Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

carry you to a brandy shop." In the interim comes the Doctor, “Madam," says he, “ I'll do your jobb for you presently!" “ Well, gentlemen," says I,“ since you can't agree, and I can't be married quietly, I'll put it off 'till another time:" so drove away. Learned Sirs, I wrote this in regard to the honour and safety of my own sex; and if for our sakes, you will be so good as to publish it, correcting the errors of a woman's pen, you will oblige our whole sex, and none more than, Sir,

Your constant reader and admirer,

VIRTUOUS.' In 1744, the metropolis was considerably excited by the marriage of the humble Henry Fox with the Duke of Richmond's eldest daughter at the Fleet. In nine years afterwards Lord Hardwicke brought in the Marriage Bill, the 26th George VI. By this statute it was declared felony, punishable by transportation for sixteen years, for any person to solemnize marriage in any other than a church or public chapel, without banns or licence"; the marriage also, in such cases, was declared void. The interval which elapsed between the introduction and the passing of this bill was an abundant harvest for the Fleet parsons, and it is calculated that, on the 25th of March, the day previous to that on which the royal assent was given, no less than two hundred and seventeen marriages were solemnized at the Fleet.

This act completely put an end to the detestable nuisance of Fleet marriages.

A very curious account follows of the most notorious of the clergymen who performed marriages in the Fleet-and the illus trations which are given of their characters, and the extracts: cited from their registers, present such a mass of immorali tyag will scarcely allow us to transfer even a small portion of their contents to our pages. Mr. Burn next traces the transfer of the Fleet books into the hands of the Bishop of London, and finally into the hands of the government; and he adds a list, with 'occasional remarks, of many of the names of the persons married. With respect to the character of the Fleet registers, as authorities to be received as evidence in courts of justice, the judges appear to have at all times agreed that they were inadmissible as registers, but that, in a pedigree case, they might be recognised as declarations merely.

But it was not alone in the Fleet, or in its vicinity, that these. informal and clandestine marriages took place; they were pretty common in other parts of the metropolis, as the King's Bench prison, Mint, the Savoy, and May Fair. The marriages at the King's Bench were comparatively few, for it was situated at too great a distance in the suburbs to allow of its being preferred to places within the city; but in its neighbourhood, in the borough, was the Mint, a place of refuge for thieves and malefactors of the worst character, and their localities, together with White Friars, the Alsatia, celebrated by Sir Walter Scott in the Fortunes of

[graphic]

Nigel, and also the Savoy, claimed to be privileged sanctuaries for debtors and criminals. In these asylums of wickedness, marriages were usually celebrated, and some of the registers are still preserved. It is stated as somewhat curious that, at the Savoy, none of these private marriages took place until those in the Fleet were stopped. The Rev. John Wilkinson had 1 the good fortune of being minister of the Savoy at that period, and by a writer of the time his marriages are represented as having brought him“ a profusion of cash, and instead of thinking of a rainy day, all was rat tat tat at the street door, and a variety of company. Easter-day was crowded from eight till twelve. So many pairs were for the indissoluble knot being tied, that he might have made a fortune had he been blessed with patience and prudence, and been contented with publishing the banns of marriage only. Many persons came out of curiosity to hear such a long list of pinsters announced."

Government, however, resolved not to tolerate his practice, and after vainly pursuing him for some time, the ministry succeeded at last in bringing him to trial, and in having him sentenced to be transported. He was actually put on board a ship bound for Botany Bay, but, by stress of weather, she was driven into Plymouth, where the unhappy man died. He was the father of the famous comedian, Tate Wilkinson.

May Fair appears to have stood next to the Fleet in notoriety, and perhaps exceeded the latter in the number of its fashionable clandestine marriages. A chapel was built at May Fair in 1730, and the minister was a famous person named Keith, who began to marry ad libitum, advertising in the newspapers the peculiar advantages of a marriage at May Fair. He gained so much influence on the public mind as to convert bis spiritual office into a very bishopric, as to its revenue. Mr. Keith was committed to the Fleet; but the weddings at May Fair were by no means slackened, for he caused a house to be fitted up as a chapel in that district, which he brought under the notice of all the king's subjects by the following advertisement:

"To prevent mistakes, the little new chapel in May Fair, near Hyde Park Corner, is in the corner house opposite to the City side of the great chapel, and within ten yards of it, and the Minister and Clerk live in the same corner louse where the little chapel is, and the License on a Crown Stamp, Minister and Clerk's fees, together with the certificate, amount to one guinea, as heretofore; at any hour till four in the afternoon. And that it may be the better known, there is a porch at the door like a country church porch.”—pp. 97, 98.

The most extraordinary and revolting stratagems were resorted to by Keith whilst yet in prison to keep up his name before the public, and the use to which he applied the circumstance of his wife's death manifests the extreme depravity of his heart. The melancholy event was turned into an absolute puff by this man, who

gether with a

commenced his paragraph in the same ingenious way as our modern venders of blacking, that is to say, it was contrived in such a way as to attract the attention of the reader by beginning with some astounding news, and then leading him on to the knowledge of the real facts which the writer was interested in communicating: The terms of Keith's advertisement, as it appeared in the Daily Advertiser for the 23d of January, 1750, will best exhibit the character of the man.

We are informed that Mrs. Keith's corpse was removed from her husband's house in May Fair the middle of October last to an apothecary's in South Audley St., where she lies in a room hung with mourning, and is

continue there till Mr. Keith can attend the funeral. The way to Mr. Keith's Chapel is through Piccadilly by the end of St. James's Street and down Clarges Street, and turn on the left-hand. The marriages (to

a licence on a five shilling stamp and certificate) are carried on for a guinea as usual, any time till four in the afternoon, by another regular clergyman at Mr. Keith's little Chapel in May Fair near. Hyde Park Corner, opposite the Great Chapel and within ten yards of it: there is a porch at the door like a country church porch.'--p. 98.

It appears from the Craftsman, in 1748, that one of Keith's sons died, when the father ordered the corpse to be carried on a bier from the Fleet to Covent-garden church-yard, having directed the bearers to halt at several places for the purpose of enabling the populace to read in the inscription on the coffin a brief account of Keith's persecution. This unfortunate minister spent no less than fifteen years in prison, during which he made frequent appeals to public opinion. Amongst his productions written in the Fleet was a pamphlet, entitled, “Observations on the Açt for preventing Clandestine Marriages," prefixed to which was an engraved portrait of the author. Some extracts have been made from it by Mr. Burn, which, for their curious nature, we shall copy.

Happy is the wooing that is not long a-doing, is an old proverb and a very true one, but we shall have no occasion for it after the 25th day of March next, when we are commanded to read it backwards, and from that period (fatal indeed to Old England !) we must date the declension of the numbers of the inhabitants of England.” “ As I have married many thousands, and consequently have on those occasions seen the humour of the lower class of people, I have often asked the married pair how long they had been acquainted; they would reply, some more, some less, but the generality did not exceed the acquaintance of a week, some only of a day, half a day, &c." “ Another inconveniency which will arise from this Act will be, that the expense of being married will be so great, that few of the lower class of people can afford; for I have often heard a Flete-parson say, that many have come to be married when they have had but half-acrown in their pockets, and sixpence to buy a pot of beer, and for which they have pawned some of their cloaths.” “I remember once on a time, I was at a public-house at Radcliff, which then was full of sailors and their girls, there there was fiddling, piping, jigging, and eating; at length,

VOL. III. (1833), NO, IV.

Κ Κ

[ocr errors]

one of the tars starts up, and says, ' D--m ye, Jack, I'll be married just now; I will have my partner, and .

the joke took, and in less than two hours ten couple set out for the Flete. I staid their return. They returned in coaches ; five women in each coach; the tars, some running before, others riding on the coach-box, and others behind. The cavalcade being over, the couples went up into an upper room, where they concluded the evening with great jollity. The next time I went that way, I called on my landlord and asked him concerning this marriage-adventure, he at first stared at me, but recollecting, he said those things were so frequent, that he hardly took any notice of them; for added he, it is a common thing when a fleet comes in, to have two or three hundred marriages in a week's time, among the sailors. He humourously concludes “ If the present Act, in the form it now stands, should (which I am sure is impossible) be of service to my country, I shall then have the satisfaction of having been the occasion of it, because the compilers there of have done it with a pure design of suppressing my Chapel, which makes me the most celebrated man in this kingdom, though not the greatest,

p. 99.

The threatened Marriage Act gave rise to various speculations on the part of Keith and his friends to find out how the new statute could be evaded. Amongst other contrivances imputed to him by the wits of the day, was the establishment of a repository, where young men and women were to be disposed of in marriage by auction, and a catalogue was put into circulation on his behalf, of which the following is a copy:

spt pola que Catalogue of Males and females to be disposed of in Marriage to the

best bidder, at Mr. Keith's Repository, in May Fair. A young lady of £100,000 fortune--to be bid for by none under the degree of peers, or a commoner of at least treble the income.

• A homely thing who can read, write, cast accounts, and make an excellent pudding.--This lot to be bid for by none but country parsons.

A

very pretty young woman, but a good deal in debt--would be glad to marry a member of parliament, or a Jew.

A blood of the first-rate, very wild, and has run loose all his life, but is now broke, and will prove very tractable.

. Five templars—all Irish.—No one to bid for these lots of less than £10,000 fortune.

• Wanted four dozen of young fellows, and one dozen of young women, willing to marry to advantage - to go to Nova Scotia."-p. 101.

From the specimens which we have given of the merits of this work, the reader will be fully able to appreciate its value. A great deal of approbation is due to Mr. Burn, for the indefatigable zeal which marks his researches in this very curious and very important inquiry. The lists of persons married in the Fleet, and the other matrimonial marts in London, will prove to many existing families a source of information, such as they will little expect to see recorded.

493

Art. IV.-Lectures on the History and Principles of Painting.

By THOMAS PHILLIPS, Esq., R.A., F.R.S., & F.S.A., late Professor of Painting in the Royal Academy. 1 vol. 8vo. Lon

don: Longman, Rees, & Co., 1833. In the preface to these lectures, Mr. Phillips has devoted a few pages to the discussion of a question which, from its importance, at once challenges our attention. After giving an interesting description of a journey which he made into Italy, the classic region where the true principles of his profession are alone adequately developed, he does not hesitate to express his apprehension that the great principles and power exhibited in the wonderful paintings of the Florentine school never can be expected to be unfolded in this country. This conclusion he arrives at principally by taking it for granted that the moral causes, which have produced such marvellous excellence in Italy, cannot, by possibility, be generated in this country, so different are the means in England and in Italy of affecting the temperament of genius. Mr. Phillips exhorts us only to recollect to what great end the works to which he has alluded were directed; he asks us to remember where they were performed, and under whøse direction they were continued and completed. The answer which he supplies to his own questions show that they were wrought at the instigation of men governing at the head of a great ruling power, actuated by the necessity of maintaining that power by all that could stimulate the public mind to abstraction from worldly considerations, to devotedness to religious feeling, and to that veneration for the mysteries of religion under the influence of which the directors sought to secure submission to superior knowledge, and supposed superior sanctity.

Again, he repeats, this vast work was done in the expectation, founded on the susceptibility of the human heart, or rather in the certain benefit to be drawn from it, that an ample return would be made to those who promoted it, when the natural influence of the scenes represented, exciting the zeal of devotees, should also extend the influence of their system of religion; and with it that of the power they held, and were desirous to preserve. So great and so important was the end for which paintings of religious subjects, or subjects involving reflections tending to impress religious feelings were wrought; and such the men and the motives which led onwards the cultivation, and the useful application of the art through successive centuries: and stimulated others, endowed with the most brilliant genius, to devote their minds and lives to the study of it. It had the intended effect for a while ; but it is past and is gone, or at least with us; disappearing with the establishment of Protestantism. There can, however, be no greater proof of the efficacy of painting when ju

« AnteriorContinuar »