offended should be.
      If you mention _vice_ or _bribe_,
      ’Tis so pat to all the tribe,
    That each cries--That was levelled at me!

Sir Robert observing that all eyes turned upon him at these lines,
parried the thrust by leading the applause. After an uninterrupted run
in London of sixty-three nights, and emptying the Italian Opera House,
the play spread into all the great towns of England, and was played in
many places thirty or forty times--in Bath and Bristol fifty times. It
made its progress into Wales, where it contributed some of its airs to
national Welsh melody, to Scotland and Ireland; and last of all it was
performed in Minorca.

Nor was its fame confined to the reading and representation alone, for
the card-table and the drawing-room shared with the theatre and the
closet in this respect; the ladies carried about the favourite songs
engraven on their fans, and screens were decorated with scenes from the

Hogarth’s painting representing the first scene on the boards, with
noble dukes and earls on fauteuils upon the stage, is well known. His
portrait of Polly Fenton is in the National Gallery.

_The Beggars’ Opera_ was revived by Messrs. Gatti at Covent Garden
in the season 1878-9. On this occasion wrote _Punch_: “The house
was literally crammed from floor to ceiling by an audience whose
enthusiastic temperature increased in a graduated thermometrical scale,
the over-boiling point being reached at the back row of the upper
gallery; and this on a night when, in the stalls and boxes, wrappers,
furs, mantles, and ulsters were _de rigueur_ on account of the rigour
of the cold.... Let those who do not believe in a comic tenor see Sims
Reeves as Captain Macheath, and they will discover what magic there
is even in a refrain of ‘tol-de-lol, lol-de-rol, loddy,’ when given
by a tenor who is not impressed by the absurd traditional notion that
he is nothing if not sentimental. His acting of the celebrated song
‘How happy could I be with either’ is full of humour, and his change
of manner from ‘tol-de-rol’ in a tender tone, when addressed to the
gentle, confiding Polly, to the ‘tol-de-rol’ with a true Cockney
chick-a-leary twang when addressed to the vulgar Lucy Lockit, is a
clever idea, most artistically carried out; and then his dance up the
stage while singing, giving his last note good and true to the end in
spite of his unaccustomed exertion, as with a jump he seats himself
in a natural devil-may-care style upon the table, was followed by an
_encore_ so momentous that even he, the _anti-encorist_, was fain to
comply with the enthusiastic demand; so he repeated the two verses, the
dance, and the jump with as much freshness and vigour as though he had
not already sung six songs--snatches, more or less, it is true--and had
got ten more to follow.”

As a man, Gay was amiable and winning in manner. He had a
foible--indolence. Nevertheless he had saved several thousand pounds
at the time of his death, which occurred in the house of the Duke and
Duchess of Queensberry, in Burlington Gardens, in December, 1732, and
he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

And now, having done with the man, we come to his chair.

Rather over eighty years after the death of Gay some unpublished
poems of his were found in an old arm-chair which had belonged to the
poet, and after his death had been retained, with other relics, by
the surviving members of his family. The history was fully narrated
immediately after the discovery in a little book, called _Gay’s
Chair_, along with the life of the poet and a selection of the poems
discovered; some were too broad in humour for publication.

It appears that at a sale in 1818 of the effects of a man called
Clarke, who had kept an old-clothes and curiosity shop in Barnstaple,
an antique chair was disposed of. It is described as of mahogany, with
the seat, back, and arms stuffed, and covered with brown leather and
studded with brass nails. There was a long drawer under the seat, and
two other drawers were fixed on pivots so as to turn back under the
arms, and were fitted for writing materials, with a brass candlestick
attached to each and a wooden leaf for reading or writing. It was
knocked down for a few shillings, and being rather dilapidated, was
sent to Mr. Crook, cabinet-maker, to be repaired. Whilst doing this he
found that the drawer under the seat did not extend the full depth of
the seat, and that when this drawer was taken out it disclosed another
behind it. This concealed drawer was crammed with MSS. and paper. These
were submitted to inspection, and found to consist of some unpublished
poems, together with a variety of other documents and accounts.

This discovery caused much local sensation at the time. It was
ascertained that the chair had been purchased some years previously at
the sale of the effects of Mrs. Williams, a descendant of Catherine,
the poet’s sister, who had married Anthony Baller. She had come in for
Gay’s furniture as next-of-kin, and it was then considered as proved
beyond all reasonable doubt that it had been Gay’s property. Mr.
Henry Lee edited the poems, and they were published in 1820, with a
frontispiece representing the chair. Mr. Chanter says:--“Now all this
seems like a clever fiction introductory to a book, and indeed the idea
of finding papers in a concealed drawer or cabinet has been used so
often as to become threadbare. I have therefore taken pains to verify
the story, gaining further details from Mr. Crook himself, who is
still living, and, fiction-like as it appears, it is strictly and
literally true.”[19]

[Illustration: GAY’S CHAIR


Under the arms of the Chair are drawers, with the necessary implements
for writing; each drawer turns on a pivot, and has attached to it
a brass candlestick. The wooden leaf for reading or writing upon,
may be raised or depressed, or entirely let down, at the student’s
pleasure. Under the seat is a drawer for books or paper, and behind
it is the _concealed drawer_, in which were found the manuscripts;
it is curiously fastened by a small bolt, not perceivable till the
larger drawer is removed. The Chair is made of very fine grained, dark
coloured mahogany; the seat, back, and arms stuffed, and covered with
brown leather, ornamented with brass nails; the whole, considering
its antiquity, in pretty good repair, and admirably constructed for
meditative ease and literary application.]

One of the poems found in the chair is “The Ladies’ Petition to the
House of Commons,” the suffragettes of the day. It is founded on the
old ballad of “Nice Young Maidens.”

    Here’s a pretty set of us
        Nice young maidens.
    Here’s a pretty set of us
    All for husbands at a loss
    But we cannot tarry thus,
        Nice young maidens.

There is a Scottish version of the same, “Puir auld Maidens,” borrowed
from England.

Gay wrote:--

    Sirs:--We, the maids of Exon-City,
    The maids--good lack! the more’s the pity!
    We humbly offer this petition
    To represent our sad condition.
    Which, once made known, our hope and trust is
    Your honoured House will do us justice.
    First you shall hear--but can’t you guess?--
    The reason of our sad distress.
    A maiden was designed by nature
    A weakly and imperfect creature,
    So liable to err and stray,
    She wants a guide, requires a stay:
    And then, so timorous of sprites,
    She dreads to be alone at nights.
    Say what she will, do what she can,
    Her heart still gravitates to man.

As Mr. Chanter has pointed out, Gay has scarcely received due credit
for the number of proverbial couplets and sayings which have entwined
themselves in our daily language; for instance:--

    When a lady’s in the case
    You know all other things give place.

    Those who in quarrels interpose,
    Must often wipe a bloody nose.

    Can Love be controll’d by advice?

    While there’s Life there’s Hope.

    If the heart of a man is depressed with cares,
    The mist is dispelled when a woman appears.

The epitaph which Gay wrote for himself is a fit conclusion:--

    Life is a jest, and all things show it;
    I thought so once, but now--I know it.


To _An Apology for the Life of Mr. Bampfylde-Moore Carew_, London,
n.d., but probably 1753, all the Lives of this disreputable man are
indebted. This was, in fact, his own autobiography, dictated by him
to some literary acquaintance, who put his adventures into shape and
padded them out with reflections and quotations from Shakespeare,
Horace, and mainly from Fielding’s _Tom Jones_.

The book has two dedications, the first is from the “Historiographer
to Mr. Bamfylde-Moore Carew” to Justice Fielding. The second is “To
the Public” from Bampfylde himself. The dedication to Henry Fielding
is by no means complimentary, and one strain of thought runs through
the whole _Apology_. It shows that Bampfylde-Moore Carew was not such
a scoundrel as was Tom Jones the hero of Fielding’s novel; and in that
attempt the author does not fail.

It will not be possible here to do more than give an outline of the
life of this King of the Beggars; the original deserves to be read by
West-countrymen, on account of the numerous references to the gentry of
the counties of Devon, Cornwall, and Somerset that it contains. It is
somewhat amusing in the _Apology_ to notice how Carew insists on being
entitled Mr. on almost every occasion that his name is mentioned by the
biographer. The book reveals at every page the vanity and self-esteem
of this runaway from civilized life, as it does also his utter
callousness to truth and honesty. He relates his frauds and falsehoods
with unblushing effrontery, glorying in his shame. There have always
been persons who have rebelled against the restraints of culture, and
have reverted to a state of savagery more or less. Nowadays there are
the colonies, to which those who are energetic and dislike the bonds of
civilization at home can fly and live a freer life, one also simpler.
And this desire, located in many hearts, to be emancipated from
limitations and ties that are conventional, is thus given an opening
for fulfilment. It may be but a temporary outburst of independence, but
with some, unquestionably, like Falstaff, there is a “kind of alacrity
in sinking.”

Bampfylde-Moore Carew broke all ties when a boy, and remained a
voluntary outcast from society to his death.

“Mr. Carew was born in the Month of July, 1693”--even at birth he
is Mister--“and never was there known a more splendid Appearance of
Gentlemen and Ladies of the first Rank and Quality at any Baptism in
the West of England than at his.” He was the son of the Rev. Theodore
Carew, rector of Bickleigh, near Tiverton.

[Illustration: Bampfylde-Moore Carew.

King /OF THE/ Beggars]

At the age of twelve, Bampfylde was sent to Tiverton school, “where he
contracted an intimate Acquaintance with young Gentlemen of the first
Rank in Somersetshire, Devonshire, Cornwall, and Dorsetshire.” Here
he and other boys kept a pack of hounds, and as these, with Carew and
others behind them, once gave chase to a deer strayed from Exmoor over
standing corn, so much damage was done that the farmers complained to
the headmaster. Bampfylde was too great a coward to wait and take his
whipping. He ran away from school and sheltered among some gipsies.
He contracted such a love for their vagrant life, and such satisfaction
from the applause he got for thefts that manifested low cunning, that
nothing would induce him to abandon their mode of life and return to
civilization. Here is the description of the hero, as sent forth into
the world with Mr. Carew’s sanction:--

“The Stature of our Hero is tall and majestic, his Limbs strong
and well proportioned, his Features regular, his Countenance open
and ingenuous, bearing all those characteristical Marks which
Physiognomists assert denote an honest and good-natured Mind; and tho’
Hardships, and even Age itself (he being now sixty) have made some
Alterations in his Features, yet we venture to compare his Countenance
with Mr. Thomas Jones’s, tho’ the Author of that Gentleman’s Life
asserts he is the finest Figure he ever beheld.”

He was an adept at all sorts of disguises. Sometimes he postured
as a shipwrecked seaman and begged for relief, sometimes he was a
householder whose dwelling had been destroyed by fire, sometimes,
dressed in little more than a blanket, he acted the madman. Then he
was a Kent farmer, whose lands had been overflowed by the tide. The
only trade he acquired was that of rat-catching. In this, “our Hero,
by his close Application, soon attained so considerable a Knowledge
in his Profession, that he practised it with Success and Applause, to
the great Advantage of the Public in general, not confining the good
Effects of his Knowledge to his own Community only, but extending
them universally to all Sorts of People wheresoever they were wanted;
for though the Mendicants are in a constant State of Hostility with
all other People, and Mr. Carew was as alert as any one in laying all
Manner of Schemes and Stratagems to carry off a Booty from them, yet
he thought, as a Member of the grand Society of Human Kind, he was
obliged to do them all the Good in his Power, when it was not opposite
to the Interest of that particular Community of which he was a Member.”

Carew kept a watchful eye on the papers, and so soon as he heard of
a disaster anywhere, he at once assumed the disguise of one who had
suffered in this disaster, and appealed for relief. To assist him in
his deception, he produced letters authenticating his story, forged
by himself in the name of magistrate and nobleman, clergy and country
gentlemen of good repute.

It next occurred to him that it would serve his purpose if he made a
voyage to Newfoundland, so as to be able the better to personate an
unfortunate sailor who had been wrecked on his way home. He went there
accordingly and picked up all the local knowledge he could, the names
of the merchants and dealers and agents there, and returned. At once he
figured in the character of a seaman lost in a vessel homeward bound,
sometimes belonging to Poole, sometimes to Dartmouth, at other times
to other ports, and under such and such commander, according as the
newspapers gave accounts of such accidents.

“If the Booty he got before under this character was considerable, it
was much more so now; for being able to give a very exact Account of
Newfoundland, he applied with great Confidence to Masters of Vessels,
and Gentlemen well acquainted with those Parts; so that those whom
before his Prudence would not permit him to apply to, now became his
greatest benefactors, as the perfect Account he gave of the Country
engaged them to give Credit to all he asserted, and made them very
liberal in his Favour.”

But his very worst act was committed shortly after this. He went in a
collier from Dartmouth to Newcastle, and there he fell in love with a
Miss Grey, daughter of a respectable surgeon-apothecary of the town. He
pretended to be mate of the collier, and the captain was not ashamed
to corroborate this statement. He gained the young lady’s affections,
and as the father naturally objected to such a match, he induced the
unfortunate girl to elope with him and come to Dartmouth, where only
did she find out that he was a professional mumper or beggar, and
that his only respectable trade was that of rat-catcher. But she had
taken an irrevocable step in running away with him, and she consented
to marry him, and the ceremony was performed at Bath, where for a few
weeks they lived in high style, till his money was gone, when he was
obliged again to return to his impositions and frauds. From Bath the
young couple went to Porchester, where they were kindly received by an
uncle of Bampfylde, and he most urgently strove to turn the scoundrel
from his mode of life, promising that if he would reform, he and the
family would obtain for him some situation in which he could earn his
livelihood in an honest manner, and live in a way befitting his birth.
But this did not suit Carew. He employed his time with his uncle, who
was a clergyman, in studying his demeanour, manner of speech, etc., and
leaving him supplied himself with cassock, bands, a black gown, and
started “mumping” as a Jacobite incumbent of Aberystwyth, who had been
ejected from the living for his political sentiments, and “this and his
thorough Knowledge of those Persons whom it was proper to apply to,
made this stratagem succeed even beyond his own expectations.”

He, however, exchanged his disguise; for having heard that a vessel
containing many Quakers bound for Philadelphia had been cast away
on the coast of Ireland, he laid aside gown, cassock, and bands, and
assumed the garb and language and address of a Quaker. “His countenance
was now demure; the words You and Sir he seemed to hold in abomination;
his Hat was moved to none; for though under Misfortunes, he would
not think of bowing the knee to Baal.” Thus equipped he preyed very
successfully on the Friends. He even went to a great meeting of Quakers
from all parts at Thorncombe, in Dorset, and induced the Friends there
to make a considerable contribution for the relief of this member of
the sect who had fallen into such distress through the wreck.

His effrontery, his cunning, his utter unscrupulousness gained him such
credit among the gipsies that on the death of Claude Patch, who had
reigned previously over the canting crew, he was elected King of the
Beggars, and thenceforth drew from the whole community a certain income.

At last he was arrested, tried at the quarter sessions at Exeter, and
transported to Maryland, where he was sold to a planter. As he tried to
escape, an iron collar with a handle to it was riveted about his neck.
He again escaped; this time he succeeded in getting among the Indians,
who relieved him of his collar. He stole a canoe from his benefactors,
and in it made his way to Newcastle in Pennsylvania. There he wandered
about, pretending to be a Quaker, being everywhere well received by the
fraternity till he came to Derby, where Mr. Whitefield was preaching
and drawing crowds. He attended Whitefield’s meetings, pretended to be
a converted character, sought the preacher out, imposed on him, got
from him money, and departed for Philadelphia, and thence made his
way to New London, where resided two sisters of Sir John Davie, of
Creedy Park, near Crediton. They were married there, and their sons
were timber merchants. They were greatly delighted to see a man who
could inform them about their family, and he raised vain hopes in their
mind that “they were near heirs to a fine estate near Crediton.” So
completely were they taken in by him that they gave him money and a
letter to their relative Humphry Davie, recommending Carew to his good
offices. Carew embarked at New London for England. He was, however,
much afraid of being pressed for the Navy on approaching England. To
avoid this he pricked his breast and arms with a needle, rubbed in bay
salt and gunpowder, feigned to be very ill and to be light-headed.
It was suspected that he had small-pox, and as such, when an officer
came on board to see what men were there, he escaped. As ill with
small-pox, he was put ashore at Bristol, where he speedily threw off
all appearance of sickness, made the best of his way to a mumpers’
resort at Mile Hill, and had a carouse. He then made his way to Exeter,
where he fell in with the captain who had conveyed him to Maryland, and
who was vastly astonished to find that Carew had returned home as soon
as or sooner than himself.

He now resumed his old mode of begging under false pretences.

“One day as he was begging in the town of Maiden Bradley, from Door
to Door, as a shipwrecked Seaman, he saw on the other side of the
Street a mendicant Brother Sailor in a Habit as forlorn as his own,
a begging for God’s sake, just like himself; who seeing Mr. Carew,
crossed over the way and came up to him, and in the canting Language
asked him where he was last Night; what Road he was going; then whether
he would brush into a Boozing-ken and be his Thrums, _i.e._ go into
the Alehouse and spend his Threepence with him. To this he consented
and away they go, where, in the Series of their Conversation, they ask
each other various Questions concerning the Country, the charitable and
uncharitable Families, the moderate and severe Justices, the good and
queer Corporations, etc., those that would and would not suffer begging
in their Territories. The new Acquaintance of Mr. Carew’s asked him if
he had been to Sir Edward Seymour’s? He answered Yes, and had received
his Alms.

“The next Day they beg the Town, one on one Side of the Street, the
other on the other, each on his own separate Story. They then proceeded
to the Houses of several Gentlemen in that Neighbourhood; among others
they came to Lord Weymouth’s, where it was agreed that Mr. Carew should
be the Spokesman. Upon their coming up to the House the Servants bid
them begone, for should Lord Weymouth come and detect them in any
Falsehood, he would horsewhip them without Mercy.

“Our Travellers, however, were not the least daunted hereat. Therefore
they went up to the Kitchen Door and Mr. Carew broke the Ice, telling
the deplorable Story of their Misfortune in his usual lamentable
Tone. At length the Housekeeper gave them the greatest Part of a cold
Shoulder of Mutton, half a fine Wheaten Loaf, and a Shilling, but did
it with great Haste and Fear, lest my Lord should see her. Of the
Butler they got a Copper of good Ale, and then departed.

“Having got at some Distance from the House, there arose a Dispute who
should carry the Victuals, both being loth to encumber themselves with
it, as having neither Wife nor Child near to give it to. Mr. Carew was
for throwing it into the Hedge, but the other urged that it was both
a Sin and a Shame to waste good Victuals in that Manner; so they both
agreed to go to the ‘Green Man,’ about a Mile from my Lord’s, and there
exchange it for Liquor. At this Alehouse they tarried some time, and
snacked the Arget, that is, shared the Money which they had that Day
gotten; then, after a parting Glass, each went his separate Way.

“The Reader cannot but be surprised, when we assure him that this
Mendicant Companion of his was _no less a Person than my Lord Weymouth
himself_, who, being desirous of sounding the Tempers and Dispositions
of the Gentlemen, and other Inhabitants of his Neighbourhood, put
himself into a Habit so vastly beneath his Birth and Fortune. Nor was
this the first Time that this great Nobleman had metamorphosed himself
into the despicable Shape and Character of a Beggar. He took especial
Care to conceal it even from his own Family, one Servant only, in whose
Secresy he greatly confided, being entrusted therewith.”

This Lord Weymouth was Thomas Thynne, born 1710, who succeeded to the
title of Viscount Weymouth in 1714, and died in 1751.

So soon as Carew and his companion had parted company, Lord Weymouth
slipped home by a private way, divested himself of his disguise, and
calling for his servants said that he had been informed that two
mendicant sailors had visited his house, that they were impostors, and
he ordered two of his men to mount their horses and bring them before

The servants, naturally, were able to secure Carew alone, and he was
reconducted to the mansion. My lord accosted him in a very rough
manner, asked where the other fellow was, and told him he should be
made to find him. “Mr. Carew in the mean Time stood thunder-struck,
expecting nothing less than Commitment to Prison; but upon Examination,
made out his Story as well as he could. After having thus terrified
and threatened him for a considerable Time, away goes his Lordship,
and divesting himself of his Habit and Character of a Nobleman, again
puts on his Rags, and is by his Trusty Valet de Chambre (alone in the
Secret) ushered into the Room where his Brother Beggar stood sweating
with Fear. They confer Notes together, whispering to each other what
to say, in order that their Accounts might agree when examined apart.
The Steward took Mr. Carew aside into a private chamber, and there
pretending that the other Fellow’s Relation contradicted his, proved
them to be both Counterfeits; a Prison must be the Portion of them
both; indeed nothing was omitted that might strike Mr. Carew with the
greatest Terror and Confusion. By this Time my Lord having thrown off
his Rags and put on his fine Apparel, Mr. Carew was again brought into
his Presence to receive his Sentence; when my Lord, having sufficiently
diverted himself with the Consternation of his Brother Mumper,
discovered himself to him.”

After that Lord Weymouth, to whom before Bampfylde had confided his
real name, showed him hospitality and liberality and took him along
with himself to the Warminster horse-races.

We need not follow in detail all Bampfylde-Moore Carew’s adventures.
He went to Sweden, where he collected money on the ground that he
was a Presbyterian Minister, to Paris where he posed as a refugee
Romanist from England; he was again arrested and sent to Maryland, and
again escaped. He pretended to be a soldier wounded at Fontenoy, and
exhibited a raw beefsteak attached to his knee as his open wound. In a
word his disguises, his rascalities were endless.

Many attempts were made by his family to reclaim him, by Lord Clifford
who was his first cousin, but all in vain.

He died in obscurity in 1758, at the age of fifty-five, at Bickleigh,
where he is buried. It is not known what became of his daughter, the
only child he had.


William Gifford, the satirist, was born at Ashburton in April, 1756.
His father’s name was Edward, and he says that his great-grandfather
“was possessed of considerable property at Halsbury, a parish in the
neighbourhood of Ashburton.” There is no such parish, but there is the
_manor_ of Halsbury that belonged to the Giffords or Giffards in the
neighbourhood of Bideford, in Parkham parish.

As William Gifford does not give the Christian names of his grandfather
and great-grandfather, it will not be an easy matter to trace descent
from the Giffards of Halsbury. That estate was sold by Roger Giffard,
who died in 1763, seven years after the birth of William.

Roger had inherited Halsbury from his great-uncle, of the same
Christian name, who died without issue in 1724. There is no trace of
any legitimate son of this Roger.

No Giffords appear in the Ashburton register prior to 1716, when Mary,
daughter of Edward Gifford, was baptized; but there were Giffords, but
not gentlefolk, in the neighbouring parish of Ilsington.

William Gifford’s great-grandfather was of the same generation as Roger
Giffard of Halsbury, second son of John Giffard, of Brightleigh, who
succeeded to Halsbury, under some family arrangement, in consequence
of the then heads of the Halsbury Giffards dying without issue. It
is possible that the last Halsbury Giffard may have left his estate
to Roger of Brightleigh, in consequence of his having disinherited a
worthless son. In this case William Gifford’s story of a disinheritance
may have some foundation. But one would expect to find an entry in the
Parkham registers of the baptism of such a son; and there is none.


    _I. Hoppner, R.A._

    _R. H. Cromek_


William’s grandfather was dissipated and extravagant, and his father,
Edward, was not much better. He had been sent to the Grammar School at
Exeter, but ran away, and entered on board a man-of-war. His father
bought him out, but he was incorrigible; he again ran away, and joined
Bampfylde-Moore Carew in his vagabondage, when the latter was an old
man. On leaving this choice society he became a plumber and glazier at
Ashburton, and married a carpenter’s daughter named Elizabeth Cain, 3
September, 1750.[20] Edward Gifford now moved to South Molton and set
up there; but after four or five years, having involved himself in
trouble by attempting to excite a riot in a Methodist conventicle, he
deemed it advisable to show a pair of heels, and went to sea on board
the _Lyon_, a transport. Mrs. Gifford then returned to her native
place, Ashburton, where William was born.

So away went Edward, singing, I doubt not, a popular Devonshire song--

    My fortune is pretty well spent,
      My lands and my cattle and corn;
    I must put on a face of content,
      When as naked as when I was born.
    No more I’ll be troubled with wealth,
      My pockets are drained full dry,
    I walk where I please for my health,
      And never fear robbing, not I.

        *       *       *       *       *

    O once I could lie on the best,
      The best of good beds made of down,
    If sure of a flock of good straw
      I am glad to keep off the cold ground.
    Some say that Old Care killed the cat,
      And starv’d her for fear she should die;
    Henceforth I’ll be wiser than that,
      To my cares bid for ever good-bye.
        So adieu to old England, adieu!
          And adieu to some thousands of pounds!
        If the world had been done, ere my life was begun,
          My sorrows would then have had bounds.

Mrs. Gifford was left very badly off. All she had for her maintenance
was the rent of four small fields--all that remained of the land as yet

Edward Gifford returned from sea in 1764, having been absent eight
years. He had received over a hundred pounds of prize money in
addition to his wages, which were considerable; but as he reappeared
in Ashburton his pockets were nearly empty. The little property yet
left was therefore turned into money, and Edward Gifford set up a
second time as glazier, plumber, and house-painter. William was now
sent to the free school in S. Laurence’s Chapel, the master of which
was Hugh Smerdon. This school was founded by Bishop Stapeldon in the
tower of the old Chantry Chapel. On the dissolution of the chantries,
the scholars and master moved out of the tower into the body of the
chapel. It was further endowed with funds by Edward Gould, Esq., of
Pridhamsleigh, and Mr. Peter Blundell, of Tiverton. In this school
William Gifford learned to read, write, and cypher. He remained there
till his father’s death three years later. Edward Gifford had learned
nothing by his misfortunes. He preferred to drain the pewter in the
tavern to doing pewterer’s work in the shop. He died and was buried 9
June, 1767, leaving beside a widow and his son William another son
aged six or eight months. Mrs. Gifford unwisely continued the business
without knowing anything about it, and committed the management to a
couple of journeymen, who wasted her property and embezzled her money.
In less than a twelvemonth she died, and was buried 29 November, 1768.
William was then thirteen and his brother not two years old; and they
had not a relation or friend in the world. Everything left was seized
by a man named Carlile for money advanced to Mrs. Gifford. The youngest
child was sent to an almshouse, and William was taken charge of by
Carlile, who was his godfather, not out of pity, but because he was
afraid of forfeiting the respect of his fellow citizens if he turned
the orphan adrift.

The life of the unfortunate youngest child was short. He was indeed

    The child of misery, baptized in tears.

When aged seven the parish bound him apprentice to a farmer of the
name of Leman, with whom he endured incredible hardships, and at nine
broke his thigh. On his recovery he tried the sea, and went on board
the _Egmont_, but was allowed to do this by the grasping Leman, as his
apprenticeship was not expired, only on condition that his wages should
be paid into his (Leman’s) hands. The poor lad knew no favourable
change of fortune, for he fell sick and died at Cork.

Carlile sent the unfortunate William to drudge at the plough; but
William was physically incapable of driving the plough. During his
father’s life, in attempting to clamber up a table, he had fallen
backwards and drawn it after him; its edge fell on his chest, and it is
possible that his spine was also jarred, giving him ever after a look
of deformity. Ploughing was out of the question, and he was forced to
be withdrawn from field labour.

His guardian then thought of sending him to Newfoundland to assist in
a storehouse, and for this purpose entered into correspondence with
a Mr. Holdsworth, of Dartmouth, who consented to see the boy. When,
however, he had cast eyes on the puny, sickly child, he declined to
have anything to do with him, and Carlile then sent him on board a
coaster at Brixham, with a man named Full, plying between Dartmouth and
Plymouth, and sometimes going as far as Portsmouth.

In this boat he continued for a twelvemonth.

On Christmas Day, 1770, he was summoned back to Ashburton by his
godfather. It seemed that the fishwives who went from Brixham to
Ashburton with their wares had spoken there pretty freely of the little
ragged urchin who wandered about the quay, and of his delicacy and
of the rough treatment to which he was exposed. This roused a strong
feeling in Ashburton against Carlile, and he was constrained to bring
the boy back so as to allay the prejudice his conduct had awakened.
He sent him again to school in the old chapel, where he sat on the
benches at the long desks, and looked up at the huge plaster-work
gaily-painted shield and bearings of Ashburton over the headmaster’s
desk, and those of the benefactors to the school down the sides. Here
he worked assiduously at his books and made astonishing progress. He
was even employed as a monitor to teach the younger boys, and received
a few coppers for his services. The ambition of his young heart was to
qualify himself to take the place of the old schoolmaster, Smerdon, who
was becoming infirm and past work.

But these dreams of future happiness in the school where he had
passed his most enjoyable hours were dashed. Carlile wanted to get the
lad out of Ashburton and relieve his pocket of the burden of finding
him clothes and bread and butter. He was determined to wash his
hands of the orphan altogether; and accordingly, without consulting
the boy’s wishes, indentured him in January, 1772, to a cobbler, a
cousin of his in Exeter, with whom he would be bound to remain till
he was twenty-one. The shoemaker with whom he was placed was a sour
and narrow-minded Presbyterian, who read nothing but controversial
pamphlets relative to a theological dispute then raging between two of
the clergy of Exeter and some of the Dissenting preachers of the city,
and of these controversial pamphlets the cobbler read only those of his
own side.

Gifford had no books save a Bible, a Thomas à Kempis, and a
black-letter romance, _Parismus and Parismenus_, that had belonged
to his mother, together with some chapbooks, _The Golden Bull_, and
such like trifles. However, he found a stray treatise on algebra in
a lodging-house, and commandeered it. But this last book was not at
this time of any advantage to him, as to understand it a preliminary
knowledge of simple equations was necessary--and what “equations” meant
he knew no more than did the man in the moon, who had at his command no
library whatsoever.

However, his master’s son had a Flemming’s _Introduction to Knowledge_,
which, as a spiteful boy, he refused to let Gifford use, and hid it
away. William, however, by accident discovered where the book was
concealed and carried it off, sat up for several nights, and poring
over it with avidity mastered the contents, and was then able to pursue
his studies in algebra.

He says: “I hated my new profession with a perfect hatred; I made no
progress in it, and was consequently little regarded in the family, of
which I sank by degrees into the common drudge.”

Whilst at Ashburton his dreary life had been cheered by making friends
with some of his schoolfellows. One of these was young Hoppner,
afterwards a famous portrait painter, a rival of Sir Thomas Lawrence,
and in after years he looked back to this friendship with pleasure, and
wrote to him, on the death of Sir Joshua Reynolds--

    One Sun is set, one Glorious Sun, whose rays
    Long gladdened Britain with no common blaze;
    O may’st thou soon (for clouds begin to rise)
    Assert thy station in the Eastern skies,
    Glow with his fires, and give the world to see
    Another Reynolds rise, my friend, in thee!

But dearer still to him had been the Ashburton butcher’s son, John
Ireland, afterwards Dean of Westminster, and to him he wrote--

    Sure if our fates hang on some hidden Power,
    And take their colour from the natal hour,
    Then, Ireland! the same planet on us rose,
    Such the strong sympathies our lives disclose!
    Thou know’st how soon we felt this influence bland,
    And sought the brook and coppice, hand in hand,
    And shaped rude bows, and uncouth whistles blew,
    And paper kites (a last great effort) flew;
    And when the day was done, retired to rest,
    Sleep on our eyes, and sunshine in our breast.

But in Exeter he had no friends, none who would associate with him. He
was utterly alone and miserable. He had not a penny wherewith to bless
himself. One only little streak of sunlight entered his gloomy life,
and this was the cheery notice of a young woman, a neighbour, who daily
gave the depressed boy, as he passed her door, a smile and a kindly
greeting, and the gratitude he felt for this slight encouragement was
the first pleasing sensation he had ventured to entertain for many
dreary months.

In his _Autobiography_ he says: “Pen, ink, and paper were for the most
part as completely out of my reach as a crown and sceptre.” He had but
one resource, which required the utmost caution and secrecy in applying
it. He beat out pieces of leather as thin and smooth as possible, and
in his garret, by the tiny window, with a blunt awl worked out on the
leather his algebraical calculations.

Hitherto he had not so much as dreamed of poetry, but his first attempt
was on the occasion of a person who had undertaken to paint a sign
for an inn; it was to have been a lion, but the artist had produced
a creature much more like a dog. One of his acquaintances wrote some
lines on it. Gifford looked them over, shook his head, and said that
he thought that he could do better. Accordingly he composed an epigram
on the theme, so cutting and droll that his shopmates declared he
had succeeded in a masterly manner. After that he ventured on other
attempts--doggerel, he says they were, but all caustic and humorous,
and these circulated, were laughed over, and gained him not a little
applause. When he had composed some brief little satire he would read
it to a select circle, and was rewarded by the gift of a few pence,
amounting occasionally to sixpence. Did he write also a few tender and
grateful lines to the pretty, smiling girl on the doorstep in the same
street, who had cheered the lonely boy? I have not the smallest doubt
in my mind that he did.

To one so long in absolute want of money, such a resource seemed
like a gold-mine, and although at this time he thought lightly, even
contemptuously of the Muse, and all his energies of mind were devoted
to mathematics, yet, as these trifles brought him in money, and so
enabled him to buy paper and ink, and books on geometry and algebra, he
continued to compose verses.

But a storm was gathering. There is a delightful picture by Phiz in
_David Copperfield_, where Mr. Creakle, the schoolmaster, enters the
schoolroom leaning on the arm of his factotum Tungay, just as a boy has
drawn a caricature of both on the blackboard.

Inevitably some of the keen shafts of Gifford’s ridicule had been
levelled at his master, the cobbler. This man laid himself open to
being satirized. He possessed a dictionary of synonyms; and it was
his practice never, when he could avoid it, to employ a direct word
when he could find a roundabout mode of expressing himself; a weeding
with him would be a _runcation_, and to ride would be to _equitate_.
It was not in human nature that William Gifford should withhold his
hand from turning out some neat lines taking off the sanctimonious and
pretentious cobbler, and so revenging himself for slights and insults
many. It is not in human nature that he should refrain from showing
this product to his fellow apprentices. It is not in human nature that
some sneak among them should not apprise the master or that master’s
son of what the sullen, discontented lad had done.

Whether it was this, or whether it was that the shoemaker as a strict
Puritan looked on laughter and jest and poetry as ungodliness, the
master’s anger was raised to fury. He searched Gifford’s garret, took
away all his books and papers, and dared him to touch paper with pen
or read any other books in future than the Bible. This was a severe
blow, and was followed soon after by another that was as great. Mr.
Hugh Smerdon, whom he had hoped to succeed, died, and was succeeded as
master in the Ashburton Grammar School by another man not much older
and still less qualified for the station than himself. Thus at once
crumbled to nothing all his castles in the air that he had built; and
still the only light in his darkness continued to be the smile and
welcome from the girl a few doors off.

There is a ballad, “The Little Girl Down the Lane,” sung to a
plaintive, sweet air, greatly affected at one time by apprentices, and
not yet forgotten in Devonshire; it relates the loves and sorrows of a
’prentice boy, bound by his articles to a tailor, who loved a maiden
in the same lane, and who induced her to marry him. But, alas! as the
couple were in church and the knot was about to be tied, the master
tailor got wind of it, rushed in, stopped the ceremony, and carried
off the bridegroom to his bench again. The words are mere doggerel,
but they would appeal to Gifford, as they have appealed to many a
Devonshire apprentice, and often in his garret he may have hummed over
the pathetic air as he thought of the kind young face that alone in
Exeter had smiled on him.

The darkest hour precedes the dawn. And now, when he was in the
profoundest depths of depression, help arrived, and that from an
unexpected quarter. Mr. William Cookesley, a surgeon of Ashburton,
a large-hearted and open-handed man, having by accident heard some
of his verses, recalled the unfortunate boy, thrust from pillar to
post, and inquired after him. His history was well known to all in
Ashburton, and he at once interested himself in Gifford, and not only
gave from his own scantily furnished purse, but begged help from his
friends and patients to cancel Gifford’s apprenticeship and further
his education. On examining his literary attainments, he found that,
with the exception of mathematics, he was woefully ignorant; his
handwriting was bad, and his language very incorrect. Mr. Cookesley
now started a subscription list headed “A Subscription for purchasing
the remainder of the time of William Gifford, and for enabling him to
improve himself in Writing and English Grammar.” Few contributed more
than five shillings, and none beyond half a guinea; enough, however,
was collected to free him from his apprenticeship, which amounted to
six pounds (there were but eighteen months of that bondage to run), and
also to maintain him for a few months during which he attended school
under the Rev. Thomas Smerdon.

The hard life, the starvation of his early days, mentally and
physically for a while stunted his faculties, so that he could not keep
pace with youths of his own age or even younger, and his master talked
of putting him into a lower class; on which he wrote the following
lines, adopting playfully his somewhat significant nickname:--

    Tho’ my name is Cloudy,
      Yet cast me not away;
    For many a cloudy morning
      Brings forth a shining day.

However, by dint of hard work, after two years and two months he was
pronounced by Mr. Smerdon fit to go to the University.

Assistance was afforded by Mr. Thomas Taylor, of Denbury, who had
already given him friendly support, and who procured for him a Bible
readership at Exeter College; and this, with occasional help from Mr.
Cookesley and his friends, was considered sufficient to enable him to
live until he could take his degree.

The first act of Gifford on reaching Oxford was heartily to thank his
friend Cookesley for all he had done for him. The surgeon replied:
“Though I have ever esteemed you, my dear Gifford, yet I was far from
perceiving the extent of my regard for you till you left Ashburton; and
I am only reconciled to the loss of your society by the prospects of
advantage and honour which are now before you. Believe me, I shall ever
feel myself as much interested in your future fortune as if you were my
brother or my son.”

When Gifford was preparing to issue his _Pastorals_ he insisted
that Mr. Cookesley’s name should stand at the head of the list of
subscribers. “I will suck my fingers for a month rather than draw my
pen to put a name over yours in my subscription book. Therefore look to
it! I am Wilful and Wishful; and Wilful will do it.”

Unfortunately those who promised to subscribe to maintain Gifford at
college were slack in paying the sums they had agreed to find, and this
put both Cookesley and Gifford in pecuniary straits.

Cookesley was one day dining with Governor Palk, near Ashburton, when
he told him that Gifford was in sore want of a _Juvenal_, and could not
afford to buy a second-hand copy at sixteen shillings. The governor
then exclaimed: “Oh! he shall not want a _Juvenal_. My dear” (to his
wife), “give Mr. Cookesley a guinea, and tell Gifford from me that he
shall have his _Juvenal_ and a little firing to read it by; and tell
him, moreover, that I’ll make my subscription three guineas annually.”

Cookesley’s letters to Gifford were carefully preserved. They were
often written between sleeping and waking. One day he gives, as
an excuse for the shortness of his letter: “I am quite fatigued,
having been without sleep for a great part of the past night, and on
horseback for several hours to-day.... Your account of the meadows of
Christchurch almost made me so far forget myself as to cry out, ‘I am
resolved forthwith to set out for Oxford’; but, alas! to begin one’s
journey without money would be rather worse than ending it so.”

Mr. Cookesley’s active benevolence was cut short by his untimely death.
He did not live long enough to do more than start his young friend on
the road to fame and affluence. This event took place on 15 January,
1781. He died suddenly, and with a letter of Gifford’s unopened in his
hands. He left his family but scantily provided for, but a man’s good
works follow him, and the harvest comes sometime, if late, as we shall
see in the sequel.

In his _Autobiography_, written twenty years later, Gifford says: “It
afflicted me beyond measure, and in the interval I have wept a thousand
times at the recollection of his goodness; I yet cherish his memory
with filial respect; and at this distant period my heart sinks within
me at every repetition of his name.”

Gifford was, however, encouraged by the unexpected friendship of the
Rev. Servington Savery. He had, moreover, gained other friends, not
more kindly, but better able to serve him with their purses. His
acquaintance with his greatest patron, Earl Grosvenor, was made through
an accident. He had formed a college acquaintance with a young man
who kept up a correspondence with him, and to whom, when this latter
left college, he addressed his letters under cover to Lord Grosvenor.
But on one occasion he forgot to put his friend’s name to the letter,
and it was opened by the Earl, who read it, and was surprised at the
wit and brilliance of scholarship it evinced, and he begged for an
introduction. This led to his being sent as tutor to travel abroad
with Lord Belgrave, Earl Grosvenor’s son. Under the auspices of this
nobleman he entered upon London life, and gradually rose to an eminent
position among men of letters.

But there is an episode in his life to which he himself makes no
allusion in his memoirs. Somewhere about the time when he was able
to maintain himself, he married a certain Joanna--her surname is not
known--but not at Ashburton. It can hardly be doubted that this was
the “little girl down the lane” who had cheered him with her smile and
voice in his hours of deepest gloom.

The entry of this marriage has not yet been found, but it will be
lighted on some day in the register of one of the Exeter churches. To
her he often alluded in his poems, as Anna. In an ode to a tuft of
violets we find the following:--

    Come then--ere yet the morning ray
      Has drunk the dew that gems your crest,
    And drawn your balmiest sweets away;
      O come and grace my Anna’s breast.

    O! I should think--that fragrant bed
      Might I but hope with you to share--
    Years of anxiety repaid
      By one short hour of transport there.

To her he appears to have been deeply attached. He moved her to
Ashburton, and there visited her when he could escape from his literary
labours in London, and there she faded, and was buried on 27 December,
1789. Gifford was stricken by her loss in the most sensitive part
of the human heart, for over her grave he poured forth the pathetic

    I wish I was where Anna lies,
      For I am sick of lingering here,
    And every hour affliction cries,
      “Go, and partake her humble bier.”
    I wish I could! For when she died
      I lost my all; and life has proved
    Since that sad hour a dreary void,
      A waste, unloving and unloved.

Perhaps the surest testimony to the pain left in his soul by her loss
is his silence in his _Autobiography_ concerning her. She--and his love
and his sorrow--were too sacred to be brought before the public eye.
He never mentioned her, or that he had been married, even to his best
friends; and in Murray’s _Reminiscences_ it is asserted that Gifford
never was married.

In Lord Grosvenor’s house Gifford proceeded with his translation of
_Juvenal_, that had occupied him off and on for some years. His bitter
humour agreed with the biting sarcasm of the Roman poet, and the
work on which he was engaged was one of love. But, previous to its
publication, he hurled his _Baviad_ at the heads of the Della Cruscan
school of poetasters, in 1794. The name signifies “of the Bran,”
and was adopted by a literary coterie, to signify that their poetic
productions were sifted, and of the purest wheat. It was a mutual
admiration society, and was composed of Robert Merry, a fanatical
Republican, who had married Miss Brunton, the celebrated actress, and
sister of the still more celebrated Louisa, who became Countess of
Craven; another member of the society was Mrs. Piozzi; others were Mrs.
Robertson and Bertie Greathead. This set inundated the newspapers,
magazines, and annuals with a flood of weak and watery “poetry.”

As Byron says, addressing this set:--

    With you I was not: Gifford’s heavy hand
    Has crush’d, without remorse, your numerous band.

In 1795 appeared the _Mæviad_, a satire of the same class, in which,
although equally personal, there was less unnecessary virulence.

Following up a line of composition so congenial to his temper and
talents, he published, in 1800, his _Epistle to Peter Pindar_, of which
some lines are given in the article devoted to that abusive poet. This
roused Wolcot to fury, and he sought out and found the rival satirist
in the publisher’s shop.

An amusing account of the fray is given by Mr. Moonshine, “The Battle
of the Bards.” Sir Walter Scott says of it: “Though so little an
athlete, he nevertheless beat off Dr. Wolcot, when that celebrated
person, the most unsparing calumniator of his time, chose to be
offended with Gifford for satirizing him in his turn. Peter Pindar made
a most violent attack, but Gifford had the best of the affray, and
remained, I think, in triumphant possession of the field of action, and
of the assailant’s cane.”

Scott had a high opinion of Gifford as a poet in his peculiar line. He
wrote in 1805: “I have a good esteem of Mr. Gifford as a manly English
poet, very different from most of our modern versifiers.”

In 1802, Gifford published his principal work, his English version of
_Juvenal_, the production of which had engrossed the greater part of
his life, and which was issued with a dedication to Earl Grosvenor.

Soon after the publication of the _Baviad_, and the _Mæviad_, Gifford
issued, as editor, the _Anti-Jacobin_ (1797-8). In 1805, he published
an edition of Massinger; in 1816, an edition of Ben Jonson. His version
of Persius did not appear till 1821, after which date he completed an
edition of Ford.

In 1814, he was at Ryde, whither he had taken his old housekeeper.[21]
He wrote: “My poor housekeeper is going fast. Nothing can save her, and
I lend all my care to soften her declining days. She has a physician
every second day, and takes a world of medicines, more for their profit
than her own, poor thing. Guess at my expenses, but I owe in some
measure the extension of my feeble life to her care through a long
succession of years, and I would cheerfully divide my last farthing
with her.”

When the scheme was first started to issue the _Quarterly Review_, to
counteract the influence of the _Edinburgh Review_, Gifford was at once
proposed as editor. Sir Walter Scott, 25 October, 1808, wrote of the
selection: “Gifford will be admirable at service, but will require,
or I mistake him much, both a spur and a bridle--a spur on account of
habits of literary indolence, induced by weak health, and a bridle
because, having renounced in some degree general society, he cannot be
supposed to have the habitual and distinctive feeling enabling him to
judge at once and decidedly on the mode of letting his shafts fly down
the breeze of popular opinion. But he has worth, wit, learning, and
extensive information.”

From this time the influence and celebrity of Gifford may be deemed
established; nor were his services as a party man forgotten by those
who could reward him, as he possessed two sinecures, the controllership
of the lottery, at a salary of £600 per annum, and paymastership of
the band of gentlemen pensioners, at £300 per annum. As editor of
the _Quarterly_, he received a salary of £900 per annum, and also a
pension of £400 from his former pupil, now Earl Grosvenor. He bitterly
lamented, long ere this, that before the means of helping his little
brother, nursed in the almshouse at Ashburton, was in his power, that
little brother had died.

He was alone in the world, and his early trials, his loss of the only
beings whom he had loved, soured his temper, and made him savage and
virulent in his treatment of such as differed from him. One great
defect he showed as editor. He would not consider a work to be
reviewed on its own merits, but looked first to see what were the
politics of the author before he praised or condemned the book.

In personal appearance he was not striking. George Ticknor, in his
_Life, Letters, and Journals_, says, under 19 June, 1814: “Among other
persons I brought letters to Gifford, the satirist, but never saw him
till yesterday. Never was I so mistaken in my anticipations. Instead of
a tall and handsome man, as I had supposed him from his pictures, a man
of severe and bitter remarks in conversation, such as I had good reason
to believe him from his books, I found him a short, deformed, and ugly
little man, with a large head sunk between his shoulders, and one of
his eyes turned outward, but withal one of the best-natured, most open,
and well-bred gentlemen I have met.”

From the ability and keenness of the _Baviad_ and _Mæviad_, and from
a promise made in his edition of the latter to continue his satirical
writings, it was hoped that he would do this, but he did not. Byron

    “Why slumbers Gifford?” once was asked in vain.
    Why slumbers Gifford? let us ask again.
    Are there no follies for his pen to purge?
    Are there no fools whose backs demand the scourge?
    Are there no sins for satire’s bard to greet?
    Stalks not gigantic Vice in every street?
    Shall peers or princes tread pollution’s path
    And ’scape alike the law’s and Muse’s wrath?
    Nor blaze with guilty stare through future time,
    Eternal beacons of consummate crime?
    Arouse thee, Gifford! be thy promise claim’d,
    Make bad men better, or, at least, ashamed.

One curious peculiarity Gifford had. He made his old housekeeper sit in
his study doing her needlework whilst he was engaged on his literary
labours. To the end he maintained a warm friendship with Dr. Ireland,
Dean of Westminster, son of a butcher of Ashburton, and a schoolfellow
in former days, and when he died he bequeathed to him his library.

“The last month of Gifford’s life was but a slow dying”, says Mr.
Smiles. “He was sleepless, feverish, oppressed by an extreme difficulty
of breathing, which often deprived him of speech; and his sight had
failed. Towards the end of his life he would sometimes take up a pen,
and after a vain attempt to write, would throw it down, saying, ‘No,
my work is done.’ Even thinking caused him pain. As his last hour drew
near, his mind began to wander. ‘These books have driven me mad,’ he
once said; ‘I must read my prayers.’ He passed gradually away, his
pulse ceasing to beat five hours before his death. And then he slept
out of life on the 31st December, 1826, in his 71st year.”

He left £25,000 of personal property. He left the bulk of it to the
Rev. John Cookesley, son of his early patron, whom he also instituted
residuary legatee. He also left a sum of money the interest of which
was to be distributed annually among the poor of Ashburton.

Finally, one touching trait in the character of Gifford was his
exceeding love for children. Looking back at his own desolate, loveless
childhood, full of hardship, his heart expanded towards all little
ones, and he delighted in attending juvenile parties, and rejoiced
at seeing the children frisking about in the happiness of youth. His
domestic favourites were his dog and his cat, both of which he dearly
loved. He was also most kind and considerate to his domestic servants;
and all who knew him well knew that his bark was worse than his bite;
he made no answer, did not retaliate when attacked vindictively,
insultingly by Hazlitt, and when William Cobbett called him “the
dottrel-headed old shuffle-breeches of the _Quarterly Review_” he cast
back no vituperative term in reply.

Gifford was a staunch friend. He left his house in James Street,
Buckingham Gate, to the widow of his old friend Hoppner, the portrait

Sir Walter Scott wrote on 17 January, 1827: “I observe in the papers my
old friend Gifford’s death. He was a man of rare attainments and many
excellent qualities. His _Juvenal_ is one of the best versions ever
made of a classic author, and his satire of the _Baviad_ and _Mæviad_
squabashed at one blow a set of coxcombs who might have humbugged the
world long enough. As a commentator he was capital, could he but have
suppressed his rancours against those who had preceded him in the
task; but a misconstruction or misinterpretation, nay, the misplacing
of a comma, was in Gifford’s eyes a crime worthy of the most severe
animadversion. The same fault of extreme severity went through his
critical labours, and in general he flagellated with so little pity,
that people lost their sense of the criminal’s guilt, in dislike of the
savage pleasure which the executioner seemed to take in inflicting the
punishment. This lack of temper probably arose from indifferent health,
for he was very valetudinary, and realized two verses, wherein he says
Fortune assigned him:--

            One eye not over good,
    Two sides that to their cost have stood
      A ten years’ hectic cough,
    Aches, stitches, all the various ills
    That swell the devilish doctor’s bills,
      And sweep poor mortals off.

But he might also justly claim as his gift the moral qualities
expressed in the next fine stanza:--

                                A soul
    That spurns the crowd’s malign control,
      A firm contempt of wrong;
    Spirits above affliction’s power,
    And skill to soothe the lingering hour
      With no inglorious song.

“He was a little man, dumped up together, and so ill made as to seem
almost deformed, but with a singular expression of talent in his

Gifford was buried in Westminster Abbey, and his schoolfellow and
lifelong friend, Dean Ireland, was afterwards buried in the same grave.

The authorities for his life are his own biographical account of his
early life, and Smiles’s _Memoir and Correspondence of John Murray, the
Publisher_. London, 1891.

Also a “Life,” by Mr. J. S. Amery, in the now extinct _Ashburtonian_,

Also a brief account by the Rev. Treasurer Hawker in “Two Ashburton
Scholars,” in the _Transactions_ of the Devonshire Association, 1876.


The only painting by which this artist is generally known is that of
Napoleon standing on a cliff at S. Helena, gazing on the departing
glories of the day as the sun sets in the ocean. There is feeling and
pathos in the picture, as there is in Watts’s “Young Man with Great
Possessions,” although in both only the back is seen of the personage
depicted. Haydon did his “Napoleon Musing” over a good many times. He
sold a copy to the King of Hanover.

On 7 March, 1844, he entered in his diary: “I have painted nineteen
Napoleons. Thirteen Musings at S. Helena, and six other Musings. By
heavens! how many more?”

And of all his pictures Haydon thought least of this. But he was a man
mistaken in his estimate of his own powers and of what he could do. He
wanted to be an heroic painter, but projected his own personality upon
his canvas, and as he was a man with disproportionately short legs, his
“Moses,” his “Alexander,” and other heroes must be short nether-limbed
as well.

The Haydons of Cadhay, in Ottery S. Mary parish, were an ancient
family. They built the south porch of the collegiate church in 1571,
and set up on it the inscription “He that no il will Do no thynt yt
lang yto,” or in plainer English, “He that no ill will do, let him
do nothing that belongs thereto”; a motto that it had been well for
Benjamin had he retained it and acted on it to the end.

The authentic pedigree of the Haydons goes back to the reign of Henry
III. They were, originally, of Ebford, in Woodbury parish, and did not
acquire Cadhay till the beginning of the seventeenth century; but in
the eighteenth century they got into difficulties through expensive
lawsuits, and lost both Cadhay and Ebford, and disappeared as water
that sinks into the sand. The last of whom we know anything was Gideon
Haydon, of Cadhay, who died in 1707, and left two sons, Gideon and John.

Benjamin Robert Haydon in his _Autobiography_ says: “My father was the
lineal descendant of one of the oldest families in Devon, the Haydons
of Cadhay. The family was ruined by a chancery suit, and the children
were bound out to various trades. Among them was my grandfather, who
was bound out to Mr. Savery, of Slade, near Plymouth. He conducted
himself well, and gained the esteem of his master, who in time made him
his steward. In a few years he saved money, and on the death of Mr.
Savery set up a bookseller’s shop in Plymouth, where he died in 1773
from disease of the heart. My grandfather married Mary Baskerville, a
descendant of the great printer. At my grandfather’s death my father
succeeded to the business, and married a Miss Cobley, daughter of a
clergyman, who had the living of Ide, near Exeter. He was killed early
in life by the fall of a sounding-board on his head while preaching.”

Unfortunately B. R. Haydon does not give the Christian names of his
father and grandfather, so that we are not able to say where they hitch
on to the submerged Haydons of Cadhay.

[Illustration: B. R. HAYDON

_From a drawing by David Wilkie_]

B. R. Haydon left at his death not only an _Autobiography_ extending
to the year 1820, but also a _Journal_ in twenty-six folio volumes.
The former has been published entire, but the _Journal_ has been
compressed, and the whole edited in three volumes by Mr. Tom Taylor
(London, 1853). It is not my intention in a short article to go through
the entire Life and further to compress it, but rather to pick out
a few salient points, and to draw from other sources more impartial
estimates of Haydon than he formed of himself and of his work.

As the opening of his _Autobiography_ contains some lively sketches of
old Plymouth, I shall extract these.

“My father sent me to the grammar school under the Rev. Dr. Bidlake,
a man of some taste. He painted and played on the organ, patronized
talent, was fond of country excursions, wrote poems which nobody ever

“Finding that I had a taste for art, he always took me, with another
boy, from our studies to attend his caprices in painting. Here his odd
and peculiar figure, for his back was bent from fever, induced us to
play him tricks. As he was obliged to turn round and walk away to study
the effect of his touches, we used to rub out what he had done before
he returned, when his perplexity and simplicity were delightful to
mischievous boys. Once he sent my companion to cut off the skirt of an
old coat to clean his palette with, and the boy cut off the skirt of
his best Sunday coat. Poor dear Dr. Bidlake went to Stonehouse Chapel
in his great-coat the next Sunday, and when he took it off to put on
the surplice the clerk exclaimed in horror, ‘Good God, Sir! somebody
has cut off the skirt of your coat!’”

“My father used to show my drawings to his customers. One of them was
a very great man in the town--merchant and, I believe, consul. John H.
[Hawker] was a very worthy but pompous man, exceedingly vain, very
fond of talking French before people who could not speak a word of it,
and quoting Italian sayings of which he knew little; liked everything
but steady attention to his business, was a good father, good husband,
and to play soldier for a week at any time would have laid his head
upon the block. During the dread of invasion volunteer corps became the
rage. The very infants in the nursery played soldiers too. Mr. John
[Hawker] either raised or joined a corps of volunteers, and warier
men made him colonel, that the expense might not fall on their heads.
Colonel he was, and devoted himself to the occupation with so much
sincerity that his men in discipline and order would certainly not have
disgraced a marching militia regiment. After review days, nothing gave
the Colonel so much delight as marching right through the town from the
Hoe, to the horror and consternation of the apple-women. The moment the
drums and trumpets were heard sounding at the bottom of Market Street,
the scramble to get out of the way among the poor old women is not to
be imagined. Market Street in Plymouth is a sort of hill, and how often
as a boy have I left my drawing, dashed down and out to the top of the
hill to see the Colonel in all his glory.

“First came in view his feather and cap, then his large, red,
pride-swollen, big-featured face, with a smile on it in which grim war,
dignity, benevolent condescension, stolidity, and self-satisfaction
were mixed in equal proportions; then came his charger, curvetting
with graceful fire, now hind-quarters this side, now fore-quarters
that side, with the Colonel--sword drawn and glittering in the
sun--recognizing the wives and children of the ironmongers, drapers,
and grocers who crowded the windows to see him pass. Then came the
band, big drum and trumpets; then the grenadier company with regular
tramp; then the Colonel’s eldest son, John, out of the counting-house,
who was captain; then his lieutenant, an attorney’s clerk; then the
Colonel and band turned to the right down Broad Street--the music
became fainter and fainter, the rear lagged after. The Colonel drew
up his regiment before his own parlour windows, and solaced by white
handkerchiefs and fair lips, dismissed his men, and retired to the
privacy of domestic life until a new field day recalled him to the
glory of the Hoe and the perils of apple-stalls and slippery streets.”

B. R.’s father had been a fast and dissipated man, but before he
utterly sank past recovery, he pulled himself together and became
a man of business, always somewhat shifty, and disposed to enjoy
himself rather than stick to work. On one occasion the bookseller
was asked angrily by a important customer why he had not fulfilled
his oft-repeated promise to procure some young walnuts to which he
had access, and his reply was that there had been such a demand for
gun-stocks from the war then raging in the Peninsula that there were no
trees left.

A somewhat congenial spirit came to Plymouth and settled into his
house. This was a Mr. Cobley, brother of Mrs. Haydon, a man fond of
society and of his bottle, accomplished, and so habitually indolent
that when he came to see his sister on a six weeks’ visit he never had
the energy to remove, got embedded in the family, stayed thirty years,
and quitted it and life together.

B. R. does not appear to have had much love for his father, but he
always speaks of his mother with the tenderest affection, and _her_
opposition to her only boy’s choice of the profession of a painter cost
him a severe struggle before he could disregard her entreaties to abide
by his father’s trade.

Haydon was little more than a boy in years when he left home in May,
1804, and plunged into the uncertain depths of London life. He had an
introduction to Northcote, a Devonshire man like himself, but jealous,
spiteful, and unwilling to help a struggling beginner. And he was
fortunate in attracting the notice of Fuseli, Keeper of the Royal
Academy, who liked him, and helped him to master the rudiments of his

Haydon admired the effects of London smoke.

“By Gode,” said Fuseli to him one day, “it’s like the smoke of the
Israelites making bricks.” “It is grand,” retorted B. R., “for it is
the smoke of a people who would have made the Egyptians make bricks for

He became friendly with Wilkie, then a raw, red-headed Scotch lad,
who had made a hit, and taken the town by storm with his “Village

David Wilkie was canny about money. One day he was showing his fellow
pupils some drawing-paper he was using. “Why, Wilkie!” exclaimed
Haydon, “where did you get this? Bring us a quire to-morrow.”
He promised that he would. The next day, and the day after, no
drawing-paper. When remonstrated with, David quietly excused himself,
“Weel, weel, jest give me the money first, and ye’ll be sure to hae the

When thus starting as a painter, a hint was given to Haydon, by this
success of Wilkie, what was the line that he should pursue, what was
the style of picture that would appeal to the public. But he was too
obstinate to take the hint. His idea was the High Art, heroic subjects
from mythology or classic history, or from the Old Testament, on huge
canvases--themes that interested few, and of a size that few could buy.

“Your paintings are too big,” said a duchess to him one day; “we have
not houses that can contain them.”

“It is not that,” replied Haydon; “it is that your hearts are too
contracted to appreciate them.”

In 1807 Haydon was summoned to Plymouth by the failure of his mother’s

“Incessant anxiety and trouble, and her only son’s bursting away from
her at a time when she had hoped for his consolations in her old age,
gradually generated that dreadful disease _angina pectoris_. Her doom
was sealed, and death held her as his own, whenever it should please
him to claim her. Her fine heroic face began to wither and grow pale;
loss of exercise brought on weakness and derangement. She imagined that
the advice of an eminent surgeon in London might save her, and though I
and everybody else knew that nothing could be done, we acceded to her
wish immediately.

“I painted her portrait, and as she sat I saw a tear now and then
fill her eye and slowly trickle down her cheek, and then she would
look almost indignant at her own weakness. My dear mother felt her
approaching end so clearly that she made every arrangement with
reference to her death. I went to Exeter to get her apartments ready
at the hotel the day before she left home. She had passed a great part
of her life with a brother (the prebend of Wells), who took care of a
Mr. Cross, a dumb miniature painter. Cross (who in early life had made
a fortune by his miniatures) loved my mother, and proposed to her, but
she, being at that time engaged to my father, refused him, and they had
never seen each other since. He retired from society, deeply affected
by his disappointment. The day after leaving Exeter we stopped at
Wells, as my mother wished to see my uncle once more.

“The meeting was very touching. As I left the room and crossed the
hall I met a tall, handsome old man; his eyes seemed to look me
through. Muttering hasty, unintelligible sounds he opened the door,
saw my mother, and rushed over to her, as if inspired of a sudden with
youthful vigour. Then, pressing her to his heart, he wept, uttering
sounds of joy not human. This was Cross. They had not met for thirty
years. We came so suddenly to my uncle’s they had never thought of
getting him out of the way. It seemed as if the great sympathizing
spirit once again brought them together before their souls took flight.

“He was in an agony of joy and pain, smoothing her hair, and pointing
first to her cheek and then to his own, as if to say, ‘How altered!’
The moment he darted his eyes upon my sister and me, he looked as if he
felt we were her children, but did not much notice us beyond this.

“My sister, hanging over my poor mother, wept painfully. She, Cross,
my uncle and aunt, were all sobbing and much touched; for my part, my
chest hove up and down as I struggled with emotions at this singular
and afflicting meeting. Disappointment in love, where the character is
amiable, gives a pathetic interest to woman or man. But how much more
than ordinary sympathy must he excite who, dumb by nature, can only
express his feelings by the lightenings of the eye! Thus had this man
been left for thirty years, brooding over affections wounded as for
the mere pleasure of torture. For many months after my mother married
he was frantic and ungovernable at her continued absence, and then
sank into sullen sourness. His relations and friends endeavoured to
explain to him the cause of her going away, but he was never satisfied,
and never believed them; now, when the recollection of her, young
and beautiful, might occasionally have soothed his imagination, she
suddenly bursts on him with two children, the offspring of her marriage
with his rival--and that so altered, bowed, and weakened as to root
out the association of her youthful beauty with the days of his happy

“There are moments of suffering or joy when all thought of human
frailties is swept away in the gush of sympathy. Such a moment was
this. His anger, his frantic indignation, and his sullen silence at her
long absence, all passed away before her worn and sickly face. He saw
her before him, broken and dying; he felt all his affection return,
and flinging himself forward on the table, he burst into a paroxysm of
tears as if his very heart-strings would crack. By degrees we calmed
him, for nature had been relieved by this agonizing grief, and they
parted in a few moments for the last time.”

Next day Haydon and his sister went on with their mother, but did not
reach London with her; she died at Salt Hill, in the inn.

Surely had B. R. but deigned to paint a picture of the old dumb
lover with arms outspread on the table, weeping--as he so touchingly
describes the scene, it would have appealed to the public. But no! the
scene was not heroic. Old Cross was not a classic figure. Haydon had
resolved to be a painter of heroic in art or be nothing.

The Royal Academy would have none of him, and he attacked it furiously
at point of the bayonet. That the Royal Academy hampered the progress
of Art, stifled genius, crushed out originality was true then as some
assert it is true now; but the Royal Academicians did not relish
being told these truths by one just growing to manhood; and it was
impolitic in Haydon to set those in arms against him who posed and
were regarded as authorities on Art. Nothing pleased him but vast
canvases. On 24 July, 1825, he refused a commission of five hundred
guineas from Sir John Broughton to paint a small picture of Edward the
Black Prince distinguishing an ancestor on the field of Poitiers, lest
it should interfere with his carrying out of one of his unsaleable
monstrous canvases. The pictures that sold were portraits. “My whole
soul and body raise the gorge at portrait,” he wrote in his diary.
When he was engaged to do a family piece, he says that it gave him a
nasty taste in his mouth. Yet, as his great subjects would not sell,
he was forced to paint portraits; and he writes, 24 July, 1824: “For
these two months, having at last devoted myself to portraits, I have
enjoyed tranquillity, luxury, quiet, and peace, and have maintained my
family with respectability.” And then he bursts forth into scorn and
loathing of the subject. Indeed, he says he gloried in doing portraits
badly, because it was unworthy of him and his high ideals. “I have an
exquisite gratification in painting portraits wretchedly.” 27 March,
1843: “The moment I touch a great canvas I think I see my Creator
smiling on all my efforts. The moment I do mean things for subsistence
I feel as if He had turned His back, and, what’s more, I believe it.”
21 January, 1842: “There is nothing like a large canvas. Let me be
penniless, helpless, hungry, thirsty, croaking or fierce, the blank,
even space of a large canvas restores me to happiness, to anticipations
of glory. My heart expands, and I stride my room like a Hercules.”
Borrow, in his _Lavengro_, has devoted a chapter to a visit to Haydon.
A commission had been given to the artist to paint the portrait of
the Mayor of Norwich. He was only reconciled to the idea when it was
suggested to him that he should represent the mayor as issuing from
under a Norman archway.

“The painter of the heroic resided a great way off, at the western end
of the town. We had some difficulty in obtaining admission to him; a
maidservant, who opened the door, eyeing us somewhat suspiciously. It
was not until my brother had said that he was a friend of the painter
that we were permitted to pass the threshold. At length we were shown
into the studio, where we found the painter, with an easel and brush,
standing before a huge canvas, on which he had lately commenced
painting a heroic picture. The painter might be about thirty-five years
old; he had a clever, intelligent countenance, with a sharp grey eye;
his hair was dark-brown, and cut _à la_ Raphael, that is, that there
was very little before and much behind; he did not wear a neckcloth,
but in its stead a black riband, so that his neck, which was rather
fine, was somewhat exposed; he had a broad, muscular breast, and I make
no doubt that he would have been a fine figure, but unfortunately his
legs and thighs were somewhat short.

“My brother gave him a brief account of his commission. At the mention
of the hundred pounds I observed the eyes of the painter to glisten.
‘Really,’ said he, ‘it was very kind to think of me. I am not very fond
of painting portraits; but a mayor is a mayor, and there is something
grand in the idea of the Norman arch. I’ll go; moreover, I am just at
this moment confoundedly in need of money, and when you knocked at the
door I thought it was some dun. I don’t know how it is, but in the
capital they have no taste for the heroic. They will scarce look at a
heroic picture.’

“Thereupon it was arranged between the painter and my brother that they
should depart [for Norwich] the next day but one; they then began
to talk of art. ‘I’ll stick to the heroic,’ said the painter; ‘I now
and then dabble in the comic, but what I do gives me no pleasure--the
comic is low; there is nothing like the heroic. I am engaged here on
a heroic picture,’ said he, pointing to the canvas; ‘the subject is
Pharaoh dismissing Moses from Egypt. That finished figure is Moses.’
The picture was not far advanced; as I gazed upon it, it appeared to
me that there was something defective--something unsatisfactory in the

“We presently afterwards departed. My brother talked much about the
painter. ‘He is a noble fellow,’ said my brother, ‘but, like many other
noble fellows, has a great many enemies; he is hated by his brethren of
the brush--but above all, the race of portrait painters detest him for
his heroic tendencies. It will be a kind of triumph to the last when
they hear he has condescended to paint a portrait; however, that Norman
arch will enable him to escape from their malice.... By the by, do you
not think that figure of Moses is somewhat short?’ And then it appeared
to me that I had thought the figure of Moses somewhat short, and I told
my brother so.

“On the morrow my brother departed with the painter for the old town,
and there the painter painted the mayor. The mayor was a mighty, portly
man, with a bull’s head, black hair, body like that of a dray-horse,
and legs and thighs corresponding--a man six foot high at the least. To
his bull’s head, black hair, and body, the painter had done justice;
there was one point, however, in which the portrait did not correspond
with the original--the legs were disproportionably short, the painter
having substituted his own legs for those of the mayor.

“Short legs in a heroic picture will never do; and, upon the whole,
I think the painter’s attempt at the heroic in painting the mayor of
the old town a decided failure. If I am now asked whether the picture
would have been a heroic one provided the painter had not substituted
his own legs for those of the mayor, I must say I am afraid not. I have
no idea of making heroic pictures out of English mayors, even with the
assistance of Norman arches; yet I am sure that capital pictures might
be made of English mayors, not issuing out of Norman arches, but rather
from the door of the Chequers, or the Brewers Three. The painter in
question had great comic power, which he scarcely ever cultivated; he
would fain be a Raphael, which he never could be, when he might have
been something quite as good--another Hogarth; the only comic piece
which he ever presented to the world being little inferior to the best
of that illustrious master.”

Borrow was wrong in saying that Haydon did only one comic piece; he did
three or four, of which presently.

On 10 October, 1821, Haydon married a widow with two children by the
first husband; and to the end he remained devotedly attached to his
dear Mary. She had a little money of her own.

He had got £3000 receipts by exhibition of his picture “Christ’s
Entry into Jerusalem,” but had to sell it, being short of money, for
£240; and he was forced to dispose of his “Raising of Lazarus” to
Binus, his upholsterer, to clear off a debt, for £300. He certainly
did make a good deal of money, but was always in debt, often without
a shilling in his pocket. His huge canvases did not sell. He says of
them, in 1826, when Reinagle questioned him about them, “Where is your
‘Solomon,’ Mr. Haydon?” “Hung up in a grocer’s shop.” “Where is your
‘Jerusalem’?” “In a wareroom in Holborn.” “Where is your ‘Lazarus’?”
“In an upholsterer’s shop in Mount Street.” “And your ‘Macbeth’?”
“In Chancery.” “Your ‘Pharaoh’?” “In an attic, pledged.” “And your
‘Crucifixion’?” “In a hayloft.” “And ‘Silenus’?” “Sold for half-price.”
But he was incapable of bending his proud spirit to accommodate his
style to the popular taste. He besieged the ministers, he pestered
great men to get the Government to encourage High Art. If noble patrons
would not buy heroic pictures on huge canvases, the State should do it
to adorn public buildings. He took pupils,[22] who paid large premiums,
and he got them to back his bills, and involved them in heavy outlay
to meet them, and then pupils shrank from coming near him. He pestered
the nobility, all wealthy men for loans, for grants, for pecuniary aid
to help him out of immediate difficulties. He was arrested again and
again, and sent to the King’s Bench, had to appear in the Insolvent
Debtors’ Court, had distraints levied on his pictures, his furniture,
his books. He went about lecturing on Art, and these lectures brought
him in a respectable revenue, but he was ever underwater. How he
squandered his money does not appear in his journals; but he certainly
did earn sufficient with his brush to have maintained himself and his
family in respectability had he known how to economize. He got into the
hands of moneylenders, and was squeezed. He met with generous aid from
numerous quarters, but was no sooner relieved of one pressing call than
he fell into fresh difficulties.

If he were taken up by a noble patron and invited to his table, he
offended him by contradiction and rudeness. “I do not think I am liked
in company, except by women,” he admits in his journal.

The comic painting alluded to by Borrow was thus originated whilst
Haydon was in the Debtors’ Prison at King’s Bench:--

“I was sitting in my own apartment, buried in my own reflexions,
melancholy, but not despairing, at the darkness of my prospects and the
unprotected condition of my wife and children, when a sudden tumultuous
and hearty laugh below brought me to the window.

“Before me were three men marching in solemn procession, the one in the
centre a tall young, reckless, bushy-headed, light-hearted Irishman,
with a rusty cocked-hat under his arm, a bunch of flowers in his bosom,
his curtain-rings round his neck for a gold chain, a mopstick for a
white wand, tipped with an empty strawberry-pottle, bows of ribbons on
his shoulders, and a great hole in his elbow; on his right was another
person in burlesque solemnity, with a sash and real white wand; two
others, fantastically dressed, came immediately behind, and the whole
followed by characters of all descriptions, some with flags, some with
staffs, and all in perfect merriment and mock gravity, adapted to some
masquerade. I asked what it meant, and was told it was a procession of
burgesses, headed by the Lord High Sheriff and Lord Mayor of the King’s
Bench Prison, going in state to open the poll, in order to elect two
members to protect their rights in the House of Commons. I returned to
my room, and laughed and wept by turns! Here were a set of creatures
who must have been in want and in sorrow, struggling (with a spiked
wall before their eyes) to bury remembrance in the humour of a farce.”

He painted the scene of the “Mock Election in Prison,” and sold it to
the King for £525, after having made £321 by it in exhibition. Then he
painted another comic picture, “Chairing the Member,” for which he got
£422, beside £168 by exhibition. A third humorous picture was “Punch
and Judy.”

But though he made money by these paintings in the style of Hogarth, he
hated doing them. His soul soared to High Art.

“At the table of Mr. Wyatt,” says the Rev. J. Richardson in his
_Recollections_ (London, 1856), I met the late Mr. Haydon, the
artist, with whom I had been previously acquainted. Haydon was
undoubtedly a man of considerable talent, but of insatiable vanity.
He had concentrated in his own estimation of his merits those atoms
of admiration that ought to have been diffused among the general
community, who were certainly somewhat slow in recognizing the claims
which he was continually urging; indeed, they were far too slow to
satisfy his craving for applause, and for a slice or two of that
solid pudding which many people value much more than empty praise.
The consequence was that he was continually indulging in querulous
complaint and bitter vituperation; everybody was rewarded except
himself; nobody but himself had any merit or capacity or feeling for
Art. All the world were fools; he was the little bit of leaven that
was to bring the solid lump into fermentation; the one wise man whose
presence rescued the mass of mankind from unqualified insignificance
and fatuity. This inordinate vanity overlaid the many good qualities
which he possessed, blinded his perspicuity, and perverted his

On 16 October, 1834, the Houses of Parliament were consumed by fire,
and Barry was entrusted with designs for the erection of a new palace,
which was begun in 1840. Now was the opportunity for which Haydon had
yearned. The new Houses of Parliament must receive decoration in
fresco. In 1842 a Fine Arts Commission issued a notice of conditions
for a cartoon competition. Haydon welcomed this with delight. Who but
he was competent to execute such great works? And he laboured hard at
the study of fresco and in the preparation of cartoons. But he was
disappointed at not being given the chief place, without question, in
the decoration of the Houses.

“After thirty-eight years of bitter suffering,” he wrote, “perpetual
struggle, incessant industry, undaunted perseverance, four
imprisonments, three ruins, and five petitions to the House--never
letting the subject of State support rest night or day, in prison or
out; turning everything before the public--the wants of his family, the
agonies of his wife, the oppression of the Academy, directing all to
the great cause [of High Art], it is curious to see that the man who
has got hold of the public heart, who is listened to and hailed by the
masses--it is curious, as a bit of human justice, to find chairman,
committee, witnesses, pupils, avoid throughout the whole inquiry any
thought, word, or deed which could convey to a foreign nation or a
native artist, a noble lord or an honourable member, that there was
such a creature as Haydon on the earth!”

The opening of the Cartoon Exhibition was fixed for 3 July, 1843.
Already, on 27 June, Haydon had received intelligence that his cartoons
had been rejected. It was a bitter blow. But he struggled on till
April, 1846, when he received another, that was final, and crushed his
spirits. His cartoons should be seen and appreciated by the public.
He hired a room in the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, in which to exhibit
them, together with some of his historical paintings--“Aristides
Banished from Naples,” “Nero Playing upon his Harp whilst Rome was
Burning,” and some others. In the large front room of the Egyptian
Hall, General Tom Thumb was holding his levees, and a swarm of people
crowded to these, and very few looked in on Haydon’s exhibition.

In his diary he enters: “21 April. Tom Thumb had 12,000 people last
week. B. R. Haydon 133-1/2 (the 1/2 a little girl). Exquisite taste of
the English people!”

He closed his exhibition on 18 May, and had lost by it £111 8s. 10d. He
wrote: “I have not decayed, but the people have been corrupted. I am
the same, they are not.”

This was a wound so severe to his vanity that it never healed. He
abused the public, contrasting his own merits with those of his
diminutive rival, and mixing up the sublime with the ridiculous in such
a manner as to make his complaints the source of laughter rather than
of commiseration. He was at some moments in so excited a condition from
his own disappointment, contrasted with the success of the dwarf and
the showman, that he appeared to his friends to be almost insane.

On 22 June he wrote in his diary the lines from _Lear_:--

    Stretch me no longer on this rough world.

This was written between half-past ten and a quarter to eleven o’clock
on that morning. He was in his studio. About a quarter to eleven
his wife and daughter heard the report of firearms, but took little
notice of it, as they supposed it to proceed from the troops then
exercising in the Park. Mrs. Haydon went out. Miss Haydon entered
the painting-room, and found her father stretched dead before the
easel on which stood his unfinished picture of “King Alfred and the
First English Jury”--his white hairs dabbled in blood, a half-open
razor smeared with blood at his side, near it a small pistol recently
discharged, in his throat a fearful gash, and a bullet-wound in his
skull. A portrait of his wife stood on a smaller easel facing his large
picture. On a table near was his diary open at the page of that last
entry, his watch, and a Prayer Book open at the Gospel for the Sixth
Sunday after the Epiphany, and his will.

The coroner’s jury found that the suicide was committed when Haydon
was in an unsound state of mind. In fact, he had been driven mad by
mortified vanity. His debts at his death amounted to about £3000. The
assets were inconsiderable. Liberal and immediate assistance and much
sympathy were extended to the bereaved widow and family.

Posterity has not seen occasion to reverse the judgment of his
contemporaries on Haydon’s paintings.

His engrossing love of art, with his consciousness of great powers,
and excessive self-esteem, made him a most enthusiastic devotee to
any work which he had on his easel, and enabled him to bear up long
against the thousand interruptions from embarrassed circumstances which
are detailed in his _Autobiography_. Whilst painting his “Maid of
Saragossa” he accidentally wounded his foot with a bayonet, but went on
with the picture, using his own blood as a pigment, till the surgeon

Zeal, devotion, high thoughts, ability in composition, some power in
colouring, and correct anatomical drawing may and ought to be conceded
to Haydon. But he aimed at subjects beyond his power of execution, and
in all his High Art paintings there is a lack of refined feeling and
good taste. Thus, in the “Judgment of Solomon” the king is depicted
as treating the whole affair as a practical joke. Mr. Watts, the
artist, says: “The characteristics of Haydon’s art appear to me to be
great determination and power, knowledge and effrontery. His pictures
are himself, and fail as he failed. In Haydon’s work there is not
sufficient forgetfulness of self to disarm criticism of personality.
His pictures are themselves autobiographical notes of the most
interesting kind; but their want of beauty repels, and their want of
modesty exasperates. Perhaps their principal characteristic is want
of delicacy of perception and refinement of execution. His touch is
generally woolly, and his surface disagreeable.”

He was determined to force his idea of the Heroic in Art on a public
that had got beyond gods and goddesses and the heroes of the Greeks and
Romans. He would have done well at the Court of Louis XIV, but he was
out of date at the dawn of the naturalism of the nineteenth century.

The public, thought Haydon, were sick, and knew not what Art was. They
must be forced, scolded, lectured, rated to admire it. The last thing
that would occur to him would be to study the trend of public taste and
to adapt himself to it.

When drawing his cartoons for the Houses of Parliament, he would not
even consider what was fitting. Had he sent in his “Alfred and Trial by
Jury,” it might and probably would have been approved; but instead he
sent pictures from the Reign of Terror in France to represent Anarchy,
which was of all things unsuited for the new palace, that did not
desire scenes from French history, and those recent ones.

And his huge cartoons were a mistake. Epics are not for the masses,
and only great public buildings could contain these canvases. Public
bodies did not care to spend large sums upon pictures for town halls
and exchanges.

“What a game you have thrown away!” said a friend to Haydon one day;
and we must echo that opinion in considering the life before us. It was
a game utterly and irretrievably, through vanity and pig-headedness,
thrown away.


    By a public character in his way
    You may find an anecdote of the day,
    I wish every line to tell, and word I say.

Thus “Captain” John Cooke, the Exeter saddler, begins his pamphlet,
_Old England for Ever_, published by Curson, of Exeter, in 1819.

John Cooke was born at the “Rose and Crown” public-house, on the old
bridge, at Ashburton, in 1765. Ashburton, says Cooke, was not only
famous as producing Dunning, Lord Ashburton, but also for its Pop. “I
recollect its sharp feeding good taste, far richer than the best small
beer, more of the champagne taste, and what was termed a good sharp
bottle. When you untied and hand-drew the cork it gave a report louder
than a pop-gun, to which I attribute its name; its contents would fly
up to the ceiling if you did not mind to keep the mouth of the stone
bottle into the white quart cup; it filled it with froth, but not over
a pint of clear liquor. Three old cronies would sit an afternoon six
hours, smoke and drink a dozen bottles, their reckoning but eightpence
each, and a penny for tobacco. The pop was but twopence a bottle. It is
a great loss to the town, because its recipe died with its brewer about

[Illustration: CAPTAIN COOKE, 1824, AGED 58

_Drawn from Nature, on the stone by N. Whittock_]

Another drink of the past was white ale. This derived its name from
its appearance, not unlike tea freely diluted with milk and having
considerable quantities of some white curdy substance floating about
in it, which had a tendency to settle at the bottom of the glass. The
secret of its composition lay in the nature of the ferment employed,
called “grout.” At one time white ale was a common drink in South
Devon; now it is as dead as Ashburton Pop and John Dunning.

John Cooke’s father was a plasterer and “hellier”--i.e. slater--but
turned publican and maltster, and kept the tavern in which his son
was born. John’s grandfather brought the water into the town to the
East Street conduit. At the age of fifteen his mother, then a widow,
put John apprentice to Chaster, a saddler in Exeter, and on the death
of Chaster, Cooke succeeded to the business at the age of twenty-one,
and was highly esteemed in the county for the excellence of his work
and his knowledge of how to fit the back of a horse. He made saddles
for Lord Rolle, Sir Stafford Northcote, Sir John Duntze, Sir Robert
and Sir Lawrence Palk, Sir Thomas Acland, and last, but not least,
for Lord Heathfield. “His lordship was allowed to be one of the best
judges of horses and definer of saddlery in the kingdom; his lordship’s
saddle-house consisted from the full bristed to the demi-pick, Shafto,
Hanoverian, to the Dutch pad-saddles; and from the snaffle, Pelham,
Weymouth, Pembroke, Elliott, Mameluke, and Chifney bridles. His
lordship’s saddle and riding-house was a school for a saddler and

Cooke breaks into rhyme:--

    As few began the world so I multiplied,
    I’ve gratitude to all my friends, who’ve supplied.
    Plain at twenty-one, I did begin,
    Which in my manuscript was seen,
    Tho’ years at school with arithmeterians,
    Who wrote well, but they are no grammarians,
    Tho’ I did not know the use of grammar
    I was well supported by my hammer.
    I sticked to my King, leather and tools;
    And for order wrote a set of shop rules.
    It’s not what work is brought for to be only done,
    Every think that’s necessary, buckle or tongue;
    For instance, a saddle is brought to stuff, that’s all,
    A stirrup-bar is wanted to prevent a fall;
    All your work must be done well, not like fools,
    For if it breaks on the road, there’s no tools.
    Working with the hands only is but part,
    The head’s the essential to make work smart.

    Be John Bulls, true to your country and Church,
    Always tell the truth and don’t never lurch.

John Cooke’s saddlery was better than his grammar and his orthography,
and his faults in these latter particulars called down upon him the
scorn of Andrew Brice, the printer and publisher of a weekly paper.
Cooke was a strong loyalist, and Brice was touched with republican

“Brice,” says Cooke, “posted me about the streets with halfpenny
papers; and the poor hawkers got many pence through me; but all that he
could do or say was to degrade my orthography; but to lessen my loyalty
or character he could not; from his art or out of burlesque he said
my letters were after the manner of Junius, and at the same time said
I was of Grub-street. I winked at all this, whilst the people read my
bulletins. I confess I did not know Junius’s Letters or Grub-street
then, but I know them now. At the attack and at different times he
wanted to run aground my loyal advertisements; but, poor man, he ran
himself aground dead.”

The bulletins and advertisements animadverted upon by Brice were
handbills issued by Cooke opposing the republican inflammatory
pamphlets that were put in circulation, as also bulletins of the news
with comments of his own which he pasted up outside his shop. There
was at the time a noisy party in England in favour of Bonaparte, and
this was the Radical and Republican party. Cooke was taunted by these
as a bull-calf. He replied that he gloried in the name of John Bull.
“Even when the friends of one of the candidates at the recent general
election at Exeter came to solicit my vote (I thank God I vote for six
members) I told them that I would not vote for a man of such principles
if they would give me £500. When I came to give my vote at the
Guildhall, Mr. Sergeant Pell rose up out of fancy or fun, and said to
me, Are you not a Frenchman? I said, A Frenchman! No, sir, I am a true
John Bull. He said, Of the calf kind. I said, It must be a calf before
it’s a bull. The Sergeant sat down.”

In 1789 Cooke was made captain to the sheriff’s troop. “About this time
there were commotions by the mobility in London against his Majesty’s
minister, Mr. Pitt. I went into the pot-houses at Exeter, and treated
with mugs round, and gave loyal toasts and sentiments--my own motto,
Any income-tax sooner than a French-come-tax; a long pull and a strong
pull and a pull altogether-mind how the fox served the chicken, and
said the grapes were sour--a speedy necklace to all traitors--Old
England for ever, and those who don’t like it, leave it.

“There has been but one small riot in Devonshire, to its honour and
credit, and that was stopped in its infancy. It was for breaking into
a miller’s house to get corn by violence; one Campion, a blacksmith,
a young man called out from his work inadvertently to join the mob;
from farmhouse to house they got liquor, got inebriated. He became a
leader and carried a French banner, the old story. Campion was desired
to desist by gentlemen; but he would not. He was apprehended in a day
or two, committed to gaol, and tried at the Assizes, 1795, before the
late Justice Heath; the jury found him guilty of the felony--riot and
sedition. He suffered death. This prompt measure put an end and stopped
the contagion in the West. There were thousands of spectators on the
road, besides a thousand military of dragoons, artillery and volunteers
of the district, who escorted him thirteen miles to the place of
execution, Bovey-heathfield, in sight of his own village, Ilsington, as
a rescue was talked of.

“At a foolish County Meeting in 1797, to petition his Majesty to remove
his late Minister, Mr. Pitt, I called up my apprentices at 3 o’clock
in the morning; we got a ladder, and scaladed the walls of the Castle
of Exeter, got in unperceived, I wrote conspicuously _No petition, no
civil war_, and at many more lofty hazardous places in the city, that
the freeholders might read it when they came to the meeting; we (had)
done the whole before the people were up. I again put out handbills
warning the mobility of Exeter of riot; and at the show of hands by
the Sheriff the mob held up both their hands, and there was a great
majority of legal (loyal) votes.

“At another County Meeting a few violent gentleman wanted to turn out
one or both of our old staunch County Members, Col. Bastard and Sir
Laurence Palk. An orator, a Protestant Dissenter, took an elevated
station and was haranguing; I perceived that the orator spared neither
powder nor shot with his tongue. I being a freeholder mixed with the
yeomanry freeholders; I fired a shot from my mouth, having good lungs
it gave a loud report. I exclaimed ‘Palk’s no presbyterian I’ll sware
[_sic_].’ It hit him, it had the desired effect, the orator was struck
tongue-tied, he thought it came from higher authority. He attempted
again in vain; the yeomanry caught flash from my pan and they fired
a feu-de-joy with their tongues for Bastard and Palk, a loud clamour
for question was called, and the old members were returned unanimously.

[Illustration: _Drawn from Nature by Geo. Rowe.  Printed by P. Simonau._

/The Noted John Cooke of Exeter./

Captain of the Sheriff’s troop at 74 Assizes for the County of Devon.

_Published by Geo. Rowe N^{n} 38 Paris Street Exeter._]

“When Mr. Pitt armed this country I became a volunteer in the infantry,
before the cavalry were equipped by my brother tradesmen, that they
should not say my loyalty was for trade. After this, I joined the
second troop of the first Devon Royal Cavalry.

“I may say John Cooke, the saddler of Exeter, is known from England
to the Indies, on the Continent, Ireland and Scotland; from
Berwick-upon-Tweed to Penzance. I had two direction posts at my
door during the War, that no one had in the kingdom besides--one to
the various places and distances from Exeter to London; the other a
large sheet of paper written as a daily monitor, gratis, a bulletin
of news, to cheer people in the worst of times, to guide them in
the Constitutional Road, which both citizens and country-folks of a
market-day looked up to Cooke’s bulletin as natural as they look at
their parish dial.

“I knowing the city and county of Exeter is the county town of the
second county of England, I even made myself a direction-post when
commotions were in London by the mobility, against the late Mr. Pitt,
who was the people’s friend, instead of their enemy; I being a public
officer at the Assizes, having had the honour to serve thirty Sheriffs
of the County, sixty Assizes, and 1817 I commanded two Sheriffs troops,
Devon and Cornwall. In 1795 I wore a conspicuous breast-plate painted
with this motto, _Fear God, honour the King, and revere his Ministers_;
which made not only the auditory, but the Judges, Sheriffs, and Counsel
stare at me; which my heart did not mind being for the public good.
Twice I had two escapes for my life in my achievements. I went from
Exeter to London, to the funeral of Lord Nelson, the hero of the Nile,
in 1805. In my going into the painted hall at Greenwich to see the
corpse lie in state, I was nearly squeezed to death against the stone
pillars. I might as well holloa in the bottom of the sea, as in a
London throng. I have the pain to this day.

“I saw Mr. Pitt at his lodging window at Bath, a few weeks before he
died; he looked very weak and thin. I had a tablet made to his memory
and hung it over my door.

“In 1800, in consequence of that dearth year, potatoes were sixteen
pence a peck. The poor grumbled, noisy, clamorous in the market. I went
in the country and bought 500 bags, and sold them at a shilling a peck.
The rumour that I had got all the potato trade; it lowered the market
to a shilling a peck.

“In honour of his Majesty, on the Jubilee, 1809, I gave all the poor
men, women and children of my parish, above 200, a good dinner in the
long cloth hall of Exeter. My wife ripped sheets for tablecloths, and
what is worth recording, in the evening the men would carry me home on
their shoulders. They carried me by the Old London Inn, where a large
party, it being a holiday, in our passing we were not halted.[23]
In the centre of a 50 feet street, I saw a decanter thrown from the
dining-room twelve feet high; I was bare pate, my hat being off, to
make obedience to this company; I miraculously caught the decanter by
its neck with my right hand, it was full of port wine; it came with
such velocity not a drop was spilt. I thought no harm meant, I jocosely
drank all their healths and gave the spectators the rest. I bought the
decanter of Miss Pratt, of the Inn, in memory of such an event; which,
if it had took me by the head, must have stun me.”

Besides having done much for his King and country, Cooke flattered
himself that he did much for the city of Exeter. He says: “We are
indebted to Mr. S. F. Milford for the Savings Bank, and wholesome
prisons in Exeter. We had no common sewers until 1810, it was like
old Edinburgh before. About twelve years since, I rose one morning
before the people were up, and numbered every house in Fore Street with
chalk, which made the people stare. I was told I had not begun at the
right end, with the sun. I went over the ground again. My house being
a corner one, I got it properly numbered, and the street labelled,
which soon led to be general. I paid for seven label boards at the
street. Who would have done it beside? Our market days had ever been
on Wednesdays and Fridays, only one day between. I wrote a requisition
on the propriety of altering the Wednesday’s market to Tuesday. I
carried it for signatures to the principal inhabitants, and sent it
to the Chamber, who upon perusing of their charters found they had a
bye-law; the market was altered with unanimous approbation in 1812.”
He also introduced watering-carts for the streets in summer. In 1809
he issued a catalogue of a hundred and ten nuisances in the city of
Exeter, which he exhorted the Corporation to get rid of. He urged on
the Dean and Chapter the pulling down of the gates into the Close,
which unhappily was done. “At present,” said Cooke, “you have none but
a dangerous way to the Cathedral. A coach-passenger was killed going
under Catherine-Gate.”

There were still three gates left; three had already been destroyed.

Poor Allhallows, Goldsmith Street, was levelled with the dust but last
year, so as to widen High Street. Cooke urged its destruction in 1809,
as “useless and dormant.”

Cooke built himself a villa residence, which he dubbed “Waterloo
Cottage.” He was a very plain man, with thick, coarse mouth, and a
broken nose. A portrait, a profile, is prefixed to his pamphlet, _Old
England for Ever_, but there is one much finer of him, in colour,
representing him in uniform. This is in the library of the Institution
at Exeter.

That the man had enormous self-confidence and conceit _saute aux yeux_,
but that he was a useful man to his country, to the county, and to the
city is also clear.

Cooke assures us that he had been in 400 out of the 466 parishes of
Devon, “having the heartfelt satisfaction of being respected” in all
of them, “and knowing fifteen lords, four honourables, twenty-two
baronets, and three knights, and most of the clergy and gentry” of the

    Universal suffrage will never, never do,
    So experience tells me--and I tell you.
    It would break down the barriers of our Constitution,
    And plunge both high and low in cut-throat revolution.
    You see, in the murder of the Constable Birch,
    The means they’d employ to destroy King and Church.
    The King is the head--the constable the hand--
    For preserving peace and order in this happy land.
    They who’d cut off the hand, would cut off the head--
    So, a word to the wise; remember what’s said
              In the plain, honest Book
              Of your humble servant,



When a commission was sent by the Parliament to search Raglan Castle
for arms, a jet of water was sent pouring over them in a way to them
extraordinary. It was from a steam-propelled fountain, invented and
executed by Edward Somerset, Lord Herbert, the son of the Marquess of
Worcester. In 1646 the castle stood a siege from the Parliamentarians,
under Sir Trevor Williams and Colonel Morgan, and finally under
Sir Thomas Fairfax. It surrendered on 17 August. No sooner was the
castle abandoned than the lead and timber of the roofs were carried
off for the rebuilding of Bristol Bridge, and the peasantry of the
neighbourhood began to dig in the moats, drain the fish-ponds, and
tear down the walls in quest of treasures supposed to be concealed
there, and to rip up pipes, and pull to pieces lead and iron work to
appropriate the metal. Then it was that Lord Herbert’s steam fountain
was destroyed.

The old Marquess died in December of the same year, and Edward
Somerset became second Marquess of Worcester. Whilst in the Tower, in
1652-4, the Marquess wrote his _Century of the Names and Scantlings
of Inventions_, but it was not published till 1663. “He was a man,”
says Clarendon, “of a fair and gentle carriage towards all men (as in
truth he was of a civil and obliging nature).” He died 3 April, 1667.
In his remarkable book he anticipated the power of steam, and indeed
may be said to have invented the first steam engine. His object in his
steam-fountain was to throw up or raise water to a great height. His
words are as follows: “This admirable method which I propose of raising
water by the force of fire has no bounds if the vessels be strong
enough; for I have taken a cannon, and having filled it three-fourths
full of water and shut up its muzzle and touch-hole, and exposed it to
the fire for twenty-four hours, it burst with a great explosion. Having
afterwards discovered a method of fortifying vessels internally, and
combined them in such a way that they filled and acted alternately, I
have made the water spout in an uninterrupted stream forty feet high,
and one vessel of rarefied water raised 40 of cold water. The person
who conducted the operation had nothing to do but turn two cocks, so
that one vessel of water being consumed, another begins to force, and
then to fill itself with cold water, and so on in succession.” By means
of his contrivance he proposed “not only with little charge to drain
all sorts of mines, and furnish cities with water, though never so high
seated, as well as to keep them sweet, running through several streets,
and so performing the work of scavengers, as well as furnishing the
inhabitants with sufficient water for their private occasions, but
likewise supply rivers with sufficient to maintain and make them
portable from town to town, and for the bettering of lands all the
way it runs, with many more advantageous and yet greater effects, of
profits, admiration, and consequence--so that deservedly I deem this
invention to crown my labours, to reward my expenses, and make my
thoughts acquiesce in the way of further inventions.”

[Illustration: THOMAS SAVERY]

The Marquess of Worcester’s small book attracted some attention even
in his own generation. About twenty years after his death, Sir Samuel
Morland made some improvements on Worcester’s plan, raising water
to a great height “by the force of Aire and Powder conjointly.” He
endeavoured to draw the attention of the French King to the matter, but
met with no encouragement.

Denis Papin was a French physician, born at Blois in 1647. He studied
medicine in Paris, and visited England to associate himself with Robert
Boyle in his experiments, and was admitted a member of the Royal
Society in 1681. After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, being a
Huguenot, he could not return to France, so took refuge in Germany,
where he was well received by the Landgrave of Hesse, who gave him the
professorship of mathematics in the University of Marburg. He was the
first to apply the safety-valve and the piston to the steam engine. He
showed that the upward and downward alternate movement of the piston
might be employed with effect for the transmission of force. If after
the rise of the piston a vacuum could be created below, the piston
would fall with the pressure of the atmosphere above. In order to
create this vacuum he proposed to explode gunpowder under the piston;
but he saw himself that this method of creating a void was clumsy
and impracticable. He then sought to exhaust the air by means of an
hydraulic engine moved by a water-wheel, and he proposed a machine of
this sort to the Royal Society in 1687; but he also suggested a means
of producing the required vacuum by condensation of steam.

Much about the same time the same idea occurred to Thomas Savery, a
native of Modbury, a member of an ancient Devonshire family, coming
originally from Halberton, whence John Savery moved to Totnes.
Probably through the wool and clothing trade, he amassed a considerable
estate in the reign of Henry VIII. In the sixteenth century the
heiress of Servington of Tavistock married into the family. In 1588,
Christopher Savery, the head of the family, resided in Totnes Castle,
not then dismantled; and for a period of nearly forty years the town
was represented in Parliament by members of the Savery family. One
Christopher served as Sheriff of Devon in 1620. His son was a colonel
under Oliver Cromwell.

The Saverys had acquired Shilston in Modbury at the end of the
sixteenth century, and resided there till the middle of the nineteenth.
Colonel Christopher Savery’s youngest son is said by Mr. Smiles, in his
_Lives of Boulton and Watt_, to have been Richard. But Richard does
not appear in the pedigree in Colonel Vivian’s _Visitations of Devon_.
This is, however, no proof that Smiles is wrong. Richard Savery was
the father of Thomas, who was born, according to Smiles, at Shilston
about the year 1650. He was educated to the profession of a military
engineer, and in course of time reached the rank of trench-master. The
pursuit of his profession, as well as his natural disposition, led
Savery to study mechanics, and he spent all his spare time in executing
mechanical contrivances of various sorts. One of the first of these was
a paddle-boat worked by men turning a crank. He spent £200 on this,
and built a small yacht on the Thames to exhibit its utility. But when
submitted to the Admiralty they would have nothing to do with it, as
its practical utility was doubtful. The power of wind was better than
hand labour in propelling a vessel; and although his machine might
answer on a river, it was extremely doubtful whether it would succeed
even in a moderately rough sea.

Dissatisfied at the reception of his paddle-boat by the naval
authorities, Savery gave no more thought to it, and turned his
attention in another direction.

The miners in Cornwall had been hampered by water flowing into their
workings. When the upper strata had become exhausted they were tempted
to go deeper in search of richer ores. Shafts were sunk into the lodes,
and these were followed underground, but very speedily had to be
abandoned through the influx of water. When the mines were of no great
depth it was possible to bale the water out by hand buckets; but this
expedient was laborious and ineffectual, as the water gained on the
men who baled. Then whims were introduced, and by means of horse-power
water was drawn up. But this process also proved to be but partially
effective: in one pit after another the miners were being drowned out.

In the fen lands water was drawn up out of the drains and pumped into
canals by means of windmills; and it is to this that Ben Jonson alludes
in his play _The Devil is an Ass_, 1616, when he makes Fitzdottrell
say: “This man defies the devil and his works. He does it by engines
and devices, he! He has ... mills will spout you water ten miles off!
All Crowland is ours, wife; and the fens, from us, in Norfolk, to the
utmost bounds in Lincolnshire.”

But the use of wind as a motive power does not seem to have occurred to
the Cornish miners, or perhaps it was thought to be too uncertain to be
of much value for pumping purposes.

It is possible enough that Savery had read the suggestions of the
Marquess of Worcester, and that this ingenious author gave him the
first hint whither to turn to find the force required. But how he was
led to steam is differently stated.

Desaguliers says that Savery’s own account was this: Having drunk a
flask of Florence at a tavern, and thrown the bottle into the fire,
he proceeded to wash his hands, when he noticed that the little wine
left in the flask was converted into steam. He took the vessel by the
neck and plunged its mouth into the water in the basin, when, the steam
being condensed, the water was immediately driven up into the bottle by
the atmospheric pressure.

Switzer, however, who was very intimate with Savery, gives another
account. He says that the first hint from which he took the engine was
from a tobacco-pipe, which he immersed in water to wash or cool it.
Then he noticed how that by the rarefaction of the air in the tube by
the heat, the gravitation or pressure of the external air, upon the
condensation of the steam, made the water to spring through the tube of
the pipe in a most surprising manner.

However it was that Savery obtained his first idea of the expansion and
condensation of steam and of atmospheric pressure, he had now before
him a new and untried power with which to deal, and he was obliged to
approach it by several tentative efforts.

Before 1696 he had constructed several steam pumping engines to mines
in Cornwall, and he described these as already working in his book
entitled _The Miners’ Friend_.[24] He took with him a model to London
and exhibited it to William III in 1698, and the King promoted Savery’s
application for a patent, which was secured in July, 1698, and an Act
was passed confirming it in the ensuing year.

Papin saw Savery’s steam engine, when exhibited before the Royal
Society, he also witnessed the trial of his paddle-boat on the Thames.
Returning to Marburg, of which university he was professor, he thought
over what he had seen, and it occurred to him to combine the two
contrivances in one, and to apply Savery’s motive power in the pump to
drive Savery’s paddle-wheels. But it took him fifteen years to fit up
a boat that worked to his satisfaction. “It is important,” he wrote to
Liebnitz on 7 July, 1707, “that my new construction of vessel should be
put to the proof in a seaport like London, where there is depth enough
to apply the new invention, which, by means of fire, will render one or
two men capable of producing more effect than some hundreds of rowers.”
Papin’s boat that he intended to send to London was destroyed by some
watermen, who feared the new invention might interfere with their trade.

Savery proposed to apply his engine to various purposes. One was
to pump water into a reservoir for the production of an artificial
waterfall for driving mills or any other ordinary machinery; that
is to say, by means of steam he would lift a body of water which by
flowing back might drive an overshot wheel, from the rotation of
which the motive power for any other mechanical operations would be
derived. This, however, was never done, and Savery’s engine continued
to be employed only in the drainage of Cornish mines. But it had this
disadvantage, that it could not heave water but to about eighty feet,
and as the depth of mines was from fifty to a hundred yards, the only
way to exhaust the water was by erecting several engines in successive
stages, one above the other. But the expense of fuel and attendants and
the constant danger of explosions rendered it clear that the use of
his engine for deep mines was altogether impracticable. Such was the
state of affairs when Thomas Newcomen, a blacksmith and ironmonger of
Dartmouth, turned his attention to the matter.

Thomas Newcomen was a member of a very ancient family.

In the church of Stoke Fleming, near Dartmouth, is a brass with this

    Elias old lies here intombed in grave,
      But Newcomin to heaven’s habitation.
    In knowledge old, in zeal, in life most grave,
      Too good for all who live in lamentation.
    Whose sheep and seed with heavie plaint and mone,
      Will say too late, Elias old is gone!
                    The 13th May, 1614.

Over this inscription is a shield of arms, with helmet, crest,
and mantling, bearing the arms of Newcomen, of Saltfleetby, in
Lincolnshire, with six quarterings. This is the monument of Elias
Newcomen, rector of Stoke Fleming. The pedigree of the family commences
with Hugo Newcomen, of Saltfleetby, in 1189-99. Elias Newcomen, rector
of Stoke Fleming, had a brother Robert, who went to Ireland and was
created a baronet.

The son of the Rev. Elias was Thomas, who settled in Dartmouth, and
this Thomas had a son Elias, who was the father of the inventor Thomas,
who was baptized at Dartmouth 28 February, 1663-4. He married Hannah,
daughter of Peter Waymouth, of Malborough, Devon, in 1705, and died in

He left two sons, Thomas and Elias; and Thomas Newcomen, son of the
inventor, compiled a pedigree with a view to proving his claim to the
Irish baronetcy, but probably abandoned the attempt from want of funds
to prosecute the claim.[25]



Although of gentle blood, Thomas Newcomen, son of Elias, and the
inventor, was a tradesman in Dartmouth, variously described as a
locksmith, an ironmonger, and a blacksmith; and probably combining all
these trades. He lived in a picturesque gabled house, with overhanging
stories sustained by carved-oak corbels, in Lower Street. As the
street was very narrow, it was taken down by order of the Local Board,
in 1864, and Mr. Thomas Lidstone became the purchaser of the most
interesting portions of the old dwelling. These he afterwards erected
in a new building for himself, which he called Newcomen Cottage. This
Mr. Lidstone was greatly interested in the history of Newcomen, and in
1871 published _A Few Notes and Queries about Newcomen_, and in 1876
_Notes on the Model of Newcomen’s Steam Engine_ (1705).

For some time Thomas Newcomen carried on his experiments in secret on
the leads of his house. A letter extant of the time is quoted by Mr.

“When [Newcomen] was engaged on his great work, which took him three
years from its commencement until it was completed, and was kept a
profound secret, some of his friends would press Mrs. Newcomen to find
out what her husband was engaged about, and, ‘for their part, they
would not be satisfied to be kept in ignorance.’ Mrs. Newcomen replied,
‘I am perfectly easy. Mr. Newcomen cannot be employed about anything
wrong; and I am fully persuaded, when he thinks proper, he will,
himself, unasked, inform me.’”

When Thomas Newcomen had perfected his engine he associated with
himself Calley or Cawley, a Dartmouth brazier, and How, another
Dartmouth man, in applying for a patent.

Newcomen was a man of reading, and was in correspondence with Dr.
Hooke, secretary of the Royal Society. There are to be found among
Hooke’s papers, in the possession of the Royal Society, some notes
of observations made by him for the use of Newcomen on Papin’s
boasted method of transmitting to a great distance the action of a
mill by means of pipes. Papin’s project was to employ the mill to
work two air pumps of great diameter. The cylinders of these pumps
were to communicate by means of pipes with equal cylinders furnished
with pistons in the neighbourhood of a mine. The pistons were to
be connected by means of levers with the piston-rods of the mine.
Therefore, when the piston of the air pumps at the mill was drawn up by
the engine the corresponding piston at the side of the mine would be
pressed down by the atmosphere, and thus would raise the piston-rod in
the mine and throw up the water. It would appear from these notes that
Dr. Hooke dissuaded Newcomen from erecting a machine on this principle,
of which he saw the fallacy.

It is highly probable that, in the course of his labours and
speculations, it occurred to Newcomen that the vacuum he so much
desired to create might be produced by steam, and that this gave rise
to his new principle, and the construction of his steam engine. He saw
the defects of Savery’s engine, and laboured to correct them. Savery,
however, claimed the invention as his own, which lay at the root of
Newcomen’s improvements; and Newcomen, being a Quaker, and averse from
contention, and moreover glad to be assisted by Savery’s wide circle of
acquaintances, was content to share the honours and the profits with

Switzer, who knew both, says: “Mr. Newcomen was as early in his
invention as Mr. Savery was in his; only, the latter being nearer the
Court, had obtained the patent before the other knew it, on which
account Mr. Newcomen was glad to come in as a partner to it.”[26]

[Illustration: _The STEAM ENGINE near Dudley Castle. Invented by_ Capt.
Savery. & M^r. Newcomen Erected by y^e later. 1712 _delin. & Sculp by
T^t Barney 1719._

_Reproduced by kind permission of Messrs. Macmillan & Co._]

Savery had created his vacuum by the condensation of steam in a closed
vessel by dashing cold water against it. Papin had created his vacuum
by exhausting the air in a cylinder, fitted with a piston, by means of
an air pump. What Newcomen did was to combine both systems. Instead
of employing Savery’s closed vessel, he made use of Papin’s cylinder
fitted with a piston, but worked by the condensation of steam, still
employing the clumsy system of dashing cold water against the cylinder.

Whilst the engine was still in its trial state an accident occurred
that led to another change in the mode of condensation. It was this. In
order to keep the cylinder as free from air as possible, great pains
were taken to prevent it from passing down with the piston, and to keep
the cylinder air-tight, water was employed to lie above the place where
the piston passed up or down.

At one of the early trials the inventors were surprised to see the
engine make several rapid strokes, and on looking into the cause found
that there was a small hole in the piston, which allowed a jet of cold
water to penetrate within, and that this acted as a rapid condenser of
the steam.

A new light suddenly broke upon Newcomen. The idea of condensing the
steam, and so producing a vacuum by injecting cold water into the
receiver, instead of splashing it against the outside, at once occurred
to him; and he proceeded to embody the principle which this accident
had suggested, as part of his machine.

Another improvement was due to another accident, if so it may be
termed. To keep the machine in action a man or boy had to be employed
in turning alternately two taps, one admitting the steam into the
cylinder, the other admitting the cold jet into it to condense it.

The story has been often told how that a boy named Humphry Potter
was planted beside the engine to turn the cocks, and found that this
was excessively tedious and monotonous work, and being a shrewd lad,
observing the alternate ascent and descent of the beam above his head,
worked by the piston, he thought that by attaching to the beam the
levers that governed the cocks, that would do the work for him. The
result was the contrivance of what he called the _scoggan_, consisting
of a catch, worked at first by strings, and afterwards by rods, that
did the work automatically. This story has however been discredited.
See Galloway’s _Steam Engine_, 1881.

“Thus, step by step,” says Mr. Smiles, “Newcomen’s engine grew in power
and efficiency, and became more and more complete as a self-acting
machine. It will be observed that, like all other inventions, it
was not the product of any one man’s ingenuity, but of many. One
contributed one improvement, and another another. The essential
features of the atmospheric engine were not new. The piston and
cylinder had been known as long ago as the time of Hero (222-205
/B.C./). The expansive force of steam and the creation of a
vacuum by its condensation had been known to the Marquess of Worcester,
Savery, Papin, and many more.

“Newcomen merely combined in his machine the result of their varied
experience, and, assisted by the persons who worked with him, down to
the engine-boy Potter, he advanced the inventions several important
stages, so that the steam-engine was no longer a toy or a scientific
curiosity, but had become a powerful machine capable of doing useful

In 1712 Newcomen and his partner, Cawley, contracted to erect an engine
at Wolverhampton. Next they erected two engines near Newcastle. The
fourth was put up at Leeds in 1714. The fifth was erected in Cornwall
at Wheal Fortune in 1720, and was on a larger scale than any previously
constructed, having a cylinder of nearly four feet in diameter, and
its performance was regarded as extraordinary, since it made fifteen
strokes a minute, and drew up at each stroke a hogshead of water from a
depth of 180 feet.

Thomas Savery was a captain of military engineers in 1702, and in
1705 he published a translation of Cohorn’s work on fortification. In
the same year he was appointed Treasurer of the Hospital for Sick and
Wounded Seamen. In 1714, by the favour of Prince George of Denmark, he
was given the surveyorship to the waterworks at Hampton Court; but he
died in the course of the following year, 15 May, 1715.

The date of Newcomen’s death has been already mentioned. Engines of his
pattern continued to be erected long after his death, till there was
scarcely a tin or copper mine of any importance in Cornwall that had
not one or more of such engines at work, and the gaunt and ugly ruins
of the engine-houses disfigure the landscape throughout the mining
districts of Cornwall.

In 1882 Louis Figuier produced a five-act play at the Gaieté in Paris
on Denis Papin. According to this version, Papin, who was a Huguenot,
having fled to London with his family after the Revocation of the Edict
of Nantes, abandoned wife and family to go to Germany, there to pursue
his scientific investigations. When skimming a pot, he noticed the
force that raised the lid, and conceived the idea of the power of steam.

He next set about contriving a model of a steamboat, and as that was
successful, he constructed another on a large scale on the Weser,
which was hacked to pieces by the boatmen, who were incited to this
act of vandalism by a harpy of the name of Barbara. Papin returned to
London, where his wife and son, he learned, had died during his ten
years’ absence, and there, when reduced to the utmost distress, he
learned that a Dartmouth locksmith named Thomas Newcomer [sic] had
invented an engine in which steam was employed as a motive power.
Papin then begged his way to Dartmouth, and recognized in Newcomer his
son, whom he had supposed to be dead. The young man had been led to
this invention by information he had found in drawings and writings of
his father that had been left behind when he went to Germany. Papin
did not make himself known, however, but allowed his son to reap all
the honour and reward of his discovery. In the last scene Newcomer’s
pump is being tried on the Thames in the presence of the Lord Mayor
and Corporation of London, when Barbara and the Weser boatmen, having
crossed the “silver streak” for the purpose, cripple the machine by
cutting some cord that prevents the valve opening, and Papin, who has
perceived this, rushes forward to avert an explosion, and falls a
victim to his generous devotedness, for the boiler bursts just as he
reaches it; he dies in his son’s arms, and Newcomer proclaims to the
Lord Mayor and the world generally that all the honour of the invention
and application of steam is due to his father, a Frenchman--a very
satisfactory conclusion for a French audience.[28]

The French continue to claim for their countryman the glory of being
the inventor of the modern steam engine. The system of the Marquess of
Worcester was propulsion of cold water by the introduction of a blast
of steam. Papin suggested the use of a vacuum formed by condensation of
steam, so as to work a piston; and this vacuum in a cylinder he formed
first by exploding gunpowder in it; and, as this did not answer, by
removing the fire every time the condensation was required--a clumsy
and impracticable method. Savery formed the vacuum first by dashing
cold water against the cylinder, then by forming an outer ring of cold
water about the receiver; but this did not answer well, as this body of
water rapidly heated. Moreover, he did not adopt the piston, but drew
up the water from mines by suction. Then came Newcomen, who adapted
the piston in a cylinder to Savery’s engine; and finally Newcomen and
Savery together discovered how to chill and condense the steam by an
injection of cold water. Papin undoubtedly suggested the leading lines
on which the steam engine was to be constructed, but he was unable
effectually to apply his ideas or to rectify defects in such machines
as he suggested. The solution was due to Newcomen and Savery.


Andrew Brice, an Exeter printer, was born 21 August, 1692, “in the
house where Mary Hellier now lives [1719] near the Butcherow.”[29] He
was educated to be a dissenting minister, and received a good grounding
in classical studies. But owing to the pinched circumstances of his
father, and probably also his own disinclination for the pastorate, he
was withdrawn from school, and at the age of seventeen apprenticed to a
printer. His earliest biographer[30] states:--

“Mr. Bliss, a printer of Exeter, wanting a person capable of correcting
the press, young Brice (aged 17) was proposed to, and accepted by
him as an apprentice for the term of five years. However, having
long before his service expired inconsiderately contracted marriage,
and being unable to support a family of a wife and two children,
he enlisted as a soldier in order to cancel his indentures; and,
by the interest of his friends, very soon procured his discharge.”
Bliss in his paper, the _Mercury_, 30 December, 1715, inserted this
advertisement: “Whereas Andrew Brice, who is my Lawful Apprentice,
hath, without any Cause, in the midst of a Flush of Business, and when
I was disabled by Illness from working myself, roguishly absconded and
deserted my Service to my present great Loss of Businress [sic], and
Damage, this is to forbid all Persons to entertain or Employ the
said Andrew Brice in any Business, or upon any Account, whatsoever;
for, acting by the Advice of the Learned in the Law, I am resolved,
upon Notice thereof to prosecute such as shall so do. If he returns
not to my Business in a very short Time, I shall apply myself to the
Magistrates of this City for Justice in this Case.


_Reproduced by kind permission from a print in the possession of Dr.

“N.B. I am inform’d his dependence is on Mr. Bishop; but I am greatly
deceiv’d, if He is not a Person of more sense; and better understands
what belongs to an Apprentice, than to encourage such a Rascal as shall
so basely leave his Master without the least Cause. /Joe Bliss/.”

What became of Brice during the next two years is not known, but
in 1717 he was back in Exeter, for on 22 March of that year Bliss
inserted the following paragraph in his _Protestant Mercury_: “N.B.
Having received reiterated Assurances from several Gentlemen, that,
notwithstanding that Villain Brice’s Opposition against me, they are
firmly resolved to continue in my Interest: To oblige them, therefore,
and the rest of my Customers, I shall for the future publish my
News on no worse Paper than this, Price One Penny. I can’t forbear
remarking, how that sorry Rascal has opened his Printing Press with a
most rediculous and shabby Advertisement, and a shameful obscene bawdy
Ballad, which deserves to be burnt. Curious Specimens of Rare Genius
and Great Capacity.”

It is evident from this that Brice had already taken up his permanent
abode in Exeter, and had established himself there with a printing
press of his own. His place of business was in Southgate Street, and
he started a paper of his own, the _Postmaster, or Loyal Mercury_. In
the “Journals of the House of Commons” we find under date 19 December,
1718: “Complaint having been made to the House, as a printed Pamphlet,
intituled _The Postmaster, or the Loyal Mercury, Friday, November the
28th, 1718; Exon._ Printed by Andrew Brice, at the head of the Serge
Market in Southgate Street. Wherein the Resolutions and Proceedings
of this House are falsely represented and printed, in Contempt of the
Order, and in Breach of the Privilege of this House; the said Pamphlet
was delivered in at the Clerk’s Table; and several Paragraphs thereof
being read: _Ordered_ That the said Andrew Brice do attend this House
upon Wednesday the 14th January.”

On the day appointed Brice presented himself at the Bar, and it
was ordered “that the said Andrew Brice be, for the said Breach of
Privilege, taken into Custody of the Sergeant of Arms.” Next day,
having acknowledged his offence, “he was accordingly brought to the
Bar: when he, upon his Knees, received a Reprimand from Mr. Speaker;
and was discharged out of Custody, paying his Fees.”

Brice introduced a new feature into his paper by devoting the first
two pages to some tale or narrative of voyages, continued from week to
week, in the style of the French _feuilleton_. His paper terminated its
career on Friday, 23 April, 1725, owing to the imposition of a Stamp
Duty of a penny for every whole sheet; but on the ensuing 30th April,
in the same year, appeared a new journal from his press, entitled
_Brice’s Weekly Journal_, price twopence.

In the meantime Samuel Farley, an enterprising printer, had started a
rival paper, _Farley’s Exeter Journal_, and this seriously interfered
with the sale of Brice’s _Journal_. This led to bickering that reached
a climax in 1726, when there ensued an open quarrel, and Brice was
obliged to publish an apology. According to his own admission, he had
acted in an injudicious and unjustifiable manner. However, he wrote:
“The Farleys have vauntingly given out, That they will totally effect
my Overthrow, and that I am now tottering on the Brink of Destruction;
For that Sam the younger is now actually gone to London to swear some
dreadful Thing (I know not what) against me,” and he intimates that he
may possibly be compelled to shift his quarters to Bristol.

In 1727 Brice energetically took up the case of the treatment of
insolvent debtors. In his _Journal_ of 8 September appeared “The
Case of Mr. Charles Lanyon, &c., of Newlyn, near Penzance, Merchant,
a Prisoner in the Sheriff’s Ward in St. Thomas’s,” with a copy of a
letter to Mr. George Glanvill, gaoler of this prison, which had been
disregarded by him; and a postscript commencing: “We have desired Mr.
Brice, in pure Commiseration, to insert this Account in his Journal,
that the World may be made sensible of our Sufferings.”

On 20 October he contrasted the manner in which Dally, the keeper of
Southgate Prison, treated those committed to his charge with that of
Glanvill at St. Thomas’s. “Be it known to my Country Readers, that that
very worthy Governor is as distinguishable for Humanity, Good-nature,
Charity, and Indulgence to the poor People under his Guard and Care, as
He in St. Thomas’s is for Revenge, Savageness, Cruelty, and a long _et
cætera_ of abhorred Things which want a Name.”

Brice doubtless had good cause to bring before the public the atrocious
manner in which insolvent debtors were treated, but he did this in an
intemperate manner, and with personal abuse that Glanvill could not
allow to pass without placing the matter in the hands of his lawyer,
and legal proceedings were taken against Brice.

In his _Journal_ of 10 November is the remarkable paragraph: “This is
to give Notice, that the poor Printer hereof, who expects never to be
free from Trouble till Death or Dishonesty takes him under Tutelage,
was last Week sued by the most merciful Governour of St. Thomas’s. But
he dares lay _2d. ob._ neither he nor his Councel knows for what. Well!
the Comfort is he fears none but God.... However, being just going to
drink, Mr. Grandvile, my humble Service t’ye!”

Up to the end of the year Brice continued to hammer at Glanvill; one
of his leaders, being a specially vituperative one, he repeated twice;
and in his paper of 16 August, 1728, he accused Glanvill of riding
round the country, visiting the gentlemen empanelled on the jury for
the trial of the case, to endeavour to prejudice and influence them
in his own favour against Brice. After several adjournments the case
was tried; and judgment was given against Andrew Brice, and a fine and
costs imposed, amounting to a large sum.

Dr. Brushfield says truly: “That Brice’s language was strong,
outspoken, coarse, and at times savage, no one will dispute--he was
undoubtedly a hard hitter, and went straight to the mark. In reflecting
upon him, due regard must be had to the coarse period in which he
lived. Let any one read the accounts given by the debtors themselves
and others (in _Brice’s Weekly Journal_, 8 September, 1717, 19 July,
and 6 December, 1728); and if they even make allowance for some
exaggeration, let them ask themselves whether anything could be more
revolting than Glanvill’s treatment of the debtors, and whether Brice’s
language could be too strong in his condemnation of such practices.
In such a case, truth, if vigorously expressed, was a libel in law.
His active sympathies were roused by, what appeared to him to be,
the gross injustice and cruelty of the keeper of St. Thomas’s Ward.
His enthusiasm never wavered in the support of what he deemed to be
a good cause; and no subject did he prosecute more vigorously than
that of rendering some assistance to the confined debtors. Under such
circumstances, trouble, expense, and future consequences were never
considered by him.”

Brice could not and would not pay his fine; and it has been asserted
that he was sent to prison. This, however, seems not to have been the
case. He retired into his own house, and remained there in voluntary
confinement for seven years; where he still continued to produce his
_Journal_. That of 27 February, 1730, contains some information about
him in a leading article. After alluding to “the vile Prosecution
commenced against” him “near Two Years and a Half since,” he thus
refers to the consequences of the action: “I’ve the sad Choice of
paying that other _Honourable Man_, my gentle Adversary above a Hundred
Pounds, go to Gaol (the Den of Legion Woe), or retire from and guard
against the horrid Catchpoles’ rapacious Clutches. The first none who
can’t instruct me honestly to get the Sum will, I presume, advise
me to comply with; the second I’ve a natural Antipathy against; and
therefore the latter, how much soever it may rub against the grain,
I’m forced to submit to.” Then follows the first announcement of a
poem he had composed during his retirement, entitled _Freedom_; and
this had appended to it a notice of another poem, “already printed, to
be published very soon,” entitled “/Behemoth/, or, The horrid
bloody Monster of St. Thomas’s (an Island scituate directly under the
Æquinoctial Line, between Guinea and Lower Æthiopia, subject to the
Portuguese).” This, of course, was another attack upon Glanvill, but
no copy of it is now known to exist.

Whilst preparing for the publication of _Freedom_ he lost his mother
and wife, and this delayed its issue.

Brice took advantage of every Sunday, a day on which debtors could not
be arrested, to walk abroad. Many attempts were made to seize him, but
all failed. He kept himself too close, and was too much on his guard.
On one occasion a bailiff named Spry disguised himself as a clergyman
and entered his office under pretence that he had got a book he desired
to have published by Brice; but that worthy did not allow himself to be

The profits from the sale of his poem on “Freedom” were said to have
been sufficiently large to enable him to compound with his creditors
and regain his liberty. After this he opened a printing press at Truro,
the first in Cornwall. But the venture did not succeed, and he soon
gave it up.

From the outset of his career Brice had exhibited a strong partiality
for the drama, and when players came to Exeter they were hospitably
received at his table.

In 1743, John Wesley visited Exeter for the second time, and preached
in the open air. He probably produced considerable effect, for some
time after this visit the local comedians were prosecuted as vagrants
and forced to give up their theatre in Waterbeer Street. Thereupon
the Methodists purchased it and converted it into a meeting-house.
Brice at once took up the cause of the players, and in 1745 published
a poem entitled “The Play-house Church, or new Actors of Devotion.”
In consequence of this, says the early biographer of Brice, “the mob
were so spirited up that the Methodists were soon obliged to abandon
the place to its former possessors, whom Mr. Brice now protected by
engaging them as his covenant-servants to perform gratis.”

All the playing fraternity who visited Exeter became acquainted with
Brice, and while valuing his hospitality and support, could not fail
to notice and be amused at his eccentricities. When Garrick produced
Colman’s play, _The Clandestine Marriage_, in 1766, Dr. Oliver says:
“There was some hesitation what tone would be most suitable to Lord
Ogleby--it was decided at last that Mr. King should assume Mr. A.
Brice’s.” The part, an important one, was originally intended for
Garrick: but on his declining it, Mr. King was requested to undertake
it. He at first hesitated, but finally consented, and made a great hit
with it. “Mr. King--as Lord Ogleby--seemed to give a relief and glow to
the character which was not intended by the author.”[31]

The character does not accord with what we know of Brice. Lord Ogleby
is a hypochondriac, a fop, an aged flirt, who leers at the ladies and
makes up his complexion. “I have rather too much of the lily this
morning in my complexion,” he says to his valet; “a faint tincture
of the rose will give a delicate spirit to my eyes for the day.”
He converses in French, he chirps out stanzas, whilst twinged with
rheumatism. “Love is the idol of my heart,” says the old fop, “and the
demon, interest, sinks before him.” But that there is a strong vein of
sarcasm in Lord Ogleby, there seems to be no element in the character
that agrees with that of Brice.

We now arrive at the production of the _Grand Gazetteer_, the work
upon which rests principally Brice’s claim to literary celebrity. Upon
it he expended much labour and money. “The very Books by us us’d in
the composition ... cost far above £100,” he says. It was issued in
forty-four shilling numbers, each consisting of thirty-two pages, and
was begun in 1751, and the last number appeared in 1755. This was one
of the earliest gazetteers published in England, and certainly the
most important. Writing fifty years after its completion, Dyer, the
Exeter bookseller, in 1805, termed it, at that date, “the best, the
most comprehensive, and even the most learned Gazetteer in the English
language”; but if we may trust Brice in the matter, he lost money on
the publication.

His last published work was an heroic-comic poem entitled _The Mobiad_,
being a description of an Exeter election “by Democritus Juvenal,
Moral Professor of Ridicule and plaguy-pleasant Fellow of Stingtickle
College; _vulgarly_ Andrew Brice.” London, 1770.

Dr. Brushfield has shown good reasons for attributing to Andrew
Brice, assisted by Benjamin Bowring, of Chumleigh, the composition of
_The Exmoor Scolding and Courtship_ that first appeared in Brice’s

Brice’s latter days were spent in strife with his nephew, Thomas Brice,
who was connected with the _Exeter Journal_, and with Mr. Andrews and
B. Trewman, who had been employed in his printing office, and who left
him and started a new paper on their own account, the _Exeter Mercury_.

He was a disappointed man in his family. He was twice married, but
both his wives, and all his children, died before him. He himself died
of general decay, at the age of eighty-three, on 7 November, 1773. In
his will he desired that he might be attended to his grave by his
brother masons of St. John’s Lodge. His remains were removed to the
Apollo Room, where during his lifetime he had often presided at masonic
gatherings, and there they were exposed for several days on show to
the public, who were charged a shilling a head to view them. The money
raised was to defray the expenses of his funeral.

On Sunday, 14 November, “the morrow of St. Brice’s day,” the interment
took place in St. Bartholomew’s churchyard. Two hundred members of
various lodges, in masonic costume, and with all their regalia,
together with several hundred of the inhabitants, walked in procession
from the New Inn to the grave. A funeral elegy, written by J. E.
Whitaker and set to music by J. E. Gaudry, was performed at the grave
to the accompaniment of orchestral music. No monumental stone marks the
spot where he lies, but the following epitaph, as suitable, is given by

    Here lies Andrew Brice, the old Exeter printer,
    Whose life lengthen’d out to the depth of its winter;
    Of his brethren masonic he took his last leave,
    Inviting them all to a lodge at his grave,
    Who, to show their respect and obedience, came hither,
    (Or rather, the mob and the masons together)
    Sung a hymn to his praise in a funeral tone,
    But disliking his lodging, return’d to their own.

Dr. Brushfield thus gives his appreciation of Andrew Brice: “The
character of Andrew Brice, although very pronounced, is by no means an
easy one to estimate or to describe. His natural good abilities, aided
by a good education, placed him in a position far above his compeers,
and we can well understand Polwhele’s remark on the Farleys being ‘no
match for the learning and abilities of Brice.’ That he possessed
literary talents of a high order is shown by his article on Exeter in
his _Gazetteer_. Of another order of composition, and as displaying
his versatility in a praiseworthy direction, some of his newspaper
articles may be mentioned. But, on the other hand, when excited by
political animosity or by private enmity, he appears to have thrown
off all restraint, and as he was a master in the arts of vituperation,
satire, and unscrupulous sneering, and coarse in his statements, we are
not surprised to learn that he was constantly embroiled in literary
and even in more active warfare. He was vigorous and thorough in all
that he did; a model of plodding perseverance, as the circumstances
of his early life have already demonstrated, a man of strong feelings
and powerful resentment. Testy, painfully sensitive, never forgetting
or forgiving an injury, and governed by strong impulses, whether for
good or for evil. And yet, like those of a large class, his faults were
far more patent to the world than were his virtues. His character was
antithetic, powerful in extremes. Although a good fighter, even when on
the losing side, he often acknowledged himself to be in the wrong. In
his daily life no one was kinder, displayed more hospitality, or was
more charitable--all these good qualities were especially exhibited
to his poorer relatives, as well as to the ‘poor players.’ Of him
Dr. Oliver reports ‘that he was a great favourite with his brother
Exonians; he ... was frank, humorous, and independent.’ He calls him
‘facetious,’ a point of character on which Andrew appeared to pride
himself, as he sometimes dubbed himself ‘Merry Andrew,’ at other times
‘Andrew, surnamed Merry.’ He certainly possessed strong individuality,
and was eccentric in speech, in manner, and dress.”

It often happens that what a man has done and least values is all that
remains of him to be really appreciated in after times. So was it
with Andrew Brice. His _Gazetteer_ has long been superseded. But his
_Exmoor Scolding and Courtship_, which he so little appreciated that
he did not care to acknowledge his part authorship, has been printed
and reprinted, and is valued to this day as one of the most important
dialect works in the English language, and the two were published as
a specimen of the folk-speech of the north-east of the county in 1879
by the English Dialect Society, edited by Mr. F. T. Elworthy. Of the
various authorities for the life of Andrew Brice it is unnecessary here
to speak; all have been superseded by the admirable monograph by Dr.
Brushfield in the _Transactions_ of the Devonshire Association, 1888.
He has been able to correct many errors into which earlier biographers

Several portraits of Brice exist, mainly line engravings. But the best
is a mezzotint engraved by Jehner and published in 1781.


Wrestling was the favourite sport in former days in Devonshire and

Evelyn, in his _Diary_, speaks of West-countrymen in London contesting
in London against men of the North, and in all cases the former
were the victors. And Ben Jonson, in his _Bartholomew Fair_, 1614,
introduces a Western wrestler, who performed before the Lord Mayor of

If we may judge by _As You Like It_, wrestling in the Elizabethan
period was a murderous sport. Charles, the wrestler, plays with an old
man’s three sons. “The eldest of the three wrestled with Charles--which
Charles in a moment threw him, and broke three of his ribs, and there
is little hope of life in him, so he served the second, and so the
third.” When Le Beau laments that Rosalind and Celia had not seen the
sport, Touchstone wisely remarks, “Thus men grow wiser every day! It is
the first time that ever I heard breaking of ribs was sport for ladies.”

At Marytavy, in the churchyard, is the tombstone of John Hawkins,
blacksmith, 1721:--

    Here buried were some years before,
    His two wives and five children more:
    One Thomas named, whose fate was such
    To lose his life by wrestling much.
    Which may a warning be to all
    How they into such pastimes fall.

There is a Cornish ballad of a wrestling match between Will Trefry and
“Little Jan” that ends thus:--

    Then with a desperate toss
    Will showed the flying hoss,
            And little Jan fell on the tan,
    And never more he spake.
    Oh! little Jan, alack!
    The ladies say, O woe’s the day!
            O little Jan, alack.

And it concludes with a verse stating that Little Jan was to have been
married that day.

Of the “flying hoss” or “flying mare” more presently. The wrestling
dress peculiar to the West Country consisted of breeches or trousers
and a wrestling jacket, the only part of the dress by which a hold,
or as it was technically called a _hitch_, could be got by the rules
of the play. The jacket was short and loose, made of untearable
linen stuff, and had short loose sleeves, reaching nearly to the
wrist. Wrestlers wore nothing else, except worsted stockings, and in
Devonshire shoes, soaked in bullock’s blood and baked at a fire, making
them hard as iron. Three men were appointed as _sticklers_ to watch the
players and act as umpires, and decide, in the case of a fall, whether
it was a _fair back_ or not. For a fair back both shoulders and one hip
must touch the ground at the same time, or both hips and one shoulder.
Such a fall was called a Threepoint Fall.

The men having stepped into the ring, shook hands, and then separated,
and the play began by trying for a hitch. This led to much dodging.

A player who gave his adversary a fall remained in the ring for the
next antagonist, and when he had given two falls he was reckoned as a
_standard_. Supposing there were twenty standards left in, the double
play would begin by the sticklers matching them with each other, and
ten would then be left for the treble play. The players would then
be reduced to five, then to three, and finally the two best would be
matched against one another.

The play in Devonshire and Cornwall was different in this, that in the
former county there was kicking, but this was not allowed above the
knee. In some cases skillibegs were worn in Devon, that is, haybands
wound about the calves and shins as a protection. In the Cornish play
there is hugging and heaving; in the Devonshire play, kicking and
tripping. It might be thus defined: in Cornwall, the shoulders and arms
were mainly relied on; in Devonshire, the legs.

A player, having got his hitch, would proceed to very close quarters,
and taking his man round the body, not lower than the waist, would
throw him over his shoulder, giving him the _Flying Mare_, and turning
him over on his back when falling, give him the Back Fall.

Besides the Flying Mare, there was the Cross-buttock fall in shoulder
play, the Back-heave, and others. In the leg play there were the
Fore-lock, the Back-lock, Heaving-toe, Back-heel, and others. The
Cornish player would, when he had secured his hitch, endeavour to drag
his man in for the hug and the fling; whereas the Devonshire man would
play for his hitch to keep him off, till he had disabled him.[33]

Sir Thomas Parkyns, about whom more in the sequel, thus describes the
cast of the Flying Mare: “Take him by the right hand with your left,
your palm being upwards as if you designed only to shake him by the
hand in a friendly manner in the beginning, and twist it outwards, and
lift it upwards to make way for your head, and put your head under
his left armpit, and hold his head stiff backwards, to hold him out of
his strength; then put your right arm up to the shoulder between his
grainings, and let your hand appear behind, past his breech; but if
you suspect they will cavil at that arm, as a breeching, lay your arm
across his belly, and lift him up as high as your head, and in either
hold, when so high, lean backwards and throw him over your head.”

Sir Thomas insists that a good wrestler must be temperate. “Whoever
would be a complete wrestler must avoid being overtaken in drink,
which very much enervates, or, being in a passion at the sight of his
adversary, or having received a fall, in such cases he is bereaved
of his senses; not being master of himself is less of his art, but
showeth too much play, or none at all, or either pulleth, kicketh, and
ventureth beyond all reason and his judgment when himself.”

Wrestling matches usually began at Whitsuntide, but were most in
practice at the period between the hay and corn harvests, when the
cereals were assuming a golden hue, and the orchards were bending under
their burden of fruit. There was hardly a village in the West that did
not offer a prize and enjoy the time-honoured spectacle of a game of
wrestling. The prize was either a silver-plated belt or a gold-laced
hat. The wearing of the latter was held to free the wearers from
liability to be pressed for the Navy.

The wrestling ground was laid with tan. At Moreton Hampstead the games
took place in the Sentry or Sanctuary field. At Sheepstor in the still
well-preserved Bull-ring, and the spectators sat on the churchyard wall
to watch the sport. At Liskeard, matches took place in the Ploy, or
Play-field from Lady Day to Michaelmas.

In the kicking, usual in Devonshire play, the wrestler about to
administer a kick had but one foot on the ground, and having an
off-hitch was liable to be thrown by a quick player with a trip or a
lock. The kick could be prevented by bending the knee so as to bring
the heel up to the buttock, and projecting it, when the knee caught the
administering player on the leg-bone above the knee with such force as
to paralyse it for a while, and it has even been known to break it.
This was entitled the _stop_.

Several of the Devonshire wrestlers became famous beyond the confines
of the county; and matches between Devonians and Cornishmen were not
uncommon; and the latter do not seem to have been at all afraid of
the kick, for by closing on their antagonists for the hug, they could
prevent them from kicking with toe or heel, at all events with full

Thorne was a man of Widdecombe-on-the-Moor, a man of splendid build
and muscular development. He had made his name as a wrestler, when he
was induced to join the Life Guards, and in the battle of Waterloo
took part in the famous charge against the French cuirassiers; as he
was cutting down his tenth victim a shot laid him low, at the age of

Then two young Devonian giants took the lead in the ring, Johnny Jordan
and Flower, each six feet high and weighing a trifle over eighteen
stone apiece. Jordan was a redoubted kicker, and the bravest wrestlers
shrank from challenging him. On one occasion Flower and Jordan were
opposed to one another, and after a struggle of seventeen minutes,
Flower gave way.

In 1816, Flower was confronted with Polkinghorne, a St. Columb
taverner, and the champion of Cornwall. The latter was too much
for Flower, and he was thrown amidst enthusiastic cheering and
hat-tossing and kerchief-waving of the Cornishmen.

[Illustration: _Drawn from Nature on the Stone by Geo. Rowe.  Printed by
P. Simonau._



Who challenges all the World for 100 Sovereigns. Height 5 f^t 8-1/4.
Weight 12 Stone 7 lb Age 30. _Pub^d by Geo. Rowe N^n 38 Paris S^t Exeter
Aug^{st} 10^{th} 1826._]

Jackman, another Devonshire man, confronted Polkinghorne next day, and
he was cast over the head of the Cornubian, describing the “flying
mare.” William Wreford, at the age of eighteen, achieved reputation
by throwing Jordan over his head with such force that Jordan came
down with a “crash similar to that produced by felling an oak tree.”
But Wreford met his match in a wrestle with “the little Elephant,”
James Stone. Simultaneously the men grappled each other; and although
Wreford had the advantage at the outset, he was hurled into the
air, and fell with such violence on his back that for a time he was
incapacitated from taking part in a similar contest. Eventually the
return match came off at Southmolton, and Stone was again victorious.
Nevertheless Wreford remained a prominent figure in the ring, and threw
Francis Olver, a Cornishman, although he came out of the contest with
several of his ribs crushed by the deadly “hug.” But a greater than
Wreford and Jordan arose in the person of Abraham Cann. He was born in
December, 1794, and was the son of Robert Cann, a farmer and maltster
at Colebrook. His father had been a wrestler before him, and Abraham
inherited the old man’s skill, and learned by his experience, and soon
defeated Jordan, Flower, Wreford, Simon Webber, and other redoubtable
Devon champions. He was above the middle height as a man, with long
legs, and was endowed with surprising strength of limb. He was a
kicker. Abraham had a brother James, also a well-known wrestler, but he
did not acquire the celebrity of Abraham. In his later years he was an
under-gamekeeper, respected for his fearlessness when poachers were to
the fore.

There were other mighty men in the ring, as Bawden the Mole-catcher,
and Frost, of Aveton Gifford; but these were no match for Cann.

At Totnes, in 1825, Jordan had thrown a fine player, of the name of
Huxtable, in one minute, and the liveliest interest was felt in a match
that was to be played between him and Abraham Cann, who boasted that he
could kick to rags the legs of his antagonist in “vive minutes.”

When his turn arrived Cann awaited Jordan in the ring, upright,
undaunted, with a smile of conscious superiority on his face. Jordan
eyed the tall, athletic, and muscular form of Abraham, and withdrew
without trying for a hitch. This caused lively disappointment, and loud
cries of anger broke forth. But Jordan felt that he was not in good
form at the time. Two days later he was roughly handled by a young
Cornishman named Hook, and was too much injured to resume the contest.

On 21 September, 1826, at the Eagle Tavern, City Road, London, Cann
contended without shoes for the first prize with James Warren of
Redruth, and although the latter made a gallant struggle and Cann was
at a disadvantage playing without his proper and accustomed weapons,
the indurated boots, Abraham Cann came off the victor.

He now challenged Polkinghorne, the champion of Cornwall. James
Polkinghorne was 6 ft. 2 in. high, weighed 320 lb., and had not
wrestled for some years, but had carried on business as landlord of the
“Red Lion” in St. Columb Major. Cann was but 5 ft. 8-1/2 in. high, and
weighed 175 lb. This match was for £200 a side, for the best of three
back-falls; and it took place on Tamar Green, Morice Town, Plymouth,
on 23 October, 1826, in presence of 17,000 spectators. According to
some accounts, Abraham on this occasion was allowed only one shoe.
There had been much previous correspondence between the champions;
Polkinghorne had postponed meeting Cann as long as was possible.

Finally a meeting was arranged, as said, on the 23rd October, 1826.

“Tamar Green, Devonport, was chosen for this purpose, and the West
was alive with speculation when it was known that the backers meant
business. On the evening before the contest the town was inundated,
and the resources of its hotels and inns were taxed to the utmost.
Truculent and redoubtable gladiators flocked to the scene--kickers
from Dartmoor, the recruiting-ground of the Devonshire system, and
bear-like huggers from the land of Tre, Pol, and Pen--a wonderful
company of tried and stalwart experts. Ten thousand persons bought
tickets at a premium for seats, and the hills around swarmed with
spectators. The excitement was at the highest possible pitch, and
overwhelming volumes of cheering relieved the tension as the rivals
entered the ring--Polkinghorne in his stockings, and Cann with a
monstrous pair of shoes whose toes had been baked into flints. As the
men peeled for action such a shout ascended as awed the nerves of all
present. Polkinghorne had been discounted as fat and unwieldy, but
the Devonians were dismayed to find that, great as was his girth, his
arms were longer, and his shoulders immensely powerful. Three stone
lighter in weight, Cann displayed a more sinewy form, and his figure
was knit for strength, and as statuesquely proportioned. His grip,
like Polkinghorne’s, was well known. No man had ever shaken it off
when once he had clinched; and each enjoyed a reputation for presence
of mind and resource in extremity beyond those of other masters of the
art. The match was for the best of three back-falls, the men to catch
what hold they could; and two experts from each county were selected
as sticklers. The feeling was in favour of Cann at the outset, but it
receded as the Cornishman impressed the multitude with his muscular
superiority. Repeatedly shifting their positions, the combatants
sought their favourite ‘holts.’ As soon as Cann caught his adversary
by the collar after a contending display of shifty and evasive form,
Polkinghorne released himself by a feint; and, amid ‘terrible shouts
from the Cornishmen,’ he drove his foe to his knees.

“Nothing daunted, the Devonian accepted the Cornish hug, and the
efforts of the rivals were superb. Cann depended on his science to
save him; but Polkinghorne gathered his head under his arm, and
lifting him from the ground, threw him clean over his shoulder, and
planted him upon his back. ‘The very earth groaned with the uproar
that followed; the Cornishmen jumped by hundreds into the ring; there
they embraced their champion till he begged to be released; and, amid
cheers and execrations, the fall was announced to have complied with
the conditions. Bets to the amount of hundreds of pounds were decided
by this event.’

“Polkinghorne now went to work with caution, and Cann was conscious
that he had an awkward customer to tackle. After heavy kicking
and attempted hugging, the Cornishman tried once more to lift his
opponent; but Cann caught his opponent’s leg in his descent, and threw
him to the ground first. In the ensuing rounds both men played for
wind. Polkinghorne was the more distressed, his knees quite raw with
punishment, and the betting veered in Cann’s favour. Then the play
changed, and Cann was apparently at the mercy of his foe, when he
upset Polkinghorne’s balance by a consummate effort, and threw him on
his back by sheer strength--the first that the sticklers allowed him.
Cann next kicked tremendously; but, although the Cornishman suffered
severely, he remained ‘dead game,’ and twice saved himself by falling
on his chest.

“Disputes now disturbed the umpires, and their number was reduced to
two. In the eighth round Polkinghorne’s strength began to fail, and
a dispute was improvised which occasioned another hour’s delay. With
wind regained and strength revived, the tenth round was contested with
absolute fury; and, taking kicking with fine contempt, Polkinghorne
gripped Cann with leonine majesty, lifted him from the earth in his
arms, turned him over his head, and dashed him to the ground with
stunning force. As the Cornishman dropped on his knee the fall was
disputed, and the turn was disallowed. Polkinghorne then left the ring
amid a mighty clamour, and, by reason of his default, the stakes were
awarded to Cann. The victor emerged from the terrific hugs of his
opponent with a mass of bruises, which proved that kicking was only one
degree more effective than hugging.

“A more unsatisfactory issue could hardly have been conceived, and
the rival backers forthwith endeavoured to arrange another encounter.
Polkinghorne refused to meet Cann, however, unless he discarded his

Various devices were attempted to bring them together again, but they
failed. Each had a wholesome dread of the other.

But Cann went on as a mighty wrestler. He tried a fall with “Irish
Gaffney.” It ended in Cann throwing Gaffney over his back and
dislocating his left shoulder, besides cutting his shins to pieces with
his boots.

His next famous encounter was with Frost, a moorman of Aveton Gifford,
and after a most desperate contest, Cann landed him on his back.[34]

There were other mighty men of the ring, such as a blind wrestler
mentioned in the ballad of “Dick Simmins.” In Cornwall wrestling
continues, especially at S. Columb and S. Austell, but in Devon
it is extinct: it was thought brutal to hack the shins, and after
the hobnailed boot, or boot hardened in blood and at the fire, was
discarded, it lost its interest.

Sir Thomas Parkyns has been quoted. He published a curious work
entitled _The Inn Play, or Cornish Hugg Wrestler_, and died in 1741.
He was an enthusiast for the noble science--the Cornish, and not the
Devonshire mode--and would only take into his service men who were good
wrestlers. His coachman was one who had shown him the Flying Mare.

Sir Thomas, by his will, left a guinea to be wrestled for at Bradmore,
Nottinghamshire, every Midsummer Day, and had his monument carved
for him during his lifetime, representing him in wrestling costume,
sculptured in marble by his chaplain, prepared for either the Cornish
Hug or the Flying Mare. On one side is a well-limbed figure lying
_above_ the scythe of Time, the sun rising and shining on him as a
wrestler in the prime of life; on the other side is the same figure
stretched in a coffin, with Time triumphant above him brandishing his
scythe, and the sun setting. There are Latin verses appended, that may
be thus translated:--

    Here lies, O Time! the victim of thy hand,
    The noblest wrestler on the British strand,
    His nervous arm each bold opposer quell’d,
    In feats of strength by none but thee excell’d,
    Till, springing up, at the last trumpet’s call,
    He conquers thee, who will have conquer’d all.

At the time of the European war, it sometimes happened that a wrestling
match was interrupted in an unpleasant manner to some of the parties
by the appearance on the scene of the press-gang. There is a favourite
song relative to Dick Simmins, published in Mr. Collier’s memoir of
Hicks of Bodmin. I will give it here:--

    Come Vaither, Mother and Brothers all,
      And Zistur too, I pray,
    I’ll tell ee a power o’ the strangest things
      As happen’d to me at say.
    I’ll tell ee a parcel o’ the strangest things
      About the winds and tide,
    How by compass us steer’d, and o’ naught was afear’d,
      An’ a thousand things beside.

    ’Tes true I lived i’ ole Plymouth town,
      My trade it were ostling,
    Dick Simmins and I went to Maker Green
      To turn at wrasteling.
    The prize o’ buckskin breeches a pair,
      And ne’er the wuss for wear,
    Dick and I us tried two valls apiece,
      The blind man got his share.

    Bevoor the play was o’er half way,
      ’Tes true upon my word,
    There came a set o’ press-gang chaps
      Each armed wi’ stick and sword.
    Dick Simmins swore a dreadful oath
      I didn’t like to hear,
    But when King ca’d blind man a fule,
      That--darn’t--I couldn’t bear.

      I went to t’ chap wi’ upcock’d hat,
    “No odds where you may be,
      But if thou thinks thyself a man
    Come wi’out the ring wi’ me.”
      So he did stand, his sword in hand,
    I knocked it from his hand,
      Then three or vour gurt toads came up
    And knocked me down on t’ land.

    Along came one of Plymouth town,
      Prentice to Uncle Cross,
    Wot run away ’bout a bastard child,
      A terrible lad he wos.
    Said he, “Don’t sarve the young man so,
      ’Tes an onmanly thing;
    Pick up the lad, put him on board
      That he may sarve the King.”

    They took me up by neck and heels,
      They dra’ed me to the boat,
    The master came ’longside of me
      Wi’, “Send the lubber afloat.”
    They took me up by neck and heels,
      They dra’ed me to the say,
    But Providence a-ordered it
      I shuldn’t be killed that way.

    They picked me out, put me aboard
      A ship then in the Sound,
    The waves and winds did blow and roar,
      I thought I shu’d be drown’d.
    Then one called “Tack!” another “Ship!”
      A third cried “Helm a lee!”
    Lor’ bless’y, I dun knaw Tack from Ship,
      An’ Helm to me’s Chinee.

    The Master ordered I aloft,
      ’Twas blawin’ cruel hard,
    And there was three or vour gurt chaps
      A grizzlin’ in the yard.
    When down came mast and down came yard,
      Then down came I likewise.
    Lor’ bless’y! if the church tower vaall’d,
      ’Twouldn’t make half the noise.

    Some vaall’d o’erboard, and some on deck,
      Some had a thundrin’ thump,
    The Master ordered all hands up
      For pumpin’ at the pump.
    Us pumpéd at the pump, my boys,
      And no one dared to squeak,
    The Master ordered all below
      To stop a thunderin’ leak.

    When us had stoppéd up that leak
      A French ship us spied comin’,
    The Master orders all to fight
      And the drummer to be drummin’.
    So when the French ship came ’longside,
      A broadside us let flee,
    Lor’ bless’y! what for smoke and vire
      Us couldn’t smell nor see.

    The Master wi’ his cocked-up hat
      He flourishéd his sword,
    Wi’ “Come and follow me, brave boys,
      I warn’t we’ll try to board.”
    I vollowed he thro’ thick and thin,
      Tho’ bless’y I culdn’t see’n;
    The gurt French chap was on to he
      Wi’ sword both long and keen.

    I rinn’d up to the Master’s help,
      I niver rinn’d no vaster,
    I zed unto the gurt French chap,
      “Now don’t ee hurt the Master!”
    Then “Wee, wee, wee, parlez vous Frenchee!”
      He zed--I reck’n he cuss’d--
    But “Darny,” sez I, “if that’s your game,
      I reck’n I must kill ee fust.”

    The Master jumped ’bout the French ship
      And tore down all her colours,
    And us jumped ’bout the French ship, too,
      A whoppin’ them foreign fellers.
    As for the chap as Master threat’n’d
      I beat that Parley-vous,
    From the niddick down his lanky back,
      Till he squeaked out “Mortbleu!”

    Now here’s a lesson to volks ashore,
      And sich as ostlers be,
    Don’t never say Die, and Tain’t my trade,
      But listen, and mark of me.
    There’s nobody knaws wot ee can do,
      Till tried--now trust me well,
    Why--us wos ostlers and ort beside,
      Yet kicked the Frenchies to----Torpoint.

Carew gives us an account of the way in which wrestling was conducted
in the West of England in the days of Charles I. “The beholders cast
or form themselves into a ring, in the empty space whereof the two
champions step forth, stripped into their dublets and hosen, and
untrussed, that they may so the better command the use of their lymmes;
and first, shaking hands, in token of friendship, they fall presently
to the effects of anger; for each striveth how to take hold of the
other with his best advantage, and to bear his adverse party downe;
whereas, whosoever overthroweth his mate, in such sort, as that either
his backe, or the one shoulder, and contrary heele do touch the ground,
is accounted to give the fall. If he be only endangered, and makes a
narrow escape, it is called a foyle.”

He then adds: “This pastime also hath his laws, for instance; of taking
hold above the girdle--wearing a girdle to take hold by--playing three
pulls for trial of the mastery, the fall-giver to be exempted from
playing again with the taker, but bound to answer his successor. Silver
prizes for this and other activities, were wont to be carried about, by
certain circumforanei, or set up at bride-ales, but time or their abuse
hath now worn them out of use.” Double play was when two who had flung
the rest contested at the close for the prize.

If wrestling was declining in Carew’s time, it certainly revived in
vigour in the reign of Charles II, and continued till the beginning of
the nineteenth century, when again it declined, and is now in Devon a
thing of the past.

Blackmore has given an excellent description of a Devonshire wrestling
match in his early novel of _Clara Vaughan_.


At the beginning of the nineteenth century, few counties in England
produced such a crop of hunting parsons as did Devonshire. They were
in force for the first fifty years. In 1831 Henry Phillpotts was
consecrated Bishop of Exeter. Shortly after, as he was driving with his
chaplain on the way to a Confirmation, a fox-hunt passed by in full

“Dear me!” exclaimed his lordship; “what a number of black coats
among the hunters. Has there been some great bereavement in the

“My lord,” replied the chaplain, “the only bereavement these
black-coated sportsmen suffer from is not being able to appear in pink.”

There were, it was computed, in the diocese of Exeter a score of
incumbents who kept their packs; there must have been over a hundred
parsons who hunted regularly two or three days in the week, and as
many more who would have done so had their means allowed them to keep

There is no objection to be made to a parson following the hounds
occasionally; the sport is more manly than that which engrosses so
many young clerics nowadays, dawdling about with ladies on lawn-tennis
grounds or at croquet. But those early days of last century hunting
was with many the main pursuit of their life, and clerical duties were
neglected or perfunctorily performed.

There was no high standard of clerical life prevalent, but what
standard there was was not lived up to. These parsonic sportsmen
were as profoundly ignorant of the doctrines of the Faith they were
commissioned to teach, as any child in a low form in a National School.
As was sung of one--typical--

    This parson little loveth prayer
      And _Pater_ night and morn, Sir!
    For bell and book hath little care,
      But dearly loves the horn, Sir!
        Sing tally-ho! sing tally-ho!
          Sing tally-ho! Why, Zounds, Sir!
        I mounts my mare to hunt the hare!
          Sing tally-ho! the hounds, Sir!

    In pulpit Parson Hogg was strong,
      He preached without a book, Sir!
    And to the point, but never long,
      And this the text he took, Sir!
        O tally-ho! O tally-ho!
          Dearly Beloved--Zounds, Sir!
        I mounts my mare to hunt the hare!
          Sing tally-ho! the hounds, Sir!

There is but one patch of false colour in this song, that which
represents the hunting parson as strong in the pulpit.

Society--hunting society especially--in North Devon was coarse to an
exceptional degree. One who knew it intimately wrote to me: “It was
a strange ungodly company, parsons included, and that not so very
long ago. North Devon society in Jack Russell’s day was peculiar--so
peculiar that no one now would believe readily that half a century
ago such life could be--but I was in the thick of it. It was not
creditable to any one, but it was so general that the rascality of it
was mitigated by consent.”

The hunting parson was, as said, not strong in the pulpit except in
voice. But Jack Russell, of Swymbridge, was an exception.

[Illustration: J. Russell]

He had a fine, sonorous voice, good delivery, and some eloquence. The
Bishop of Exeter, Dr. Phillpotts, heard him on one occasion, and said
to a lady, a connexion of Mr. Russell, “That was really a capital
sermon.” “Ah! my lord,” she replied, “you have only heard him in the
wood--you should hear him in pig-skin giving the view-halloo!”

Bishop Phillpotts came to the diocese resolved to suppress the hunting
and sporting of his clergy, but found it impossible to do so. His
efforts were wrongly directed; the hunting put down would not have
altered the propensities of his clergy. He could not convert them to
earnest and devoted parish priests. Thus hearts could not be reached.
It was only as this class of men died out that a better type could be
introduced. The Bishop sent for Mr. Russell, of Swymbridge.

“I understand that you keep hounds, and that your curate hunts with
you. Will you give up your hounds?”

“No, my lord, I decline to do so.”

He then turned to the curate, Sleeman, and said, “Your licence, sir, I
revoke; and I only regret that the law does not enable me to deal with
the graver offender of the two.”

“I am very happy to find you can’t, my lord,” said Russell. “And may I
ask, if you revoke Mr. Sleeman’s licence, who is to take the duty at
Landkey, my other parish, next Sunday?”

“Mr. Sleeman may do it.”

“And who the following Sunday?”

“Mr. Sleeman again,” replied the Bishop, “if by that time you have not
secured another curate.”

“I shall take no steps to do so, my lord; and, moreover, shall be very
cautious as to whom I admit into my charges,” replied Russell.

Finally Mr. Sleeman removed to Whitchurch, a family living, to which
he succeeded on the death of his father, and Bishop Phillpotts had
to swallow the bitter pill of instituting him to it. I remember Mr.
Sleeman as rector, hunting, shooting, dancing at every ball, and
differing from a layman by his white tie, a capital judge of horses,
and possessor of an excellent cellar.

When Parson Jack Russell was over eighty he started keeping a pack of
harriers. The then Bishop of Exeter sent for him.

“Mr. Russell, I hear you have got a pack of hounds. Is it so?”

“It is. I won’t deny it, my lord.”

“Well, Mr. Russell, it seems to me rather unsuitable for a clergyman
to keep a pack. I do not ask you to give up hunting, for I know it
would not be possible for you to exist without _that_. But will you, to
oblige me, give up the pack?”

“Do y’ ask it as a personal favour, my lord?”

“Yes, Mr. Russell, as a personal favour.”

“Very well, then, my lord, I will.”

“Thank you, thank you.” The Bishop, moved by his readiness, held out
his hand. “Give me your hand, Mr. Russell; you are--you really are--a
good fellow.”

Jack Russell gave his great fist to the Bishop, who pressed it warmly.
As they thus stood hand in hand, Jack said--

“I won’t deceive you--not for the world, my lord. I’ll give up the pack
sure enough--but Mrs. Russell will keep it instead of me.”

The Bishop dropped his hand.

On one occasion Bishop Phillpotts met Froude, vicar of Knowstone. “I
hear, Mr. Froude, that you keep a pack of harriers.”

“Then you’ve heard wrong, my lord. It is the pack that keeps me.”

“I do not understand.”

“They stock my larder with hares. You don’t suppose I should have
hares on my table unless they were caught for me? There’s no butcher
for miles and miles, and I can’t get a joint but once in a fortnight.
Forced to eat hares; and they must be caught to be eaten.”

The Bishop then said to Froude: “I hear, sir, but I can hardly credit
it, that you invite men to your house and keep them drinking and then
fighting in your parlour.”

“My lord, you are misinformed. Don’t believe a word of it. When they
begin to fight and takes off their coats, I turns ’em out into the

John Boyce, rector of Sherwell, wishing to have a day’s hunting with
the staghounds on the Porlock side of Exmoor, told his clerk to give
notice in the morning that there would be no service in the afternoon
in the church, as he was going off to hunt with Sir Thomas Acland over
the moor on the following day. The mandate was obeyed to the letter,
the clerk making the announcement in the following terms:--

“This is to give notiss--there be no sarvice to this church this
arternoon; cos maester be a-going over the moor a stag-hunting wi’ Sir

At Stockleigh Pomeroy parish, the rector, Roupe Ilbert, desired his
clerk to inform the congregation that there would be one service only
on the Sunday in that church for a month, as he was going to take duty
at Stockleigh English _alternately_ with his own. The clerk did so in
these words: “This is vor to give notiss--there’ll be no sarvice to
thes church but wance a wick, as maester’s a-going to sarve t’other
Stockleigh and this church to all etarnity.”

On one occasion, as the congregation were assembling for divine
service in a church where Mr. Russell was ministering, a man stood
on the churchyard hedge, with the band of his hat stuck round with
silver spoons, bawling out, “Plaize to tak’ notiss--Thaise zix zilver
spunes to be wrastled vor next Thursday, at Poughill, and all ginlemen
wrastlers will receive vair play.” The man, with the spoons in his hat,
then entered the church, went up to the singing gallery, and hung it
on a peg, from which it was perfectly visible to the parson and the
greater part of the congregation during service.

It was customary in those portions of Devon which were not regularly
hunted, for the church bell to be rung when a fox had been discovered,
so as to assemble all hands to kill it.

On one occasion, at Welcombe, snow lying deep on the ground, the
clergyman was reading the second lesson, when a man opened the church
door and shouted in, “I’ve a got un!” and immediately withdrew. At once
up rose all the men in the congregation and followed him, and within a
couple of hours brought into the village inn a fine old fox, dug out
and murdered in cold blood.

Of the whole tribe of fox-hunting, hare-hunting, otter-hunting, dancing
parsons, Jack Russell was the best in every way.

I was travelling outside the coach one day to Exeter, and two farmers
were by me on the seat behind the driver. Their talk was on this
occasion, not of bullocks, but of parsons. One of them came from
Swymbridge, the other from a certain parish that I shall not name,
and whose rector we will call Rattenbury. The latter told a story of
Rattenbury that cannot be repeated, indicating incredible grossness in
an Englishman, impossible in a gentleman. “Aye there!” retorted the
sheep of Parson Jack’s flock. “Our man b’aint like that at all. He be
main fond o’ dogs, I allows; he likes his bottle o’ port, I grant you
that; but he’s a proper gentleman and a Christian; and I reckon your
passon be neither one nor t’other.”

John Russell was born in December, 1796. His father was rector of
Iddesleigh, in North Devon, and at the same time of Southill, near
Callington, in Cornwall, one of the fattest livings in that county, the
rectory and church distant three miles from the town of Callington,
that is in the parish. A curate on a small stipend was sent to serve
Iddesleigh, Mr. Russell settling into the spacious rectory of Southill,
large as a manor-house, and with extensive grounds and gardens.

Young John was sent to school at Blundell’s, at Tiverton, under
Dr. Richards, a good teacher, but a very severe disciplinarian. At
Blundell’s, Russell and another boy, named Bovey, kept a scratch pack
of hounds. Having received a hint that this had reached the ears of Dr.
Richards, he collected his share of the pack and sent them off to his
father. Next day he was summoned to the master’s desk.

“Russell,” said the Doctor, “I hear that you have some hounds. Is it

“No, sir,” answered Russell; “I have not a dog in the neighbourhood.”

“You never told me a lie, so I believe you. Bovey, come here. You have
some hounds, I understand?”

“Well, sir, a few--but they are little ones.”

“Oh! you have, have you? Then I shall expel you the school.”

And expelled he was, Russell coming off scatheless.

John Russell was ordained deacon in 1819, on nomination to the curacy
of Georgenympton, near Southmolton, and there he kept otter hounds.
In 1830 he married Penelope, daughter of Admiral Bury, a lady with a
good deal of money, all of which, or nearly all, Parson Jack managed in
process of years to get rid of--£50,000, which went, not in giving her
pleasure, but on his own sporting amusements.

Russell thought that in horse-dealing, as in love and war, all things
are lawful. It so happened that Parson Froude wanted a horse, and he
asked his dear friend, Russell, if he knew where he could find one that
was suitable. “Would my brown horse do?” asked Russell. “I want to sell
him, because the hunting season is over, and I have too many horses.
Come into town on Saturday and dine with me in the middle of the day,
and see the horse. If you like him, you can have him, and if you do
not, there is no harm done.”

On Saturday, into Southmolton came Froude. Russell lived there, as he
was curate of Georgenympton, near by. Froude stabled his horse at the
lower end of the town. He was suspicious even of a friend, so, instead
of going to Russell’s lodging, he went to his stable and found the door
locked. This circumstance made him more suspicious than ever, and,
looking round, he saw a man on a ladder, from which he was thatching
a cottage. He called to him for assistance, shifted the ladder to the
stable, ascended, and went by the “tallet” door into the loft. He got
down the steps inside, opened the window, and carefully inspected the
horse, which he found to be suffering in both eyes from incipient
cataract. He climbed back, got down the ladder, and shutting the
window, went into a shop to have his coat brushed before he rang his
friend’s door-bell. The door was opened by Russell himself, who saluted
him with:

“You are early, Froude. Come across to the bank with me for a moment,
if you do not mind.”

In the street was standing a Combmartin cart laden with early
vegetables, and between the shafts was an old pony, stone blind, with
glassy eyeballs. Froude paused, lifted the pony’s head, turned its face
to the light, looked at the white eyeballs, and remarked: “How blessed
plenty blind horses are in this town just now, Jack.”

Not another word was said. The dinner was eaten, the bottle of port
wine was consumed, and Froude rode home without having been asked to
see the brown horse. Russell knew that the game was up, and that his
little plan for making his friend view the horse _after_ he had dined,
and not before, had lamentably failed.[35]

But that was the way with them. Froude would have dealt with his best
friend in the same manner over horses.

One who knew him intimately writes: “Russell was an iron man. I
have known other specimens, but Russell was the hardest of all in
constitution. He was kindly enough and liberal in his dealings with
his people; but if it came to selling him, or even to lending him, a
horse, or buying what he was pleased to call his famous terriers, the
case was different--it was after the morality of North Devon. He was a
wonderful courtier where ladies were concerned, and with them he was
very popular. He was no fool, but very capable, only a man who was too
much given to outdoor sports to read, or even to keep himself currently

“His voice was not unmusical, but tremendous. He was far too shrewd to
be ever foolish in church. I was in the county somewhere about 1848-9,
and there was a Bishop’s Visitation at Southmolton, and Russell was
asked to preach. Then the clergy, churchwardens, etc., dined together
at the ‘George,’ and after dinner the Bishop rose, and, with his
silvery voice, thanked the preacher of the day, and, in the name of all
those present, begged him to publish his admirable discourse for their

“Bishop Phillpotts, I may say, was diabolically astute and
well-informed, and dangerous to match.

“Then up rose Russell, with head thrown back, and said: ‘My lord,
I rejoice that so good a judge should pronounce my performance
profitable. But I cannot oblige your lordship and publish, because that
discourse is already in print. My lord, when I was requested to preach
to-day I naturally turned to see what others before me had thought it
advisable to say on similar occasions; and, chancing on a discourse by
an Irish clergyman of long ago, I shared your lordship’s sentiments
of admiration, and feeling myself incapable of doing better than the
author, I was determined, my lord, that if, to-day, I could give no
better fare, at least my audience should have no worse. My lord, the
sermon is not original.’

“There was not a man in the room but knew that the Bishop had
endeavoured to trap _their_ man. And that he had extricated himself
gave vast delight, manifested by the way in which the glasses leaped
from the tables, as the churchwardens banged the boards.”

Russell was not a heavy drinker. No one ever saw him drunk. Usually he
only brought out a bottle of port after he had killed his fox. On all
other occasions gin and water was produced before going to bed. But if
not intemperate in that way, he could and did use strong language in
the hunting-field--as strong as any of the yeomen and farmers.

He was ubiquitous. Whenever there was a wrestling match, distance was
nothing to him, or a horse fair, or a stag-hunt. Mentioning stag-hunts
recalls the story of a parson on the fringe of Exmoor, who had been out
with the hounds, and had the hunters in his church on Sunday morning.
The Psalm given out was “As pants the hart for cooling streams,” and
his text was “Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah, and we found it in the

From Southmolton John Russell moved to Iddesleigh, appointed there by
his father, who surrendered to him the income of the living.

He was now somewhat out of the ring of his former associates, and had
to make, and contrived to make, fresh friends in the neighbourhood of
Hatherleigh. But it was not one where there were many squires, and the
clergy were too poor to keep packs. Moreover, that tract of country was
rarely hunted at all, and Russell determined to make it his own special
happy hunting ground. There were, however, difficulties in the way. The
people did not sympathize. The farmers were indisposed to favour his
scheme, and of resident sporting squires there were none at all.

It had long been the practice of the natives to kill a fox whenever
and however they could catch him; and Russell had not been long at
Iddesleigh when one day his ear caught the sound of a church bell, rung
in a jangling fashion and with more than usual clamour. It was the
signal that a fox had been tracked to ground or balled into a brake;
and the bell summoned every man who possessed a pickaxe, a gun, or a
terrier to hasten to the spot and lend a hand in destroying the noxious
animal. This practice he had to interrupt and put an end to.

A letter of Russell’s thus describes his first adventure with a party
bent on murdering a fox in his new country:--

“During the winter of the first year I was at Iddesleigh, the snow at
the time lying deep on the ground, a native--Bartholomew, _alias_ Bat,
Anstey--came to me and said, ‘Hatherleigh bell is a-ringing, sir.’
‘Ringing for what?’ I asked, with a strong misgiving as to the cause of
it. ‘Well, sir, they’ve a-tracked a fox in somewhere; and they’ve a-sot
the bell a-going to collect the people to shoot un.’ ‘Come, Bat, speak
out like a man,’ I replied, ‘and tell me where it is.’ ‘In Middlecot
Earths, sir; just over the Ockment.’

“I was soon on the spot with about ten couple of my little hounds, and
found standing around the earths about a hundred fellows, headed, I am
almost ashamed to say, by two gentlemen--Mr. Veale, of Passaford, and
Mr. Morris, of Fishley. I remonstrated with these gentlemen, and told
them plainly that if they would leave the earths, and preserve foxes
for me, I would show them more sport with my little pack in one day
than they would see in a whole year by destroying the gallant animal in
so un-English a way.

“Impressed, apparently, by what I had said, both gentlemen instantly
bade me good morning, turned on their heels, and left the place; while
a few shillings distributed among the rest, by way of compensation for
the disappointment I had caused them, induced them to disperse and
leave me almost the sole occupant of the situation.

“Then, after waiting half an hour near the spot, I turned my head
towards home; but before I arrived there I met a man open-mouthed,
bawling out, ‘They’ve a-tracked a fox into Brimblecombe, for I hear the
Dowland bell a-going.’

“So off I went to Dowland in post-haste; found out where the fox was
lying, turned him out of a furze-bush, ran him one hour and forty
minutes--a blaze of scent all the way--and took him up alive before the
hounds on the very earths I had so lately quitted; where, unfortunately
for him, a couple of scoundrels had remained on the watch, and had
consequently headed him short back from that stronghold.”

But Russell had not yet finished with the fox-killers, for he says:
“The very next day after the run from Brimblecombe, a man came to
Iddesleigh on purpose to inform me that the bell was going at Beaford,
and that a fox had been traced into a brake near that hamlet. The
brake, in reality, though not far from Iddesleigh, was in Mr. Glubb’s
country; but feeling sure that the necessity of the case would justify
the encroachment, I let out the hounds at once, and hurried to the spot
with all speed.

“On arriving at the brake I found only one man near it; and he, placed
there as sentinel, was guarding it from disturbance with a watchful
eye. I asked him to tell me where the fox was, but he gave me a very
impertinent answer. Pulling out half a crown, I said, ‘There, my man,
I’d have given you that if you had told me where he was.’ The fellow’s
eye positively sparkled at sight of the silver. ‘Let me have it, then,’
he replied, ‘and I will show you where he is to a yard.’

“I ran that fox an hour, and lost him near where he was found. Then,
just as I was calling the hounds away to go home, down came a crowd of
men, women, and children to see this fox murdered. Many of them had
brought their loaded guns, were full of beer, and eager for the fray.
And when they discovered that I had disturbed _their_ fox, as they were
pleased to designate him, their language was anything but choice.

“A strapping young fellow, one of the principal farmers in the parish,
came up to me and said, ‘Who are you, sir, to come here and spoil our
sport?’ ‘You would have spoiled mine,’ I replied, ‘if you could.’
‘We’ll shoot them foxes whenever we can--that I’ll promise you,’ he
said in an angry tone. At that moment one of the hounds began to howl.
I looked round, saw she was in pain, and asked in a threatening manner,
‘Who kicked that hound?’

“No one spoke for half a minute, when a little boy said, pointing to
another, ‘That boy kicked her.’ ‘Did he?’ I exclaimed. ‘Then ’tis lucky
for him that he is a _little boy_.’ ‘Why?’ said the farmer with whom
I had been previously talking. ‘Because,’ I replied, ‘if a _man_ had
kicked her I would have horse-whipped him on the spot.’ ‘You would find
that a difficult job if you tried it,’ was his curt answer. I jumped
off my horse, threw down my whip, and said, ‘Who’s the man to prevent

“Not a word was spoken. I stood my ground, and one by one the crowd
retired, the young farmer amongst the number; and from that day forward
I secured for myself not only the goodwill and co-operation but the
friendship of some of the best fox-preservers that the county of Devon
has ever seen.”

I have thought it as well to let Mr. Russell tell his own story. If the
reader considers this a dignified scene for a clergyman to be engaged
in I beg to differ from him. In 1832, after he had been six years at
Iddesleigh, Mr. Russell moved to Tordown, a lone country house in the
parish of Swymbridge, and in 1833, the perpetual curacy of Swymbridge
and Landkey becoming vacant, he was appointed to the benefice by the
Dean of Exeter, and there he remained almost till his death.

“When I was inducted,” wrote he, “to this incumbency there was only
one service here every Sunday--morning and evening alternately with
Landkey--whereas now, I am thankful to say, we have four services every
Sunday in Swymbridge alone.”

This shows that Parson Jack was not a mere mighty hunter before the
Lord. He was a sincerely good man up to his lights, and never neglected
a duty for the sake of a gallop after his hounds.

When he lost Mr. Sleeman he advertised for another curate in the _North
Devon Journal_. “Wanted a curate for Swymbridge; must be a gentleman of
moderate and orthodox views.”

Mr. Hooker, vicar of Buckerell, was standing in a shop door in
Barnstaple shortly after the appearance of this advertisement, when
he was accosted by Will Chapple, the parish clerk of Swymbridge, who
entered the grocer’s shop. “Hav’ee got a coorate yet for Swymbridge,
Mr. Chapple?” inquired the grocer in Mr. Hooker’s hearing. “No, not
yet, sir,” replied the sexton, “Master’s ’nation particler, and the man
must be orthodox.”

“What does that mean?” inquired the grocer.

“Well, I recken it means he must be a purty good rider.”

And Mr. Chapple was not far out. A curate did apply and breakfasted
with Russell. The meal over, two likely-looking hunters were brought
round ready to be mounted. “I’m going to take ’ee to Landkey,”
explained Russell. Off they rode. The young cleric presently remarked,
“How bare of trees your estate is,” as they crossed the lands belonging
to Russell.

“Ah!” responded the sportsman, “the hounds eat ’em.” Coming to a stiff
gate, Russell, with his hand in his pocket, cleared it like a bird, but
looking round, saw the curate on the other side crawling over the gate,
and crying out, “It won’t open.”

“Not it,” was the reply; “and if you can’t leap a five-barred gate like
that, I’m sure you can’t preach a sermon. Good-bye.”

It is not my intention to give a detailed life of the Rev. John
Russell. His memoirs by the author of _Old Dartmoor Days_, published
in 1878, are very full. They are very laudatory, written as they were
whilst Russell was alive. Cromwell when being painted was asked by the
artist about his mole. “Paint the mole and all,” was the Protector’s
reply. But others are not so strong-minded and do not care to have
portraits too realistic. In 1880, Russell was appointed to Black

When he was over eighty he rode a poor hack from Black Torrington to
Mr. Williams, at Scorrier, to judge puppies, and Mrs. Williams was
alarmed, as the old man was not well on arriving. She proposed to
send him back by rail, fearing lest he should be seriously--fatally,
perhaps--ill in her house. But although very poorly, he refused, and
with one day between, rode home, something like seventy miles each

He died in 1883, 3 May, in the arms of his medical attendant, Dr.
Linnington Ash, at Black Torrington, and was buried at Swymbridge.

After the best type of the hunting parson we come to one of the worst,
who exercised a good deal of influence over Russell, when he was
young, at Southmolton. This was John Froude, vicar of Knowstone, who
had succeeded his father, the elder John Froude, in September, 1803,
and who held the incumbency, a veritable incubus to it, for forty-nine
years till his death, on 9 September, 1852.

Russell himself says: “My head-quarters (after having been ordained)
were at Southmolton; and I hunted as many days in every week as my
duties would permit with John Froude, with whom I was on very intimate
terms. His hounds were something out of the common; bred from old
staghounds--light in colour and sharp as needles, plenty of tongue, but
would drive like furies. He couldn’t bear to see a hound put his nose
on the ground and ‘twiddle his tail.’ ‘Hang the brute,’ he would say
to the owner of the hounds, ‘get me those who can wind their game when
they are thrown off.’

“Froude was himself a first-rate sportsman, but always acted on the
principle of ‘kill un, if you can; you’ll never see un again.’

“He had an old liver-coloured spaniel, a wide ranger, and under perfect
command. He used to say he could hunt the parish with that dog from the
top of the church tower. You could hear his view-halloo for miles, and
his hounds absolutely flew to him when they heard it. Let me add, his
hospitality knew no bounds.”

John Froude belonged to a clever family, that produced Archdeacon
Froude, rector of Dartington and father of Hurrell and James Anthony,
the historian. He had been well educated, and was a graduate of Oxford
University. It is said that he had met with great disappointment in
love, and early in life retired into what was, in the beginning of the
nineteenth century, the great retirement from the world of culture and
intellectual activity, Knowstone-cum-Molland.

Knowstone stands high on a bleak and wind-swept hill, reached even at
this day by a narrow and arduous and often a rough road, when torn up
by a descending torrent after a storm. Molland lies distant three and
a half miles on a brook flowing down from bleak moors into the Yeo. A
sheltered and pleasant spot, with an interesting church, containing
Courtenay monuments.

Froude’s church preferment was at the time valuable, and he was,
moreover, in possession of some considerable private fortune in
addition to his professional income. He had few educated people
residing in his neighbourhood. With the quiet, inoffensive clergy
about he would not associate; with others he could not, as they held
themselves aloof from him. He soon came to associate almost entirely
with the rough farmers who inhabited the Exmoor district, and he grew
to resemble them in mind, language, habits of life and dress. From
them he was principally differentiated by his native wit, his superior
education, and his exceeding wickedness.

I have said that there were some with whom he could not associate. Such
was the Hon. Newton Fellowes, afterwards Earl of Portsmouth, but at
that time a young man with a love of sport, which he maintained to the
last, and then without much token of brains, but he developed later.
Him Froude detested, mainly because Newton Fellowes busied himself to
improve the roads, so that, when at Eggesford, he could drive about
the country in his four-in-hand; partly, also, because he was never
invited to cross the threshold of Eggesford. He revenged himself with
his tongue.

One day he was dining at the ordinary at the George Hotel in
Southmolton when Newton Fellowes was there as well. The latter was
telling the assembled farmers how he had fallen over a hurdle in
a race a few days earlier. “And as the mare rolled,” added he, “I
thought I had broken my neck,” and he put his hands to his throat to
emphasize the remark. Whereupon Froude, speaking loud enough to command
attention, exclaimed: “No, no, Newton, you will never break _your_
neck; we have scriptural warrant for that.”

“How so?”

“The Lord preserveth them that are _simple_.”

The story stuck to Lord Portsmouth for life. Nor did Prebendary
Karslake fare much better. Karslake was a scholar, a good speaker,
rector of two parishes, and Prebendary of Exeter Cathedral. He took
pupils, and prepared them for Oxford. He was rural dean and inspector
of schools, and also chairman of the quarter sessions, farmed largely,
and was a keen, all-round sportsman, and very intimate with Newton
Fellowes, wherefore Froude hated him.

It was at another farmers’ dinner at the “George” that Froude left his
mark upon _him_. Karslake was not present at this dinner.

Two farmers were engaged in dispute, and one said to the other: “I
don’t care for your opinion, for Mr. Karslake says otherwise, and he

“What!” shouted Froude; “do ’ee quote that little Billy Karslake? He is
no better than another--a stone jackass.”

Then a dozen voices together asked: “Why is Parson Karslake like a
stone jackass?”

“Well,” said Froude, “’tis plain enough, surely. He ain’t handsome, he
ain’t useful, he’s main stupid, but he’s gallous mischievous.”

The nickname of the “stone jackass” stuck to the Prebendary for life.
But worse treatment was in store for him.

He was a most active magistrate, and the date of the occurrence I
am about to mention was somewhere between 1835 and 1840, before the
railways penetrated into the West Country.

It must be understood that Froude fascinated his neighbours, overawing
them as a snake is said to fascinate a mouse. If he told them to do a
thing, or to keep silent, he was obeyed. They dared not do otherwise.

One evening a young farmer arrived at Mr. Karslake’s door, at Meshaw,
and entreated an interview on urgent business. On being admitted he
told the magistrate that an atrocious crime had been undoubtedly
perpetrated at Knowstone that very day. A little girl of eleven years
of age had left the village in the afternoon to return to her parents,
who occupied a small farm-house a mile or two distant, and had not been
seen since. When search was made for her, on the roadside were found
a child’s shoe and a bonnet stained with blood, but no body could be
discovered. Karslake took the matter up. He was in the saddle from
morning till night, the local constables were stirred up, but all in
vain. No further traces of the child were to be found, no clue to the
mystery discovered. Karslake then, at his own expense, went up to
London, and returned with a first-class detective from Bow Street. But
in vain. He was as unable to unriddle the mystery as were the local

About ten days later the baffled magistrate was sitting hearing cases
in the court-house at Southmolton, wearied and dejected at his failure,
when Mr. Froude walked in, accompanied by a child. “Good morning, Mr.
Karslake. I am told you’ve been looking for a little maid lately, and
I’ve brought this one for you to see, in case her’s the one you be

The child had been kept secreted at the rectory, and the parents had
lent themselves to the deception, they being tenants and allies of the
rector. What the cost was to Mr. Karslake in money, vexation, wear and
tear, and ridicule--to which he was particularly sensitive--nobody
knows; but one can conceive his annoyance when the whole
court-house--bench and audience--broke out into a roar of laughter at
his expense, he being chairman.

Froude had a nicely adjusted scale of punishments for all who offended
him, and he had ready assistants to administer them.

From his first arrival at Knowstone he encouraged about him a lawless
company of vagabonds who, when they were not in prison, lived roughly
at free quarters at the rectory, and from thence carried on their
business of petty larceny; and who were, moreover, ready to execute
vengeance upon the rector’s enemies, and these enemies, although they
lived in continual terror, were numerous.

His satellites ran errands, beat covers, broke in horses, did light
farm-work, and found hares for the hounds, which were kept at the

Blackmore has described him and his gang in _The Maid of Sker_, in
which he calls Froude Parson Chowne. If Froude desired to damage an
obnoxious farmer who did not pay his tithes punctually, or who had
otherwise offended him, he gave a hint, and the man’s ricks were burnt,
or his horses houghed.

As Henry II did not order the murder of Becket, but threw out a hint
that it would be an acceptable thing to him to be rid of the proud
prelate, so was it with Parson Froude. He never ordered the commission
of a crime, but he suggested the commission. For instance, if a farmer
had offended him, he would say to one of these men subject to his
influence, “As I’ve been standing in the church porch, Harry, I thought
what a terrible thing it would be if the rick over yonder of Farmer
G---- were to burn. ’Twould come home to him pretty sharp, I reckon.”

Next night the rick would be on fire.

Or he would say to his groom, “Tom, it’s my tithe day, and we shall
sit on purty late. There’s Farmer Q---- behindhand again: this is the
second half-year. You’ll be in the room: if I scratch my nose with
my fork you’ll know that he has not paid up. Dear me! what a shocking
thing were his linch-pin to be gone, and he going down Knowstone Hill,
and in such a dark night--and the wheel were to come off.”

And certainly if Tom saw the vicar put his silver fork to his nose,
so certainly would Farmer Q---- be thrown out of his trap by the
wheel coming off, to be found by the next passer along the road with
dislocated thigh, or broken arm and collarbone.

A gentleman near had offended him. This person had a plantation of
larch near his house. Froude said to Tom, “Bad job for Squire----,
if his larch lost their leaders!” Next morning every larch in the
plantation had been mutilated.

The Rev. W. H. Thornton says in his delightful book, _Reminiscences
of an Old West-country Clergyman_: “He always had around him a tribe
of vagabonds, whom he harboured. They beat the covers when he shot,
they found hares for his hounds to hunt, they ran on his errands, they
were the terror of the countryside, and were reputed to commit crimes
at their master’s instigation. He never paid them anything, or spared
or sheltered them from punishment. Sometimes they were in gaol, and
sometimes out. They could always have as much bacon, potatoes, bread
and cheese, and cider at his house as they pleased, as well as a fire
to sit by, and a rough bed to lie down upon.

“Plantations were burned, horses mutilated, chimneys choked, and
Chowne’s men had the credit of these misdeeds, which were generally
committed to the injury of some person with whom Chowne had quarrelled.

“I have known him say to a young farmer: ‘John, I like that colt of
yours. I will give you twenty-five pounds for him.’ The owner had
replied that it was not money enough, and Chowne had retorted, ‘You
had better let me have him, Jack. I have noticed that when a man
refuses an offer for a horse from me, something goes wrong with the
animal. It is very curious really that it should be so, but so it is.’
And the horse would be sent to him for twenty-five pounds.

“He was frequently engaged in litigation, and one day Mr. Cockburn
(afterwards Lord Chief Justice of England, but then a wild young fellow
enough) was engaged against him, and Chowne lost his case. Cockburn
then, or so it is said, left the court in the Castle of Exeter in order
to have some luncheon.

“In the castle yard he saw an old countryman in yellow leggings and a
long blue coat, who had an ash sapling in his hand. As the great lawyer
passed him, whack! down came the stick across the silk gown upon his

“‘Be you the young rascal who spoke up against me in court just now?’
‘I suppose that you are Parson Chowne,’ said Cockburn. ‘I was against
you, and I am very glad that I succeeded; and now I am inclined to have
you up for striking me.’

“‘No you won’t,’ was the reply, ‘you shall come and have luncheon with
me instead. You are a deuced clever young chap, and I am hanged if ever
I have a case on again without employing you. So come along, you little
beggar, and I will stand you a bottle of port.’ Cockburn went, and
frequently afterwards he would stay with Chowne.”

The following story shall be told as near as may be in the words of the
farmer who was present when occurred the incident he related.

“On Saturday last Mr. Froude drove a fox from Molland to ground in
Parson Jekyll’s Wood at Tar Steps. He was going to dig him out, and the
men had commenced to work, when down came Mr. Jekyll in a thundering
passion. Mr. Froude and he bean’t over friendly, best of times; and the
earth is used by the vixens. There was a litter of cubs there only last
season. Mr. Jekyll, hearing the hounds stop, came out at once to us,
in a tear; I was there myself and I heard him. ‘Mr. Froude,’ says he,
‘I thought you knew better than to go digging in another man’s country
without special permission to do so, and late in the season too, with
cubs already about. If you don’t desist and take yourself off, I’ll
summons you; so blow your horn, sir, and leave.’ ‘I have a terrier to
ground, sir,’ replied Froude, ‘and I mean to dig him out.’ ‘If you go
away,’ said the other, ‘the terrier will come out. In no case will I
allow you to continue to dig.’ With that the old man, Parson Froude,
grew white with passion, and says, ‘And do you dare risk a quarrel with
me, Mr. Jekyll? Do you not know that to-night on my return I have only
to say at Knowstone, _Bones, bones at Hawkridge!_ and, mind you, name
no names, and your carcase will be stinking in a ditch within the week?’

“Then he got on his horse and rode down to Winsford and obtained a
search warrant from S. Mitchell to search Tar Steps Rectory for his
terrier, which he took oath he believed to be there, stolen by Mr.
Jekyll and concealed on the premises. And he brought back Floyd, the
Winsford constable, with him to Tar Steps; and we all thought Mr.
Jekyll would have had a fit, he was that furious, while they searched
the house down to the very cellars, and shook up the rector’s old port
wine, on suspicion that he might have hidden the terrier in the back of
the bin. But the best of the joke was that there had been no terrier
out with the hounds that day, and of course none had been put into the
hole. So Parson Froude had sworn to what he knew well was a lie.”

Froude had a horse to sell, and one cold morning a gentleman named
Houlditch, of Wellington, drove over in a gig from Tiverton to
Knowstone, and requested to be shown the horse without delay. Froude,
loud in protestations of hospitality, refused his request. “I dine at
one o’clock, you’ve had a cold drive, and no man knows better than do
I what them hills is like that you’ve come over. So, if you can put up
with roast ribs of beef, sir, and a mouldy Stilton cheese to follow,
us will top up with a drop of something hot, and then Jack Babbage, my
huntsman, shall show ’ee the horse.”

After hearing from Mr. Houlditch that he was looking for a hunter, they
sat down together to dinner, and the parson firmly but politely pressed
his ale upon the guest. This ale was of Froude’s own brewing. When new
it did not readily proclaim its potency, and the rector never gave
warning nor spoke of its strength. It was excellent, soft as milk. The
day had been cold, and the drive had been long.

When a strange and unaccustomed glare had come into Mr. Houlditch’s
eyes, Froude ordered Jack Babbage to bring out the horse, and giving
his guest a hand to steady him, the two went into a field near the
rectory. In this field some hurdles “feathered” with gorse bushes
were set up, and Babbage, always shouting as he neared a jump, rode
the horse repeatedly over the obstacles, and galloped him round. Then
Froude invited Mr. Houlditch to try the horse himself, but he was
too fuddled to mount, and he bought the beast for £50, a long price
in those days, and was driven back by the post-boy to the “Angel” at
Tiverton. The horse, at his charges, was sent to Wellington at once.

A week later came a letter with the Wellington postmark, which Froude
threw into the fire unopened. A few days later came a second letter,
then a third, and all shared the same fate.

Finally, one day an angry man drove up from Tiverton--it was Houlditch
himself. “You don’t seem to care to reply to my letters, Mr. Froude,”
said he, “so I have come in person to ask you whether or not you will
take back your horse which you sold me ten days ago, for he is blind.”

“Sir,” said Froude, “you asked me for a hunter, and one that could
jump, and I sold you a hunter that could jump. You saw the horse, and
it was a bargain. You did not ask me if it could see. Jump he can, as
you observed. When you ride him, carry a knife with you, and when you
come to a fence you just jump off his back and cut a furze-bush. Put
that down before the fence and canter the old horse up and speak sharp
to him, same as Babbage did, and so soon as he feels the prickles about
his legs he will jump.”

“Will you take the horse back?” roared Houlditch.

“Certainly I will.”

“And repay me my £50?”

“Certainly not. I cashed your cheque, sir, last week, and with the
money paid my butcher. A deal is a deal.”

The story comes with the authority of Jack Babbage, confirmed by Mrs.
Froude, after her husband’s death. The incident occurred late in the
rector’s life, after he was married.

Froude’s shamelessness was phenomenal. On one occasion he sold some
keep on the glebe at Knowstone by auction, and a neighbouring farmer
purchased a field of swede turnips under condition that he should
remove them before a stated day.

The time limit was nearly expired, when Froude found the purchaser and
the men in the field carting away the roots. The rain was falling in
torrents, the crop was heavy, and it was a dirty job.

Froude rode into the field and shouted to the farmer (with the usual
expletives with which he garnished his discourse), bidding him desist.

“But, sir,” said the man, “the time is nearly up, and I am bound to go
on, or I shall forfeit my purchase.”

Froude then called him a---- fool, reminded him that he had known him
from his cradle and his father before him, and bade him go home and
wait for finer weather to pull his turnips and take them away.

The appointed day soon came and passed, and the following morning
the farmer, feeling a little uneasy, rose early and rode off to his
turnips. The field was full of sheep when he arrived, and they were all
marked J.F. Calling his dog, the farmer opened the gate and proceeded
to turn them out.

Then Froude, on horseback, came from an ambush, and cracking his whip
and swearing horribly, rode at him, and dared him to remove the sheep.
The man was terrified and went home, fearing lest worse should befall
him. Next day was Saturday, and Southmolton Market, and the young
man, bursting with his sense of wrong, rode into the town to proclaim
his woes. As he entered from the bottom of the long street he saw Mr.
Froude in the midst of a cluster of sporting farmers, the allies of the
rector, and as the injured man approached, Froude stretched out the
finger of scorn, and cried, “Look there! See to un! See to the biggest
fule in Devonshire as buys a yield of swedes and leaves ’em to another
man to stock--a gurt natural ass!” This sally was answered by a peal of
laughter, and the victim, turning his head down street, galloped away.

In _The Maid of Sker_, Blackmore tells the story of Parson Chowne
(Froude) having driven a horse mad by putting a hemp-seed into its
eye. This story, I was informed by one who had every occasion to know
the circumstances, is true. Froude had set his heart on buying a horse
at Southmolton Fair, but Sir Walter Carew out-bid him and secured the
beast. Froude shortly after was again in Southmolton, and ascertained
that Sir Walter was in the inn, at the ordinary, taking his lunch.
He went into the stable, and saw that the baronet had ridden in on
the coveted horse. Froude gave the ostler a shilling to do him some
trifling errand, and during his absence so treated the unfortunate
animal that it went almost mad with pain, and on the way home threw its

Henry Phillpotts was consecrated Bishop of Exeter in the year 1831,
and he soon came into collision with Froude; but the Bishop was a
formidable antagonist, and Froude shunned him, and would not attend his

The following story has been frequently told; but the version here
given is as related half a century ago by Jack Russell and by Babbage,
and confirmed by Prebendary Matthews, who succeeded Froude at Knowstone.

The Bishop held a visitation at Southmolton, and Froude sent a note to
say that he could not attend, as he was indisposed.

The Bishop remained the night at Southmolton, and next morning early
started for Tiverton in a carriage, and as Knowstone was not much out
of the way, he ordered the driver to turn up the hill to the village.
Mr. Froude was in the dining-room talking to Babbage, and the hounds
on the lawn, when one of his rascally retainers ran in to inform the
rector that the Bishop was in the village inquiring for the rectory.
Babbage hurried the hounds into kennel, and Froude went to bed.

A good-looking housekeeper (for Froude married very late in life) met
his lordship at the door, and answering his inquiry after the rector,
said that Mr. Froude was unwell in bed.

“May I trouble you to tell him that his bishop wishes to see him, and
will visit him in his bedroom?”

The woman went upstairs, and the Bishop, waiting in the hall, overheard
the conversation which ensued.

“Bishop says, sir, as he must come upstairs if you can’t come down.”

“Tell his lordship, Mary, that I don’t know what’s the matter with me,
but it’s something infectious--scarlet fever, I reckon--and maybe he’ll
catch it if he comes up here.”

However, Henry Phillpotts was not to be dissuaded, and he mounted the
stairs and seated himself by the bed.

“What will your lordship take?” asked Froude, showing his head only
above the clothes. “It’s cruel cold; a drop of brandy hot will help to
keep off the infection.”

“Nothing, thank you, Mr. Froude. I take this opportunity to tell you
that strange stories concerning you meet my ears.”

“Perhaps your lordship prefers whisky,” said Froude, “with a slice of
lemon in your grog.”

“Mr. Froude, I beg you to desist. I am here to inquire into the truth
of the stories repeated concerning you.”

“My lord, I’ve also heard strange tales about your lordship. But
among gentlemen, us don’t give heed to all thickey tittle-tattle.
Perhaps you’d prefer gin--London or Plymouth, my lord? You’ll excuse
me, my lord; I be terrible bad, and I be afraid you’ll catch the
infection--pleased to have seen you--good-bye”; and he ducked his head
under the bedclothes.

“I knawed he’d come,” said Froude to Russell after the visit; “but I
reckon he’ll never come again: the air of Knowstone be too keen for he.”

One day his lordship ran against Froude in Fore Street of Exeter. The
vicar had with him a greyhound, commonly known in Devonshire as a “long
dog.” It was on this occasion that the Bishop tackled him for keeping a
pack of harriers, as already related. After that said Henry of Exeter,
“And pray, Mr. Froude, what manner of dog do you call that?”

“Oh, that’s what volks do call a long dog, my lord, and ef yeu will
just shak yeur appern to un, he’ll go like a dart.”

The _Weekly Times_ of Exeter kept an eye on Froude’s doings and
misdoings, and published them under the heading of “Knowstone Again.”
But Froude was too sly to enable the Bishop to find an occasion to
proceed against him; the people of Knowstone were too much afraid of
his vengeance to dare to give evidence.

Froude married a Miss Halse, the pretty sister of two well-known yeomen
of Anstey. She was quite young enough to have been his daughter, and
they had no children--perhaps fortunately. The circumstances of the
marriage are said to have been these. Froude had paid Miss Halse some
of his insolent attentions, that meant, if they meant anything, a
certain contemptuous admiration. The brothers were angry. They invited
him to their house, made him drunk, and when drunk sign a paper
promising to marry their sister before three months were up or to
forfeit £20,000. They took care to have this document well attested,
and next morning presented it to Mr. Froude, who had forgotten all
about it. He was very angry, blustered, cajoled, tried to laugh it
off--all to no purpose. He was constrained to marry her. And he seems
to have been really fond of her. Certain it is that she was warmly
attached to him, and after his death would speak of him as her “dear
departed saint,” which implies a singular misappropriation of terms,
and confusion of ideas.


_Purchased at the sale of his effects in 1883 by Mrs. Arnull and
presented by her to Mr. John Lane, in whose possession they now are_]

The following story is on the authority of Jack Russell. He had called
one day at Knowstone Parsonage, and found Froude sitting over his fire
smoking and Mrs. Froude sitting in the corner of the room against
the wall. Her husband had his back towards her. Russell was uneasy,
and asked if Mrs. Froude was unwell. Froude turned his head over his
shoulder, and asked: “Mrs. Froude, be you satisfied or be you not? You
know the terms of agreement come to between us when we married, that
I were never to be contradicted and disagreed with. If you are not
satisfied you can go back to your friends; I don’t care a hang myself
whether you stay or whether you go.”

“I am content,” said the lady faintly.

“Very well,” said Froude; “then we’ll have a drop of ale, Jack. Go and
fetch us a jug and mugs, madam.”

His harriers were kept in such a wretched, rattle-trap set of kennels
that they occasionally broke loose. This occurred on a certain Sunday,
and just as Froude was going up into the pulpit the pack went by.
He halted with his hand on the rail, turned to the clerk, and said:
“That’s Towler giving tongue. Run--he’s got the lead, and will tear the
hare to bits.”

Accordingly the clerk left his desk and went forth, and succeeded in
securing the hare from the hounds, hunting on their own head. He
brought the hare into the church and threw it under his seat till the
sermon was done, the blessing given, and the congregation dismissed.

When Froude got old he was forced by the Bishop to have a curate. “I
don’t care to keep dogs to do the barking for me, no fye,” said he,
“but I can’t help it. You see, I just maintains a rough boy to do the
work now, and I sits in the vestry and hears un tell.”

Between services one Sunday, Froude gave his young curate, who was
dining with him and some of his farmer friends, too much of his soft
but strong ale. He disliked the young fellow, who was a bit of a clown
and uncouth, and did it out of malice. The curate, quite ignorant of
the headiness of the ale, inadvertently got fuddled.

The conversation turned on a monstrous pig that Froude had killed,
and which was hung up in his outhouse, and he invited his guests to
accompany him and view the carcase, and estimate the weight. One
thought it weighed so many stone, others thought differently. Froude
said that it weighed just the same as his curate, who was fat. The
rough farmers demurred to the rector’s estimate, and, finding an empty
corn-sack, they thrust the intoxicated ecclesiastic into it, and,
hanging him up to the end of the beam, shouted with delight as the
curate brought the weight down. Meantime the bells were ringing for
evensong, but they left the curate hung up in the sack, where he slept
uncomfortably. The congregation assembled for service, and waited.
Froude would not officiate, and the curate was incapable of doing so.

Mr. Matthews, afterwards Prebendary of Exeter, had been dining at
Southmolton in Froude’s company, and Froude undertook to drive him back
to Knowstone in his gig, where Mr. Matthews was to sleep the night.
Froude had drunk too much, but insisted on driving home himself. At the
bottom of the long street the road crosses the river, and the bridge
is set on at an angle to the road. The horse was a spirited animal,
and was going home. So down the street they went at a spanking pace,
and over the bridge with a whir. Froude had fallen asleep already, but
Matthews seized the reins and guided the animal, and thus they narrowly
escaped destruction.

Froude slept on, and, arriving at Knowstone, Matthews went in to
prepare the young wife to get the rector to bed.

“Oh, what is the matter?” cried Mrs. Froude, when she was informed
that her husband was not very well, and had better be put to bed. “Oh!
dear lamb”--Mrs. Froude was not happy in her choice of descriptive
epithets--“dear lamb, are you ill? Oh dear! dear!” “Nonsense,” retorted
Froude, “I bain’t ill. I’m only drunk, my dear, that’s all.”

One day he was riding on the quay at Barnstaple, and asked some
question of a bargeman in his boat. The fellow gave him a rude answer.
Thereupon Froude leaped his horse down into the barge, and thrashed the

In the end, Froude gave up doing duty, and retired into a small house
in Molland, as more sheltered than Knowstone. In _The Maid of Sker_,
Blackmore represents him as torn to pieces by his hounds. Actually this
was not the occasion of his death. Before his parlour window grew a
peculiarly handsome trimmed box-tree. Now Froude had done a mean and
cruel act to a young farmer near, tricking him out of a considerable
sum of money. One night the box-tree was pulled up by the roots and
carried away, no one knew whither, or for certain by whom, though the
young farmer was suspected of the deed.

Froude raged over the insult; but as he was unable to bring it home,
and as his powers were failing, his rage was impotent.

The uprooting of the box-tree apparently precipitated his death. He
felt that the awe of him was gone, his control over the neighbourhood
was lost. This thought, even more than mortification at not being
able to revenge the uprooting of his box-tree, broke him down, and he
rapidly sank, intellectually and physically, and died 9 December, 1852.

A little before his death, Jack Babbage, his huntsman, visited him.
“Oh, Jack!” said he, “it’s all over with me. I’m going to glory,
Jack”--which shows what is the value of assurance on a death-bed.

“Well,” said Babbage, “if the old master be so cock-sure that he’s on
that way, I reckon there be a good chance of a snug corner for me.”

There was another parson, if possible, more evil than Froude, whom
Blackmore has called Parson Hannaford, but we have had enough specimens
of a type of clergy that is, we trust, for ever passed away; but it
has gone not without leaving its mark on the present, for it was this
sort of parson who drove all the God-fearing people in the parish into
dissent. Happily these men were exceptions even in their day, and were
not the rule. The bulk of the clergy were worthy men, doing their duty
up to their light, the services in the churches not a little dreary;
but then, at that time, it was exceptional to find that the country
people could read, and therefore sing out a hymn or psalm with one
accord as they can now. They preached dull sermons, because their own
minds were not clear. But they were kind, they visited their flock,
they were charitable, and their families set a good example in the
parish, and had immense influence in purifying the moral tone, and they
taught in Sunday-schools. I can recall those old days, and I know that
men like Froude and Russell were but spots widely scattered over an
otherwise white reputation such as the general body of the clergy bore.
But that there were such spots none could deny, and in almost every
case the Bishop was powerless to eradicate them.

To a farmer said a vicar of Holsworthy, himself one of the
disreputable, who thought fit to reprimand him for his conduct, “Go by
the light, man, not by the lantern.” To which the farmer replied, “When
the lantern is covered with muck, none can see the light.”

For the account I have given of Parson Froude I am indebted partly to
the late Prebendary Matthews, rector of Knowstone after Froude, and
also to Rev. W. H. Thornton’s _Reminiscences of an Old West-country
Clergyman_, as well to a _Froudiana_, a collection made by one who
intimately knew the neighbourhood and the individuals, and who most
kindly placed his collection of anecdotes at my disposal.

The accompanying illustration represents Jack Russell’s port-wine
glass with a fox beautifully cut in it, his barometer, which he
probably tapped with his knuckles many a time before he started on
a day’s hunting, as well as a Chamberlain Worcester tea service,
formerly in his possession. All these were bought after his death at
Black Torrington at a sale of his effects, by Miss Bernasconi, now
Mrs. Arnull, and presented to the publisher, Mr. John Lane, in whose
possession they are. Dr. Linnington Ash on the same occasion purchased
several mementoes for his Majesty the King--then Prince of Wales--as
well as for himself and other friends.


Has full justice been done to Samuel Prout, the artist? I doubt it.
True that Ruskin recognized his great merits, but the public generally
has not acknowledged, indeed, has not realized, the revolution in taste
due mainly to this shy, unassertive man.

What man in his century had dreamed, before Prout issued his sketches,
that there was exquisite beauty in old English cottages? He arose at a
time when attention was being drawn to Gothic architecture, and there
was a growing recognition of its merits in cathedral, church, and
mansion. Architects with tape and foot-rule measured and planned, with
lead-tape took mouldings. They learned the principles of Gothic and
Tudor architecture. They gathered and studied details. But the soul,
the spirit escaped them. When they undertook to design and build new
churches and mansions, they turned out very poor, uninteresting stuff.
Rickman erected the new courts of St. John’s College, Cambridge, a
monstrous pile of ugliness, bad even in its details. Blore built the
chapel of Marlborough College, a horror, now happily transformed. Sir
Gilbert Scott designed numerous churches, all of borrowed detail, and
all utterly uninteresting. It was the same on the Continent. In France,
Viollet le Duc studied throughout France, knew the purest French styles
intimately, but could produce nothing good himself. It was the same
with Heideloff in Germany. The inspiration of the Gothic or medieval
soul escaped them. It was not to be caught with tape and rule. Their
buildings proved correct in many cases, but all cold, unimpressive,
and uninteresting. But Prout caught the spirit. He did not measure and
scale, but he drew with the breath of the genius of olden time fanning
his heart.

[Illustration: SAMUEL PROUT

_From a drawing in the possession of Samuel Gillespie Prout, Esq._]

And the cottage! Churches and mansions were erected by the new Gothic
school throughout the land; they were accepted, but did not please. But
no one thought of the cottage, unless it was to be a lodge at a gate.
Rows of hideous dwellings for the artisan and the labourer continued to
be erected, with tall, lanky doors, a fanlight over them, lean windows,
no gables, nothing picturesque about them.

Jerrybuilders covered the suburbs of our towns with their repulsive
dwellings, their only idea of decoration being elaborate hip-knobs and
ridge tiles. Retired tradesmen and farmers built their residences,
disfiguring the countryside with square blocks, a door in the face, a
window on each side, and three windows in the upper story, the roof
pinched together from all four sides, and two chimneys standing up like
donkey’s ears, one on each side of the face. Not till this century,
with the creation of the garden city, has Prout’s idea of the dwelling
for artisan and labourer, as a thing of beauty, been carried out.

Samuel Prout was born at Plymouth 17 September, 1783. The Prouts were
a respectable Cornish family of St. Stephen’s by Launceston, and an
heiress of Grenville had married a Prout, and the sister and coheiress
a Cary. The family has laid claim to the arms of Prouse of Gidleigh,
but can prove no connexion.

Samuel was educated at the Plymouth Grammar School, under the
eccentric, worthy Dr. Bidlake, who had an eye for the picturesque, and
delighted in taking out his young pupils, Prout and Benjamin Haydon,
on holidays for long walks into the country, and pointing out to them
scenes of beauty. Dr. Bidlake was, moreover, a bit of a poet, as poets
went in those days. He was a good and kindly man, and endeared himself
to his pupils.

Prout’s mother was a daughter of a Mr. Cater, an enterprising Plymouth
shipping venturer.

Samuel was a delicate boy. One hot autumn day he was out nutting when
he was discovered by a farmer lying moaning under a hedge, with his
hands to his head. He had been prostrated by sunstroke, and he was
carried home in a state of insensibility. From that day forward he was
subject to violent attacks of headache, returning at short intervals,
and preventing him from sticking to business. Indeed, a week seldom
passed without his being confined to his room for a day or two, unable
to raise his head from the pillow, and refusing all food. Speaking
in later years of his life-long infirmity, he says: “Up to this hour
I have to endure a great fight of afflictions; can I therefore be
sufficiently thankful for the merciful gift of a buoyant spirit?”

His father, finding him unsuited for any other profession, allowed him
to follow his artistic bent, but he was chiefly self-taught. He made
friends with young Opie, who painted his portrait. Another was Ambrose
Bowden Johns, born in Plymouth in 1776. He had been a bookseller, but
his passion was for landscape art, and he gave up his business to
become a painter. Johns had the advantage of age and experience, and he
was able to give Prout much good advice. Noticing that his young friend
loved chiefly to draw old houses and architectural scraps, he urged
him to devote himself especially to that line, and not to cultivate
landscape and figure drawing. Boats Samuel ever delighted in, and
sketched them excellently.

“Thenceforth,” to quote Ruskin, “Prout devoted himself to ivy-mantled
bridges, mossy water-mills, and rock-built cottages.”

But he knew nothing of perspective, and his drawings were sadly
inaccurate in this respect. He himself wrote in after years, as the
result of his own experience: “Perspective is generally considered a
dry and distasteful study, and a prejudice exists with many against
everything like geometrical drawings; but without a knowledge of its
rules no object can be properly delineated, and their application alone
prevents absurdities and secures symmetry and truth.”

The Earl of Mount Edgcumbe took notice of the intelligent, sensitive
boy, and detected that there was talent in him. He invited him to
Mount Edgcumbe House to see and examine for himself the paintings and
pictures there; and the Earl became so interested in the young artist,
and would have him so frequently with him, that Samuel at last acquired
the nickname of “the Earl’s puppy dog.”

Samuel Prout was also passionately fond of music, and learned to play
on the organ, the piano, and the flute. In early days, when not out
sketching by himself or with Dr. Bidlake or Haydon, he would steal to
St. Andrew’s to play the organ, at that time the only organ in the town.

Meanwhile, on every sunny day, when the soft south wind breathed,
Samuel, pencil and sketch-book in hand, strayed about the villages
round Plymouth, and made his sketches, not of bold architectural
structures, but of cottages and little bits of street scenery. He
loved the old wall where the granite blocks were irregularly jointed,
and saxifrage, sedum, and wallflower had rooted themselves in the
interstices. He loved to stray by the seashore or to wander about
Sutton Pool and the Barbican and draw the ships and fishing smacks
he saw there. At the time when he was young, Plymouth abounded in
quaint old houses that had been inhabited by its great merchants, with
overhanging gables and mullioned windows. These are now almost all gone.

On returning from one of his wanderings, he called on Mr. Johns with
his portfolio in his hand. Johns asked him how many sketches he had
made and what success he had met with. Prout, bursting into tears and
wringing his hands with grief, replied: “Oh, Mr. Johns, I shall never
make a painter as long as I live.”

Johns then turned over his collection of sketches, and noticing
the power shown in the drawing of old cottages and mills, said,
“If you won’t make a landscape painter, you will make a painter of
architecture, and I recommend you to stick to that.” Encouraged by
this, he went away rejoicing that there was still a field open to him
in Art.

Whilst still quite a lad, accident made him acquainted with John
Britton, who was passing through Plymouth on his way into Cornwall,
collecting materials for his _Beauties of England and Wales_, begun in
1801, and carried on to 1818. Immediately after Prout’s death, Britton
published an account of his first acquaintance with him in the _Art
Journal_ for 1852. He says that he first saw Samuel Prout, “a pretty,
timid boy,” at Dr. Bidlake’s school, and that Prout occasionally
accompanied his drawing master, S. Williams, to Bickleigh Vale, and
made sketches of the rude cottages and bits of rock scenery he found

These Britton saw and liked, and proposed to Prout to take him with
himself into Cornwall, paying all his expenses, that the lad might make
for him the drawings he required. Samuel gladly consented, and the two
started for St. Germans through a heavy fall of snow, and put up at a
wretched inn there. “The object of visiting the place,” says Britton,
“was to draw and describe the old parish church, which is within the
grounds of the seat of Port Eliot, belonging to Lord Eliot. Prout’s
first task was to make a sketch of the west end of this building,
which is of early Norman architecture, with two towers, one of which
is square, the other octagonal. Between these is a large semicircular
doorway, with several receding arches, but there is very little of
other detail. My young artist was, however, sadly embarrassed, not
knowing where to begin, how to settle the perspective or determine the
relative proportions of the heights and widths of parts. He continued
before the building for four or five hours, and at last his sketch
was so inaccurate in proportion and detail that it was unfit for
engraving.” In fact, Britton had set the poor lad a task for which he
was wholly incompetent. Next morning Prout began another sketch, and
persevered in it in spite of the cold and discouragement nearly all the
day, but the result was again a failure.

Then Britton travelled on with him to Probus, and set him to draw
the wonderful sculptured tower of that church, the richest piece of
work of the kind in the west of England. It is built of elvan and is
not merely sculptured throughout, but has pinnacled buttresses with
crockets and finials. Prout worked hard at this all day, and though
Britton accepted the drawing, it was bad. “The poor fellow cried, and
was really distressed, and I felt as acutely as he possibly could,
for I had calculated on having a pleasing companion upon a dreary
journey, and also to obtain some correct and satisfactory sketches.
On proceeding further, we had occasion to visit certain druidical
monuments, vast rocks, monastic wells, and stone crosses on the moors
north of Liskeard. Some of these objects my young friend delineated
with smartness and tolerable accuracy. We proceeded on to St. Austell,
and thence to Ruan-Lanyhorne, where we found comfortable quarters in
the house of the Rev. John Whitaker, the historian of Manchester, and
author of several other literary works. Prout, during his stay at
Ruan, made five or six pleasing and truly picturesque sketches, one of
which included the church, the parsonage, some cottages mixing with
trees, the water of the river Fal, the moors in the distance, and a
fisherman’s ragged cot in the foreground, raised against and mixing
with a mass of rocks; also a broken boat, with net, sails, etc., in the
foreground.” The next halting place was Truro, and there Prout made a
sketch of the church and the houses about it. But here again he was
embarrassed with the mullioned windows and the general perspective, and
was particularly troubled with the iron railings that surrounded the
church. Here they parted; Britton went forward on his way to Penzance
and the Land’s End, and Prout was sent back, a poor disheartened lad,
who felt that he had missed his vocation, by coach to Plymouth. But the
disappointment did Samuel good. He had learned in what his weakness
lay, and he resolved to labour hard to acquire the rudiments of

In May, 1802, he sent Britton several sketches of Launceston,
Tavistock, Okehampton Castle, and other places, showing a considerable
advance in his powers, and some of these were engraved. Britton saw
enough to convince himself that Prout had exceptional genius for
catching the spirit of architectural work, and that all he required was
technical training, and he sent for him to London, kindly undertaking
to give him a room and food in his house in Wilderness Row, Camberwell,
whilst prosecuting his studies in Town. Here he remained for about two
years, and was introduced to Northcote and Benjamin West, the latter
of whom gave him valuable hints on the management of chiaroscuro,
and Prout often recurred to his meeting with West and to the utility
his advice had been to him. In 1803 and 1804 Britton sent Prout into
Cambridge, Essex, and Wiltshire to make sketches and studies of
buildings. Some of these were engraved in his _Beauties_, and others in
_Architectural Antiquities_, 1835.

In the year 1805, Prout returned to Plymouth mainly on account of
his health and his headaches, which unfitted him for prosecuting his
studies with ease and energy.

He had in the previous year sent his first picture to the Royal
Academy, and he was for the next ten years an occasional exhibitor, his
subjects being mainly views in Devonshire and coast scenes. His simple
drawings, says Mr. Ruskin, were made for the middle classes, even for
the second order of the middle classes.

“The great people always bought Canaletti, not Prout. There was no
quality in the bright little water-colours which could look other than
pert in ghostly corridors and petty in halls of state; but they gave an
unquestionable tone of liberal-mindedness to a suburban villa, and were
the cheerfullest possible decoration for a moderate-sized breakfast
parlour opening on a nicely-mown lawn. Their liveliness even rose,
on occasion, to the charity of beautifying the narrow chambers of
those whom business or fixed habit retained in the obscurity of London

After about six years of earnest work in Devon, he returned to London
and took up his abode in Brixton, and three years after he married
(1810) Elizabeth Gillespie. There were pleasant meetings in town
with his fellow Plymothians. Haydon was there full of enthusiasm and
enormous self-confidence, and Eastlake, who had already made his
mark and was rapidly rising into fame; an occasional visit was made
to the surly Northcote, but from him little encouragement was to be
obtained. To maintain himself, Prout gave lessons in drawing, and
sent pictures to the Watercolour Society, and succeeded in selling
them. In 1816, Ackermann published his _Studies_ in parts, executed
in the then new art of lithography. This was followed by _Progressive
Fragments_, _Rudiments of Landscape_, and other collections of
instructive drawings. How perfectly Prout mastered the technicalities
of lithography may be seen by some of his late works on tinted paper,
with introduction of white, as, for instance, his _Hints on Light and
Shade_, etc., published in 1838. In the introduction to that he tells
his own experience.

“Want of talent and want of taste are common lamentations and common
excuses, but wonders will be achieved by the lowest ability if assisted
by unremitted diligence. _Nothing is denied to well-directed labour;
nothing is to be obtained without it._ There must be an assiduous,
ardent devotedness, with a firmness of purpose, absorbing the whole
mind; never rambling, but pursuing one determined object. It is the
persevering who leave their competitors behind; and those who work the
hardest always gain the most.”

Prout’s love was for marine subjects--this can be noticed in all his
publications--but the influence of Britton and the advice of Johns
prevailed to make him cleave to architecture; and indeed from the first
this had ever attracted him, though not so much the great achievements
of the art, as its humbler yet lovely creations, the labourer’s
cottage, built of moor-stone, and thatched with reed or heather.

His health, always bad at the best of times, grew worse; he became
so feeble that a trip to the Continent was recommended to him. “The
route by Havre and Rouen,” writes Ruskin, “was chosen, and Prout found
himself for the first time in the grotesque labyrinths of the Norman
streets. There are few minds so apathetic as to receive no impulse of
new delight from their first acquaintance with continental scenery
and architecture; and Rouen _was_, of all the cities of France,
the richest in those objects with which the painter’s mind had the
profoundest sympathy.” Now all is changed. The great churches stand
up by themselves in the midst of modern houses destitute of beauty,
islands of loveliness in a sea of vulgarity. Great streets have been
driven through the town, picturesque houses have been swept away; that
which is old has been barbarously renovated. The cathedral has been
furnished with a ridiculous spire. Then “all was at unity with itself,
and the city lay under its guarding hills one labyrinth of delight--its
grey and fretted towers, misty in their magnificence of height, letting
the sky like blue enamel through the foiled spaces of their crowns
of open work; the walls and gates of its countless churches wardered
by saintly groups of solemn statuary, clasped about by wandering
stems of sculptured leafage, and crowned by fretted niche and fairy
pediment, meshed, like gossamer, with inextricable tracery, many a
quaint monument of past times standing to tell its far-off tale in the
place from which it has since perished--in the midst of the throng and
murmur of those shadowy streets--all grim with jutting props of ebon
woodwork, lightened only here and there by a sunbeam glancing down from
the scaly backs and points of pyramids of the Norman roofs, or carried
out of its narrow range by the gay progress of some snowy cap or
scarlet camisole. The painter’s vocation was fixed from that hour; the
first effect upon his mind was irrepressible enthusiasm, with a strong
feeling of new-born attachment to art, in a new world of exceeding

This was the first of many excursions made through France, Germany, the
Netherlands, and Italy. How he enjoyed these trips is beyond power of
words to describe. He drank in the beauties as he would nectar; they
inspired new life into him; it filled his happy soul with delights
that made him forget his bodily infirmities. His books of studies
sold well--they did more than anything else to form the taste of the
public. The fashion set in for sketches of ruins, of old buildings, of
cottages. He had many imitators, but no equals. For his water-colour
paintings he asked but modest prices, six guineas each.

How Gothic architecture was viewed only seventeen years before Samuel
Prout was born may be judged by Matthew Bramble’s account of York
Minster in _Humphrey Clinker_. He writes: “As for the minster, I know
not how to distinguish it, except by its great size and the height of
its spire, from those other ancient churches in different parts of the
kingdom which used to be called monuments of Gothic architecture; but
it is now agreed that the style is Saracen--and I suppose it was first
imported into England from Spain, greater part of which was under the
domination of the Moors. Those British architects who adopted this
style don’t seem to have considered the propriety of their adoption.
Nothing could be more preposterous than to imitate such a mode of
architecture in a country like England, where the climate is cold and
the air eternally loaded with vapours. For my part, I never entered
the abbey church at Bath but once, and the moment I stepped over the
threshold I found myself chilled to the very marrow of my bones. I
should be glad to know what offence it would give to tender consciences
if the House of God were made more comfortable; and whether it would
not be an encouragement to piety, as well as the salvation of many
lives, if the place of worship were well floored, wainscotted, warmed,
and ventilated.

“_The external appearance of an old cathedral cannot but be displeasing
to the eye of every man who has any idea of propriety and proportion_,
even though he may be ignorant of architecture as a science. There
is nothing of the Arabic architecture in the Assembly Rooms, which
seems to me to have been built upon a design of Palladio, and might be
converted into an elegant place of worship.”

In little more than a generation popular taste was completely changed.
Augustus Pugin and Le Keux published their _Specimens of Architectural
Antiquities in Normandy_ in 1827; Parker his _Glossary of Architecture_
in 1836, which rapidly went through several editions. A. Welby Pugin
poured forth the vials of scorn on the taste of his day in his
_Contrasts_, 1841; Ruskin’s _Seven Lamps of Architecture_ laid down
first principles in 1849; Rickman, the Quaker, had issued his _Attempt
to Distinguish the Styles of English Architecture_ as early as 1817,
and this also rapidly passed through several editions. But it was not
enough to instruct the public: its heart must be touched, its eyes
unsealed to the beauties of the so-called Gothic style; and this is
what Prout did with his exquisite drawings. There was no technical
skill obtruded, no attempt made to distinguish styles: he simply with
his pencil brought its charms before the public eye in an engaging
form. And the public saw and believed.

Mr. S. C. Hall, writing of Prout’s personal qualities, says: “No member
of the profession has ever lived to be more thoroughly respected, we
may add beloved, by his fellow artists; no man has ever given more
unquestionable evidence of a gentle and generous spirit, or more
truly deserved the esteem in which he is so universally held. His
always delicate health, instead of souring the temper, made him more
thoughtful of the trials of others. Ever ready to assist the young by
the counsels of experience, he is a fine example of perseverance and
industry combined with suavity of manner and those endearing attributes
which invariably blend with admiration of the artist, affection for
the man. During the last six or seven years we have sometimes found
our way into his quiet studio, where, like a delicate exotic requiring
the most careful treatment to retain life within it, he could keep
himself warm and snug, as he expressed it. There he might be seen at
his easel, throwing his rich and beautiful colouring over a sketch
of some old palace in Venice or time-worn cathedral of Flanders; and
though suffering much from pain and weakness, ever cheerful, ever
thankful that he had still strength enough to carry on his work. He
rose late, and could seldom begin his labours before the middle of the
day, when, if tolerably free from pain, he would paint till the night
was advanced. No man ever bore suffering more meekly. Essentially
religious, he submitted with patience and resignation to the Divine
will. All the home affections were warm and strong in him. He was of a
tender, loving, and truly upright nature.”

He spent some time at Hastings for his health, and when there his
parish church was S. Mary’s. He attended this church regularly, and
the vicar, the Rev. Mr. Vines, used to say: “I always wait for Prout
to come and light up my church.” Indeed, his temper was always sunny,
and he was eminently devout. What touched him profoundly was the piety
he noticed among the peasantry abroad--how they uncovered for a brief
prayer at the sound of the Angelus, and how they made of their churches
a veritable home, where they could pour out their hearts in prayer in
all sorrows, and in thanksgiving in all joys. But abroad or at home, in
his hotel or his studio, his constant companions were his English Bible
and Book of Common Prayer, and with them he said that he was satisfied.

As Mr. Hine says beautifully in his _Memoirs of Prout_: “All the
subjects of his pictures point upwards, the lovely street scenes
terminating in the tall tower or the divine spire. The doves hover
about the highest ridges of his roofs and the loftiest pinnacles of
his towers. He had the most implicit faith in the final article of the
Nicene Creed--‘I believe in the life of the world to come’--and his own
pictures are the faint but beautiful symbols of that celestial city
which he saw as through a glass, darkly.”

He had been invited with many literary and artistic celebrities to
dine with Mr. Ruskin, the elder, on Tuesday, 9 February, 1852, to keep
the birthday of John Ruskin, and hear a letter from Venice, from the
younger Ruskin, who was then in that city.

Samuel Prout had not been well of late, but he went to the dinner, and
returned between ten and eleven, and said to his wife, “I’ve had such a
happy evening! The Venice letter was capital.” Then he retired to his
studio. Shortly after a tapping sound, often made by him as a summons,
was heard. One of his daughters running upstairs found her father lying
on the hearthrug in a fit of apoplexy. His open Bible, in which he had
been reading one of the Psalms, lay on the table. He was carried to
bed, but never spoke again. He died in the sixty-ninth year of his age.
“There will never be any more Prout drawings,” said Ruskin sorrowfully.

In the north aisle of St. Andrew’s Church, Plymouth, is a marble tablet
to his memory.

“There is one point,” says Ruskin, “in which Turner, Bewick, Hunt, and
Prout, all four agree--that they can draw the poor, but not the rich.
They acknowledge with affection, whether for principal or accessory
subjects of their art, the British farmer, the British sailor, the
British market-woman, and the British workman. They agree unanimously
in ignoring the British gentleman. Let the British gentleman lay it to
heart, and ask himself why.

“The general answer is long and manifold. But, with respect to the
separate work of Prout, there is a very precious piece of instruction
in it respecting national prosperity and policy, which may be gathered
in a few glances.

“You see how all his best pictures depend on figures either crowded in
market-places or pausing (lounging, it may be) in quiet streets. You
will not find, in the entire series of subjects from his hand, a single
figure in a hurry. He ignores not only the British gentleman, but every
necessary condition, nowadays, of British business.

“Look again and see if you can find a single figure exerting all its
strength. A couple of men rolling a single cask perhaps; here and
there a woman with a rather large bundle on her head--any more athletic
display than these you seek in vain. His figures are all as quiet as
the Cathedral of Chartres. Some of them you can scarcely think are
standing still, but they all move quietly. The real reason is that _he_
understood, and _we_ do not, the meaning of the word ‘quiet.’

“He understood it, personally, and for himself; practically, and for
others. Take this one fact--of his quiet dealings with men--and think
it over.

“The modern fashionable interest in what we suppose to be art had just
begun to show itself a few years before Prout’s death, and he was
frequently advised to raise his prices. But he never raised them a
shilling to his old customers, nor greatly to his new ones. They were
supplied with all the drawings they wanted at six guineas each--to the
end. A very peaceful method of dealing, and under the true ancient laws
ordained by Athena of the Agora, and St. James of the Rialto.

“And learn from your poor wandering painter this lesson--for some of
the best he had to give you (it is the Alpha of the laws of true human
life)--that no city is prosperous in the sight of Heaven unless the
peasant sells in its market; that no city is ever righteous in the
sight of Heaven unless the noble walks in its street.”

Prout’s work is divided into two clearly defined periods. In the first
he drew only English scenes. In 1819 he made his first tour on the
Continent, and thenceforth devoted himself almost entirely to foreign
subjects. In this devotion Ruskin lamented the “loss of his first
love.” His grand wrecks of Indiamen were instinct with that subtle
sense of vastness that the Art Teacher felt.


The authorities for the life of Samuel Prout are:--

“Samuel Prout, Artist,” by J. Hine, in the _Transactions_ of the
Plymouth Institution, 1879-80.

_Art in Devonshire_, by Geo. Pycroft, Exeter, 1883, pp. 106-17.

Royet, _History of the Old Water-Colour Society_, London, 1891.

Ruskin’s “Notes on Samuel Prout and William Hunt,” new edition in
_Ruskin on Pictures_, London, 1902.

    /Note./--The publisher of this work will esteem it a favour
    if the possessors of pictures or drawings by Prout will place
    themselves in communication with him. He is particularly anxious
    to obtain copies of letters by, or documents about, the artist--in
    short, any material which may be of use in the preparation of the
    exhaustive Life which is in progress. All communications should be
    addressed to Mr. John Lane, The Bodley Head, Vigo Street, London, W.


It may seem--in fact, it must seem--strange to have included in a
volume of notices of remarkable Devonshire characters a biography of
an infant who did not attain to the age of two years; but I leave the
reader to judge from the sequel whether I should have been justified in
omitting a notice of Fontelautus.

For an account of the life and adventures of this precocious infant we
are obliged to refer to the following work, published 1826: _Subversion
of Materialism by Credible Attestation of Supernatural Occurrences_....
Pt. I. _Memoirs of Fontelautus, infant son of Prebendary Dennis,
comprising his demoniacal obsession, and diversified apparition,
with his father’s ante-nuptial vision and revelations._ Pt. II.
_Supernatural Anecdotes of various Families’ Farewell Apparitions,
Supernatural Fire tokens...._ By Jonas Dennis, /B.C.L./,
Prebendary of the Royal Collegiate Church of Exeter Castle.”

Prebendary Dennis hurls his son Fontelautus as a bomb into the camp
of atheists, materialists, and rationalists. If Fontelautus does not
shatter their unbelief, they are past arguing with, past praying for.

Prebendary Dennis begins with the ancestry of Fontelautus, who was
derived in direct lineal descent from Sir Thomas Dennis of Holcombe
Burnell, the rapacious and insatiable devourer of ecclesiastical
estates, made fat on the plunder of Church property by Henry VIII.
Mr. Jonas Dennis is led to observe that there was an hereditary
tendency in the Dennis family to acquisitiveness, to avarice; but
this proclivity, like gout, jumped a generation, and he informs us
that he himself was so entirely free from the family taint that he
declined a benefice from scruples respecting the administration of
the sacraments; that he further rejected the advances of a lady
with a fortune of £50,000, on the discovery of incompatibility of
inclination; and that he subsequently married “a lady with ten pounds
for her fortune, calculating probability of conjugal felicity from the
endowment of amiable qualities, placid disposition, compliable temper,
serious principles, polite accomplishments, and last, though not least,
domestic habits.” But if acquisitiveness jumped a generation, it
manifested itself in Fontelautus, who from the earliest age clawed and
endeavoured to ram into his mouth whatever he could lay his hands on.

The Dennis family had been one of warriors: their arms were
battle-axes; and the Rev. Jonas admits that combativeness remained as
a pronounced feature in his own character, the hereditary principle
in himself prompting him to engage in controversy. Some of his
achievements he records. It seems that the priest vicars of the
cathedral of Exeter had petitioned the Dean and Chapter to suppress
the week-day matins. The Chapter was more than half inclined to agree,
when the stalwart Jonas threw himself into the midst, and stormed,
threatened, pointed to the Constitutions, dared the Chapter to give
way, and so saved the choral matins in the minster.

The cathedral, he informs us, was kept open, and was used for
assignations and for various objectionable gatherings. At his
instigation the doors were locked between the hours of Divine service.
It is possible that what he here refers to may be the performance
of the _Gloria in Excelsis_ by the choir in the Minstrel Gallery at
midnight on Christmas Eve. This was stopped about the same time on
account of the disorderly scenes that took place in the nave; but he
does not specially refer to this.

Every now and then information reached his ear of intended jobs by
the Bishop (Carey) to accommodate noblemen, and rich squires of the
diocese, by putting very undesirable scions of these families into some
of his best livings. Dennis wrote to the Bishop, told him that if he
proceeded in these appointments he would publish what he knew about the
character of those whom he presented and of the negotiations undertaken
to obtain these benefices.

He also strove to get Convocation to transact business. “It was a point
gained to make a torpid tribe stretch and flap their wings, although
speedily drooping into a seven years’ rest.”

The mother of Prebendary Dennis was a daughter of John Cobley, of
Crediton--in fact, the Fontelautus who was to be would be a kinsman
through his grandmother of the immortal Uncle Tom Cobley.

The Prebendary having no church near him at Exmouth, where he resided,
that was open for daily prayer, was wont to recite his office when
walking or riding. One day when he was on horseback and engaged in
prayer, he saw a sudden illumination of the sky in the east, that grew
brighter and ever more brilliant till it exceeded that of the sun, and
the light appeared to pulsate in waves. Dazzled and overcome he reined
in his horse, when from the depths of the light he heard a voice, “The
discipline of the Church shall be restored through you!” Then a pause,
and the light swelled and enveloped him, and he heard, “Miss Shore
will marry you!” After a pause a third voice fell from heaven, “You
shall recover your health by observing the fasts of the Church.” Then
the light gradually faded away.

“Of the three predictions,” writes Prebendary Dennis, “attended with
a vision, two have already been fulfilled, i.e. his engagement and
marriage to Miss Shore (Juliana Susannah) daughter of the Rev. Thomas
Shore, vicar of Otterton, and brother of Lord Teignmouth; next his
recovery of sound health. Toward the fulfilment of the other the author
has from that day laboured with might and main. To it he has devoted
prayer, thought, money, speech, travel, exerting every effort within
compass of attainment.” According to him, Papal supremacy had been
abolished in the Church of England, Royal supremacy existed but as a
shadow, that supremacy under which the Church was crushed, but did not
groan and seem inconvenienced, or to dislike, was the supremacy of
Mammon. And he traced this supremacy to the coming over of William of
Orange, and the filling of the bishoprics, and all preferments with men
who were mere timeservers and political partisans. He was an advocate
for the restoration of clinical unction; he preached it, and records
several instances of healing through it. He also regarded madness as in
many cases due to demoniacal possession, and urged the use of exorcism.

The following is an extract from the Register of Baptisms of Exmouth
for the year 1824:--

“Fontelautus, first-born son and fifth child of Jonas and Juliana
Susanna ... Dennis, Prebendary of Kerswell, in the R. Collegiate Church
of the Castle of Exeter. Baptised by me, Jonas Dennis, /B.C.L./,
the aforesaid Prebendary. Sponsors: Sir W. T. Pole, Bart., by his
proxy, the Rev. R. Prat, vicar; the Rev. Jno. Dennis, /A.B./,
and Elizabeth his wife. Supposed to be the first instance of trine
immersion since its suppression by the Presbyterian Directory of the
Long Parliament.”

Fontelautus means, of course, “washed in the (sacred) fount.” What
could a wretched infant do with such a name? Could it possibly live?

“Peaceful was his countenance, engaging was his manner, penetrating his
looks. In family worship his attention and serious aspect was striking
to the spectators.”

But, alas! there was something of the hereditary taint in
Fontelautus--the love of admiration. “Every little cunning trick was
resorted to for its gratification. Every description of expedient was
equally adopted by him as by a vain adult. Approaching home in his
attendant’s arms, on her return from executing any commission, he
studiously assumed appearance of having been bearer of the purchased
article by grasping it in his extended fingers, merely to excite
admiration. Rather than not excite attention, he courted notice by
laying his head on the floor in preference to other support.”

Here follows an exquisite specimen of the style of the Rev. Jonas: “The
few moments spent in his father’s arms were marked by ecstacy; and the
privilege of attendance on tonsorial operations”--he means watching the
barber cut his father’s hair and shave him--“was highly estimated by
the animated boy. But the son of a scholar commands an inferior portion
of paternal time and caresses, than he ensures in maternal embraces or
sartorial attention! His mother, of course, was the paramount object of
regard. He could not obliterate the associated delight of a suckling.”

Fontelautus seemed to be progressing lustily with his pap and his
bottle, and dribbling effusively as indication of teething, when about
a fortnight before the end of May, as the cook-maid sat at night in the
kitchen, she saw the headless form of a child enter the door from the
court, walk or glide through the kitchen into the pantry, and suddenly

On 1 June, seven weeks before Fontelautus had completed his second
year, rising to meet his father who had been absent from home for
some months, the boy got his foot entangled in a bedside carpet, and
falling on his right arm bent the bone, or, as Jonas words it, “the
pressure of the superincumbent weight gave it an unprecedented degree
of incurvation.” Before he had recovered from this he had a fall on
his head, and soon water on the brain began to gather, and he had
convulsions during ten days, and from the appearance of his eyes it was
clear that the child could no longer see. The father was convinced that
this was a case of _ob_session by an evil spirit, not of _pos_session,
as he is careful to explain, and he had recourse to exorcism, which
temporarily relieved the distressed infant. The contortions, the
expression of the face, the foaming of the mouth, all satisfied the
father that the child was beset by evil spirits, and his exorcisms were
always conducive to relief of the patient; an expression of repose and
relief stole over the distressed countenance of the child; and when
he died it was during such a pause of relief; as the Prebendary says,
“His soul was not extracted from the body by the coercive agency of an
infernal envoy.”

So far we do not see how that Fontelautus should be such a crushing
argument against materialism. Yet the _Memoirs_ were addressed to “Mr.
William Lawrence, surgeon, as chief British apostle of the system of
Natural Philosophy completely reducing man to a biped featherless
brute; therefore eradicating apprehensions of future responsibility,
consequently destructive of every moral feeling in the heart.”

But wait, Mr. Apostle Lawrence, the evidence against materialism is

It must be premised that the family lived at the time at Belmont House,
in Bicton Street, Exmouth, and this was the scene of what followed:--

“On the night succeeding the decease of Fontelautus, for preclusion
of the body from renewed maternal inspection, it was removed to an
attic apartment, having an unglazed window open to the staircase. With
the same view, the lid of the coffin was screwed until the following
day, when it was unscrewed on suggestion of hazard to bearers from
condensation of putrescent exhalation.”

At the Prebendary’s desire, the head of his child had been cut off
and the skull opened to examine the condition of the brain, and to
ascertain the amount of water that was in it. And it is remarkable that
this operation took place in the room immediately above the kitchen
in which a few weeks before the cook had seen the apparition of the
headless child.

“Pending the intervening night, the inmates of the nursery being
removed to another sleeping room, the nursemaid, during half an hour,
while lying in bed, heard his accustomed tones of voice as distinctly
as when occasionally lying with her during lifetime. Sitting up, she
heard the voice continued precisely in the usual mode constantly
resorted to by the affectionate child, to engage his nurse’s nocturnal
attention, if through fatigue reluctant to be disturbed. His vocal
tones were peculiarly winning, coaxing, and caressing. They retained
their pristine character during the period of apparition. Forgetful,
for the time, of all impossibility of reanimation, through dissection
of the cerebellum, she concluded, through protraction of the
phenomenon, that life was restored. On walking out on the staircase,
and remaining ten minutes, the voice continued to attend her, until
hastening to the coffin and without success endeavouring to force open
the lid. His favourite sister, Maria, lying in a crib in the same room,
heard her brother’s voice with equal distinctness, both that night and
the two following days. She, indeed, heard the sound of his voice so
frequently transmitted from the attic room, as repeatedly to be induced
to hasten thither in expectation of finding him alive. Her mother,
sitting in the drawing-room, likewise heard the same articulate sound.
At one time, the girl at the foot of the stairs, and the servant at the
nursery door, both heard the infant’s tones repeated at the same time
from the attic room. At another time, Maria, during five minutes, saw
the apparition of her brother’s hand stretching out of the room window
where his body lay; and she knocked at her mother’s door, calling her
out to see Lautus, as he was alive. Before her mother arrived, she saw
the hand turned round and drawn in at the window. She continued to hear
his voice coming in the same direction the succeeding day.

“At night, her mother, entreated by her father to deny herself the
pleasure of saluting her deceased darling’s icy lips, reluctantly
yielded to the injunction. She was subsequently awakened from sound
sleep by sensible perception of a wing fluttering on her lips, with
such rapidity as nearly to suspend breathing. Sitting up in the bed,
she then heard the more distant sound of which fluttering, equally
distinct to the ear as previously perceptible by contact. It continued
for some time in the upper part of the room. On searching the
following morning, no material object elucidating the phenomena was by
any means discoverable, both window and door having through the night
been closely shut and locked.”

That this was none other than a moth that escaped notice by day by
clinging to a curtain with folded wings is obvious enough.

The reader is by this time doubtless so tired of the inflated style of
the Prebendary, that he will be grateful to have the rest of the story
told in plain English.

The Rev. Jonas had made up his mind to have Fontelautus buried in the
garden of his home, and arrangements were made that his five sisters
were to be the bearers. But this was at once met by the positive
refusal of Maria, who declared that she would be no party to the burial
of her brother, who, she was assured, was still alive. After the
funeral she remained in an agony of distress, and this idea continued
to possess her, and so firmly impressed her mind, that at length, to
appease her and satisfy her that Fontelautus was really dead, he was
dug up again.

Such is the story that the Prebendary thought would be annihilation to

He was the author of a good many books. I give the titles of a few.

_Church Reform, by a Church Radical, and Other Tracts._ Exeter, 1834-5.

_Alliance of Church and State, Neither Sinful nor Unscriptural._
London, 1834.

_Key to the Regalia, with Anecdotes of the Late King._ London, 1820.

_Architectura Sacra._ Exeter, 1819.

_Cat o’ Nine Tails._ Exeter, 1823.

_The Landscape Gardener._ Chelsea, 1835.

The Rev. Jonas Dennis himself died at Polsloe Park on 6 December,
1846, aged seventy-one. His only ecclesiastical preferment in life
was the prebend of Carswell, one of the four prebends attached to the
church of St. Mary, in the Castle of Exeter, which he held from 1799 to
the day of his death, receiving the yearly emolument of £2 13s. 4d.

He was buried at Otterton, and his grave and tombstone, as well as
those of his wife, are in the churchyard.

If Providence had chosen him, as the voice from heaven intimated, to
reform the Church, it made a most unhappy selection, as his inflated
and absurd style of writing and speaking made him an object of ridicule
not of respect, and deprived his efforts of success.

I will add some of the stories from the second part of his _Hammer of

Prebendary Salter, /M.A./, tutor to the son of the former Bishop
Fisher, of Exeter, translated to Salisbury in 1807, declared that one
night he saw his father’s apparition standing by the bedside. At the
same time his little child began to whimper, and this roused his wife,
who also saw the spectre, and both particularly noticed the peculiar
plaiting of the shirt. In a short time a special messenger arrived
bringing information that the old gentleman was dead.

Sarah, wife of James Smith, of Peckham, Russia merchant, and herself
a descendant of General Monk and mother-in-law of John Dennis, the
brother of Prebendary Jonas, saw a female friend’s apparition at the
foot of her bed. Next day a letter arrived announcing the dying anxiety
of the party for an interview with Mrs. Smith, to entreat her kind
attention to her surviving orphans. The moment of dissolution coincided
with that of the apparition. Mrs. Burrow, aunt of Baron Giffard,
informed the author that going up Fore Street, Exeter, one night, she
saw, walking at a little distance before her, an intimate acquaintance
named Jones, a retired silversmith. Perceiving him to halt at the door
of the house where he had been formerly established in business, she
hurried her pace to catch him up, when he vanished as she reached the
spot. Next morning a messenger arrived to announce his death, which had
occurred at the very time of her seeing the spectre.

Mrs. Woodall, of Dartmouth, a widow, blind, was informed by letter from
her daughter-in-law in November, 1797, of the death of her cousin, her
sister-in-law; Miss Sarah Woodall replied through an amanuensis that
she had previously known of the death, by feeling the clay-cold hand of
her cousin clasp her own as she lay in bed.

The late Lady Rolle was reported to have been seen after her decease by
the gardener at Bicton, at the gate of the Dutch garden.

The gardener of Franklyn, in St. Thomas by Exeter, then in the
possession of a family named Jones, said that he saw his father’s ghost
whilst he was at work in one of the gardens of the mansion.

Mr. Pearce, of Exeter, a retired wine merchant, informed the author
that his little child had been wont in the mornings to leave his crib
in the nursery and run to his father’s room and cuddle into his bed.
Once when the child was very ill Mr. Pearce saw him come in as usual in
his nightshirt, whereat he shouted angrily to the nurse in another room
to rebuke her for allowing the child to leave its crib whilst so ill.
The child had not left it--at that moment it had died.

A male servant of the late Colonel Templer, of Teignmouth, in November,
1810, during an incessant fall of rain, swelling the rivers and
carrying away bridges, had three successive dreams the same night, in
which he thought that some one, in danger of death on the Dawlish road,
was calling to him to come to his aid. So persuaded was the man that he
was truly summoned, that he hastily dressed, saddled and mounted one
of his master’s horses, and proceeded along the road in the darkness,
till his horse suddenly drew up and refused to proceed. Dismounting,
he found a woman apparently dying in a channel of water furrowed deep
across the highway. By this means her life was preserved.

The late Mr. Smith, of Exeter, proprietor of a muslin warehouse,
in three successive dreams in the same night, which he separately
repeated to his wife, was summoned to go at once to Bodmin. He obeyed,
and on arriving there, heard that the assizes were being held. Out
of curiosity he went into the court and heard the judge ask whether
any one had seen the prisoner on the day and at the hour at which he
was charged with having committed a murder in the west of Cornwall.
Looking at the accused, Mr. Smith exclaimed, “Why! he was in my shop in
Exeter on that very day.” Through such conclusive evidence an alibi was
established, and the prisoner was acquitted and discharged.

The Rev. Mr. Reynolds was master of the Grammar School, Exeter. He
lost his wife, and after that, possibly because his spirits failed him
and he lacked energy, the school declined seriously and he thought of
giving it up. While he was debating this in his mi