We 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.'
'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.'
'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.'
'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