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MOST of us, who read books, have probably heard of a Society for the Promotion of Vice, of the Hell-Fire Club, founded in the last century by Sir Francis Dashwood, &c.

A t Brighton I

think it was, tha t a Society was formed for

the Suppression of Virtue. That society was itself sup- pressed ; but I am sorry to say tha t another exists in

London, of a character still more atrocious. I n tendency, it may be denominated a Society for the Encouragement of Murder; but, according to their own delicate evfpr^indjxos^ it is styled. The Society of Connoisseurs in Murder.

They profess t o be curious in homicide;

amateurs and

dilettanti in the various modes of carnage; and, in short, Murder-Fanciers. Every fresh atrocity of tha t class which the police annals of Europe bring up, they meet and criticise as they would a picture, statue, or other work of art. But I need not trouble myself with any attempt


IV .




to describe tbe spirit of their proceedings, as the reader will collect that mucli better from one of the Monthly Lec - tures read before the society last year. This has fallen into my hands accidentally, in spite of all | the vigilance exercised t o keep their transactions from the public eye. The publication of it will alarm them; and my purpose is, tha t it should. Fo r I would much rather put them down quietly, by an appeal t o public opinion, than by such an exposure of names as would follow an a^jpeal t o Bow

Street ; which last appeal, however, if thisi should fail, 1 must really resort to . Po r my intense virtue will not put up with such things in a Christian land. Even in a heathen land, the toleration of murder—viz., in the dreadful shows of the amphitheatre—was felt by a Christiap w^riter to be the most crying reproach of the public morals. This writer was Lactantius; and with his words, as singularly appli- ca,ble to the present occasion, I shall conclude:—" Quid 1am horribile," says he, " tamtetrum , quamlhominis truci- datio ? Ideo severissimis legibus vita Bo|stra munitur ; ideo bella execrabilia sunt. Invenit tamen consuetude qua.tenus homicidium sine bello ac sine legibns faciat: et^ hoc sibi voluptas quod scelus vindicavit. Quod si interesse homicidio sceleris conscientia est,—et eidemi facinori spec- tato r obstrictus est cui et admissor; ergo e); in his gladia- torum csedibus non minus cruore profunditur qui spectat, quam ille qui facit: nee potest esse immunis a sanguine qui voluit effundi; aut videri non interfecisse, qui inter-


et favit et prcemium postulavit."

I " Wha t



dreadful," says Lactantius, "wha t so disma^ and revolting, as the murder of a human creature ? Therefore i t is, tha t hfe for us is protected by laws the most rigorous: therefore it is, tha t wars are objects of execration. And yet the traditional usage of Rome has devised a niode of author-




ising murder apart from war, and in defiance of law ; and the demands of taste (voluptas) are now become the same

as those of abandoned guilt."

Le t the Society of Gentlemen

Amateurs consider this ; and let me call their especial at- tention to the last sentence, which is so weighty, that I shall attempt to convey it in English: " Now, if merely to

be present at a murder fastens on a man the character of an accomplice; if barely to be a spectator involves us in one common guilt with the perpetrator, it follows, of ne- cessity, that, in these murders of the amphitheatre, the hand which inflicts the fatal blow is not more deeply imbrued in blood than his who passively looks on; neither can he be clear of blood who has countenanced its shedding; nor tha t man seem other than a participator in murder, who gives his applause to the murderer, and calls for prizes on his behalf." The "proemia postulavit" I have not yet heard charged upon the G-entlemen Amateurs of London, though undoubtedly their proceedings tend to that ; but

the " interfectori favit" is imphed in the very title

of this

association, and expressed in every line of the lecture which


X . Y . Z.


GrENTLEJviEN,—I have had the honour to be appointed by your committee to the trying task of reading the Wil- liams' Lecture on Murder, considered as one of the Fine

Arts ; a task which might

be easy enough three or four

centuries ago, when the art was little understood, and few great models had been exhibited; but in this age, when masterpieces of excellence have been executed by profes- sional men, it must be evident, that in the style of criti- cism applied to them, the public will look for something of



a corresponding improvomeiit. Tractice and! theory must advance pari passu. People begin to see thi t sometHng

more goes to tlie composition of a fine murder than two blockheads t o kill and be killed^ a knife—a purse—and a dark lane. Design, gentlemen, grouping, hgljit and shade, poetry, sentiment, are now deemed indispensable to attempts

of this nature. Mr

murder to

all of

us ;

Williams has exalted the ideal of

and to

me, therefore, in particular,

has deepened the arduousness of my task. Like iEschylus or Milton in poetry, like Michael Angelo in painting, he has carried his art to a point of colossal sublimity; and, as Mr Wordsworth observes, has in a manner j ' created the taste by which he is to be enjoyed." To sketch the history of the art, and t o examine its principles critically, now re- mains as a duty for the coimoisseur, and for judges of quite another stamp from his Majesty's Judges of Assize.

Before I begin, let me say a word or two to certain prigs, who affect to speak of our society as |if it were in some degree immoral in its tendency. Immoral! Jupiter

protect me, gentlemen, what

is i t tha t people mean? I

am for morality, and always shall be, and for virtue, and

all that ; and I do afiirm, and always shall (let what


come of it), tha t murder is an improper line of conduct, highly improper; and I do not stick t o assert, tha t any man who deals in murder, must have very iijicorrect ways of thinking, and truly inaccurate principles,; and so far from aiding and abetting him by pointing out his victim's hiding-place, as a great moralist* of Germariy declared it

to be every good man's duty t o do, I would subscribe one

• Kant—wh o carrie d hi s demand s of unconditiona l veracit y to so extravagan t a lengt h a s t o affirm, that , if a man wer e t o see a n in - nocent perso n escape from a murderer , i t would be his duty , on being questione d h y th e murderer , t o tel l th e truth , an d t o poin t




shilling and sixpence to have him apprehended, which is more by eighteenpence than the most eminent morahsts have hitherto subscribed for tha t purpose. But what then? Everything in this world has two handles. Murder, for in- stance, may be laid hold of by its moral handle (as it generally is in the pulpit, and at the Old Bailey); and that, I confess, is its weak side; or it may also be treated cEsthetkally, as the Germans call it—that is, in relation to good taste. To illustrate this, I will urge the authority of three eminent persons; viz., S. T . Coleridge, Aristotle, and Mr Howship the surgeon. To begin with S. T. 0 . One night, many years ago, I was drinking tea with him in Berners Street (which, by the way, for a short street, has been un- commonly fruitful in men of genius). Others were there besides myself; and, amidst some carnal considerations of tea and toast, we were all imbibing a dissertation on Plo- tinus from the Attic lips of S. T . C. Suddenly a cry arose of, " Fire—fire!" upon which all of us, master and disciples. Plato and ol nepl rov n'ka.Tava, rushed out, eager for the spectacle. The fire was in Oxford Street, at a pianoforte- maker's ; and, as it promised to be a conflagration of merit, I was sorry that my engagements forced me away from Mr Coleridge's party, before matters had come to a crisis. Some days after, meeting with my Platonic host, I reminded him of the case, and begged to know how that very promis- ing exhibition had terminated. " Oh, sir," said he, " it turned out so ill tha t we damned it unanimously." Now, does any man suppose tha t Mr Coleridge—who, for all he is too fat to be a person of active virtue, is undoubtedly a

out th e retrea t of th e innocen t person,

unde r an y certaint y of caus-

ing murder. Lest this doctrin e should be supposed to have escajjcd him in an y lieat of dispute , on being taxe d with i t by a cc'ebriitc-il Frencli \vritcr, lie solemnly re-affirmed it, with Ms reasons.




worthy Christian—that this good S. T . C , I say, was an incendiary, or capable of wishing any ill to the poor man and his pianofortes (many of them, doubtless, with the ad-

ditional keys)! On the contrary, I know him t o be tha t sort of man, tha t I durst stake my life upon it . he would have worked an engine in a case of necessity, although

rather of the fattest

for such fiery trials of Ms virtue. But

how stood the case ? Virtue was in no request. On the

arrival of the fire engines, morality had devolved whoUj

on the insurance office. This being the case, he had a

right to gratify

his taste. He had left his tea. Was he

to have nothing in return ?

I conjtend tha t the most virtuous man, under the pre- mises stated, was entitled to make a luxury of the fire, and to hiss it, as he would any other performance tha t raised expectations in the public mind which afterwards i t disap- pointed. Again, to cite another great authority, what says

the Stagirite ? He (in

the Fifth Book, I think it is, of his

Metaphysics) describes what he calls KksTTTrjv reXetoi'—i.e., a

perfect thief;

and, as t o


Howship, in a work of his on

Indigestion, he makes no scruple to talk with admiration of a certain ulcer which he had seen, and which he styles " a beautiful ulcer." Now, will any man pretend, that, ab- stractedly considered, a thief could appear to Aristotle a perfect character, or tha t Mr Howship could be enamoured of an ulcer ? Aristotle, it is well known, was himself so very moral a character, that, not content with writing his Nichomachean Ethics, in one volume octavo, he also wrote another system, called Magna Moralia, or Big Ethics. Now, it is impossible tha t a man who composes any ethics a t all, big or little, should admire a thief per se; and as t o Mr Howship, it is well known tha t he makes war upon all ulcerSf and, without suffering himself to be seduced by their




cbarms, endeavours to baEish them from the County of Middlesex. But the truth is, that, however objectiona,bie

•per se, yet, relatively to others of their class, both a thief and au ulcer may have infinite degrees of merit. They are


imperfections, it is true ; but, to be imperfect being

their essence, the very greatness of their imperfection be- comes their perfection. Spartam nactus es, kanc exorna. A thief like Autolycus or the once famous George Barrington, and a grim phagedenic ulcer, superbly defined, and running regularly through all its natural stages, may no less justly be regarded as ideals after thei?- kind, than the most fault- less moss-rose amongst flowers, in its progress from bud to " bright consummate flower;" or, amongst human flowers, the most magnificent young female, apparelled in the pomp of womanhood. And thus not only the ideal of an inkstand may be imagined (as Mr Coleridge illustrated in his cele- brated correspondence with Mr Blackwood), in which, by the way, there is not so much, because an inkstand is a laudable sort of thing, and a valuable member of society; but even imperfection itself may have its ideal or perfect state.


Really, gentlemen, I beg pardon for so much philosophy one time ; and now let me apply it. When a murder is

in the paulo-post-futurum tense—not done, not even (ac- cording to modern purism) ieing done, but only going to be done—and a rumour of it comes to our ears, by all means let us trea t it morally, But suppose it over and done, and that you can say of it, Tei-eXeo-Tai, I t is finished, or (in that adamantine molossus of Medea) e'lpyao-Tm, Done it is:

it is a fait accompli; suppose the poor murdered man to be out of his pain, and the rascal that did it off like a shot,

iiobody knows whither; suppose, lastly, that we have done our best, by putting out our legs, to trip up the feUow in his flight, but all to no purpose—" abiit, evasit, excessit,



erupit," &c.—^why, then, I say, what's the us6 of any more virtue? Enough has been given to morality]; now comes

the turn of Taste and the Fine Arts . A sad i thing

it was,

no doubt, very sad ; but we can't

us make the best of a bad matter

rnend it. Therefore let


and, as it I is impossible

to hammer anything

out of it for moral purposes, let


treat it aesthetically, and see if it will turn to account in that way. Such is the logic of a sensible man, and what follows 1 We dry u,p our tears, and have thfi satisfaction, perhaps, to discover tha t a transaction, which,,morally con- sidered, was shocking, and without a leg to ' stand upon, when tried by principles of Taste, turns out |to be a very meritorious performance. Thus all the world is pleased; the old proverb is justified, tha t it is an ill wind which blows nobody good; the amateur, from looking bilious and sulky, by too close an attention to virtue, begins to pick up his crumbs; and general hilarity prevails. Virtue has had her day ; and henceforward. Virtu, so nearly the same thing as to differ only by a single letter (which surely is not worth haggling or higgUng about)—Virtu, I repeat, and Connoisseurship, have leave to provide foi" themselves. Upon this principle, gentlemen, I propose to: guide your studies, from Cain to Mr Thurtell. Through this great gallery of murder, therefore, together let us wander hand in hand, in delighted admiration; while I endeavour to point your attention t o the objects of profitable criticism.

The first murder is familiar to you all.

As I the inventor

of murder, and the father of the art, Cain must have been

a man of first-rate genius. All the Cains were men of genius. Tubal Cain invented tubes, I think, or some such thing. But, whatever might be the originality and genius of the artist, every art was then in its infancy, and the works




turned out from each several stwdio, must be criticised with a recollection of tV t fact. Eyen Tubal's work would probably be little approved at this day in ShefBeld; and therefore of Cain (Cain senior, I mean) it is no disparage- ment to say, tha t his performance was but so-so. Milton, however, is supposed to have thought differently. By hi? way of relating the case, it should seem to have been rather a pet murder with him, for he retouches it with an apparent anxiety for its picturesque effect:—

" Wherea t h e inl y rage d ;

and , a s the y

talk'd ,

Smote hi m int o th e midriff with a ston e

Tha t bea t

out life : h e fell ;

and , deadly pale ,

Groan' d out his soul with gushing blood effused."


Lost, B . xi .

Upon this, Richardson the painter, who had an eye for effect, remarks as follows, in his "Notes on Paradise Lost,"

  • p. 497:— " I t has been

thought," says he, " that Cain beat

(as the common saying is) the breath out of his brother's

body with a great stone; Milton gives in to this, with the addition, however, of a large wound." In this place it was a judicious addition; for the rudeness of the weapon, unless raised and enriched by a warm, sangmnary colouring, has

too much of the naked air of

the savage school; as if the

deed were perpetrated by a Polypheme without science, premeditation, or anything but a mutton bone. However, I am chiefly pleased with the improvement, as it imphes that Milton was an amateur. As to Shakspere, there never was a better ; witness his description of the murdered Duncan, Banquo, &c.; and above all, witness his incomparable min- iature, in " Henry VI., " of the murdered Gloucester.*


Th e passag e occurs in th e

second par t

(ac t

3) of " Henr y VT.,"

an d

is doubly remarkable—first, for its critica l fidelity t o nature ,

wer e th e description mean t only for poetic effect; but , secondly,


th e judicial valu e impressed upon i t when offered

(as her e

i t is





The foundation of

the art having been once laid, it is

pitiable to see how it slumbered without improvement for

ages. I n

fact, I shall now be obUged toj leap over all

murders, sacred and profane, as utterly unworthy of notice, until long after the Christian era. Greece, even in the age of Pericles, produced no murder, or at lea k none is re- corded, of the slightest merit; and Rome ihad too little

fered) i n silent corroboration legally of a dreadfiil whisper, all a t once arising, tha t foul pla y ha d been dealing wit h a grea t prince ,

clothed wit h a n official stat e charactei' . I t is th e Duk e of Glouces- ter, faithful guardia n and loving uncl e of th e simple an d imbecile king, who ha s been found dead i n his bed . Ho w shal l this event b e

interprete d ?

Ha d

h e died unde r some natura l visitatio n of Provi -

dence, or by violence from hi s enemies ? Th e two court factions rea d th e circumstantia l indications of th e case Int o opposite con- structions. Th e affectionate an d afflicted youn g Vda'g, whose position

almost pledges

hi m t o neutrality , cannot , nevertheless, disguise his

overwhelming suspicions of hellis h conspiracy i n th e background .

Upon this, a force of this

leade r of th e opposite faction endeavours t o brea k th e

roya l frankness, countersigne d an d echoed most im-

pressively by Lor d Warwick . " Wha t instance," h e asks—meaning

by instance no t exampl e or illustration , as thoughtless commentators liave constantl y supposed, bu t i n th e common scholastic sense—



wha t pressur e of argument , wha t urgen t plea, can

Warwic k

Lor d

pu t forward in support of his " dreadful oat h "—an

oath , namely, that , as surely a s h e hope s for th e life eternal , so



I do believe tha t violent hand s wer e [laid Upo n th e life of this thric e famed duke. " Ostensibly th e challenge is to Warwick , bu t substantiall y i t is

mean t

for th e king . An d th e repl y of Warwick , th e argumen t o n


h e builds, lies i n a solemn arra y of all th e changes worked i n th e

duke's features by death , as irreconcileable \with lany othe r hypo - thesi s tha n tha t thi s deat h ha d bee n a violent one. ! Wha t argumen t

hav e I tha t Gloucester died unde r th e hand s of

mjirderers ? Wh y

th e following roU-cal! of awful changes, affecting head , face, nostrils,

eyes, hands , &c., which do no t belong indifferently t o any

mod e of

death , bu t exclusively t o a death b y violence:—•

" Bu t

see, his face is black and full

of blood ;l

Hi s eyeballs farthe r out tha n when h e lived.

Starin g full ghastly, like a strangle d ma" ,



1 i

originality of genius in any of the arts to succeed where her model failed her.* In fact, the Latin language sinks under the very idea of murder. " The man was murdered;" —^how will this sound in Latin ? Interfectus est, interemptus est—which simply expresses a homicide; and hence the Christian Latinity of the middle ages was obUged to intro- duce a new word, such as the feebleness of classic concep- tions never ascended to . Murdratus est, says the sublimer dialect of Gothic ages. Meantime, the Jewish school of

Hi s hai r uprear'd , his nostrils stretch' d witli struggling ; His hand s abroa d display'd, as one tha t grasp' d An d tugg' d for life, an d was hy strengt h subdued. Loo k on th e sheets:—his hair , you see, is sticking ;

Hi s well-proportion'd

bear d made rougli and rugged.

Lik e t o th e summer's

corn by tempest lodged.

I t

canno t b e bu t h e was murder' d here ;

Th e least of all these signs wer e probable. "

As th e logic of th e case, let us no t for a momen t forget, that , t o be

of an y Talue, th e signs

an d indication s pleaded must be sternl y

diagnostic. Th e discriminatio n sought for is between deat h tha t is

natural , an d deat h tha t is violent . Al l indications, therefore, tha t be- long equall y and indifferently t o either, ar e equivocal, useless, and alie n from th e very purpose of th e signs her e registere d by Shakspere . *

A t

th e time of writin g this,

I hel d th e common opinion upon

tha t subject. Mer e inconsideratio n i t was tha t led t o so erroneous

a judgment . Since then , on closer reflection, I hav e seen ample reason to retrac t It : satisfied I now am, tha t th e Eomans , in every ar t which allowed t o the m an y parit y of advantages, ha d merits as racy, native , and characteristic , as th e best of th e Greeks. Else - wher e I shal l plea d this cause eircumstantially , with th e hope of

convertin g

th e reader . I n th e meantime , I was anxiou s t o lodge

my protest


this ancien t error ; a n erro r which commenced

i n th e time-serving

sycophancy of Virgi l th e court-poet . Wit h th e

base purpose of gratifying Augustu s in his vindictive spite against Cicero, an d by way of introducing, therefore, the littl e clause, ora- oMBt Causas melius as applyin g t o all Athenia n against all Eoma n arators, Virgi l did no t scruple to sacrifice by wholesale th e jus j pretension s of his compatriots collectively.


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murder kept alive whatever was yet known in the art, and gradually transferred it to the Western World. Indeed, the Jewish school was always respectable, even in its me- dieval stages, as the case of Hugh of Lincoln shows, which was honoured with the approbation of Chaucer, on occasion of another performance from the same school, which, in his Canterbury Tales, he puts into the mouth of the Lady Abbess.

Recurring, however, for one moment, t o Iclassical anti- quity, I cannot but think that Catiline, Clodius, and some of that coterie, would have made first-rate artists ; and it is on all accounts to be regretted, tha t the priggism of Cicero robbed his country of the only chance she hadlfor distinction in this line. As the subject of a murder, no person could have answered better than himself. Oh Gemini! how he would have howled with panic, if he had heard Cethegiis under his bed. I t would have been truly diverting to have listened to him; and satisfied I am, gentlemen, tha t he would have preferred the utile of creeping into a icloset, or even into a cloaca, to the honestum of facing the bold artist.

To come now to the dark ages—(by which we that speak with precision mean, par excellence, the tenth century as a meridian line, and the two centuries immediately before and

after, full midnight being from A.D. 888 to A.D. 1111)— these ages ought naturally t o be favourable t o the art of murder, as they were t o church architecture, to stained glass, &c.; and, accordingly, about the latter end of this

period, there arose a great character in the Old Man of the Mountains. He was

opr art, I mean ai shining light,

indeed, and I need not tell you, tha t the very word '* assassin " is deduced from him. So keen a!n amateur was

he, tha t on one occasion, when his own life ivas attempted by a favourite assassin, he was so much pleased with the talent shown, that, notwithstanding the failure of the artist,



1 3

he create d



duk e upo n th e spot , with remainde r

t o

th e female line, an d settle d a pension on him for thre e lives.

Assassinatio n is a branc h


th e

ar t which



separat e notice ;



i t

is possible


tha t


may devote


entir e

lectur e t o it .

Meantime , I

shall only observe how

odd i t is, tha t

thi s branc h


th e



ha s

flourished b y in -

termittin g fits. I t never

rains , bu

t i t pours . Our own

ag e ca n boas t

of some fine specimens, such, for instance ,

a s Belltngham's affair wit h th e prim e ministe r Percival , th e Du e de Berri' s case a t th e Parisia n Oper a House , th e . Marecha l Bessieres' cas e a t Avignon ; an d abou t tw o an d

a half

centurie s ago , ther e was a most brillian t

constella -

tio n of murder



thi s



nee d hardl y say , tha t


allude especially t o thos e seven splendid works—th e assas -

sinations of WiUiam

I. , of Orange ; of th e thre e Frenc h

Henries , viz.—Henri , Duk e of Guise , tha t ha d a fancy for

th e thron e of Prance ;

of Henr i HI. , las t princ e in th e line

of Valois , who the n occupied tha t throne ; an d finally of

Henr i IV. , his

brother-in-law , who succeeded t o tha t thron e

as first princ e in th e line of Bourbon ; no t eightee n years late r came th e 5t h on th e roll, viz., tha t of ou r Duk e of Buckingha m (which you will find excellently described in th e letter s pubUshed b y Sir Henr y Ellis , of th e Britis h Museum) , 6thl y of Gustavu s Adolphus , an d 7thly of Wallenstein . Wha t a gloriou s Pleia d of murders ! An d i t increase s one's admiration—tha t thi s brigh t constellatio n of artisti c displays, comprehendin g 3 Majesties, 3 Seren e Highnesses, an d 1 Excellency , all lay within so narro w a field of tim e as

betwee n A.D. 158 8 an d 1635 . Th e Kin g of Sweden's as-

sassination, b y th e by , is doubte d

by many writers , Hart e

amongst others ; bu t the y ar e wrong . H e was murdered ; an d I consider his murde r unique in it s excellence ; for h e was marderecl a t noou-day , an d on th e field of battle— a


1 4


feature of original conception, which occurs in no other work of art tha t I remember. To conceive the idea of a secret mnrder on private account, as enclosed within a little parenthesis on a vast stage of pubUc battle-carnage, is like Hamlet's subtle device of a tragedy within a tragedy. Indeed, all of these assassinations may be studied with profit by the advanced connoisseur. They are all of them exem- plaria model murders, pattern murders, of which one may say,—

"Nocturn a versat e manu , versat e

diurna; "

especially nocturna. In these assassinations of princes and statesmen, there is nothing to excite our wonder; important changes often depend on their deaths ; and, from the eminence on which they stand, they are peculiarly exposed to the aim of every artist who happens to be possessed by the craving for Fcenioal effect. But there is another class of assassinations, which has prevailed from an early period of the seventeenth century, tha t really does surprise me ; I mean the assassina- tion of philosophers. For, gentlemen, it is a fact, tha t every philosopher of eminence for the two last centuries lias either been murdered, or, a t the least, been very near it ; insomuch, tha t if a man calls himself a philosopher, and never had his life attempted, rest assured there is nothing in him; and against Locke's philosophy in particular, I think it an unanswerable objection (if we needed any), that, although he carried his throat about with him in this world for seventy-two years, no man ever condescended t o cut it . As these cases of philosophers are not much known, and are generally good and well composed in their circumstances, I shall here read an excursus on tha t subject, chiefly by way of showing my own learning. The first great philosopher ot the seventeenth century (if



1 5

we except Biieon and Galileo) was Des Cartes; and if ever one could say of a man that he was all hut murdered—mur-

dered within an inch—one must sa j it of him. The case was this, as reported by Baillet in his " Vie De M. Des

Cartes," torn. I . p . 102-3. I n the year

1621, when Des

Cartes might be about twenty-six years old, he was tour- ing about as usual (for he was as restless as a hyena); and, coming to the Elbe, either at Gluckstadt or at Hamburgh,

he took shipping for East Eriezland. Wha t he could want in East Eriezland no man has ever discovered; and per- haps he took this into consideration himself; for, on reach- ing Bmbden, he resolved to sail instantly for West Eriez- land ; and beuig very impatient of delay, he hired a bark, with a few mariners to navigate it . No sooner had he got out to sea, than he made a pleasing discovery, viz., that he had shut himself up in a den of murderers. His crew, says M. Baillet, he soon found out to be " des scelerats "—not amateurs, gentlemen, as we are, but professional men—the height of whose ambition at tha t moment was to cut his individual throat. But the story is too pleasing to be abridged; I shall give it, therefore, accurately, from the French of his biographer: " M. Des Cartes had no com- pany but that of his servant, with whom he was convers-

ing in French. The sailors, who

took him for a foreign

merchant, rather than a cavaUer, concluded that he must have money about him. Accordingly, they came to a re- solution by no means advantageous to his purse. There is this difference, however, between sea-robbers and the robbers in forests, tha t the latter may, without hazard, spare the lives of their victims; whereas the others cannot put a passenger on shore in such a case without running the risk of being apprehended. The crew of M. Des Cartes arranged their measures with a view to evade any danger ol


1 6


tha t sort. They observed tha t he was a stranger from a distance, without acquaintance in the countrj', and tha t no- body would take any trouble t o inquire about him, in case he should neyer come to hand {quandil viendroit a manquer)." Think, gentlemen, of these Friezland dogs discussing a phi- losopher as if he were a puncheon of rum consigned to some ship-broker. " His temper, they remarked, m&B very mild and patient ; and, judging from the gentleness of his de- portment, and the courtesy with which he treated them- selves, that he could be nothing more than sonie green young man, without station or root in the world, they concluded tha t they should have all the easier task in disposing of his hfe. They made no scruple t o discuss the whole matter in his presence, as not supposing that he understood any other language than tha t in which he conversed witti his servant; and the amount of their deliberation was—to murder him, then to throw him into the sea, and to divide his spoils." Excuse my laughing, gentlemen; but the! fact is, I al- ways do laugh when I think of this case—two things about it seem so droll. One is, the horrid panic or " funk " (as the men of Eton call it) in which Des Cartes must have found himself, upon hearing this regular dr^ma sketched for his own death—funeral—succession and administration to his effects. But another thing which seems to me still more funny about this affair is, tha t if these Friezland hounds had been " game," we should have no Cartesian philosophy; and how we could have done! without that, considering the world of books it has produced, I leave to any respectable trunk-maker to declare. However, to go on : spite of his enormqus funk, Des Cartes showed light, and by tha t means awed these Anti- Cartesian rascals. " Finding," says M. Baillet, " tha t the matter was no joke, M. Des Cartes leaped upon his feet in



1 7

a trice , assumed a ster n countenanc e tha t thes e craven s had

never looked for, and, addressin g



thei r own lan-

guage , threatene d t o ru n the m throug h on th e spo t if the y

dare d t o give him any insult. " Certainly , gentlemen, this

would have been an honou r far above th e merit s of such inconsiderable rascals—t o b e spitte d like lark s upon a

Cartesia n sword ; an d therefor e I am

gla d

M . De s

Carte s

did no t

ro b

th e gallows b y executin g

his threat , especially


as he could

no t possibly hav e brough

his vessel t o port ,

after h e ha d murdere d his crew ; so tha t he must have continued t o cruise for ever in th e Zuyde r Zee, an d would probabl y have been mistaken b y sailors for th e Flying Dutchman, homewar d bound . " Th e spiri t which M. De s Carte s manifested, " says his biographer , "ha d th e effect of magi c on thes e wretches. Th e suddenness of thei r con- sternatio n struc k thei r minds with a confusion which blinded them t o thei r advantage , an d they conveyed him t o his destinatio n as peaceabl y as he could desire. "

Possibly , gentlemen, you

may fancy that , on

th e


of Caesar's addres s t o his poo r ferryman— " Ceesarem veins etfortunas ejus "—M. Des Carte s needed only t o have said, " Dogs , you cannot cu t my throat , for you carr y De s Carte s an d Ms philosophy, " and migh t safely hav e defied them t o do thei r worst . A Germa n emperor ha d th e same notion,

when, bein g cautione d t o kee p ou t of th e way of a cannon - ading, he replied, " Tut ! man . Did you ever hea r of a

cannon-bal l tha t killed an emperor ? " *

A s

t o

an emperor

* This same argumen t ha s been employed at least once too

often ;

some centurie s back a dauphi n of France , when admonished of his

risk from small-pox,

mad e th e same demand as th e emperor—" Ha d

an y gentlema n hear d of a dauphi n killed by small-pox? " No ; no t any gentleman had hear d of such a case. An d yet, for all that , th y dauphin died of tha t same small-pox .




1 8


I cannot say, but a less thing has sufficed to smash a phflo- gopher; and the next great philosopher of Europe un- doubtedly was murdered. This was Spinosa.

I know very well the common opinion abdut him is, that he died in his bed. Perhaps he did, but he was murdered for all that ; and this I shall prove by a booli published at Brussels in the year 1731, entitled "L a Yie de Spinosa, par M. Jean Colerus," with many additions, from a MS.

life, by one of his friends.


died on jthe 21st Feb-

ruary, 1677, being then little more than forty-four years old. This, of itself, looks suspicious; and M.- Jean admits, tha t a certain expression in the MS. life jof him would warrant the conclusion, " que sa mort n' a pas ete tout-a- fait naturelle." Living in a damp country! and a sailor's country, like Holland, he may be thought to have indulged a good deal in grog, especially in punch,* w^hich was then

newly discovered. Undoubtedly he might have done so ; but the fact is, that he did not. M. Jean calls him " ex-

trcmement sobre en sou

boire et en son manger." And

though some wild stories were afloat about his using the

juice of mandragora (p. 140) and opiiim (p. IH), yet neither

of these articles is

found in his druggist's bill. Living,

therefore, with such sobriety, how was it possible tha t he should die a natural death at forty-four? jHear his bio- grapher's account:—" Sunday morning, the 21st of Febru-


"Jun e

1,1675.—Drinke par t of thre e boules of punc h ( a liquo r

very stvaingc to me), " says th e Rev. Mr Henr y

Teqnge , in his Biar y

publishe d by C. Knight . I n a not e on this passage, a referenc e

is mad e t o Fryer' s Travels

to th e Eas t Indies , 1,672, who speaks

of "tha t enervatin g liquo r called paunch (whic h is Hindostane e for five), from five ingredients. " Mad e thus , i t sdems th e medica l men called i t diapente ; if wit h four only, diatessaron . N o doubt ,

i t wa s thi s evangelical nam e tha t recommended i t to Toonge .

th e Eev . M^



1 9

hTj, before it was church time, Spinosa came down stairs, aad conversed with the master and mistress of the house." At this time, therefore, perhaps ten o'clock on Sunday morning, you see tha t Spinosa was alive, and pretty well. But it seems "h e had summoned from Amsterdam a certain physician, whom," says the biographer, " I shall not other-


point out to notice than by these two letters, L . M."

This L . M. had directed the people of the house to purchase

" an ancient cock," and t o have him boiled forthwith, in order that Spinosa might take some broth about noon;

which in fact he did ; and ate some of

the old cock with a

good appetite, after the landlord and his wife had returned from church.

" In the afternoon, L . M. staid alone with Spinosa, the people of the house having returned to church; on coming out from which, they learned, with much surprise, tha t Spinosa had died about three o'clock, in the presence of

  • L. M., who took his departure for Amsterdam tha t same

evening, by the night-boat, without paying the least atten- tion to the deceased," and probably without paying very much attention to the payment of his own little account. " No doubt he was the readier to dispense with these duties, as he had possessed himself of a ducatoon, and a small quantity of silver, together with a silver-hafted knife, and had absconded with his pillage." Here you see, gentle-

men, the murder is plain, and the manner of it. I t was L . M. who murdered Spinosa for his money. Poor Spinosa was an invalid, meagre and weak: as no blood was observed,

  • L. M. no doubt threw him down, and smothered him with

pillows—the poor man being already half suffocated by his infernal dinner. After masticating tha t " ancient cock," which I take to mean a cock of the preceding century, in what condition could the poor invalid find himself for a


2 0


Stand-u p fight wit h L . M. ?

Bu t



L .


I t

surely never could b e Lindle y Murray , for


saw him

a t

Yor k in 1825 ; and, besides,



no t thin k

he would do

such a thing—a t least , no t t o

a brothe r

grammarian :


yo u know, gentlemen, tha t Spinosa wrot e a very respectabl e

Hebre w grammar .

Hobbes—bu t why, or on wha t principle , I never could understand—wa s no t murdered . Thi s was a capita l over- sigh t of th e professional men in th e seventeent h century ; because in every ligh t he was a iine subject for murder ,

except , indeed, tha t h e was lean an d

skhmy ; for I can

prov e tha t he ha d money, an d (wha t is

no righ t

t o

mak e th e least

resistance ;

very funny) h e ha d since, accordin g t o

himself, irresistibl e powe r create s th e ver y highest


of right , so tha t

i t is rebellion of th e blackest dye t o


t o b e murdered , when a competent force appear s t o murde r you. However, gentlemen, thoug h h e was no t murdered , 1 am happ y t o assur e you tha t (by his own account ) he was thre e times very nea r bein g murdered , which is consolatory . Th e first time was in th e sprin g of 1640 , when he pretend s t o have circulate d a littl e MS . on th e king' s behalf agains t th e Parliament ; he never could produc e thi s MS. , b y th e by ; bu t he says, that , " Ha d no t Hi s Majesty dissolved th e

Parliament " (in May) , " it ha d brough



int o dange r




Dissolving th e Parliament , however, was of

no use ; for in Novembe r of th e same yea r th e Lon g Par - liament assembled, and Hobbes , a second time fearing he should b e murdered , ra n awa y t o France . Thi s looks like th e madness of Joh n Dennis, who though t tha t Loui s X I V

would never make peac e wit h Queen Anne , unless he (Dennis t o ^vit) were given u p t o Frenc h vengeance ; and

actuall y ra n

away from

th e sea-coast unde r tha t


I n France , Hobbe s manage d t o tak e car e of his throa t



2 1

pretty well for ten years; ba t at the end -of that time, by way of paying court to Cromwell, lie published his " I^e- viathan." The old coward now began to "funk" horribly for the third time ; he fancied the swords of the cavaliers were constantly at his throat, recollecting how they had served the Parliament ambassadors at the Hague and Madrid. " Turn," says he, in his dog-Latin life of himself,

" Turn

veni t i n mentet n mih i Dorislau s et Ascham ;

Tanqua m proscript o terro r ubiqu e aderat. "

And accordingly he ran home to England. Now, certainly, it is very true tha t a man deserved a cudgelling for writing " Leviathan;" and two or three cndgellings for writing a pentameter ending so villanously as "terro r ubique aderat!" But no man ever thought him worthy of anything beyond cudgelling. And, in fact, the whole story is a bounce of Ins own. For, in a most abusive letter which he wrote "t o a learned person" (meaning Wallis the mathematician), he gives quite another account of the matter, and says (p. 8), he ran home " because he would not trust his safety with the French clergy; " insinuating that he was likely to be murdered for his rehgion, which would have been a high joke indeed—^Tom's being brought to the stake for religion. Bounce or not bounce, however, certain it is that Hobbes, to the end of his life, feared tha t somebody would murder


This is proved by the story I am going to tell you :

it is not from a manuscript, but (as Mr Coleridge says) it is as good as manuscript; for it comes from a book now en- tirely forgotten, viz., "Th e Creed of Mr Hobbes Examined:

in a Conference between him and a Student in Divinity" (published about ten years before Hobbes's death). The book is anonymous, but it was written by Temiison, the same who, about thirty years after, succeeded Tillotson as Archbishop of Canterbury. The introductory anecdote is


2 2


as follows :—" A certain divine" (no doubt Tennison him- self) " took an annual tour of one month t o different parts of the island." I n one of these excursions (1670), he visited the Peak in Derbyshire, partly in consequence of Hobbes's

description of it. Being in tha t neighbourhood, he could not but pay a visit to Buxton ; and at the very moment of his arrival, he was fortunate enough to find a party of gentlemen dismounting at the inn-door, amongst whom was a long thin fellow, who turned out t o be|no less a per- son than Mr Hobbes, who probably had ridden over from Chatsworth.* Meeting so great a lion, a tourist, in search of the picturesque, could do no less than present himself in the character of bore. And luckily for this scheme, two of Mr Hobbes's companions were suddenly summoned away by express ; so that, for the rest of his stay at Bux- ton, he had Leviathan entirely t o himself,! and had the honour of bowsing with him in the eveningi. Hobbes, it seems, at first showed a good deal of stiffness, for he was

shy of divines; but this wore off, and he! became


sociable and funny, and they agreed to go into the


together. How Tennison could venture to gambol in the same water with Leviathan, I cannot explain; but so it was : they frolicked about like two dolphins, though Hobbes must have been as old as the hills; b,nd " in those intervals wherein they abstained from swimming and plunging themselves" (i.e., diving), " they! discoursed of many things relating to the baths of the Ancients, and

* Chatsw ort h was then , as now, th e superb seat of th e CaYendishes in thei r highest branch—i n those days Earl , a t presen t Dul^e, of

Devonsliire. I t i s t o th e honou r of thi s family ttat , throug h two

generations, the y

gave an asylum t o Hobbes. I t is noticeabl e tha t

Hobbes was bor n i n th e yea r of th

e Spanis h Armada , i.e., i n 1588


S'lch, a t

least, is my belief.

And , therefore, a t this

Tennison in 1670, h e mus t har e

bee n abou t 82 years

meetin g with





the Origiiie of Springs. When they had in tliis manner passed away an hour, they stepped out of the bath ; and, having dried and cloathed themselves, they sate down in expectation of such a supper as the place afforded; design- ing t o refresh themselves like the Deipnosophistce, and rather to reason than to drink profoundly. But in this innocent intention they were interrupted by the disturbance arising from a little quarrel, in which some of the ruder people in the house were for a short time engaged. At this Mr Hobbes seemed much concerned, though he was at some distance from the persons." And why was he concerned, gentlemen ? No doubt, you fancy, from some benign and disinterested love of peace, worthy of an old man and a philosopher. But hsten—" Fo r awhile he was not com- posed, but related it once or twice as to himself, with a low and careful, i.e., anxious, tone, how Sextus Roscius was murthered after supper by the Balnese Palatina3. Of such general extent is tha t remark of Cicero, in relation to Epicurus the Atheist, of whom he observed, tha t he of all men dreaded most those things which he contemned—• Death and the Gods." Merely because it was supper time, and in the neighbourhood of a bath, Mr Hobbes must have the fate of Sextus Roscius. He must be mur^Aered, because Sextus Roscius was mmthered. What logic was there in this, unless to a man who was always dreaming of murder? Here was Leviathan, no longer afraid of the daggers of English cavaliers or French clergy, but " frightened from his propriety" by a row in an alehouse between some honest clod-hoppers of Derbyshire, whom his own gaunt scarecrow of a person, that belonged to quite another century, would have frightened out of their wits. Malebranche, it will give you pleasure to hear, was rsmrdered. The man who murdered him is well km\v»:


2 4


It was Bisho p Berkeley .

Th e

stor y is familiar,

thoug h

hithert o no t pu t in a prope r light . Berkeley, when a

youn g man, went t o Paris , and called on Per e Malebranche .

H e found him in his cell


Cooks have ever been

a gams irritabile; author s still more so : Malebranche was

both :

a disput e

arose ; th e old father, warm

already , be -

came warmer ; culinar y an d metaphysica l irritation s united

t o derang e his liver : he too k t o his bed, and died. Suc h

is th e common version of th e stor y :

" S o

th e whole ea r of

Denmar k is abused. " Th e fact is, tha t th e matte r was

hushed up , ou t of consideration for

Berkeley, who (as Pop e

justl y observes) ha d " every virtu e

unde r heaven : "

else it

was well known tha t

Berkeley, feeling himself nettle d

b y

th e waspishness of th e old Frenchman , square d a t him ;


turn-up was th e consequence : Malebranch e was floored in th e first round ; th e conceit was wholly take n ou t of him ; and he would perhap s have given in ; bu t Berkeley's blood was now up , and he insisted on th e old Frenchman' s re -

tractin g his doctrine of Occasional Causes.

Th e vanit y of

th e man was to o grea t for this ; and he fell a sacrifice t o

th e impetuosit y of Iris h youth , combined wit h his own ab - sur d obstinacy .

Leibnitz , bein g every way superior t o Malebranche , one

might , a fortiori, have counted

on his bein g murdered ; which,

however, was no t th e case. I believe he was nettle d a t

this neglect , and felt himself insulted by th e securit y in

which he passe d his days. I n no othe r way can I explai n his conduc t a t th e latte r end of his life, when he chose t o gro w ver y avaricious, and t o hoar d u p larg e sums of gold,

which he kep t



own house .

Thi s


a t

Vienna ,

where he died ; and letter s ar e still in existence, describing th e immeasurable anxiet y which he entertainedfo r his throat . Still his ambition, for being attemptfl a t least, was so gree i



2 5

that he would not forego the danger. A late English pedagogue, of Birmingham manufacture—viz., Dr Parr— took a more selfish course under the same circumstance. He had amassed a considerable quantity of gold and silver plate, which was for some time deposited in his bedroom at his parsonage house, Hatton. But growing every day more

afraid of being murdered, which he knew that he could not stand (and to which, indeed, he never had the slightest pre- tensions), he transferred the whole to the Hatton black- smith; conceiving, no doubt, that the murder of a black-

smith would fall more

Hglitly on the salus reipublicce, than

that of a pedagogue. But I have heard this greatly disputed; and it seems now generally agreed, tha t one good horse-shoe is worth about two and a quarter Spital sermons.* As Leibnitz, though not murdered, may be said to have

died, partly of the fear that he should be murdered, and partly of vexation that he was not, Kant, on the other hand—who manifested no ambition in that way—had a narrower escape from a murderer than any man we read

of, except Des Cartes.

So absurdly does fortune throw

about her favours! The case is told, I think, in an ano-

nymous hfe of this very great man. For health's sake, Kant imposed upon himself, at one time, a walk of six miles every day along a high-road. This fact becoming inown to a man who had his private reasons for com- mitting murder, at the third milestone from Konigsberg,

* ^'Spital Sermons:"—Dr Parr' s chief public appearance s as an

author, after

his original appearanc e i n th e famous Lati n preface to

BellendSnus (don' t say Bellendenus), occnrred in certain


a t periodi c intervals, delivered on behalf of some hospita l ( 1 reall}-

forget what ) which retaine d for its official designation th e old


Spital; an d thu s i t happene d tha t th e Sermons themselves generally known by th e Titl e of Spital Sermons. B—IV



2 6


he waited for his "intended," who came up to time aa duly as a mail-coach.

But for an accident, Kant was a dead man.

This acci-

dent lay in the scrupulous, or what Mrs Quickly would have called the peevish, morality of the murderer. An old professor, he fancied, might be laden with sips. Not so a young child. On this consideration, he turned away from Kant at the critical moment, and soon after murdered a child of five years old. Such is the German account of the matter; but my opinion is, that the murderer was an amateur, who felt how little would be gaineij t o the cause of good taste by murdering an old, arid, and adust meta- physician ; there was no room for display, as the man could not possibly look more like a mummy when !dead, than he had done alive.

Thus, gentlemen, I have traced the connection between philosophy and our art, until insensibly I fidd that I have

wandered into our own era. This I shall !not take any pains to characterise apart from tha t which preceded it,

for, in fact, they have

no distinct character. The seven-

teenth and eighteenth centuries, together with so much of the nineteenth as we have yet seen, jointly compose the Augustan age of murder. The finest work'of the seven- teenth century is, unquestionably, the murder of Sir Edmondbury Godfrey, which has my entirq approbation. In the grand feature of mystery, which in some shape or other ought to colour every judicious attempt at murder, it is excellent; for the mystery is not yet dispersed. The attempt to fasten the murder upon the Papists, which' would injure it as much as some well-known'Gorreggios have been injured by the professional picture-cleaners, or would even ruin it by translating it into the [spurious class



2 7

of mere political or partisan murders, thoroughly wanting

in the murderous animus,


exhort the




countenance. In fact, this notion is altogether baseless, and arose in pure Protestant fanaticism. Sir Bdmond- bury had not distinguished himself amongst the London magistrates by any scTerity against the Papists, or in favouring the attempts of zealots to enforce the penal laws against individuals. He had not armed against himself the animosities of any religions sect whatever. And as, to the droppings of wax lights upon the dress of the corpse^ when first discovered in a ditch, from which it was infesrred; at the time that the priests attached to the Popish Queen's. Chapel had been concerned in the murder, either these were mere fraudulent artifices devised by those who wished to« fix the suspicion upon the Papists, or else the whole alle- gation—wax-droppings, and the suggested cause of the- droppingg—might be a bounce or iib of Bishop Burnet;, who, as the Duchess of Portsmouth used to say, was th e one great master of fibbing and romancing in the seventeenth century. A t the same time, it must be observed that the quantity of murder was not great in Sir Edmondbury's century, at least amongst our own artists; which, perhaps, is attributable to the want of enlightened patronage. Sint Mcecenates, non decfimi, Flacce, Marones. Consulting Grant's "Observations on the Bills of Mortality" (4th edition, Oxford, 1665), I find, that, out of 229,250, who died in London during one period of twenty years in the seven- teenth century, not more than eighty-six were murdered; that is, about four three-tenths per annum. A small number this, gentlemen, to found an academy upon; and certainly, where the quantity is so small, we have a right to expect tha t the quaKty should be first-rate. Perhaps It was; yet still I am of opinion tha t the best artist in this


2 8


centur y was

no t equa l t o th e bes t in tha t which followed.

Po r instance , however praiseworth y th e case of Sir Edmond -

bur y Godfrey may b e

(and nobody can b e more sensible of

it s merits tha n I am), still,

I cannot consent t o place i t on

a level with tha t of Mr s Ruscomb e of Bristol , either as t o

originalit y of design, or boldness an d breadt h of style. Thi s

good lady's murde r too k place early in th e reign of Georg e

III.— a reig n which was

notoriousl y favourable t o th e art s

generally. She lived in College Green, wit h a single maid-

servant, neither of them havin g any pretension t o th e notice

of histor y bu t wha t the y

derived from th e grea t artis t whose

workmanshi p I am recording . One fine morning, when all Bristo l was alive and in motion, some suspicion arising, th e neighbours forced an entranc e int o th e house, and found

Mr s Euscomb e murdere d in he r bedroom, an d th e servant

murdere d on th e stairs : this was a t noon ; and,

no t more

tha n two hours before, bot h mistress and servant ha d been




o th e best of my remembrance, this was in


; upward s of sixt y years," therefore, have

now elapsed,

and ye t th e artis t is still undiscovered. Th e

suspicions of

posterit y have settle d upon tw o pretenders— a bake r and a chimney-sweeper. Bu t posterit y is wrong ; no unprac - tise d artis t could have conceived so bold an idea as tha t of

a noonday murde r in th e hear t of a grea t city . I t was no obscur e baker , gentlemen, or anonymous chimney-sweeper, b e assured , tha t execute d thi s work . I know who i t was.

(Here there was a general buzz, which at length broke out into open applause; upon which the lecturer blushed, and went on

with much earnestness.) Fo r heaven's sake, gentlemen, do no t mistake me ; i t was no t I tha t did it . I have no t th


vanit y t o think myself equa l t o any such achievement ; b e

assure d tha t you greatl y overrat e my poo r talents ; Mr liuscombe's affair was far beyond my slender abilities. Bu t




2 9

I came to know who the artist was, from a celebrated sur- geon who assisted at his dissection. This gentleman had a private museum in the way of his profession, one corner of which was occupied by a cast from a man of remarkably fine proportions. " That," said the surgeon, " is a cast from the celebrated Lancashire highwayman, who concealed his profession for some time from his neighbours, by drawing woollen stock- ings over his horse's legs, and in that way muffling the clatter which he must else have made in riding up a flagged alley that led to his stable. A t the time of his execution for highway robbery, I was studying under Cruickshank:

and the man's figure was so uncommonly fine, that no money or exertion was spared to get into possession of him with the least possible delay. By the connivance of the under-sheriff, he was cut down within the legal time, and instantly put into a chaise-and-foar; so thiit, when he reached Cruickshank's, he was positively not dead. Mr ' , a young student at that time, had the honour of giv- ing him the coup de grctce, and finishing the sentence of the law." This remarkable anecdote, which seemed to imply tha t all the gentlemen in the dissecting-room were amateurs of our class, struck me a good deal; and I was repeating it one day to a Lancashire lady, who thereupon informed me, tha t she had herself Kved in the neighbourhood of that highwayman, and well remembered two circumstances, which combined, in the opinion of all his neighbours, to

fix upon him the credit of Mrs

Ruscombe's affair. One

was, the fact of his absence for a whole fortnight at the

period of that murder; the other, that, within a very httle time after, the neighbourhood of this highwayman was deluged with dollars : now, Mrs Ruscombe was known to have hoarded about two thousand of that coin. Be the


3 0


artist, however, who he might, the affair remains a durable monument of his genius; for such was the impression of awe, and the sense of power left behind, by the strength of conception manifested in this murder, tha t no I tenant (as I

was told in 1810) had been found up to that time for Mrs liuscombe's house. But, whilst I thus eulogise the Ruscombianicase, let me not be supposed to overlook the many other specimens of extraordinary merit spread over the face of this century. Such cases, indeed, as that of Miss Bland, or of Captain Donnellan, and Sir Theophilus Boughton, shall never have .iny countenance from me. Fie on these dealers in poison,

say I : can they not keep to the

old honest way of cutting

throats, without introducing such abominable j innovations from Italy ? I consider' all these poisoning cases, compared with the legitimate style, as no better than wkx-work by the side of sculpture, or a lithographic print by the side of a fine Volpato. But, dismissing these, there remain many excellent works of art in a pure style, such as nobody need be ashamed to own; and this every candid connoisseur will admit. Candid, observe, I say ; for great allowances must be made in these cases; no artist can ever, be sure of carrying through his own fine preconception.! Awkward disturbances will arise; people will not submit to have their throats cut quietly; they will run, they will kick,

they will bite ; and whilst the portrait painter pften has


complain of too much torpor in his subject, the artist in

our line is generally embarrassed by too much animation.

A t the same time, however disagreeable to the]

artist, this

tendency in murder to excite and irritate the subject is


one of

its advantages to


world | in general,

which we ought not to overlook, since it favours the de-

velopment of latent talent. Jeremy Taylor notices with



3 1

admiration the extraordinary leaps which people will take under the influence of fear. There was a striking instance of this in the recent case of the M'Keans: the boy cleared a height, such as he will never clear again to his dying day. Talents also of the most brilliant description for thumping, and, indeed, for all the gymnastic exercises, have sometimes been developed by the panic which accompanies our artists; talents else buried and hid under a bushel, to the possessors, as much as to their friends. I remember an interesting il- lustration of this fact, in a case which I learned in Germany. Riding one day in the neighbourhood of Munich, I over- took a distinguished amateur of our society, whose name, for obvious reasons, • ! shall conceal. This gentleman informed me that, finding himself wearied with the frigid pleasures (such he esteemed them) of mere amateurship, he had quitted England for the Continent—meaning to practise a little professionally. For this purpose he re- sorted to Germany, conceiving the police in tliat part of Europe to be more heavy and drowsy than elsewhere. His debut as a practitioner took place at Mannheim; and, knowing me to be a brother amateur, he freely communi- cated the whole of his maiden adventure. " Opposite to my lodging," said he, " lived a baker: he was somewhat of a miser, and lived quite alone. Whether it were his great expanse of chalky face, or what else, I know not, but the fact was, I ' fancied' him, and resolved to commence busi- ness upon his throat, which, by the way, he always carried bare—a fashion which is very irritating to my desires. Precisely at eight o'clock in the evening, I observed that he regularly shut up his windows. One night I watched him when thus engaged—bolted in after him—^locked the door—and, addressing him with great suavity, acquainted bim with the nature of my errand ; at the same time ad-


3 2


rising him to make no resistance, which would be mutually

unpleasant. So saying, I drew out my tools; and was pro- ceeding to operate. But at this spectacle the baker, who seemed to have been struck by catalepsy at my first an- nouncement, awoke into tremendous agitation. ' I will

not be murdered!' he shrieked alond; (meaning shall I ) 'los e my precious

'wha t for will I ' throat?'—'Wha t

for? ' said I ; 'i f for no other reason, for this—that you

put alum into your bread. But no matter, alum or no alum (for I was resolved to forestall any argument on that

point), know tha t I am a virtuoso

in the art of murder—

am desirous of improving' myself in its details—and am enamoured of your vast surface of throat, to which I am


to be a customer.'—'Is it so? ' said he, 'bu t

I'll find you a customer in another line; ' and so saying, he

threw himself into a boxing attitude.

The very idea of

his boxing struck me as ludicrous. I t is true, a London baker had distingnished himself in the ring, and became known to fame under the title of the Master of the Rolls;

but he was young and unspoiled: whereas, this man was a monstrous feather-bed in person, fifty years old, and totally out of condition. Spite of all this, however, and contend-


against me, who am a master in the art, he made so

desperate a defence, tha t many times I feared he might

turn the tables upon me ; and tha t I , an amateur,


be murdered by a rascally baker. Wha t a situation! Minds of sensibility will sympathise with my anxiety. How severe it was, you may understand by this, that for the first thii'teen rounds the baker positively had the advantage .. Round the 14th, I received a blow on the right eye, which

closed it up ; in the

end, I believe, this was my salvation; for

the anger it roused in me was so great, that, in the next, and

every one of the three following rounds, I floored the baker.



S 3

" Round 19tb. The baker came tip piping, and manifestly the worse for wear. His geometrical exploits in the font- last rounds had done Mm no good. However, he showed some sMl in stopping a message which I was sending to his cadaverous mug ; in delivering which, my foot slipped, and I went down. "Roun d 20th. Surveying the baker, I became ashamed of having been so much bothered by a shapeless mass of dough; and I went in fiercely, and administered some severe punishment. A rally took place—both went down—baker undermost—ten to three on amateur.

" Round 21st. The baker jumped up with surprising agility; indeed, he managed his pins capitally, and fought wonderfully, considering that he was drenched in perspira- tion ; but the shine was now taken out of him, and his game, was the mere effect of panic. I t was now clear that he could not last much longer. In the course of this round we tried the weaving system, in which I had greatly the advantage, and hit him repeatedly on the conk. My reason for this was, tha t his conk was covered with carbuncles:

and I thought I should vex him by taking such liberties with his conk, which in fact I did. " The three next rounds, the master of the rolls stag-

gered about like a cow on the ice. Seeing

how matters

stood, in round 24th I whispered something into his eai",

which sent him

down like a shot. I t was nothing more

than my private opinion of the valae of his throat at an

annuity office. This little confidential whisper affected him greatly; the very perspiration was frozen on his face,

and for the next two rounds I had it all my own way.

And when I called time for the


round, he lay like


log on the floor." After which, said J to the amateur, " I t may be pre-




snmed tha t you accomplished your purpose." "Yo u are right," said he, mildly, " I did ; and a great satisfaction,

you know, it was to my mind, for by this meajis I killed two birds with one stone;" meaning tha t he had .both thumped

the baker and murdered' him.

Now, for the life of me, I

could not see that; for, on the contrary, to \h.j mind it ap- peared that he had taken two stones to kill pne bird, hav- ing been obliged to take the conceit out of ,him first with Ms fist, and then with his tools. But no matter for his logic. The moral of his story was good, for it showed what an astonishing stimulus t o latent talent is contained in any reasonable prospect of being murdered. A pursy, unwieldy, half cataleptic baker of Mannheim liad absolutely fought seven-and-twenty rounds with an i accomplished English boxer, merely upon this inspiration; so greatly was natural genius exalted and sublimed by the genial presence of his murderer. Really, gentlemen, when one hears of such things as these, it becomes a duty, perhaps, a little to soften tha t extreme asperity with which most men speak of murder. To hear people talk, you would suppose that all the disad- vantages and inconveniences were on the side of being murdered, and that there were none at all | in not being murdered. But considerate men think otherwise. " Cer- tainly," says Jeremy Taylor, it is a less temporal evil t o fall by the rudeness of a sword than the violenice of a fever:

and the axe " (to which he might have added jthe ship-car- penter's mallet and the crowbar), " a much less affliction than a strangury." Very true ; the bishop'talks like a ws e man and an amateur, as I am sure he \^as; and an- other great philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, was equaOy above the vulgar prejudices on this subject. He declares it to be one of "th e noblest functions of reason to know whether



3 5

it is time to walk out of the world or not." (Book iii., CoUers' Translation.) No sort of knowledge being rarer than this, surely that man must be a most philanthropic character, who undertakes t o instruct people in this branch of knowledge gratis, and at no little hazard to himself. All this, however, I throw out only in the way of specu- lation to Tature moraUsts; declaring in the meantime my own private conviction, tha t very few men commit murder upon philanthropic or patriotic principles, and repeating what I have already said once at least—that, as to the majority of murderers, they are very incorrect characters. With respect to the WiUiams' murders, the sublimest and most entire in their excellence that ever were committed, I shall not allow myself to speak incidentally. Nothing less than an entire lecture, or even an entire course of lectures, would suffice to expound their merits.* But one curious fact connected with his case I shall mention, because it seems to imply that the blaze of his genius absolutely dazzled the eye of criminal justice. You all remember, I doubt not, that the instruments with which he executed his first great work (the murder of the Marrs) were 'a ship-carpenter's mallet and a knife. Now, the mallet belonged to an old Swede, one John Peterson, and bore his initials. This instrument Williams left behind him in Marr's house, and it fell into the hands of the magistrates. But, gentlemen, it is a fact tha t the publication of this circumstance of the initials led imme- diately to the apprehension of Williams, and, if made earlier, would have prevented his second great work (the murder of the WiUiamsons), which took place precisely twelve days after. Yet the magistrates kept back this fact from the public for the entire twelve days, and until that second


See th e Postscript A the end oi thi s paper.




work was accomplished. Tha t finished, the y published it , apparentl y feeling tha t WiUiams ha d now dbne enough for his fame, and tha t his glor y was a t lengt h jplaced beyond

th e reac h of accident. A s t o M r Thurtell' s case, I know not' wha t t o say. Naturally , I have every disposition t o thinli highl y of my predecessor in th e chair of thi s society ; and I acknowledge tha t his lecture s were unexceptionable. But , speaking in-

genuously, I do

really thin k tha t his principall


a s an artist , ha s been


overrated .

I admit , tha t a t first


was myself carrie d


by th e

th e morning when th e murde r was

genera l enthusiasm. On made known in London ,

ther e was th e fullest meeting of amateur s tl:(at I have ever

known since th e days of WiUiams; old bedridde n connois- seurs, who ha d go t int o a peevish way of sneering and

complaining "tha t ther e

was nothin g doing,!' now hobbled

down t o our club-room : such hilarity , such benign expres-

sion of genera l satisfaction, I have rarel y witnessed. On every side you saw people shakin g hands, Congratulating

each other, and forming dinner partie s for th e evening; and nothin g was t o be hear d bu t triumphan t challenges of—

"Well !

will «A«s do? "

" I s


th e righ t thing? " "Ar e

you satisfied a t last?


But , in

th e

middle |of th e

row, I

remember, we all gre w silent, on hearin g th e old cynical amateu r L . S • stumpin g along wit h his wooden leg ; he entere d th e room wit h his usua l scowl ; and, as he ad - vanced, he continued t o growl and stutte r th e whole way — " Mer e plagiarism—bas e plagiarism from hints tha t I thre w out ! -Besides, his style is as hars h as Alber t Durer , and as coarse as Fuseli. " Man y though t tha t this was mere jealousy, and genera l waspishness ; bu t I confess that , when th e first glow of enthusiasm ha d subsided, I have found most judiciou s critic s t o agre e tha t th^r e was some-



8 7

thing falsetto in tlie style of Thurtell. The fact is, he was a member of our society, which naturally gave a friendly bias to our judgments; and his person was universally


to the " fancy," which gave him, with the whole

London pubUc, a" temporary popularity, tha t his preten- sions are not capable of supporting; for opinionum commenta delet dies, natures judicia confirmat. There was, however, an unfinished design of Thurtell's for the murder of a man with a pair of dumb-bells, which I admired greatly; it was a- mere outline, that he never filled in ; but to my mind it seemed every way superior to his chief work. I remembet that there was great regret expressed by some amateurs that this sketch should have been left in an unfinished state :

but there I cannot agree with them; for the fragments and first bold outlines of original artists have often a feUeity about them which is apt to vanish in the management of the details.

The case of the M'Keans* I consider far beyond the vaunted performance of Thurtell—indeed, above all praise; and bearing that relation, in fact, to the immortal works of WiUiams, which the " JSneid " bears to the " Ihad." But it is now time tha t I should say a few words about the principles of murder, not with a view to regulate your practice, but your judgment : as to old women, and the mob of newspaper readers, they are pleased with anything, provided it is bloody enough. But the mind of sfcnsibihty requires something more. First, then, let us speak of the kind of person who is adapted to the purpose of the mur- derer ; secondly, of the place where; thirdly, of the time when, and other little circumstances.

As to the person, I suppose it is evident tha t he ought

See th e Postscript.



to be a good man; because, if he were not, Ihe might him- self, by possibility, be contemplating murder at the very time; and such "diamond-cut-diamond" tussles, though

pleasant enough where nothing better is stirring, are really not what a critic can allow himself t o call murders. I could mention some people ( I name no names) who have been murdered by other people in a dark lane ; and so far all seemed correct enough; but, on looking farther into the matter, the public have become aware that ithe murdered party was himself, at the moment, planning to rob his murderer, at the least, and possibly to murder him, if he

had been strong enough. Whenever tha t is the

ease, or

may be thought to be the case, farewell to alll the genuine

effects of the art . Fo r the final purpose of i murder, con- sidered as a fine art, is precisely the same as that of tragedy,

in Aristotle's account of it ; viz., " to cleanse the

heart by

means of pity and terror. " Now, terror there may be, but how can there be any pity for one tiger jdestroyed by another tiger ? I t is also evident tha t the person selected' ought not t o be a public character. Fo r instance, no juflicious artist would have attempted to murder Abraham Newland.* Fo r the case was this : everybody read so much about Abraham Newland, and so few people ever saw him,j that to the general belief he was a mere abstract idea. And I remem- ber, that once, when I happened to mention tha t I had dined at a coffee-house in company with Abraham Newland,

* Abraha m Newland is now utterl y forgotten.

Bu t when this

was written , his nam e ha d no t ceased t o rin g i n Britis h ears, as th e

most familiar an d most significant tha t perhap s ha s ever existed .

I t

was th e nam e which appeared on th e face of al l Ban k of Englan d

notes, grea t or small ;


ha d been , for mor e tha n a quarte r

of a

centur y (especially throug h th e whole caree r of th e iPrench ECTO- lution), a short-han d expression for pape r money i n iJs safest form.



3 9

everybody looked scornfully a t me, as

thoug h I

ha d

pre -

tende d t o have playe d a t billiards

wit h

Preste r John , or t o


ha d an affair


honou r with

th e Pope .

And ,

b y th e


th e Pop e would be a very imprope r perso n t o murder :

for he ha s such a virtua l ubiquit y a s th e father of Christen-

dom, and, like th e cuckoo, is so often hear d bu t never seen,

tha t I

suspec t most people regar d Mm, also a s an abstrac t

idea .

Where , indeed,

a publi c ma n is in th e habi t




ing dinners, " wit h every delicacy of th e season, " th e cas t

is very different:

every perso n is satisfied

tha t

he is no ab -

strac t idea ; and , therefore, ther e can be no impropriet y in

murderin g him ; only tha t his murde r will fall int o th e class

of assassinations, which


have no t ye t treated .


Th e subject chosen ough t t o b e in goo d health :

for i t is absolutely barbarou s t o murde r a sick person, who

is usually quit e

unabl e t o bea r

it .

On thi s principle , no

tailo r ough t t o b e chosen who is above twenty-five, for after

tha t ag e he is sur e t o b e dyspeptic . Or a t least , if a man

will hun t

in tha t warren , h e will of course thin k i t his

duty ,

on th e old established equation , t o murde r some multiple of 9—say 18, 27 , or 36 . An d here , in thi s benign atten -

tio n t o th e comfort of sick people, you will observe th e

usua l

effect of

a fine ar t

t o

soften and refine th e feelings.

Th e world in general , gentlemen, ar e very bloody-minded ; and all the y wan t in a murde r is a copious effusion of

blood ; gaud y display in this poin t is enough for them.

Bu t

th e enlightene d

connoisseur is more refined


his taste ;

an d from our art , as from all th e othe r libera l art s when thoroughl y mastered , th e resul t is, t o humanise th e hear t ;

so tru e is it ,

tha t

" Ingenua s didieisse fideliter artes, EmoUit mores, ne e siuit esse feros."

A philosophic friend, well known for his philanthrop y




and general benignity, suggests tha t the subject chosen ought also to have a family of young childten wholly de- pendent on his exertions, by way of deepening the pathos. And, undoubtedly, this is a judicious caution.] Yet I would not insist too keenly on such a condition. Severe good taste unquestionably suggests it ; but still, jvhere the man was otherwise unobjectionable in point of morals and health, I would not look with too curious a j jealousy to a restriction which might have the effect of harrowing the artist's sphere. So much for the person. JLS t o the time, the place, and the tools, I have many things to say, whichj at present I have no room for. The good sense of the practitioner has usually directed him to night and privacyi Yet there have not been wanting cases where this rule was departed from with excellent effect. In respect to tiiie , Mrs Rus- combe's case is a beautiful exception, which I have already noticed; and in respect both to time and place, there is a fine exception in the annals of Edinburgh (year 1805), familiar to every child in Edinburgh, but which has unac- countably been defrauded of its due portion of fame amongst Enghsh amateurs. The case I mean is tha t of a porter to one of the banks, who was murdered, whilst carrying a bag of money, in broad daylight, on turning out of the High Street, one of the most public streets in Europe ; and the murderer is to this hour undiscovered.

" Sed t'ugit interea , fugit irreparabil e tempus, Singula dum capti circumvectamu r aiiiore."

And now, gentlemen, in conclusion, let me again solemnly disclaim all pretensions on my own part to the character of a professional man. I never attempted any murder in my life, except in the year 1801, upon the body of a tom- «»t ; and that turned out differently from riiy intention.



4 1

My purpose , I own, was downrigh t murder . " Semper ego andito r tantum? " said I , "nunquamn e reponami "

An d I went down-stairs

in search of

To m

a t one o'clock

on a dar k night , wit h th e " animus, " and

no doub t with

th e fiendish looks, of a murderer . Ba t when I found him,

he was in th e ac t of plunderin g th e pantr y of

brea d and

othe r things .

No w this gav e a new tur n

t o th e



th e time bein g one of genera l scarcity , when even Christians

were reduce d t o th e use of potato-bread , rice-bread , and



sort s of things , i t was downrigh t treaso n in

a tom-ca t

t o b e wastin g goo d wheaten-brea d in th e way he was doing .



instantl y became a

patrioti c

dut y t o pu t

him t o

and , a s I raise d aloft an d shook th e ghtterin g steel, I

deat h ; fancied

myself rising , hk e Brutus , effulgent from triots , and, a s I stabbe d him, I


crowd of pa -

" Call' d aloud on TuUy's name , An d bad e th e father of his country hail! "

Since then, wha t wanderin g thought s I may have ha d of attemptin g th e life of an ancient ewe, of a superannuate d

hen, and such

" small deer, " ar e locked u p in th e secrets of

my own breast ; but , for th e highe r department s of th e art ,


confess myself t o b e utterl y unfit.

My ambition does not

rise so high .

No , gentlemen, in th e words of Horace ,

" Funga r vice cotis, acutum Eedder e quse ferrum valet, essor s ipsa secandi. "




A GOOD many years ago , th e reade r may remember tha t I

came forward


th e

characte r of a dilettante in murder .

Perhap s dilettante is to o

stron g


word .

Connoisseur is

bette r suited t o th e scruples and infirmity of publi c

taste .

I suppose ther e is no har m in that, a t least . A man is no t

boun d t o

pu t

his eyes, ears,

and understandin g int o his

breeches-pocket when he meets wit h a murder . I f he is

no t in a downrigh t comatose

state , I suppose

he must see

tha t one

murde r is bette r or

worse tha n another , in poin t


goo d taste .

Murder s have thei r littl e differences



of merit,

a s



statues , pictures ,

oratorios ,

cameos, intaglios , or wha t not . Yo u may b e angr y wit h th e man for talkin g to o much, or to o publicly (as t o th e to o much, tha t I deny—a man can never cultivat e his tast e

to o highly) ; bu t you must

allow him t o think , a t any rate .

Well , would you believe it ? all my neighbours came t o

hea r of tha t littl e aesthetic essay

which I

ha d

pubhshed ;

and, unfortunately, hearin g a t th e very same time of a

club tha t I was connected with, and a

dinner a t which


presided—bot h tendin g t o th e same Httle

object as th e essay,

viz., th e diffusion



jus t tast e

among Her *


* Her

Majesty :—In th e lecture , having occasion t o refer t o th e

reigning sovereign, I said "fli s Majesty ; for a t tha t time William



4 8

subjects, the y go t u p tli e most barbarou s calumnies against

I n particular , the y said tha t I , or tha t th e club (which comes t o th e same thing) , had offered bountie s on well-con-


ducte d homicides—with a scale of drawbacks, in case of

any one defect

or flaw, accordin g t o a tabl e

issued t o

pri -

vat e friends. Now, le t me tel l th e whole trut h abou t th e

dinner an d th e club, an d i t will b e seen how mahcious th e


is .

Bu t first, confidentially,



t o

say wha t

my rea l principles ar e upon th e matte r in question.


A s t o

murder , I

never committe d one i a my life.

It' s

a well-known thin g amongst all my friends. I can ge t a

pape r t o

certify as much,

signed by lots of people.

In -

deed, if you come t o that , I doub t whethe r many people


produc e as stron g a certificate.

Mine would

b e as

bi g as a breakfast tablecloth .

Ther e is indeed one member

of th e club, who pretend s t o say he caugh t me once making

too free wit h his throa t



club night , after


else ha d

retired .

But ,

observe, he

shuffles in

his stor y

accordin g t o his stat e of civilation.

Whe n no t far


he contents himself wit h saying tha t h e caugh t me ogling

his throat ; and tha t I was melancholy for some weeks after, and tha t my voice sounded l a a way expressing, t o th e nice ea r of a connoisseur, the sense of opportunities lost;

bu t th e club all know tha t he is a disappointe d man him- self, and tha t he speaks querulously a t time s abou t th e fatal neglec t of a man's coming abroa d withou t his tools.


all this




between two amateurs , and

everybody makes

allowances for httl e asperitie s and fibs

in such a case. "But, " say you, "i f no murderer , you may

have encouraged , or even have bespoken a murder. " No , upon my honour—no . An d tha t was th e very point I

IV . was on th e throne : but hetween th e lectur e 8,nd this supplement ha d occurred th e accession of ou r presen t Queen.


4 4


wished t o argu e for your satisfaction.

Th e trut h is, I


a very particula r man iu everything relatin g t o

mui'der ,

and perhap s I carr y my delicacy to o far. Th e Stagirit e

most justly , and possibly wit h a virtu e in th e TO [lecrov, or middle

view t o my case, placed poin t between two extremes.

A golden mean is certainly wha t every man should aim at .

Bu t i t is easier talkin g tha n doing ; and, my infirmity being

notoriously to o much milkiness of heart , I find i t


t o maintain tha t

stead y equatoria l line between th e tw o

poles of

to o much murde r on th e one

hand , and

to o

littl e

on th e other . I am to o soft—an d people ge t excused

throug h me—nay, g o throug h life withou t an attemp t mad e

upon them, tha t

ough t not t o be excused.



ha d th e management of things , ther e would

believe, if hardl y be


murde r from year' s end t o year' s end. I n fact, I' m foi'

peace , and quietness, and fawningness, and wha t may bi-

styled knocJcing-underness. A man came t o me a s a can-

didat e


th e plac e of

my servant, jus t

the n vacant .

H e

had th e reputatio n of havin g dabble d


littl e



art ;

some said, no t withou t merit .

Wha t startle d me, however,

was, tha t he supposed this ar t t o

be par t

of his regula r

duties in my service, and talke d of havin g i t considered in

his wages. Now, tha t was a thin g I would no t allow ; so


said a t once, "Richar d

(o r James , as th e

case migh t be) ,

you misunderstan d my character . I f a ma n will an d must

practis e thi s difficult


allow me

t o

add ,


branc h

of art—i f

case, all

he ha s an overruling

genius for it , why,

in tha t


say is, tha t

he migh t as well pursu e his

studies whilst living

in my service



another's .

An d

also, I may observe, tha t

i t

can do


har m either t o him-

self or t o th e subject

on whom h e operates, tha t

he should

be guide d by

men of more tast e tha n himself.


may do much, bu t long stud y of th e ar t must always en-



4 5

title a man to offer advice. So far I mil go—general

principles I will suggest.


once for all I will have nothing

as to any particuk r case,


do with it. Never tell

me of any special work of ar t you are meditating—I set

my faf against i t in toto. For , if once a man indulges

himsel; xn murder, very soon he

comes to think little of

robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from tha t to incivility and pro- crastination. Once begin upon this downward path, you never know where you are t o stop. Many a man has dated his ruin from some murder or other that perhaps he thought little of at the time. Principiis obsta—that's my

rule." Such was my speech, and I have always acted up t o it ; so, if tha t is not being virtuous, I should be glad t o know what is. But now about the dinner and the club. The club was not particularly of my creation; it arose pretty much as other similar associations, for the propa- gation of trut h and the communication of new ideas; rather from the necessities of things, than upon any one man's

suggestion. As to the dinner, if any man

more than an-

other could be held responsible for that, it was a member known amongst us by the name of Toad-in-the-hole. He was so called from his gloomy misanthropical disposition, which led him into constant disparagements of all modern murders as vicious abortions, belonging to no authentic school of art. The finest performances of our own age he snarled at cynically; and at length this querulous humour grew upon him so much, and he became so notorious as a laudator temporis act't, tha t few people cared to seek his society. This made him still more fierce and truculent. He went about muttering and growling; wherever you met him, he was soliloquising, and saying, " despicable- pretender—without grouping—without two ideas upon


4 G


handling—without"—and there yoa lost him. A t lengtJi existence seemed to be painful to him; he rarely spoke, he seemed conversing with phantoms in the air ; his house- keeper informed us tha t his reading was nearly confined to " Grod's Revenge upon Murder," by Reynolds, and a more ancient book of the same title, noticed by Sir Walter Scott iu his "Fortunes of Mgel." Sometimes, perhaps, he might read in the "Newgate Calendar" down to the year 1788, but he never looked into a book more recent. In fact, he had a theory with regard to the French Revolution, as having been the great cause of degeneration in murder. " Yery soon, sir," he used to say, " men will have lost the art of killing poultry : the very rudiments of the art will have perished!" In the year 1811, he retired from general society. Toad-in-the-hole was no more seen in any pubhc resort. We missed him from his wonted haunts—"nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he." By the side of the main conduit his Kstless length at noontide he would stretch, and pore upon the filth that muddled by. " Even dogs," this pensive moralist would say, "ar e not what they were, sir—not what they should be. I remember in my grandfather's time tha t some dogs had an idea of murder. I have known a mastiff, sir, that lay in ambush for a rival, yes, sir, and finally murdered him, with pleasing circum- stances of good taste. I also was on intimate terms of af^quaintance with a tom-cat that was an assassin. But

now "

and then, the subject growing too painful, he

dashed his hand to his forehead,

and went off abruptly

in a homeward direction towards his favourite


where he was seen by an amateur in such a state, that


thought it dangerous to address him.

Soon after Toad

shut himself


up ;

i t



tha t


had resigned himself to melancholy; and at length the



4 7

prevailing notion

was, tha t

Toad-in-the-hol e

ha d hanged


Th e world was

wron g there, as i t ha d been on some other


Toad-in-the-hol e migh t b e sleeping, bu t


he was not ; and of tha t we soon ha d ocular proof. One

morning in 1812 , an amateu r surprise d us wit h th e news

tha t


ha d

seen Toad-in-the-hol e

brushin g

wit h hast y

step s th e dews away, t o meet th e postma n b y th e conduit

side. Eve n tha t was something : how much more, t o hea r

tha t

h e

ha d

shaved his beard—ha d

lai d

aside his


coloured clothes, an d was adorne d like a bridegroo m of ancient days . Wha t could b e th e meanin g of all this ?

Wa s Toad-in-the-hol e mad i or how ? Soon after th e secret was explained—i n mor e tha n a iigurativ e sense

"th e murde r was out. " Fo r in came th e Londo n morning

papers, b y which i t appeare d tha t

bu t thre e

day s


a murder , th e most super b of th e centur y

by many degrees,


ha d occurre d in th e hear t of London .

need hardl y say,

tha t thi s was th e grea t exterminatin g chef-d'ceuvre of

Wil -

liams a t M r Marr's , No . 29 , RatcUffe Highway , Tha t was

th e

debut of th e

artist ;

a t


for anythin g

th e publi c

knew. Wha t occurre d a t M r Williamson's twelve night s

afterwards—th e second work turne d ou t from th e same

chisel—some people pronounce d even superior.

Bu t Toad -

in-the-hol e always "reclaimed, " h e wa s even angry , a t such


" Thi s

vulga r gout

de comparaison, as L a

remark , " will b e our

Bruyer e


it, "


would often

ruin ;

each wor k

ha s

it s


separat e

characteristics —

each in and for itself is incomparable . One, perhaps ,

migh t sugges t th e 'Iliad'—th e othe r th e 'Odyssey: ' bu t


do you ge t b y such comparisons 1 Neithe r ever was,

or will b e surpassed ;

and when you've talke d

for hours ,

you must still come

bac k t o

that. "

Vain , however, as a!J


4 8


criticism migh t be , he often sai d tha t volumes migh t b e

writte n on each

case for itself ;



even propose d

t o

publish in quart o on th e subject. Meantime, hovsr ha d Toad-in-the-hol e

happene d t o Hear

of thi s grea t wor k of ar t so early in th e morning ? H ha d received an accoun t by express, despatche d b y a corre -


spondent in London , who watche d th e progres s of ar t on Toad's behalf, wit h a genera l commission t o send off a spe- cial express, a t v^hatever cost, in th e event of any estimable

works appearing .

Th e express

arrive d in th e night-time ;

Toad-in-the-hol e was the n gon e t o bed ; he ha d been

mutterin g

and grumblin g for hours , bu t of course he was

called up . On readin g th e account , he thre w his arms

I'ound th e

express, declare d


his brothe r and


pre -

server, and expressed his regre t a t no t havin g i t in his

powe r t o knigh t him. We , amateurs , havin g hear d tha t

he was abroad , and sure of soon seeing

therefore ha d not hange d himself, made him amongst us . Accordingl y he soon

arrived ; seized every man's han d as he passe d him—wrun g

it almost

frantically , and kep t

ejaculating ,

"Why ,


here's something like a murder!—thi s is th e rea l thing —

this is genuine—this is wha t yo n can approve , can recom-

mend t o a friend : this—say s every

man, on


this is th e thin g tha t ough t t o be ! Such work s ar e enough t o make us all young. " An d in fact th e genera l opinion is, tha t Toad-in-the-hol e would have died bu t for this regener -

atio n of art , which he called a second

ag e of I/CO th e

Tenth ; and it was our duty , he said, solemnly t o comme-

morat e

it .

A t present , and en attendant, he propose d tha t

th e clu b should meet and dine together .

A dinner, there -

fore, was given by th e club ; t o which all amateur s wer e

invited from a distance of one hundre d miles. Of thi s dinner, ther e ar e ample short-han d note s amongai



4 9

.he archives of the club. But they are not "extended," to fcpeak diplomatically; and the reporter, who only could give the whole report in extenso, is missing—I believe murdered. Meantime, in years long after tha t day, and on an occasion perhaps equally interesting, viz., the turning up of Thugs and Thuggism, another dinner was given. Of this I myself kept notes, for fear of another accident to the short-hand reporter. And I here subjoin them. Toad-in- the-hole, I must mention, was present at this dinner. lis fact, it was one of its sentimental incidents. Being as old as the valleys at the dinner of 1812, naturally he was as old as the hills at the Thug dinner of 1838. He had taken to wearing his beard again; why, or with what view, it passes my persimmon to tell you. But so it was. And his ap- pearance was most benign and venerable. Nothing could equal the angelic radiance of his smile, as he inquired after the unfortunate reporter (whom, as a piece of private scandal, I should tell you that he was himself supposed to have murdered in a rapture of creative art) : the answer was, with roars of laughter, from the under-sheriff of our county—"Non est inventus." Toad-in-the-hole laughed outrageously at this : in fact, we all thought he was chok- ing ; and, at the earnest request of the company, a musical composer furnished a most beautiful glee upon the occasion, which was sung five times after dinner, with universal ap- plause and inextinguishable laughter, the words being these (and the chorus so contrived, as most beautifully t o mimic the peculiar laughter of Toad-in-the-hole):—

" E t interrogatu m est

a Toad-in-the-liole—Ubi est ille reporter ?

E t responsum est cam cachinno—Non est inventus."

Chorus. "Reiiid e iteratu m est ab omnibus, cum cachinnatione undulaaSa trepidante—Nnn est iaveatus."

C—IV .


5 0


Toad-in-the-hole , I ough t t o mention, abou t nine year s before, when an express from Edinburg h brough t him th e

earUest mteUigence of th e Burke-and-Har e revolutio n in

th e

art , went ma d upon th e spot ; and, instead of a pension t o

th e

express for even one hfe, or a knighthood , endeavoure d t o

Burk e him ; in consequence of which he was pu t int o a strait -

waistcoat . An d Bu t now all of us

tha t was th e reaso n we ha d no dinner then . were alive an d kicking, strait-waistcoater s

an d others ; in fact, no t one absente e was reporte d upo n th e

entir e roll . Ther e were also many foreigu amateur s present .

Dinne r bein g

over, an d

th e


drawn ,

ther e was


genera l call mad e for th e new gle e

of Non est inventus ; but ,

as thi s would have interfere d with th e requisit e gravit y of th e company durin g th e earhe r toasts , I overruled th e call. Afte r th e nationa l toast s ha d been given, th e first official toas t of th e day was. The Old Man of the Mountains— drun k in solemn silence.

Toad-in-the-hol e returne d thank s in a nea t speech.

H e

likened himself t o th e Old Ma n of th e Mountains, in a few

brief allusions, tha t mad e th e company yell wit h laughter ; and he concluded wit h giving th e healt h of Mr Von Hammer, with many thank s t o him for his learned

Histor y of th e

an d his subjects th e assassins.


Upo n

this I

Old Ma n rose and

said, tha t

doubtless most of th e

company wer e awar e of th e distinguished place assigned

by orientalists t o

th e very learne d

Turkis h scholar, Vo n

Hamme r th e Austrian ; tha t he ha d made

th e profoundest

researches int o our art , as connected wit h thos e early an d

eminent artists , th e Syria n assassins in th e perio d


th e

Crusaders ; tha t his work ha d been for

several year s de -

posited ,

a s a rar e treasur e of art , in th e librar y of th e club .

Eve n th e author' s name, gentlemen, pointe d him ou t as th e

historia n of our art—Vo n Hamme r



5 1

" Yes, yes," interrupted Toad-in-the-hole, " Von Ham- mer—he's the man for a malleus licereticorum. You all know what consideration Williams bestowed on the hammer, or the ship-carpenter's mallet, which is the same thing. Gentle- men, I give you another great hammer—Charles the Ham- mer, the Marteau, or, in old French, the Mart«l—he ham- mered the Saracens till they were all as dead as door-nails."

" Charles the Hammer, with all the honours." But the explosion of Toad-in-the-hole, together with the uproarious cheers for the grandpapa of Charlemagne, had now made the company unmanageable. The orchestra was again challenged with shouts the stormiest for the new glee. I foresaw a tempestuous evening; and I ordered myself to be strengthened with three waiters on each side; the vice-president with as many. Symptoms of unruly en- thusiasm were beginning to show out ; and I own that I myself was considerably excited, as the orchestra opened with its storm of music, and the impassioned glee began— "B t interrogatum est a Toad-in-the-hole—TJbi est ille Reporter? " And the frenzy of the passion became abso- lutely convulsing, as the fall chorus fell in—" E t iteratum est ab omnibus—Non est inventus."

The next toast was—The Jewish Sicarii. Upon which I made the following e'xplanation to the company :—" Gentlemen, I am sure i t will interest you all

to hear tha t the assassins, ancient as they were, had a race of predecessors in the very same country. All over Syria, but particularly in Palestine, during the early years of the Emperor Nero, there was a band of murderers, who pro-

secuted their studies

in a very novel manner.

They did

not practise in the night-time, or in lonely places; but, justly considering that great crowds are in themselves a sort of darkness by means of the dense pressure, and the im-




possibility of finding oa t who i t was tha t gav e th e blow, they

mingled wit h mob s everywhere ; particularl y a t th e

grea t

pascha l feast in Jerusalem ; where the y actuall y ha d th e au -

dacity , a s Josephu s

assure s us, t o pres s int o th e temple —

an d whom should the y choose for operatin g upo n bu t Jona -

tha n himself, th e Pontife x Maximus ! The y murdere d him ,

gentlemen , a s beautifully as if the y ha d moonless nigh t i n a dar k lane . An


ha d him alone on a when i t wa s asked,

who wa s th e murderer , an d where he was "

" Why , then , i t wa s answered, " interrupte d Toad-in-tho -

hole, " 'jSfon est inventus.'"

An d

then , i n spit e of all I


do or say, th e orchestr a opened, an d th e whole company

began— " B t interrogatu m est a Toad-in-the-hole—Ub i


ille Sicariu s 1 B t responsum est a b omnibus—A^OM est ventus."


Whe n th e tempestuou s choru s ha d subsided, I bega n again:— " Gentlemen, you will find a very circumstantia l

accoun t of th e

Sicari i in

a t leas t thre e different

part s


Josephu s ; once in Boo k XX. , sec. T. , C. 8, of his ' Anti -

quitie s ; ' once in Boo k I . of his ' War s : ' bu t in sec. x . of th e chapte r first cite d yo u will find a particula r descriptio n of thei r tooling . Thi s is wha t he says:— ' The y toole d with small scimitars no t much different from th e Persia n acinacce, bu t more curved, an d for all th e world most like th e Roma n

semi-lunar sicce.'

I t is perfectly magnificent, gentlemen, t o

hea r th e sequel of thei r history . Perhap s th e only case on

recor d where a regula r arm y of murderer s was assembled,

a Justus exercitus, was in

th e

case of thes e Sicarii.

The y

mustere d in such strengt h in th e wilderness, tha t Festu s

himself was obliged t o marc h agains t them with th e Roma n

legionar y force. A pitche d of amateur s was all cu t t o gSEtlemen, wha t a sublime

battl e ensued ; an d thi s arm y pieces in th e desert . Heavens ,

Th e Roma n


picture !



5 3

—the wilderness—Jerusalem in the distance—an army ol murderers in the foreground!" The next toast was—" To the further improvement of TooKng, and thanks to the Committee for their services." Mr L., on behalf of the Committee who had reported on that subject, returned thanks. He made an interesting extract from the report, by which it appeared how very much stress had been laid formerly on the mode of tooling by the fathers, both Greek and Latin. In confirmation of

this pleasing fact, he made a very striking statement in re-

ference to the earhest work of

antediluvian art. Father

Mersenne, tha t learned French Roman CathoUc, in page one thousand four hundred and thirty-one* of his operose Commentary on Genesis, mentions, on the authority of several rabbis, that the quarrel of Cain with Abel was about a young woman ; that, according t o various accounts, Cain had tooled with Ms teeth (Abelem fmsse morsihts dilacera- tum a Cain); according to many others, with the jaw-bone of an ass, which is the tooling adopted by most painters. But it is pleasing to the mind of sensibility to know that, as science expanded, sounder views were adopted. One author contends for a pitchfork, St Chrysostom for a

sword, Irenseus for a scythe, and Prudentius, the Christian poet of the fourth century, for a hedging-bill. This last writer delivers his opinion thus: —

"Frater , probat a sanctitatis semulus, German a ourvo coUa frangit sarculo: "

  • i e., bis brother, jealous of his attested sanctity, fractures

his fraternal throa t with a curved hedging-HU. "Al l which is respectfully submitted by your committee, not so

much as decisive of the question (for it

is not),



* " Pag e one thoxisaud four hundre d and good rp.ader, an d n o jok e a t all .



6 4


order to impress upon the youthful mind the importance which has ever been attached to the quality of the tooling by such men as Chrysostom and Irenseus." " Irenseus, be hanged! " said Toad-in-the-hole, who now rose impatiently to give the next toast:— " Our Irishfriends; wishing them a speedy revolution in their mode of toohng, as well as in everything else connected with the art! "

" Gentlemen, I'll tell you the plain truth. Every day of the year we take up a paper, we read the opening of a murder. We say, this is good, this is charming, this is excellent! But, behold you ! scarcely have we read a little farther, before the word Tipperary or Ballina-something

betrays the Irish manufacture. Instantly we loathe

it ; we

call to the waiter; we say, ' Waiter, take away this paper;

send it out of the

house; it is absolutely a scandal in the

nostrils of all Just taste.' I appeal to every man, whether,

on iinding a murder (otherwise perhaps promising enough) to be Irish, he does not feel himself as much insulted


when, Madeira being ordered, he finds it to be Cape; or when, taking up what he takes t o be a mushroom, it turns out what children call a toad-stooL Tithes, politics, some- thing wrong in principle, vitiate every Irish murder. Gentlemen, this must be reformed, or Ireland will not be a land to live in ; at least, if we do live there, we must import all our murders, that's clear." Toad-in-the-hole sat down, growling with suppressed wrath; and the uproarious "Hear, hear! " clamorously expressed the general concurrence.

The next toast was—" The sublime epoch of Burkism and Harism! " This was drunk with enthusiasm; and one of the members, who spoke t o the question, made a very curious communication to the company:—" Gentlemen, we fancy Burkism to be a pure invention of our own times : and in



5 5

fact no PanciroUus has ever enumerated this branch of art when writing de rebus deperditis. Still, I have ascer- tained that the essential principle of this variety in the art was known to the ancients; although, like the art of painting upon glass, of making the myrrhine cups, &G., it was lost in the dark ages for want of encouragement. I n the famous collection of Greek epigrams made by Planudes, is one upon a very fascinating case of Burkism: it is a perfect little gem of art. The epigram itself I cannot lay my hand upon at this moment; but the following is an abstract of it by

Salmasius, as I find it in his notes on Vopiscus: ' Es t et elegans epigramma LuciUi, ubi medicus et poUinctor de compacto sic egerunt, ut medicus tegros omnes cures sua commissos occideret: this was the basis of the contract, you see, tha t on the one part the doctor, for himself and his assigns, doth undertake and contract duly and truly t o murder all the patients committed to his charge : but why"? There hes the beauty of the case—Et ut poUiuctori amico suo traderet pollingendos.' The poUinctor, you are aware, was a person whose business it was to dress and prepare dead bodies for burial. The original ground of the trans-

action appears

to have been sentimental: ' He was my

friend,' says the murderous doctor; ' he was dear to me,' in speaking of the poUinctor. But the law, gentlemen, is stern and harsh : the law will not hear of these tender motives: to sustain a contract of this nature in law, it is essential tha t a 'consideration' should be given. Now what Wits the consideration I Fo r thus far all is on the side of

the poUinctor: he wiU be weU paid for his services; but, meantime, the generous, the noble-minded doctor gets nothing. Wha t was the equivalent, again I ask, which the law would insist on the doctor's taking, in order to estab- lish that ' consideration,' without which the contract had


5 6


no force ? To u shall hear : ' B t u t poUinctor vicissim TEXO- nmvas quos furabata r de poUinctione mortuoru m medieo mittere t donis a d alligand a vulner a eornm qno s curabat; '

('. e., an d tha t reciprocall y

th e

pollinctor should transmi t t o

th e physician, as free gifts for th e bindin g u p of wounds in those whom he treate d medically, th e belt s or trusse s (rekaiiavai) which he ha d succeeded in purloinin g in th e cours e of his functions abou t th e corpses.

" Now, th e case is clear : th e whole went on a principl e of reciprocit y which would have kep t u p th e trad e for ever.

Th e docto r wa s also a surgeon

: he could no t murde r all

his patients : some of th e patient s must b e retaine d intact . Fo r thes e he wante d linen bandages . But , unhappily, th e Romans wor e woollen, on which accoun t i t was tha t the y bathe d so often. Meantime , ther e was linen t o b e ha d in

Rome ; bu t i t wa s monstrousl y dear ; an d th e reXafiSyves, o r

linen swathing bandages , in which

superstitio n obhge d them

t o bind u p corpses, would answer capitall y for th e surgeon .

Th e doctor , therefore, contract s t o furnish his friend with a constan t succession of corpses, provided, and b e it understoo d always, tha t his said friend, in return , should supply him with

one-half of th e article s he

would receive from th e friends of

th e partie s murdere d or t o b e murdered . Th e docto r invari-

ably recommended his invaluable friend th e pollinctor (whom let us call th e undertaker) ; th e undertaker , with equa l regar d

t o

th e sacred right s of friendship, uniformly recommended

th e doctor . Lik e Pylade s an d Orestes, the y were models of a perfect friendship : in thei r lives the y were lovely : an d on th e gallows, i t is t o b e hoped, the y were no t divided.

" Gentlemen, it makes me laug h

horribly , when I think

of thos e tw o friends drawin g and re-drawin g on each other :



accoun t

wit h

Doctor ,

debto r



' Pollincto r corpses :

credito r

b y forty-five

bandages , tw o





6 7

damaged. ' Thei r names unfortunatel y ar e lost ; bu t I con- ceive the y must hav e been Quintu s Burkiu s an d Publiu s Harius . By th e way, gentlemen, ha s anybody hear d lately of Har e ? I understan d h e is comfortably settle d in Ireland , considerabl y t o th e west, and does a littl e business now and the n ; but , as h e observes with a sigh, only as a retailer — nothin g like th e fine thrivin g wholesale concern so carelessly blown u p a t Edinburgh . 'Yo u see wha t comes of neglect - ing business'-^i s th e chief moral , th e iirifxiBiov, as ./Esop would say, which Har e draw s from his pas t experience. " A t lengt h came th e toas t of th e day—Thugdom in all its branches. Th e speeches attempted a t this crisis of th e dinner were pas t all counting . Bu t th e applaus e was so furious, th e music so stormy , an d th e crashin g of glasses so incessant, from th e genera l resolutio n never agai n t o drin k a n inferior

toas t from th e same glass, tha t I am unequa l t

o th e tas k of

I'eporting. Besides which, To.ad-in-the-hole now became ungovernable . H e kep t firing pistols in every direction ; sent his servant for a blunderbuss , and talke d of loading

with ball-cartridge . W e conceived tha t his ha d returne d a t th e mention of Burk e an d

former madness Har e ; or that ,

being agai n wear y of life, he ha d resolved t o g o off in a genera l massacre . Thi s we could no t thin k of allowing ; i t became indispensable , therefore, t o kick him out ; which we did wit h universal consent, th e whole company lending thei r toe s uno pede, as I may say, thoug h pityin g his gre y

hairs and his angelic smile. Durin g th e operation , th e or -

chestr a poure d in their old sang , an d (wha t surprise d


Th e universal company

us most of all) Toad-in-the-hol e

Joined us furiously in singing —

"E t inten-ogatmn est ab omnibus—Ubi est ille Toad-in-tbe-Me ? E t responsuin est ab omnibHs—Non est inventus. "



IT K impossible to conciliate readers of so satufnine and gloomy a class, tliat they cannot enter with genial sympathy into any

gaiety whatever, but, least of all, when the gaiety trespasses a little into th e province of the extravagant. In. such a case, not t» sympathise is not to understand; and the playfulness, which is not rehshed, becomes flat and insipid, or absolutely without


.Fortunately, after all such .churls have withdrawii

from my audience in high displeasure, there remains a large ma- jority who are loud in acknowledging the amusement which they have derived from this little paper; a t the same time proving the siucerity of their praise by one hesitating expression of cen- sure. Repeatedly they have suggested to me, tha t perhaps tha extravagance, though clearly intentional, and forming one ele- ment in th e general gaiety of th e conception, went too far. I am not n^yseH of tha t opinion; and I beg to remind these friendly censors, tha t i t is amongst the direct purposes and efforts of this bagatelle to graze the brink of horror, and of aU tha t would in actual realisation be most repulsive. The very excess of th e ex- travagance, in fact, by suggesting to the reader continually the mere aeriahty of the entire speculation, furnishes the surest means of disenchanting him from the horror which might else gather upon his feehngs. Let me remind such objectors, once for aE, of Dean Sv/ift's proposal for turnin g t o account th e supernumerary infants of the three kingdoms, which, i n those days, both a t Dubhn and a t London, were provided for in found- Hng hospitals, by cooking and eating them. This was an extra- yaganza, though really bolder and more coarsely practical than



5 9


which did not provoke any reproaolies even t o a dignitary

of the supreme Irish church ; its own monstrosity was its excuse;

mere extravagance

was felt t o license and accredit th e little jeu

(Tesprit, precisely as th e blank impossibihties of LilUput, of La- puta, of th e Yahoos, &c., had licensed those. If, therefore, any

man thinks i t worth his while to til t against so mere a foam- bubble of gaiety as this lecture on th e sesthetics of murder, I shelter myself for the moment under th e Telamonian shield of

the Dean. But, in reality, which (to

say the truth ) formed one

motive for detaining the reader by this Postscript, my own httle paper may plead a privileged excuse for its extravagance, sucli as is altogether wanting to the Dean's. Nobody can pretend, for a moment, on behaK of the Dean, tha t there is any ordinary and nat-aral tendency in human thoughts, which could ever tur n to in - fants as articles of diet; under any conceivable ciroumstanoes, this would be felt as the most aggravated form of cannibahsm—canni-

balism applying itself to the most defenceless part of th e species.

But, on th e other hand, th e tendency t o a critical or aesthetic valu-

ation of fires and murders is universal.

If you are summoned to

the spectacle of a great flre, undoubtedly the first impulse is—to assist in putting it out. But tha t field of exertion is very limited, and is soon flUed by regular professional people, trained and equipped for the service. In the case of a fire which is operating upon private property, pity for a neighbour's calamity checks us a t first in treating the afiair as a scenic spectacle. But perhaps the fire may be .confined to pubhc buildings. And in any case, after we have paid our tribut e of regret to the affair, considered as a -calamity, inevitably, and without restraint, we go on to

consider i t as a stage spectacle. Exclamations of—How

grand !

how magnificent! arise in a sort of raptur e from th e crowd.

For instance, when Drury Lane was burned down in the first

decennium of this century, th e falling in of th e roof was signal- ised by a mimic suicide of the protecting Apollo tha t surmounted and crested the centre of this roof. The god was stationary with his lyre, and seemed looking down upon the fiery ruins tha t were so rapidly approaching hhn. Suddenly the stipporting timbers

below him

gave way ; a convulsive heave of the billowing flames


6 0


seemed for

a moment t o raise the statue ; and then, as if on soma

impulse of despair, th e presiding deity appeared not t o fall, bu t to throw himself into th e fiery deluge, for he went down head foremost; and in all respects, th e descent had the air of a volun- tar y act. What followed ? From every one of th e bridges over th e river, and from other open areas which conmnanded th e spec tacle, there arose a sustained uproar of admiration and sympathy. Some few years before this event, a prodigious fire occurred at Liverpool; the Goree, a vast pile of warehouses close to one of the docks, was burned to the ground. The huge edifice, eight or nine storeys high, and laden with most combustible goods, many thousand bales of cotton, wheat and oats in thousands of quarters, tar, turpentine, rum, gunpowder, &c., continued through many hours of darkness to feed this tremendous fire. To aggTavate th e calamity, i t blew a regular gale of wind; luckily for th e shipping, i t blew inland, tha t is, to the east ; and all the way down to "Warrington, eighteen miles distant to the eastward, th e whole air was illuminated by flakes of-cotton, often saturated with rum, and by what seemed absolute worlds of blazing sparks, tha t hghted u p all the upper chambers of the air. All the cattle lying abroad in the fields through a breadth of eighteen miles, were thrown int o terror and agitation. Men, of course, read i n this hurrying overhead of scintillating and blazing vortices, th e annunciation of some gigantic calamity going on in Liverpool; and the lamen- tation on tha t account was universal. But tha t mood of public sympathy did not at all interfere to suppress or even to check th e momentary bursts of rapturous admiration, as this arrowy sleet of many-coloured fire rode on th e wings of hurricane, alternately through open depths of air, or through dark clouds overhead.

Precisely th e same treatment is applied to murders. After th e first tribut e of sorrow t o those who have perished, but , a t all events, after the personal interests have been tranquillised by time, inevitably the scenical features (what aesthetically may be called th e comparative advantages) of th e several murders are reviewed and valued. One murder is compared with another ; and the circumstances of superiority, as, for example, in the in - cidence and effects of surprise, of mystery, &c., are collated and ap-



6 1

praised. I , therefore, for my extravagance, claim an inevitable and perpetual ground in the spontaneous tendencies of th e human mind vrhen left to itself. But no one will pretend tha t any cor responding plea can be advanced on behalf of Swift. I n this important distinction between myself and the Dean, lies one reason which prompted the present Postscript. A second purpose of th e Postscript is, t o make the reader acquainted circumstantially with three memorable cases of murder, which long ago the voice of amateurs has crowned with laurel, but especially with the two earhest of the three, viz., th e immortal WUhams' murders of 1812. The act and the actor are each se- parately in th e highest degree interesting ; and, as forty-two years have elapsed since 1812, i t cannot be supposed tha t either is known circumstantially to th e men of th e current generation. Never, throughout the annals of universal Christendom, ha.s there indeed been any act of one solitary insulated individual, armed with power so appalling over th e hearts of men, as tha t exterminating murder, by which, during the winter of 1812, John Wilhams, in one hour, smote two houses with emptiness, exterminated all but two entire households, and asserted his own supremacy above aU the children of Cain. I t would be abso- lutely impossible adequately to describe the frenzy of feehngs wliich, throughout th e next fortnight, mastered th e popular heart ; the mere delirium of indignant horror in some, th e mere dehrium

of panic in others.

For twelve succeeding days, under some

groundless notion tha t the unknown murderer had quitted Lon- don, th e panic which had convulsed th e mighty metropolis dif- fused itseH all over the island. I was myself a t tha t time nearly three hundred miles from London ; bu t there, and everywhere, the panic was indescribable. One lady, my next neighbour, whom personally I knew, living at the moment, during the absence of her husband, with a few servants in a very solitary house, never rested unti l she had placed eighteen doors (so she told me, and, indeed, satisfied me by ocular proof), each secured by ponderous bolts, and bars, and chains, between her own bedroom and any intruder of human build. To reach her, even in her drawing- room, was like going, as a flag of truce, into a beleaguered fort-


6 2


ress ; a t every sixth step one was stopped by a sort of portculiii. The panic was not confined to the rich ; women in the humblest ranks more than once died upon the spot, from the shock attend- ing some suspicious attempts a t intrusion upon the par t of va- grants, meditating probably nothing worse tha n a robbery, ba t whom the poor women, misled by the London newspapers, had fancied to be the dreadful London murderer. Meantime, this solitary artist, tha t rested i a the centre of London, self-supported by his own conscious grandeiir, as a domestic Attila, or' ' scourge of

God;" this man, tha t walked in darkness, and rehed

upon murder

(as afterwards transpired) for bread, for clothes, for promotion i n Kfe, was silently preparing an effectual answer to the pubhc jour- nals ; and on the tweWth day after his inaugural murder, he adver- tised his presence in London, and pubhshed to all men the absur- dity of ascribing to Mm any ruralising propensities, by striking a second blow, and accomphshing a second family extermination. Somewhat hghtened was the provincial panic by this proof tha t the murderer had not condescended to sneak into the country, or to abandon for a moment, under any motive of caution or fear, the great metropohtan castra stativa of gigantic crime, seated for ever on the Thames. I n fact, the great artist disdained a provincial reputation; and he must have felt, as a case of ludi- crous disproportion, th e contrast between a country town or village, on th e one hand, and, on th e other, a work more last- ing than brass—a iclnfio. h «£'—a murder such in quality as any murder tha t lie would condescend t o own for a work turned out from his own studio. Coleridge, whom I saw some months after these terrific mur- ders, told me, that , for Us part, though a t the time resident in London, he had not shared in the prevailing panic ; him they affected only as a philosppher, and threw him into a profound reverie upon the tremendous power which is laid open in a moment to any man who can reconcile himself to the abjuration of all conscientious restraints, if, a t the same time, thoroughly without fear. Not sharing in the pubhc panic, however, Cole- ridge did not consider tha t panic a t all unreasonable; for, as he said most tndy , in tha t vast metropolis there are many thousands




of households, composed exclusively of women and children; many other thousands there are who necessarily confide their safety, in the long evenings, to the discretion of a young ser- vant girl ; and if she suffers herself to be beguiled by the pre- tence of a message from her mother, sister, or sweetheart, into opening the door, there, in one second of time, goes to wreck the security of the house. However, a t tha t time, and for many months afterwards, th e practice of steadily putting th e chain upon th e door before i t was opened prevailed generally, and for a long time served as a record of tha t deep impression left upon

London by Mr Williams. Southey, I may add, entered deeply into th e p^ibhc feeling on tliis occasion, and said t o me, within a week or two of the first murder, tha t i t was a private event of

tha t order which rose t o th e dignity

of a national event.* But

now, having prepared th e reader t o appreciate on its tru e scale this dreadful tissue of murder (which, as a record belonging to an era tha t is now left forty-two years behind us, not one person in four of this generation can be expected to know correctly), let me pass to the circumstantial details of the aifa,ir. Yet, first of all, one word as to th e local scene of the murders. Ratcliffe Highway is a pubUo thoroughfare in a most chaotic (quarter of eastern or nautical London; and at this time (viz., in 1812), when no adequate poKce existed except the detective pohoe of Bow Street, admirable for its own peculiar purposes, bu t utterl y incommensurate to the general service of the capital, i t was a most dangerous quarter. Every thir d man a t th e least might be set down as a foreigner. Lascars, Chinese, Moors, Negroes, were met a t every step. And apart from th e manifold rafiianism. shrouded impenetrably under the mixed hats and turbans of men whose past was untraceable t o any European eye, i t is well known tha t th e navy (especially, in time of war, th e commercial navy) of Christendom is th e sure receptacle of

* I am not sure whether Sotithey held at this time his appoint- ment to the editorship of the " Edinburgh Annual Eegister." If he did, no doubt in the domestic section of that chronicle will bo found an excellent account of the whole.





all the murderers and ruiBans whose crimes have given them a motive for withdrawing themselves for a season from th e public eye. I t is true, tha t few of this class are qualified to act as " able " seamen: but at aE times, and especially during war, only a small proportion (or nucleus) of each ship's company con- sists of su.ch men : the large majority being mere untutored .landsmen. John Williams, however, who had been occasionally rated as a seaman on board of various Indiamen, &c., was pro

bably a very accomplished

seaman. .

Prett y generally, in fact,

he was

a ready and adroit man, fertile in resources under all

sudden difficulties, and most flexibly adapting himself to aU varieties of social life. WUhams was a man of middle stature (five feet seven and a-half, to five feet eight inches high), slenderly built, rather thin , bu t wiry, tolerably muscular, and

clear of all superfluous flesh. A lady, who saw him under ex- amination ( I think a t the Thames Police Office), assured me tha t his hair was of the most extraordinary and vivid colour, viz., bright yellow, something between an orange and a lemon

colour. Williams had been in

India ; cliiefly in Bengal and

Madras; but he had also been upon th e Indus. Now, it is notorious that, in the Punjaub, horses of a high caste are often painted—crimson, blue, green, purple ; and i t struck me tha t Williams might, for some casual purpose of disguise, have taken a hint from this practice of Scinde and Lahore, so tha t the colour might not have been natm'al. I n other respects, his ap- pearance was natural enough; and, judging by a plaster cast of him, which I purchased in London, I should say mean, as re - garded his facial structure. One fact, however, was striking, and fell in with the impression of his natural tiger character, tha t his face wore a t aU times a bloodless ghastly paUor. " You might unagine," said my informant, "tha t in his veins circulated not red life-blood, siich as could kindle into the blush of shame, of wrath, of pity—but a green sap tha t welled from no human heart. " His eyes seemed frozen and glazed, as if their light were all converged upon some victim lurking in the far back- ground. So far his appearance might have repelled; but, on fciie otker hand, th e concurrent testimony of many witnessts.



6 5

Slid also tli e silen t testimon y of facts , shewe d tha t th e oiliEess an d

snak y insinuatio n of hi s demeanou r counteracte d of his ghastl y face, an d amongs t inexperience d


th e repulsivp - youn g wome n

wo n f or him a ver y favourabl e reception . I n particular , on e gcniie -

mannere d girl , who m William s ha d undoubtedl y designe d t o mui--

der , gav e i n evidence—tha t once , whe n sittin g alon e wit h her , h e

ha d said , "JSTOW, Miss R. , supposin g midnigh t a t you r bedside , arme d wit h

tha t I shoul d appea r abou t a carvin g knife , wha t woul d

yo u say? " To whic h th e confidin g gir l ha d replied , " Oh , Jl r Williams , if i t wa s anybod y else, I shoul d be frightened ; But , as soon a s I hear d your voice , I shoul d b e tranquil. " Poo r girl ! had thi s outhu e sketc h of Mr William s bee n filled i n an d realised , she woul d hav e seen somethin g i n th e corpse-lik e face, an d hear d somethin g i n th e siniste r voice , tha t woul d hav e unsettle d he r

tranquillit y for

ever . Bu t nothin g shor t of suc h dreadfu l ex -

perience s coul d avai l t o unmas k Mr Joh n Williams .


Int o thi s

perilou s regio n i t wa s

that ,

o n a Saturda y nigh t

i n

December, Mr Williams , who m w e mus t suppos e t o hav e




since mad e his coup d'essai, forced

hi s wa y throug h th e crowded

streets , boun d on business .

To say , wa s t o do .

An d thi s nigh t

h e ha d

sai d t o himself

secretly , tha


h e woul d execut e a desig n

whic h

h e ha

d alread y sketched , an d which , whe n


wa s

destine d o n th e followin g da y t o strik e consternatio n

int o




tha t might y heart " of London , from centr e t o circumference .

I t wa s afterward s remembere d tha t h e ha d quitte d his lodging s

o n thi s

dar k erran d abou t eleven o'clock P.M. ; no t tha t h e mean t

t o begi n so soon : bu t h e neede d t o reconnoitre . H e carrie d hi s

tools closely buttone d

u p

unde r hi s loose room y coat .



wa s

i n harmon y wit h th e genera

l subtlet



hi s character , an


hi s

poHshed hatre d of brutality , tha t b y universa l agreemen t his

manner s wer e distinguishe d for

exquisit e suavity :

th e

tiger' s

hear t

wa s maske d

b y

th e most

insinuatin g an d snak y refine -

ment .

Al l his acquaintance s afterward s describe d hi s dissimu -

latio n




read y an d

so perfect , tha t


i n

makin g hi s


wa y

throug h th e streets , alway s so crowde d o n a Saturda y nigh t i n

neighbourhood s so poor , h e ha d accidentall y jostle d an y person ,

he woul d C


(a s the y were

all satisfied )

hav e stoppe d

t o

offer th e


b b


most gentlemanly apologies: -witli his devilish heart brooding over th e most heBish of purposes, he would yet have paused to express a benign hope tha t the huge mallet, buttoned up under

his elegant

surtout, with a view to the little business tha t awaited

him about

ninety minut e further on, had not inflicted any pain

on th e stranger with whom he had come into coUision. Titian,

I believe, bu t certainly Rubens, and perhaps Vandyke, made i t

a rule never t o practise

his ar t bu t i n full dress—^point ruffl&s,

bag wig, and diamond-hilted sword: and Mr WiUiams, there is reason t o beheve, when he went ou t for a grand compound

massacre (in another sense, one might have apphed to it th e Oxford phrase of going out as Grand Compounder), always as- sumed black silk stockings and pumps ; nor would he on any p,ecount have degraded Ms position as an artist by wearing a • aorning gown. I n Ms second great performance, it was particu- larly noticed and recorded by the one sole trembling man, who under kiUing agonies of fear was compelled (as the reader will

find) from a secret stand to become th e solitary spectator of his

atrocities, tha t Mr Williams

wore a long blue frock, of th e very

finest cloth, and ricMy lined with silk. Amongst th e anecdotes which circulated about Mm, i t was also said a t th e time, tha t

Mr WiUiams employed th e first of dentists, and also the first of pMropodists. On no account would he patronise any second- rate skill. And beyond a doubt, in tha t perilous little branch of business wMch was practised by MmseK, he might be regarded as the most aristocratic and fastidious of artists. But who meantime was th e victim, to whose abode he was

hurrying ? For surely he never could be so indiscreet as to be sailing about on a roving cruise in search of some chance person

to murder ?

Oh, no : he had suited Mmself with a victim some"

time before, viz., an old and very intimate friend. For he seems to have laid i t down as a maxim—^that th e best person to murder

was a friend; and, in default of a friend, wMoh is an article one

cannot always command, an acquaintance: because, i a

either case,

on first approacMng Ms subject, suspicion would be disarmed:

whereas a stranger might take alarm, and find in the very coimte- aaaoe of Ms murderer elect a warning summons to place Mm-



6 7

self on guard. However, in the present case, Ms destined victim was supposed to unite both characters: originally he had been a friend; bu t subsequently, on good cause arising, he had be- come an enemy. Or more probably, as others said, the feelings liad long since languished which gave life t o either relation of friendship or of enmity. Mair was the name of tha t unhappy man, who (whether in the character of friend or enemy) had been selected for th e subject of this present Saturday night's performance. And the story current a t tha t time about the connection between WiUiams and Marr, having (whether true ,

or not true ) never been contradicted upon authority, was, tha t they sailed in the same Indiaman to Calcutta; tha t they had quarrelled when at sea; bu t another version of the story said

—no : they had quarrelled after returning

from sea ; and th e

subject of their quarrel was Mrs Marr, a very pretty young woman, for whose favour they had been rival candidates, and at one time with most bitter enmity towards each other. Some circumstances give a colour of probabihty to this story. Otherwise it has sometimes happened, on occasion of a mm-dcr not sufficiently accounted for, that , from pure goodness of heart intolerant of a mere sordid motive for a striking murder, some person has forged, and the pubhc has accredited, a story repre- senting the murderer as having moved under some loftier exoite- . ment : and in this case the pubhc, too much shocked at the idea of Wilhams having on the single motive of gain consummated so complex a tragedy, welcomed the tale which represented hnu as governed by deadly mahce, growing out of the more impas- sioned and noble rivalry for the favour of a woman. The case remains in some degree doubtful; but, certainly, the probabihty is, tha t Mrs Marr had been the tru e cause, the causa teterrima, of th e feud between th e men. Meantime th e minutes are num- bered, the sands of the hour-glass are running out, tha t measure the diiration of this feud upon earth. This night i t shall cease. To-morrow is th e day which in England they call Sunday, Tv-hich in Scotland they call by the Judaic name of " Sabbath." To both nations, under different names, the day has the same functions; t o both i t is a day of rest. For thee also, Man;, n





shal l

b e a da y of reist;

so is i t written ;

tliou , too , yotm g

Marr .

stal t find rest—thou , an d


th y

household, an d th e strange r tha t

is withi n th y gates . Bu

tha t

res t mus t

b e i


th e worl d whic h

lies beyon d th e grave . O n thi s side th e grav


y e hav e al l slep t

you r final sleep .


The nigh t wa s on e of exceedin g darkness ; an d i n thi s humbl e quarte r of London , whateve r th e nigh t happene d t o be , ligh t o r

dark , quie t or stormy , al l shop s wer e kep t open o n Saturda


night s unti l twelv e o'clock, a t th e least , an d man y for half a n

hou r longer . Ther e wa s n o rigorou s an d pedanti c Jewis h super -

stitio n abou t th e exac t limit s of Sunday . A t th e ver y worst , th e

Sunda y stretche d ove r from on e o'clock A.M. of one day , u


t o

eigh t o'clock A.M.


th e next ,

makin g a clea r circui t of



on e hours .


surely , wa s lon g enough .

Marr ,

o n thi s



ticula r Saturda y night , woul d b e conten t if i t wer e even shorter ,

provide d i t woul d come mor e quickly , for. h e ha s bee n toilin g

ttiroug h sixtee n

hour s behin d his counter .

Marr' s

positio n

i n

life wa

s this :

h e kep t

a littl e

hosier' s shop , an d ha d

investe d in

his stoc k an d th e fittings of Iiis sho p abou t £180 . Lik e al l me n

engage d i n trade , h e suffered some anxieties . H e wa s a ne w

beginner ; but , abeady , ba d debt s ha d alarme d wer e comin g t o maturit y tha t wer e no t hkel y t o

him ; an d bills

raensurat e sales.

Yet , constitutionally , h e wa s a

b e me t by com- sanguin e hoper .

A t thi s tim e h e wa s a stout , fresh-coloure d youn g ma n of twenty -

seven ;

i n

some sligh t degre e uneas y from hi s commercia l pros -

pect s ;

bu t stiU cheerful , an d anticipating—(ho w vainly!)—^tha t

for thi s night , an d th e nex t night , a t least , h e wil l res t hi s wearie d

hea d an d hi s care s upo n th


faithfu l bosom of hi s swee t lovel y

youn g wife.

Th e househol d

of Marr , consistin g of

five persons ,

is a s follows :

First ,

ther e i s

himself, who , if

h e shoul d

happe n



b e ruined , i n a hmite d commercia l sense , ha s energ y enoug h

t o jum p u p again , lik e a pyrami d of fire, an d soa r hig h abov e rui n man y time s repeated . Yes , poo r Marr , so i t migh t be , if

tho u wer t left t o th y nativ e energie s unmolested ; bu t eve n no w

ther e stand s o n th e othe r sid e of th e stree t on e bor n of hell , wh o

put s

hi s

peremptor y negativ e o n al l thes e


prospects .

Secon d i n th e Ust of thi s household, stand s hi s prett y an d amiabl e


rosTSCRiPT .

6 9


wh o i s happ y afte r th e fashion of youthfu l

wives, for she i s

onl y

twenty-two , an

d anxiou s


a t

all )

onl y on

accoun t of he r

darhn g infant .


For , thirdly , ther e i s i n a cradle , no t quit e

nin e

feet belo w th e


viz. , i n

a warm ,

cosy kitchen ,

an d rocke d

a t interval s b y th e youn

g mother ,


bab y

eigh t