1809

Common Council decide to relieve Small Debtors—Festivities at Windsor—Ox roasted whole—How it was done—The Queen and Royal Family present—Division of the ox, &c.—A bull baited—Fête at Frogmore—Illuminations—Return of the Scheldt Expedition.

IN THE Court of Common Council this feeling of helping the poor debtor was prevalent, and a Mr. Jacks, at a Court held on October 5th, proposed, if the Corporation wished to appropriate a sum for the celebration of the Jubilee, that they should follow the example of the Jewish Law, and liberate the prisoner, and captive, which, he said, would be a much better method of applying their money than for eating and drinking, and the following resolution was carried:

“That it will be more acceptable to Almighty God, and more congenial to the paternal feelings of our beloved Monarch, if the Court would proceed to the liberation of the prisoners and captives, on the joyful Jubilee about to be celebrated, than in spending sums of money in feasting and illuminations. We therefore resolve, that the sum of £1,000 be applied to the relief of persons confined for small debts, and for the relief of persons confined within the gaols of the City, especially freemen of London.”

It would be impossible within the limits of this work, even to sketch  a tithe part of the ways in which the Jubilee was celebrated throughout the country; but a notice, in some detail, is necessary, as illustrating the social habits of this portion of the Century. Take, for instance, the ox and sheep roasting at Windsor. Roasting beasts whole, is a relic of barbarism all but exploded in England, a type of that rude, and plentiful, hospitality which might be expected from a semi-civilized nation. As it is not probable that the custom will survive, and as the details may be useful for some antiquarian reproduction, I give the modus operandi  in full, premising, that from all I have heard from those who have feasted upon an animal so treated, that it is very far from being a gastronomic treat, some parts being charred to a cinder, others being quite raw. This, then, is how it was done:

“At two yesterday morning the fire was lighted, and the ox began to turn on the spit, to the delight of the spectators, a considerable number of whom were assembled, even at that hour, to witness so extraordinary a sight. A few of the Royal Blues attended to guard it; a little rain fell a short time previous to the kindling of the fire, but, by the time the ox began to turn, all was fair again.

“At nine o'clock the sheep were put to the fire, on each side of the ox, in Bachelors' Acre. The apparatus made use of on this occasion, consisted of two ranges set in brickwork, and so contrived that a fire should be made on each side of the ox, and on the outer side of each fire was the necessary machinery for roasting the sheep. A sort of scaffolding had been erected, consisting of six poles, three of which, at each extremity, fixed in the earth, and united at the top, bore a seventh, from which descended the pulley by means of which the ox was placed between the ranges when put down, and raised again when roasted. Over the animal a long tin dish was placed, into which large quantities of fat were thrown, which, melting, the beef was basted with it, a ladle at the end of a long pole being used for the purpose. An immense spit was passed through the body of the animal, the extremity of which worked in a groove at each end. A bushel and a half of potatoes were placed in his belly, and roasted with him.

“At one, the ox and sheep being considered to be sufficiently done, they were taken up. The Bachelors had previously caused boards to be laid from the scene of action to a box, which had been prepared for Her Majesty, and the Royal Family, to survey it from. They graciously accepted the invitation of the Bachelors, to view it close. Their path was railed off and lined by Bachelors, acting as constables, to keep off the crowd. They appeared much gratified by the spectacle, walked round the apparatus and returned to their box. Her Majesty walked with the Duke of York. The Royal party were followed by the Mayor and Corporation. The animals were now placed on dishes to be carved, and several persons, attending for that purpose, immediately set to work. The Bachelors still remained at their posts to keep the crowd off, and a party of them offered the first slice to their illustrious visitors, which was accepted. Shortly after the carving had commenced, and the pudding had began to be distributed, the efforts of the Bachelors to keep off the crowd became useless; some of the Royal Blues, on horseback, assisted in endeavouring to repel them, but without effect. The pudding was now thrown to those who remained at a distance, and now a hundred scrambles were seen in the same instant. The bread was next distributed in a similar way, and, lastly, the meat; a considerable quantity of it was thrown to a butcher, who, elevated above the crowd, catching large pieces in one hand, and holding a knife in the other, cut smaller pieces off, letting them fall into the hands of those beneath who were on the alert to catch them. The pudding,[32] meat, and bread, being thus distributed, the crowd were finally regaled with what was denominated a ‘sop in the pan ;' that is, with having the mashed potatoes, gravy, &c., thrown over them.”

Later in the day, Bachelors' Acre was the scene of renewed festivity, no less than a bull bait. “A fine sturdy animal, kept for the purpose, given to the Bachelors for their amusement, by the same gentleman who gave the ox, was baited; and, in the opinion of the amateurs  of bull baiting, furnished fine sport; but, at length, his skin was cut by the rope so much that he bled profusely, and, as it was thought he could not recover, he was led off to be slaughtered.”

At Frogmore, the King gave a fête, and a display of fireworks at night. Everything went off very well, except a portion of the water pageant, which was not a success. “Two cars, or chariots, drawn by seahorses, in one of whom (sic ) was a figure of Britannia, in the other a representation of Neptune, appeared majestically moving on the bosom of the lake, followed by four boats filled with persons dressed to represent tritons, &c. These last were to have been composed of choristers, we understand, who were to have sung ‘God save the King,' on the water, but, unfortunately, the crowd assembled was so immense, that those who were to have sung could not gain entrance. The high treat this could not but have afforded, was, in consequence, lost to the company.”

The Jews celebrated the Jubilee with much enthusiasm, and, in the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, after hearing a sermon preached on a text from Levit. xxv. 13: “In the year of this Jubilee ye shall return every man unto his possession,” we are told “the whole of the 21st Psalm was sung in most expressive style, to the tune of ‘God save the King.'”

In spite of the want of unanimity as to the expediency of a general illumination, there were plenty of transparencies, and even letters of cut-glass. I give descriptions of two of the most important.

Stubbs's  in Piccadilly, exhibited three transparencies of various dimensions. In the centre was a portrait of His Majesty, in his robes, seated in his coronation chair; thefigure was nine feet in height, and the canvas occupied 20 square feet. On the right hand of the King was placed the crown, on a crimson velvet cushion, supported by a table, ornamented with embroidery. Over His Majesty's head appeared Fame, with her attributes; in her left hand a wreath of laurel leaves; her right pointing to a glory. At the feet of the Sovereign was a group of boys representing Bacchanalians, with cornucopia. Underneath appeared a tablet  with the words ‘Anno Regni 50. Oct. 25, 1809.' On the right and left of the above transparency, were placed representations of the two most celebrated oak-trees in England, and two landscapes—the one of Windsor, and the other of Kew.”

“Messrs. Rundell  and Bridge's , Ludgate Hill. In the centre His Majesty is sitting on his throne, dressed in his coronation robes; on his right, Wisdom, represented by Minerva, with her helmet, ægis, and spear; Justice with her scales and sword; on his left, Fortitude holding a pillar, and Piety with her Bible. Next to Wisdom, Victory is decorating two wreathed columns with oak garlands and gold medallions bearing the names of several successful engagements on land—as Alexandria, Talavera, Vimiera, Assaye, &c. Behind the figure of Fortitude, a female figure is placing garlands and medallions on two other wreathed columns, bearing the names of naval victories—as the First of June, St. Vincent's, Trafalgar, &c. The base of the throne is guarded by Mars sitting, and Neptune rising, holding his trident, and declaring the triumphs obtained in his dominions; on the base between Mars and Neptune, are boys representing the liberal arts, in basso-relievo. The figures are the size of life.”

The disastrous end of the campaign known as the Walcheren Expedition, brings the year to a somewhat melancholy conclusion, for on Christmas Day, Admiral Otway's squadron, with all the transports, arrived in the Downs, from Walcheren.

Consols began at 67⅛, and ended at 70, with remarkably little fluctuation. The top price of wheat in January was 90s. 10d., and at the end of December 102s. 10d. It did reach 109s. 6d. in the middle of October—a price we are never likely to see. The quartern loaf, of course, varied in like proportion—January 1s. 2¾d., December 1s. 4¼d., reaching in October 1s. 5d.


[32]The Bachelors had provided about twenty bushels of plum pudding.

1809.

General Fast—The Jubilee—Costume—Former Jubilees—Release of poor prisoners for debt—Jubilee Song—Jubilee literature—Poetry—King pardons deserters from Army and Navy.

EARLY in the year 1809 (on February 8th) was a day of Fasting, and prayer, for the success of His Majesty's arms.

Also, in January, began the celebrated Clarke Scandal, which ended in the Duke of York resigning his position as Commander-in-chief; but this will be fully treated of in another place, as will the celebrated O. P. Riots, which occurred in this year.

Socially, the only other important event which occurred in this year was “The Jubilee ,” or the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the accession of George III., he having succeeded to the throne on the 25th of October, 1760; and this Jubilee created quite a craze. A Jubilee Medal was struck by Bisset, of Birmingham, having, on the Obverse, a bust of the King, with the following legend: “King George the Third ascended the Throne of the Imperial Realms of Great Britain and Ireland, October 25,A.D. 1760. Grand National Jubilee, celebrated October 25, 1809.” On the Reverse, was the Guardian Genius of England, represented as Fame, seated in the clouds, and triumphing over Mortality; she displayed a centenary circle, one half of which showed the duration of the King's reign up to that time, whilst rays from heaven illuminate a throne.

Not content with this, it was suggested that there should be a special costume worn on the occasion, and that gentlemen should dress in the “Windsor uniform,” i.e., blue frock coats, with scarlet collars, and the ladies' dresses were to be of garter blue velvet, or satin, with head-dresses containing devices emblematical of the occasion.

It is no wonder that people went somewhat crazy over this Jubilee, for it was an event of very rare occurrence, only three monarchs of England having kept jubilees—Henry III., Edward III., and George III. Let us, however, hope that this generation may add yet another to the list in Queen Victoria. Edward III. celebrated the jubilee of his birth in a good and kindly manner in 1363, as we may learn from Guthrie: “Edward was now in the fiftieth year of his age, and he laid hold of that æra as the occasion of his performing many other popular acts of government. For he declared, in his parliament, by Sir Henry Green, that he was resolved to keep it as a jubilee; and that he had given orders to issue out general and special pardons, without paying any fees, for recalling all exiles, and setting at liberty all debtors to the Crown, and all prisoners for criminal matters. He further created his third son, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, and his fifth son, Edmund, Earl of Cambridge. The Parliament, on their parts, not to be wanting in gratitude, having obtained their petitions, on the day of their rising, presented the King with a duty of twenty-six shillings and eight pence upon every sack of wool, for three years, besides continuing the former duty upon wools, fells, and skins. This year being declared a year of jubilee, the reader is to expect little business, as it was spent in hunting throughout the great forests of England, and other magnificent diversions, in which the King laid out an immense sum. But we are not to close the transactions of this year before we inform the reader that it was from the jubilee then instituted, that the famous custom took its rise of our Kings washing, feeding, and clothing, on Maunday Thursday, as many poor people, as they are years old.”[31]

The whole of the country was determined to celebrate this occasion in a way worthy of it, and, of course, everyone had his own theory, and aired it; some were for a general illumination and feasting everybody, others to relieve poor debtors, and rejoice the hearts of the poor; others mingled the two. “Sir, benevolence is no less amiable for being attended with gaiety; without a general illumination the day would be like a public mourning, or fast; the shops shut, the bells tolling, the churches open, a cloudy night, a howling wind, a Jubilee!!! But no such dull Jubilee for John Bull.”

Perhaps one of the most popular ways for people to spend their money, in order to show their gratitude for the beneficent sway of the sovereign who had ruled them for fifty years, and who was much beloved of his subjects, was the release of prisoners for small debts. Their case was cruelly harsh, and it must have been felt as one of the hardest, and most pressing, of social evils. Take the following advertisement from the Morning Post, October 23, 1809: “Jubilee. Prisoners  for Debt  in the Prison of the Marshalsea of His Majesty's Household. There are now confined in the above prison in the Borough, seventy-two persons (from the age of twenty-three to seventy-four, leaving fifty-three wives, and two hundred and three children) for various debts from seven guineas, up to £140. The total amount of the whole sum is £2092, many of whom (sic ) are in great distress, and objects of charity, every way worthy the notice of a generous and feeling public, who are interesting themselves in the cause of suffering humanity against the approaching Jubilee. It is, therefore in contemplation to raise a sufficient sum, for the purpose of endeavouring to effect their release, by offering compositions to their respective creditors in the following proportions, viz., 10s. in the pound for every debt not exceeding £20; above that sum, and not exceeding £50, the sum of 7s. 6d.; and above £50, the sum of 5s. in the pound, in full for debt and costs. Subscriptions ... will be received by ... with whom are left lists containing the names of the unfortunate Persons immured within the Prison, and other particulars respecting them, for the inspection of such Persons as may be desirous of promoting so benevolent an undertaking.”

And that large sums were so raised, we have evidence in many instances. Take one case:

“At a meeting of Merchants  and Bankers  appointed to conduct the Entertainment to be given at Merchant Taylors' Hall on the 25th inst., held this day—

Beeston Long , Esq., in the Chair.

“Resolved, That since the advertisement published by this Committee on the 5th day of September last, various communications having been made to this Committee which lead them to imagine that a general Illumination will not be so acceptable to the Public as was at first supposed, and, wishing that the day may pass with perfect unanimity of proceeding, on so happy an Occasion, this Committee no longer think it expedient to recommend a general Illumination.

“Resolved, That it appears to this Committee that, instead of such general Illumination, it will be more desirable to open a Subscription  for the Relief of Persons confined for Small Debts, and that the sums collected be paid over to the Treasurer of the Society established for that purpose.”

To show how warmly this idea of releasing the debtor was taken up, in this instance alone, considerably more than £2,000 was collected.

“JUBILEE SONG.

“For Wednesday , 25th October , 1809.

Tune —‘God Save the King.'

Britons! your Voices raise,
Join cheerful Songs of praise,

With grateful lay;
May all our Island ring,
Her Sons' Orisons sing
For their Beloved King

On this bright day.

May he the vale of life
Close free from ev'ry strife;

His subjects see.
Bless'd with a lasting Peace,
May War for ever cease,
Pris'ners each Pow'r release,

And all be free.

King George's Fiftieth Year
Of Sceptred greatness cheer

Each loyal Heart;
May the stain'd Sword be sheath'd;
Amity once more breath'd;
Commerce, with Plenty wreath'd,

Sweet Joy impart.

Thus may our Children find
Cause which will e'er remind

Them to agree,
That we with Justice sing.
God bless our good old King,
For him, our Noble King,

This Jubilee.”

This is not the sole attempt at a Jubilee literature. There was a satirical pamphlet called “The Jubilee; or, John Bull in his Dotage. A Grand National Pantomime. As it was to have been acted by His Majesty's subjects on the 25th of October, 1809.” Another pamphlet, by Dr. Joseph Kemp, was entitled “The Patriotic Entertainment, called the Jubilee.” And yet another book of 203 pages printed in Birmingham, which had for title, “An Account of the Celebration of the Jubilee of 1809 in various parts of the Kingdom.” This was arranged in alphabetical order, and gave an account of the doings, on this occasion, in the various cities, towns, and villages of England. It was published by subscription, and the profits were to go to the “Society for the Relief of Prisoners for Small Debts.”

There was a poem, too, which is too long to be reproduced in its entirety, but which contains some pretty lines, such as would go home to a people who really loved their king—who had suffered when God had afflicted him, and yearned for his recovery, and who were then spending both blood, and treasure, to preserve his throne and their own country.

Seculo festas referente luces,
Reddidi carmen.
”—Horace.

Oft  (ah! how oft) has the revolving Sun
Smiled on Britannia's joy at battles won?
How oft our bosoms felt the conscious glow
For brilliant triumph o'er the stubborn foe?
If, then, our patriot hearts could proudly feel
Such zealous transports at our Country's weal,
Shall not the Bard his cheerful efforts lend
To praise that Country's first and truest friend?
For such is George , the pride of England's Throne,
True to his people's rights as to his own.

•••••••

Mild is the Prince, and glorious were the arts,
That gave him sov'reign empire o'er our hearts.
Our love for him is such as ever flows
Spontaneous, warm, and strength'ning as it glows;
Unlike the smiles, and flattery of Courts,
Which int'rest prompts, and tyranny extorts;
A Monarch so belov'd has nought to fear
From mad ambition's turbulent career;
For subjects ne'er from their allegiance swerve,
Who love his person they are bound to serve.

•••••••

History shall tell how deep was every groan
When ‘erst black sickness struck at England's throne:
For her lov'd King  was heard the Nation's sigh,
While public horror star'd in ev'ry eye;
But, when restor'd, to many a daily pray'r,
What heartfelt joy succeeded to despair.

•••••••

Then oh! Thou King  of Kings , extend thy arm
To shield thine own anointed George from harm;
Grant, if it so comport with thy behest,
For thy decrees must ever be the best;
Grant that he long may live, and long may stand
‘A tow'r of strength' to guard our native land.”

The King, on the 18th of October, issued a proclamation pardoning all deserters from the Navy and Marines, but not allowing them any arrears of pay or prize-money; and he also pardoned all deserters from the Army, who should give themselves up within two months from the 25th of October, but then they must rejoin the Army. Not particularly inviting terms when they come to be analyzed, for the sailors would certainly be marked, and, eventually, pressed, and the soldiers were simply asked to exchange their present liberty, for their old slavery. But he really did a graceful, and, at the same time, a kindly action in sending through Mr. Perceval, to the Society for the Relief of Persons confined for Small Debts, £2,000 from his privy purse.


[31]“A General History of England from the Landing of Julius Cæsar to the Revolution of 1688,” by William Guthrie, London, 1744 1751, vol. ii. p. 213.