The Tragic Ballad of Crazy Jane, c.1800


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On a visit to Scotland, a ‘Lady’ (recorded as being the renowned beauty and novelist Lady Charlotte Campbell) was startled by the appearance and conduct of a poor mad woman. This poem, published around 1800, tells the sad tale of heart-broken ‘Crazy Jane’, who lost her wits when she was deserted by her false lover, Henry.

Why, fair maid, in ev’ry feature,
Are such signs of fear express’d?
Can a wandering wretched creature,
With such terrors fill thy breast?
Do my frenzied looks alarm thee?
Trust me, sweet, thy fears are vain;
Not for kingdoms would I harm thee;
Shun not then poor Crazy Jane.

Dost thou weep to see my anguish?
Mark me, and avoid my woe,
When men flatter, sigh and languish,
Think them false – I found them so.
For I lov’d – Oh, so sincerely,
None could ever love again,
But the youth I lov’d so dearly,
Stole the wits of Crazy Jane.

Fondly my young heart receiv’d him,
Which was doom’d to love but one,
He sigh’d – he vow’d – and I believed him
He was false – and I undone,
From that hour has reason never
Held her empire o’er my brain:
Henry fled – With him for ever
Fled the wits of Crazy Jane.

Now forlorn and broken-hearted,
And with frenzied thoughts beset,
On that spot where we last parted,
On that spot where first we met.
Still I sing my love-lorn ditty;
Still I slowly pace the plain,
Whilst each passer-by, in pity,
Cries – God help ye, Crazy Jane.

UntitledImages © Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

Richard III & Napoleon Bonaparte, bosom buddies? (1813)


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Today’s announcement about the discovery of the bones of King Richard III has kept the media rather busy. Whatever the discovery may or may not lead to in terms of reappraising this notorious king, for over five hundred years the idea of Richard as a manipulative, murderous tyrant has been enduringly popular in the public imagination. It was certainly so in the Georgian era.

The following extract from the Cheltenham Chronicle illustrates one way in which Richard’s villainous deeds were brought back to public notice in 1813 – his name was allied to that of the modern-day evil-doer, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Chelten chron thurs 20 mAY 1813


There is a strong likeness in the persons of these tyrants, except the deformity of body in Richard. – In their bloody deeds their similitude is most striking – both savage and unrelenting! Richard planned, and merely effected, from political motives, a Marriage with a lady whose kindred he had butchered;– Bonaparte compelled his wife Josephine to a seperation [sic], under the like policy to make way for the daughter of his late enemy the Emperor of Austria, whose aunt he may be said to have been instrumental in bringing to the block: and who, from being only a Corsican adventurer, by the the most villainous arts usurped the throne of the late King of France.

We will still hope for a continuation of the resemblance of his actions with the bloody Richard; & that the catastrophe of this campaign on the fields of Germany, may resemble that of Bosworth field. Then we may congratulate Europe, and indeed the world, with having the portrait complete; and encourage a hope for another Richmond on the Gallic throne.”

Cheltenham Chronicle, Thursday 20th May 1813


- David Garrick as Richard III by William Hogarth (1745)

Elizabeth Bennet, shirt stealer? (1796)


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…. Not the Elizabeth Bennet I know! Good Lord.


- Detail from ‘Arrest of a Woman at Night by Thomas Rowlandson (1800)

Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 13th January 1796.

ELIZABETH BENNET was indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 23d of October , three linen shirts, value 20s. a china plate, value 2s. and a brass skimmer, value 12d. the property of Nicholas Roberts .


I live in the Curtain-road : On the 20th of December last, I missed a pair of nankeen breeches, from off my drewers; the prisoner, I understand, came to assist my servant; upon missing this, it led me to a suspicion; and I examined my linen, and missed three shirts; the numbers of that class of shirts, if I may so say, ran from one to nine; I found all the intermediate numbers, except 1, 3, and 9, which were missing; search was made in the house, but to no purpose; they were not to be found; the servant had suspicion of this woman; she went out, and found her; some of the shirts were found at the pawnbrokers.


I am servant to Mr. Roberts: the prisoner acted as charewoman in the house; I knew nothing of these things being gone, till my master missed the breeches; the next day my master missed some shirts; I went to the prisoner, and found her; she denied knowing any thing about it; I took her to the pawnbroker’s, and found one of the shirts; then she owned to it, and told us where she had sold the other two shirts.


I am servant to Mr. Francis, pawnbroker, Shoreditch, (produces a shirt); I took in this shirt of the prisoner, on the 23d of October.

John Stockman and Thomas Davies were called, but not appearing, their recognizances were ordered to be estreated.

Mr. Roberts. I am certain this is my shirt.

Prisoner’s defence. It was a case of necessity.(The Prosecutor and Jury recommended her to mercy, believing it to be her first offence).


Privately whipped and discharged.

Tried by the first Middlesex Jury, before Mr. COMMON SERGEANT.”

For the original trial record, see the Old Bailey Online.

Streaking in bad weather not a good idea (1791)


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In the eighteenth century as in any other, a trip to the local pub provided some escape from the monotony of working life, offering a chance for merriment and silliness, and – dangerously – the opportunity to take a cup too much and be persuaded into something a sober man wouldn’t entertain for a second.

One wintry weekend in 1791, this Manchester man was tempted to run over two miles completely naked in the pouring rain by the prospect of just five shillings – about £14 in today’s money – and, no doubt, the chance to prove his manfulness. As with many careless drunken wagers it had tragic consequences.

Lesson: don’t go running around nude in the snow tonight, folks!

streak Derby Mercury Thurs 1 Dec 1791

“About eight o’clock on the stormy night of Saturday the 19th inst. a man was rash enough to undertake, for five shillings, to run naked, from a public house at Stayley-Bridge, near Manchester, to a mill in the neighbourhood, more than a mile distant, in consequence of another person in company observing that he would not go the distance, such a night as it was, for five guineas. Not returning in the course of two hours, some of the party went to search for him with a lanthorn, and found him perishing and speechless, about half a mile off, on his return, with a handful of meal husks, which were proof of his having been at the mill. Medical assistance was immediately procured, but he died presently afterwards. He was advised to stop all night at the mill, or to put on some cloaths that were offered to him, but refused, though he declared he had been nearly suffocated by the wind and rain. He has left a wife and five small children.”

- Derby Mercury, Thursday 1st December 1791

Advice for Pickpockets: How to draw as much attention to yourself as possible (1807)


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I love this news story from 1807, which throws some surprising light on how a Georgian prostitute/pickpocket might have gone about her business in a London pub. I wonder how many saw fit to actually swallow their earnings in an attempt to avoid detection? It certainly wasn’t a particularly successful ruse for this woman…

13 oct 1807

“A prostitute was brought from St. Clement’s watch house, charged with robbing a gentleman on Sunday night in the Strand, the Prosecutor not appearing, she was discharged. She retired to the Green Man public house in Bow-street, with some friends, where a man respectably dressed was sitting in a box, adjoining that in which she sat down, and this person putting his hand upon the rail, she endeavoured to get a ring off his little finger; afterwards, when he was holding a guinea carelessly on his finger, she snatched it off, put it into a glass of gin and peppermint, put it to her mouth, and endeavoured to swallow it, but the guinea stuck in her throat, upon which she took up a pot of porter that was near, drank a draft, and swallowed the guinea, to the no small amusement of a room full of people. She was taken before Mr. Read again, who ordered her to remain in custody.”

Morning Chronicle, Tuesday 13th October 1807


- Detail from a tavern scene, Rowlandson’s Dr Syntax series

The drinking habits of John Falls, aged 110 (1754)


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This is the best obituary I have seen in a long time. But I do wonder if Mr Falls would have been pleased or dismayed at the prospect of his drinking habits being immortalised in print and unearthed over 250 years later…

If the latter, sorry John.

“A few Days ago died in the Manour of Carrick near McGuire’s-Bridge in Ireland, in the 110th Year of his Age, John Falls, remarkable for having often drank two Quarts of Whiskey at a Sitting, and being afterwards able to walk home.”

- Caledonian Mercury, 5th August 1754


“By the Red Nose of Oliver Cromwell..!”


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I recently came across this account of a scuff between two men outside a pub in eighteenth-century York, & find myself wishing that modern-day drunken louts acquitted themselves with quite so much eloquence.

Over against the George, two Bullies met each other, Damn you, Sir, says one, you were with Mrs S––– last Night, degrading, scandalizing and abusing me; Go now and give me Satisfaction, or by Heavens, I’ll pink as many Eye-holes in your Skin as there are Hairs upon your Head. Confound you for a Cowardly Pimp, says the other, you lye, and if I’d my trusty Spado by my side, I wou’d send you Post to the D––l. You scoundrel, says t’other, Meet me at the Grove, to morrow morning, at Six a Clock, or I’ll slit your Nose the first time I see you. I’m a Man of Honour, reply’d he, and upon the Parole of a Chevalier, and by the Red Nose of Oliver Cromwell, I’ll meet you at the Time and Place, and so they parted.

- From The York Spy, 1713

The Georgian Bawdyhouse – the book!


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Dear Readers,

When not enthusiastically eating pies or rambling on twitter about historical hangovers & rude eighteenth-century objects (might I present this?), I have been writing a little book exploring life (& death) in the eighteenth-century brothel. I am pleased to announce that it is now available to buy in the UK & for pre-order over in the US, hurrah!
Please do go & take a look if you are that way inclined…

I am in the UK & I want to buy The Georgian Bawdyhouse, by jove!

I am in the US & I want to pre-order The Georgian Bawdyhouse, hot damn!


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