An Apology for Justice in the Regency; humiliation of the poor in the newspapers.

What was Leeds cloth merchant Lepton Dobson going to do about it? It wasn’t a serious crime, but he couldn’t just let it go, could he? What would his neighbours think… and he had quite new neighbours, as well, and they needed to be impressed.  It was 1813; he and his brother George had purchased a lovely house and workshop in Park Square, Leeds. It had only been completed a few years early, and it was the address for the up and coming merchant classes who needed to be near the centre of commercial action but away from the rough slums and the rough people.

Park Square, Leeds

Then, late one night, the rough people came to him. Arriving  home one  Saturday night in October 1813, he heard noises in the house. Were these thieves? It was after dark; the crime was more serious in law at night and he could expect violent resistance if he confronted the robbers, with the punishments for the two crimes being so similar in severity that violence was worth the risk. 

The noise was coming from his servant’s room; James Crossland was there with three other men; they were eating his food and drinking his beer, and now that they had heard him, they were hiding. Peter Crossland, clothier (and presumably relative), John Porter, bricklayer and the marvellously named Marmaduke Spencer, cobbler were the guilty parties. They were essentially stealing his property in the same way as any thief, except that they carried it away in their stomach.

Lepton needed to prosecute to save his reputation as a man whose property could not be stolen without consequences. However, he did not prosecute; he did this instead.

Its hard to read, but you can get the gist

‘late servant …secreted in my lodging room…taken into custody…kindly consented to proceed no further against me…’

James Crossland was dragged to the Chief Constable and threatened with prosecution. However, there was a problem. The state did not prosecute for crimes such as this; it would have been a private prosecution that would have cost Lepton Dobson money. The Department of Public Prosecution did not come into existence until 1880; in the regency, and for much latter, such prosecutions were seen as a private, rather than public interest.

First, he sacked James Crossland. This was a given. Servants had a reputation for consorting with criminals and allowing them in the house to steal. This was more or less what had happened here. Mr Dobson made him pay £2 as a charitable donation to the Leeds Infirmary, and thirdly, he had to put a grovelling letter of apology in all of the Leeds newspapers (I have found it in the Leeds Intelligencer and the Leeds Mercury) at his own expense.  An advertisement in a provincial paper at this date would be 5 shillings (25p); none of these men would earn more than £1 a week, at most. It was a severe punishment in itself.

The three uninvited guest had to do the same.

Once again, this was heavy stuff. It was witnessed by the chief constable, and it was clear that prosecution would have followed without a   public apology. All of these men were literate (when similar ‘PARDON ASKED’ advertisements were put in the paper, there would be an ‘x’ and ‘his mark’ against those who could not write). Most men of this class seemed to be illiterate, which poses the question- who was meant to read these apologies?

Dobson and those of his class would have read this – it was on the front page- and it would have been reassuring to Dobson’s family and those who did business with him- but how well would it work  as warning to the lower classes not to eat rich people’s food? On one level it was worth it, as it would not have been done if it wasn’t- but the working classes would have got the message- those who could not read would have heard the gossip from people reading out newspapers in public houses.

Did Dobson do this to save money? That is doubtful; he was a substantial businessman by 1813, he could have afforded it. He did not rush to prosecution, and this was not uncommon in the Regency. There were regular apologies in the Regency newspapers, but the crimes were usually much worse than this- slander, poaching, assaulting women, dangerous driving; the probable truth was that Mr Dobson was actually being harsh rather than generous; he was letting nothing go. There is more evidence of this. In 1817, while the poor of Leeds starved, Mr Dobson signed an open letter proclaiming his loyalty to the constitution and the government; he also put advertisements in the paper asking for information about textiles that had been stolen, which was a capital crime.

1818

The same Mr Dobson, it can be seen, forced a donation to the Leeds Infirmary from James Crossland; Dobson had a history of charity. As he became more famous (He was mayor of Leeds in 1821 and an alderman afterwards) he devoted time and money to the Leeds Infirmary himself.  He could be generous to people were the deserving sick; but not those stealing his bread and beer  

In October 1828, Lepton and his brother George were declared bankrupt; the details were put in the newspaper for all to see.

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Gout-a painful yet fashionable disease in the Regency

Gout is, and was, horrible. It causes sudden, severe and unpredictable pain. It is most famous for attacking the joints- usually the big toe, or fingers, wrists, elbows or knee. But gout is much, much more than that. It was not just an aching big toe, or gouty foot, although Georgian cartoonists used that image as visual shorthand. Other symptoms included;

Chilliness, yawning, stuverings, anxiety, nausea, sickness at stomach, debility, drowsiness, stupor confused head, and these are often followed by full quick hard pulse and burning heat with thirst and aversion to food (1)

Gout could kill, as Lieutenant General Floyd knew; his would have died in agony with his atonic gout affecting the stomach. His last hours would have been acute stomach spasms and uncontrollable diarrhoea. This did not stop the newspaper making a little joke in the announcement above (1818);

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One of the many regency poems about gout makes that clear- here, mercifully, is just two lines of forty (1816) ;

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Gout was so bad that the Georgians wrote doggerel poetry and sent it to the newspapers, who published it. Here is another poem, advertising, Warren’s Jet Blacking for boots:

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It was a favourite of the quack medicine cure-alls, always near the top of a long list of illnesses and conditions that it would cure. It was usually linked with rheumatism, which was correct. Many medicines did not claim to cure it, unlike other conditions; this was because it was clearly a disease that re-occurred. So, whether it was Dr Wilsons’s Gout Tincture, Okey’s Concentrated Essence of Jamaican Ginger or Fenn’s Embrocation, the relief was temporary. One ‘permanent’ cure was -apparently – Bullman’s Imperial Pills, but it would only cure you in Kent where it was sold only in local shops. A cynic would say that it would have gone national if it worked.

Respectable doctors in the Regency knew that lifestyle changes were the key. They had also worked out that it was hereditary, and that could sometimes be initiated by a trauma or break to the limbs. ‘The most undeviating moderation and temperance’ is necessary, according to Dr. Gibbes of Bath in 1812. (2) Yet limiting or avoiding alcohol and rich foods was not a Regency habit .

People moaned about gout, but it was an acceptable ailment in Regency Britain. When the newspapers reported a celebrity absence from an event, they were generically ill or ‘indisposed’, but gout was gout. It was a reason that could be referenced. The best people had it.

The King, through his insanity between 1811-1820, was reported to have gout; when it reappeared it stopped his therapeutic walks at Windsor; the Prince Regent had gout often, firstly in 1811 after an accident to his leg, and later in Brighton in 1816, which kept him indoors, and his friends had to come to him at the Pavilion to grovel and toady. They would have remembered not to notice that his knees were swelled and huge. William Pitt, another six bottle a day man- had the same problem, as did the Prince Regent’s brother and future king, William IV. The Lord Chancellor, Lord Eldon had gout which kept him away from his duties in the 1810s. The King of France had it- ‘Louis the Gouty’, as Byron called him.

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Notice the gouty knees.

Why was gout acceptable? It was regarded as the ailment of the well healed – especially those who had had easy, comfortable lives with lots of expensive spirits and wines, and who did not exercise like younger people would. This was not a new idea. Over two thousand years early, the Greek doctor Hippocrates. He called gout “the unwalkable disease” and “the arthritis of the rich”, and blamed it on too much food, wine and sex, showing that the 18th century stereotype had ancient origins. Poor people could get gout if they could steal high quality alcohol. Medical experts suggested that gout in the poor was restricted to brewer’s assistants, cellermen and bottlers who had access to drink that they could not afford to buy.

For the rich, a little gout was expected in later life. These are from the Annals of Bath (1830) describing the situation a few decades earlier:

A bon vivant of about half a century old who has never yet experienced a determined fit of the gout fancies he has a little of what he calls the flying gout about him and takes it into his head to visit Bath with a full intention to eat his three meals a day and drink his bottle of port in the evening

He then reports top his friends that he does have a touch of ‘flying gout’, in the same way that the 80s executive had to have ‘stress’ to be doing his job. He seems to have taken the waters to cure it and drink a bottle of port to encourage it in order to prove that, by having gout, he had reached a high social level.

References

(1)The Gout Alleviated: Proved by Cases of the Most Painful Fits Being Removed By William Rowley
(2) https://brendascox.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/gout-and-the-waters-of-bath-part-1/

Also – https://georgianera.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/one-of-the-miseries-of-life-gout/

Please consider my two books on the Regency and Victorian period.

The Dark Days of Georgian Britain– a social history of the Regency. More details about my book on the Regency here. Introduction to the contents by chapter here .

Passengers- a history social history of Britain 1780 to 1840 through a focus on transport and hospitality. More details here

You’re rich in the Regency and your dog is missing. What happens next?

By James Hobson

Twitter @about 1816

Regency newspapers regularly carried advertisements for ‘lost’ items of property- clothes, banknotes, watches, horses and poneys (as they used to spell it), legal documents and dogs. In the case of dogs, ‘lost’ was often a euphemism. They had had been kidnapped, or found in the street and kept by somebody who would not wish to hand it over without a reward. The distinction between a reward for a finder and a ransom for a thief was not always clear.

These were not working dogs- the occasional advertisement for strayed foxhounds was probably genuine. There were the only two types of canine that had a resale value- the working animals of farmers and the landed gentry, and the pets of the metropolitan rich. Both were advertised in the newspaper. Lost dog advertisements- for spaniels, pointers, poodles ,greyhounds, setters and pugs appeared mostly in the London newspapers from people living in Portman Place, Manchester Square, and Parliament Street and less often for the rich families in the provinces.

This example, from the up- market Morning Post of January 1810 was from Old Bond Street.

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Some typical characteristics include the use of the word ‘lost’. Most of them used this word only; some opted for ‘lost or strayed’ and a few went for a direct ‘ lost or stolen’, but the latter were different in tone and tended to come from different kind of people. Given the draconian punishment for theft, many advertisers avoided the word if they wanted to get the dog back.

Another common feature was the use of an intermediary to collect the dog. It may be that the Bond Street gentleman did not want to see the person, but it also made it easier to hand it over the beloved pet without too many awkward questions. Less typical here is the vague nature of the reward; most lost dog advertisements offer a half a guinea- which would feed a modest family for a week. Another difference is that Doll has the owner’s name and address on her collar, which would make it easy for the pet to be returned even without an advertisement in the paper. What the advertisement is actually saying is that ‘a wealthy person has lost his dog-whether you stole it or found it, it’s your lucky day’

It was assumed that dogs that ended up by accident in the hands of poor would not be handed over voluntarily. This example is from 1810;

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Rattle had ended up ‘in the arms of a man in a smock-frock’. A terrible fate for the dog of the Reverend Cotton, who, though he did not know it at the time, was to become a major establishment figure in the established Church in Ireland. He had clearly had the dog during his time at Christ Church College, Oxford, according to the collar. By offering the chance to pass the dog to him personally, he was absolving the rustic peasant of any blame; but he was still offered the chance to hand it over to a landlord in a pub.

Most of the advertisers knew that they were in negotiation with the people who had their dog. Some common phrases include – ‘Not to be repeated’- meaning that there would be no better offer, and the more strident ‘any person detaining him, after this notice, will be prosecuted as the law directs’. This comment would be largely seen as an empty threat; the owners would have to locate the thief themselves, pay for the prosecution privately .Some ask for intelligence about the location of the dog- invitation to inform on the thief.

The lost spaniel (below)  with no name is an interesting example of a more robust approach. Mr Scott is as interested in justice as he is in the return of the dog, as the reward for information about the thief is five times higher than the reward for the dog.

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This type of advertisement was relatively uncommon but appeared occasionally. Mr Scott is probably a member of his local Society for the Apprehension of Felons, groups of farmers or businessman who protected their property by offering rewards for informers as a replacement for a lamentable bad law enforcement system, especially outside of London. It did not normally cover pets.
This one is similar. Mr Hunnings had the weight of the Boston Association for the Prosecution of Felons behind him;

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The next advertisement says explicitly what many advertisements merely hinted at- that if a gentleman had his dog, it would be handed back gratis; but a poor person would require payment.

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The owner clearly loved his dog, but was still prepared to sack his servant if he was not returned. As did  the owners of Rufus, Ponto, Poodle (who was a poodle), Tippoo, Buzz, Truro (owned by an unimaginative Cornishmen). Captain, Fanny, Rag, Turpin (who was lost when he chased a coach) Rover, Prince, Nero, Jupe, Basto (who went missing/ was stolen from the Castle Inn Warminster) Lion (owned by the Bishop of Winchester) Rough, David, Brush and Sancho.
And then there was Pug the pug, with an excessive reward, the same as the Bishop of Winchester offered for the return of Lion the Newfoundland dog, and echoing down the centuries the cries and lamentations of the dog’s owner.

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