Saturday, April 26, 2014

Of murder and raptus

Today marks the 160th anniversary of the death of Lord Cockburn, a popular and much admired Edinburgh judge who, as Scotland’s Solicitor-General at the time, was partly responsible for the First Scottish Reform Bill. He left behind him a valuable set of diaries, not only providing a fascinating commentary on the political and religious life of Scotland in the first half of the 19th century, but documenting his work as a judge on various legal circuits across the country. Almost incidentally, though, he also writes beautifully about the places he passes through on his travels.

Henry Cockburn (image thanks to National Portrait Gallery) was born in Edinburgh in 1779 into a well-connected Tory family, and educated at Royal High School and Edinburgh University. He joined the Speculative Society, which counted Walter Scott among its members, as well as Francis Jeffrey, who would become a lifelong friend. 

Cockburn trained as a lawyer, qualifying in 1800; and, mostly in response to effects of the French Revolution, went against his family and social connections to become a Whig. In 1811, he married Elizabeth MacDowall (they would have at least 10 children), and set up a rural household at Bonaly, southwest of Edinburgh, as well as a house in Charlotte Square.

Cockburn became a successful advocate, and gained the trust of juries. Two of his greatest occasions, says Karl Miller (author of Cockburn’s entry in the ODNB - login required), were his appearances for James Stuart of Dunearn, in 1822, and, seven years later, for Helen MacDougal, the companion of body-snatching Burke, the ‘resurrectionist’ serial killer: ‘Stuart had shot dead Boswell’s son Alexander in a party-political duel, and Cockburn’s defence was reckoned a masterpiece of forensic praise and pathos; at the time of the Burke and Hare trial, Stuart, once “thought so pure and firm”, as Cockburn observed, was revealed as a speculator who had run off to America in debt.’

When Earl Grey became Prime Minister in 1830, Cockburn was appointed Solicitor-General for Scotland. As such, he was responsible, with his friend, another judge, Lord Jeffrey, for preparing the Scottish Reform Act. In 1834 he became a judge in the Court of Session and adopted the title of Lord Cockburn. Late in his life, he published a biography of Lord Jeffrey. Cockburn died on 26 April 1854, at Bonaly. Further information is available from Wikipedia or A Web of English History.

Cockburn was already into his 40s when he decided to start writing about his own life and work. However, his first autobiographical book - Memorials of His Time - was not published by A & C Black until two years after his death in 1856. In this (available at Internet Archive), the publisher included a short introduction written by Cockburn himself in 1840: ‘It occurred to me, several years ago, as a pity, that no private account should be preserved of the distinguished men or important events that had marked the progress of Scotland, or at least of Edinburgh, during my day. I had never made a single note with a view to such a record. But about 1821 I began to recollect and to inquire.’

The autobiography closes with the following paragraph: ‘I close this page by saying that Jeffrey has been made Lord Advocate, and I Solicitor-General, under the ministry of Earl Grey. We have come upon the public stage in a splendid, but perilous scene. I trust that we shall do our duty. If we do, we cannot fail to do some good to Scotland. In the abuses of our representative and municipal systems alone, our predecessors have left us fields in which patriotism may exhaust itself.’

Twenty years later, in 1874, Edmonston and Douglas published a second autobiographical work: Journal of Henry Cockburn being a continuation of his Memorials of His Time. This consisted of two volumes of Cockburn’s diaries, covering the period after he was made Solicitor-General, and both can be read at, or downloaded from, Internet Archive. The simple introduction to the journal states: ‘The first portion of Lord Cockburn’s Memorials of His Time consisted of an unbroken narrative ending at the close of the year 1830. It was published in 1856. “Since 1830,” Lord Cockburn writes, “I have gone on recording occurrences as they have arisen, though often with large intervals. This habit of making a note of things worth observing at the time coincided with the change of life implied in my becoming Solicitor-General, in separating the first part from the subsequent pages.” ’

All Cockburn’s published diaries are exceptionally well written, interesting from many points of view and rarely dull to read. His main focus is society (rather than himself or his family), its political, legal and religious life; and his diaries contain much analysis of the issues of the day, as well of the people involved in those issues. In particular, his diaries are considered an important historical source for information on the schism in the Church of Scotland, with Cockburn himself being sympathetic towards the so-called disruption and the formation of a Free Church.

Personally, though, I find his Circuit Journeys the more interesting and entertaining of reads. Not only does he give details on the intriguing criminal cases he presides over across the country, but he writes about his travels, the places he visits, the people he meets, the landscapes he admires with such literary skill one could imagine him to be a modern day travel writer. Circuit Journeys was published in 1888, by Douglas (no longer Edmonston and Douglas), and, like Cockburn’s other books, is also freely available at Internet Archive. Cockburn himself provides a useful introduction (posthumously, as it were) with his first dated entry, for 28 March 1838:

‘I have got this volume (prepared under the personal directions of Thomas Maitland, the first of gentlemen binders) in order to record anything remarkable that may occur in my Circuits. It will be my fate to perform these journeys, being a Criminal Judge, as long as I am fit for anything, and it gives scenes, which repetition generally makes dull, an interest to have one’s attention called, by the excitement of a diary, to occurrences which, however insignificant to strangers, are important to the individual engaged, and who always regrets to find that the impression of them is gone.

I wish that the Court of Justiciary had always had a Judge who left such a journal. The very uniformity of its subjects, implying a description from age to age of the same sort of occurrences and of the same parts of the country, and, of course, of their gradual changes, would have given it a value which detached records, though individually more curious, could not have possessed. If even Fountainhall, though not nearly far enough back, had imparted his observing and recording spirit to one of each series of his successors, what a curious picture would their continued memoranda have by this time given us of singular local men, of the changes of districts, of the progress of the law, of important trials, of strange manners, and of striking provincial events.’

Here are several extracts from Circuit Journeys.

17 April 1838

‘On Saturday the 14th, I was in Court till midnight.

The only curious case was that of Malcolm M’Lean, a fisherman from Lewis, who is doomed to die upon the 11th of May, for the murder of his wife. He admitted that he killed her, and intentionally, but the defence by his counsel was that he was mad at the time. There was not the slightest foundation for this, for though he was often under the influence of an odd mixture of wild religious speculation, and of terrified superstition, he had no illusion, and in all the affairs of life, including all his own feelings and concerns, was always dealt with as a sound practical man. One part of his pretended craziness was said to consist in his making machinery to attain the perpetual motion, and his believing that he had succeeded. This shows that this famous problem is not in such vogue as it once was. But the thing that seemed to me to be the oddest in the matter, was the perfect familiarity with which the common Celts of Lewis talked and thought of the thing called the perpetual motion, whatever they fancied it. Their word for it, according to the common process of borrowing terms with ideas, was, “Perpetual Motion” pronounced and treated by them as a Gaelic expression. The words “Perpetual motion,” were used in the middle of Gaelic sentences without stop or surprise, exactly as we use any Anglified French term.

This man’s declaration, which told the whole truth with anxious candour, contained a curious and fearful description of the feelings of a man about to commit a deliberate murder. He had taken it into his head that his wife was unkind, and perhaps faithless to him, and even meant to kill him, and therefore he thought it better, upon the whole, to prevent this by killing her, which accordingly, on a particular day, he was determined to do. He went to work on a piece of ground in the morning, thinking, all the time he was working, of going into the house and doing the deed, but was unwilling and infirm. However, he at last resolved, went in, sat down, she at the opposite side of the fire, the children in and out, but still he could not, and went to work again. After reasoning and dreaming of the great deed of the day, he went to the house again, but still could not, and came out; and this alternate resolving and wavering, this impulse of passion, and this recoiling of nature recurred most part of the day, till at last, sitting opposite to her again, he made a sudden plunge at her throat, and scientifically Burked her by compressing the mouth and nose, after which a sore fit of sated fury succeeded, which gave way, when people began to come in, to an access of terror and cunning, which made him do everything possible for his own safety, till tired of wandering about, and haunted by some of his religious notions, he went towards Stornoway to redeliver himself (for he had been previously taken, but escaped), when he was discovered. He is now low and resigned, and says he has not been so comfortable for years, because he has got the better of the Devil at last, and is sure of defying him on the 11th of May.’

23 April 1838
‘We reached Aberdeen on the 18th, through clouds of snow and bitter blasts. There were three wreaths between Huntly and Pitmachie, which really alarmed me.

I know no part of Scotland so much, and so visibly, improved within thirty years as Aberdeenshire. At the beginning of that time, the country between Keith and Stonehaven was little else than a hopeless region of stones and moss. There were places of many miles where literally there was nothing but large white stones of from half a ton to ten tons weight, to be seen. A stranger to the character of the people would have supposed that despair would have held back their hands from even at- tempting to remove them. However, they began, and year after year have been going on making dikes and drains, and filling up holes with these materials, till at last they have created a country which, when the rain happens to cease, and the sun to shine, is really very endurable.

Moncreiff joined me at Aberdeen, and we were three days in Court there, from morning till past midnight. There was nothing curious in any of the cases. The weather was so bad that we had no public procession, but went to Court privately and respectably. The dignity of justice would be increased if it always rained. Yet there are some of us who like the procession, though it can never be anything but mean and ludicrous, and who fancy that a line of soldiers, or the more civic array of paltry police-officers, or of doited special constables, protecting a couple of judges who flounder in awkward gowns and wigs, through the ill-paved streets, followed by a few sneering advocates, and preceded by two or three sheriffs, or their substitutes, with white swords, which trip them, and a provost and some bailie-bodies trying to look grand, the whole defended by a poor iron mace, and advancing each with a different step, to the sound of two cracked trumpets, ill-blown by a couple of drunken royal trumpeters, the spectators all laughing, who fancy that all this ludicrous pretence of greatness and reality of littleness, contributes to the dignity of justice. Judges should never expose themselves unnecessarily - their dignity is on the bench.

We have had some good specimens of the condition of jails. One man was tried at Inverness for jail-breaking, and his defence was that he was ill-fed, and that the prison was so weak that he had sent a message to the jailor that if he did not get more meat he would not stay in another hour, and he was as good as his word. The Sheriff of Elgin was proceeding to hold a court to try some people, when he was saved the trouble by being told that they had all walked out. Some of them being caught, a second court was held, since I was at Inverness, to dispose of them; when the proceedings were again stopped from the very opposite cause. The jailor had gone to the country taking the key of the prison with him, and the prisoners not being willing to come forth voluntarily, could not be got out. Lord Moncreiff (who joined me at Aberdeen) tells me that when he was Sheriff of Kinross-shire, there was an Alloa culprit who was thought to be too powerful for the jail of that place. So they hired a chaise and sent officers with him to the jail of Kinross, where he was lodged. But before the horses were fed for their return, he broke out, and wishing to be with his friends a little before finally decamping, he waited till the officers set off, and then returned to Alloa, without their knowing it, on the back of the chaise that had brought him to Kinross, with them in it.

Aberdeen is improving in its buildings and harbour. The old town is striking and interesting, with its venerable college, its detached position, its extensive links, and glorious beach. But the new and larger city is cold, hard, and treeless. The grey granite does well for public works where durability is obviously the principal object, but for common dwelling-houses it is not, to my taste, nearly so attractive as the purity of the white freestone, or the richness of the cream-coloured. Polishing and fine jointing improve it much, but this is dear, and hence the ugly lines of mortar between the seams of the stones.’

3 August 1840
‘We left Dalmally this morning before eleven. The day still incapable of improvement. The superiority of the Cairngorms is in their ridginess. The Dalmally mountains are more earthly and lumpish. But what lumps! And how well placed! Oh for old oaks, a huge old castle, and a feudal history, about the centre of that amphitheatre!

The country from Dalmally to this was new to me, and it is now gratifying to an aged gentleman to have the omissions of his youth rewarded by being able to say that so is the journey from this to Lochgilphead, and from Lochgilphead to Inveraray.

The upper, that is the Dalmally, end of Loch Awe, dignified by the ruins of Kilchurn Castle, and bounded by the steep and stony Ben Cruachan, with its wooded base and the magnificent corries that flank its northern bank, is all very fine; the southern hills, near the lake, are low, but this implies shallowness of water, which gives islands, with which accordingly this part of the loch is more richly supplied than most of our Highland waters.

No river has a more striking outlet than the Awe, with its sides roaring with cataracts, and so steep that, though sheep were browsing on their oases of verdure, it defied us to find out how they had got there, or were ever to get away. The river makes a short but violent rush to Loch Etive, amidst a profusion of mountain, wood, and many well-placed cliffs, till Muckairn Kirk, from which the surface recedes on both sides, tells us we have gained the summit, and must now descend to the sea.

Lest Ben Cruachan, whose summit was glittering to-day as well as all the other sublimities of the district, should not be sufficient for the honour of Muckairn, the heritors or somebody have erected a thing in the churchyard, about the size of a large broomstick, and not more attractive in its form. I asked the driver what it was. “ It’s a moniment to a gentleman.” “What gentleman?” “Ou, a dinna mind his name. He dee’d a while ago. Ou’ ay. A mind noo. It’s to Lord Ne-e-elson.”

The descent from this summit to Loch Etive is all very fine. The very rapid ebbing of the water towards low tide as we saw it, suggests the notion of an American river; the dun hills remind one who has never been among them, and knows them only from opinion, of something more poetical; and the appearance of little, comfortable Oban, with the feudal fragment of Dunolly, makes the traveller, even of two days, feel as if he had reached a haven of repose after a long and perilous voyage.

This is the gem of sea villages. A small bay locked in by hills; five little vessels sleeping on the quiet water; a crescent of white houses almost touching the sea, backed by a corresponding curve of cliff; the old tower of Dunolly at the end of the one horn, and high knolls at the end of the other; no manufactures, no trade, and scarcely any bustle, several strangers attracted by mere beauty and tranquillity; all this completes one’s idea, or rather one’s feeling, of a peaceful summer sea retreat. How gloriously the sun set behind the hills of Mull! and with what deep and ineffable peacefulness has the night gradually, and as if reluctantly, closed over the silver waters.

I half tremble to think that to-morrow is destined for the Sound of Mull in a steamer, in order to see lona and Staffa, by me for the first time. Hitherto my stomach has only been for the solid earth, and I am shabby enough to half wish for the apology of a storm.’

11 January 1841
‘I returned yesterday from holding the Glasgow Winter Circuit.

On Monday the 4th, my daughter Elizabeth, Miss Rosa Macbean, and I, went, amidst heavy snow and bitter cold, to my daughter Mrs. Stewart’s at the Manse of Erskine. I stayed there all night, and went next morning to breakfast at Moore Park, near Govan, where my colleague Lord Medwyn was, at his nephew’s, Charles Forbes, banker. We went from that, in procession, to Court.

There were 68 cases, of which 65 were tried, the other three being put off from absence of witnesses or of culprits. There were two cases which occupied a whole day from nine one morning till four next morning, yet, except one immaterial case which Medwyn remained to try to-day (Monday), the whole business was leisurely and patiently gone through on Saturday night, and I came home (still through snow and frost) yesterday.

Medwyn, though more of a monk in matters of religion or politics than any man I know, is an excellent, judicious, humane, practical judge, with great industry, and a deep sense of official duty. Though pious, and acquainted, by long administration of the affairs both of the innocent and the guilty poor, with the feelings of the lower orders when in distress, he agrees with me in the uselessness, if not the hurtfulness, of the judge preaching to every prisoner who is undergoing sentence.

We had three capital cases, a murder, a rape, and a robbery. But though each was as clearly proved as if the commission of the fact had been actually seen, and each was a very aggravated case of its kind, such is the prevailing aversion to capital punishment, that no verdict inferring such a punishment could be obtained, and these horrid culprits were only transported. It can’t be helped as yet, perhaps, but this want of sympathy between law and the public is very unseemly. The public is wrong.

We had also a bad case of bigamy, for which, according to our usage, we could only send the heartless, perfidious villain for one year to jail. This, till lately, was the English punishment also, but within these two years they have got a statute extending it to seven years transportation. I have already renewed my recommendation to the Lord Advocate (A. Rutherfurd) to try to pass such an Act for Scotland.’

15 September 1849

‘The Inverness criminal business was finished on Thursday night.

But I must not forget the mail-coach. It was the one from Edinburgh to Inverness, by the Highland road. It was due at Inverness about nine or ten on Wednesday night, but was upset on the north side of Moy into a swollen stream, and the whole insides were very nearly drowned. They had, after being saved, to shiver, in their drenched garments, and without fire, though in a sort of mud toll-house, for six or seven hours, after which they were got on. Mr. Aitken, the Clerk of Court, and two counsel, were three of the drooked. The clerk’s papers all went down the stream, but were recovered, though well steeped.

The only thing memorable in our business was a case of rioting, deforcement, etc., charged against four poor respect- able men, who had been active in resisting a Highland clearing in North Uist. The popular feeling is so strong against these (as I think necessary, but) odious operations, that I was afraid of an acquittal, which would have been unjust and mischievous. On the other hand even the law has no sympathy with the exercise of legal rights in a cruel way. The jury solved the difficulty by first convicting, by a majority, and then giving this written, and therefore well-considered, recommendation,

“The jury unanimously recommend the pannels to the utmost leniency and mercy of the Court, in consideration of the cruel, though it may be legal, proceedings adopted in ejecting the whole people of Solas from their houses and crops, without the prospect of shelter or a footing in their fatherland, or even the means of expatriating them to a foreign one,” a statement that will ring all over the country.

We shall not soon cease to hear of this calm and judicial censure of incredible but proved facts. For it was established (1) that warrants of ejectment, that is, of dismantling hovels, had been issued against about sixty tenants, being nearly the whole tenantry in the district of Solas, comprehending probably three hundred persons, warrants which the agents of Lord Macdonald had certainly a right to demand, and the Sheriff was bound to grant; (2) that the people had sown, and were entitled to reap their crops; (3) that there were no houses provided for them to take shelter in, no poor house, no ship. They had nothing but the bare ground, or rather the hard, wet beach, to lie down upon. It was said, or rather insinuated, that “arrangements” had been made for them, and in particular that a ship was to have been soon on the coast. But, in the meantime, the peoples’ hereditary roofs were to be pulled down, and the mother and her children had only the shore to sleep on, fireless, foodless, hopeless. Resistance was surely not unnatural, and it was very slight. No life was taken, or blood lost. It was a mere noisy and threatening deforcement.

I am sorry for Lord Macdonald, whose name, he being the landlord, was used, but who personally was quite innocent. He was in the hands of his creditors, and they of their doer, a Mr. Cooper, their factor. But his lordship will get all the abuse.

The slightness of the punishment, four months’ imprisonment, will probably abate the public fury.’

22 September 1849
‘The Aberdeen criminal business exhausted four days, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and yesterday. There were not more cases than usual; but they happened to be of a worse description. In particular, there were four capital cases, viz. two murders, one murder combined with raptus, and one raptus alone. One of the murders ended in an acquittal, and very properly, because though the guilt was certain and savage, the evidence was not satisfactory. In another murder, a plea of culpable homicide produced twenty years’ transportation. The simple raptus ended in a conviction, and in transportation for life. The murder and raptus combined caused a sentence of death. This last was a horrid case.

The prisoner was James Robb, a country labourer of about twenty-five, a known reprobate, and stout. His victim was Mary Smith, a quiet woman of sixty-two, never married, or a mother, who lived by herself in a lonely house by the wayside. There was a fair held at a village in Aberdeenshire called Badenscoth, which sometimes, though in no eminent degree, produced some of the disorderly scenes natural to fairs.

Mary Smith, though not the least alarmed, happened to observe casually that “she was not afraid of anybody, except that lad Jamie Robb.” That very night Robb left the fair (9th April 1849) about ten, avowing that he was determined to gratify his passion on somebody before he slept. He had then no thought of this old woman; but, unfortunately, her house lay in his way. He asked admittance, upon pretence of lighting his pipe. She refused. On this he got upon the roof and went down the chimney, which consisted of a square wooden box about 5 feet long by 2 and a half wide, placed about 8 feet above the fire. Its soot was streaked by his corduroy dress, which helped to identify him. Having got in, the beast fell upon its prey. She was thought in good health, but after death was discovered to have an incipient disease in the heart, which agitation made dangerous, but which might have lain long dormant. The violence of the brute, and the alarm, proved fatal. She was found dead in the morning, and the bed broken, and in the utmost confusion. A remarkable composite metal button, broken from its eye, was found twisted in what the witness called “a lurk,” or fold, of the sheet. Buttons of exactly the same kind, and with the same words and figures engraved on them, were found on his jacket, all complete except that one was awanting. But its eye remained; and this eye, with its bright recent fracture, exactly fitted the part of the button that had been found. These circumstances would have been sufficient to have established his having been in the house. But his declaration admitted the fact. Consent was excluded by its being obvious that it was the energy of her resistance that had killed her.

It is difficult to drive the horrors of that scene out of one’s imagination. The solitary old woman in the solitary house, the descent through the chimney, the beastly attack, the death struggle, all that was ‘going on within this lonely room, amidst silent fields, and under a still, dark sky. It is a fragment of hell, which it is both difficult to endure and to quit.

Yet a jury, though clear of both crimes, recommended the brute to mercy! because he did not intend to commit the murder! Neither does the highwayman, who only means to wound, in order to get the purse, but kills.

Within a few hours after he was convicted he confessed, and explained that the poor woman had died in his very grip. (He was executed, solemnly denying his guilt, quoad raptus!) [. . .]

The Queen is living at Balmoral, and therefore I expected to be obstructed by some of the usual bustle of royalty. But it is reputable for the royalty of this nation that, except by a paltry flag set up before his door by the inn-keeper of Ballater, there was not a vestige of Majesty in any part of the strath. We did not encounter a single carriage, nor a single rider, nor one soldier, nor a police officer, nor anything to mark a distinguished presence. The inns were rather less crowded than usual, the post-horses as fresh, the strath as natural. The sheep, the stots, and even the barelegged children, all went off exactly as before. Balmoral itself was silent; flagless; apparently un-guarded; calm; beautiful. I think this very respectable in her Majesty and family. It seems to show sense and taste. And the fact that such enjoyment of such virtuous pleasures is not merely possible, but easy and habitual, demonstrates how deep the monarchical principle is in the mind of the country, and how much better it is promoted by rational conduct, than by the common follies of royalty.’

The Diary Junction

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Newes from Cambridge

John Rous, an unremarkable parson from Suffolk, was baptised all of 430 years ago today, and is only remembered because of a diary he kept and which was published in the mid-19th century. This diary, though telling us very little about the man himself, is full of news about the world beyond, and of a variety of skits and satirical verses.

John was baptised on 20 April 1584 at Hessett, Suffolk, son of Anthony Rous, rector of Hessett, and his first wife, Margery. John Rous was admitted a pensioner of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1598, and studied through to an MA in 1607. That same year he was ordained at Norwich. From 1600, Anthony Rous was rector of Weeting, and John served as his assistant from then until his father’s death in 1631.

John Rous married Susanna around 1615, and they had three daughters. When she died, he married Hannah, and had at least two more daughters. From 1623, he had his own living in the small village of Santon Downham, close by Weeting, but after the death of his father went to live in the nearby town of Brandon. John travelled to London occasionally, and possibly - though this is disputed - as far as Geneva once. He probably served as a justice of the peace for a period. He died in 1644.

John Rous is only known of today because of a diary he wrote. It survived through to the middle of the 19th century when it was edited by Mary Anne Everett Green and published (in 1856) by the Camden Society as Diary of John Rous, incumbent of Santon Downham, Suffolk, from 1625 to 1642. It is freely available at Internet Archive.

Much of Rous’s diary concerns public events, both national and local - proclamations, petitions, trials and military and foreign events. There is almost nothing by way of information about his own personal life (except in the book’s introduction), but, unusually, there are large number of verses, skits and satirical rhymes, which he seems to have written into his diary as a kind of record of the times he was living in.

13 June 1631
‘Anthony Rous, my father, of All Saints in Weeting, parson, from June 1600, died.

That day at night, Sir Martin Stutvill, of Dalham, comming from the Sessions at Bury, with Sir George le Hunt, went into the Angell. and there being mery in a chayer, either readie to take tobacco, or having newly done it, (ut fertur) leaned backward with his head, and died immediatlie.’

18 July 1631
‘Were executed at Bury 13; whereof iij., a boy of 16 and ij. women, were executed for burning of Walderswicke, in Suffolk. The boy, upon his death, affirmed that his sister councelled, and the other woman (who was begotten with child by Nathan Browning of Dennington, before marriage,) gave him fire. They both affirmed themselves cleere. The sister confessed there, before Mr. Ward, her falte in standing excommunicate. The boy, they say, was borne at Wimondham, in the yeere of the fire there. Forty houses were burned, June 10, or thereabout, and 8 at a second time, July 3, being Sunday. After this it was discovered.

About this time were gone and going diverse voluntaries, gathered Marques up by the drumme, to goe with marques Hamilton to the helpe of the king of Swedeland, in the German warres.

Together with reporte of the king of Sweden’s besieging of Magdenburg, which Tilly [Count of Tilly who commanded the Catholic League’s forces in the Thirty Years’ War] had taken this summer and burnt, killing all without mercy, it was said, upon Sir Thomas Jermin’s worde that our agent in Poland had written thus to our King. The queen of Poland and her Jesuites and Priests made a greate triumph for Tillie’s taking of Magdenburg, erecting Calvin’s and Luther’s statues in ij. postes, which they burned with an hellish greate fire; but in returning, most of the Priests and Jesuites were killed by fier from heaven, and the queene stroken madde, and as is thought thereupon soone deade.’

14 October 1631
‘Newes from Cambridge that there was a greate fight betweene the king of Sweden with the duke of Saxony, and Tilly on the other side. Tilly was taken, and is deade [this is incorrect, he died the following year]; his whole army dispersed, &c. The king carried the duke among the slaine, and asked him how he liked of it. The duke said it was a sad spectacle. “Well,” said the king, “all this you are the cause of; for, if you had not stood neuter at the first, this had beene prevented.” Tilly bewailed his unfortunatenes, since, he cruelly massacred them of Magdenburgh, which he did at the emperor’s especiall command. [. . .]

Cambridge is wonderously reformed since the plague there; schollers frequent not the streetes and tavernes as before; but doe worse.’

12 December 1631
‘At night as is thought, some West-country packman that had sold all in Norfolk, returned by Thetford, and went towards Barton milles late; but the next morning three horses with pack saddles and two packes were found short of Elden a mile. These horses and packes are seised by the lord of Elden. Some thinke a man is murthered and robbed: some thinke that it a servant that is ridden away on the fourth horse with the mony. The packes were fish, either bought or trucked at Norwich or Yermouth.’

1 April 1633
‘Being Easter day. Doctor Buttes, vice-chancellor of Cambridge, and maister of Bennet Colledge, did hang himselfe. The King and Queene were at Cambridge but a while before; something gave occasion.’

The Diary Junction

Monday, April 14, 2014

The most barbarous murder

Sir John Reresby was born 380 years ago this very day. He inherited a baronetcy, and remained loyal to the Crown during the so-called Interregnum, staying mostly abroad, and, then, with the Restoration found favour with Charles II. As a Justice of the Peace, he oversaw criminal investigations, often reporting to the king. Indeed, Reresby’s interesting and historically-valuable diary, provides some thrilling accounts of these investigations, not least into the murder of Sir Thomas Thynne.

Reresby was born on 14 April 1634 at Thrybergh, Yorkshire. In 1646, he succeeded to the Baronetage upon the death of his father, and in 1652 was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge. However, because parliament had, since 1642, voided all honours conferred by Charles I, Cambridge would not acknowledge his baronetcy, and Reresby decided instead to study at Gray’s Inn. In 1654, he left on a Grand Tour and remained abroad for several years, during which time he managed to ingratiate himself into the English court in Paris. With the restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660, he returned to England, and established himself as a country gentleman at Thrybergh. He married Frances Browne in 1665 (they would have nine children), and the same year was appointed a sheriff.

Reresby became an MP for Aldborough in 1673, and subsequently involved himself in various committees, slowly earning respect for being discreet and for being faithful to the king and the church. In 1681, he was elected MP for York, but Parliament was soon dissolved. Later that year, after the dissolution, he was appointed justice of the peace for Middlesex and Westminster (and as such he supervised the investigation into the high profile murder of Sir Thomas Thynne). In 1682, he was appointed governor of York, and contributed to the king’s plan to remodel charters throughout the country.

Reresby was elected to the next parliament in 1685, but found himself conflicted between his loyalty to court and the new king, James II, and his commitments to York. Following the dissolution of that parliament he returned to York, but was ousted during the so-called Glorious Revolution, i.e. the overthrow of James II in 1688 by William of Orange and English parliamentarians. Having been taken prisoner in the seizure of York, he was allowed to retire to Thrybergh, where he died in 1689. Further biographical details can be found at Wikipedia, on the Rotherham website, or the History of Parliament website.

Reresby’s diaries were first published in 1734 as The Memoirs of The Honourable Sir John Reresby, Bart. And laft Governor of York, Containing feveral Private and Remarkable Tranfactions From the Restoration to the Revolution Inclufively. This is freely available to read online at Internet Archive. Nearly a century and a half later, in 1875, his diaries were re-edited by James J Cartwright and published by Longmans, Green, and Co. as The Memoirs of Sir John Reresby. This is also available at Internet Archive. At least two more editions were published in the 20th century, one by Andrew Browning, and one a revision of Browning’s version, in 1991, by W. A. Speck and M. K. Geiter.

In addition to Reresby’s Memoirs, there is also The Travels and Memoirs of Sir John Reresby, ‘during the time of Cromwell’s usurpation’, first published in 1813. Although the Memoirs looks and reads as though it is a diary, the Travels and Memoirs reads more like a memoir, written in hindsight, than a diary.

The following extracts (several of which focus on Reresby’s investigation of the Thynne murder) are taken from Cartwright’s 1875 edition.

20 October 1681
‘His Majesty went to see a new ship launched at Deptford, in his barge. I waited upon him to the water side, where he seeing me called me into the barge. He that was named to be captain gave the King a great dinner, where his Majesty commanded all the gentlemen to sit down at the same table. He was very serious that day, and seemed more concerned than the greatest business did usually make him.’

23 October 1681
‘I dined with the Earl of Feversham, where we made a more than usual debauch.

That evening I met the King going to council, and desired him that a notorious robber, one Nevison, having broken the gaol at York and escaped, he would be pleased to grant a reward of 20l. to those that would apprehend him, and to make it known by issuing out a proclamation to that purpose. The truth was, he had committed several notorious robberies, and it was with great endeavours and trouble that I had got him apprehended at the first; and since his escape, he had threatened the death of several justices of the peace, wherever he met them (though I never heard that I was of the number). The king’s answer (my Lord Halifax being present) was this, that a proclamation would cost him 100l., but he would order 20l. to be paid by the sheriff of that county to him that took him, wherever it was; and that it should be published by the Gazette, which was the same thing. The rogue was taken not long after, and hanged at York.

I had begged of the King some money that I had discovered in the hands of a convicted papist, which belonged to my wife, her sister. My Lord Halifax spoke to my Lord Hyde, first Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, that dined there that day, to befriend me in the getting of it, which he promised me, for it might first be forfeited to the King, before I could pretend to it, and then only of the King’s gift.’

29 October 1681
‘A new lord mayor of London was chosen. The King being invited, did him the honour to dine with him at Guildhall. The show and dinner were very great and splendid. I dined that day at the table of my lord mayor.’

5 November 1681
‘I told the King the story of Sir Henry Goodricke, then ambassador in Spain, whom I called brother, of whom I had received a late account, that going out to shoot some miles from Madrid, in his return home he lighted upon some thieves that had set upon a coach full of ladies, with an intent to rob them; but before they could effect it, Sir Henry and his followers attacked them, wounded some and dispersed the rest, and rescued the ladies.’

12 February 1682
‘There happened the most barbarous murder that had taken place in England for some time. Mr. Thynne, a gentleman of 9,000l. a year - lately married to my lady Ogle, who, repenting of the match, had fled from him into Holland before they were bedded - was set upon by three ruffians, and shot to death as he was coming along the street in his coach. He being one deeply engaged in the Duke of Monmouth’s interest, it was much feared what construction might be made of it by that party - the authors escaping and not known. I was at Court that evening, when the King hearing the news, seemed much concerned at it, not only for the horror of the action itself, to which his good nature was very averse, but also apprehending the ill constructions which the anti-Court party might make of it.

At eleven o’clock the same night, as I was going into bed, Mr. Thynne’s gentleman came to me to grant a hue and cry and soon after the Duke of Monmouth’s page, to desire me to come to his master at Mr. Thynne’s lodging, sending his coach to fetch me. I found him surrounded with several gentlemen and lords, friends to Mr. Thynne, and Mr. Thynne mortally wounded by five bullets, which had entered his belly and side, shot from a blunderbuss. I granted immediately several warrants to search for persons suspected to be privy to the design, and that might give some intelligence of the parties that had acted that murder. At the last, by intelligence from a chairman that had the same afternoon conveyed one of the ruffians from his lodging in Westminster to take horse at the Black Bull, and by a woman that used to visit that gentleman, the constables found out his lodging in Westminster, and there took his man, a Swede, who being brought before me, at last confessed that he served a gentleman, a German captain, who had told him that he had a quarrel with Mr. Thynne, and had often appointed him to watch his coach as he passed by; and particularly, that day, so soon as the captain did know the coach was gone by, he had booted himself, and with two others - a Swedish lieutenant and a Polander - gone, as he supposed, in quest of Mr. Thynne on horseback. By this servant I further understood, where possibly the captain and his two friends might be found; and after having searched several houses with the Duke of Monmouth, Lord Mordaunt, and others, as he directed us, till six o’clock in the morning, having been in chase almost the whole night, I personally took the captain at the house of a Swedish doctor in Leicester Fields, I going first into the room, followed by my Lord Mordaunt. I found him in bed, and his sword at some distance from him upon the table, which I first seized, and afterwards his person, committing him to two constables. I wondered to see him yield up himself so tamely, being certainly a man of great courage, for he appeared unconcerned from the beginning, notwithstanding he was very certain to be found the chief actor in the tragedy. This gentleman had not long before commanded the forlorn hope at the siege of Mons, where only two besides himself, of fifty under his command, came off with life. For which the Prince of Orange made him a lieutenant in his guards, and the King of Sweden gave him afterwards a troop of horse.

Several persons suspected for accessories and the two accomplices - viz., the Swedish lieutenant and the Polander (whose names were Stern and Borosky, and the captain’s name Fratz) - were soon after taken by constables with my warrant, and brought to my house, where, before I could finish all the examinations, the King sent for me to attend him in Council, which was called on purpose for that occasion, with the prisoners and papers. His Majesty ordered me to inform him of my proceeding in that matter, both as to the way of the persons’ apprehension and their examinations, and then examined them himself, giving me orders at the rising of the Council to put what had been said there into writing and form, in order to the trial. This took me up a great part of the day, though I desired Mr. Bridgeman, one of the clerks of the Council and a justice of the peace, to assist me in that matter both for the dispatch and my security, the nicety of the thing requiring it, as will appear hereafter.’

15 February 1682
‘The Council meeting again, amongst other things to examine the governor to young Count Coningsmark, a young gentleman resident in Monsieur Faubert’s academy in London, supposed to be privy to the murder. The King sent for him to attend the Council, where he confessed that the eldest Count Coningsmark, who had been in England some months before, and had made addresses to my lady Ogle before she had married Mr. Thynne, had ten days before the murder come incognito into England, and lay disguised till it was committed. This gave great cause of suspicion that the said count was in the bottom of it. Whereupon his Majesty commanded me to go search his lodging, which I performed with two constables, but found he was gone, the day after the deed was done, betimes in the morning; of which I presently returned to give the King an account.

I several times after this attended the King, both privately and in Council, to inform him from time to time, as new matter did occur. Upon the whole we discovered, partly by the confession of the ruffians, and by the information of others, that captain Fratz had been eight years a companion and particular friend to Count Coningsmark, one of the greatest men in the kingdom of Sweden, his uncle being at that time governor of Pomerania, and near being married to that King’s aunt; that whilst he was here in England some months before, and had made addresses to the Lady Ogle, the only daughter and heiress to the Earl of Northumberland, married after to the now murdered Mr. Thynne, the said count had resented something done towards him as an affront from the said Mr. Thynne, and that the said captain, out of friendship to the Count (but as he then pretended hot with his privity), was resolved to be revenged of him. To which intent he, with the assistance of the said Stern and Borosky, had committed this so barbarous act, by obliging the latter to discharge a blunderbuss upon him in his coach, the others being present. I was glad to find in this whole affair that no English person nor interest was concerned, the fanatics having buzzed it already abroad that the design was chiefly against the Duke of Monmouth; and I had the King’s thanks oftener than once, my Lord Halifax’s also, and of several others, for my diligent discovery of the true cause and occasion as well as the authors of this matter. The truth is the Duke of Monmouth was gone out of the coach from Mr. Thynne an hour before; but I found, by the confession both of Stern and Borosky, that they were ordered not to shoot in case the Duke were with him in the coach.

It was much suspected all this while that Count Coningsmark was not yet oversea; and on the 20th he was found by the Duke of Monmouth’s servant disguised at Gravesend alone, coming out of a sculler, intending the next day to go aboard a Swedish ship. The King having notice, called an extraordinary Council to examine him that afternoon, at which I was present. He appeared before the King with all the assurance imaginable; was a fine gentleman of his person; his hair was the longest for a man’s I ever saw, for it came below his waist, and his parts were very quick. His examination before the King and Council was very superficial, but he was after that appointed the same day to be examined, by order of the King in Council, by the lord chief justice, Mr. Bridgeman, the Attorney-General, and myself. It was accordingly done, but he confessed nothing as to his being either privy or concerned in the murder, laying his lying here concealed upon the occasion of his taking physic for a disease, and therefore was unwilling to discover himself till he was cured; and his going away in a disguise after the fact was done, upon the advice of some friends, who told him that it would reflect on him were it known he was in England, when a person that was his friend was under so notorious a suspicion for committing so black a crime; and therefore did endeavour to get away, not knowing how far the laws of this land might for that very reason make him a party.’

10 March 1682
‘The captain and the other two, that were guilty of Mr. Thynne’s murder, were hanged in the same street where it was committed. The captain died without any expression of fear, or laying any guilt upon Count Coningsmark. Seeing me in my coach as he passed by in the cart to execution, he bowed to me with a steady look, as he did to those he knew amongst the spectators, before he was turned off; in fine, his whole carriage, from his first being apprehended till the last, relished more of gallantry than religion.

The part I had in the discovery and prosecution of this murder made me generally known in the new employment of justice of the peace for Middlesex and Westminster; and there happened another thing that assisted to it in some measure, which was the setting up of a manufacture of wool for the maintenance of the poor in St. Martin’s parish, which was very much oppressed with them before, and to which my endeavours did much contribute.’

5 April 1689
‘I received the unfortunate news of the death of my son George by the small-pox - a very beautiful, apt, understanding child. It was a great affliction to me; but God gives, and God takes, and blessed be the name of the Lord.’

11 April 1689
‘The day of the coronation of King William and Queen Mary, performed with great splendour according to the usual ceremonies. The procession to the Abbey of Westminster was very regular, but not attended by so many of the nobility as when the two last kings were crowned. The House of Commons were taken great care of in this solemnity, had a side of Westminster Hall prepared for them to see it, another place in the Abbey to see their Majesties crowned, and several tables prepared and covered with all sorts of meat, where they dined by themselves. Only some friends were admitted amongst them, and I amongst others, which gave me a good opportunity to see and observe all. The Bishop of London crowned the King and Queen, assisted by the Bishop of Salisbury (the late Doctor Burnet), who preached the coronation sermon, and by two others.’

14 April 1689
‘My birthday, I humbly thanked God for preserving me through so many dangers till the 55th year of my age, and begged of Him to lead the remainder of my life better than I had hitherto done.’

The Diary Junction

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The wonderful echo

Charles Burney, the much revered music historian and father of the famous diarist, Fanny Burney, died 200 years ago today. Although not known as a diarist himself, he did keep detailed diaries on two journeys through Europe while researching the history of music. Much of the detail in these diaries concerns, rather laboriously, matters only musical, but he does write about what he hears and sees with an exquisite precision - even when his subject is but a famous echo.

Burney was born at Shrewsbury, Shropshire, in 1726. He attended The King’s School in Chester, where his music master, a previous student of John Blow (see John Blow’s bad singing), was organist at the cathedral. On leaving the school, he was taught first by his half-brother and then apprenticed in London to Dr Thomas Arne. From 1746, the aristocrat Fulke Greville adopted Burney as a musical companion, but they parted when Greville wanted to go abroad, and Burney wanted to stay with his new love, Esther Sleepe, who he then married (in 1749). Left otherwise without funds, he won an appointment as organist of St Dionis-Backchurch, Fenchurch Street.

In 1751, Burney went to Lynn Regis in Norfolk, where he was again elected organist, taught music students, and lived for nine years. During that time he began to entertain the idea of writing a general history of music. In 1760, he returned to London with a young family (his daughter Fanny would go on to become one of the most famous diarists of the age), but his wife Esther died soon after. In 1769 he married Mrs Stephen Allen of Lynn.

Burney published concertos for harpsichord which were much admired, and, in 1766, he produced, at Drury Lane, a translation and adaptation of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s opera Le Devin du village, under the title of The Cunning Man. In 1770, Burney left London to travel in Europe to collect material for a history of music; and he undertook a second Continental journey in 1772. The first volume of his history appeared in 1776, with further volumes appearing in 1782 and 1789. In between, he continued teaching, he finished other notable musical and written works, and contributed many articles to Ree’s Cyclopaedia. In 1783, he was appointed organist to the chapel at Chelsea Hospital, where he lived, and then died on 12 April 1814. For more biographical information see The Burney Centre hosted by McGill University, Westminster Abbey’s website, or Wikipedia.

After each trip to the Continent, Burney published a book of his travels made up largely of the journal he had kept on route. The first of these, published by T. Becket & Co, came out in 1771: The Present State of Music in France and Italy or The Journal of a Tour through those Countries, undertaken to collect Materials for a General History of Music. This is freely available online at Internet Archive. His record of the second tour, published also by T. Becket & Co, came out in 1773, with a similar title: The Present State of Music in Germany, the Netherlands and United Provinces. This is also available at Internet Archive.

One hundred and fifty years later, Cedric Howard Glover revisited Burney’s journals, and, in 1927, Blackie & Son published Dr. Charles Burney’s Continental Travels 1770-1772. In this volume, however, Burney’s actual diary entries are merged into a general text composed by Glover. He explains, in his introduction, his decision to revisit and re-edit the journals:

‘The primary object of Dr. Burney’s travels was the acquisition of material for the General History of Music which it was his ambition to compile, and his Journals are therefore mainly concerned with the results of his researches. However interesting to the public of his own day, there can be no question that the sections of his Journals devoted to purely musical matters are in the main responsible for the somewhat rapid decline in popular favour which his books experienced. Yet embedded in accounts of interviews with long forgotten musicians, we can still find plenty to delight and entertain us.

The Journals contain graphic descriptions of encounters with many of the notable figures in the literary and musical history of that time - Voltaire and Rousseau, Mozart and Gluck, Laura Bassi, the lady professor of Bologna, and Sir William Hamilton, antiquarian and collector. Few Englishmen had the luck to hear Frederick the Great play the flute at Potsdam, or to watch Henry, Cardinal York, the last of the Stuarts, say Vespers in Rome.

But it is not only the personal side of the Journals which arrests our attention. There is much to interest us in Dr. Burney’s adventures on the road. He gives us a striking picture of the devastation and misery caused by the Seven Years’ War, of his own discomforts on the journey by river on a log raft from Munich to Vienna, and of the villainy in general of postboys and innkeepers. Finally, there is the pleasure of watching the actions and reactions of an engaging personality. A man of his age, with no great complexity of character, Dr. Burney makes us share his pleasures even in the condescensions of the great. His insatiable curiosity is infectious; nothing is too trivial to enlist a sympathetic attention. [. . .]

The Journals have long played their part in the formation of musical history; the present volume sets out to win them the favour of a wider circle of readers than the musical lexicographers by bringing into prominence the many factors of varied interest contained in them; these, it is hoped, may prove a substantial contribution to the history of those remote days when Continental travelling required the courage and endurance now demanded of an Arctic explorer.’

Here, though, are several extracts from the original published journal of Burney’s travels in France and Italy. (At the time, an f-like s was still being used at the start of, or in the middle, of words).

13 June 1770
‘This morning I fpent in the library of the College Des Quatre nations, founded by cardinal Mazarin. It is a noble one. I confulted the catalogues, and found feveral of the books I wanted.

In the evening I heard two pieces performed at the Theatre Italien, in which the finging was the worft part. Though the modern French compofers hazard every thing that has been attempted by the Italians, yet it is ill executed, and fo ill underftood by the audience, that it makes no impreffion. Bravura fongs, or fongs of execution, are now attempted; but they are fo ill performed, that no one ufed to true Italian finging can like any thing but the words and action. One of thefe pieces was new, and meant as a comic opera, in all its modern French forms of Italian mufic, (that is, mufic compofed in the Italian ftyle) to French words. No recitative, all the dialogue and narrative part being fpoken. And this piece was as thoroughly d—d as ever piece was here. I ufed to imagine that a French audience durft not hifs to the degree I found they did upon this occafion. Indeed quite as much, mixt with horfe laughs, as ever I heard at Drury Lane, or Covent Garden. In fhort, it was condemned in all the Englifh forms, except breaking the benches and the actors heads; and the inceffant found of hifh inflead of hifs. The author of the words, luckily, or rather judicioufly, lay concealed; but the compofer, M. de St. Amant, was very much to be pitied, for a great deal of real good mufic was thrown away upon bad words, and upon an audience not at all difpofed, efpecially in the two laft acts (there were three) to hear anything fairly. But this mufic, though I thought it much fuperiour to the poetry it accompanied, was not without its defects; the modulation was too ftudied, fo much fo as to be unnatural, and always to difappoint the ear. The overture however was good mufic, full of found, harmony, elegant and pleafing melody, with many paffages of effect. The hautbois at this theatre is admirable; I hardly ever heard a more pleafing tone or manner of playing. Several of the fongs would have been admirable too; if they had been fung with the true Italian expreffion. But the French voice never comes further than from the throat; there is no voce di petto, no true portamento or direction of the voice, on any of the ftages. And though feveral of the fingers in this theatre are Italians, they are fo degenerated fince they came hither, that if I had not been affured of it, their performance would have convinced me of the contrary. The new piece had several movements in it very like what is heard at the ferious opera. (It muft be remembered that the whole was in verfe, and extremely ferious, except fome attempt at humour in Calliot’s part) which, however, did not prevent the audience from pronouncing it to be deteftable.’

14 June 1770
‘This being Fete Dieu or Corpus Chrifti Day, one of the greateft holidays in the whole year, I went to fee the proceffions, and to hear high mafs performed at Notre Dame. I had great difficulty to get thither. Coaches are not allowed to ftir till all the proceflions, with which the whole town fwarms, are over. The ftreets through which they are to pafs in the way to the churches, are all lined with tapestry; or, for want of that, with bed-curtains and old petticoats: I find the better fort of people, (les gens comme il faut) all go out of town on thefe days, to avoid the embarras of going to mafs, or the ennui of ftaying at home. Whenever the hoft ftops, which frequently happens, the priefts fing a pfalm, and all the people fall on their knees in the middle of the ftreet, whether dirty or clean. I readily complied with this ceremony rather than give offence or become remarkable. Indeed, when I went out, I determined to do as other people did, in the ftreets and church, otherwife I had no bufinefs there; fo that I found it incumbent on me to kneel down twenty times ere I reached Notre Dame. This I was the lefs hurt at, as I faw it quite general and many much better dreffed people than myfelf, almoft proftrated themfelves, while I only touched the ground with one knee. At length I reached the church, where I was likewife a conformift; though here I walked about frequently, as I faw others do, round the choir and in the great aifle. I made my remarks on the organ, organift, plain-chant, and motets. Though this was fo great a festival, the organ accompanied the choir but little. The chief ufe made of it, was to play over the chant before it was fung, all through the Pfalms. Upon enquiring of a young abbe, whom I took with me as a nomenclator, what this was called? C’eft prefer, ‘Tis profing, he faid. And it fhould feem as if our word profing came from this dull and heavy manner of recital. The organ is a good one, but when played full, the echo and reverberation were fo ftrong, that it was all confufion; however, on the choir organ and echo ftops I could hear every paffage distinctly. The organift has a neat and judicious way of touching the inftrument; but his paffages were very old fafhioned. Indeed what he played during the offertorio, which lafted fix or eight minutes, feemed too ftiff and regular for a voluntary. Several motets, or fervices, were performed by the choir, but accompanied oftener by the ferpent than organ: though, at my firft entrance into the French churches, I have frequently taken the ferpent for an organ; but foon found it had in its effect fomething better and fomething worfe than that inftrument. Thefe compofitions are much in the way of our old church fervices, full of fugues and imitation; more contrivance and labour than melody. I am more and more convinced every day, that what I before obferved concerning the adapting the Englifh words to the old canto fermo, by Tallis, at the Reformation, is true - and it feems to me that mufic, in our cathedral fervice, was lefs reformed than any other part of the liturgy.

At five o’clock I went to the Concert Spirituel, the only public amufement allowed on thefe great feftivals. It is a grand concert performed in the great hall of the Louvre, in which the vocal confifts of detached pieces of church mufic in Latin. I fhall name the feveral performances of this concert, and fairly fay what effect. each had upon myfelf, and upon the audience, as far as a ftander-by could difcover. . .’

21 July 1770
‘It did not feem foreign to my bufinefs in Italy to vifit the Palazzo Simonetto, a mile or two from Milan, to hear the famous echo, about which travellers have faid fo much, that I rather fufpected exaggeration. This is not the place to enter deeply into the doctrine of reverberation; I fhall referve the attempt for another work; as to the matter of fact, this echo is very wonderful. The Simonetto palace is near no other building; the country all around is a dead flat, and no mountains are nearer than thofe of Swifferland, which are upwards of thirty miles off. This palace is now uninhabited and in ruin, but has been pretty; the front is open, and fupported by very light double Ionic pillars, but the echo is only to be heard behind the houfe, which, next to the garden has two wings. [Illustration . . .]

Now, though it is natural to fuppofe that the oppofite wails reflect the found, it is not eafy to fay in what manner; as the form of the building is a very common one, and no other of the fame confruction, that I have ever heard of, produces the fame effects. I made experiments of all kinds, and in every fituation, with the voice, flow, quick; with a trumpet, which a fervant who was with me founded; with a piftol, and a mufquet, and always found agreeable to the doctrine of echos, that the more quick and violent the percuffion of the air, the more numerous were the repetitions; which, upon firing the mufquet, amounted to upwards of fifty, of which the ftrength feemed regularly to diminifh, and the diftance to become more remote. Such a mufical canon might be contrived for one fine voice here, according to father Kircher’s method, as would have all the eifect of two, three, and even four voices. One blow of a hammer produced a very good imitation of an ingenious and practifed footman’s knock at a London door, on a vifiting night. A fingle ha! became a long horfe-laugh; and a forced note, or a found overblown in tire trumpet, became the moft ridiculous and laughable noife imaginable.’

Monday, April 7, 2014

Elizabeth Freke’s misfortunes

‘I was in a most grievous rainy, wet day married without the knowledg or consent of my father or any friend in London.’ This is part of the first entry in an extraordinary diary - or more accurately a set of reminiscences - left behind by Elizabeth Freke, who died 300 years ago today. Her life - as recounted in the autobiographical writings - from the secret marriage onwards seems to have been unusually full of dispute and troubles, not only with her husband but many others besides. According to one reviewer of the published diary, ‘she wields her resentment like an iron ball swung round her head ready to let fly’.

Elizabeth was born in Wiltshire, the eldest daughter of Raufe Freke and Cicely, a cousin of the famous Nicolas Culpeper (who wrote the London Dispensatory). After her mother’s early death, she and her sisters were raised by her father and a maternal aunt. When 30, she eloped with her second cousin Percy to London. She had a child, a son, and then went to Ireland, where Percy’s father lived at Rathbarry in County Cork, leaving the boy with her father.

In subsequent years, Freke travelled back and forth, quarrelling with her husband, about money and about where they should live. And while her father kept providing her with funds, her husband kept spending them. Ultimately, her father bought her an estate at West Bilney, in Norfolk, which she managed to keep for herself, and to where she eventually retired after leaving Ireland for the last time. Percy came to Norfolk when he was ill, and died there, causing Elizabeth much stress. Later, she suffered from asthma and pleurisy, and died in Westminster on 7 April 1714 while visiting London. She was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Elizebeth Freke is only remembered today because of her autobiographical writings - recorded in two separate manuscripts - and the historical and social interest of those writings. Some of these were first edited by Mary Carbery and published in 1913, by the Journal of the Cork Historical & Archaeological Society, as Mrs. Elizabeth Freke Her Diary, 1671 to 1714. Although the term ‘diary’ was used - presumably because many of the autobiographical entries left by Freke were dated in diary format - it is clear from the content that the bulk of them were written much later on. Melosina Lenox-Conyngham included some of Freke’s so-called diary entries in her Diaries of Ireland (published by Lilliput Press, Dublin in 1998).

Much more recently, a US professor, Raymond Anselment, re-examined the Freke papers in the British library, and produced a more detailed and considered version of Freke’s literary legacy. This was published by Cambridge University Press in 2001 as The Remembrances of Elizabeth Freke, 1671–1714. Some pages can be read online at Googlebooks and at Amazon.

In his introduction, Anselment discusses the two manuscripts left behind by Freke, i.e. the two versions of her autobiographical writings, and how Carbery ‘cut, conflated, and rearranged’ them. Although he says that the composition of neither manuscript can be dated precisely, he does conclude that Freke began writing her remembrances in 1702, aged 60, ‘perhaps relying on earlier notes for the specific details of her first thirty years of marriage’. From then on, he also concludes, Freke’s increasingly substantial entries were written ‘fairly soon after the entry dates’.

‘In writing and then rewriting autobiographical remembrances recalling three decades of marriage and ensuing years of widowhood,’ the publisher’s blurb says, ‘Elizabeth Freke strikingly redefines the relationships among self, family, and patriarchy characteristic of early modern women’s autobiography. Suffering and sacrifice dominate an extensive ledger of disappointment and bitterness that reveals over time the complex emotions of a Norfolk gentry woman seeking significance and even vindication in her hardships and frustrations. [. . .] By making available both versions of the remembrances in their entirety, this new, multiple-text edition clarifies the refashioning inherent in each stage of writing and rewriting, recovering with unusual immediacy Freke’s late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century domestic world.’

Dr Amy Erickson, in a review of Anselment’s book for the Institute of Historical Research, says this: ‘Elizabeth Freke has the distinction among my autobiographical acquaintance of being the memoirist I would least like to meet. This is not because she was toothless, lame, blind and probably bald and, as she said in 1711, ‘a diseased criple with a rhumatisme and tisick confined to a chair for this eighteen months past’. It is because she wields her resentment like an iron ball swung round her head ready to let fly.’

And Erickson goes on to explain further: ‘These are not remembrances in the sense of reminiscences. They are not a record of family or piety or maternal devotion, as many early modern women’s memoirs might be categorised. They are explicitly ‘remembrances of my misfortuns ... since I were marryed’. The bitterness is directed primarily, but by no means exclusively, at her husband and son, and with good reason. Her sister, her cousin (who is her financial agent), her tenants, and the Bishop of Norwich also mistreat her to varying degrees. All of these relationships are described in terms of property - in relation to gifts (the cash value of which is always recorded), ingratitude or theft.’

Here are a few extracts from the early pages of The Remembrances of Elizabeth Freke, 1671–1714.

14 November 1671
‘I was privately married to Mr Percy Frek by Doctter Johnson in Coven Garden, my Lord Russells chaplain, in London, to my second cosine, eldest son to Captain Arthur Frek and grandson to Mr William Frek, the only brother of Sir Thomas Frek of Dorsettshiere, who was my grandfather, and his son Mr Ralph Frek my deer father. And my mother was Sir Thomas Cullpepers daughter of Hollingburne in Kentt; her name was Cicelia Cullpeper. Affter being six or 7 years engaged to Mr Percy Freke, I was in a most grievous rainy, wet day married without the knowledg or consent of my father or any friend in London, as above.’

26 July 1672
‘Being Thursday, I were again remarried by me deer father by Doctter Uttram att St Margaretts Church in Westminster by a licence att least four years in Mr Freks pocttett and in a grievous tempestuous, stormy day for wind as the above for raigne. I were given by me deer father, Ralph Frek, Esqr, and the eldest of his four daughters and the last married, being contracted to him by promise for five years before, butt unwilling to give my sisters any president of my misfortunes prognosticated to mee by the two tempestuous and dreadful days I were married on and which I looked on as fatal emblems to me. Eliza. Freke.’

26 August 1672
‘Mr Frek, Agust 26 coming over St James Parke about 12 a clock att night, challenged my lord of Roscomon either to fight him in St James Parke presently or to pay him down a thousand pounds my lord has long owed Mr Freke. Butt the 26 of Agust att three a clock in the morning ten men of the lifeguard came and fetched Mr Freke out of his bed from me and immediatly hurryed him to Whit Hall before Secretary Coventry, I nott knowing what itt was for more then words spoken. This was the begining of my troubles for my disobedience in marrying as I did. Eliz Freke’

4 March 1690
‘Mr Frek left me and went away again for Ireland, I nott knowing of itt above two days before, to endeavour the getting of his estat, tho given away by King James to Owen Maccarty. My Husband being then outtlawed for an absentee had all his estate of above 700 pounds a yeare with all his stock and good given away by the said kinge and his greatt house att Rathbarry burnt down by the Irish to preventt its being made a garrison, as itt had held outt on nine months for King Charls the First by Captaine Arthur Frek, my husbands father.’

30 March 1692
‘Mr Frek, haveing now left me to shifft for my selfe above two years, never lett me have any quiett butt commanded me to leave all my affairs att Billney and come over to Ireland. Wher, affter halfe a years concideration I forced my selfe to undertak againe a jorney to Ireland, and in order to itt wentt with my son and servants to London in my deer sister Nortons coach and left my house and goods in the care of Jams Wallbutt, then my servantt and affter my cheating tenant.’

The Diary Junction

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The King’s bathing habits

Charles Cavendish Fulke Greville was born two hundred and twenty years ago today. In memory of one of the greatest of 19th century political diarists, I am republishing here the whole of a chapter (Chapter 10) from my book Brighton in Diaries published by The History Press. (See also The Diary Review article about Charles’s brother Henry: I went with the queen.)

Of all the 19th century diarists who recorded public and political events, Charles Cavendish Fulke Greville, is probably the most important. Arthur Ponsonby, who wrote two learned reviews of English diaries in the 1920s, says that as a commentator on contemporary events he ‘holds a unique position’, for ‘he wrote history as it was in the making’. Other political and social diaries of the time ‘fade into insignificance when compared with his very full and detailed chronicle’. Indeed his early diaries, when published a decade after his death for the first time, caused an uproar. The Prime Minister at the time, Benjamin Disraeli, called them an outrage, and Queen Victoria, taking her cue from him, was indeed outraged - at the things written about her uncles many decades earlier.

Greville was born in 1794 into a branch of the family of the Earls of Warwick. Educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, he paged for King George III for a short while before working as a private secretary to Earl Bathurst. Then, for more than 35 years, he was Clerk to the Privy Council, a job which brought him into contact with many important people of the time. He was much liked, and maintained good relations with both Whigs and Tories, often being employed as a negotiator during ministerial changes. His interests extended from horse racing (he owned horses and managed the Duke of York’s stables for some years) to literature. In 1859, he resigned the clerkship of the council, and in 1865 he died.

Sympathetic and kind, grumpy and vain

Described as sympathetic, generous and a delightful companion, he was also said to bustle with kindness. Smooth and urbane, Greville’s features were marked by a long, pointed chin and a strong nose which led to him being given the nickname of ‘Punch’; though he was also known as the ‘Gruncher’, on account of being grumpy when troubled by an attack of gout or his growing deafness. He could be vain too. Benjamin Disraeli, writing to a friend in 1874, said: ‘I knew him intimately. He was the vainest being - I don’t limit myself to man - that ever existed; and I don’t forget Cicero and Lytton Bulwer [Edward Bulwer-Lytton - a very popular writer of the day, he who coined the epigram, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’]. Although he never married, one of his mistresses bore him a son who died as a young man journeying back from India.

Well known and well liked as he was while alive, Greville’s eminence today is entirely thanks to his diaries. Having always intended them for publication, Greville gave them to Henry Reeve, a Privy Council colleague. ‘The author of these Journals,’ Reeve says, ‘requested me, in January 1865, a few days before his death, to take charge of them with a view to publication at some future time. He left that time to my discretion, merely remarking that Memoirs of this kind ought not, in his opinion, to be locked up until they had lost their principal interest by the death of all those who had taken any part in the events they describe.’

The first three volumes of The Greville Memoirs - A Journal of the Reigns of King George IV and King William IV were published by Longmans, Green in 1874. And they caused a scandal. In Disraeli’s letter (the same one as mentioned above), he writes: ‘I have not seen Chas. Greville’s book, but have read a good deal of it. It is a social outrage. And committed by one who was always talking of what he called ‘perfect gentlemen.’ I don’t think he can figure now in that category.’ According to Queen Victoria’s biographer, Christopher Hibbbert, she wrote that she was ‘horrified and indignant at this dreadful and really scandalous book. Mr Greville’s indiscretion, indelicacy, ingratitude, betrayal of confidence and shameful disloyalty towards his Sovereign make it very important that the book should be severely censored and discredited,’ she wrote indignantly.

Five more volumes followed, in the 1880s, entitled The Greville Memoirs: A Journal of the Reign of Queen Victoria.

The gaudy splendour of the Pavilion

18 December 1821
‘I have not written anything for months. ‘Quante cose mi sono accadute!’ My progress was as follows, not very interesting: To Newmarket, Whersted, Eiddlesworth, Sprotborough, Euston, Elveden, Welbeck, Caversham, Nun Appleton, Welbeck, Burghley, and London. Nothing worth mentioning occurred at any of these places. Sprotborough was agreeable enough. The Grevilles, Montagu, Wilmot, and the Wortleys were there. I came to town, went to Brighton yesterday se’nnight for a Council. 

I was lodged in the Pavilion and dined with the King. The gaudy splendour of the place amused me for a little and then bored me. The dinner was cold and the evening dull beyond all dulness. They say the King is anxious that form and ceremony should be banished, and if so it only proves how impossible it is that form and ceremony should not always inhabit a palace. The rooms are not furnished for society, and, in fact, society cannot flourish without ease; and who can feel at ease who is under the eternal constraint which etiquette and respect impose?

The King was in good looks and good spirits, and after dinner cut his jokes with all the coarse merriment which is his characteristic. Lord Wellesley did not seem to like it, but of course he bowed and smiled like the rest. I saw nothing very particular in the King’s manner to Lady Conyngham. He sat by her on the couch almost the whole evening, playing at patience, and he took her in to dinner; but Madame de Lieven and Lady Cowper were there, and he seemed equally civil to all of them. I was curious to see the Pavilion and the life they lead there, and I now only hope I may never go there again, for the novelty is past, and I should be exposed to the whole weight of the bore of it without the stimulus of curiosity.’

The King’s bathing habits

19 August 1822
‘I went to Brighton on Saturday to see the Duke [of York - George IV’s brother and heir presumptive at the time]; returned to-day. The Pavilion is finished. The King has had a subterranean passage made from the house to the stables, which is said to have cost 3,000l or 5,000l; I forget which. There is also a bath in his apartment, with pipes to conduct water from the sea; these pipes cost 600l. The King has not taken a sea bath for sixteen years.’

I shot 376 rabbits

16 September 1829
‘Went to Brighton on Saturday last to pay Lady Jersey a visit and shoot at Firle. Jersey and I shot 376 rabbits, the greatest number that had ever been killed on the hills. The scenery is very fine - a range of downs looking on one side over the sea, and on the other over a wide extent of rich flat country. It is said that Firle is the oldest park in England. It belongs to Lord Gage.’

Heard at Brighton

‘I heard at Brighton for the first time of the Duke of Wellington’s prosecution of the ‘Morning Journal,’ which was announced by the paper itself in a paragraph quite as scurrilous as those for which it is attacked. It seems that he has long made up his mind to this measure, and that he thinks it is a duty incumbent on him, which I do not see, and it appears to me to be an act of great folly. He stands much too high, has performed too great actions, and the attacks on him were too vulgar and vague to be under the necessity of any such retaliatory measure as this, and he lowers his dignity by entering into a conflict with such an infamous paper, and appearing to care about its abuse. I think the Chancellor was right, and that he is wrong.

[In December 1829, the editors and proprietor of ‘Morning Journal’ were found guilty of libel on ministers and parliament and sentenced to a year in Newgate. The paper closed a few months later.]

There is a report that the King insists upon the Duke of Cumberland [another of George IV’s brothers] being Commander-in-Chief, and it is extraordinary how many people think that he will succeed in turning out the Duke. Lord Harrington died while I was at Brighton, and it is supposed that the Duke of Cumberland will try and get the Round Tower [part of Windsor Castle], but probably the King will not like to establish him so near himself. 

The King has nearly lost his eyesight, and is to be couched as soon as his eyes are in a proper state for the operation. He is in a great fright with his father’s fate before him, and indeed nothing is more probable than that he will become blind and mad too; he is already a little of both. It is now a question of appointing a Private Secretary, and [Sir William] Knighton, it is supposed, would be the man; but if he is to abstain from all business, there would seem to be no necessity for the appointment, as he will be as little able to do business with his Private Secretary as with his Minister.’

With tagrag and bobtail about him

19 January 1831
‘G[eorge] Lamb [politician and writer] said that the King [William IV] is supposed to be in a bad state of health, and this was confirmed to me by Keate the surgeon, who gave me to understand that he was going the way of both his brothers [George IV etc.]. He will be a great loss in these times; he knows his business, lets his Ministers do as they please, but expects to be informed of everything. He lives a strange life at Brighton, with tagrag and bobtail about him, and always open house. The Queen is a prude, and will not let the ladies come décolletées to her parties. George IV, who liked ample expanses of that sort, would not let them be covered.’

King, Queen, Princes, Princesses, bastards, and attendants 

14 December 1832, Brighton
‘Came here last Wednesday week; Council on the Monday for the dissolution [of Parliament]; place very full, bustling, gay, and amusing. I am staying in De Ros’s house with Alvanley; Chesterfields, Howes, Lievens, Cowpers, all at Brighton, and plenty of occupation in visiting, gossiping, dawdling, riding, and driving; a very idle life, and impossible to do anything. The Court very active, vulgar, and hospitable; King, Queen, Princes, Princesses, bastards, and attendants constantly trotting about in every direction: the election noisy and dull - the Court candidate beaten and two Radicals elected. Everybody talking of the siege of Antwerp and the elections. So, with plenty of animation, and discussion, and curiosity, I like it very well. Lord Howe is devoted to the Queen, and never away from her. She receives his attentions, but demonstrates nothing in return; he is like a boy in love with this frightful spotted Majesty, while his delightful wife is laid up (with a sprained ancle and dislocated joint) on her couch.’

The prize-fighter John Gully comes good

17 December 1832, Brighton
‘On Sunday I heard Anderson preach. He does not write his sermons, but preaches from notes; very eloquent, voice and manner perfect, one of the best I ever heard, both preacher and reader.

The borough elections are nearly over, and have satisfied the Government. They do not seem to be bad on the whole; the metropolitans have sent good men enough, and there was no tumult in the town. At Hertford Buncombe was routed by Salisbury’s long purse. He hired such a numerous mob besides that he carried all before him. Some very bad characters have been returned; among the worst, Faithful here [George Faithful - a nonconformist preacher and attorney - was one of the first two MPs returned for Brighton after it was created a Parliamentary Constituency]; Gronow at Stafford; Gully, Pontefract; [. . .] 

Gully’s [John Gully - see also Chapter Seven] history is extraordinary. He was taken out of prison twenty-five or thirty years ago by Hellish to fight Pierce, surnamed the ‘Game Chicken,’ being then a butcher’s apprentice; he fought him and was beaten. He afterwards fought Belcher (I believe), and Gresson twice, and left the prizering with the reputation of being the best man in it. He then took to the turf, was successful, established himself at Newmarket, where he kept a hell, and began a system of corruption of trainers, jockeys, and boys, which put the secrets of all Newmarket at his disposal, and in a few years made him rich. 

At the same time he connected himself with Mr Watt in the north, by betting for him, and this being at the time when Watt’s stable was very successful, he won large sums of money by his horses. Having become rich he embarked in a great coal speculation, which answered beyond his hopes, and his shares soon yielded immense profits. His wife, who was a coarse, vulgar woman, in the meantime died, and he afterwards married the daughter of an innkeeper, who proved as gentlewomanlike as the other had been the reverse, and who is very pretty besides. He now gradually withdrew from the betting ring as a regular blackleg, still keeping horses, and betting occasionally in large sums, and about a year or two ago, having previously sold the Hare Park to Sir Mark Wood, where he lived for two or three years, he bought a property near Pontefract, and settled down (at Ackworth Park) as John Gully, Esq., a gentleman of fortune. [. . .]

When Parliament was about to be dissolved, he was again invited to stand for Pontefract by a numerous deputation; he again hesitated, but finally accepted; Lord Mexborough withdrew, and he was elected without opposition. In person he is tall and finely formed, full of strength and grace, with delicate hands and feet, his face coarse and with a bad expression, his head set well on his shoulders, and remarkably graceful and even dignified in his actions and manners; totally without education, he has strong sense, discretion, reserve, and a species of good taste which has prevented, in the height of his fortunes, his behaviour from ever transgressing the bounds of modesty and respect, and he has gradually separated himself from the rabble of bettors and blackguards of whom he was once the most conspicuous, and tacitly asserted his own independence and acquired gentility without ever presuming towards those whom he has been accustomed to regard with deference. His position is now more anomalous than ever, for a member of Parliament is a great man, though there appear no reasons why the suffrages of the blackguards of Pontefract should place him in different social relations towards us than those in which we mutually stood before.’

6 August 1835
‘Yesterday to Brighton, to see my horse Dacre run for the Brighton stake, which he won, and back at night.’

Mrs. Fitzherbert and her papers

31 March 1837
‘Among the many old people who have been cut off by this severe weather, one of the most remarkable is Mrs Fitzherbert, who died at Brighton at above eighty years of age. She was not a clever woman, but of a very noble spirit, disinterested, generous, honest, and affectionate, greatly beloved by her friends and relations, popular in the world, and treated with uniform distinction and respect by the Royal Family. The late King, who was a despicable creature, grudged her the allowance he was bound to make her, and he was always afraid lest she should make use of some of the documents in her possession to annoy or injure him. This mean and selfish apprehension led him to make various efforts to obtain possession of those the appearance of which he most dreaded, and among others, one remarkable attempt was made by Sir William Knighton some years ago.

Although a stranger to Mrs Fitzherbert, he called one day at her house, when she was ill in bed, insisted upon seeing her, and forced his way into her bedroom. She contrived (I forget how) to get rid of him without his getting anything out of her, but this domiciliary visit determined her to make a final disposition of all the papers she possessed, that in the event of her death no advantage might be taken of them either against her own memory or the interests of any other person. She accordingly selected those papers which she resolved to preserve, and which are supposed to be the documents and correspondence relating to her marriage with George IV, and made a packet of them which was deposited at her banker’s, and all other letters and papers she condemned to the flames. For this purpose she sent for the Duke of Wellington and Lord Albemarle, told them her determination, and in their presence had these papers burnt; she assured them, that everything was destroyed, and if after her death any pretended letters or documents were produced, they might give the most authoritative contradiction to their authenticity.’

The Diary Junction