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10 posts from November 2018

06 November 2018

Hogarth’s London in the 18th century Latin poetry of Benjamin Loveling

In 1738 an anonymous book of Latin and English poetry was published ‘by a Gentleman of Trinity College, Oxford’. Its author was Benjamin Loveling (1711-1750?), a clergyman, satirist and one-time rake, who documented his liaisons in the inns and brothels of 1720s and 30s Covent Garden and Drury Lane in Latin poems inspired by the Roman poets Horace and Ovid. Loveling’s poems primarily take the form of verse epistles addressed to a circle of male friends. They are often funny – and sexually explicit.

  Title page of book of Latin and English poetry published ‘by a Gentleman of Trinity College, Oxford’British Library, General Reference Collection 641.i.14. The title page motto is taken from Horace’s Epistles 1.14.36: nec Lusisse pudet, sed non incidere Ludum (‘there’s no shame in playing, but in not bringing an end to play’). Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

However, Loveling’s bawdy humour was not only at the expense of the sex workers of 18th century London. He also composed realistic and sympathetic depictions of prostitutes living in poverty, and Hogarthian social satire of the over-zealous moral reformers of the age. One such target was John Gonson, a notorious magistrate whose enthusiastic raids on brothels and harsh sentencing was satirised in William Hogarth’s A Harlot’s Progress (1731-2). Loveling addresses Gonson in his ode Ad Joannem G[on]s[o]num, Equitem (pp. 21-2):

  Extract from ode Ad Joannem G[on]s[o]num, Equitem Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Pellicum, G---s—ne, animosus hostis,
Per minus castas Druriae tabernas
Lenis incedens abeas Diones
                                                                     Aequus Alumnis.
Nuper (ah dictum miserum!) Olivera
Flevit ereptas viduata maechas,
Quas tuum vidit genibus minores
                                                                     Ante tribunal.
Dure, cur tanta in Veneris ministras
Aestuas ira?

(‘Gonson, fearless enemy of prostitutes, advancing on bawds throughout the less virtuous taverns of Drury, may you look kindly on the pupils of Dione [i.e. the mother of Venus] and be gone. Recently (ah it is wretched to say!) Oliver wept, bereft of her stolen whores, whom she saw on bended knees before your tribunal. Harsh man, why do you rage with such anger against the attendants of Venus?’)

He sympathetically represents the plight of the women affected by Gonson’s harsh punishments:

Nympha quae nuper nituit theatre
Nunc stat obscuro misera angiportu,
Supplici vellens tunicam rogatque
                                                                   Voce Lyaeum.

(‘The girl who recently shone in the theatre now stands wretched in a dark alley, and tearing at her dress she begs for wine [i.e. ‘the loosener’] with humble prayer.’)

With typically irreverent humour, Loveling ends the ode by suggesting that Gonson might change his mind if he were to experience the delights of brothel for himself, to be entertained by wine, or a ‘skilful prostitute’ (pellex … callida).

  Plate from A Harlot's Progress by HogarthPlate 3 of Hogarth’s A Harlot’s Progress, a series of 6 paintings depicting the decline of Moll Hackabout, an innocent country girl who is drawn into a life of prostitution in London. This image shows Gonson entering with bailiffs to arrest Moll.  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Why write in Latin in 18th century England? Loveling was certainly not unusual; most educated men of this period still wrote and read Latin. Given his subject matter the desire to restrict his readership to a select male audience – and obscure the identity of himself and his addresses – is obvious. He perhaps also intended to create an amusing contrast between his ‘low’ subject matter and carefully crafted Latin verse. But most of all Latin was a medium that implicitly excluded most women, and within a closed circle of male readers gave him relative freedom and privacy to give voice to the underworld of 18th century London.

How do we respond to the undoubtedly masculine – and potentially misogynistic – associations of these Latin poems today?

Sara Hale
AHRC Innovation Placement Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Manchester
British Library, Heritage Made Digital

Further reading:
Latin and English poems. By a Gentleman of Trinity College, Oxford, London, 1738 (British Library, General Reference Collection 641.i.14) [2nd ed. 1741]
See quotations from Loveling’s poems used to ‘illustrate’ Hogarth’s works in: Edmund Ferrers, Clavis Hogarthiana: or, Illustrations of Hogarth, London, 1817
And in: John Nichols, Biographical Anecdotes of William Hogarth, 3rd ed., London, 1785

British Library website on Georgian Britain 

 

01 November 2018

Souling on All Hallows’ Day

On the evening of Saturday 1 November 1873, a group of young men were drinking in the Blue Cap public house at Sandiway Head, Cheshire.  They could not have foreseen the dramatic turn of events that was about to unfold.

It was All Hallows’ Day.  In Cheshire there was a custom known as souling when groups would go about singing outside houses, receiving gifts of money or food.  Our young men left the Blue Cap about 11pm and began souling. 

Caricature of Henry Reginald CorbetHenry Reginald Corbet by Sir Leslie Ward published in Vanity Fair 20 October 1883 © National Portrait Gallery NPG D44143

At about 11.30pm they arrived at at Dale Ford, the house used as a hunting lodge by Henry Reginald Corbet, a Shropshire magistrate and master of the Cheshire Hounds.  They sang The gentlemen of England and rang the bell.  As nobody answered, they started another song, Now pray we for our country.  The bell was rung again.  There was movement inside, then Corbet and a number of others rushed out. Corbet was holding a shotgun.  Someone shouted ‘Go at them!’ and two of the soulers were knocked over, one suffering a broken tooth.  Thomas Hodgkinson protested that they were doing no harm, only souling.

The soulers made off down the long drive of the house as quickly as they could.  Corbet followed, telling them to stop.  He fired his gun, hitting John Tomlinson in the legs.  Some of the soulers stopped and returned with Corbet and Tomlinson to the house.  Their names were taken before they were allowed to leave. 

When Tomlinson arrived home, nineteen shots were found in his left calf and two in the right.  When Corbet heard about this, he visited Tomlinson, gave instructions for his own doctor to attend, and gave him £25.  However that was not the end of the matter.  Corbet was brought before magistrates, charged with unlawful and malicious wounding, grievous bodily harm, and common assault.

The trial attracted a good deal of interest and proceedings lasted seven and a half hours.  Several of the young soulers gave evidence.  In his defence, Corbet said that he had recently dismissed some stable hands who had threatened him.  When he heard noises he thought they had returned.  He had never heard of the custom of souling.  Although he admitted firing the gun, he said he did not take aim and only meant to frighten the visitors.

The jury decided their verdict in the space of twenty minutes – Corbet was found guilty of common assault.  This was greeted with a ripple of applause.  Mr Addison for the prosecution stated that he did not wish to press hard on a gentleman in Mr Corbet’s position.  The act for which he was convicted was a hasty one provoked by what he perceived to be howling outside his door.  The unpleasantness of having to stand in the dock was already a considerable punishment.

The magistrates decided that Corbet should pay a fine of £100, and enter into a recognisance of good behaviour for twelve months.  The case attracted considerable press coverage.  Some newspapers expressed the belief that Corbet had got off lightly: the Nottingham Journal contrasted the case with a man sent to prison for six weeks for pointing his gun at a pheasant.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive, for example Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press 15 November 1873, Cheshire Observer 29 November 1873, Nottingham Journal 2 December 1873.

 

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