The actor and theatre manager David Garrick as Shakespeare's Richard III by William Hogarth, c.1745.

The Shakespeare Jubilee of 1769

Between the 6th and 8th of September 1769, the town of Stratford-upon-Avon held the first jubilee celebration commemorating the life of the great playwright, William Shakespeare. The event was organised by David Garrick, who was both an actor and the manager of the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, Covent Garden. Garrick had portrayed many of Shakespeare’s best-known characters on the stages of London and of Dublin and so was invited to dedicate a statue of the bard at the new town hall: Garrick had other ideas however and turned the event into a three-day spectacular.

The actor and theatre manager David Garrick in His Regalia as Steward of Stratford Jubilee, 1769 by Benjamin Vandergucht
David Garrick in His Regalia as Steward of Stratford Jubilee, 1769 by Benjamin Vandergucht; Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum

The 1769 Shakespeare Jubilee, also known as Garrick’s Jubilee, was ostensibly to celebrate Shakespeare’s birth but was held five years too late (Shakespeare was baptised in April 1564). Regardless of the discrepancy in dates, it was hugely popular and helped to fix Shakespeare as England’s national poet.

Ticket for the dinner, ode and ball at the Garrick Jubilee held in Stratford-Upon-Avon in 1769 to commemorate the life of William Shakespeare.
Jubilee entrance ticket. Folger Shakespeare Collection.

Stratford-upon-Avon was flooded – a somewhat unfortunate metaphor, as will be seen – with visitors for the duration of the Jubilee. The town’s only inn was fully booked and townspeople made a small fortune in renting out rooms (albeit while grumbling about the inconvenience to their daily lives) but even so, many visitors were forced to sleep in their carriages overnight. A masquerade warehouse had opened in the town, in anticipation of the extravaganza and, a new sight to the townsfolk, sedan chairs had been brought from London and Bath.

Scene at the High Cross, Garrick Jubilee of 1769, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire; Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Scene at the High Cross, Garrick Jubilee, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire; Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

The celebrations opened on Wednesday 6th September to cannon fire and a breakfast at the town hall. A portrait of Shakespeare by Garrick’s friend Benjamin Wilson hung at one end of the dining room and one of Garrick by Thomas Gainsborough at the other (both portraits were sadly lost in a fire in 1946). At 11 o’clock Dr Thomas Arne’s Oratorio of Judith was performed in the church, featuring, amongst others, the celebrated Mrs Sophia Baddeley.

The actor and theatre manager, David Garrick leaning on a bust of Shakespeare, after Thomas Gainsborough. The original portrait (presented to mark the Garrick Jubilee in 1769) hung in Stratford-upon-Avon town hall but was destroyed by fire in 1946.
David Garrick leaning on a bust of Shakespeare, after Thomas Gainsborough. The original portrait hung in Stratford-upon-Avon town hall but was destroyed by fire in 1946. Folger Shakespeare Library.

After that, attention turned to a specially built wooden structure on the banks of the River Avon, the Jubilee Pavilion or rotunda, where a dinner was held with almost a thousand ladies and gentlemen crammed in at the tables, many more than anticipated. The food was accompanied by the sound of workmen hammering in nails: the rotunda had not been completed in time and work was still ongoing to make it sound. Garrick, ever the showman, carried on regardless and proclaimed the toast while holding a goblet made of mulberry wood ‘cut out of the mulberry tree planted by Shakespeare’. Following the dinner was a ball which was opened by John Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset and the Duke of Ancaster’s sister, Lady Mary Greathead.

John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset by Joshua Reynolds, 1769. Knole, National Trust via British Art Studies.
John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset by Joshua Reynolds, 1769. Knole, National Trust via British Art Studies.

The Jubilee, despite Garrick’s best-laid plans, now began to descend into a comedic farce and the typically British weather was to blame. It didn’t just rain, it poured and the pageant and attendant processions through the streets of Stratford-upon-Avon, with participants dressed as characters from Shakespeare’s plays, had to be abandoned. Instead, after a public breakfast, Garrick delivered an ode in honour of the bard, wearing a medallion of Shakespeare on his breast and brandishing a wand both made, like his goblet, from mulberry wood. In the window frames, were large transparent portraits representing the most popular Shakespearian characters.

Mr. Garrick reciting the ode in honor of Shakespeare at the Jubilee at Stratford, with the musical performers, &c., 1769.
Mr Garrick reciting the ode in honour of Shakespeare at the Jubilee at Stratford, with the musical performers, &c., 1769. Lewis Walpole Library

The evening entertainment was a masquerade ball, held in the rotunda, and a planned firework display. Unfortunately, the masquerade guests had to be carried in, or risk their footwear as they waded ankle-deep through the river water which was rapidly rising, and the roof was discovered to leak in places. Despite this, a good time was had by all, with the guests attired in a myriad of fantastical costumes. James Boswell, newly returned from Corsica, and having just published a memoir of his travels, appeared finely dressed as a Corsican. He subsequently had his picture engraved and published in the London Magazine with a puff-piece of an article written by himself.

One of the most remarkable masks upon this occasion was James Boswell Esq.

The fireworks ended up being little more than damp squibs in the deluge. At the close of the festivities, various masked guests including drunken witches, harlequins, sultans and one Corsican had to wade knee-deep across the meadow on which the rotunda was sited to reach their carriages and beds.

James Boswell in full Corsican dress at the Shakespeare Jubilee, 1769. © The Trustees of the British Museum.
James Boswell in full Corsican dress at the Shakespeare Jubilee, 1769. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

It rained until midday on Friday 8th September. The River Avon had overflowed to such an extent that the rotunda was flooded. All that could be salvaged of the last day’s planned entertainment was an extremely waterlogged horse race on Shottery Meadow but by this time it was too late and many guests had abandoned the Jubilee altogether and were heading as fast as they could on jam-packed roads away from the town. As Boswell noted:

After the joy of the jubilee came the uneasy reflection that I was in a little village in wet weather and knew not how to get away.

The paviliion - or amphitheatre - built on the banks of the River Avon for the Garrick Jubilee in 1769.
The pavilion – or amphitheatre – built on the banks of the River Avon for the Garrick Jubilee in 1769. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust/RSC via The Guardian.

Bizarrely, there had been no performance of a Shakespeare play planned for the event, not even one scene, a fact which garnered much criticism. Referring to the event afterwards as ‘my folly’, Garrick was forced to admit that, although this was an intended omission with the idea that people would discover the bard ‘all around them’ instead of through his plays, this was a glaring error and – coupled with the complete washout of the event – it marked a low point in his career. He also lost a large sum of his own money in staging the event. However, as we shall see in a later blog, all was not yet lost. The redoubtable Garrick had one more trick up his sleeve with which he hoped to salvage both his reputation and the Jubilee celebrations.

 

Sources:

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 14th September 1769

Boswell’s Jubilee: against the backdrop of the 1769 Shakespeare Jubilee, James Boswell’s willpower is tested. Andrew McConnell Stott, 2016 (Lapham’s Quarterly)

‘The borough of Stratford-upon-Avon: Shakespearean festivals and theatres’, in A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3, Barlichway Hundred, ed. Philip Styles (London, 1945), pp. 244-247. British History Online

Featured image:

The actor and theatre manager David Garrick as Shakespeare’s Richard III by William Hogarth, c.1745. Walker Art Gallery.

Charlectote Park from Morris's Picturesque Views of Seats of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, 1880.

Mary Elizabeth Williams’ marriage to George Hammond Lucy of Charlecote Park, 1823

On 2nd December 1823, the young Mary Elizabeth Williams, fourth daughter of John Williams, Baronet of Bodelwyddan in north Wales, married George Hammond Lucy, the eligible new owner of the magnificent Charlecote Park in Warwickshire.

Mary had been reluctant to accept George’s proposal; she thought him too old (Mary was not quite 20-years of age and her suitor was 34) and – besides – her elder sister Margaret (Miggie) was in love with him. But accept him she did, and he sealed their betrothal by placing a turquoise ring on her finger. During their short courtship and amid the whirlwind of preparing for the wedding, Mary quickly came to like and then to love her new husband.

Mary Elizabeth Williams (1803-1890), Mrs George Hammond Lucy by Richard Buckner, 1847; National Trust, Charlecote Park;
Mary Elizabeth Williams (1803-1890), Mrs George Hammond Lucy by Richard Buckner, 1847; National Trust, Charlecote Park

On the day, Mary wore a bridal robe of snow-white silk and a lace veil, the ‘texture fine as a spider’s web’ falling over her carefully arranged hair which was decorated with orange blossoms. She was attended by six bridesmaids, her four sisters and two friends, all dressed simply in white cashmere with their bonnets lined with pink, Mary’s favourite colour. A whole fleet of carriages took the bridal party to St Asaph Cathedral where the ceremony – by special licence – was to take place.

All was perfect, and Mary and her new husband knelt at the altar as they were pronounced man and wife but, when she tried to stand, Mary fainted and fell to the ground, much to George’s consternation. She was soon recovered however, and left the church for her honeymoon, her uncle’s seat at Cerig Llwydion. The bridesmaids threw old satin shoes at the carriage as the Lucy’s departed, for good luck.

George Hammond Lucy (1789-1845), MP by Friedrich von Amerling, 1841; National Trust, Charlecote Park;
George Hammond Lucy (1789-1845), MP by Friedrich von Amerling, 1841; National Trust, Charlecote Park

Mary’s wedding dress survives, and it was made in the height of fashion.

Detail of the white silk wedding dress worn by Mary Elizabeth Williams when she married George Hammond Lucy on 2 December 1823.
Detail of the white silk wedding dress worn by Mary Elizabeth Williams when she married George Hammond Lucy on 2 December 1823.

As you can see, the detailing on the bodice of the gown is very similar to one shown in Ackermann’s Repository, dated October 1823, and it gives us an idea of what the dress might have looked like in its entirety.

Morning Dress, fashion plate dated October 1823 from Rudolph Ackermann's Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions, &c, third series, vol 2.
Morning Dress, fashion plate dated October 1823 from Rudolph Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions, &c, third series, vol 2.

George Hammond Lucy’s father, John Lucy (born John Hammond), was a ‘pugnacious, hard-drinking clergyman’ who had found himself – a little unexpectedly – the heir in the male line to the Warwickshire Lucy family.

Early in 1823, at his father’s death, George had inherited Charlecote Park but it was in a dilapidated state. It became his life’s work to restore the estate.

Charlecote Park from Jones's Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen, 1820.
Charlecote Park from Jones’s Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen, 1820.

Mary and George had a long marriage and many children. In her sixties, Mary wrote down her memories and they are published as Mistress of Charlecote: The Memoirs of Mary Elizabeth Lucy 1803-1889. It is a wonderful read and contains images of two portraits of the couple painted at the time of their wedding.

For more information on the Lucy’s of Charlecote Park, also see the blog Charlecote Park: Uncovered by the National Trust.

 

Sources:

Mistress of Charlecote: The Memories of Mary Elizabeth Lucy 1803-1889, introduced by Alice Fairfax-Lucy (Orion, 2002).

The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986

National Trust images

Featured image:

Charlecote Park from Morris’s Picturesque Views of Seats of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, 1880.

More female misers

We recently told you about the miser Mary Luhorne, that we came across in the book Lives and Anecdotes of Misers. Needless to say, we unearthed a few more, but unfortunately, unlike Mary, we are unable to validate most of these, apart from to confirm that details of their stories also appeared in the newspapers some years later. Once again, amongst many questions, it does beg the question ‘where were the relatives when they were alive?‘ sadly, we have no answer to that question.

Anyway, here we go:

Elizabeth Wilcocks

In 1768, in Nether-Shuckburgh, in Warwickshire, lived an old maid, named Elizabeth Wilcocks, whose life was very similar to that of Mary Luhorne. For many years before her death, she ate nothing but horse-beans or a few curlings: she had hardly any clothes, and had nothing but a bundle of straw and an old blanket to lie upon; yet, at her death, twelve pairs of sheets, and a large quantity of other linen, was found in her drawers.

She hid her wealth in the most unaccountable places. In a pickle-pot, stowed away in the clock-case, was discovered eighty pounds in gold and five pounds in silver. In a hole under the stairs a canister full of gold: in an old rat-trap a large quantity of gold and silver, and in several other places similar hoards were discovered by her executors.

In addition to all this wealth, this miserable old miser was possessed of an estate in houses and land producing a handsome revenue. She left the whole of her property to a very distant relative.

Geikie, Walter; The Fruit Seller; National Galleries of Scotland; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-fruit-seller-210099
Geikie, Walter; The Fruit Seller; National Galleries of Scotland

Joanna Horrel

Many years ago, there used to sit in the streets of Exeter an old woman selling lemons and apples. In the very hottest day she did not flinch before the sun; and in the very bitterest of December nights she was sure to be found at her accustomed place.

Now and then she did business in her little way, and took a few coppers from the urchins in the streets. Her appearance bespoke the utmost poverty, and her rigid habits of parsimony were regarded by the charitable as the shifts of indigence.

She had been an old inhabitant of the city but all her relatives were poor, and one of them had long been an inmate of the workhouse. There were but few who, knowing these circumstances, did not pity poor old Joanna Horrel, the apple-woman, of Exeter; and loose halfpence were often quietly dropped into her fruit-basket.

These tributes of compassion were always carefully hoarded up, and however much she obtained by such means, she never altered her appearance, never lived more generously, never indulged herself in luxuries or comforts at home, and never once thought of her relative in the poor-house.  In the year 1789, Joanna had grown old, and her span of life was at an end. Her relatives came to fulfill the last duties for the dead and on searching her room, hid here and there in cracks and corners, behind bricks and under the flooring, they discovered a fortune of near ten thousand pounds.

Maria Vooght

In an old newspaper, called the General Evening Post, of the date December 21, 1779, there is an announcement of the death of Miss Maria Vooght, the female miser, of Amsterdam. She was the last of three singular and parsimonious sisters. Lest they should not be enabled to gratify their propensity to accumulate and save, they resolutely declined all offers of matrimony.

They lived huddled together in one room—gloried, like true misers, in filth, and lumber, and vermin. They ate the coarsest food, and of that but sparingly, and they were never known to have bestowed a fraction in charity. There never, perhaps, were seen such miserable, dirty, and untidy old maids. In all three, the passion of avarice was equally strong: it appeared in them a family vice: they were not induced to become so parsimonious from the fear of any future want, for they had each a fortune which would have secured all those comforts and enjoyments it is in the power of gold to provide.

Maria Vooght, the last of these eccentric characters, left at her death, a fortune of five millions of guilders, equal to five hundred thousand pounds. She died intestate, and the money went to strangers.

Brown, William; Margery Jackson (1722-1812), Hiring Croglin Watty at Carlisle Cross; Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/margery-jackson-17221812-hiring-croglin-watty-at-carlisle-cross-144228
Brown, William; Margery Jackson (1722-1812), Hiring Croglin Watty at Carlisle Cross; Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery

Margery Jackson, The Carlisle miser and misanthrope (1722 – 1812)

This story is somewhat different, but equally sad, so rather than sharing her whole story with you, we will simply redirect you to this brief online Memoir of Margery Jackson, it makes fascinating reading, we would definitely recommend having a quick read of it, she even created mayhem after her death! – not the most pleasant of women.

children-toads

Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle even have a dress owned by Margery in their collection.

56b1cf7347f94-image-1-tullie-house-mantua-dress-1
Courtesy of Experience UK

Featured image:

Margery Jackson, the Carlisle Miser, by William Brown (active 1811-1837). Tuille house Museum and Art Gallery

Ghostly evidence of murder

In our last blog we told the tale of an eighteenth-century ghost who helped a girl find a hoard of buried coins beneath the stone flags on the floor of her cottage. Today we discuss another ghost who initially seemed equally as helpful, but this one was bent on revealing a murderer rather than a treasure trove and was not what it initially seemed.

The report was circulated in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, dated the 18th March 1762, and began with the following notice:

The Public having for some Time past been impos’d on with so many sham Ghosts, (which credulous People are apt to place too much Belief in), the following may not be disagreeable to the Generality of our Readers.

This referred to the recent controversy in London over the Cock Lane ghost, a supposed haunting carried out by ‘Scratching Fanny’ the dead common-law wife of William Kent, but one really perpetrated by Elizabeth Parsons, the daughter of a man who had recently had a dispute with Kent.

Scene from David Garrick's play 'The Farmer's Return from London. An Interlude'; cottage interior; the actor David Garrick as the Farmer, seated in centre, his right hand on table beside him, his left hand holding his pipe, relating the story of his conversation with the Cock Lane Ghost to his family. British Museum, 1766
A scene from David Garrick’s play ‘The Farmer’s Return from London. An Interlude’; cottage interior; the actor David Garrick as the Farmer, seated in centre, his right hand on the table beside him, his left hand holding his pipe, relating the story of his conversation with the Cock Lane Ghost to his family.
British Museum, 1766

But, to return to our tale…

On a dark night, a farmer’s wife lay tossing and turning, her worry for her missing husband keeping her awake. He had gone to the market at Southam, a small market town about 6 miles south-east of Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, and should have been home hours before. Early the next morning there was a knock at her door.

The farmer’s wife found a man standing there who asked her if her husband had returned the previous evening. She replied in the negative and told him that she ‘was under the utmost Anxiety and Terror on that Account’. The man gave a startling reply.

Your Terror, said he, cannot equal mine, for last Night, as I lay in Bed, quite awake, the Apparition of your Husband appeared to me, shewed me several ghastly Stabs in his Body, told me he had been murthered [sic] by [here he named the individual], and his Carcase thrown into such a Marle-Pit.

The man at the door had named both the murderer and the pit and, after the alarm had been raised, the pit searched and the unfortunate farmer’s body found, the man named by the ghost was arrested. The wounds on the body matched the account given by the ghost and it appeared that the farmer had returned to give evidence against the man who had taken his life.

Haunted Hillborough, Warwickshire by British School (c) Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Haunted Hillborough, Warwickshire by British School
(c) Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

So thought the men who had taken the murderer into custody, and so thought the jury when the case came to trial at Warwick before the Lord Chief Justice Raymond, all convinced by the evidence said to have been given by the deceased who had helpfully pointed the finger at his murderer and saved them the bother of finding him themselves. They were all set to convict the man accused of the crime until the Judge checked them and spoke to them.

I think, Gentlemen, you seem inclined to lay more Stress on the Evidence of an Apparition, than it will bear. I cannot say that I give much Credit to these Kind of Stories, but be that as it will, we have no right to follow our own private Opinions here. We are now in a Court of Law, and must determine according to it; and I know not of any Law now in being which will admit of the Testimony of an Apparition; not yet if it did, doth the Ghost appear to give Evidence.

The Judge instructed the Crier to call for the Ghost, which he did – three times. Perhaps predictably, the ghost of the murdered farmer neglected to appear in the courtroom.

The Judge continued to address the jury. He pointed out that the man who stood accused of the crime had an unblemished character up to that point, that no cause of a quarrel or grudge between him and the deceased man could be discerned. The Judge gave his verdict.

I do believe him to be perfectly innocent; and, as there is no Evidence against him either positive or circumstantial, he must be acquitted.

Then the Judge pointed his finger at another man in the courtroom, the man who had seen the apparition and had repeated the tale to the poor farmer’s widow.

But from many Circumstances which have arose during the Trial, I do strongly suspect that the Gentleman, who saw the Apparition, was himself the Murtherer [sic]; in which case he might easily ascertain the Pit, the Stabs, &c. without any supernatural Assistance; and on such Suspicion I shall think myself justified in committing him to close Custody, till the Matter can be further enquired into.

With the man in custody, a warrant was granted to search his house and strong proofs of his guilt were discovered. Faced with these he confessed to the murder and was executed for his crime at the next Assize.

The report in the newspaper ended with the following cautionary words – something to bear in mind if you are visited this Halloween.

It is hoped that this simple Relation of a Matter of Fact, now on Record, will be a sufficient Caution to others, not to be over hasty in giving Credit to the Testimony of Apparitions.

 

Notes:

Robert Raymond, 1st Baron Raymond (1673 – 1733) was appointed Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench in 1725, and held that position until his death in 1733. Although this story has been oft repeated we can find no mention of it before 1762, some twenty-nine years after Raymond’s death.