Ben Miller

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The Greatest African American and Afro-American Martial Artists in History

In Bizarre and Unusual, Customs and Traditions, Edwardian Era, Middle Ages, Military, Renaissance on March 25, 2014 at 4:34 pm

By Ben Miller

When asked to recall a great martial artist of African descent born in the Americas, the average person is likely to mention a twentieth-century boxer such as Joe Louis, or a more recent exponent of the Asian martial arts, such as Jim Kelly. Or, those of the younger generation might name the modern mixed martial arts competitor Anderson Silva, regarded by some as the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time.

What many do not know is that in centuries past, some of the greatest practitioners of European martial arts were of African descent.

Although Africans brought a number of their own indigenous techniques with them to Europe and the Americas (as can be read about here), they also sometimes trained in, adopted, and excelled at European swordsmanship—also known as classical and historical fencing.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, it was even possible (albeit difficult) for a person of African descent to achieve renown to such a point that they would be revered, and even sought for instruction, by whites—and the historical record shows that such was the case for multiple individuals.

An early instance of one such person can be found as early as 1733, when the following advertisement appeared in a southern Colonial newspaper, informing the public about a runaway slave or indentured servant:

“Run away, from Mr. Alex. Vanderdussen’s Plantation at Goose-Creek, a Negro Man named Thomas Butler, the famous Pushing and Dancing Master.” – South-Carolina Gazette (Whitmarsh), May 19 to May 26, 1733.

In eighteenth century terminology, to “Push” was to launch an attack with the smallsword, a fact which confirms that Thomas Butler was a fencing master—and one who had achieved some degree of fame, at least on a local scale. Butler was apparently so esteemed that in July of 1734, his former master was impelled to post the following additional notice:

“Whereas Thomas Butler, Fencing Master, has been runaway these two years since, and has been entertained by several gentlemen about Ferry who pretend not to know that he had a master, this is therefore desired that they would not do the like in the future…” – South-Carolina Gazette, July 20, 1734

These passages are all the more remarkable when one considers that they are the earliest known reference to a fencing master in the American South—the next being Edward Blackwell, who in 1734 posthumously published his treatise on the art of fencing. Although not much else is known about Thomas Butler, the above passages prove that as early as the 1730s, it was not impossible to achieve fame and esteem as a black martial artist (and instructor) in white society. This article will profile three of the greatest such individuals—the Chevalier Saint Georges, Jean Louis-Michel, and Basile Croquere.

 

Historical Background

 
As early as the late middle ages, people of African descent began appearing in European treatises on swordsmanship and the martial arts, such as the books of Hans Talhoffer (1467) and Paulus Hector Mair (1542).

Above: A sickle fencer, clearly of African descent, pictured in Paulus Hector Mair's De arte athletica, published in Augsburg, Germany, ca 1542. Source: http://infinitemachine.tumblr.com/post/80881463031/medievalpoc-paulus-hector-mair-arte-de

Above: A sickle fencer, clearly of African descent, pictured in Paulus Hector Mair’s De arte athletica, published in Augsburg, Germany, ca 1542. Source: http://infinitemachine.tumblr.com

Later, in 1657, a highly detailed account of Africans practicing European swordsmanship was sent down by Richard Ligon:

Some of [the African servants], who have been bred up amongst the Portugals, have some extraordinary qualities, which the others have not; as singing and fencing. I have seen some of these Portugal Negres, at Colonel James Draxes, play at Rapier and Dagger very skillfully, with their Stookados [Stoccatos], their Imbrocados, and their Passes: And at single Rapier too, after the manner of Charanza [Carranza], with such comeliness; as, if the skill had been wanting, the motions would have pleased you; but they were skilful too, which I perceived by their binding with their points, and nimble and subtle avoidings with their bodies, and the advantages the strongest man had in the close , which the other avoided by the nimbleness and skillfulness of his motion. For, in this Science, I had bin so well vers’d in my youth, as I was now able to be a competent Judge. Upon their first appearance upon the Stage, they march towards one another, with a slow majestick pace, and a bold commanding look, as if they meant both to conquer and coming neer together, they shake hands, and embrace one another, with a cheerful look. But their retreat is much quicker then their advance, and, being at first distance, change their countenance, and put themselves into their postures and so after a pass or two, retire, and then to’t again: And when they have done their play, they embrace, shake hands, and putting on their smoother countenances, give their respect to their Master, and so go off.

- Richard Ligon, A true & exact history of the island of Barbados, 1657.

Ligon’s account provides evidence that despite their low social status, people of African descent living in the American colonies were sometimes allowed—even encouraged—to train with various weapons, including the rapier and dagger, and became skilled at multiple styles—including Italian rapier fencing, as well as the profound system of Spanish swordsmanship (La Verdadera Destreza) founded by Jerónimo de Carranza.

Colonists of African descent also undoubtedly learned from less savory channels such as piracy; an estimated one-third of pirates during this period were black, and in such company, knowledge of swordsmanship was paramount. The following passage, culled from Captain Johnson’s General History of the Pirates (1728), gives rise to the possibility that black members had access to sword instruction:

“[Pirate Captain] Misson took upon him the Command of 100 Negroes, who were well disciplin’d, (for every Morning they had been used to perform their Exercise, which was taught them by a French Serjeant, one of their Company, who belong’d to the [ship] Victoire)…”

During the early 18th century, an English fencing treatise entitled “The Art of Defence,” printed and sold by one “John King”, was published containing several plates in which black fencers demonstrated various fencing techniques:

Above: Illustration of a black fencer making a “disarm in cart. Source:www.truefork.org”

Above: Illustration of a black fencer making a “disarm in cart.” Source:www.truefork.org

Above: Illustration of a black fencer making a “pass in tierce with the knuckles up,” while checking the adversary’s blade with his unarmed hand. Source:www.truefork.org

Above: Illustration of a black fencer making a “pass in tierce with the knuckles up,” while checking the adversary’s blade with his unarmed hand. Source:www.truefork.org.

Although such illustrations were the exception rather than the rule, they provide further evidence that blacks could be regarded as potentially serious fencers. In fact, one such fencer—Julius Soubise (1754-1798), a freed Afro-Caribbean slave, was hired to be the personal fencing instructor to Catherine Hyde, the Duchess of Queensbury, and was sent to train under Domenico Angelo, one the most renowned European fencing masters.

Also at this time emerged one of one the greatest fencers of all time, who just happened to be of African descent.

 

The Chevalier Saint-Georges

 

Portrait of Saint-Georges. Source: Wikipedia

Portrait of Saint-Georges. Source: Wikipedia

Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745–1799) was born in Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean, the son of George Bologne de Saint-Georges, a wealthy planter, and an African slave named Nanon. Although his father also had many white children, he took a special liking to Joseph, and in 1753 took his son, age seven, to France, where he began his education in a variety of arts including fencing.

According to the son of the fencing master La Boëssière, “At 15 his [Saint-Georges’] progress was so rapid, that he was already beating the best swordsmen, and at 17 he developed the greatest speed imaginable.”

He was still a student when he publicly defeated Alexandre Picard, a renowned fencing-master in Rouen who had foolishly referred to Saint-Georges as “Boëssière’s mulatto.” Heny Angelo, son of the famous Domenico (and a highly reputed fencing master in his own right) often went to fence with Saint-Georges while in Paris, and wrote about him in his memoirs:

“No man ever united so much suppleness with so much strength. He excelled in all the bodily exercises in which he engaged…He was a skillful horseman and remarkable shot; he rarely missed his aim when his pistol was once before the mark…but the art in which he surpassed all his contemporaries and predecessors was fencing. No professor or amateur ever showed so much accuracy and quickness. His attacks were a perpetual series of hits; his [parry] was so close that it was in vain to attempt to touch him; in short, he was all nerve.”

Fencing Assault between Saint-Georges and D'Eon

Fencing Assault between Saint-Georges and D’Eon. Source: Wikipedia

Angelo also related some details about Saint-George in the following anecdote, regarding an episode wherein the two crossed blades:

“It may not be unworthy of remark that from his being much taller, and, consequently, possessing a greater length of lunge, I found that I could not depend upon my attacks unless I closed with him. The consequence was, upon my adopting that measure, the hit I gave him was so ‘palpable’ that it threw open his waistcoat, which so enraged him that, in his fury, I received a blow from the pommel of his foil on my chin, the mark of which I still retain. It may be remarked of that celebrated man that, although he might be considered as a lion with a foil in his hand, the contest over he was as docile as a lamb, for soon after the above engagement, when seated to rest himself, he said to me: ‘Mon cher ami, donnez-moi votre main; nous tirons tous les jours ensemble.’”

Although there are too many anecdotes about Saint-George’s prowess to recount here, one of the best comes from Alfred Hutton, and occurred in Dunkirk.

Saint-Georges was attending a party with a large number of ladies, when a Captain of the Hussars began boasting of his own skill in fencing—oblivious to the identity of Saint Georges. The latter calmly asked the captain, “That is interesting…but did you ever happen to meet with the celebrated Saint-Georges?” The Captain responded: “”Saint Georges? Oh yes; I have fenced with him many a time. But he is no good; I can touch him just when I please.” Whereupon Saint-Georges challenged the Captain to a bout at foils on the spot. Hutton’s account continues:

“The Captain, seeing that he is opposed to a man much older than himself, is inclined to treat him with contempt, when the veteran fencer calmly turns to the ladies and asks them to name the particular buttons on the gentleman’s coat which they would like him to touch. They select half a dozen or so.

The pair engage. The famous swordsman plays with his man for a few minutes for the benefit of his audience, and then proceeds to hit each of the named buttons in rapid succession, and finishes by sending the foil of his vainglorious enemy flying out of his hand, to the great delight of the ladies, and the discomfited Captain is so enraged that he wants to make the affair a serious one [a duel] there and then. His victorious opponent corrects him with: “Young gentlemen, such an encounter could have but one ending. Be advised; reserve your forces for the service of your country. Go, and you may at last tell your friends with truth that you have crossed foils with me. My name is Saint Georges.”

Saint-Georges also became a respected music composer, and became the instructor of Queen Marie Antoinette. In her diary, the Queen referred to Saint-Georges as her “favorite American.”

Sketch entitled "St. Georges and the Dragon," depicting Saint-Georges boxing

Sketch entitled “St. Georges and the Dragon,” depicting Saint-Georges boxing. Source: http://theprintshopwindow.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/a-truly-british-art-images-of-pugilism-in-georgian-caricature/

Not one to forget his African roots, Saint-Georges was also an ardent and active abolitionist, stating in public, “The slave trade is a barbarous practice and must be eliminated.” Saint-George’s activism drew the ire from many in the slave trade, who attempted to silence him with violence—attempts which were thwarted by the Chevalier’s considerable martial prowess:

“Early in July [1789], walking home from Greenwich, a man armed with a pistol demanded his purse. The Chevalier disarmed the man… but when four more rogues hidden until then attacked him, he put them all out of commission. M. de Saint Georges received only some contusions which did not keep him from going on that night to play music in the company of friends.”

The Journal General de France, on February 23, 1790, also reported that: “the Chevalier was peacefully walking to Greenwich one night where he was going to make music in a house where he was awaited when he was suddenly attacked by four men armed with pistols. Nevertheless he managed to drive them off with the help of his stick.”

Saint-Georges meets a rival fencing master who has challenged him to a duel, under L'arche Marion

Saint-Georges meets a rival fencing master who has challenged him to a duel, under L’arche Marion. Source: Source: Wikimedia Commons

Saint George also commanded, as colonel, the first all-black military regiment in Europe, a unit that came to be known as St. Georges’ Légion. Among its officers was a lieutenant colonel named Thomas Alexandre Dumas. The father of the famous novelist, Dumas would go on to become a general in Revolutionary France, and the highest-ranking person of color of all time in a continental European army.

General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, painted by Olivier Pichat. Source:http://s236.photobucket.com/user/DeeOlive/media/GeneralDumas_zps10105513.jpg.html

General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, painted by Olivier Pichat. Source:http://s236.photobucket.com/user/DeeOlive/media/GeneralDumas_zps10105513.jpg.html

Saint Georges was evidently looked upon by the French with great veneration, for a number of drawings and paintings of fencing salles show his famous portrait displayed upon the wall with considerable prominence:

Angelo's famous Salle d'Armes, displaying Saint-George's portrait

Angelo’s famous Salle d’Armes, displaying Saint-George’s portrait

Although Saint Georges passed away in 1799, his name and image is venerated among classical and historical fencers throughout the world.

 

Jean-Louis Michel

 

“The founder of the modern French school of swordsmanship, and the greatest swordsman of his century, was a mulatto of San Domingo, that famous Jean Louis, who in one terrible succession of duels, occupying only forty minutes, killed or disabled thirteen master-fencers of that Italian army pressed into service by Napoleon for his Peninsular campaign.” – Lafcadio Hearn, 1886

Jean-Louis was born in Haiti (then Saint-Domingue) in 1785, the son of a French fencing master. Later, he served as a soldier in Napoleon’s army.

His most famous exploit as a duelist was a regimental “mass” duel that took place near Madrid, Spain, in 1814. French soldiers from the 32nd Regiment and Italian soldiers from the 1st Regiment quarreled. Within 40 minutes, Jean-Louis killed or disabled thirteen Italian fencing masters in succession:

The regiments were assembled in a hollow square on a plain outside Madrid. At its center was a natural elevation forming a platform where, two at a time, 30 champions would duel for the honor of 10,000 men. As the premier fencing master of the 32d Regiment, Jean-Louis was the first up. His opponent was Giacomo Ferrari, a celebrated Florentine swordsman and fencing master of the First Regiment.

Drums rolled. The troops were ordered to parade rest, and as they slammed down the butts of their muskets in unison, the earth shook. Jean-Louis and Giacomo Ferrari stepped onto the fencing strip, each stripped to the waist to show that they wore nothing that would turn a thrust. An expectant silence filled the air as every eye was fixed on the two masters…

The fencing masters crossed swords and the bout began. Ferrari took the offensive, but Jean-Louis followed all his flourishes with a calm but intense attention; every time Ferrari tried to strike, his sword met steel. With a loud cry Ferrari jumped to the side and attempted an attack from below, but Jean-Louis parried the thrust and with a lightning riposte wounded Ferrari in the shoulder. “It is nothing, start the fight again!” cried Ferrari, getting back to his feet. Jean-Louis’ next thrust struck home, and Ferrari fell dead.

Jean-Louis wiped the blood from his blade, resumed his first position, and waited. His battle had only begun. The victor in each bout was to continue until he was injured or killed, and Jean-Louis still faced 14 swordsmen of the 1st Regiment, all of them eager to avenge their comrade.

Another adversary came at him. After a brief clash, Jean-Louis lunged and, while recovering, left his point in line. Rushing at him, his opponent was impaled. A second corpse lay at the French master’s feet.

His third opponent, a taller man, attacked fiercely, with jumps and feints, but Jean-Louis’ point disappeared into his chest, and he fell unconscious.

The next man approached. The regiments watched in fascinated silence. They were accustomed to the wholesale music of slaughter: the booming of artillery, the bursting of shells, the rattle of musketry, the clash of sabers. All are impressive, but none so keenly painful as the thin whisk of steel against steel as men engage in single combat. As one contemporary observer wrote, “it goes clean through the mind and makes the blood of the brain run cold.”

After 40 minutes only two Italian provosts were left awaiting their turn, pale but resolved. A truce was called, and the colonel of the 32d approached Jean-Louis.

“Maitre,” he said, “you have valiantly defended the regiment’s honor, and in the name of your comrades, and my name, I thank you sincerely. However, 13 consecutive duels have taken too much of your body stamina. Retire now, and if the provosts decide to finish the combat with their opponents, they will be free to do so.”

“No, no!” exploded Jean-Louis, “I shall not leave the post which has been assigned me by the confidence of the 32d Regiment. Here I shall remain, and here I shall fight as long as I can hold my weapon.” As he finished his statement he made a flourish with his sword, which cut one of his friends on the leg. “Ah,” cried Jean-Louis, distraught, “there has only been one man of the 32d wounded today, and it had to be by me.”

Seizing upon the incident, the colonel said, “This is a warning; there has been enough blood. All have fought bravely and reparation has been made. Do you trust my judgment in the matter of honor?” After Jean-Louis said he did, the colonel said there was nothing more to do but extend a hand to the 1st Regiment. Pointing to the two provosts who still waited, he said to Jean-Louis, “They cannot come to you!”

Jean-Louis dropped his sword, approached the two Italians, and clasped them by the hands. His regiment cheered, “Vive Jean-Louis! Vive the 32d Regiment!”

Jean-Louis added, “Vive the First! We are but one family! Vive l’armee!”

– Paul Kirchner, The Deadliest Men

Jean Louis’s fencing style would become a major influence on the French school of fencing, and he is credited with the saying—now famous among fencers—“A foil should be held as one holds a little bird; not so tightly as to crush it, but just enough to prevent it escaping from the hand.” He became sought out by members of the nobility for fencing instruction.

Jean-Louis retired from the army in 1849, at age sixty-five, and began teaching fencing permanently at his school in Montpellier. Later he came to denounce dueling. He instructed his daughter in the art of fencing, and she would go on to become one of his most accomplished disciples.

Arsene Vigeant, a famous writer on fencing, remarked of him “Jean-Louis’ face which appeared hard at first meeting, hid a soul of great goodness and generosity.”

 

Basile Croquère

 
During the nineteenth century, New Orleans came to be regarded by many as the dueling capitol of the western world. There, duels were fought more frequently than in any other American city. As to exact statistics, one nineteenth-century visitor noted that “in 1834 there were no less than 365 [duels], or one for every day in the year; 15 having been fought on one Sunday morning. In 1835 there were 102 duels fought in that city, betwixt the 1st of January and end of April.” In 1839, another resident noted “Thirteen Duels have been fought in and near the city during the week; five more were to take place this morning.” Most of these duels were said to have been fought by those of French Creole descent, however, in 1833 William Ladd noted that blacks “are taking it up [dueling]” in the city.

In fact, African Americans fought a large number of duels in Louisiana, which were reported throughout newspapers of the era. One example, published in April 1872 by the New York Times, noted that:

“Two young colored men fought a duel with small swords in New Orleans, on Tuesday, and one was slightly wounded in the breast. One is a son of an internal revenue assessor, and the other a son of a Custom-house official. The quarrel grew out of testimony given before the Congressional Investigating Committee.”

Due in part to this prolific dueling culture, the tradition of classical and historic fencing flourished in old New Orleans. From about 1830 until the Civil War, at least fifty maitre d’armes (masters of arms) operated fencing academies in Exchange Alley, from Canal to Conti between Royal and Bourbon Streets. Of these, the author has personally come across six New Orleans fencing masters of African ancestry. Among the most notable of these were “Black” Austin, a free black man, and Robert Severin, also of African ancestry—who fought at least one duel in the city, and served as a second in at least another.

The most renowned of these masters, however, was Basile Croquère.

Croquère, according to Lafcadio Hearn, was “the most remarkable colored swordsman of Louisiana.” For much of the last century, Croquère’s life has been shrouded in mystery, and what is known about him consists mostly of scraps of anecdotal information set down in local histories. What is certain is that he was born in New Orleans around 1800 to a white father and a mother of mixed African-European ancestry.

At a young age, Croquère took part in the War of 1812, and likely participated in the famous Battle of New Orleans (1815)—in which the Americans soundly expelled the British and effectively won the war. In 1879, Croquère was listed as a member of L’Association des Vétérans de 1814-15.

Like the famous St. Georges, Croquère was sent by his white father to be educated in Paris, where he obtained a degree in mathematics, and probably received some, if not most, of his fencing instruction. After completing his studies in France, Croquère returned to New Orleans, where he set up shop as both a fencing master and a staircase builder, in which profession he applied his mathematical knowledge to construct the “soaring, multidimensional staircases” which became the staple of antebellum southern mansions.

By all accounts, Croquère was one of the best masters-of-arms in New Orleans. As one author of the period recounted:

“Though the population could count a considerable number of these fencing experts and duelists, Basile Croquère was proclaimed their superior in all things…He employed his talent to train the youth, to give them the benefit of his skill and his knowledge in arms.”

In a city known as the fencing and dueling Mecca of North America, where men literally lived and died by the sword on a daily basis, this was high praise.

“Mr. Basile was an educated and respectable man; he knew how to estimate and consider by his character, his behavior and his distinguished manners.

It was not therefore strange that a man having these recommendable qualities should enjoy a certain credit among people of high society, in whom he cultivated an elite clientele…

As to his profession of arms, it is told that he could touch his opponent almost as though composing a ballad…He often said that his chest was a holy place: it was filled with air because, we are told, no adversary’s foil was ever able to touch it…”

John Augustin (1838-1888), a New Orleans poet, editor, and Confederate veteran, recounted that Croquère “was such a fine blade that many of the best Creole gentlemen did not hesitate, notwithstanding the strong prejudice against color, to frequent his salle d’armes, and even cross swords with him in private assaults.”

Although little is known about this extraordinary master, his legend continues to endure among New Orleans guidebooks and books about dueling. Although it would be presumptuous to declare him the greatest of African American martial artists, he was, by all accounts, an extraordinary person and a swordsman of the highest caliber.

Above: A duel under the famous "Dueling Oaks" in New Orleans' City Park.

Above: A duel under the famous “Dueling Oaks” in New Orleans’ City Park.

Further reading:

Fencing in Colonial America and the Early Republic

http://www.chevalierdesaintgeorge.com/bio_fulltext.html

Gabriel Banat, The Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Virtuoso of the Sword and the Bow

Reminiscences of Henry Angelo

Alfred Hutton, Sword & the Centuries

http://sworddueling.com/2010/03/08/jean-louis-michel/

Paul Kirchner, The Deadliest Men

Benjamin Truman, The Field of Honor

 

This article © 2015 by Ben Miller. All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Survival of Archaic English in the American Dialect

In Colonial (American) Period, Customs and Traditions, Everyday Life, Federalist Period, Georgian Era, Renaissance, Victorian Era on March 31, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Many people hold the common belief that modern English, as it is spoken today by the English themselves, is the “purest,” most uncorrupted form of the language. In other words, if one were to get in a time machine and travel back to 16th or 17th century England, the language one would hear would most closely resemble modern British English, as opposed to say, American English.

This is not, however, strictly true. For instance, when an American uses the slang term “bub” (a word long extinct in England), he or she is actually using a term that has its roots in Renaissance England. Numerous “archaic” words and phrases harking back several centuries survived in American English, only to become extinct in the British Isles. One reason for this is that American culture was mostly forged in the initial wave of immigrants that came between 1620 and 1640. H.L. Mencken explains:

Most of the colonists who lived along the American seaboard in 1750 were the descendants of immigrants who had come in fully a century before; after the first settlements there had been much less fresh immigration than many latter-day writers have assumed. According to Prescott F. Hall, “the population of New England … at the date of the Revolutionary War … was produced out of an immigration of about 20,000 persons who arrived before 1640,” and we have Franklin’s authority for the statement that the total population of the colonies in 1751, then about 1,000,000, had been produced from an original immigration of less than 80,000. Even at that early day, indeed, the colonists had begun to feel that they were distinctly separated, in culture and customs, from the mother-country…The result of this isolation, on the one hand, was that proliferation of the colonial speech which I have briefly reviewed, and on the other hand, the preservation of many words and phrases that gradually became obsolete in England.

Just what phrases survived in America, only to die out in England? Mencken provides a list:

A very large number of words and phrases, many of them now exclusively American, are similar survivals from the English of the seventeenth century, long since obsolete or merely provincial in England. Among nouns Thornton notes fox-fire, flap-jack, jeans, molasses, beef (to designate the live animal), chinch, cordwood, home-spun, ice-cream, julep and swingle-tree; Halliwell adds andiron, bay-window, cesspool, clodhopper, cross-purposes, greenhorn, loop-hole, ragamuffin and trash; and other authorities cite stock (for cattle), fall (for autumn), offal, din, underpinning and adze. Bub, used in addressing a boy, is very old English, but survives only in American. Flapjack goes back to Piers Plowman, but has been obsolete in England for two centuries. Muss, in the sense of a row, is also obsolete over there, but it is to be found in “Anthony and Cleopatra.” Char, as a noun, disappeared from English a long time ago, save in the compound, charwoman, but it survives in America as chore. Among the verbs similarly preserved are to whittle, to wilt and to approbate. To guess, in the American sense of to suppose, is to be found in “Henry VI”:

Not all together; better far, I guess,
That we do make our entrance several ways.

In “Measure for Measure” Escalus says “I guess not” to Angelo. The New English Dictionary offers examples much older—from Chaucer, Wycliffe and Gower. To interview is in Dekker. To loan, in the American sense of to lend, is in and Henry VIII, but it dropped out of use in England early in the eighteenth century, and all the leading dictionaries, both in English and American, now call it an Americanism. To fellowship, once in good American use but now reduced to a provincialism, is in Chaucer. Even to hustle, it appears, is ancient. Among adjectives, homely, which means only homelike or unadorned in England, was used in its American sense of plain-featured by both Shakespeare and Milton. Other such survivors are burly, catty-cornered, likely, deft, copious, scant and ornate. Perhaps clever also belongs to this category, that is, in the American sense of amiable.

Mencken concludes:

“Our ancestors,” said James Russell Lowell, “unhappily could bring over no English better than Shakespeare’s.” Shakespeare died in 1616; the Pilgrims landed four years later; Jamestown was founded in 1607. As we have seen, the colonists, saving a few superior leaders, were men of small sensitiveness to the refinements of life and speech: soldiers of fortune, amateur theologians, younger sons, neighbouhood “advanced thinkers,” bankrupts, jobless workmen, decayed gentry, and other such fugitives from culture…There were no grammarians in that day; there were no purists that anyone listened to; it was a case of saying your say in the easiest and most satisfying way. In remote parts of the United States there are still direct and almost pure-blooded descendants of those seventeenth century colonists. Go among them, and you will hear more words from the Shakespearean vocabulary, still alive and in common service, than anywhere else in the world, and more of the loose and brilliant syntax of that time, and more of its gipsy phrases.

Source:

Mencken, H.L. (Henry Louis), 1880–1956. The American language: An inquiry into the development of English in the United States, by H.L. Mencken. 2nd ed., rev. and enl. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1921.

Gang Warfare in 18th Century Boston

In Colonial (American) Period, Crime, Justice and Punishment, Customs and Traditions, Pirates, Rogues, and Gangs on February 16, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Pope Night in Boston

By Ben Miller

Anyone who thinks that New York City is a dangerous place now (or even was in the dreadful 1970s) needs only to take a look at the film Gangs of New York to get a little perspective, and realize that however bad things may seem at present, the rule of law and order in the American northeast has vastly improved over the last one hundred fifty years.

Boston, as it turns out, was the setting of equally sensational pitched battles between hordes of armed street-fighters—and much earlier so than New York.

During the eighteenth century, on November Fifth of each year, thousands of racially-diverse ruffians from Boston’s two most notorious gangs would fill the streets in celebration of Guy Fawkes’s foiled attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605 (popularly known as the Gunpowder Plot).

North EndSouth End

These were the North End and South End gangs, and their elaborate pageantry and ceremony must have been quite a spectacle to behold. Each had its own wagon and effigies, its own “officers,” “captains,” and “lieutenants.” Each had its own huge vehicle, varying from 20 to 40 feet long, 8 or 10 feet wide, and 5 or 6 feet high, from the lower to the upper platform. Their festivities exhibited a blatant, vitriolic anti-Catholic bias (Fawkes and his group had been Catholics trying to topple a Protestant government). Each year the respective gangs, dressed in masks, costumes, tricorns and pointed grenadier hats, would parade an effigy of the pope and one of the Devil, “clad in tar and feathers” on a large platform, which was carried by a crowd on a large platform surrounded by burning firecrackers. Small boys concealed below the platforms worked strings attached to the figures, which would “elevate and move around at proper intervals the movable head” as they were carried toward Boston Common. Some gang-members would blow horns and conch-shells known as “Pope-horns.” Every house along the route was required to contribute money “to the expense of the show.” If they did not, windows would be broken, or the house otherwise damaged. The procession would continue through the Common, past the state house, and would typically end on Cornhill or Copp’s Hill, where the effigies were consumed in giant bonfires—and the two mighty clans would engage in a violent contest of strength and arms.

South End Wagon

In 1745, a newspaper described one of these events:

Tuesday last being the Anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, two Popes were made and carried tho’ the Streets in the evening , one from the North, the other from the South End of the Town, attended by a vast number of negroes and white servants, armed with clubs, staves and cutlashes, who were very abusive to the Inhabitants, insulting the Persons and breaking the windows, &c., of such as did not give them money to their satisfaction, and even many of those who had given them liberally; and the two Popes meeting in Cornhill, their followers were so infatuated as to fall upon each other with the utmost Rage and Fury. Several were sorely wounded and bruised, some left for dead, and rendered incapable of any business for a long time to the great Loss and Damage of their respective Masters.

Another letter-writer recounted,

What a scandal and Infamy to a Protestant Mob, be it of the rudest and lowest Sailors out of Boston, or even the very negroes of the Town, to fall upon one another with Clubs and Cutlashes in a Rage and Fury which only Hell could inspire or the Devil broke loose from chains there could represent! …what madness must seize the two mobs, united Brethren, as they would appear against Popery, to fall upon each other, break one another’s Bones or dash one another’s Brains out?

North End Wagon

A 1755 account noted that “the Devil, the Pope, and the Pretender [Catholic King in exile], at night were carried about the city on a bier, their three effigies hideously formed, and as humorously contrived, the Devil standing close behind the Pope, seemingly paying his complements to him, with a three-pronged pitchfork in one hand, with which at times he was made to thrust his Holiness on the Back, and a lanthorn in the other, the young Pretender standing before the Pope, waiting his commands.” In later years these were sometimes accompanied by additional figures who had “incurred the indignation and hatred of the mob,” such as as Admiral Byng, Earl Bute, and Lord North. One period source notes that “ancillary devils and popes were drawn or carried by men and boys, as various in size as the men and boys who bore them; some even on shingles and bits of board.”

Pope Night Wagon

In 1764, outrage erupted after a young boy fell under the North End gang’s “pope-wagon” and died of a head injury. In his diary, John Rower recounts the incident as follows:

Nov. 5. A sorrowful accident happened this forenoon at the North End. the wheel of the carriage that the Pope was fixed on run over a Boy’s head & he died instantly. The Sheriff, Justices, Officers of the Militia were ordered to destroy both S° & North End Popes. In the afternoon they got the North End Pope pulled to pieces. they went to the S° End but could not Conquer upon which the South End people brought out their pope & went in Triumph to the Northward and at the Mill Bridge a Battle begun between the people of Both Parts of the Town. The North End people having repaired their pope, but the South End people got the Battle (many were hurt & bruised on both sides) & Brought away the North End pope & burnt Both of them at the Gallows on the Neck. Several thousand people following them, hallowing &c.

The next year, in an effort to dampen the violence, some of Boston’s political leaders persuaded the North End and South End “captains” to put aside the tradition of building “Pope-Night” wagons and fighting, and instead lead a march protesting the Stamp Act. Wealthy locals organized a feast at their own expense, and presented the two gang captains gifts of “red and blue uniforms, gold-laced hats, speaking trumpets, and rattan canes.” Two years later, the artist Pierre Eugène du Simitière visited Boston and drew a series of sketches, including this picture of the two new gang leaders, still sporting their rich uniforms, canes and trumpets:

Boston Gang Leaders

By the 1770s the South End gang consisted of two thousand men and was led by a Scottish-born shoemaker named Ebenezer MacIntosh, described as “slight of build, of sandy complexion and a nervous temperment.” The North End gang could boast of a similar number and was led by Samuel Swift, a Harvard-educated fifty-year old, who had originally studied for the clergy but had turned instead to law. Swift in particular had influential friends, including members of the Loyal Nine (forerunner of the Sons of Liberty) who tried to use the gangs to their advantage, leveraging them as muscle, and hence a threat, against British rule. In 1765 McIntosh was arrested after a mob of his men burnt loyalist Governor Hutchinson’s house to the ground, but was immediately released after the leading figures of the town intervened on his behalf. Such was the power and sway of the gangs.

The climactic battles of November Fifth were fought near Mill Creek, a dividing line between the gangs’ respective territories. The memoir of Isaiah Thomas describes the moments preceeding the initial onslaught:

Assembling about dusk, North end and South end under their respective leaders, processions were formed, the lanterns, great and small, lighted, and through a speaking trumpet the order was given to “move on.” With this the noise and tumult began, the blowing of conch shells, whistling through the fingers, beating with clubs the sides of the houses, cheering, huzzaing, swearing, and rising about all the din the cry “North end forever” or “South end forever.” The devils on the stages were not the only or chiefest proof that the underworld was let loose. The procession that first reached the Mill creek gave three cheers and rushed on to meet their foes. As they approached the strife began; clubs, stones, and brickbats were freely used, and though persons were not often killed, bruised shins, broken heads and bones, were not infrequent.

Samuel Breck, another participant, described the manner in which the ensuing battles were fought among the more juvenile gang-members:

Spokes were fixed in a large mast, on the top of which was placed a barrel of pitch or tar, always ready to be fired on the approach of the enemy. Around this pole I have fought many battles, as a South End boy, against the boys of the North End of the town; and bloody ones, too, with slings and stones very skilfully and earnestly used. In what a state of semi-barbarism did the rising generations of those days exist! From time immemorial these hostilities were carried on by the juvenile part of the community…nothing could check it. Was it a remnant of the pugilistic propensities of our British ancestors; or was it an untamed feeling arising from our sequestered and colonial situation?

Whichever gang won the annual battle would publicly anoint its captain “First Captain General of the Liberty Tree.”

Gang Boys
Above: young Boston gang members dressed in costume

During the 1760s, the arrival of British troops in Boston provided the gangs a common foe with which they could both satiate their blood-lust, and riotous acts against soldiers became a common feature of pre-Revolutionary Boston street life. In August 1770, Sgt. Thomas Thornley of the army’s 14th Regiment recounted to a local magistrate how on the previous 5th of November he had been

oblig’d to go through a large mob to the relief of the Sentries, the mob called him and his party Lobster scoundrels, what business had they there, & damn’d Governor [Francis] Bernard, the Commissioners, and the rest of the scoundrels of Ministers that ordered the Soldiers to Boston, on which he the Deponent was obliged to order his party to charge their bayonets to make way through the mob, all the while receiving a great deal of abusive language.

Ironically, despite the considerable efforts made by the gangs to help foment revolt against Great Britain, it was the American Revolution which eventually brought their celebrations to an end. Breck states that with respect to the battles and parades, “everything of the kind ceased with the termination of our Revolutionary War.” The anti-Catholic sentiment expressed on November 5th was, of course, contrary to professed American ideals of religious toleration. When Catholic France began to be seen as a potential ally in the war against the British, and large numbers of Catholics from Maryland and Pennsylvania began filling the ranks of the Continental Army, American leaders decided to vigorously discourage anti-Catholic displays. Thus came the orders of General George Washington:

At this juncture and under such circumstances, to be insulting [the Catholic] religion, is so monstrous as not to be suffered or excused; indeed, instead of offering the more remote insult, it is our duty to address public thanks to these our brethren, as to them we are indebted for every late happy success over the common enemy in Canada.

With this, Pope Night celebrations largely came to an end, and accounts of gang warfare in Boston dwindled. After Benedict Arnold’s defection to the British in 1780, crowds began replacing effigies of the Pope with those of Arnold, lending the processions a less religious and more patriotic air. During the 1790s, local newspapers occasionally printed complaints about “Anticks”—young rogues, possibly remnants of the old gangs, who visited houses around Christmas, performing traditional mummers’ plays and asking for money. Samuel Breck recalled

They were a set of the lowest blackguards, who, disguised in filthy clothes and ofttimes with masked faces, went from house to house in large companies, and, bon gré, mal gré, obtruding themselves everywhere, particularly into the rooms that were occupied by parties of ladies and gentlemen, would demand themselves with great insolence. I have seen them at my father’s, when his assembled friends were at cards, take possession of a table, seat themselves on rich furniture, and proceed to handle the cards, to the great annoyance of the company. The only way to get rid of them was to give them money, and listen patiently to a foolish dialogue between two or more of them. One of them would cry out: —

‘Ladies and gentlemen sitting by the fire,
Put your hands in your pockets and give us our desire.’

When this was done, and they had received some money, a kind of acting took place. One fellow was knocked down and lay sprawling on the carpet, while another bellowed out: —

‘See, there he lies!
But ere he dies,
A doctor must be had.’

He calls for a doctor, who soon appears, and enacts the part so well that the wounded man revives. In this way they would continue for half an hour; and it happened not unfrequently that the house would be filled by another gang when these had departed. There was no refusing admittance. Custom had licensed these vagabonds to enter even by force any place they chose.

Just what happened to the gang-members after this is a matter of conjecture, although we do know that, after the commencement of the Revolution, South End gang leader Ebenezer McIntosh fled British-held Boston with his two small children. After reaching American lines, he made his way on foot to North Haverhill, New Hampshire, where he remained, and died in 1812.

The writer and blogger J. L. Bell makes a good case that certain elements of Pope Night did not die out, but survived to be transformed into customs which were incorporated into another well-known American holiday. Namely, the act of dressing up in costume, lighting bonfires, and going door to door asking for coins. These traditions only needed to shift six days earlier–from November 5th to October 31st, which is, of course, Halloween.

Boy

Sources and Further Reading:

South end forever, North end forever. Extraordinary verses on Pope-night. or, A commemoration the fifth of November, giving a history of the attempt, made by the papishes, to blow up king and Parliament, A. D. 1588. Together with some account of the Pope himself, and his wife Joan: with several other things worthy of notice, too tedious to mention. Sold by the printers boys in Boston [1768].

Thomas, Isaiah, The history of printing in America, with a biography of printers, New York: Burt Franklin, 1874.

Pierce, Edward Lillie, Letters and diary of John Rowe, Boston merchant, 1759-1762, 1764-1779, Boston: W.B. Clarke, 1903.

Sons of the American Revolution, Minnesota Society Year Books. Minnesota Society, William Henry Grant, 1889-1895.

Bourne, Russell, Cradle of Violence: How Boston’s Waterfront Mobs Ignited the American Revolution. John Wiley & Sons, 2006.

Morgan, Edmund S. & Morgan, Helen M., The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1995.

Fradin, Dennis, Samuel Adams: The Father of American Independence, Clarion Books, New York, 1998.

Rothbard, Murray N., Conceived in Liberty, Vol III, Advance to Revolution, 1760-1775, Mises Institute, Auburn, Alabama, 1999.

http://display.5thofnovember.us/2007/10/bostons-gangs.html

http://boston1775.blogspot.com/

Old Valentine’s Day Customs and Lost Romantic Rituals

In Customs and Traditions, Everyday Life, Georgian Era, Love and Courtship, Victorian Era on February 16, 2010 at 2:23 am

Valentines- Punch

Although the roots of Valentine’s Day stretch back to A.D 496 (when it was established by Pope Gelasius I to commemorate the life of a Christian martyr), most scholars agree that the holiday did not become associated with any romantic notions until the late middle ages. By the early 18th century the custom of “drawing names” had become popular, as noted by Bourne, in his Antiquitates Vulgares (1725):

It is a ceremony, never omitted among the Vulgar, to draw Lots which they Term Valentines, on the Eve before Valentine-day. The names of a select number of one sex, are by an equal number of the other put into some vessel; and after that, every one draws a name, which…is called their Valentine, and is also looked upon as a good omen of their being man and wife afterwards.

These name-drawing rituals could become quite elaborate, to the point of resembling European folk-magic. Consider the following example, described in a 1755 letter by an anonymous girl dubbed “Arabella Whimsey”:

Last Friday, Mr. Town, was Valentine’s Day, and I’ll tell you what I did the night before. I got five bay-leaves and pinned them to the four corners of my pillow, and the fifth one to the middle; and then if I dreamt of my sweetheart, Betty said we should be married before the year was out. But to make it more sure, I boiled an egg hard, and took out the yolk, and filled it up with salt: and when I went to bed, eat it shell and all, without speaking or drinking after it, and this was to have the same effect with the bay-leaves. We also wrote our lovers names upon bits of paper; and rolled them up in clay, and put them into water; and the first that rose up, was to be our Valentine. Would you think it? Mr. Blossom was my man: and I lay a-bed and shut my eyes all the morning, till he came to our house; for I would not have seen another man before him for all the world.

During the eighteenth century, if a man was particularly smitten with a woman, he might declare it to the world by pinning to his sleeve a heart-shaped piece of paper with the name of his beloved written on it. It was this custom which led to the expression “wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve.” A woman might achieve the same goal with respect to the man she admired by wearing a charm called a love-bagge near her heart, as recorded in Pepys’s diary entry of March 3, 1662:

And here Mrs. T. shewed me my name upon her breast as her valentine, which will cost me twenty shillings.

During the Victorian era, sending Valentine cards became popular in England, and, in 1847, a Massachusetts woman named Esther Howland capitalized on the tradition by developing a successful business producing hand-made Valentine cards. Thus began the practice in America. In 1872, Punch Magazine offered an update of the tradition:

The belief is universal…that if you are single, the first unmarried person you meet outside the house on St. Valentine’s Day will exercise an important influence over your future destiny. Fortunately there is a simple way of evading the hand of Fate, open to those who desire a greater freedom in their choice of a partner in wedlock – at least, if they are willing to remain indoors till the expiration of the spell at twelve p.m. It is amazing how much faith they put into this sort of thing.

This same superstition was mentioned in Ms. Whimsey’s 1755 letter, when she stated that she would lay in bed all morning with her eyes shut, until Mr. Blossom “came to our house; for I would not have seen another man before him for all the world.”

HEAVING

Another interesting ancient tradition not connected to Valentine’s Day (but romantic nonetheless, and thus deserving of mention) was that of heaving, practiced in England and Wales since time immemorial. On the day after “Old Eastertide,” groups of men were allowed to physically lift women off the ground in a chair specially adorned with ribbons and flowers for that purpose.

Heaving

Sometimes a kiss was required as a condition of release; or rather, a kiss (or money) was bestowed as a “reward” upon the heaving party. In some places, the mothers of the girls gave presents of food or milk, so as to bribe the boys to go away quietly. The next day the women would exact their revenge by performing the same ritual on the men. The following extract is from the Public Advertiser for Friday, April 13th, 1787:

Old as the custom has been, the counties of Shropshire, Cheshire, and Lancashire boast one of equal antiquity, which they call Heaving, and perform with the following ceremonies, on the Monday and Tuesday in the Easter week. On the first day, a party of men go with a chair into every house to which they get admission, force every female to be seated in their vehicle, and lift them up three times, with loud huzzas. For this they claim the reward of a chaste salute, which those who are too coy to submit to may get exempted from by a fine of one shilling, and receive a written testimony, which secures them from a repetition of the ceremony for that day. On the Tuesday the women claim the same privilege, and pursue their business in the same manner, with this addition–that they guard every avenue to the town, and stop every passenger, pedestrian, equestrian or vehicular.

In a letter dated May 7, 1799, one Englishman described the startling experience of being forced to submit to the custom by several aggressive females :

I was sitting alone last Easter Tuesday at breakfast at the Talbot in Shrewsbury, when I was surprised by the entrance of all the female servants of the house handing in an arm chair, lined with white, and decorated with ribbons and favours of different colours. I asked them what they wanted? Their answer was, they came to heave me. It was the custom of the place on that morning; and they hoped I would take a seat in their chair. It was impossible not to comply with a request very modestly made, and to a set of nymphs in their best apparel, and several of them under twenty. I wished to see all the ceremony, and seated myself accordingly. The group then lifted me from the ground, turned the chair about, and I had the felicity of a salute from each. I told them I supposed there was a fee due upon the occasion, and was answered in the affirmative; and, having satisfied the damsels in this respect, they withdrew to heave others.

According to a 1902 British folklore journal, heaving was was originally meant “to represent the Crucifixion of Our Saviour—the dressing (in gay ribbons) being intended to set forth the clothing of our Lord with the purple robe; the lifting, the nailing on the Cross; the kiss, the betrayal; the reward, the thirty pieces of silver.” Although the roots of the custom are obscure, it appears to date back to at least the rule of Edward I “Longshanks,” when it was recorded that:

Seven of Queen Eleanora’s (of Castile) ladies, on the Easter Monday of 1290, unceremoniously invaded the chamber of King Edward (the First), and seizing their majestic master, proceeded to ‘ heave him’ in his chair till he was glad to pay a fine of fourteen pounds to enjoy ‘ his own peace,’ and be set at liberty.

Heaving appears to have eventually fallen out of favor at some point during the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. It seems to have been looked upon with disapproval by members of respectable society, judging by the stern observation of a gentleman from Manchester writing in 1784:

It is a rude, indecent, and dangerous diversion, practised chiefly by the lower class of people. Our magistrates constantly prohibit it by the bellman, but it subsists at the end of the town; and the women have of late years converted it into a money job.

Bourne, Henry. Antiquitates Vulgares, pub. 1725.

Bye-gones, relating to Wales and the Border Counties. Volume III, New Series. Printed at the Caxton workd., 1894

A Quarterly Review, or, Myth, Tradition, Institution, & Custom, being the Transactions of the Folk-lore Society, and incorporating The Archaeological Review and The Folk-lore Journal, Vol. XIII. London: David Nutt, 1902.

Opie, Iona and Moira Tatem, A Dictionary of Superstitions, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Kacirk, Jeffrey. Forgotten English, New York: William Morrow, 1997.

A Medieval-Style Tournament Held at Philadelphia, in 1778

In Colonial (American) Period, Customs and Traditions, Martial Arts, Military on February 6, 2010 at 1:29 am

In May, 1778, Sir William Howe surrendered the command of the British army in America to Sir Henry Clinton, and soon afterwards returned to England. He was a favorite, and the officers under his immediate orders resolved, on the eve of his departure, to give him a splendid entertainment, to which they gave the name of Mischianza.

An account of it was written by the ill-fated [Major] Andre, and transmitted to London at the time. I extract nearly all that relates to the tournament, which exhibition formed an important part of it. Many of the ladies who were honored by the knights were daughters of Loyalists of Pennsylvania. One of them, as will be seen, was the beautiful Margaret Shippen. This young lady, after the evacuation of the city by the royal troops, was won and wed by General Arnold, who was placed in command of the Continental army stationed there, by Washington.

“The company, as they disembarked, arranged themselves into a line of procession, and advanced through an avenue formed by two files of grenadiers, and a line of light-horse supporting each file. This avenue led to a square lawn of one hundred and fifty yards on each side, lined with troops and properly prepared for the exhibition of a tilt and tournament, according to the customs and ordinances of ancient chivalry. We proceeded through the centre of the square. The music, consisting of all the bands of the army, moved in front. The managers, with favors of blue and white ribbons in their breast, followed next in order. The general, admiral, and the rest of the company proceeded promiscuously.

In front appeared the building, bounding the view through a vista formed by two triumphal arches, erected at proper intervals in a line with the landing-place. Two pavilions, with rows of benches, rising one above the other, and serving as the advanced wings of the first triumphal arch, received the ladies, while the gentlemen arranged themselves in convenient order on each side. On the front seat of each pavilion were placed seven of the principal young ladies of the country, dressed in Turkish habits, and wearing in their turbans the favors with which they meant to reward the several knights who were to contend in their honor. These arrangements were scarce made, when the sound of trumpets was heard at a distance; and a band of knights, dressed in ancient habits of white and red silk, and mounted on gray horses, richly caparisoned in trappings of the same colors, entered the lists, attended by their squires on foot, in suitable apparel, in the following order: —

Four trumpeters, properly habited, their trumpets decorated with small pendant Danners. A herald, in his robe of ceremony; on his tunic was the device of his band, two roses intertwined, with the motto, We droop when separated.

Lord Cathcart, superbly mounted on a managed horse, appeared as chief of these knights. Two young black slaves, with sashes and drawers of blue and white silk, wearing large silver clasps round their necks and arms, their breasts and shoulders bare, held his stirrups. On his right hand walked Captain Hazard, and on his left Captain Brownlow, his two esquires, one bearing his lance, the other his shield.

His device was Cupid riding on a lion, the motto, Surmounted by Love. His lordship appeared in honor of Miss Auchmuty.

Then came in order the knights of his band, each attended by his squire, bearing his lance and shield.

1st Knight, Hon. Captain Cathcart, in honor of Miss N. White. Squire, Captain Peters. Device, a heart and sword; motto, Love and Honor.

2d Knight, Lieutenant Bygrove, in honor of Miss Craig. Squire, Lieutenant Nichols. Device, Cupid tracing a circle; motto, Without end.

3d Knight, Captain Andre, in honor of Miss P. Chew. Squire, Lieutenant Andre. Device, two game-cocks fighting; motto, No rival.

4th Knight, Captain Horneck, in honor of Miss N. Bedman. Squire, Lieutenant Talbot. Device, a burning heart; motto, Absence cannot extinguish.

5th Knight, Captain Matthews, in honor of Miss Bond. Squire, Lieutenant Hamilton. Device, a winged heart; motto, Each Fair by turns.

6th Knight, Lieutenant Sloper, in honor of Miss M. Shippen. Squire, Lieutenant Brown. Device, a heart and sword; motto, Honor and the Fair.

After they had made the circuit of the square, and saluted the ladies as they passed before the pavilions, they ranged themselves in a line with that in which were the ladies of their device; and their herald (Mr. Beaumont), advancing into the centre of the square, after the flourish of trumpets, proclaimed the following challenge: ‘ The Knights of the Blended Rose, by me their herald, proclaim and assert that the ladies of the Blended Rose excel in wit, beauty, and every accomplishment, those of the whole world; and should any knight or knights be so hardy as to dispute or deny it, they are ready to enter the lists with them, and maintain their assertions by deeds of arms, according to the laws of ancient chivalry.’

At the third repetition of the challenge, the sound of trumpets was heard from the opposite side of the square; and another herald, with four trumpeters, dressed in black and orange, galloped into the lists. He was met by the herald of the Blended Rose, and, after a short parley, they both advanced in front of the pavilions, when the Black Herald (Lieutenant More) ordered his trumpets to sound, and then proclaimed defiance to the challenge in the following words: ‘ The Knights of the Burning Mountain present themselves here, not to contest by words, but to disprove by deeds, the vainglorious assertions of the Knights of the Blended Rose, and enter these lists to maintain, that the ladies of the Burning Mountain are not excelled in beauty, virtue, or accomplishments by any in the universe.’

He then returned to the part of the barrier through which he had entered; and shortly after, the Black Knights, attended by their squires, rode into the lists in the following order: —

Four trumpeters preceding the herald, on whose tunic was represented a mountain sending forth flames; motto, burn for ever.

Captain Watson, of the Guards, as chief, dressed in a magnificent suit of black and orange silk, and mounted on a black managed horse, with trappings of the same colors with his own dress, appeared in honor of Miss Franks. He was attended in the same manner as Lord Cathcart; Captain Scott bore his lance, and Lieutenant Lyttleton his shield. The device, a heart, with a wreath of flowers; motto, Love and Glory.

1st Knight, Lieutenant Underwood, in honor of Miss S. Shippen. Squire, Ensign Haverkam. Device, a pelican feeding her young; motto, For those I love.

2d Knight, Lieutenant Winyard, in honor of Miss P. Shippen. Squire, Captain Boscawen. Device, a bay-leaf; motto, Unchangeable.

3d Knight, Lieutenant Delaval, in honor of Miss B. Bond. Squire, Captain Thome. Device, a heart aimed at by several arrows, and struck by one ; motto, One only pierces me.

4th Knight, Monsieur Montluissant (Lieutenant of the Hessian Chasseurs), in honor of Miss B. Redman. Squire, Captain Campbell. Device, a sunflower turning towards the sun; motto, Te vise a vow’.

5th Knight, Lieutenant Hobbart, in honor of Miss S. Chew. Squire, Lieutenant Briscoe. Device, Cupid piercing a coat of mail with his arrow; motto, Proof to all but Love.

6th Knight, Brigade-Major Tarlton, in honor of Miss W. Smith. Squire, Ensign Heart. Device, a light dragoon; motto, Swift, vigilant, and bold.

After they had rode round the lists, and made their obeisance to the ladies, they drew up fronting the White Knights; and the chief of these having thrown down his gauntlet, the chief of the Black Knights directed his esquire to take it up. The knights then received their lances from their esquires, fixed their shields on their left arms, and, making a general salute to each other by a very graceful movement of their lances, turned round to take their career, and, encountering in full gallop, shivered their spears. In the second and third encounter they discharged their pistols. In the fourth they fought with their swords. At length the two chiefs, spurring forward into the centre, engaged furiously in single combat, till the marshal of the field (Major Gwyne) rushed in between the chiefs, and declared that the fair damsels of the Blended Rose and Burning Mountain were perfectly satisfied with the proofs of love, and the signal feats of valor, given by their respective knights; and commanded them, as they prized the future favors of their mistresses, that they would instantly desist from further combat. Obedience being paid by the chiefs to this order, they joined their respective bands. The White Knights and their attendants filed off to the left, the Black Knights to the right; and, after passing each other at the lower side of the quadrangle, moved up alternately, till they approached the pavilions of the ladies, when they gave a general salute.

A passage being now opened between the two pavilions, the knights, preceded by their squires and the bands of music, rode through the first triumphal arch, and arranged themselves to the right and left. This arch was erected in honor of Lord Howe. It presented two fronts, in the Tuscan order; the pediment was adorned with various naval trophies, and at top was the figure of Neptune with a trident in his right hand. In a niche on each side stood a sailor with a drawn cutlass. Three plumes of feathers were placed on the summit of each wing, and in the entablature was this inscription: Laus Mi debetur, el alme gratia major. The interval between the two arches was an avenue three hundred feet long and thirty-four broad. It was lined on each side with a file of troops; and the colors of all the army, planted at proper distances, had a beautiful effect in diversifying the scene. Between these colors the knights and squires took their stations. The bands continued to play several pieces of martial music. The company moved forward in procession, with the ladies in the Turkish habits in front. As these passed, they were saluted by their knights, who then dismounted and joined them; and in this order we were all conducted into a garden that fronted the house, through the second triumphal arch, dedicated to the general. This arch was also built in the Tuscan order. On’ the interior part of the pediment was painted a plume of feathers, and various military trophies. At the top stood the figure of Fame, and in the entablature this device: I, bone, quo virtus lua te vocel; I pedefausto. On the right-hand pillar was placed a bomb-shell, and on the left a flaming heart. The front next the house was adorned with preparations for a firework. From the garden we ascended a flight of steps covered with carpets, which led into a spacious hall; the panels

Painted in imitation of Sienna marble, inclosing festoons of white marble; the surbase, and all below, was black. In this hall, and in the adjoining apartments, were prepared tea, lemonade, and other cooling liquors, to which the company seated themselves; during which time the knights came in, and on the knee received their favors from their respective ladies. One of these rooms was afterwards appropriated for the use of the Pharoah table; as you entered it, you saw, on a panel over the chimney, a cornucopia, exuberantly filled with flowers of the richest colors; over the door, as you went out, another represented itself, shrunk, reversed, and emptied.

From these apartments we were conducted up to a ball-room, decorated in a light, elegant style of painting. The ground was a pale blue, paneled with a small gold bead, and in the interior filled with dropping festoons of flowers in their natural colors. Below the surbase the ground was of rose-pink, with drapery festooned in blue. These decorations were heightened by eighty-five mirrors, decked with rose-pink silk ribbons, and artificial flowers; and in the intermediate spaces were thirty-four branches with wax-lights, ornamented in a similar manner.

On the same floor were four drawing-rooms, with sideboards of refreshments, decorated and lighted in the same style of taste as the ball-room. The ball was opened by the knights and their ladies ; and the dances continued till ten o’clock, when the windows were thrown open, and a magnificent bouquet of rockets began the fireworks. These were planned by Captain Montresor, the chief engineer, and consisted of twenty different exhibitions, displayed under his direction with the happiest success, and in the highest style of beauty. Towards the conclusion, the interior part of the triumphal arch was illuminated amidst an uninterrupted flight of rockets and bursting of balloons. The military trophies on each side assumed a variety of transparent colors. The shell and flaming heart on the wings sent forth Chinese fountains, succeeded by fire-pots. Fame appeared at top, spangled with stars, and from her trumpet blowing the following device in letters of light: Tes Lauriers sont immortels. A sauteur of rockets, bursting from the pediment, concluded the feu d’artifice.

At twelve, supper was announced, and large folding-doors, hitherto artfully concealed, being suddenly thrown open, discovered a magnificent saloon of two hundred and ten feet by forty, and twenty-two feet in height, with three alcoves on each side, which served for sideboards. The ceiling was the segment of a circle, and the sides were painted of a light straw-color, with vine-leaves and festoon flowers, some. in a bright, some in a darkish green. Fifty-six large pier-glasses, ornamented with green silk artificial flowers and ribbons; one hundred branches with three lights in each, trimmed in the same manner as the mirrors; eighteen lustres, each with twenty-four lights, suspended from the ceiling, and ornamented as the branches ; three hundred wax-tapers disposed along the supper-tables; four hundred and thirty covers, twelve hundred dishes ; twenty-four black slaves, in Oriental dresses, with silver collars and bracelets, ranged in two lines, and bending to the ground as the general and admiral approached the saloon : all these, forming together the most brilliant assemblage of gay objects, and appearing at once, as we entered by an easy descent, exhibited a coup cCozil beyond description magnificent.

Towards the end of supper, the herald of the Blended Rose, in his habit of ceremony, attended by his trumpets, entered the saloon, and proclaimed the king’s health, the queen, and royal family, the army and navy, with their respective commanders, the knights and their ladies, the ladies in general. Each of these toasts was followed by a flourish of music. After supper we returned to the ball-room, and continued to dance till four o’clock.

Such, my dear friend, is the description, though a very faint one, of the most splendid entertainment, I believe, ever given by an army to their general. But what must be more grateful to Sir W. Howe is the spirit and motives from which it is given. He goes from this place to-morrow; but, as I understand he means to stay a day or two with his brother on board the Eagle at Billingsport, I shall not seal this letter till I see him depart from Philadelphia.”

-  Sabine, Lorenzo, Notes on Duels and Duelling: Alphabetically Arranged, with a Preliminary Historical Essay. Boston: Crosby, Nichols and Company, 1859.

“Wild” Colonial American Pets

In Colonial (American) Period, Customs and Traditions, Everyday Life on February 3, 2010 at 2:28 am

Daniel Crommelin Verplanck with his pet squirrel, 1771

By Ben Miller

When Europeans first began settling North America, they brought with them dogs, cats, and other standard domestic farm animals that were a necessary part of eking out an existence in the wilderness of the New World. Such animals typically served dual roles as both workers and pets—or “favorites,” according to the vernacular of the period. Yet by the early 1700s, colonists, not content with these traditional pets, began to develop a widespread fondness for adopting and taming wild animals. During this period, European visitors were stunned to observe deer, clad in gold collars and colored neck-kerchiefs, peacefully roaming village streets and wandering through houses. Squirrels, led by leashes of gold chain, were seen dutifully following their adolescent owners from place to place, and perching affectionately on their shoulders. Members of the gentile class played flutes and organs before caged, wild birds in an attempt to teach them to sing classical music. That the colonists hunted these same species in the wild should come as no surprise; Americans had long evinced a fondness for the very things they came into conflict with—for instance, adopting the arts, games, styles and methods of the Native Americans, while battling them incessantly.

Two Boston Girls With Squirrel, 1760

According to numerous sources, squirrels were among the most desirable and entertaining pets, and, if caught young enough, easy to tame. People frequently raided squirrel nests for their young, and the babies were sold in the city markets. Their popularity is attested to by numerous period paintings which show leashed, collared squirrels perched near (or sometimes on) their young owners. As one visitor remarked in 1748, “The gray and flying squirrels are so tamed by the boys that they sit on their shoulders and follow them everywhere.” Another writer, Edward Topsell, described squirrels as “sweet sportful beasts and…very pleasant playfellows in a house,” despite their predilection for chewing up their owner’s woolen garments. Since they could easily chew their way through wood, special tin cages were developed, possessing metal bars sturdy enough to house them. When someone discovered that squirrels would run on an exercise wheel, colonial tinsmiths began making amusing cages in the forms of mills with waterwheels.

Henry Pelhem with flying squirrel, 1765Detail - Pelhem, 1765

Flying squirrels were also popular with children. In 1766 the famous American painter John Singleton Copley painted a portrait of his half brother, Henry, playing with his pet flying squirrel (see above picture and detail). On Dec. 31, 1798, Philadelphia resident Elizabeth Drinker noted in her diary that her son William had “bought a flying squirrel in market, brought it home to please the children,” and added ruefully, “I should have been better pleased had it remained in the woods.” Later, in 1799, Drinker noted in another entry that

“An account in one of the late papers of a natural curiosity, I think ’tis called, to be seen in Walnut Street; a fine little bird, a beautiful flying squirrel, a rattlesnake, and other animals, are living in the most amicable terms in a neat, strong box or cage. William went yesterday to see them; the bird was hopping about, ye squirrel laying asleep in a corner; 2 or 3 frogs in the box; the snake appeared torpid, but would stir when disturbed by a stick. The torpid situation of ye snake accounts to me for their friendly living together.”

Wild songbirds such as cardinals and mockingbirds were extremely common pets, and could frequently be seen around the various city markets. Many people believed that these birds could be taught to sing a man-made tune, and some like Lord Dunmore had a small organ, called a serinette, for this purpose. Others used small flutes called flageolettes. The notion was to play a song repeatedly, and, sooner or later, the bird would imitate the music. Just how successful these experiments were is unclear. A mockingbird, at least, seems capable of repeating back a few bars; as to whether or not any birds were able to mimic entire pieces of classical music is anyone’s guess.

Unidentified child with bird, ca 1770-75Cephas Thompson with dove, 1805

Some of what we know about colonial pets comes from Peter Kalm, a Swedish-Finnish explorer and naturalist who traveled through North America from 1748 thru 1751. Kalm published an account of his travels in a journal entitled En Resa til Norra America, which was translated into German, Dutch, French, and English. Kalm noted that turkeys, wild geese, pigeons and partridges were often tamed to the extent that “when they were let out in the morning they returned in the evening.” He went on to note various mammals that were tamed, and the respective quirks and problems associated with keeping them:

“Beavers have been tamed to such an extent that they have brought home what they caught by fishing to their masters. This is often the case with otters, of which I have seen some that were as tame as dogs, and followed their master wherever he went; if he went out in a boat the otter went with him, jumped into the water and after a while came up with a fish.

“The raccoon can in time be made so tame as to run about the streets like a domestic animal; but it is impossible to make it leave off its habit of stealing. In the dark it creeps to the poultry, and kills a whole flock in one night. Sugar and other sweet things must be carefully hidden; for if the chests and boxes are not always locked, it gets into them and eats the sugar with its paw. The ladies, therefore, have some complaint against it every day.

“The American deer can likewise be tamed. A farmer in New Jersey had one in his possession, which he caught when it was very young; at present, it is so tame that in the daytime it runs into the woods for its food, and towards night returns home, frequently bringing a wild deer out of the woods, giving its master an opportunity to hunt at his very door.”

DePeyster Boy With Deer, 1730
The deer was an especially popular pet during the early to mid eighteenth century. A painting from 1730 in the collection of the New York Historical Society, entitled DePeyster Boy With Deer, depicts a young Manhattan boy with his collared pet deer (see above picture). A glance thru a cursory survey of newspaper advertisements from Charleston, South Carolina, illustrates the prevalence of deer-keeping during the era:

(1732) “Stray’d out of Mr. Saxby’s Pasture up the Path, two tame Deer about a Year old.

(1751) “Wanted, some Doe Fawns, or young Does, for breeders.”

(1760) “Jumped over from on board the Samuel & Robert, a young deer, with a piece of red cloth round his neck…three pounds reward.”

(1761) “The Owner of a strayed Deer may hear where there is one, applying to the Printer hereof, and paying for this Advertisement.”

(1767) “Two tame Deer, a Buck and a Doe, to be sold by Francis Nicholson, in King-street.”

(1768) “Josiah Smith, junior…is in immediate want of …a couple of Tame Deer.”

(1770) “Stolen or Strayed out of my Yard this Morning, a Young Deer, his Horns just coming out, and is stiff in his hind legs, by being crampt in the Waggen which brought him to Town…Charles Crouch.”

(1772) “Wanted to Purchase. Four Deer, each about Three Years old.”

(1772) “Wanted immediately…Two Tame Deer.”

(1781) “A Tame Deer, Came to my garden about twelve days ago. The owner, on proving his property, and paying charges, shall have it again, by applying to Elizabeth Lamb, Near the Saluting Battery.”

One noted deer owner of the period was Revolutionary War veteran Dr. Benjamin Jones. Born in Virginia in 1752, Jones eventually purchased a large tract of land in Henry County, where he built a park and “kept over a hundred deer to amuse his children and grandchildren. A little bell he used on a pet deer is owned by one of his descendants.”

By the late eighteenth century, it seems that deer-keeping was in decline in Charleston. A visitor remarked in 1782 that “the deer formerly ran about the streets, with collars round their necks, like dogs, but at this latter visit, I do not remember to have seen one.”

During the nineteenth century, Americans continued to keep deer as pets, although to a much lesser degree. Around the turn of the twentieth century, Charles Drury noted

“They [deer] are difficult to tame unless taken very young. They can then be tamed completely, and while young make amiable and interesting pets, but as they get older they become a nuisance in various ways.

“A neighbor, near my home, had one for a pet, and its favorite amusement was to sneak into the house whenever a door was left open. When an attempt was made to drive the intruder out, it had a habit of jumping through a window without the formality of a sash being raised. But this habit proved its destruction at last, as a sharp piece of broken glass penetrated its lung, causing its death.”

Certainly increased traffic and the invention of the automobile made it impractical to keep deer as village pets; nevertheless, the phenomenon still occurred in the country, and was eventually immortalized in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s classic The Yearling.

To conclude, it should be noted that despite their fondness for wild pets, the colonists were still quite attached to their (very much domesticated) dogs and cats, as evinced by a myriad of formal period portraits depicting adult owners with their pets.

George Booth with dogMartha Payne with cat, ca. 1789-91

Sources:

Hart, Albert Bushnell. Colonial Children, New York: The MacMillan Company, 1905.

John P. Hunter, David M. Doody. Link to the Past, Bridge to the Future: Colonial Williamsburg’s Animals. Williamsburg: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2005.

Grier, Katherine C., Pets in America: A History. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

Drinker, Elizabeth Sandwith. Extracts from the journal of Elizabeth Drinker, from 1759 to 1807, A. D. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company,1889.

Pedigo, Virginia G., History of Patrick and Henry Counties, Virginia. Roanoke: Clearfield, 1933.

Journal of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History. Vol. XXI. No. 1. Sept. 1909.

Dunbar, Gary S.. “Deer-Keeping in Early South Carolina,” Agricultural History, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Apr., 1962), pp. 108-109

A Husband and Wife Fight as Gladiators in 1727 London

In Customs and Traditions, Dueling, Gender Roles, Georgian Era, Martial Arts on February 1, 2010 at 2:23 pm

While most people have heard of the gladiators of ancient Rome, far fewer know of those who fought in London and other places in the British Isles and British colonies during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Although these highly ritualized combats took place in locations as remote as Jamaica, Barbados, and rural Ireland, during the seventeenth century the most popular setting for such fights was undoubtedly the infamous “Bear Garden” in Southwark, London. In 1672, a Frenchman named Josevin de Rocheford visited the Bear Garden and observed:

“We went to the ‘Bergiardin’, where combats are fought by all sorts of animals, and sometimes men, as we once saw. Commonly, when any fencing-masters are desirous of showing their courage and great skill, they issue mutual challenges, and before they engage parade the town with drums and trumpets sounding, to inform the public there is a challenge between two brave masters of the science of defence, and that the battle will be fought on such a day.”

What followed these processions was violent and often gruesome. On the appointed day, to the sound of trumpets and beating drums, the two combatants would ascend the stage, strip to their chests, and, on a signal from the drum, draw their weapons and commence fighting. The combat would continue until one man conceded, or was unable to continue. In de Rocheford’s account, the combatants continue fighting while enduring horrific wounds, including severed ears, sliced-off scalps and half-severed wrists. Bouts occurred with different types of weapons, including longsword, backsword, cudgel, foil, single rapier, rapier and dagger, sword and buckler, sword and gauntlet, falchion, flail, pike, halberd, and quarterstaff. Although such fights were not intended to end in death, the wounds received were often serious enough to incur it.

Figg's Ampitheatre in London

During the 18th century, the ampitheatre of renowned fencer and pugilist James Figg became “the resort of all the most celebrated masters and mistresses of the art.” On Nov. 20, 1725, Guests Journal announced the imminent arrangement of a gladiatorial fight involving females:

“We hear that the gentlemen of Ireland have been long picking out an Hibernian heroine to match Mrs. Stokes, the bold and famous city championess. There is now one arrived in London, who by her make and stature seems likely enough to eat her up. However, Mrs. Stokes being true English blood (and remembering some of the late reflections that were cast upon her husband by some of the country folk) is resolved to see out ‘vi et armis.’ This being likely to prove a notable and diverting entertainment, it is not at all doubted but that there will be abundance of gentlemen crowding to Mr. Figg’s ampitheatre to see this uncommon performance.”

Years earlier, Stokes (under her maiden name Elizabeth Wilkinson) had bested a basket-woman named Hannah Hyfield in a bare-knuckles boxing match, and had later fought a fish-woman named Martha Jones, also with fisticuffs. Now, however, Mrs. Stokes proposed to enter a more dangerous sort of combat. Although I was not able to find an account of such a fight in 1725 (if the aforementioned challenge was indeed arranged), on October 1, 1726, “Mrs. Stokes,” it was reported, had found an able and willing antagonist in the person of Mary Welsh (or Welch).

“At Mr. Stoke’s Amphitheatre, in Islington Road, near Sadler’s Wells, on Monday next, being the 3d of October, will be perform’d a trial of skill by the following Championesses.

‘Whereas I Mary Welch, from the Kingdom of Ireland, being taught, and knowing the noble science of defence, and thought to be the only female of this kind in Europe, understanding there is one in this Kingdom, who has exercised on the publick stage several times, which is Mrs. Stokes, who is stiled the famous Championess of England; I do hereby invite her to meet me, and exercise the usual weapons practis’d on the stage, at her own amphitheatre, doubting not, but to let her and the worthy spectators see, that my judgment and courage is beyond hers.’

‘I Elizabeth Stokes, of the famous City of London, being well known by the name of the Invincible City Championess for my abilities and judgment in the abovesaid science; having never engaged with any of my own sex but I always came off with victory and applause, shall make no apology for accepting the challenge of this Irish Heroine, not doubting but to maintain the reputation I have hitherto establish’d, and shew my country, that the contest of it’s honour, is not ill entrusted in the present battle with their Championess, Elizabeth Stokes.’

Note, The doors will be open’d at two, and the Championesses mount at four.
N.B. They fight in close jackets, short petticoats, coming just below the knee, Holland drawers, white stockings, and pumps.”

It is not clear whether or not this fight came off, and if so, who was pronounced the winner. The next summer, however, another fight between Stokes and Welsh was announced. For some reason, this time two combatants were not deemed sufficient (or preferable), and thus it was announced that Mrs. Stokes’s husband James (a rival of Figg’s) would participate, as well as an additional male antagonist, who would fight on the side of Ms. Welsh:

“In Islington road, on Monday, being the 17th of July, 1727, will be performed a trial of skill by the following combatants.

‘We Robert Barker and Mary Welsh, from Ireland, having often contaminated our swords in the abdominous corporations of such antagonists as have had the insolence to dispute our skill, do find ourselves once more necessitated to challenge, defy, and invite Mr. Stokes and his bold Amazonian virago to meet us on the stage, where we hope to give a satisfaction to the honourable Lord of our nation who has laid a wager of twenty guineas on our heads. They that give the most cuts to have the whole money, and the benefit of the house; and if swords, daggers, quarter-staff, fury, rage, and resolution, will prevail, our friends shall not meet with a disappointment.’

‘ We James and Elizabeth Stokes, of the City of London. having already gained an universal approbation by our agility of body, dextrous hands, and courageous hearts, need not preambulate on this occasion, but rather choose to exercise the sword to their sorrow, and corroborate the general opinion of the town than to follow the custom of our repartee antagonists. This will be the last time of Mrs. Stokes’ performing on the stage.’

—There will be a door on purpose for the reception of the gentlemen, where coaches may drive up to it, and the company come in without being crowded. Attendance will be given at three, and the combatants mount at six precisely. They all fight in the same dresses as before.'”

Although the outcome of this fight is not known, it was certainly not (as stated) Elizabeth Stokes’s “last time” on the fighting stage. On July 17, 1728, the following match was announced among the pages of the Daily Post. This, too, was to take place in an amphitheatre on the Islington Road, London:

“‘Whereas I, Ann Field of Stoke-Newington, ass-driver, well known for my abilities in boxing in my own defence wherever it happened in my way, having been affronted by Mrs Stokes, styled the European Championess, do fairly invite her to a trial of the best skill in boxing, for ten pounds, fair rise and fall; and question not but to give her such proofs of my judgment that shall oblige her to acknowledge me Championess of the Stage, to the entire satisfaction of all my friends.’

‘I, Elizabeth Stokes, of the city of London, have not fought in this way since I fought the famous boxing-woman of Billingsgate twentynine minutes, and gained a complete victory (which is six years ago); but as the famous Stoke-Newington ass-woman dares me to fight her for the ten pounds, I do assure her I will not fail meeting her for the said sum, and doubt not that the blows which I shall present her with, will be more difficult for her to digest than she ever gave her asses!'”

Sources:

Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer. October 1, 1726

Castle, Egerton. Schools and Masters of Fence. London: George Bell and Sons, 1885

Chambers, W. R. Chambers’s journal of popular literature, science and arts, Volume 59. London: W. R. Chambers, 1882.

Palmer, Samuel. St. Pancras: being antiquarian, topographical, and biographical memoranda, relating to the extensive metropolitan parish of St. Pancras, Middlesex; with some account of the parish from its foundation. London: S. Palmer, 1870

Thornbury, Walter. Old and New London, a Narrative of Its History, Its People, and Its Places. London: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co., 1881

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