It has been conjectured that the tabloid craze we know today was begun in the English Regency. Cartoon satirists had a field day, razoring into the Monarchy and politicians alike. Salacious, tasty, tacky & terrible tidbits were a driving force behind rampant reader interest and, as the following excerpts from papers dating from as early as 1802 reveal, it seems nifty news was always hot gossip!
"A woman at Hopkin's town, in America, lately cut her husband's throat with a razor, while he lay asleep, and then alarmed the neighbourhood, asserting that he had committed the horrid act himself. Surgical assistance was procured, and the wound sewed up; the man obtaining little strength, declared, in the most solemn manner, that it was his wife who did it. She was committed to prison, and since acknowledged, that an attachment she formed for another man, induced her to kill her husband, in order to marry her lover."
"A discovery was made in Lincoln-Inn, on Saturday night, which is likely to excite much attention in Westminster-Hall. A Lady of distinction, it seems, either forgetting herself, or her way home, strayed with a Learned Gentleman into his Chambers, and did not become sensible of her mistake till three o'clock on Sunday morning!" (Bravo!)
"A London paper of last week has informed the public that a loaded pistol was fired inadvertently against a young woman, in Manchester; the ball struck against her breast, but having a silk handkerchief on, it did no other injury than producing a violent contusion. Since this, the experiment has been tried on a dog, it is added, covered with a silk handkerchief, near Liverpool, and without any other effect than bruising that part which the ball struck. This is a new and wonderful quality of silk handkerchiefs, and most certainly will enhance their value greatly with those who have any faith in the experiment." (I'm not sure the hound would con-cur!)
"At Clerkenwell Sessions, on Monday last, Joseph Naples was indicted for stealing dead bodies from the Spa Fields burial ground, of which ground the prisoner was the grave digger; and also for stealing the caps, pillows, shrouds, nails, screws, and coffin-plates belonging thereto, and the coffins wherein they had been buried." (A most comprehensive pilferer!)
"The following singular occurrence lately took place at Harrowgate. A servant had been riding a small stallion poney [sic], the property of a physician at Manchester, and on alighting, slackly retained the rein while he stood with his back towards him. The poney directly seized the man, threw him to the ground, knelt on him, and in the most vengeful manner, worried him to death. The mangled corpse was rescued with difficulty by the devouring beast."
"The company at Ramsgate are now enjoying a new species of entertainment. A young lady exhibits her expertness in swimming, and great numbers of persons resort to the shore to witness her manoevures. She dives, floats, and ducks and produces her fair form in such a variety of attitudes, as cannot fail to astonish the wondering spectators of both sexes." (Heyday, no bathing machine!)
"The French are making the greatest and most unremitting exertions to seduce our manufacturers and artificers over to France, and we are afraid that in many instances they have been successful. They are also anxious to procure models of machinery; we therefore hope that the greatest vigilance will be used at the different ports to put a stop to a practice, the consequences of which may be so destructive." (For shame! Outsourcing--even then.)
"A family were this week robbed of all their wearing and household linen by a girl, who pretending to have come from the washerwoman, who she said wanted to soap-in a night earlier than usual, obtained the whole wash. The appearance of the real laundress at her usual hour discovered the fraud. The same attempt was made the same evening at a lady's house in the Vineyards, but without effect."
"A fine little boy, one day this week, being left alone in a house in Bristol Road, by some means caught his clothes on fire; his shrieks alarmed the neighbours, and the poor little innocent was dreadfully burnt; but being immediately conveyed to that noble institution the Casualty Hospital, and immediate and proper remedies resorted to, we are happy to hear he is now in a fair way to recovery. Parents are often highly reprehensible and deserve severe punishment for their negligent conduct, after the many awful warnings we have given them, in this idly leaving children exposed to the danger of being burnt to death."
"LOST on Tuesday the 12th inst. A BROWN TERRIER DOG about 3 months old. Whoever will bring him to No 4 Chapel Row, Queen Square will receive ONE GUINEA reward. Whoever detains him after this notice will be prosecuted." (A fine reward by half!)
"Whereas a Report having been circulated by me, tending to injure the character of Abednego Foster, of the Parish of Newton St Loe, Mason, and for which he has threatened to prosecute an action of law against me, but in consideration of me making a public acknowledgement, he has consented to drop all proceedings against me. Now I do hereby acknowledge the said report to be totally false and malicious, and humbly ask pardon for the same - As witness by my hand.
The mark of Hannah Hewitt
Witness Simon Minty" (Well confessed in contrition H.H.!)
& to close, a most painful petition...
"To the Affluent and Humane is most humbly submitted the Case of BETTY SUMSION, No 10. Princes-Street, Queen Square, a Widow with five children, two unable to get their bread, who from sickness, is reduced to the utmost distress, and in hourly danger of losing her few remaining necessaries in distress for rent. She therefore earnestly implores Assistance from the Charitable and Humane. The smallest Donations will be thankfully received at any of the Libraries, at the Pump Room, and by Mr Cromwell. She returns her grateful thanks to those Ladies and Gentlemen who have already contributed to her assistance."
Imagery courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Extracts taken from papers between 1802-1803, as variously compiled by Judy Boyd of Jane Austen's Regency World.
Wry remarks in parenthesis: Lady A~, authoress of TBNLA's Merits and Mercenaries
Purchase & Possess Merits and Mercenaries
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