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Full text of "Devonshire characters and strange events"

DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 
AND STRANGE EVENTS 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 

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

ETC. ETC. 




G. Clint, A.R.A.,pinxt. Thos. Lnpton. sculpt. 

MARIA FOOTE, AFTERWARDS COUNTESS OF HARRINGTON, AS MARIA 
DARLINGTON IN THE FARCE OF "A ROWLAND FOR AN OLIVER "( 1824) 




DEVONSHIRE 
CHARACTERS 

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

WITH 55 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS 
REPRODUCED FROM OLD PRINTS, ETC. 






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



i (Act IV). 



LONDON. JOHN LANE THE BODLEY HEAD 
NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY MCMVIII 






6*70 



PLYMOUTH : WILLIAM BRENDON AND SON, LIMITED, PRINTERS 



PREFACE 

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 else- 
where, 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 



vi DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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. Thorn- 
ton, 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. Wella- 
cott, 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 






PREFACE vii 

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 where- 
abouts 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 colour- 
ing 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 original. 

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. 



CONTENTS 



HUGH STAFFORD AND THE ROYAL WILDING i 

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 BlDLAKES, OF BlDLAKE 212 

THE PIRATES OF LUNDY .224 



x DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

PAGE 

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 GARY 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 $8l 

WILLIAM LANG, OF BRADWORTHY 594 

WILLIAM COOKWORTHY 600 



CONTENTS xi 



PAGE 



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 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



MARIA FOOTE, AFTERWARDS COUNTESS OF HARRINGTON Frontispiece 

From an engraving by Thomas Lupton, after a picture by G. Clint, A.R.A. 

TO FACE PACK 

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. Bird 

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 . . . -14 

A VILLAGE " WISE MAN" . . . . . -78 

MANLY PEEKE IN HIS ENCOUNTER WITH THREE ADVERSARIES 
ARMED WITH RAPIERS AND POIGNARDS . . . .90 

JAMES WYAT, ;ETAT. 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. Sharland 



xiv DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

TO FACE PAGS 

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 

BlDLAKE . . . . . . . .212 

THOMAS D'URFEY ....... 238 

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

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 
MOGULS ........ 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, Esq. 

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 PRO- 
MISED 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. GlFFORD ........ 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 



ILLUSTRATIONS xv 

TO FACE PAGE 
CAPTAIN COOKE, 1824, AGED 58 ..... 478 

Drawn, from natute, 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 IN- 
VENTED 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 Magazine 

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 Barnstaple 

REAR-ADMIRAL SIR EDWARD CHICHESTER, BART. . . 772 



DEVONSHIRE 
CHARACTERS 

AND STRANGE EVENTS 

HUGH STAFFORD AND THE 
ROYAL WILDING 



H 



UGH STAFFORD, Esq., of Pynes, born 
1674, was t ^ ie l ast f t ^ ie 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 Stow- 
ford, 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 



2 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Stow- 
ford, 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 Re- 
ligion 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, punc- 
tuated the periods of a bishop who spoke next. At an 




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



HUGH STAFFORD 3 

ensuing meeting on the ' Deepening of Personal Reli- 
gion ' my neighbour was munching a Cornish gilli- 
flower, 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." 

Cyder was anciently the main drink of the country 
people in the West of England. Every old farm- 
house 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 em- 
ployed for pressing the fruit into pummice. But these 
weights were superseded by the screw-press that ex- 
tracted more of the juice. 

In 1763 Lord Bute, the Prime Minister, imposed a 
tax of IDS. per hogshead on cyder and perry, to be 
paid by the first buyer. The country gentlemen, with- 
out reference to party, were violent in their opposition, 
and Bute then condescended to reduce the sum and the 
mode of levying it, proposing 45. 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 thun- 
dered 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, 



4 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 ques- 
tion about cyder than the City of London, followed the 
example of the capital, and implored their representa- 
tives 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 com- 
mand, 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 posi- 
tion 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 55. to 505. 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 occa- 
sion 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, carica- 
tures, 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 Scotch- 



HUGH STAFFORD 5 

man, in Highland costume, in the background, com- 
mented, " 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." 

I give one of the ballads printed on this occasion : it 
is entitled, "The Scotch Yoke, and English Resent- 
ment. To the tune of The Queen's Ass." 

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. 



6 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 re- 
pealed 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 igth, 2Oth, and 2ist 
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 de- 



HUGH STAFFORD 7 

servedly) 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 



8 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

and garden, and its more valuable self, from that 
burden. 

" Mr. Francis Oliver (a gentleman of the neighbour- 
hood, 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 sound- 
ness 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 im- 
patience for the experiment, which you know must be 
the work of some years. They came at length, and 




The T T B U R N INTERVIEW: 
A New SONG. 



By a CYDER MERCHANT, of South-Ham, Devor.lliire. 

Dedicated to JACK KETCH. 

To the Tune A Cobler there was, &c. 



AS Savcnn from Tnrfd was a trudging to Town, 
Torell his tir'd Limb? on the Grafs heftt down ; 
\\ !u n growling his Oatmeal, he turn'd up his Eyes, 
And ktnn'd a ttrangc Pile on three Pillars wife. 

Derry ri;:in, *cc. 

Amaz'd he ftarts ur>, " Thou Thing of odd Form, 
That ftand'ft here defying each turbulent Storm ; 
What art thou > Thy Oliicc declare at my Word, 
Or thoulhaltnotcfcapethisltrongArm and broadSworJ." 

Quoth the Structure, " Altho' I'm not known unto thec, 
'Ihy Countrymens Lives have been '! orten'd by me ; 

In & Hand, no doubt,' you have heard of my Fame. ' 

Hern rfoi, &c. 

When arm'd all rebellious, like Vultures you role, 
A Set of fuch Sh.ilvags, you trl.;luen'd.the Crows ; 
To rid the tir'd Landxrf fuch Vermin as you, 
1 groan'd with receiving but barely my f>ue. 

Deny rf:-uv, &c. 

And ftill I'm in Hopes of another to come, 
For Tyburn will certain at [aft be his Home ; 
He'll come from the Summit f Honour's vail Height, 
With a Star and a Garter to dubb me a Knight." 

Dc'-rs dl-jL-n, &c. 

My Sword lhall fh nit proveall tii v I topcrarcin vain"; 
' ' ying, he brandilh'd it high in the Air r 

ftrait a Si'itch Voice cry'd out StKnuy forbear ! 

1"lerry rfcier, ivc. 

Phantom that f,>oke now a pr rar'd in a trice, 
And to tlit fcar'd Sco'irun thus give his Advice : 
- Calm thy Breali that now boils with Vexation and 
And let what 1 fpcak thy Attention engage. I Rage, 



No longer with Furv purfue this old Tree, 
His Back lhall bear Vengeance for YOU and for 
For know, my dear Friend, the Time i, at Mar 
When with F.n;;,Jbme>i, Tyburn lhall ihin half -li-.- 

The Cafe is revers'd by a-gooJ Kri< 
All Treafon is &gM>> and 1 .ov.i!;-. -, oars : 
Kofts, Honour, and Profit a'l \ -: .V.Y/: await, ' 
While the Natives lhall [rc.nMe and curie thci 

The War is no more, an.l each Sold 

The Strength and the Bulwark oi ,.j . in \\ ; 

As the firti Sacrifice to our .-, , :-...: " 

Here ended the Phantom, an,! f;:nk i:: theGl II 
While the blue Flames of i iell ghr'd terrible roi 
When tor Lonofon young Sroww around turn'd hi 
Where he march'd for a \'l :CL- in the anv-rait'd E 



Ye Nati. 
Your In 
For' this 



nd; 
i Kvcs, 



For Thouf.inds ; 



oming be 



Ah ! haplefs Old England, no longer be merry. 
Since /{ ha thus tax'd your Beer, C'vder and \ 
lx>ok fullen andfa.l, for now this i. done, 
Xo doublin ihort Time they'll tax La*glii*g an, 

Y. t let the Proud Uird. who prefid-s at the I U 
Extend his Excite to each Thing in the Realm : 
,. Fax on Spn^-l^attr I think would be right, 
For Water, 'tis known, is as common 



Dei 



Twill ' all the / nd, an 
Prorre,), mv good l.iir 1. nnd 
Reward you ;yr laying each in 



% my Saul that will do ! 



HUGH STAFFORD 9 

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. 

" Mr. Wollocombe was not a little pleased with it, 
and talked of it in all conversations ; it created amuse- 
ment 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 thirty. 

"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 con- 
descend 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, 



io DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 neigh- 
bours) 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 Wild- 
ing* Y ou 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 gentle- 
man 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 gentle- 
men we have not in our country) that each affirmed his 



HUGH STAFFORD n 

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 White-Sour.'* 

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 con- 
sumption. They gave the cyder to their labourers, and 



12 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 hun- 
dreds 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 consump- 
tion, 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 Stafford. 

Messrs. Veitch, the well-known nurserymen at 



HUGH STAFFORD 13 

Exeter and growers of the finest sorts of apples, in- 
form 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 deplor- 
able 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, under- 
took 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. 



14 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

"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, yield- 
ing 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 l cyder cure ' at 
the hospitable rectory, had thrown his crutches to the 
dogs and turned his face homewards "upright as a 
bolt."* 

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 manufac- 
ture 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 requirements. 

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 Wash- 
field, 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 him- 
self: 

1 Whiteway's Wine of the West Country. 



HUGH STAFFORD 15 

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. 



THE ALPHINGTON PONIES 

DURING the forties of last century, every 
visitor to Torquay noticed two young ladies 
of very singular appearance. Their resi- 
dence 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 

16 




THE MISSES DURNFORD. THE ALPHINGTON PONIES 
From a Lithograph 



THE ALPHINGTON PONIES 17 

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. 

The sisters dressed exactly alike, and were so much 
alike in face as to appear to be twins. They were re- 
markably 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 how- 
ever 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 com- 
passion. 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, loth 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. 



i8 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

As they were not well off, they occasionally got into 
debt, and were summoned before the Court of Re- 
quests ; and could be impertinent even to the judge. 
On one occasion, when he had made an order for pay- 
ment, 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 required. 

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. 

A gentleman writes: " Mr. Garrow's house, The 
Braddons, was on my father's hands to let. One day 




THE MISSES DURNFORD. THE ALPHINGTON PONIES (BACK VIEW) 
Lithographed by P. Ganci, Pub. Ed. Coder cm 



THE ALPHINGTON PONIES 19 

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 re- 
lated 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 in- 
sisted 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 con- 
tinued 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 



20 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

were vastly pleased, accepting this as the highest 
flattery. Were not princesses and queens also repre- 
sented 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. 1 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." 

1 They are not so represented in the three lithographs that were 
published at Torquay. But two others beside this correspondent 
mention their appearance in " bloomers." 



MARIA FOOTE 

"W" F 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 com- 

-*- miseration, 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 

21 



22 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

herself into the society of the other ; and in Ply- 
mouth, 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 reck- 
less 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, 




MARIA FOOTE, AFTERWARDS COUNTESS OF HARRINGTON 
From an engraved portrait in the collection of A. M. Broadley, Esq. 



MARIA FOOTE 23 

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. 

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 compli- 
mented 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 charm- 
ing, 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 sur- 
rounded 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 



24 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 help- 
ing 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 under- 
standing than her parents, and an instinctive modesty 
that withstood the evil with which she was surrounded. 

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 enthusi- 
astic amateur of the stage, and he offered his services 
to perform at the benefit of Miss Foote, and she ac- 
cepted 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 
1 8 10, and the Colonel was endeavouring to establish 
his claim to the earldom. He pleaded with her, that 



MARIA FOOTE 25 

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 him- 
self 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 ex- 
pectations 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 



26 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 even- 
ing, 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 Marl- 
borough 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 re- 
mained 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 



MARIA FOOTE 27 

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 consterna- 
tion 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 encoun- 
tered 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 ; 



28 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 con- 
siderable 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 



MARIA FOOTE 29 

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 re- 
tained on behalf of the plaintiff; and Mr. Scarlett on 
behalf of the defendant. The case was heard on 
21 December, 1824. 

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 



30 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 another. 

Mrs. Foote was revealed to be a scheming un- 
principled 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 obliga- 
tions 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 Co vent 
Garden Theatre, the house was packed. The Drama, 
or Theatrical Magazine, says: u The fullest house of 
this season, indeed of any season within our ex- 
perience, 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 



MARIA FOOTE 31 

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 per- 
formance (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 entree ; 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 



32 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 con- 
veyed by verbal description. At the expression of the 
sentence, 'This moment is worth a whole existence,' 
Miss Foote bowed to the audience in grateful acknow- 
ledgment of the reception she had met with. Alto- 
gether 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. i6s. 
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 



MARIA FOOTE 33 

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 every- 
body, 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 
D 



34 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 friend- 
ship for which Time can never lessen my gratitude." 



CARABOO 

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 in- 
form 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 

35 



36 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 in- 
terested 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. 



CARABOO 37 

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 gentle- 
men had called upon her, bringing with them 
foreigners of their acquaintance, in the hope of dis- 
covering 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 house- 
keeper. 

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 



38 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 tra- 
veller 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 zjustee 
(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. 



CARABOO 39 

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 betel- 
nut); 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 macra- 
toos (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 every- 
thing 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 y 
that had been dressed by the cook ; but when given 



40 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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, fre- 
quently 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 re- 
ceived information of the place to which her protegee 
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." 



CARABOO 41 

Dr. Wilkinson resolved on going to London to con- 
sult 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 wheel- 
wright'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 com- 
passion 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 con- 
veyed 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 con- 
fession. 



42 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 im- 
patient 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 pro- 
cured 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, re- 
commended her to a Mrs. Matthews, i 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 



CARABOO 43 

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 confine- 
ment 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 there. 

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 ex- 
clamation 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 



44 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 succes- 
sion 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 hus- 
band 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 con- 
fined, 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 fortunes. 

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 




MARY WILCOCKS, OF WITHERIDGE, DEVONSHIRE, ALIAS CARABOO 
Drawn and Engraved by N. Branivhite 






CARABOO 45 

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 stay- 
ing in it for but a short while. 

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 as- 
tounding self-possession. Once or twice the house- 
keeper 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 indiffer- 
ence. 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 under- 
stand 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 



46 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 pas- 
sions ; 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 pre- 
tended to understand her language and thereby drew 
out her history, never again dared to show his face at 
Knole. 

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. 



JOHN ARSCOTT, OF TETCOTT 



f~ ""^HE 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 Hols- 
worthy. 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 seven- 
teenth century. Dunsland came into the possession of 
the Arscotts through marriage with the heiress of 
Battyn in 1522. In 1634 tne 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 
Dunsland. 

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 

47 



48 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Moles- 
worths this was pulled down, and all its contents dis- 
persed. 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 objec- 
tion. 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 Aristophanes. 

" 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 : 
1 1 have noticed that most Authors, when publishing 
their writings, have the greatest objection to their bare 







ARSCOTT OF TETCOTT 



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



. S. Hawke 



From the picture by y. Northcote. R.A. 



JOHN ARSCOTT, OF TETCOTT 49 

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.'" 

[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 



50 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 fore- 
fathers. 

" 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, 
1 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 



JOHN ARSCOTT, OF TETCOTT 51 

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 1 thus describes the sort of man that 
John Arscott was : 

" 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 dis- 
comfort. " 

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 kindli- 
ness in his disposition, whose talk is of bullocks or 
horses or dogs, and who, after the ladies had with- 

1 M. B. Synge, A Short History of Social Life in England. London, 
1906. 



52 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

drawn, 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 collec- 
tions 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 re- 
ported, 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. 



i 



JOHN ARSCOTT, OF TETCOTT 53 

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 be- 
laboured 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 com- 
panions, 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 foxhounds. 



54 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 neigh- 
bourhood 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 



JOHN ARSCOTT, OF TETCOTT 55 

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 re- 
moved, 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." 

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 pad- 
dock, 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 neighbour- 
hood of the grave. He made himself another lair, near 



56 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 
1 1 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, some- 
times 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 Corn- 
wall ; and the sons of the blue were his sons, Hender, 
Sparke, and John. The second John Molesworth 



JOHN ARSCOTT, OF TETCOTT 57 

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 West. 

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 con- 
vinced that he and his hounds rushed past her through 
the grounds along a certain drive, that nothing after- 
wards would induce her on any consideration to go 
along that drive at night. 



WIFE-SALES 



f "*^HERE is no myth relative to the manners 

and customs of the English that in my 

experience is more tenaciously held by the 

-M^ 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 cure 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 
cure 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 

58 



WIFE-SALES 59 

I did know of one such case, " Mais, voila, 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 



60 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 un- 
acquainted 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 dis- 
satisfied with her, he put up a written notice in several 
public places to this effect : 

NOTICE 

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. 



WIFE-SALES 61 

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 land- 
lord 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 lunch- 
ing 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. 



62 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 inherit- 
ance of 700. 

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 assem- 



WIFE-SALES 63 

bled to witness the transaction, and precisely at mid- 
day, 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 hus- 
band and the other on the wife, and escorted the pair 
to the Guildhall, followed by the rabble. 

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 



64 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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." 1 

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 satis- 
factory 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 life. 

1 Whitfeld, Plymouth and Devonport, in Times of War and Peace, 
1890, pp. 296-7. 



WIFE-SALES 65 

"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 grand- 
mother 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 inter- 
course. 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 legiti- 
mate, 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 main- 
tenance 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 re- 
pudiated 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 



66 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

of several instances of the kind now under considera- 
tion, 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 trans- 
actions 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!" Doubt- 
less 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 shillings. 

In 1832, on 7 April, a farmer named Joseph 



WIFE-SALES 67 

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 qualifi- 
cations 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 



68 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 New- 
foundland 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 * n 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 pre- 
viously 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 



WIFE-SALES 69 

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 trans- 
action, 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 responsi- 
bility 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 negoti- 
able 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 neglected. 



WHITE WITCHES 

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 genera- 
tion is due largely to the way in which calomel was 

70 



WHITE WITCHES 71 

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. xxxvin. 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 u 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 amus- 
ingly 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, 



72 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 thing's 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 
Witch. 

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 



WHITE WITCHES 73 

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 him. 

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 Sun- 
day, 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 con- 
sulted 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 



74 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

the Evil One, of that one may be sure. How she sub- 
sisted 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 every- 
where. Then she sought shelter for her head by stuff- 
ing 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. 



MARIAXN VOAUEN, BKA'f'ION 





MARIANN VOADEN'S COTTAGE, BRATTON 



WHITE WITCHES 75 

The rector of the parish went to her and remon- 
strated 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 re- 
claimed. 

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, din- 
ing-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 brick. 

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 



76 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 ap- 
peared. 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. Every- 
thing 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 



WHITE WITCHES 77 

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]." 



78 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 




A VILLAGE "WISE MAN" 



WHITE WITCHES 79 

no more than just sip this to your health and happi- 
ness," 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." 

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 per- 
spiring in a lengthened snowball battle on Northern- 
hay (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 appli- 
cation 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 follow- 
ing 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 



8o DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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. Super- 
stition 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 Devon- 
shire 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 



WHITE WITCHES 81 

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 con- 
vinced 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 Witch. 

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 
G 



82 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 burnt. 

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 
proved. 

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 imagina- 
tion 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 






WHITE WITCHES 83 

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. 



MANLY PEEKE 



f ~^HE pirates of Algiers had for some years 
been very troublesome, not in the Mediter- 
ranean 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 fol- 
low 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 excep- 
tion 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 

84 



MANLY PEEKE 85 

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 sur- 
prised 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 



86 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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. u '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 



MANLY PEEKE 87 

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 accom- 
pany 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 Gales [Cadiz] ; an owl not more wondered 



88 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 inches." 

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. u 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 re- 
buked and told that if upon our first encounter he 
had run me through, it had been a faire and noble 



MANLY PEEKE 89 

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 counten- 
ance, 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 adven- 
ture 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 



90 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 poig- 
nard 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-staff e, 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 



: 



Three to One: 

Being, An Englifh-Spanifh Combat, 

Performed by a Wcfterne Gentleman, of Tauyftoke in Deuonfhire, 

with an Englifh Quarter-Staffe, againft Three Spanifk 

Rapiers and Poniards, at Sherries in Spaine, 

The fifteene day of Nouember, 1625. 

Ln the Prefence of Dukes, Condes, Marqueffes, and other Great 
Dons of Spaine, being the Counfell of Warre. 

The Author of this Booko, and Actor in this Encounter, Richard Peccke. 




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



MANLY PEEKE IN HIS ENCOUNTER WITH THREE ADVERSARIES 
ARMED WITH RAPIERS AND POIGNARDS 



MANLY PEEKE 91 

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. 

"The rapier men traversed their ground, I mine. 
Dangerous thrusts were put in, and with dangerous 
hazard avoyded. Showtes echoed to heaven, to en- 
courage 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 



92 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

upon me that long Spanish russet cloake I now weare, 
which he tooke from one of his men's backs ; and with- 
all 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 pre- 
sented 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 kind- 
ness, 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 re- 
solved. 

" 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 my- 
self 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 
rny charges. 



MANLY PEEKE 93 

" 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. More- 
over, 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, 



94 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 
silence. 

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 Tavi- 
stock," in the Transactions of the Devonshire Associa- 
tion, 1879. Reprinted also as supplement to Devon 
Notes and Queries, 1905. I have not in the above ex- 
tracts 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. 



EULALIA PAGE 

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 Tavi- 
stock ; 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 

95 



96 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 like- 
wise 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." 



EULALIA PAGE 97 

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 Whit- 
church, hard by, where they had been tanners, and 
though the house has been pulled down and rebuilt, 
yet the old tan-pits remain. 

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 Chims- 
worthy, 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 daughter. 

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 
H 



98 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

in this tragicall action." The deed was accomplished 
about ten o'clock on the night of n 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 nth 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 Gland- 
feeld 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 in- 
duced 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 nth February, being Wednesday, on which 
night following the act was committed ; but it is to be 






EULALIA PAGE 99 

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 there- 
with 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, spread- 
ing the clothes in ordinary sort, as though no such act 
had been attempted, but that he had died on God's 
hand. 

1 'Whereupon Priddis immediately went to Mistress 



ioo DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 some- 
body 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 
dead. 

" 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 per- 
formed 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 im- 



EULALIA PAGE 101 

mediately 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, show- 
ing 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 Ply- 
mouth, 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 Strang- 
widge 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 Ply- 
mouth 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 2Oth February last, 1591." 

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

The tract above quoted we have modernized the 



102 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Tavi- 
stock, and they were both brothers of Judge Glanville. 
This we learn from the Heralds' Visitation of Corn- 
wall 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 Pli- 
mouth, 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 supposi- 
titious 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 Pli- 
mouth, suffered Death at Bar[n]staple." In this occurs 
the statement that she was the daughter of " Gland- 
field." 

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



EULALIA PAGE 103 

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 brig-ht 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 Slrangwidge, 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 Barn- 
staple, but the reason is simple enough. In Septem- 
ber, 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 remem- 
brance 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 con- 
tinuing there, the assizes of 1590 (o.s.) were removed 
to Barnstaple. 

The Diary of Philip Wyot, town clerk of Barn- 
staple 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 



104 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 trea- 
son, she would be burnt alive, and not hanged. Petty 
treason, according to a statute 25 Edward III, con- 
sists in (i) a servant killing his master ; (2) a wife her hus- 






i 



EULALIA PAGE 105 

band ; (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 murder- 
ing 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 burn- 
ing 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 con- 
demned to the stake before flames were applied ; but 
such an act of humanity was a violation of the law, 



106 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 

JAMES WYATT was born at Woodbury on the 
Exe in the year 1707. His father was a shoe- 
maker, 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 re- 
mained till he was fourteen years of age ; but, not 
liking farm work, his sister apprenticed him to a wool- 
comber and dyer at Wembury. His master was a very 
honest, good-natured man, and taught him his busi- 
ness 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, 

107 



io8 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

he left the wild beasts and entered as trumpeter on 
board the Revenge privateer, Captain Wemble, com- 
mander, 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. 

" 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 




Reproduced f tout the frontispiece to '' The Life and Surprizing 
Adventures of J antes Wyatt, Written by Himself" 1755 



JAMES WYATT 109 

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 him- 
self, 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 ex- 
posed 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 



no DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 



JAMES WYATT in 

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 stir. 

" 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, l 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 like- 
wise." 

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 



ii2 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 perform- 
ance 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 



JAMES WYATT 113 

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 condi- 
tion 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 carpenter- 
ing." 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 blacken- 
ing their suits they did their best to whiten his 



1 1 4 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 proceed- 
ings." 

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 run- 
ning 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 



JAMES WYATT 115 

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, Bur- 
roughs, 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, 



n6 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Euro- 
peans, 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 fish- 
ing 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 






JAMES WYATT 117 

about three feet deep, with the hatchet, and Duck- 
amar 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 pull- 
ing them down in order to get sticks to fight us. See- 
ing this, we ran to the assistance of our countrymen as 
fast as we could, leaving the two Moors that fell into 
the water for dead. 

"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 conse- 
quence, 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, think- 
ing 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 



n8 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 tide." 

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 






JAMES WYATT 119 

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 them. 

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 recog- 
nize 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 months. 

" 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 



120 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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, con- 
sisting 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 required. 

The time of their sufferings was now over. 

" The ist 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 Eng- 
land ; 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 drowned. 

" We set sail from Gambia the 3rd of February, 1743, 
and arrived in the river Thames on the i6th of April 



JAMES WYATT 121 

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 iron. 

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 mean- 
ing 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. 



122 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 in- 
defatigable 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. 



THE REV. W. DAVY 

THIS is the story of the life of an able, versatile, 
and learned man, neglected, and his " un- 
regarded age in corners thrown." 
He was born 4 March, 1743, at Down- 
house, 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 Hen- 
nock. 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 diffi- 
culty, 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 

123 



i2 4 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 ringers 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. 




R. Cooper sculp'. 



REV. \V. DAVY 



THE REV. W. DAVY 125 

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 encourage- 
ment. 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 un- 
graciously said to Davy, when he called at the Palace, 
u 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 print- 
ing, to be a trifle, I most certainly cannot allow myself 
to expect from your Lordship either approbation or en- 
couragement. " 

At last he retired from the parsonage of Lustleigh, 



126 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 pre- 
sented in 1852 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 collec- 
tions 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 Winkleigh. 



THE REV. W. DAVY 127 

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 com- 
mendation, " 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 below. 

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 pre- 
historic 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 col- 
lection 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 GREY WOMAN 



f "^HE 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 ist 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 

128 



THE GREY WOMAN 129 

doorway, at the end of the passage, I saw a tall hand- 
some 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, 
1 What can it matter to me who she is?' 

"The caretaker of the house immediately, and with- 
out 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 push- 
ing 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 
room.' 

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.' 



130 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

" 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 after- 
noon 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 bed- 
room, but communicated with the back part of the 
house. 

" Weeks went by, and the dream, without being for- 
gotten 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 



THE GREY WOMAN 131 

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 re- 
membered, I had not seen the exterior of the house in 
which appeared the Grey Woman. 

" 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, 



132 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 de- 
cipher. 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 gener- 
ations back concerning the very house we had just 
rented, and into which we had settled. This was 



THE GREY WOMAN 133 

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 pro- 
perty 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.' " 



134 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 - !73S' 

Walter, John=. . . Richard ==. 

d. 1742. d. 1746. 



L=. . . i\.icnaru=. . . 



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 
wife. 

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 



THE GREY WOMAN 135 

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. 



ROBERT LYDE AND THE "FRIEND'S 
ADVENTURE" 

A "RUE 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 2ist 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 

136 



ROBERT LYDE 137 

guns and over a hundred men, on 24 October, and were 
taken to St. Malo as prisoners, where they were de- 
tained 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 Ibs. 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 stand- 
ing, with its small cells. Here they were herded to- 
gether 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 Ib. of old Cow- 
Beef without any Salt to flavour it, for seven men a 
day ; but I think we had 2 Ibs. 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. 

4 * They plundered us of our Clothes when we 
were taken, and some of us that had Money pur- 
chased 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 



138 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 re- 
lieving 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' Con- 
finement 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 ammu- 
nition 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 



ROBERT LYDE 139 

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 experi- 
ences 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 ex- 
periences there and at Dinan became overmastering. 

" 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 com- 
mand 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 



140 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 con- 
senting, 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 killed." 

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 immedi- 
ately 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 



ROBERT LYDE 141 

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 star- 
board side, and the Steeridge Door open on the star- 
board 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. 



142 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 pre- 
vented 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 



ROBERT LYDE 143 

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 over- 
set 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 4ft. 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, 



144 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 assist- 
ance 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 



ROBERT LYDE 145 

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 stagger- 
ing 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 
L 



146 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 again. 

" 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), Moun- 
seer y moy allay par Angleterre si vou plea. With that 
I stopt my Hand, and said Good Quarter you shall 
have. A lie a pro (Go to the Fore), and then I put up 
my Knife into the Sheath again. 

4 * Then I made fast the Steeridg Door, and ordered 



ROBERT LYDE 147 

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, 1 and then they put off their Hats 
and said, Monsieur, moy travally pur Angleterre sivous 
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 Fore- 
castle, and showed the two men a Scuttle on the lar- 
board side that went down into the Forepeak, and 

1 " Venez en has, et montez le ' Scuttle' et allez en has." 



148 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 stand- 
ing 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 



ROBERT LYDE 149 

had nothing to do with Maria now. Monte, monte et 
allez a pro! Then he came up and went forward look- 
ing 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 him. 

" 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 Main- 
top, 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 any- 
thing 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 calPd 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 



150 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

went down and calPd 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 Fore- 
castle 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 kind- 
ness 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 hopeless. 



ROBERT LYDE 151 

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 re- 
commended him to the Lords of the Admiralty for 
preferment in the Fleet. 

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



JOSEPH PITTS 

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 New- 
foundland, 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 

152 



JOSEPH PITTS 153. 

another small English Vessel, with Five or Six men 
aboard laden with Fish, and coming from New Eng- 
land. 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 cap- 
tured 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 barbarity. 

"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, beat- 



154 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

ing 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 Pat- 
roon 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 success- 
ful, 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 four- 
teen 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 Dis- 



JOSEPH PITTS 155 

course 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 Gentle- 
man'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 
Consul." 

The Consul kindly invited Joseph Pitts to go to his 
house as often as he had an opportunity. After spend- 
ing 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 endeav- 
oured 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 atone- 
ment 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 



156 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 



JOSEPH PITTS 157 

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 Re- 
veng'd, fired away from the mouth of their Cannon 
about forty French slaves, and finding that would not 
do, but d'Estree (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 comple- 
ments 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." 



158 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

D'Estree's success was. by no means so great as he 
had anticipated and as was expected. He was com- 
pelled 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 na d 
severely chastised the nest of pirates. He had com- 
pelled the Dey to restrain his piratical subjects from 
further violence against the English. He had pre- 
sented 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 detach- 
ment 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. 



JOSEPH PITTS 159 

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 Mahom- 
medan." 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, an d 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 oppor- 
tunity to do both. This came in a message arriving 
from Constantinople from the Sultan to demand the 



160 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

assistance of Algerine vessels, and Joseph Pitts volun- 
teered 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 



JOSEPH PITTS 161 

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 under- 
stand 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. 

M 



162 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

"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 con- 
sulted 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, 



JOSEPH PITTS 163 

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 frus- 
trating 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 



164 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

truly say, that I would not go through such a Labyrinth 
of Sorrows and Troubles again, might I gain a King- 
dom. 

"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 Eng- 
lish Man, with my Beard shaven, a Campaign Perry- 
wigg, 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 walk- 
ing by, but they smelt nothing of the matter. My 



JOSEPH PITTS 165 

good Friend Mr. Elliott had agreed with the Captain of 
the Ship to pay Four Pounds for my Passage to Leg- 
horn, 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 Ignor- 
ant 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 Dis- 
cover me. 

" We had a Month's passage from Smyrna to Leg- 
horne, 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, bless- 
ing 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 quaran- 
tine, 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. 



166 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Country- 
men), 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 



JOSEPH PITTS 167 

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 Pas- 
sengers ready to go to Mentz. This obliging Gentle- 
man (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 House. 

"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 1 received the like Kindness, and had 



1 68 DEVOiNSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Helver- 
sluyce, 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 unavoid- 
ably have met with. 

" 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 re- 
ceived 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 Relations. 

"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 Faith- 
ful Account of the Religion and Manners of the 



JOSEPH PITTS 169 

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. 



THE DEMON OF SPREYTON 

A3UT 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 en- 
joined and saw that the legacies were duly paid, and he 

170 



THE DEMON OF SPREYTON 171 

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 : some- 
times 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 trouble- 



172 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

some ghost was. The ''spectrum" of the old gentle- 
man 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, 






THE DEMON OF SPREYTON 173 

especially like those worn by Mrs. Philip Furze, her 
daughter-in-law. 

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 
ii 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 



174 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Reflec- 
tions 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 Korner, Mrs. Crowe, and the like, but 
which can all be traced back to a knavish servant. 



TOM AUSTIN 



f ^OM 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 mort- 
gaged 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 
b-Mng 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 



176 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 enter- 
ing 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 

" 1| ^RANGES FLOOD was born in Gitsom (Git- 
J tisham), near Honiton in Devon, and on the 
22nd January, 1723, being thirty-two years 
J*- 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 conie 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 Hog- 
sty, 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 

N I 77 



178 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Fort- 
night ; 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 Over- 
seers, 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 i8th 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 






FRANCES FLOOD 179 

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." 



i8o DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 



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 
herself." 

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. 



SIR WILLIAM HANKFORD 

IN the Second Part of Henry IV, Shakespeare 
makes his hero, Prince Hal, behave with splendid 
generosity to Judge Gascoigne, who had com- 
mitted 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 pleased 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 right. 

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 

181 



182 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

Gascoigne from the Chief-Justiceship, and elevated to 
his place the Devonshire lawyer Sir William Hank- 
ford, 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 ma de 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 Hank- 
ford, 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 



SIR WILLIAM HANKFORD 183 

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 



1 84 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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: " Hie jacet Willielmus Hankford, Miles, quon- 
dam 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: 
11 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." 



SIR JOHN FITZ 



i 



^AVISTOCK, 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 conspicu- 
ous disfigurement to the town. 

But a few strides to the west, on the Plymouth road, 
stood Fitzford House, a mansion recently erected, con- 
sisting 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 

185 



186 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Blacka- 
brook. Now it is enclosed in the reclaimed tract made 
into meadows by the convicts of Princetown. Happily 



SIR JOHN FITZ 187 

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 i 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 



1 88 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Bick- 
leigh. 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 attend- 
ants 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 




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



SIR JOHN FITZ 189 

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. 

Nicholas Slanning had been married to Margaret, 
daughter of Henry Champernowne, of Modbury, and 
he died leaving as his heir a child, and the administra- 
tion 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 beauti- 
ful, and it is to be regretted that the grand old Eliza- 
bethan 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. 



DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

" 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 con- 
nected, 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 in- 
clination apte, and by his retained copesmates urged, 
persevered evermore to run headlong into such enor- 
mities 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], righting 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 



SIR JOHN FITZ 191 

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 authenti- 
cated is that he all but killed one of the town con- 
stables. 

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 for- 
bidden his man to accompany him, entertaining some 
suspicion that the man had been bought by his enemies 



192 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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. How- 
ever, 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 sur- 
rendering 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 neigh- 
bour 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 




FRONTISPIECE TO "THE BLOUDIE BOOKE ; OR THE TRAGICAL END 
OF SIR JOHN FITZ" 



SIR JOHN FITZ 193 

the leech, and tore away the bandages, and bled to 
death. 

Daniel Alley was buried on the 8th day of August, 
1605, an( * Sir John Fitz on the loth, and " because he 
was a Gentleman borne and of good kindred, hee was 
buried in the Chancell at Twickenham.'* The repre- 
sentative 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." 



i 



LADY HOWARD 

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 ward- 
ship 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 

194 




LADY HOWARD 



LADY HOWARD 195 

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." 1 

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 marry- 
ing 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 

1 " Lady Howard, of Fitzford," in Transactions of the Devonshire 
Association, 1890. 



196 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 
marriage. 

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, appa- 
rently, 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 



LADY HOWARD 197 

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 sup- 
ported 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 un- 
sociable contestations, in which he possessed himself 
of all her estate, as the sole master of it, without allow- 
ing 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 house- 
keeper, with control over the servants and the keeping 
of the keys. 



i 9 8 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

This was bad enough, but there was worse to come ; 
his violence and language towards her were so intoler- 
able 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 pro- 
voke 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?' 



LADY HOWARD 199 

Then she said he was an ugly fellow, and when he was 
once gone from home, she said, ( The Devill and six- 
pence 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 direc- 
tion 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 whatso- 
ever 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 mortifica- 
tion 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 



200 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 like- 
wise to the Earl ; so that Sir Richard was committed to 
the prison of the Fleet in execution for the whole six thou- 
sand 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 imprison- 
ment, 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 proceed- 
ings 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 hear- 
ing 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 



LADY HOWARD 201 

"who had the rule of the house." Pincers, holdfasts, 
files "smoothe and ruffe," one of which had been em- 
ployed 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 emanci- 
pated 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 Howard. 

Theophilus, Earl of Suffolk, was born in 1584, and 
was married to Lady Elizabeth Hume, who died in 
J 533> the year after the divorce. To this period prob- 
ably 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 



202 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 years. 

During the seven years of Sir Richard's absence, 
Lady Howard wrote many letters to her steward Cutte- 
ford, 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 ne carried his 
cause before the King's Council, and claimed of the 
Earl of Suffolk arrears to the amount of 12,656. 

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, re- 



LADY HOWARD 203 

counted 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 Par- 
liament was delighted, he was at once paid all arrears, 
was made a major-general of horse in the Parlia- 
mentary 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 bleed- 
ing " 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 cheer- 
fully 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 Par- 
liament, duped, was furious, a price was set on Sir 
Richard's head, and he was hanged in effigy. A Pro- 
clamation 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 Devon- 
shire, on the ground that her continued residence in 



204 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

London made her a rebel. The King, with monstrous 
injustice, granted what was asked, and at once a fort- 
night 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 Tavi- 
stock, 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 Ply- 
mouth. He was made Sheriff of Devon in the same 
year, 1645, and his exactions were great, both as 



LADY HOWARD 205 

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 Lyd- 
ford 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 attorn ey-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 move- 
ments of the man of law. He caused him to be inter- 
cepted on his road, made prisoner, and brought before 
him. In vain did Brabant protest that he was journey- 
ing 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 



206 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

so gross that he was sent a prisoner to St. Michael's 
Mount, in Cornwall ; but on the approach of the Par- 
liamentary 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. Per- 
haps 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 tradi- 
tion of Lady Howard's persistent hatred displayed to- 
wards 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 per- 
fectly in what estimation he was held by the Puritans. 
He disguised himself, cutting his hair short and wear- 
ing "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." 



LADY HOWARD 207 

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 befog 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 



208 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 ficti- 
tious 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 pur- 
sued 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 prob- 
ably 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, 



LADY HOWARD 209 

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 dreadful?" 

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 im- 
perious 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 repu- 
tation 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 
p 



210 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 re- 
turning 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. 



LADY HOWARD 211 

" 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 Gren- 
ville, printed in Holland, 1654, reprinted in Lord Lans- 
downe'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 BIDLAKES, OF BIDLAKE 



f "^HE 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, pre- 
historic 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. 

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 

212 



THE BIDLAKES, OF BIDLAKE 213 

the Saxons considered it a point of importance is 
shown by their erecting here a burh or burg in addi- 
tion 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 



2i 4 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 in- 
structed 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 hospit- 
ality. The Bishops . . . were generally covetous, 
and were rather despised than reverenced or be- 
loved." 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, 



THE BIDLAKES, OF BIDLAKE 215 

all sorts of unscrupulous men, of a low class, rushed 
into Orders, without university education, indeed with- 
out 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 responsi- 
bilities. 

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 Com- 
munion 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 



2i6 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

manner is hated and abhorred of all the 2 parishes, 
and so driveth them awaye from the Church. 

"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 re- 
quyred 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 prob- 
ably a bit of bluff on his part to say that he had one. 
Who performed the ceremony we are not told. Un- 
fortunately 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 



THE BIDLAKES, OF BIDLAKE 217 

see, William Cotton, a man of some character and 
worth, and not one interested in protecting the dis- 
reputable 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 Parishioners." 

Then came in an accusation of Peter Ebsworthy, u 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 



218 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

the Communion, by blowes and afterwards with dis- 
gracefull 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 Lord- 
shipp 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 inter- 
viewed the Bishop, who agreed to hear the case at Oke- 
hampton 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 dis- 
gracefully wronged at a Communion ... as alsoe for 
your scandalous and indiscreete doctrine which you 
usually teach I may not att any hande suffer," he sum- 
moned 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 Okehampton. 

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



THE BIDLAKES, OF BIDLAKE 219 

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 neigh- 
bours 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 Phil- 
ippa, 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 



220 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Crom- 
well'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 
case. 



THE BIDLAKES, OF BIDLAKE 221 

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 sup- 
plied him with blankets and food for some weeks till it 
was safe for him to reappear. Their farm is now com- 
pletely ruined, but I can recall when it was occupied. 
According to Pengelly's story, later on, Henry Bid- 
lake 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 Bride- 
stowe, 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 Stam- 
ford sent a troop of horse to apprehend him in his 
cottage or farm. " When they came thither, they 



222 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 ; here- 
upon they threaten to hang him, neither doth that pre- 
vail ; 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 experi- 
ment, 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 



THE BIDLAKES, OF BIDLAKE 223 

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. 



THE PIRATES OF LUNDY 

" "W" N 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 de- 
fined ; 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 approach- 
ing 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 

224 



THE PIRATES OF LUNDY 225 

adjacent sea are alive with sea-birds, every ledge and 
jutting rock being dotted with them, or they are whirl- 
ing 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." 1 

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 Scandi- 
navian 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, com- 
manding the entrance to the Bristol Channel, its in- 
accessibility, 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 

1 Mr. J. R. Chanter, "A History of Lundy Island," in the Transactions 
of the Devonshire Association, 1871. Reprinted in Lundy Island, 1877. 

Q 



226 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 rein- 
stated 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 accusa- 
tion 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 de- 
scribes 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, 



THE PIRATES OF LUNDY 227 

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 Wood- 
stock 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 bed- 
chamber window, carrying an open knife, and ap- 
proached the King's couch, but was confused at not 
finding him there. The King was, by God's provi- 
dence, 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 



228 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Coventry." 

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 mak- 
ing 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 Eng- 
lish 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 country." 

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 



THE PIRATES OF LUNDY 229 

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 con- 
demned 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, disem- 
bowelled, 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 demer- 
ites 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 



230 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

Carew, Knt., are printed two letters written by Queen 
Elizabeth in the year 1564, directing Sir Peter " for- 
asmuch 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 bene- 
fitt 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 i d . Paid for a watch 
put, and for candlelyght for the same prisoners, n d . 
Paid for meat and drink for the same prisoners, 2 s11 ." 1 

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 

1 W. Cotton, "An Expedition against Pirates," in Transactions of the 
Devonshire Association, 1886. 



THE PIRATES OF LUNDY 231 

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 May- 
flower 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 Barn- 
staple, and lodged in Exeter Gaol. What their ulti- 
mate 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, 



232 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Sec- 
retary of State that a great outrage had been com- 
mitted 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 de- 
parted to sea again. 

From the depositions of William Skynner, of Kilk- 
hampton, dyer, and others, it appears that the Bis- 
cayner was a vessel of 150 tons with about 120, under 
a Captain Meggor, and that these pirates had pre- 
viously 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 com- 
missioned to put down the pirates, and he appears to 
have proclaimed martial law on the island. In the 
year 1663, a Frenchman, Captain Pressoville, es- 
tablished 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 



THE PIRATES OF LUNDY 233 

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 accord- 
ingly 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 Barn- 
staple 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 



234 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 mer- 
chants, 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 pre- 
sentation 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 Ladle." 1 

Soon after he entered into a contract with the Govern- 
ment 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 re- 
garded himself as king of Lundy, and ruled with a 
high hand. 

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 

1 R. Pearse Chope, " Benson, M.P. and Smuggler," in the Hartland 
Chronicle, 1906. 






THE PIRATES OF LUNDY 235 

the caves of Lundy. He excused himself for not fulfill- 
ing 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, con- 
cealing 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 ship- 
mates, 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 Apple- 
dore 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 



236 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 ser- 
vants. 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 diffi- 
cult 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, 



THE PIRATES OF LUNDY 237 

though we used every argument in our power to pre- 
vent 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." 1 

1 Chanter, Lundy Island, 1877. Besides Mr. Chanter's History, my 
authority is Mr. R. P. Chope's articles on ''Lundy Pirates" and on 
" Benson" in the Hartland Chronicle^ 1906. 



TOM D'URFEY 



f ^OM 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'Ulphe was Grand Master of the 
crossbow-men of France. His son, Peter II, changed 
the spelling of his name from Ulphe to Urfe. 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 Span- 
iards. 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 Chateau de la Batie, near Montbrison. Jacques, 
his son, was chamberlain to Henry II ; he died in 1574, 
leaving several sons, of whom two were Anne and 
Honore, both staunch Leaguers, and in their day con- 
sidered to be poets. Honore, however, made his fame 
by his interminable and tedious romance of Astree. 
The Dictionary of National Biography says that Tom's 
uncle was this same Honore ; but this is impossible. 
Honore, 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. Con- 
sequently it is not possible to fit Tom D'Urfey into the 

238 



TOM D'URFEY 239 

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'Urfe pedigree. The grandfather 
broke away from the traditions of the family entirely by 
becoming a Huguenot, for not only were Anne and 
Honore Leaguers, but Anne entered Orders and Antoine 
became Bishop of Saint Flores. 

Charles Emmanuel called himself De Lascaris, and 
was created Marquis D'Urfe and De Bauge, 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 Abbe 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'Urfes, of Forez, and was proud of 
the fame that attached to his relative Honore. 

The elder of the sons of Jacques I, viz. Anne, had 
married a splendid beauty, Diana de Chateau 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 Honore, having money to pay for 



240 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 repan- 
daient partout, jusque dans son lit, une salete insup- 
portable." 

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, licen- 
tiousness 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 some- 
thing foul to spoil it. Many of his songs were set to 
music by his friends Henry Purcell, Thomas Farmer, 



TOM D'URFEY 241 

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 Scot- 
land 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 inun- 
dated 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 Scot- 
land, 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 musician. 

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. 
R 



242 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 whole- 
some spirit of resentment against the outrages com- 
mitted 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 hadstruck 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 fre- 
quently 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 time : 

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 



TOM D'URFEY 243 

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, en- 
joyed in company D'Urfey singing his songs, which he 
did with vivacity, although in speech he stammered. 



244 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Devon- 
shire, for there they are still employed to ballads he 
recast. 

Writing to Henry Cromwell, loth 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 



TOM D'URFEY 245 

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 morti- 
fying 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 dexter- 
ously together that order resulted from confusion. Of 
this happy talent he gave various specimens, in adapt- 
ing 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 Holi- 
day," 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 Cassar" 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 



246 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 con- 
siderable 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 now- 
adays 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 grand- 
mothers 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 gentle- 
man, it is said, got a reputation in his county by 
pretending to have been a boon companion of D'Urfey; 



TOM D'URFEY 247 

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 accom- 
modations 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 church- 
yard 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 inscrip- 
tion : "Tom Durfey died Feb. 26, 1723." 



THE BIRD OF THE OXENHAMS 



f~ ""^HE Lysons brothers, in their Magna Bri- 
tannia, Devon, tell the following story, under 
the head of South Tawton : ' ' Oxenham gave 
^ its name to an ancient family, who pos- 
sessed 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 
J 575> 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 pre- 
viously 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 Devon- 
shire, 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 Mast Saturday,' he saw the 
monument with the inscription relating the circum- 
stance of the apparition. It appears, however, by a 

248 




FRONTISPIECE TO "A TRUE RELATION OF AX APPARITION," ETC., 
BY JAMES OXENHAM 



THE BIRD OF THE OXENHAMS 249 

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, 1 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 par- 
ticulars, 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 
apparition. 

" 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 

1 In the tract, twenty-two. 



250 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

be sold at the signe of the Gun, in Little Britain, neere 
St. Botolph's Church, 1641." 

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 pub- 
lished 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 years. 

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 



THE BIRD OF THE OXENHAMS 251 

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 
Epistolce Ho-Eliance; 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 



252 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 vanished. 

"Here lies also Mary Oxenham, the sister of the said 
John, who died the next day, and the same Apparition 
was seen in the Room. 

"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 
expired, which vanished 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 un- 
dated, 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 



THE BIRD OF THE OXENHAMS 253 

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 improb- 
able, 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 interest- 
ing 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 pamph- 
leteers to add a string of names of witnesses all fic- 
titious, 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 monu- 
ments 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, 



254 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 monu- 
ments 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, an d 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, flut- 
tered about, and then flown out again. That the win- 



THE BIRD OF THE OXENHAMS 255 

dow 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 verisimilitude. 

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 attend- 
ance on generations of Oxenhams. It may be interest- 
ing, 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 



256 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Chappie. Mr. Chappie " had the relation 
from Dr. Bent, who was brother-in-law to Mr. Oxen- 
ham, 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." 



THE BIRD OF THE OXENHAMS 257 

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 anachron- 
isms 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 : " I3th (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 authority ? 

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 



258 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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. 
1 1 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 Oxen- 
ham, 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 1882. 

" Shortly before the death of my late uncle, G. N. 
Oxenham, Esq., of 17 Earl's Terrace, Kensington, who 



THE BIRD OF THE OXENHAMS 259 

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 i5th 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 out- 
side 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 flutter- 
ing 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 



2<5o DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 family. 

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 cer- 
tainly was not seen at the death of the Rev. W. Oxen- 
ham, 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. Oxen- 
ham, 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 Oxen- 
ham, 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. 



THE BIRD OF THE OXENHAMS 261 

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. 1 

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 York- 
shire folk say. 

1 For this last instance, see Transactions of the Devonshire Associa- 
tion, 1900, p. 84. 



"LUSTY' STUCLEY 

IF Devonshire has turned out a number, and a 
very considerable number, of gallant and honour- 
able 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. u Stucley's birth," says Mr. Simpson, " must 
have occurred at the time when the King, tired of his 

262 



" LUSTY" STUCLEY 263 

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 Devon- 
shire 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 misbegfot, 
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 



264 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 appre- 
hension, 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 dis- 
affected subject, and was admitted to the French coun- 
sels. 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 North- 
umberland ; 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 com- 
mitted 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 



" LUSTY" STUCLEY 265 

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, anc ^ 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 be- 
witch 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 un- 
principled. 

Stucley at once returned to England, and a corre- 
spondent of Challoner, the Ambassador in Spain, 
writes of him in November, 1559: "The Alderman 



266 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 extrava- 
gance. 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 con- 
tributed "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 



" LUSTY" STUCLEY 267 

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 lan- 
guidge?' 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 



268 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

Ushant, watching for the wine fleet from Bordeaux pro- 
fessedly, 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 corre- 
spondence with Philip of Spain. Shan O'Neil pro- 
posed 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 corre- 
spondence with the Spanish Ambassador, and he was 
in receipt of a pension from Philip. She heard re- 
ports of murders, robberies, and other outrages com- 
mitted 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 



"LUSTY" STUCLEY 269 

Heron the offices of seneschal and constable of Wex- 
ford 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 Ire- 
land, 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 forbear- 
ance. 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 wit- 
nesses 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 



270 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Ire- 
land, 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 Govern- 
ment 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 achieve. 

" 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 



"LUSTY" STUCLEY 271 

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.' 5)1 

"The Duke's Grace Stukely had received the Sacra- 
ment, 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, Bur- 
gundians, 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 enter- 
prise, and no honours to Stukely, hoping by such 
means to enlarge his empire." 2 

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. Perceiv- 
ing 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, vaunt- 
ing that with three thousand Soldiers, he would beat all 
the English out of Ireland." 

1 Depositions relating to Mr. Stucley's doings in Spain, August, 1571, 
quoted by Froude in his History of England. 

2 O. King to Burghley, 18 February, 1572. Ibid. 



272 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 hun- 
dred 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 Ire- 
land 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 Por- 
tugal 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 



" LUSTY" STUCLEY 273 

the highest degree of vain-glory, prodigality, false- 
hood, and vile and filthy conversation of life, and 
altogether without faith, conscience, or religion." 

Stucley at once became the hero of ballads, chap- 
books, 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. 



THE BIDEFORD WITCHES 

A 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 mis- 
deeds, but to what an extent they had been drawn on 
by leading questions appears from the proces 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 be- 
witched. When Susanna Edwards entered the room 
of Dorcas, the deponent was sitting in her chair speech- 
less, 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 

274 






THE BIDEFORD WITCHES 275 

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." Temper- 
ance 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 East- 
church, 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 



276 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

Barnes ; and she stated that whilst her body lay motion- 
less in bed, she could go to any place she liked in- 
visibly. 

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 1 8th 
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 






THE BIDEFORD WITCHES 277 

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 1 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 "JUDAS" STUKELEY 

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 

278 



SIR " JUDAS" STUKELEY 279 

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 Govern- 
ment and gave Raleigh instructions not to come to 
blows with the Spaniards. Unhappily, Raleigh's lieu- 
tenant, 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 in- 
tercepted 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 damn- 
ing 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 



280 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 re- 
ceived 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 



SIR " JUDAS" STUKELEY 281 

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. Stuke- 
ley 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 Chesnee, 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 in- 
troduction which would secure him an honourable re- 
ception 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 
escape. 

James at once took alarm. A plot with France was a 
serious matter at that time. He accordingly directed 



282 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 con- 
fidence 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 offers. 

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 resent- 
ment 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 I ln 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 hos- 
tile, 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 



SIR " JUDAS" STUKELEY 283 

the man who had called upon him to betray his trust ; " 
but it is precisely this charge that cannot be estab- 
lished. 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 dis- 
gust. 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 com- 
mission 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 



284 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 dis- 
covered 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 mean- 
ness 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, under- 
standing that his Master would shift over the business 



SIR " JUDAS" STUKELEY 285 

to him, is willing to sett the saddle upon the right 
horse, and accuses his Master." 1 

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 ren- 
dered 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. Brush- 
field's Raleghana, Part VII; the Dictionary of National 
Biography, s.n. ; and the various Lives of Raleigh. 

1 Letter from T. Lorkin to Sir T. Puckering. 



THE SAMPFORD GHOST 

IN 1810, considerable commotion was caused by the 
rumour that spread concerning a house in Samp- 
ford 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 neighbour- 
hood, for a general shop and residence. The rumours 
reached the ears of the Rev. C. Colton, M.A., a clergy- 
man 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 sincere. 

"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 un- 
prejudiced, 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 

286 



THE SAMPFORD GHOST 287 

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 un- 
accountable 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 



288 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 ceil- 
ing 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 an- 
nounce 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 
apartments. 

" These phenomena by day continued almost inces- 
santly 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 



THE SAMPFORD GHOST 289 

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 
u 



290 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 sig- 
nificant 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 



i 



THE SAMPFORD GHOST 291 

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 Con- 
spiracy at Sampford Peverell, near Tiverton ; Contain- 
ing 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. Marriott. 

"Sampford Ghost! Facts Attested and Delivered to 
the Public Relative to these Extraordinary Occur- 
rences, etc., by the Rev. C. Colton. . . London (n.d.)." 



PHILIPPA GARY AND ANNE EVANS 

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 Gary, 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, " appren- 
tice 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 

292 






PHILIPPA GARY AND ANNE EVANS 293 

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 concentra- 
tion 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 



294 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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. 



PHILIPPA GARY AND ANNE EVANS 295 

Gary 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. Gary 
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 im- 
pieties." 

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 Gary, 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 Gary to 
"an expedient that may help her life." She pleaded 



296 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Gary 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 male- 
factors above named poysoned, shall defray the extra- 
ordinary 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 arrange- 
ments for carrying out Lord Chief Justice North's sen- 
tence, 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 con- 
fess, 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 



PHILIPPA GARY AND ANNE EVANS 297 

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 
Gary 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 occasion. 

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 Gary 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 dis- 
semble 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." 



298 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 u bowels of pity for the poor girl," none " hath 
charity for the nurse." 

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. Cat- 
downe, 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 






PHILIPPA GARY AND ANNE EVANS 299 

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 in- 
ordinate length, smiting at the flinty heart of Gary, 
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 charit- 
able 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 Gary 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 execu- 
tioner could not be found. He had run off with the 
halter under the cliffs ; and, on being found, was 



300 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 resent- 
ment. 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 ex- 
hortations, 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. Ply- 
mouth, 1900. 



i 



JACK RATTENBURY 

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 smug- 
gling ; and smuggling had been carried on as a profit- 
able 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 

301 



302 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

and a descent by a flight of steps into the subterranean 
cellar, that was carefully vaulted, and also carefully 
drained. 

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 un- 
usual 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 




", ^ ).& AViT T 'JS M 3B TO' 'l& IT 
oi.' bee.f, Devon:,}) ire 

"THF, HOB ROY oi ine WEST" 



JACK RATTENBURY 303 

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 con- 
verted 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 conceal- 
ment of the deep-set lane. 

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. 



304 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

A few years ago, an old church-house in my own 
parish was demolished. The church-house was origin- 
ally 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 Dart- 
mouth, 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 outbuildings. 

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 leav- 
ing without the kegs. Accordingly, next morning the 
officer in command called, together with several under- 



JACK RATTENBURY 305 

lings. He apologized to the baronet for any incon- 
venience 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 ex- 
ceedingly urbane man, promptly expressed his readi- 
ness 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 
x 



306 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 sud- 
denly : "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 daresay." 

" If you had taken the left-hand road you would 
never have seen next morning." 

"Why so?" 

"There was a large cargo of f 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 






JACK RATTENBURY 307 

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 oppor- 
tunity 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. 



308 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 in- 
stances 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 



JACK RATTENBURY 309 

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 Copen- 
hagen, 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 profit- 
ably 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, 



310 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

Rattenbury had lapses into the paths of honesty. In 
one of these, soon after, he did one of the most bril- 
liant 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 



JACK RATTENBURY 311 

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 per- 
ceive 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 



312 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 mean- 
time, the men in the boat reached the brig, and spread- 
ing 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. 

1 ' 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 



JACK RATTENBURY 313 

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 volun- 
teered 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 peace- 
able and useful pursuits of merchandise and commerce, 
and chaining them to a situation which is alike repug- 
nant 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 cheer- 
ful 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. 

1 ' Before I set out on my last voyage, I had fixed my 



314 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

affections on a young woman in the neighbourhood, 
and we were married on the I7th 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 lieu- 
tenant 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 con- 
sented 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 lieu- 
tenant 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. Ratten- 
bury 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 deter- 
mined, with a view to getting rid of them, again to go 



JACK RATTENBURY 315 

privateering." Accordingly he shipped on board the 
Unity cutter and cruised about Madeira and Teneriffe, 
looking out for prizes. But this expedition was as un- 
successful 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 em- 
ployed 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 op- 
portunity, 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. 



316 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

" The same winter I made seven voyages in a smug- 
gling 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 un- 
able 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 pre- 
viously 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 gentle- 
man. 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 
places." 

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 



JACK RATTENBURY 317 

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 com- 
ing 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 see- 
ing 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 Kings- 
wear, 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 re- 
sumed 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 Bodmin. 

" We were put into two post-chaises, with two con- 
stables to take care of us. As our guards stopped at 
almost every public-house, towards evening they be- 
came 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 



318 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 dis- 
cussing 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 



JACK RATTENBURY 319 

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, especi- 
ally 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 trans- 
actions, 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 succes- 
sion 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 Ratten- 
bury " in Snell's Memorials of Old Devonshire. 



JOHN BARNES, TAVERNER AND 
HIGHWAYMAN 



f "^HE u 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 despic- 
able 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 rally ing-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 

320 



JOHN BARNES, TAVERNER 321 

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 prose- 
cuted 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 



322 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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. 



JOHN BARNES, TAVERNER 323 

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, in- 
dustrious 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 I3th 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 



324 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 noto- 
rious Presbyterian," and that "the evening before hee 
went forth to execute his design" of robbing the carrier 
" hee pray'd with his family two hours." 

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 Associ- 
ation for 1880. 



EDWARD CAPERN 



I 



^ HE 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. 

325 



326 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 land- 
scape 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, consider- 
ing 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 perma- 
nently injured his eyesight, and seriously affected his 
after life. 




EDWARD CAPERN, THE POSTMAN-POET OF DEVONSHIRE 
From a painting by William Widgery, in the free Library, Bideford 



EDWARD CAPERN 327 

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 week. 

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 sub- 
scribers ; 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. 

u 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 intelli- 
gent, 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 tenderness." 



328 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 societe, such as any 
man of culture could have written. His great achieve- 
ment 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 



EDWARD CAPERN 329 

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 Birming- 
ham 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 Eraser'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. 



330 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

In the summer of 1864, the American literary black- 
smith, 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, 



EDWARD CAPERN 331 

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.'" 



GEORGE MEDYETT GOODRIDGE 



f "^HE record of the adventures of this man is 

fully as interesting as the fictitious story of 

Robinson Crusoe and well deserves repub- 

-*^ lication. It was first published in Exeter 

in 1837. Two editions of a thousand copies each were 

exhausted, and a third was published in 1839, an ^ 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 fish- 
ing craft from French cruisers. From that time till 
1820 he was continually at sea ; in that year, on i 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 

332 




CHARLES MEDYETT GOODRIDGE IN HIS SEAL-SKIN DRESS 



GEORGE MEDYETT GOODRIDGE 333 

visit his friends at Paignton, and bid them farewell. 
" On the 2ist, being Whit Sunday, the weather proved 
fine, with a breeze from the northward, we again 
weighed anchor and proceeded on our voyage." 

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 neces- 
sary 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 when- 
ever the wind shifted to the eastward, which it some- 
times 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 pro- 
curing seal-skins on these islands may be faintly con- 
jectured, 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 



334 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 kill- 
ing 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 conse- 
quences 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 remain- 
ing 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 
1 8th had not a gale come on, on the lyth, that com- 
pelled the captain to stand off, and gain the offing. 

"We accordingly slipped our cable and stood to 



GEORGE MEDYETT GOODRIDGE 335 

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 for- 
tunately got out without accident, and all hands got 



336 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 care- 
fully secured from damp in a tarpaulin bag), but with- 
out 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 suc- 
ceeded 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 ob- 
tained some little shelter from the rain, being all 
miserably cold, wet and hungry. 

" We remained huddled together till daylight ap- 
peared, 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 dis- 
patched 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 
comfortable. 



GEORGE MEDYETT GOODRIDGE 337 

"When we were in some measure refreshed, and 
had recruited our strength with the food we had pro- 
cured, 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 re- 
turned 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 endeav- 
ours could now only be exerted for the purpose of 
saving any portion of the wreck that might prove 
serviceable to us in our desolate situation. 

" On the following morning we succeeded in launch- 
ing 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 circum- 
stance 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. 



338 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

" 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 susten- 
ance, 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 com- 
modious 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 every- 
thing into the ground ; and as we had no tools where- 
with 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 consider- 
able 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 



GEORGE MEDYETT GOODRIDGE 339 

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 



340 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

nose) and the flappers. These, after boiling a con- 
siderable 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 
island. 

" 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 un- 
injured, so we were able to divide our time pretty 
regularly. We usually rose about 8 in the morning, 






GEORGE MEDYETT GOODRIDGE 341 

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 i 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 in- 
fluence 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 deliver- 
ance, 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 peace. 

" 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 



342 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 inter- 
position 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 dark- 
ness perplexed him, and the ground which he had to 
cross being very uneven and interspersed with many 
rocks and declivities, fear rather increased than de- 
creased 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 Pen- 
guin, and these are named by South Sea men, Maca- 
roonys, Johnnys, and Rock Hoppers. The Macaroonys 
congregate in their rookeries in great numbers, fre- 



GEORGE MEDYETT GOODRIDGE 343 

quently 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 depriva- 
tion, 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 Maca- 
roonys 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 



344 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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, find- 
ing 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 i3th 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 diet. 

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 



GEORGE MEDYETT GOODRIDGE 345 

again to separate. Captain Veale and his brother, Good- 
ridge, 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 where- 
with 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 pos- 
sible 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, 



346 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 
constructed. 

On the 2ist, " about noon, whilst most of us were 
employed in preparing for our meal, Dominic Spesi- 
nick, 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 utter- 
ance. 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 ves- 
sels 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 re- 
turned, 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. 



GEORGE MEDYETT GOODRIDGE 347 

" 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 direc- 
tion she was still steering. Spesinick, however, be- 
came 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, Spe- 
sinick 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. 



348 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

" 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 neighbour- 
ing 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 per- 
ceived 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 ship- 
wrecked men. 

"The day of departure now arrived, and after re- 
maining on those islands one year, ten months, and 
five days, we bade them adieu shall I say with great 



GEORGE MEDYETT GOODRIDGE 349 

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 ist April, when 
he was at St. Paul's. There dissatisfaction broke out 
among those he had rescued. He had kept them work- 
ing 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 



350 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 accom- 
modate more than three, and the lot decided that Good- 
ridge 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 run- 
away 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, 3ist 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 

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 Greedy, and commonly called "billers." With 



352 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 neigh- 
bouring blacksmith, into whose house he went fre- 
quently, 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 Carring- 
ton, 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 instru- 
ment of recent introduction, at least in the west. With 
this also the boy soon became familiar, and so im- 
pressed 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 



JOHN DAVY 353 

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 espe- 
cially 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 eclat 
attending his early efforts, and was retained as com- 
poser 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 church- 
yard 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, 

2 A 



354 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

" 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 " Credi- 
ton Musicians " in the Transactions of the Devonshire 
Association, 1882. 



RICHARD PARKER, THE MUTINEER 

FOR the story of Richard Parker, I shall 
quote almost verbatim the account, which is 
very detailed, by Camden Pelham in Chroni- 
cles 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 alarm- 
ing 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. 

355 



356 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 respect- 
able 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 



RICHARD PARKER, THE MUTINEER 357 

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. 

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. Communica- 
tions 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 insub- 
ordination, the ardent temper, boldness, and superior 
intelligence of Parker soon became known to his com- 
rades, 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 



358 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 acknow- 
ledging 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 Govern- 
ment. When these proceedings commenced the muti- 
neers 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 Sheer- 
ness 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 assem- 
blage 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. 



RICHARD PARKER, THE MUTINEER 359 

The Government, however, though unable at the 
moment to quell the mutiny by force, remained firm in 
their demand of " unconditional surrender as a neces- 
sary preliminary to any intercourse." This was, per- 
haps, 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 estab- 
lished 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 per- 
plexity disorganized the council of the mutineers. The 
supply of provisions had for some time been running 
short. 

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 



360 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 half-boots." 

But Parker made no attempt to escape. The 
mutineering vessels held together till the 3Oth May, 
when the Clyde frigate was carried off by a combina- 
tion 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 undis- 
turbed 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 surren- 
dered unconditionally. Disunion thereupon became 
more accentuated, and on 10 June, Parker was com- 
pelled 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 



RICHARD PARKER, THE MUTINEER 361 

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 discus- 
sions, 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 i2th 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 i6th 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 



362 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

prisoner conducted his own defence, exhibiting great 
presence of mind, and preserving a respectful and manly 
deference throughout towards his judges. 

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 3Oth 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 



RICHARD PARKER, THE MUTINEER 363 

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 for- 
giveness 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 popu- 
lar ballad still sung. 

Richard Parker's unfortunate wife had not left Scot- 
land, 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 intelli- 



364 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

gence 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 water- 
man 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 party." 

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 



RICHARD PARKER, THE MUTINEER 365 

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 Parker!" 
The ballad says : 

The yellow flag- I saw was flying-, 

A signal for my love to die ; 
The g-un was fir'd, as was requir'd, 

To hang- him on the yard-arm hig-h. 
The boatswain did his best endeavour, 

I on the shore was put straightway, 
And there I tarried, watching-, weeping 1 , 

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 under- 
take the task of lifting the body. This was accom- 
plished successfully, and at 3 a.m. the shell containing 



366 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 in- 
quiring 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 ii 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 Horse- 
shoe " 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 eventu- 
ally prevailed on her to consent to its being decently 
buried in London. Arrangements were made with this 



RICHARD PARKER, THE MUTINEER 367 

view, and in the interim it was taken to Aldgate Work- 
house, 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 magis- 
trates, 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, 



368 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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. 1 

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 Glean- 
ings, Exeter, 1888. 

1 The ballad, with its melody, is given in Songs of the West, 2nd ed. , 
I905- 



BENJAMIN KENNICOTT, D.D. 

BENJAMIN KENNICOTT was born at Tot- 
nes 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 por- 
tion 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 em- 
powered 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 privi- 
leged. 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 

2 B 369 



370 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 chal- 
lenges, 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 re- 
corded the names of ringers who are now only repre- 
sented 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 reel- 
ing 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. 

1.2.3.4.5.656.5.4.3.2.1. 
The first is called Turner, the second called Swete, 
The third is a Vulcan, the fourth Harry Neat. 

1.2.3.4.5.656.5.4.3.2.1. 

2. The fifth is a doctor, a man of renown, 

The tenor the tailor that clothes all the town. 

1.2.3.4.5.656.5.4.3.2.1. 
The breezes proclaim in their fall and their swell, 
No jar in the concord, no flaw in a bell. 

1.2.3.4.5.656.5.4.3.2.1. 

3. The winds that are blowing on mountain and lea, 
Bear swiftly my message across the blue sea, 

1.2.3.4.5.656.5.4.3.2.1. 
Stand all men in order, give each man his due, 
We can't be all tenors, but each can pull true. 

1.2.3.4.5.656.5.4.3.2.1. 

There is another, wedded to an exquisitely sweet and 
expressive melody, concerning the ringers of North 



B.KENNICOTT.S.T.P, 
olim Socius. 




From the portrait at Exeter College, Oxjord 



BENJAMIN KENNICOTT, D.D. 371 

Lew, who challenged Ashwater, Broadwood, S. Ste- 
phen'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 ring-ing 1 , 

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 re- 
marked : " 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 Ash- 
prington, near Totnes; and in 1743 that lady had a 
narrow escape from death, having eaten a poisonous 



372 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

herb in mistake for watercress, which it much resem- 
bled. 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 con- 
sisted 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 pro- 
posed an extensive collation of manuscripts. 

Subscriptions were obtained, and between 1760 and 
1769 no less than 9117. 75. 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 colla- 
tion 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 



BENJAMIN KENNICOTT, D.D. 373 

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 under- 
graduate managed to get it, plucked, ate, and then re- 
versing 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 un- 
assisted 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 



374 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

life. Dr. Kennicott died on 18 September, 1783, in 
the sixty-sixth year of his age. 

For authority see an article on " Benjamin Kenni- 
cott, D.D.," by Mr. Ed. Windeatt, in the Transactions 
of the Devonshire Association, 1878. 

The portrait given with this article is from one in 
Exeter College. 



CAPTAIN JOHN AVERY 

CONCERNING this captain it is not easy to 
give a trustworthy account as the discrepan- 
cies 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 Py rates y 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 re- 
print 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). 

375 



376 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

(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 ter- 
minates abruptly with the severance of his connexion 
with the pirates. 

(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 
(ft) it is hard to say whether Van Broeck's is a fictitious 
narrative or whether he records actual facts. It is sin- 
gular 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 (d)j and will take no account of (c) and (d}. John- 
son 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 Com- 
missions 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 




0-ri.t. cf tfa CtJUZAT ^lC"iri'f 



CAPTAIN JOHN AVERY 377 

writ upon him, call'd The Successful Pyrate ;* 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 offer- 
ing 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. 

" 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 

1 This play was by Charles Johnson not the author of the Lives of 
the Pirates. It was acted at Drury Lane in 1713. John Dennis wrote 
to the Master of the Revels to expostulate with him for having- licensed 
this play, which he considered as a prostitution of the stage, an en- 
couragement to villainy, and a disgrace to the theatre. 



378 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 in- 
efficient, the French smugglers became vastly daring. 
Accordingly, the Spanish Government, after the con- 
clusion 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 Govern- 
ment, 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 ham- 
mocks, 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, u Is your 
drunken boatswain on board ? " which was the watch- 
word agreed upon between them. Avery replied in the 



CAPTAIN JOHN AVERY 379 

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 



380 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 em- 
barked 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 sup- 
pressing 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 



CAPTAIN JOHN AVERY 381 

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 con- 
juncture 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 trea- 
sure, 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 sup- 
posed 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 
Aurungzebe. 

This outrage produced very unpleasant effects. Al- 
ready 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 be- 
longing 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 



382 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

the fact might be ascertained as to who really was re- 
sponsible. 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 



CAPTAIN JOHN AVERY 383 

offered by the Company and by the British Govern- 
ment 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, 



384 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 em- 
barked. 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 con- 
cealed 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 



CAPTAIN JOHN AVERY 385 

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 
2 c 



386 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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. 1 This 
occasioned the Negroes to conspire together, to rid 

1 We might be led to suppose that we were reading- of the proceedings 
of the Belgians in the Congo Free State. 



CAPTAIN JOHN AVERY 387 

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 with- 
out making any Attempt. This Escape made them 
very cautious from that Time." 

Thenceforth they fortified their dwellings and con- 
verted them into citadels. 

" 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 
Delicid) 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 



388 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 settle- 
ment, 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 conspiracy. 

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 termi- 
nates. 

The two narratives are irreconcilable, and where the 
truth lies is impossible to determine. It is conceivable 



CAPTAIN JOHN AVERY 389 

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, pub- 
lished 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. 



JOANNA SOUTHCOTT 



f "^HE 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 in- 

' eluding 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 up- 
holsterer, 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 

390 



JOANNA SOUTHCOTT 391 

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. 

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 pride. 

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 Metho- 
dist 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 after- 
wards, 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 



392 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 im- 
plicitly 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 be- 
seeches 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 Plym- 
tree 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 



JOANNA SOUTHCOTT 393 

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 dis- 
tinguished 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. 



394 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 com- 
pleted, by woman came the fall of man, and by woman 
must come his restoration. She was the Bride, the pro- 
mised 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 



JOANNA SOUTHCOTT 395 

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 
proces verbal of the conference was printed from her 
manuscript. She set down all Satan's blasphemies 
with the utmost frankness, and the proficiency he dis- 
played 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, manu- 
factured 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 ac- 
couchement laced caps, infant's napkins, bibs, mantles, 



396 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

some of white satin, pap-boats, caudle-cups arrived. A 
Bible also, richly bound, was not forgotten as a pre- 
sent 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 yth 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 ad- 
mission in a four-shilling pamphlet, entitled A Correct 
Statement of the Circumstances, etc., which he pub- 
lished, declared his belief in the fact. No wonder that 
after this the Rev. Mr. Foley, who had headed a depu- 
tation 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 ex- 
pected 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 pregnancy. 

Dr. Sims, however, published a statement to this 
effect in the Morning Chronicle of September 3, 1814: 
" I went to see her on August i8th, and after ex- 
amining her, I do not hesitate to declare, it is 
my firm opinion, that the woman called Joanna South- 
cott is not pregnant ; and, before I conclude this 



JOANNA SOUTHCOTT 397 

statement, I feel it right to say, that I am con- 
vinced 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 igih 
of November, is not without pathos. 

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 ad- 
justing 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 



398 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

shed tears ; but after a little while, one of them, 
Mr. Howe, spoke up, and said: "Mother, your feel- 
ings 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 Joannites : 

" 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, sup- 
posing 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 watch- 
ing the house, and inquiries respecting her resuscita- 
tion 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 



JOANNA SOUTHCOTT 399 

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: 



400 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 re- 
mained, waiting in yearly expectation for her reappear- 
ance. 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 igth 
instant, from a disciple of the Conclave at Leeds, 
inhibiting those of the faith, amongst other things, from 



JOANNA SOUTHCOTT 401 

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, pass- 
ing 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 Church- 
yard 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 I 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, 

2 D 



402 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Compter. 

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 com- 
ing ; 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 appearance. 

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 credu- 
lous 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. 




SILVER PAP-BOAT PREPARED FOR THE COMING OF SHILC 
PRESENTED TO JOANNA SOUTHCOTT IN JUNE, 1814 
From the original in the collection of A . M. Bryadley, Ksg. 




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" 

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



JOANNA SOUTHCOTT 403 

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 im- 
posing 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 de- 
votees 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. Espnella. 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, 1903. 

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. 



404 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 par- 
ticulars 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 
strong-hold 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." 



THE STOKE RESURRECTIONISTS 

IN the year 1829 Mr. Warburton introduced a 
Bill into the House of Commons for the preven- 
tion 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 lucra- 
tive ; 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 dis- 
posed 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 

405 



406 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 pro- 
fessional 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 examination. 

Here is the evidence of one resurrectionist, con- 
densed : 

"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 



THE STOKE RESURRECTIONISTS 407 

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, com- 
monly 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 be- 
longed 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 Govern- 
ment in 1827 relating to the necessity they were in of 
having human bodies for dissection, and the in- 
adequacy of the legitimate supply. " In other coun- 
tries," they said, "the dissection of the dead, so neces- 
sary 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 gentle- 
men 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 ex- 
huming a corpse first proceeded, as would a novice, 
in excavating the whole grave, and having arrived at 



408 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

the coffin would then force off the lid and so get posses- 
sion 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 gene- 
rally 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 unfortu- 
nate brother or sister, humbugged a coroner's jury, 
and thus obtained possession of the body. In this sort 



THE STOKE RESURRECTIONISTS 409 

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 occasion- 
ally 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 kill- 
ing 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 



410 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 ex- 
pressed 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 com- 
mercial value they contented themselves with drawing 
all their teeth. 

Sometimes it happened that the subjects when re- 
moved to Mount Pleasant underwent rapid decom- 
position. 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 sus- 
picious look of having been tampered with not those 
recently made only, but others more ancient. 






THE STOKE RESURRECTIONISTS 411 

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 com- 
manded 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 mid- 
night she saw dark figures emerge from Mount Plea- 
sant 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 church- 
yard 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 



412 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

force of watchmen and special constables, and sur- 
rounded 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 de- 
manding 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 church. 

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 



THE STOKE RESURRECTIONISTS 413 

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 com- 
mitted 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. 



"THE BEGGARS' OPERA" AND 
GAY'S CHAIR 

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, pre- 
fixed to his works, by J. Underbill, 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 Devon- 
shire 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 re- 
tained 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, 

414 



THE "BEGGARS' OPERA" 415 

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 Phaeton," he depicted 
the career and lapse of a fast young lady of fashionable 
life. 

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 Mon- 
mouth, 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 per- 
sons of rank ; he became, in fact, the petted lap-dog of 
fashionable society. 

Queen Caroline, then Princess of Wales, was inter- 
ested in him, and sent to invite him to read his play, 
The Captives, before her at Leicester House. The day 



416 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 con- 
fused and concerned about making the proper obei- 
sance 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 disorder. 

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 ob- 
tained 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 



THE " BEGGARS' OPERA" 417 

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 pro- 
duced 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 established. 

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 aggre- 
gate to 693 133. 6d., whereas Rich, the manager, 
after the piece had been performed thirty-six times, 

2 E 



4i8 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 155. per 
week, but owing to the enormous success of the play he 
raised it to 305. ; 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 confi- 
dential 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 pro- 
tection, 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, par- 
ticularly 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 
house. 

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 Gay. 

Touched by the remembrance of the past and by her 
witchery of manner, the Duke opened his arms, she 



THE "BEGGARS' OPERA" 419 

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 September. 

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 produc- 
tion 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 discard- 
ing 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 per- 
formance, 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 ! 



420 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 repre- 
sentation 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 play. 

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 ther- 
mometrical 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 



THE " BEGGARS' OPERA" 421 

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 artistic- 
ally 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. 



422 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 pur- 
chased some years previously at the sale of the effects 
of Mrs. Williams, a descendant of Catherine, the poet's 
sister, who had married Anthony Bailer. 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 frontis- 
piece 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 










GAY'S CHAIR 

DESCRIPTION .' 

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 candle- 
stick. 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 per- 
ceivable 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, consider- 
ing its antiquity, in pretty good repair, and admirably constructed for med- 
itative ease and literary application. 



THE " BEGGARS' OPERA" 423 

himself, who is still living, and, fiction-like as it 
appears, it is strictly and literally true." 1 

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 g-ood 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. 

1 "The Early Poetry of Devonshire" in the Transactions of the Devon- 
shire Association for 1874. 



4 2 4 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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. 



BAMPFYLDE-MOORE CAREW 



i 



An Apology for the Life of Mr. 
Bampfylde - Moore Carew y London, n.d., 
but probably 1753, all the Lives of this dis- 
reputable 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 quota- 
tions 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 

425 



426 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 un- 
blushing 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 inde- 
pendence, 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. 

At the age of twelve, Bampfylde was sent to Tiver- 
ton school, "where he contracted an intimate 
Acquaintance with young Gentlemen of the first Rank 
in Somersetshire, Devonshire, Cornwall, and Dorset- 
shire." 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 stand- 
ing 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 



BAMPFYLDE-MOORE CAREW 427 

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 civiliza- 
tion. 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 regu- 
lar, 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. Some- 
times 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 



428 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 noble- 
man, 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 news- 
papers 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 per- 
mit him to apply to, now became his greatest benefac- 
tors, 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 



BAMPFYLDE-MOORE CAREW 429 

this. He went in a collier from Dartmouth to New- 
castle, 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 situa- 
tion 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 de- 
meanour, manner of speech, etc., and leaving him sup- 
plied 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 



430 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

Philadelphia had been cast away on the coast of Ire- 
land, 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 Misfor- 
tunes, 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 unscrupulous- 
ness 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 com- 
munity 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 



BAMPFYLDE-MOORE CAREW 431 

John Davie, of Greedy Park, near Crediton. They 
were married there, and their sons were timber mer- 
chants. 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, recom- 
mending 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 Sea- 
man, he saw on the other side of the Street a mendicant 
Brother Sailor in a Habit as forlorn as his own, a beg- 
ging 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, 



432 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 



BAMPFYLDE-MOORE CAREW 433 

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 Ale- 
house 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 Wey mouth himself, who, 
being desirous of sounding the Tempers and Disposi- 
tions 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 com- 
pany, 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 him. 

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 

2 F 



434 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

thunder-struck, expecting nothing less than Commit- 
ment 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 Confu- 
sion. 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, dis- 
covered himself to him." 

After that Lord Weymouth, to whom before Bamp- 
fylde had confided his real name, showed him hospi- 
tality 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 Presby- 
terian 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 






BAMPFYLDE-MOORE CAREW 435 

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 

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 con- 
siderable property at Halsbury, a parish in the neigh- 
bourhood 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 Bide- 
ford, 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 Hals- 
bury, under some family arrangement, in consequence 
of the then heads of the Halsbury Giffards dying with- 

436 




/. Hofp. 



\V. GIFFORD 



WILLIAM GIFFORD 437 

out 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. 

William's grandfather was dissipated and extrava- 
gant, 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, I75O. 1 
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. 

1 She was daughter of George Cain, carpenter, and was baptized 
8 December, 1728. 



438 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

O once I could He 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 unsold. 

Edward Gifford returned from sea in 1764, having 
been absent eight years. He had received over a hun- 
dred 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 mis- 
fortunes. 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 



WILLIAM GIFFORD 439 

his son William another son aged six or eight months. 
Mrs. Gifford unwisely continued the business without 
knowing anything about it, and committed the man- 
agement 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 at- 
tempting to clamber up a table, he had fallen back- 
wards 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 



440 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

was out of the question, and he was forced to be with- 
drawn 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. Holds- 
worth, 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 Brix- 
ham, with a man named Full, plying between Dart- 
mouth 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 fish- 
wives 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 deli- 
cacy 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 em- 
ployed 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 



WILLIAM GIFFORD 441 

where he had passed his most enjoyable hours were 
dashed. Carlile wanted to get the lad out of Ash- 
burton 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 ac- 
cordingly, without consulting the boy's wishes, in- 
dentured 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 pam- 
phlets 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 contro- 
versial pamphlets the cobbler read only those of his 
own side. 

Gifford had no books save a Bible, a Thomas a Kem- 
pis, and a black-letter romance, Parismus and Paris- 
menus, 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 lodg- 
ing-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 equa- 
tions 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 Intro- 
duction 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 



442 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 West- 
minster, 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 miser- 
able. 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 



WILLIAM GIFFORD 443 

the first pleasing sensation he had ventured to enter- 
tain for many dreary months. 

In ^^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 win- 
dow, 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 acquaint- 
ances 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 cir- 
culated, 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 re- 
warded by the gift of a few pence, amounting occasion- 
ally to sixpence. Did he write also a few tender and 
grateful lines to the pretty, smiling girl on the door- 
step 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 



444 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 com- 
pose verses. 

But a storm was gathering. There is a delightful 
picture by Phiz in David Copperfield, where Mr. 
Creakle, the schoolmaster, enters the schoolroom lean- 
ing 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 Gilford's ridi- 
cule 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 show- 
ing 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 shoe- 
maker 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 



WILLIAM GIFFORD 445 

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 con- 
tinued 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 Devon- 
shire ; 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 apprentice- 
ship and further his education. On examining his 



446 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

literary attainments, he found that, with the exception 
of mathematics, he was woefully ignorant ; his hand- 
writing 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 con- 
tributed 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, men- 
tally 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 nick- 
name : 

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. Cookes- 
ley 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 



WILLIAM GIFFORD 447 

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 pre- 
served. 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 



448 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 recol- 
lection 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 Gros- 



WILLIAM GIFFORD 449 

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 him- 
self 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 ; 

come and grace my Anna's breast. 

! 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 lament : 

1 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 

1 lost my all ; and life has proved 
Since that sad hour a dreary void, 

A waste, unloving- and unloved. 
2 G 



450 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Bamad at 
the heads of the Delia 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 Mcemad, 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 



WILLIAM GIFFORD 451 

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 cele- 
brated 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 
Mceviady 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. 1 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 

1 Annie Davies, died 6 February, 1815 ; buried in South Audley Street 
Church. 



452 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

at my expenses, but I owe in some measure the exten- 
sion of my feeble life to her care through a long suc- 
cession 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 be- 
cause, 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 paymaster- 
ship 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 help- 
ing his little brother, nursed in the almshouse at Ash- 
burton, 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 treat- 
ment of such as differed from him. One great defect 
he showed as editor. He would not consider a work to 



WILLIAM GIFFORD 453 

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 yester- 
day. 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 re- 
marks in conversation, such as I had good reason to 
believe him from his books, I found him a short, de- 
formed, and ugly little man, with a large head sunk 
between his shoulders, and one of his eyes turned out- 
ward, but withal one of the best-natured, most open, 
and well-bred gentlemen I have met." 

From the ability and keenness of the Bamad and 
Mceviad, 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 says : 

" 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, 



454 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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, fever- 
ish, 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 3ist December, 1826, in his yist 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. 



WILLIAM GIFFORD 455 

Gifford was a staunch friend. He left his house in 
James Street, Buckingham Gate, to the widow of his 
old friend Hoppner, the portrait painter. 

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. Hisfuvenal is one of the best versions ever 
made of a classic author, and his satire of the Bamad 
and Mceviad 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 pre- 
ceded him in the task ; but a misconstruction or mis- 
interpretation, nay, the misplacing of a comma, was in 
Gifford's eyes a crime worthy of the most severe anim- 
adversion. The same fault of extreme severity went 
through his critical labours, and in general he flagel- 
lated 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 

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. 



456 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

" He was a little man, dumped up together, and so 
ill made as to seem almost deformed, but with a singu- 
lar expression of talent in his countenance." 

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 Cor- 
respondence of John Murray, the Publisher. London, 
1891. 

Also a "Life," by Mr. J. S. Amery, in the now 
extinct Ashburtonian, 1891. 

Also a brief account by the Rev. Treasurer Hawker in 
" Two Ashburton Scholars," in the Transactions of the 
Devonshire Association, 1876. 



BENJAMIN R. HAYDON 



i 



only painting by which this artist is 
generally known is that of Napoleon stand- 
ing 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 pic- 
ture, 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 disproportion- 
ately 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 

457 



458 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 him- 
self 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 book- 
seller'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 busi- 
ness, and married a Miss Cobley, daughter of a clergy- 
man, 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 sub- 
merged Haydons of Cadhay. 

B. R. Haydon left at his death not only an Auto- 




B. R. HAYDON 

From a drawing by David Wilkie 



BENJAMIN R. HAYDON 459 

biography extending to the year 1820, but also a Journal 
in twenty-six folio volumes. The former has been pub- 
lished 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 com- 
press 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 
read. 

' ' 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 mischiev- 
ous 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 cus- 
tomers. 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, exceed- 



460 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

ingly 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 regi- 
ment. 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 Ply- 
mouth 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 condescen- 
sion, 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 



BENJAMIN R. HAYDON 461 

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 hand- 
kerchiefs 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 book- 
seller 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. 



462 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 profession. 

Haydon admired the effects of London smoke. 

"By Code," 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 them." 

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 Politicians." 

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 paper." 

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. 



BENJAMIN R. HAYDON 463 

" 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 health. 

"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 imme- 
diately. 

" 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 approach- 
ing 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. 



464 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

" 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 lighten- 
ings 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 



BENJAMIN R. HAYDON 465 

recollection of her, young and beautiful, might occa- 
sionally 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 thoughts. 

" 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 for- 
ward 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 agon- 
izing 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 

2 H 



466 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

in arms against him who posed and were regarded as 
authorities on Art. Nothing pleased him but vast can- 
vases. 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 dis- 
tinguishing 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 sub- 
jects 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 en- 
joyed 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 subsist- 
ence 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 recon- 
ciled to the idea when it was suggested to him that he 



BENJAMIN R. HAYDON 467 

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 a 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 com- 
mission. 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] 



468 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

the next day but one ; they then began to talk of art. 
1 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 dis- 
missing 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 figure. 

"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 Nor- 
man 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. 

u 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 corre- 
spond with the original the legs were disproportion- 
ably short, the painter having substituted his own legs 
for those of the mayor. 

"Short legs in a heroic picture will never do; and, 



BENJAMIN R. HAYDON 469 

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 assist- 
ance 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 ques- 
tion 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 pic- 
ture " 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 
4 Solomon,' Mr. Haydon?" " Hung up in a grocer's 
shop." " Where is your ' Jerusalem ' ? " " In a ware- 



470 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

room in Holborn." " Where is your ' Lazarus'?" 
" In an upholsterer's shop in Mount Street." "And 
your < Macbeth'?" "In Chancery." "Your < Pha- 
raoh ' ? " " In an attic, pledged." " And your ' Cruci- 
fixion'?" "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 build- 
ings. He took pupils, 1 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 under- 
water. 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 rude- 
ness. " I do not think I am liked in company, except 
by women," he admits in his journal. 

1 His pupils paid him 210 each. 



BENJAMIN R. HAYDON 471 

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, reck- 
less, 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 fol- 
lowed 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 



472 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 re- 
warded 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 un- 
qualified insignificance and fatuity. This inordinate 
vanity overlaid the many good qualities which he pos- 
sessed, blinded his perspicuity, and perverted his 
judgment." 

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 



BENJAMIN R. HAYDON 473 

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 prepara- 
tion of cartoons. But he was disappointed at not being 
given the chief place, without question, in the decora- 
tion of the Houses. 

"After thirty-eight years of bitter suffering," he 
wrote, "perpetual struggle, incessant industry, un- 
daunted perseverance, four imprisonments, three ruins, 
and five petitions to the House never letting the sub- 
ject 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 re- 
ceived 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 appre- 
ciated by the public. He hired a room in the Egyptian 
Hall, Piccadilly, in which to exhibit them, together 
with some of his historical paintings u Aristides 
Banished from Naples," "Nero Playing upon his 



474 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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^ (the 
J a little girl). Exquisite taste of the English people ! " 

He closed his exhibition on 18 May, and had lost by 
it 111 8s. rod. 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 daugh- 
ter 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 



BENJAMIN R. HAYDON 475 

half-open razor smeared with blood at his side, near it 
a small pistol recently discharged, in his throat a fear- 
ful 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 com- 
mitted 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 judg- 
ment 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 embar- 
rassed circumstances which are detailed in his Autobio- 
graphy. 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 arrived. 

Zeal, devotion, high thoughts, ability in composi- 
tion, 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 execu- 
tion, and in all his High Art paintings there is a lack of 
refined feeling and good taste. Thus, in the "Judg- 
ment of Solomon " the king is depicted as treating the 
whole affair as a practical joke. Mr. Watts, the artist, 



476 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

says: u 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 forget- 
fulness 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 percep- 
tion and refinement of execution. His touch is gene- 
rally 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 god- 
desses 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, lec- 
tured, 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 Parlia- 
ment, 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. 



BENJAMIN R. HAYDON 477 

" 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. 



JOHN COOKE 



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. 



f ""^HUS " 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 pro- 
ducing 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 1785." 

Another drink of the past was white ale. This derived 
its name from its appearance, not unlike tea freely 

478 




CAPTAIN COOKK, 1824, AGED 58 
Dra.iv n frin \ at nre, on the stone by N. Wkittock 



JOHN COOKE 479 

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 u hellier" 
i.e. slater but turned publican and maltster, and kept 
the tavern in which his son was born. John's grand- 
father 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 Law- 
rence 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, Mame- 
luke, and Chifney bridles. His lordship's saddle and 
riding-house was a school for a saddler and dragoon." 

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. 



480 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 par- 
ticulars 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 ideas. 

< ' 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 bulle- 
tins. 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 com- 
ments of his own which he pasted up outside his shop. 
There was at the time a noisy party in England in 



JOHN COOKE 481 

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 neck- 
lace 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 

2 I 



482 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

tried at the Assizes, 1795, before the late Justice Heath; 
the jury found him guilty of the felony riot and sedi- 
tion. 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 free- 
holders ; 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 



JOHN COOKE 483 

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 unani- 
mously. 

" 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 achieve- 



484 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

ments. I went from Exeter to London, to the funeral of 
Lord Nelson, the hero of the Nile, in 1805. In m Y 
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. 1 
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 com- 
pany ; 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 ; 

1 His grammar is here perplexed. 



JOHN COOKE 485 

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 Tues- 
day. I carried it for signatures to the principal inhabi- 
tants, 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 sum- 
mer. 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 



486 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 y 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 con- 
ceit 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 satisfac- 
tion 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 county. 

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, 

COOKE. 



SAVERY AND NEWCOMEN, 
INVENTORS 

WHEN a commission was sent by the Par- 
liament 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 Scant- 
lings 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 

487 



488 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 in- 
vented 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 dis- 
covered 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 uninter- 
rupted stream forty feet high, and one vessel of rarefied 
water raised 40 of cold water. The person who con- 
ducted 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 con- 
trivance 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 perform- 
ing the work of scavengers, as well as furnishing the 
inhabitants with sufficient water for their private occa- 
sions, 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 deser- 
vedly I deem this invention to crown my labours, to 
reward my expenses, and make my thoughts acquiesce 
in the way of further inventions." 




THOMAS SAVERY 



SAVERY AND NEWCOMEN 489 

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 pro- 
fessorship 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 J 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 



490 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

Halberton, whence John Savery moved to Totnes. Prob- 
ably 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 Tavi- 
stock 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 Sa- 
very'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 doubt- 
ful. 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. 



SAVERY AND NEWCOMEN 491 

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 ex- 
pedient was laborious and ineffectual, as the water 
gained on the men who baled. Then whims were intro- 
duced, 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 sug- 
gestions 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. 



492 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 atmo- 
spheric 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 atmo- 
spheric 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 pump- 
ing engines to mines in Cornwall, and he described 
these as already working in his book entitled The 
Miners' Friend.^ 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 

1 Reprinted in the Journal of the Royal Institute of Cornwall, 1904. 



SAVERY AND NEWCOMEN 493 

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 pur- 
poses. 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 flow- 
ing back might drive an overshot wheel, from the 
rotation of which the motive power for any other 
mechanical operations would be derived. This, how- 
ever, 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, 



494 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 inscription : 

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 i3th 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 bap- 
tized at Dartmouth 28 February, 1663-4. He married 
Hannah, daughter of Peter Waymouth, of Mai- 
borough, Devon, in 1705, and died in 1729. 

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. 1 

Although of gentle blood, Thomas Newcomen, son 
of Elias, and the inventor, was a tradesman in Dart- 

1 Worthy (C.), Devonshire Parishes, II, pp. 371-4. Exon., 1888. 






i^SsJ >.- .--- 




SKETCH OF NEWCOMIN S HOUSE, 
LOWER STREET, DARTMOUTH, 
BEFORE IT WAS DEMOLISHED 




THE CHIMNEY-PIECE AT WHICH NEWCOMIN SAT WHEN HE INVENTED 
THE STEAM-ENGINE 



SAVERY AND NEWCOMEN 495 

mouth, variously described as a locksmith, an iron- 
monger, 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 build- 
ing 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. Lidstone. 

" When [Newcomen] was engaged on his great 
work, which took him three years from its commence- 
ment 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 any- 
thing 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 Galley or Cawley, a Dart- 
mouth brazier, and How, another Dartmouth man, 
in applying for a patent. 

Newcomen was a man of reading, and was in corre- 
spondence 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 



496 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

observations made by him for the use of Newcomen on 
Papin's boasted method of transmitting to a great dis- 
tance 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. There- 
fore, 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 im- 
provements ; 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 Savery. 

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." 1 

1 Switzer, Introduction to Hydrostatics and Hydraulics, p. 342. 





REFERENCES 






y.y rijiirci, to the fcreril Mr.fbcri, 


iHl 1 


,, 


The Flr Momh ander the BoyUr w ;,b a Ud or Door 


QfW ABHHBHVI 


J 


The Boyler 5 Feet, 6 Inches Diameicr, i Feet i Inch (ugh, the Cylindrical pa" 4 Feet 
4 Incbet, Content nrar ij HogTheads. 


j m 


1 


The Neck or Throat betwin the Boylet and the Great Cylhxltr. 


VI 1 


4 


. Brafi Cylinder 7 Fret 10 Inctet high, 21 lochd Diameter, to Rariie and 


r j^b 1 




Condeafe the Steam. 




J 


The Pip* which contains the Buoy, 4 Inches Diameter. 


^P^^^T 1 


6 


The Mirier Pipe* that Supplies all tbc Offices, 4 Indir, Diameter. 


^Et \ ' 


7 


Tho Injefting Pipe till'd br the Mafler Pipe i, and Itopp'd by i v i'.ve. 





8 


The Sinking Pipe, . 4 inohcs Diameter, tfut carries cir the hor Want or Steam. 





9 


A Replcnilhing Pipe to Thr Boylcr as it watles.wiih .1 Cxk. 


L 


10 


A Large Pipe wh a Valve t carry the Steam oot of Dow. 


fc 


" 


The Rrgularor' moved by the r Y y id they by the Brim. u. 


r 


11 


Tbr Sliding Beam mov'd by the little Arch of the great Beam. 


B r 


'3 


Scoggei n,| hit Mate who work Double ro the Boy, r is thr Aiii <<( him 


B 





Tke great Y that movei the little y and Regulator, ij and n by ihr Hum 


^H. Bl j 


IJ 


Tl.e little j, gjidcd by a KoJ of Iran from the Kri;u!.:rr. 


B-<22I 


If 


Tbc Ingoing Hammer or F that movn upon it's Atis in tbc Raige i; 




17 


Which Barge has a leaking Pipe, bef.des .rhe V.l.e nam '1 in N' j. 


H t 


18 


the Leaking Pipe i Inch Diameter, iSe Warer tails into thr VVr! 


m i 


SO 


The Watte Pipe that carries off the Water from the Pilton. 


I 


31 


A Pipe which covers the Pifton nith a Ccl. 


B J 


11 


The Great Sommers thar Support the Houfi and En;!*. 





IJ 


A Lead CyOern. i Feet fqune, filld by the Mafler Pipe I. 


B^j-^-g-fgJ, 


24 


The Walle Pipe to that Cyflern. 


mfOSz^ 


SJ 


The Great Ballanc'd Brain that Wotks the whole Engine. 


Lcfrir KBiftj^BGwl 
^K*Sii"^^52 


Tai 


The Two Archei of the Great Ballanced Beam 


mSk 


i* 


Two WooJen Frames to (trp rhe Force of the Great Rillanced Ream. 


m 


28 


Trie Little Arch of the Great Ba'.larc'd Beim that movei the N u. 


m 


5 ? 


Two Chains Jix'd to the Little Arch, one drawl down, the other up. 


^k Jj> 


JO 


Siaf to the great Arches of the Ballanc A Beam. 


^^/z& 


Jl 


Strong tarn of fron which go thrcojh the Arches and frcure the Chains. 


1^1 


33 


Large fins of lion going through the Arch to (lop the t-crte of thr Beam. 


^^B^?~ 

^P 


3) 

34 


Very ftrong Cru.ni rixed to Pillon and the Plugg and h;th Arches. 
Great Springs to flnp the Force of the Gteat Ballanc'd Bc/m. 


W^ 


35 


Tht Stair -Cafe from Bottom to the Top. 


^^-ir 1 -- 


3 


The A(h hole under the Fire, even with the Surface of rlie Well. 


MBk 1 B^Br-' 


37 


The Door -Cafe to the Well tbat receive* the Water from the Level. 


, ;. \ HK:'" ' 


.* 8 


A Stair -Cafe from the Fite to the Engine ami to the Geat Door-Cafe. 


H^^M I r ^^^^' 


19 


The Gable -End the Gteat Ballanc'd Beam goes through. 


^^11 'f~ ^^^^-^ 




The Cslepit nrouth 11 Feet or more above the Uvel. 


HHI i r ~IH j. i 


41 


The fli-Wing of rhe Pump woik into, halve* in the Pit. 


' ^^R : f! ' ^BjjJ 


M 


The Mouth of the Pomps to the Level of the Well. . 


^^Ril ' L i ~^^^B~ r ~~~ T 


43 


The Pump-ork within the Pit. 


1^9 ' IB ' 


44 


A Large Cyftcrn.of Wood 15 Yardi or Half way down the Pit. 


mttlm Y' H ' ' ' 


4J 


The : Pump within the Houfe that FurnUhe, all the. Offices with Water. 


IRfl ' r Bl ' : 


i 


The Floor over the Well. 


fi > ' H ' i ' 


4> 


Tbe Great Door -Cafe Feet fquare, to bring' in the 'Boyler. 


! )rfl*l ^-', ^^m i ! 


4* 


Star* rti Gteat Frame over the Pit. 


vO^ ffin 


49 


The Wind to put them down gently qr fafelr. 


tjy *^"j 


50 


A TWn -Barrel over the Pit, which the Line goes round, not to flip. 


rWM ' Ir^ ^^ 


5< 


The Gajr - Pipe to know the Depth of the Water within the Bojler. 


! - : ' y / ^ 


iJ 


Two CocVj within the Pit to keep the Pump work moift. 


\ / / / / f 


n 


A Utile Bench with a Bat to reft when they are weaty. 


V^^^^v /fiffi- 


J* 


A Man going to Reptenilh the Fire. 


ffijSj&Rfifay// f 


. 


The Peck -Ax and Proaker. 


vS^^^ / $ 


J*- 


Tta Ccatf* at Ail of lie Great BallancM Beam. H,<>4 Ptfttifa ./? d""> /" 






tll,*S,X~^rs, f'4*. f"*' &f***'fir" 





Reproduced by kind pennissii 



/lie .STEAM KN<;/\K j ^ 

>tvr Dudlcij Cdfttc IttM-iih-d !j ! 
r Newonieii 




SAVERY AND NEWCOMEN 497 

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 exhaust- 
ing 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 sur- 
prised 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 alter- 
nately two taps, one admitting the steam into the 

2 K 



498 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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, ob- 
serving 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 automati- 
cally. This story has however been discredited. See 
Galloway's Steam Engine, 1881. 

"Thus, step by step," says Mr. Smiles, " New- 
comen'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 in- 
ventions, it was not the product of any one man's 
ingenuity, but of many. One contributed one im- 
provement, and another another. The essential fea- 
tures 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 condensa- 
tion 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 scien- 
tific curiosity, but had become a powerful machine 
capable of doing useful work." 2 

2 Smiles, Lives of Boulton and Watt^ pp. 62-8. London, 1865. 



SAVERY AND NEWCOMEN 499 

In 1712 Newcomen and his partner, Cawley, con- 
tracted 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 per- 
formance 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 Corn- 
wall. 

In 1882 Louis Figuier produced a five-act play at the 
Gaiete 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, 



500 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 vandal- 
ism by a harpy of the name of Barbara. Papin re- 
turned 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 [stc] 
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 French- 
man a very satisfactory conclusion for a French audi- 
ence. 1 

The French continue to claim for their countryman 
the glory of being the inventor of the modern steam 

1 Pengfelly (W.), "Notes on Slips," in Transactions of the Devonshire 
Association, 1882. 



SAVERY AND NEWCOMEN 501 

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 condensa- 
tion 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, PRINTER 

A DREW BRICE, an Exeter printer, was 
born 21 August, 1692, " in the house 
where Mary Hellier now lives [1719] near 
the Butcherow." 1 He was educated to be 
a dissenting minister, and received a good grounding 
in classical studies. But owing to the pinched circum- 
stances of his father, and probably also his own disin- 
clination for the pastorate, he was withdrawn from 
school, and at the age of seventeen apprenticed to a 
printer. His earliest biographer 2 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 

1 Entries in an old Bible, in the Western Antiquary > 1885, p. 196. 

2 Universal Magazine for 1781. 

502 




ANDREW BRICE, PRINTER 
Reproduced by kind permission from a print in the possession of Dr. Brnshfield 



ANDREW BRICE, PRINTER 503 

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. 

" 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 para- 
graph 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 



504 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

having been made to the House, as a printed Pamphlet, 
intituled The Postmaster, or the Loyal Mercury ', Friday, 
November the 28th, iji8 ; 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 i4th 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 acknow- 
ledged his offence,. " he was accordingly brought to 
the Bar : when he, upon his Knees, received a Repri- 
mand 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 imposi- 
tion of a Stamp Duty of a penny for every whole 
sheet ; but on the ensuing 3Oth 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. Accord- 
ing to his own admission, he had acted in an injudicious 



ANDREW BRICE, PRINTER 505 

and unjustifiable manner. However, he wrote : "The 
Parleys have vauntingly given out, That they will 
totally effect my Overthrow, and that I am now totter- 
ing 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 ccetera 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. 



506 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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. . . . How- 
ever, 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 treat- 
ment of the debtors, and whether Brice's language 
could be too strong in his condemnation of such prac- 
tices. In such a case, truth, if vigorously expressed, 
was a libel in law. His active sympathies were roused 



ANDREW BRICE, PRINTER 507 

by, what appeared to him to be, the gross injustice and 
cruelty of the keeper of St. Thomas's Ward. His en- 
thusiasm never wavered in the support of what he 
deemed to be a good cause ; and no subject did he pro- 
secute more vigorously than that of rendering some 
assistance to the confined debtors. Under such circum- 
stances, 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 com- 
menced against" him u 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 hon- 
estly to get the Sum will, I presume, advise me to com- 
ply 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 com- 
posed 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 Equi- 
noctial Line, between Guinea and Lower Ethiopia, 
subject to the Portuguese)." This, of course, was 



508 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 dis- 
guised 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 seen. 

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 pro- 
duced 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 bio- 
grapher 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 






ANDREW BRICE, PRINTER 509 

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 hospi- 
tality and support, could not fail to notice and be 
amused at his eccentricities. When Garrick produced 
Col man'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." 1 

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 

1 Memoirs of P. Stockdale, I, 313-14. London, 1809. 



5io DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

the composition . . . cost far above 100," he says. 
It was issued in forty-four shilling numbers, each con- 
sisting 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 compre- 
hensive, 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 Sting- 
tickle College; vulgarly Andrew Brice." London, 
1770. 

Dr. Brushfield has shown good reasons for attrib- 
uting to Andrew Brice, assisted by Benjamin Bowring, 
of Chumleigh, the composition of The Exmoor Scold- 
ing and Courtship that first appeared in B rice's 
Journal. 1 

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 

1 "The Exmoor Scolding and Courtship," by T. N. Brushfield, M.D., 
in the Transactions of the Devonshire Association for 1888. 



ANDREW BRICE, PRINTER 511 

by his brother masons of St. John's Lodge. His re- 
mains were removed to the Apollo Room, where during 
his lifetime he had often presided at masonic gather- 
ings, 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. 
B rice's day," the interment took place in St. Bartholo- 
mew'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 monu- 
mental stone marks the spot where he lies, but the 
following epitaph, as suitable, is given by Polwhele : 

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 re- 
mark on the Parleys 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 com- 



512 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

position, and as displaying his versatility in a praise- 
worthy 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 sur- 
prised 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 appre- 
ciated in after times. So was it with Andrew Brice. 



ANDREW BRICE, PRINTER 513 

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 un- 
necessary 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 fell. 

Several portraits of Brice exist, mainly line en- 
gravings. But the best is a mezzotint engraved by 
Jehner and published in 1781. 



DEVONSHIRE WRESTLERS 

WRESTLING was the favourite sport in 
former days in Devonshire and Cornwall. 
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 London. 

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 break- 
ing 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 1 be to all 
How they into such pastimes fall. 

5 M 



DEVONSHIRE WRESTLERS 515 

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 pre- 
sently. The wrestling dress peculiar to the West 
Country consisted of breeches or trousers and a wrest- 
ling 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 Devon- 
shire 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 ^ 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. Sup- 
posing there were twenty standards left in, the double 



5i6 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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, en- 
deavour 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. 1 

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 

1 See W. F. Collier, " Wrestling," in the Cornish Magazine, Vol. I, 



DEVONSHIRE WRESTLERS 517 

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. 



5i8 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 be- 
tween 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 force. 

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 twenty-three. 

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 wrest- 
lers 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 




-,fe'"1. 12 ^tone /It, AgfciO. 



DEVONSHIRE WRESTLERS 519 

amidst enthusiastic cheering and hat-tossing and ker- 
chief-waving of the Cornishmen. 

Jackman, another Devonshire man, confronted Polk- 
inghorne 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 pro- 
duced 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 fora 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 Baw- 



520 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

den 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 live- 
liest 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 accus- 
tomed weapons, the indurated boots, Abraham Cann 
came off the victor. 

He now challenged Polkinghorne, the champion of 
Cornwall. James Polkinghorne was 6ft. 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. 8J 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 



DEVONSHIRE WRESTLERS 521 

only one shoe. There had been much previous cor- 
respondence 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 pur- 
pose, 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 re- 
cruiting-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 dis- 
counted 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 Polking- 
horne'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 ex- 
tremity beyond those of other masters of the art. The 
match was for the best of three back-falls, the men to 



522 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 con- 
tending display of shifty and evasive form, Polking- 
horne 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 Corn- 
ish hug, and the efforts of the rivals were superb. 
Cann depended on his science to save him ; but Pol- 
kinghorne 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 Cornish- 
men 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 an- 
nounced 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 



DEVONSHIRE WRESTLERS 523 

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 Cornish- 
man 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 shoes." 

Various devices were attempted to bring them to- 
gether 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 moor- 



524 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

man of Aveton Gifford, and after a most desperate 
contest, Cann landed him on his back. 1 

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 pub- 
lished a curious work entitled The Inn Play, or Cornish 
Hugg Wrestler, and died in 1741. He was an enthu- 
siast 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, sculp- 
tured 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, spring-ing- up, at the last trumpet's call, 
He conquers thee, who will have conquer'd all. 

1 For a full account, most graphically written, and from which I 
have quoted, see Mr. Whitfeld's Plymouth and Devonport, in War and 
Peace, Plymouth, 1900 ; also the Sporting Magazine for 1826-7 ; the 
Annual Register, 1826. 



DEVONSHIRE WRESTLERS 525 

At the time of the European war, it sometimes hap- 
pened that a wrestling match was interrupted in an 
unpleasant manner to some of the parties by the ap- 
pearance 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 thing's 

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 vails 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. 



526 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 pumped at the pump, my boys, 

And no one dared to squeak, 
The Master ordered all below 

To stop a thunderin' leak. 

When us had stopped 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. 









DEVONSHIRE WRESTLERS 527 

The Master vvi' his cocked-up hat 

He flourished 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 rinrj'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 



528 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

the other with his best advantage, and to bear his 
adverse party downe ; whereas, whosoever over- 
throweth 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 suc- 
cessor. 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 cer- 
tainly 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. 



TWO HUNTING PARSONS 

A~ 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 halloo. 

" Dear me!" exclaimed his lordship; "what a 
number of black coats among the hunters. Has there 
been some great bereavement in the neighbourhood ? " 

" My lord," replied the chaplain, "the only bereave- 
ment 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 hunters. 

There is no objection to be made to a parson follow- 
ing the hounds occasionally ; the sport is more manly 
than that which engrosses so many young clerics now- 
adays, 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 perfunc- 
torily performed. 

2 M 529 



530 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

There was no high standard of clerical life preva- 
lent, 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 ! 

tally-ho ! O tally-ho ! 
Dearly Beloved Zounds, Sir ! 

1 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 Swym- 
bridge, was an exception. 



TWO HUNTING PARSONS 531 

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 con- 
nexion of Mr. Russell, u 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. Slee- 
man'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, more- 
over, shall be very cautious as to whom I admit into 
my charges," replied Russell. 



532 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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." 



TWO HUNTING PARSONS 533 

" 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 sup- 
pose 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 par- 
lour." 

" 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 churchyard." 

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 Thomas." 

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." 



534 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

On one occasion, as the congregation were assem- 
bling 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 with- 
drew. 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 mur- 
dered 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, im- 






TWO HUNTING PARSONS 535 

possible 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 Corn- 
wall, 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 true ? " 

" 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 



536 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 George- 
nympton, 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, as- 
cended, 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 : 



TWO HUNTING PARSONS 537 

"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 re- 
marked : " 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. 1 

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 lend- 
ing 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 in- 
formed. 

"His voice was not unmusical, but tremendous. 

1 Thornton (Rev. W. H.)> Reminiscences of an Old West-country 
Clergyman, 1897. 



538 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 benefit. 

" 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 dis- 
course is already in print. My lord, when I was re- 
quested 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 



TWO HUNTING PARSONS 539 

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 wood." 

From Southmolton John Russell moved to Iddes- 
leigh, 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. 



540 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Iddes- 
leigh, 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.' ' Ring- 
ing 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 col- 
lect 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 Dow- 
land bell a-going.' 



TWO HUNTING PARSONS 541 

" 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, 
t 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. 



542 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

"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 threat- 
ening 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 me?' 

" 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-opera- 
tion 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 incum- 
bency there was only one service here every Sunday 



TWO HUNTING PARSONS 543 

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 
Chappie, the parish clerk of Swymbridge, who entered 
the grocer's shop. " Hav'ee got a coorate yet for 
Swymbridge, Mr. Chappie?" 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. Chappie 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 look- 
ing round, saw the curate on the other side crawling 
over the gate, and crying out, " It won't open." 



544 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

" 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 Torrington. 

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 
journey. 

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 in- 
fluence over Russell, when he was young, at South- 
molton. 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 



TWO HUNTING PARSONS 545 

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 pro- 
duced 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 cen- 
tury, 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 valu- 

2 N 



546 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

able, and he was, moreover, in possession of some 
considerable private fortune in addition to his profes- 
sional 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 exceed- 
ing 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." 



TWO HUNTING PARSONS 547 

The story stuck to Lord Portsmouth for life. Nor 
did Prebendary Karslake fare much better. Kars- 
lake 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 knows." 

" 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 an d 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. 



548 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

One evening a young farmer arrived at Mr. Kars- 
lake's door, at Meshaw, and entreated an interview on 
urgent business. On being admitted he told the 
magistrate that an atrocious crime had been un- 
doubtedly 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 dis- 
covered. 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 constables. 

About ten days later the baffled magistrate was 
sitting hearing cases in the court-house at South- 
molton, 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 look- 
ing for a little maid lately, and I've brought this one 
for you to see, in case her's the one you be wanting." 

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 sensi- 
tive nobody knows ; but one can conceive his annoy- 
ance when the whole court-house bench and audience 
broke out into a roar of laughter at his expense, he 
being chairman. 



TWO HUNTING PARSONS 549 

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 busi- 
ness 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 rectory. 

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 in- 
stance, 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. 



550 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

You'll be in the room : if 1 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 instiga- 
tion. 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, chim- 
neys 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 



TWO HUNTING PARSONS 551 

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 shoulders. 

"'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 



552 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Hcrwkridge! 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 Wins- 
ford 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. 



TWO HUNTING PARSONS 553 

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 look- 
ing 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 post- 



554 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

mark, 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 



TWO HUNTING PARSONS 555 

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 vield 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. 



556 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 ascer- 
tained 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 unfortu- 
nate animal that it went almost mad with pain, and on 
the way home threw its rider. 

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 
visitations. 

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 Bab- 
bage, and the hounds on the lawn, when one of 
his rascally retainers ran in to inform the rector that 






TWO HUNTING PARSONS 557 

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 



558 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 grey- 
hound, 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 




THE REV. JOHN RUSSELL S PORT-WINE GLASS, CHAMBERLAIN WORCESTER 

BREAKFAST SERVICE AND BAROMETER 

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 



TWO HUNTING PARSONS 559 

morning presented it to Mr. Froude, who had for- 
gotten 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 con- 
fusion of ideas. 

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, 



560 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 out- 
house, 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 ser- 
vice, 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 



TWO HUNTING PARSONS 561 

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, Mat- 
thews 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. Pm 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. There- 
upon Froude leaped his horse down into the barge, 
and thrashed the man. 

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 repre- 
sents 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 consider- 
able sum of money. One night the box-tree was 
pulled up by the roots and carried away, no one knew 
2 o 



562 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 precipi- 
.tated 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 hunts- 
man, 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 ex- 
ceptional 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 



TWO HUNTING PARSONS 563 

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. 



SAMUEL PROUT 

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 atten- 
tion 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 mould- 
ings. They learned the principles of Gothic and Tudor 
architecture. They gathered and studied details. But 
the soul, the spirit escaped them. When they under- 
took to design and build new churches and mansions, 
they turned out very poor, uninteresting stuff. Rick- 
man 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 Gil- 
bert Scott designed numerous churches, all of borrowed 
detail, and all utterly uninteresting. It was the same 
on the Continent. In France, Viollet le Due studied 
throughout France, knew the purest French styles 
intimately, but could produce nothing good him- 

564 




SAMUEL PROUT 
Front a drawing in the possession of Samuel Gillesfiie Front, Esq. 



SAMUEL PROUT 565 

self. It was the same with Heideloff in Germany. 
The inspiration of the Gothic or medieval soul es- 
caped 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. 

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, dis- 
figuring 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 Gary. The family has laid claim to the arms 
of Prouse of Gidleigh, but can prove no connexion. 

Samuel was educated at the Plymouth Grammar 



566 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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, more- 
over, a bit of a poet, as poets went in those days. He 
was a good and kindly man, and endeared himself to 
his pupils. 

P rout'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 pre- 
venting 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 profes- 
sion, 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 Bow- 
den 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 






SAMUEL PROUT 567 

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 draw- 
ings were sadly inaccurate in this respect. He himself 
wrote in after years, as the result of his own experi- 
ence : " 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 pre- 
vents 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 



568 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

loved the old wall where the granite blocks were irregu- 
larly 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, Ply- 
mouth 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 land- 
scape 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 ac- 
quainted with John Britton, who was passing through 
Plymouth on his way into Cornwall, collecting ma- 
terials 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 there. 



SAMUEL PROUT 569 

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 draw- 
ings 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 but- 
tresses with crockets and finials. Prout worked hard 
at this all day, and though Britton accepted the draw- 
ing, it was bad. "The poor fellow cried, and was 
really distressed, and I felt as acutely as he possibly 



570 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

could, for I had calculated on having a pleasing com- 
panion upon a dreary journey, and also to obtain some 
correct and satisfactory sketches. On proceeding 
further, we had occasion to visit certain druidical mon- 
uments, vast rocks, monastic wells, and stone crosses 
on the moors north of Liskeard. Some of these objects 
my young friend delineated with smartness and toler- 
able 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 re- 
solved to labour hard to acquire the rudiments of per- 
spective. 

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 



SAMUEL PROUT 571 

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 un- 
fitted 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 sub- 
urban villa, and were the cheerfullest possible decoration 
for a moderate-sized breakfast parlour opening on a 
nicely-mown lawn. Their liveliness even rose, on occa- 
sion, to the chanty of beautifying the narrow chambers 



572 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

of those whom business or fixed habit retained in the 
obscurity of London itself, " 

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 East- 
lake, 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 Water- 
colour 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 per- 
fectly 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 in- 
troduction 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 pur- 
pose, 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 



SAMUEL PROUT 573 

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 reno- 
vated. 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 



574 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 interest." 

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 infirmi- 
ties. 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 Hum- 
phrey 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 adop- 



SAMUEL PROUT 575 

tion. 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 wor- 
ship were well floored, wainscotted, warmed, and venti- 
lated. 

" 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 Archi- 
tecture 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 A ttempt to Distinguish the Styles of English A rchi- 
tecture 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 



576 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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, in- 
stead 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 invari- 
ably 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 treat- 
ment 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 suffer- 
ing 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 ad- 
vanced. No man ever bore suffering more meekly. 
Essentially religious, he submitted with patience and 
resignation to the Divine will. All the home affec- 



SAMUEL PROUT 577 

tions 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 sor- 
rows, and in thanksgiving in all joys. But abroad or 
at home, in his hotel or his studio, his constant com- 
panions 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 Tues- 
day, 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 ! 
2 P 



578 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 hearth- 
rug 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 ignor- 
ing 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 gentle- 
man, 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 



SAMUEL PROUT 579 

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 sup- 
pose 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. 



580 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

AUTHORITIES 

The authorities for the life of Samuel Prout are : 

" Samuel Prout, Artist," by J. Hine, in the Transac- 
tions 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 com- 
munications should be addressed to Mr. John Lane, 
The Bodley Head, Vigo Street, London, W. 



FONTELAUTUS 

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 pre- 
cocious infant we are obliged to refer to the following 
work, published 1826: Subversion of Materialism by 
Credible A ttestation of Supernatural Occurrences . . . 
Pt. I. Memoirs of Fontelautus, infant son of Prebendary 
Dennis, comprising his demoniacal obsession, and diver- 
sified 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 ra- 
tionalists. If Fontelautus does not shatter their un- 
belief, they are past arguing with, past praying for. 

Prebendary Dennis begins with the ancestry of Fon- 
telautus, 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. 



582 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

Mr. Jonas Dennis is led to observe that there was an 
hereditary tendency in the Dennis family to acquisitive- 
ness, 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, calcu- 
lating probability of conjugal felicity from the endow- 
ment of amiable qualities, placid disposition, compilable 
temper, serious principles, polite accomplishments, and 
last, though not least, domestic habits." But if acquisi- 
tiveness 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 



FONTELAUTUS 583 

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 dis- 
orderly 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 busi- 
ness. " It was a point gained to make a torpid tribe 
stretch and flap their wings, although speedily droop- 
ing 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 



584 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

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 Teign- 
mouth ; 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 pre- 
ferments with men who were mere timeservers and 
political partisans. He was an advocate for the restora- 
tion of clinical unction ; he preached it, and records 
several instances of healing through it. He also re- 
garded 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 



FONTELAUTUS 585 

Rev. Jno. Dennis, A.B., and Elizabeth his wife. Sup- 
posed 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 specta- 
tors." 

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 sup- 
port." 

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 



586 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

his pap and his bottle, and dribbling effusively as in- 
dication 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 vanish. 

On i June, seven weeks before Fontelautus had com- 
pleted 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 
obsession by an evil spirit, not of /obsession, 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 



FONTELAUTUS 587 

biped featherless brute ; therefore eradicating apprehen- 
sions of future responsibility, consequently destructive 
of every moral feeling in the heart." 

But wait, Mr. Apostle Lawrence, the evidence against 
materialism is coming ! 

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 in- 
spection, 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 con- 
dition 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 affection- 
ate 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 impossi- 



588 DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS 

bility of reanimation, through dissection of the cere- 
bellum, 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, si