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18th Century Digressions, Entertainment & Culture, Health & Medicine, Love & Marriage No Comments »

Lost PropertyWe have all experienced that kind of day when we switch on the rolling TV news channels and find there is not much going on. A slow day for news we call it, and for the news channels it must feel like the silly season comes more than once a year. They have to scrape out the ridiculous, the ephemeral, the shallow vapid tales and make them newsworthy – persuade us we want them. The same goes for our daily newspapers, and it has to be said, the online news and blogs. Has that changed in three hundred years? Judging by the evidence derived from contemporary newspapers of the mid-eighteenth century, it appears that it has not. In 1764, it was thought worthy to add a paragraph to one London newspaper concerning someone's pet parrot who had laid four eggs over a period of ten days. Then there was some letter about the militia 'dancing' to music during exercises! Dotted interlinearly between the serious and the ridiculous are the stories, adverts and announcements that were considered of some importance to individuals, such as petty crimes and pleas for lost property, but to us, these may appear unintentionally amusing. And out of interest, what about Mr William Shakespear below? Doing his duty for poor old Isaac Elias – "if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?"

'Northern climes have always been observed to be most favorable to population, but we seldom meet with so curious an instance as the following, communicated to us by a correspondent at St. Petersburgh. There now lives in the district of Schuiske, a villager of the name of Foedor Vassili, who, of two wives he married successively, has had a very extraordinary number of children. The first, in 27 years, made him father of 69, having had four at a time at four successive births, three at each of seven following lyings-in, and two at a time in 16 more. The second wife was brought to bed only eight times; at six of her births she had two at a time, and three in the two ones subsequent, so that the above two wives in 35 lyings-in, made him father to 87 children, four only of whom died young, and his family now consists of 83!'

'A Gentleman in Suffolk writes thus to his friend in London: "Whilst you have horse and foot patrolling to protect you from the poor Spitalfields Weavers that are up in arms thro' want of their daily bread; we have at Bury 500 of our Militia learning to dance, and march to the sound of the fife. The new recruits are exercising morning and afternoon, without arms, to teach them first to make use of their legs. Picture to yourself a very awkward country fellow, whose legs are always left half a yard behind him, teaching to move to music, and stand upright. The scene is better conceived then can be expressed: To me it is excessive droll; though I heartily pity the poor Serjeants, and think they need more patience than Pedagogues: but let me do the justice to those who have been taught the exercise, to say, they are quite equal to the regulars, and both officers and men do that credit to their country which a well disciplined Militia was intended for, and may serve every other good purpose of a standing army."'

'Chelmsford, Nov. 16.
Monday the Fair began here, and Cattle in general sold dear. At Night a Tradesman found his Son in Company with a common Prostitute, and on desiring him to leave her, was refused; on which the Father got a Warrant, took up the Woman, and carried her before a Magistrate, who ordered her to the House of Correction; but as the Constable was conducting her, some young Bloods knocked him down, and carried off the Nymph in Triumph. In the Fray the Constable lost his Hat and Wig.'


'Yesterday John Eason, a soldier, who was on a recruiting party at Walton upon Thames, Surry. was committed to the New Gaol in Southwark, by William Shakespear, Esq; for breaking open a room, and robbing Isaac Elias, a travelling Jew, of his box, containing money, jewel, plate, and other effects, to a great value.'

A Plea
'If the benevolent Author of a Pamphlet, called the History of a Gentleman cured of HEATS to his face, would be so good, as by a line in this paper, to be particularly explicit, how the drops of the medice he reats of called Red Speedwell, are made and how many are to be taken in the day, and where the herb is to be procured, he will oblige one who hopes for relief from the use of them, and to be indebted to them for the benefit.

'Dr Lowther's Nervous Powder [for]
A Relaxation of the whole Nervous System, attended with Tremors, Lowness of Spirits, and great Dejections, Retchings, Startings, Hectic Heats, Wailing of the whole Habit of Body, greatly oppressed with Wind, Want of Appetite, indigestion, and violent Reaching for many Years, &c.

Lost Property
'Left in a Hackney Coach that set a Gentleman down at Westminster-hall Gate, on Friday the 25th of February last, between Six and Seven o'clock in the evening, a Row of ARTIFICIAL TEETH. Whoever will bring the same to Mr Meckleson, dentist, in Coventry-street, Piccadilly, shall receive a Guinea reward.

An Announcement
'This morning Laurence Richardson, esq; of Hampton Hedges in Leicestershire, was married to Miss Sally Essex, of Kensington; what renders the union remarkable is, that each of the parties have lost an eye, and were both born the 26th day of June, 1740.

From the Gossip Column
'Two or three absurd paragraphs have crept into our paper within this day or two, fabricated with the elegant design of giving uneasiness to one of the few amiable and repectable Ladies of St. James's. It is needless to observe that the paragraphs alluded to were written in a female hand, and the orthography required no small degree of correction!

Finally, this delightful piece of sarcasm about Sally the Small, subject of many articles on my other blog, Theatre History:

'Wonderful Intelligence. – "Sally the Small is as well as can be expected after her lying-in." To which we may add, by way of companion to this, that "yesterday died Jowler, only dog to Mr. Marrowbones, of Clare-market." – And now the public have information enough for one day!'

And that just about sums it up, only Yahoo OMG could do better. I must dash, having a hectic heat.


All stories taken from various London newspapers: London Chronicle, Morning Chronicle, Westminster Journal etc. between 1766-1795

‘I earnestly desire she may not be sent to Bedlam’

18th Century Digressions, Health & Medicine No Comments »

  In 1703, Stephen West a member of the Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers married Alice Emerton at St Helens Bishopsgate. In 1722, Stephen's name appears with several others on a petition to the Court of Aldermen for relief against 'an act of Partiality', in that less senior members have been elected to the Court of Assistants of the Company before them.

As a man of some standing, who had accrued wealth and status, Stephen planned his Will seemingly concerned by his wife's declining state of mind. Nevertheless he named her Executor, but with a number of trustees hovering in the background ready to step in. He made provision should Alice not agree to the terms of his Will because of her illness:

'That if my said wife shall not accept what I have given her… but shall claim her share and part of my personal estate according to the Custom of the City of London… I do in such case revoke and declare all such legacies to be void… And I do assure my said dear wife that the reason of my making my Will in the manner aforesaid is on the account of her long indisposition which renders her unfit to manage her own affairs and dispose of her own effects…' 2 Aug 1737

Then on the same day he added a Codicil to his Will, clearly afraid for her fate following his death:

'My Will and meaning is that if after my decease my dear wife should in any manner be disordered in her understanding as to require Confinement that my within named Trustees do take care to have her placed in some private house where she may be duly and carefully looked after but I earnestly desire she may not be sent to Bedlam or any Publick Mad house”

Bedlam from The Rake's Progress

On 7 November 1737 Catherine Seely testified that she had been a servant to the West's and had observed Mrs West 'to be of very melancholic disposition and nature and to be so much affected thereby as to be intirely deprived of her senses reason and understanding insomuch that she was seldom left alone by herself for she should make away with or destroy herself which she often threatened to do'. Catherine believed that Alice was unfit to handle her own affairs and that after her husband's death her distemper had 'been more violent and stronger'.

The surgeon Francis Abercromby of St James Westminster, 'upwards of forty years' appeared next, having been acquainted with Alice for three or four years observing on several occasions 'that she was afflicted with a melancholy delirium but as some times much more violently than at other times which very much disordered her senses reason and understanding… And that this deponent believes the said Alice West to be of the age of seventy years upwards and as her distemper is so strong upon her this deponent is of opinion that she will scarce ever recover her senses again'.

On the 11 November Stephen's trustees stepped in and power was granted to them to administer his estate during the 'lunacy delirium or incapacity of Alice West'.

On 27 March the following year Stephen's Will was proved by Elizabeth Moor and Ann Bates his nieces, 'the said Will being ceased and expired by reason of the death of the said Alice West'.

Unfortunately, we do not know by what means Alice died, whether she 'destroyed herself' or died by natural causes, but she did not linger long after her husband's death and maybe she joined him in St Clement Danes churchyard, 'near… my son formerly buryed there'.

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