Untold lives blog

32 posts categorized "Georgians-revealed"

22 August 2019

Are women more faithful than men? An Eighteenth-Century Couple Discuss the Differences between the Sexes

In two slim volumes of collected love letters recently catalogued by the British Library (Add MS 89402), a young couple in the mid-eighteenth century discuss their private lives, family news and, above all, their love for one another.  Written between 1758-1762, the couple’s initial correspondence display a certain caution and reveal the discreet nature of their courtship; but over time their letters become longer and more intimate, eventually detailing plans for their wedding.  Though purposefully kept anonymous, the correspondents have now been identified as Francis Smyth (1737-1809) and Mary Plumer (1741-1824).

Yet, whilst they were deeply in love, Mary and Francis did not always agree – especially when it came to the subject of male fidelity.

Cover of volume 2 of Francis Smyth and Mary Plumer’s love lettersCover of volume 2 of Francis Smyth and Mary Plumer’s love letters. Add MS 89402/2 Noc

In the spring of 1762, Francis and Mary discussed the differences between the sexes – particularly in relation to their faithfulness.  In a playful but sincere manner, the couple discussed the nature of courtship and cases of ‘jilting’, each mentioning friends who had sadly suffered heartbreak.  The exchange began after Francis detailed how a fellow student at Cambridge had been rejected by a woman who took a fancy to another man:
'I have much to tell you of my intimates in College, in the love way I have many stories but one I will tell you…a friend of mine has had a passion for a very pretty Lady for many years, & had the happiness of meeting with the kindest return to his Love. They had many meetings & were as much engaged to all appearance as two people could be…[but] about a week ago a new Lover offered, she accepted him, & discarded the old one without any concern, who is at present as unhappy as can be'.
    (Letter 25, F. Smyth to Mary Plumer, 31 March 1762)
 

Detail from a letter from Francis Smyth to Mary Plumer  31 March 1762Detail from a letter from Francis Smyth to Mary Plumer, 31 March 1762. Add MS 89402/2 Noc

Though sympathetic to this young man’s upset, Mary protested that men were more inclined to be “false” than women:
' I am sorry for your friend’s disappointment, & to hear that there are such Women in the world, but for one of our Sex that are false, there are thousands of yours'.
    (Letter 26, M. Plumer to F. Smyth, 2 April 1762)

Francis was dismayed by Mary’s generalisation about the unfaithfulness of men:
'I find we must still dispute! How could you blame the men as you do! to knock them down by thousands to one frail female is what I must resent!'
    (Letter 27, F. Smyth to Mary Plumer, 4 April 1762)

Yet Mary was unconvinced and remained sceptical:
'I find you are obliged to take up arms in defence of the thousand poor men I knocked down (as you term it) don’t you believe there are Male jilts as well as female? I cannot say I can complain of the inconstancy of your sex to myself…but I have felt for my friends…[and] I will have done with this disagreeable subject... '
    (Letter 28, M. Plumer to F. Smyth, 5 April 1762)

With that the matter ended.
  Detail from a letter from Mary Plumer to Francis Smyth  31 March 1762Detail from a letter from Mary Plumer to Francis Smyth, 31 March 1762. Add MS 89402/2 Noc

Despite having differences of opinion regarding the faithfulness of men, Mary and Francis remained loyal to each other and were married six months later at St. Martin’s in the Fields on 26 October 1762.

Their love letters can now be read in full at the British Library.

Violet Horlick
Kings College, London.

Further reading:
Sally Holloway, The Game of Love in Georgian England: Courtship, Emotions, and Material Culture (Oxford: OUP, 2019)

 

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’).

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

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. 

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 

 

19 September 2017

'I have made resolutions to be good': letters of Princess Charlotte to her tutor

Can you imagine the 19th century without Queen Victoria? If the young Princess Charlotte, only legitimate daughter of the Prince of Wales, had not died in childbirth in 1817, aged 21, she could have succeeded her father George IV to the throne in 1830 – and perhaps been quite a different sort of Queen.

Charlotte was the only child of an unhappy marriage between George, Prince of Wales, and Princess Caroline of Brunswick. Her parents lived apart for most of their marriage and fought constantly over their daughter, at the same time neglecting her in a way that would seem cruel today. George was determined Charlotte should never be alone with her mother. George and Caroline’s quarrels were public knowledge – the Prince instigated more than one investigation into his wife’s morals, while living openly with his mistress, and Princess Caroline’s own behaviour was less than discreet. The country took sides, and Charlotte became for many the focus of future hopes for the monarchy.

Expectations of the young Princess were high. Judging her education and training to be of some importance, her grandfather George III appointed John Fisher, later Bishop of Salisbury, as her ‘preceptor’ and the Reverend George Frederick Nott as ‘sub-preceptor’.  Nott was responsible for  religious instruction, Latin, English and ancient history.

  Etching of Charlotte as a young child
Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, by Marie Anne Bourlier, published by Edward Harding, after Sir Thomas Lawrence. Stipple engraving, published 19 May 1806. © National Portrait Gallery, London

The Library has recently acquired 31 letters from the young Princess Charlotte to Mr Nott, written between 1805 and 1808 when she was aged 9 to 12 (Papers of John Fisher, Bishop of Salisbury, Add MS 89259). Nott was a regular visitor to Warwick House, where Charlotte lived alone with her appointed carers. As the letters show, he was an important figure in the Princess’s life. The letters are signed affectionately; she enquires anxiously after his health; she even ‘wishes he were here’.

  Handwritten letter by a young Charlotte
'I wish you had been of the party': Charlotte’s description of Christmas Day in a letter dated 29 December 1805. Add MS 89259/2 © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

But things didn’t always go smoothly. Charlotte’s school work and behaviour often fell short. Contemporary accounts describe her as lively and rebellious. There are tales of her throwing the Bishop’s wig into the fireplace, standing behind him imitating his mannerisms, and getting up to mischief with her young playmate George Keppel. What’s more, writing and spelling were not her strong suit. Nott had many occasions to rebuke Charlotte, prompting pained expressions of contrition on her part.

Hnadwritten letter by Charlotte'I have made resolutions to be good'. Undated letter, around 1805-1806. Add MS 89259/2 © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Were these authentic expressions of remorse, or was the young Princess simply playing the game? She was sincere, she protested, time and again.

Another letter, this time apparently rushed and untidy
“It is not cant, but sincere words from my heart, I feel it”. Undated letter, around 1805-1806. Add MS 89259/2 © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Charlotte’s letters show a childish mixture of spontaneity (‘do, do forgive me my dear Mr Nott’), and amusingly formal turns of phrase (‘Feeling conscious my dear Mr Nott how much I must appear to deserve your reproaches for my long silence’, 26 August 1807). The same variety is seen in her handwriting – sometimes careful, at other times hastily scrawled and crossed out. As Charlotte’s epistolary style matures over the four years, we also see her best handwriting gradually evolve from round, carefully formed letters to a rapid, rather spidery hand.

These letters, in Charlotte’s own hand, breathe life into her story. She may never have excelled at ‘Lattin’, but the strength of feeling evident in the letters foreshadows the determination she would display a few years later, when steadfastly refusing to marry against her own inclination.

Tabitha Driver
Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Follow us on Twitter @BL_ModernMSS

Further reading:

Add MS 89259 Papers of John Fisher, Bishop of Salisbury, canon of St George’s Chapel Windsor, and superintendent of the education of Princess Charlotte, 1758-1849
Add MS 82586 Correspondence of Princess Charlotte with her tutor George Frederick Nott, 1805-1809 (transcripts). Papers of Lord Chancellor Eldon, volume 6
Add MS 58865, ff. 167-178v Papers of Lord Grenville concerning the education of Princess Charlotte, 1804-1806. Dropmore Papers, volume 11
Add MS 86491 Letters to Fisher, chiefly from or relating to Princess Charlotte Augusta, 1816, and undated. Fisher Correspondence. Vol. 3 

03 June 2016

‘My present dreadful situation’: The perils of fame as an 18th century actress

Shakespeare in Ten Acts, our major summer exhibition for this year, tells the story of 400 years of Shakespeare in performance.  We tell the stories not only of the best known and most successful actors of the day, but also those who struggled to make a living and today have fallen from memory.

I curated the part of the exhibition showing women on the stage, from the unnamed first professional female actor who played Desdemona in Othello on 8 December 1660, right through to genderblind and genderqueer casting in the last few years. 18th century female actors typically came from difficult backgrounds and went on the stage through a lack of social options, and were discarded by theatre managers and the public when they became a little older.

The Folger Shakespeare Library has generously loaned us a number of items of memorabilia relating to female actors in this period. The cult of celebrity around the performers meant that women were evidently clamouring for domestic items such as a decorative tile with Jane Lessingham as Ophelia in Hamlet ...

 Jane Lessingham as Ophelia in Hamlet

 Jane Lessingham as Ophelia in Hamlet © Folger 241098 ART (realia) (B2d). Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

 

...or a perfume bottle with Ann Barry as Constance in King John -

Perfume bottle with Ann Barry as Constance in King John

Perfume bottle with Ann Barry as Constance in King John - Items loaned  by the Folger Shakespeare Library

 

...or even an enamel medallion featuring George Anne Bellamy with David Garrick, as Romeo and Juliet -

  Enamel medallion featuring George Anne Bellamy with David Garrick, as Romeo and Juliet

David Garrick and George Anne Bellamy in Romeo and Juliet. Based on a painting by Benjamin Wilson engraved by Ravenet. Enamel, ca. 1765 © Folger Shakespeare Library


I found George Anne Bellamy’s story the saddest. She was a star of the Covent Garden stage, particularly successful in romantic roles. She was extremely popular with the public, and when a rival actress was cast as Cordelia in King Lear, Bellamy arranged for handbills to be distributed to the audience, stating that the part had been taken from her the previous night but that she would ‘be ready in case I should, that evening, be honoured with the preference'. The crowd cried in her favour and she was waiting in the wings to replace her humiliated rival.

This might seem like an unsisterly act, but the stage was a cut-throat business for women and the crowds could be very fickle. Indeed by her late thirties, Bellamy’s fame was beginning to fade and she was plagued by gambling and lifestyle debts. She had also had three illegitimate children.

I uncovered three poignant letters written by Bellamy amongst the private papers of Robert Clive at the British Library.

Letter written by Bellamy amongst the private papers of Robert Clive

India Office Private Papers Mss Eur G37/94/1   Noc


The letters date from summer 1767, when Clive had just returned from India for the final time. Bellamy, recently released from a debtor’s prison, wrote to him begging for money. In the first letter, she explains that  ‘My having had too liberal an education for my fortune, I was induced to come upon the stage where youth, adulation and my natural vivacity, as well as keeping too good company, led me into unpardonable follies’. She wrote two further letters in increasing desperation and concern that the letters had not been delivered properly.  On the back of each of the three letters, Clive or his secretary wrote the words ‘no reply’.

Most of these women are almost entirely forgotten today, while their male counterparts who acted with them – David Garrick or Spranger Barry – are still relatively well-known. It’s nice to be able to tell these women’s stories for a change.

Tanya Kirk
Co-curator, Shakespeare in Ten Acts  Cc-by

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur G37/94/1 & 2  Letters sent from George Anne Bellamy to Robert Clive 1767

 

More about our stunning Shakespeare exhibition and the programme of events

  Vivien Leigh as Titania

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

15 December 2015

'Seeing without being seen' – Bentham and the Panopticon prison

Since 2012, the British Library has been part of the Transcribe Bentham initiative, which gives volunteers the opportunity to explore and transcribe papers written by the British philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832).  Transcribe Bentham celebrated its fifth anniversary in September 2015 and volunteers have now transcribed a whopping 14,000 manuscripts!  We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our transcribers because their efforts feed directly into the work undertaken by the Bentham Project at University College London in preparing the new edition of Bentham’s Collected Works.  The British Library holds around 15,000 pages of material written by Bentham and his family members.  A new batch of this material has just been digitised and we hope that the following taster might inspire any interested newcomers to come and have a go at transcribing Bentham. 

  Img_1_UC cxix, f.125r
Panopticon plans (drawn by Willey Reveley), c. 1794-1795 (Image courtesy of UCL Special Collections, UC cxix, f. 125r)

 

Many of these freshly digitised papers concern the Panopticon prison, one of Bentham’s most infamous ideas.  Bentham argued that prisons should use an ingenious system of surveillance to encourage inmates to reform their behaviour.  The name Panopticon comes from the Greek  – ‘pan’ meaning ‘all’ and ‘opticon’ relating to the idea of seeing or observing.  As Bentham explained, ‘The essence of it consists then, in the centrality of the Inspector’s situation, combined with the well known and most effectual contrivances for seeing without being seen.  As to the general form of the building, the most commodious for most purposes seems to be the circular’.  An elaborate system of lights and screens would allow a centrally-positioned prison governor to see into each cell, without being seen himself.
 

Img_2_BL Add MS 33550, f. 158r
Jeremy Bentham, Draft of Panopticon, or the Inspection House, c. 1787 (British Library Add MS 33550 f. 158r) Noc

The unnerving possibility of being watched at all times would make prisoners more likely to keep out of mischief.  Bentham was so convinced by this idea that he also maintained that the Central Inspection principle could be similarly utilised in other institutions like workhouses, hospitals or schools.  Yet he did express some qualms as to ‘whether it would be advisable to apply such constant and unremitting pressure to the tender mind’.  These papers are draft versions of Panopticon, or the Inspection House, a pamphlet which Bentham published in 1791.  Comparing these drafts with the final published text should give us an insight into the evolution of Bentham’s philosophy.  These papers will also provide context to current research into Bentham’s criticisms of the method of transporting convicts to Australia as a form of punishment. 

Img_3_BL Add MS 33550, f. 201v
Jeremy Bentham, Draft of Panopticon, or the Inspection House, c. 1787 (British Library Add MS 33550 f. 201v) Noc

If the Panopticon has piqued your interest, visit Transcribe Bentham today to begin transcribing.  In addition to the Panopticon writings, the latest set of British Library papers contains some of Bentham’s writings on logic and his proposals for a legal code.  We are continuing to digitise new material and there are a large variety of other writings, from across Bentham’s long life, already available to transcribers.  You do not need any specialist skills or knowledge to participate, just a willingness to have a go!  The Transcribe Bentham website has lots of information to guide newcomers through the process of completing their first transcriptions.  We hope to see you there! 

Louise Seaward
Research Associate, Bentham Project, Faculty of Laws, University College London

Visit the Transcribe Bentham Transcription Desk today
Follow Transcribe Bentham on Twitter @TranscriBentham

Further reading:
Jeremy Bentham, Selected Writings, ed. by Stephen Engelmann (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011)
Janet Semple, Bentham’s Prison: A Study of the Panopticon Penitentiary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993)

 

27 October 2015

Captain Cook – Endeavour and Resolution

Captain James Cook was born in the village of Marton in the North Riding of Yorkshire on 27 October 1728. He began his career at sea working in the North Sea coal trade, but in 1755 he enlisted in the Royal Navy. During the Seven Years War he served as the Master on the Pembroke, discovering and developing his talent for surveying.

Cook Add MS 23920 f.2 Noc

Engraving of Captain James Cook, Add MS 23920 f.1r

The chart below was created by Cook in 1763. It shows the Islands of St Pierre and Miquelon just off the South Coast of Newfoundland.

   Cook Add MS 31360 f.21Noc
 Chart of the Islands of St Pierre and Miquelon, Add MS 31360 f.21

In 1767 Cook was appointed to command the Endeavour on a voyage commissioned by the Royal Society to observe the Transit of Venus from the island of Tahiti. On board were astronomer Charles Green and the wealthy naturalist Joseph Banks whose retinue included the artists Alexander Buchan and Sidney Parkinson (who both died on the voyage) and the naturalist Daniel Solander.

Sailing from Plymouth on 25 August 1768, Cook reached Tahiti on 13 April 1769. After successfully observing the Transit of Venus, Cook opened his secret instructions from the Admiralty which ordered him to search for the Great Southern Continent.  Having failed to find the continent Cook decided to investigate the land sighted by Abel Tasman in 1642, which Dutch cartographers had named New Zealand. The chart below was drawn by Cook and is accurate except for two mistakes: he charted Banks Peninsula as an island, and he charted Stewart Island as a Peninsula.

  Cook Add MS 7085 f.17Noc

Chart of New Zealand, Add MS 7085 f.17

Cook carried onto the Eastern Coast of Australia, the first sighting by Europeans. After carrying out a running survey of the East Coast, Cook returned to England. The voyage was received by the British public as a great success. However Cook had not given up on the idea of finding a Great Southern Continent and proposed a second voyage circumnavigating the globe from west to east as far south as possible.

Captain Cook sailed in the Resolution in company with Tobias Furneaux in the Adventure. Whilst attempting to locate the fabled Southern continent Cook and his officers accurately charted the islands in the Pacific they came across including Vanuatu as shown below. This chart is attributed to Midshipman John Elliott.

Cook Add MS 15500 f.17Noc

A plan of Vanuatu with 4 views, Add MS 15500 f.17

Cook was appointed to the Resolution again early in 1776 to locate the North West passage, accompanied by Captain Charles Clerke in the Discovery.  Having failed to discover the passage, Cook was forced to return to the Hawaiian Islands with a damaged ship. Relations with the local people were hostile and took a turn for the worse when the one of the Discovery’s cutters was stolen and Cook planned to take an Hawaiian Chief hostage. When he went ashore on 14 February 1779 he was met by a volatile crowd. In the ensuing altercation Cook and four of the marines were killed.

Cook Add MS 15513 f.29Noc

View at Waimea in the Hawaiian Islands by John Webber, Add MS 15513 f.29

The British Library holds a world renowned collection of the charts, artwork (ethnographic and landscapes) and logbooks from Cook's three voyages. We are pleased to announce that we are curating an exhibition based on these collections which will be held in summer 2018.

Laura Walker
Lead Curator Modern Archives & Manuscripts 1850-1950 Cc-by

Further reading:
More information on James Cook can be found at: Andrew C.F. David, 'James Cook', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
An account of the second voyage by John Elliott is held at the British Library Add MS 42714 ff.7-45.

 

21 October 2015

Trafalgar and the death of Nelson

Today, 21 October, marks the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, fought by the Royal Navy in 1805 under the command of Viscount Horatio Nelson against a superior combined force of French and Spanish ships commanded by the French Admiral Villeneuve. It was the most decisive naval battle of the Napoleonic Wars, confirming British naval supremacy and ensuring that Napoleon was unable to progress his plans for an invasion of Britain.

In a letter written just before the battle Nelson informed his mistress Emma Hamilton:

'…the signal has been made that the enemy's combined fleet are coming out of Port. We have very little wind, so that I have no hopes of seeing them before tomorrow. May the God of Battles crown my endeavours with success; at all events, I will take care that my name shall ever be most dear to you and Horatia, both of whom I love as much as my own life. And as my last writing before the Battle will be to you, so I hope in God that I shall live to finish my letter after the Battle'.

This was the last letter Nelson would write Emma.  

Nelson Egerton 1614, f.125

Horatio Nelson to Emma Hamilton, 19 Oct. 1805. British Library, Egerton MS 1614, f.125 Noc

 

Just before the two sides engaged at about noon on 21 October, Nelson sent round his famous flag signal: ‘England expects that every man will do his duty’. By 5pm the battle was virtually over with the British having captured seventeen prizes and burned another. Admiral Villeneuve was taken prisoner and taken back to Britain. Only eleven French ships escaped back to Cádiz and of those only five were considered seaworthy.

So comprehensive was the victory that Nelson’s unorthodox tactics have given rise to a great deal of controversy ever since, with some praising them as a masterpiece of naval strategy while others question how much control he had over his unusual plans. Nelson’s chief aim was to send the enemy into confusion. Twelve days before the Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson sent this memorandum to Admiral Collingwood: the British fleet was to be drawn up ‘in two lines of 16 ships each with an advanced squadron’. The intention was to ‘overpower from two or three ships ahead of the Commander-in-Chief’.  

  Nelson 2
Admiral Lord Nelson’s Battle of Trafalgar Memorandum, 9 Oct. 1805. British Library, Add MS 37953 Noc

 

The victory at Trafalgar came at the cost of many lives including that of Nelson who was hit by a musket-ball fired from the mast of the French ship Redoubtable. In severe pain, he died three hours later at 4.30 pm. His body was preserved in a barrel of brandy for the voyage home.

Celebration of the great victory at Trafalgar was heavily tempered with grief at the news of Nelson’s death. On 9 January 1806 he was interred in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral.  Huge, silent crowds lined the streets to watch the cortège go past. Even the captured French Admiral, Villeneuve, was present to pay his respects.  

Nelson 1 B20098-10

Lord Nelson’s Funeral Procession by Water, 8 January 1806. British Library, K.Top.27.46. Noc

 

Nelson's influence continued long after his death with great revivals of interest, especially during times of national crisis in Britain. Though it came at the cost of his life, his comprehensive victory over the Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar ensured his reputation as one of Britain’s greatest naval heroes for many centuries to come.   

Alexander Lock
Curator Modern Archives & Manuscripts 1851-1950 Cc-by

 

17 October 2015

The London Beer Flood 1814

On 17 October 1814 catastrophe struck at Meux’s Brewery on Tottenham Court Road London.  Eight people lost their lives when a vat full of beer burst, releasing 3,555 barrels of liquid.  The shock demolished the brick wall of the brew-house which was 25 feet high and 22 inches deep and caused a substantial part of the roof to fall in.  The cock of the adjoining vat was broken and the contents poured out, adding to the flood of beer. 

 

  Beer barrels Noc

A brewery in happier times – image taken from George Cruikshank, The House that Jack built ... (London, 1853) shelfmark 11647.g.15

 

Those who died were named as:
Eleanor Cooper aged 14, servant to Richard Hawes of the Tavistock Arms, Great Russell Street
Mary Mulvey, a married woman aged 30, and her son Thomas Murry aged 3 by a former husband
Hannah Banfield aged 4
Sarah Baten aged 3
Ann Saville aged 60
Elizabeth Smith, a married woman aged 27
Catherine Butler, a widow aged 65

Richard Hawes gave evidence at the coroner’s inquest held on Wednesday19 October that he was in the tap room of the Tavistock Arms at 5.30pm on the previous Monday when he heard a crash. The back part of his house was beaten in and everything in his cellar destroyed. Beer was pouring into his pub and across the street.  Eleanor Cooper was in the yard washing pots and her body was dug out from the ruins nearly three hours later. She was found standing by the water butt.

One little girl lost her mother, brother and grandmother in the accident.  They were buried and suffocated in the kitchen of a house in New Street adjacent to the brew-house. She escaped because she had just been given permission to go out to play in the street.

Others suffered serious injuries: the brewery superintendent and one of the labourers were taken to Middlesex Hospital and were reported to be ‘in a dangerous way’. The coroner’s jury returned a verdict that the victims had met with their deaths ‘casually, accidentally, and by misfortune’.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records Cc-by

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive - Nottingham Gazette 28 October 1814, Liverpool Mercury 28 October 1814

 

Image from The Life of the Buddha

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