Friday, 21 July 2017

The Very Ingenious Mechanick - John Joseph Merlin (1735-1803) St Mary's Paddington Green


 
The ‘very ingenious mechanick’ John Joseph Merlin’s adored all unconventional forms of transport, no matter how hazardous; his most celebrated mishap is related in Thomas Busby’s Concert Room and Orchestra Anecdotes of 1825;

One of his ingenious novelties was a pair of skates … Supplied with a pair of these and a violin he mixed in the motley group of one of the celebrated Mrs. Corneily's masquerades at Carlisle House, Soho Square; when, not having provided the means of retarding his velocity, or commanding its direction, he impelled himself against a mirror of more than five hundred pounds value, dashed it to atoms, broke his instrument to pieces and wounded himself most severely.

Not much is known of Merlin’s early life; he was born or baptised on 17 September 1735 at Huy in the Walloon province of Liege in Belgium, the third child of Maximilien Joseph Merlin and Marie-Anne Levasseur. By the age of 19 young Merlin was working as a mechanic in Paris and by the age of 25 he was in London as part of the entourage of the Spanish Ambassador, the Conde de Fuentes. He soon left the service of the count and after a short stint working for a goldsmith in Covent Garden he took a position at James Cox’s newly founded Museum in Spring Gardens, becoming the principal mechanic. Cox was a jeweller and goldsmith who specialised in the production of exquisite clockwork automata and mechanical clocks; Merlin worked with him on what became his most famous creation, the silver swan automata, now in the Bowes Museum in County Durham. Mark Twain saw it at the Paris exhibition in 1867 and described it in Innocents Abroad; ‘I watched the Silver Swan, which had a living grace about his movement and a living intelligence in his eyes - watched him swimming about as comfortably and unconcernedly as it he had been born in a morass instead of a jeweller’s shop - watched him seize a silver fish from under the water and hold up his head and go through the customary and elaborate motions of swallowing it...'

 

In 1773 he parted company with Cox and set up on his own as maker of mathematical and musical instruments. He continued to apply his mind to the invention of novelties and developed ingenious hybrid musical instruments such as an adaptation for a harpsichord which allowed to played as a piano and a combination of the square piano and the organ called the claviorganum.  In an advertisement dated 1779 he boasted of “the various instruments and pieces of mechanism, which he has constructed, such as his great collection of Patent Piano Forte, double Bass harpsichords, and portable instruments called Celestinetts, and his new Violins, Tenor and Bass, and improves violins, tenor, and bass, tho’ ever so bad, makes them equal to the best Cremonea.” We know that Merlin’s novel instruments found a commercial market because by the late 1770’s he took a former employee to court for making and selling combined harpsichord piano’s without his permission. He also found himself in court for having reneged on a deal with a builder to construct a large new house on the corner of Duchess Street and Portland Place. The house was to be built to Merlin’s own design with large show rooms to display his inventions; it was the first hint that he was harbouring ambitions to open his own museum.

John Joseph Merlin - a portrait by Thomas Gainsborough
 
Merlin’s Museum of Musical Instruments and Mechanical Inventions opened for the delight and education of the nobility, gentry and public in Princes Street, Hanover Square in April 1783. For the twenty years Merlin was the proprietor he filled with it with mechanical marvels designed to please the novelty hungry London public. Morning admission, between 11 and 3 cost 2s 6d and evening admission (from 7 until 9, and including tea or coffee) was 3 shillings  For this modest fee patrons could admire perpetual motion clocks that required no winding up, watch The Grand Turk or Stone eater consuming artificial stones, marvel at the rotating table which enabled a hostess to fill up to twelve cups of tea without leaving her place or the device to enable blind persons to play cards, be horrified at the Steel Tarantula, view two antique busts by means of which ‘ any person may converse with another without being heard by the company’, see mobile bird cages, listen to musical boxes, try out his patented chair to relieve the pain of gout, and view his automata. These included, according to Charles Babbage who saw them as a young man, 'two uncovered female figures of silver, about twelve inches high' one of which “used an eye-glass occasionally and bowed frequently as if recognizing her acquaintances' and the other ‘an admirable danseuse, with a bird on the forefinger of her right hand, which wagged its tail, flapped its wings and opened its beak.' Merlin was often at hand in person to show off his exhibits and explain how they worked.

“ln what he calls his unrivalled mechanical chariot he was to be seen for many years past very frequently riding about Hyde Park and various parts of the town particularly on Sundays In the front of this carriage something resembling a dial was placed By a mechanical communication from the left wheel to this dial c which which he called way wise he was informed by the hand and figures thereupon how far he had travelled His general course unless on particular business was about eight miles in and out In this carriage he never had the trouble to open the doors or windows and even the horse was whipped if necessary by his pulling a string to which a whip was attached by a spring From this curious carriage and his portrait we have presented our readers with an exact engraving To have this carriage painted with various emblematical figures of Merlin the ancient British Magician it cost Mr Merlin last summer the sum of eighty guineas.” Kirby's Wonderful and Eccentric Museum: Or, Magazine of Remarkable Characters London 1803
 
The mechanic was also something of an exhibitionist. He made regular appearances at Ranelagh Gardens and at the Masquerades held at the Pantheon gliding through the crowds on his roller skates, dressed as the Goddess of Fortune with his own wheel, or posing as an electrotherapeutic physician, shocking the dancers as he moved among them. In March 1778 ‘Mr. Merlin, the Mechanic,’ appeared at the Pantheon ‘as a Gouty Gentleman, in a Chair of his own Construction, which, by a Transverse Direction of two Winches, he wheeled about himself with great Facility to any Part of the Room.’ In May be was back; according to the Norfolk Chronicle “Merlin the mechanic also worked a boat around the room and occasionally freighted his vessel with a Harlequin, a Columbine, a witch, a wizard or one of those charm bearing fair ladies whose looks serve to bewitch the beholder be he ever so grave, cold or phlegmatic. The chair which Merlin appeared in at the last masquerade was also filled by one of his disciples who moves in circles through the company.” After an appearance as a Vestal in 1789 he appeared the following year as ‘a Cupid, in his chariot, which moved by some ingenious mechanism round the rooms, pointed his arrows at several ladies, who seemed to be willing votaries to his power.’

 

Merlin was generally thought to have been a life long bachelor but Margaret Debenham in a recent study has shown that this is untrue. In her research into the dispute between Merlin and the builder of the house on the corner of Duchesse Street and Portland Place she discovered that ‘in the early summer of 1777 they [Merlin and the builder Nicholl] had taken a ride out into the countryside together and chatted about Merlin's forthcoming marriage. According to Nicholl, Merlin had been doubtful that the marriage would take place in time for him to move into the new house that winter. Merlin, on the contrary, protested in his own testimony that he had wanted the house completed as soon as possible in readiness for him and his intended wife.’ Debenham also uncovered marriage records which show that the mechanic married Anne Goulding on 17 September 1783 at St Saviours in Southwark and that the couple had two children, Ann and Joseph.  Merlin was left a widower with two relatively young children when Ann died in 1793 and was buried at Christchurch in Southwark.


 

Merlin’s own health began to decline in the late 1790’s. He was last seen in public in January 1803 in Hyde Park in a carriage without horses.  Ion 8 February he placed a notice in the newspapers lamenting that ill health had kept him the museum for three weeks and apologising that during which time one his people had had the temerity to exhibit his ‘unparalleled Magical Moving Pictures’ and being ‘unacquainted with the management of that grand machine…exhibited it in so slovenly and improper a manner that has nearly obscured the intrinsic merit of the magical illusion.’ He promised to attend himself in person to remedy the situation. On 24 February another notice informed the public that after ten years of ill health he intended to retire to the continent and was therefore compelled to sell his collection. He professed himself ‘highly grateful to a nation which has so long protected and encouraged him.’ The retirement to the continent had been left too late; he died on 04 May and was buried at St Mary’s Church, Paddington Green. His final instruction? According to Kirby's Wonderful and Eccentric Museum: Or, Magazine of Remarkable Characters ‘he had his favourite horse thirty years and to prevent any ill usage of this animal after his death he ordered him to be shot which was done accordingly.’ 

Excerpt from the burial register at St Mary's Paddington Green showing Merlin's burial on May 8th

Monday, 17 July 2017

How the Dead Live - Will Self (Penguin £9.99)



“It was a phone directory. North London Book of the Dead, ran the title; and then underneath: A-Z. The cover was the usual yellow flimsy card and there was also the usual vaguely arty line drawing – in this case of Kensal Green Cemetery. I started to leaf through the pages.”

The North London Book of the Dead, a short story in the 1991 collection The Quantity Theory of Insanity was Will Self’s first foray into imagining the world of the London dead.  The narrator loses his mother to cancer, has her cremated at Golders Green, suffers a profound depression but only when he starts to come to terms with his grief finds himself encountering her again firstly in vivid dreams, then in brief sightings on the street which always turn out to be cases of mistaken identity. Until one bleak, drizzly, Tuesday afternoon  ‘walking down Crouch Hill towards Crouch End’ he spots, on the other side of the road his mother ‘wearing a sort of bluish, tweedish long jacket and black slacks and carrying a Barnes & Noble book bag, as well as a large handbag and a carrier bag from Waitrose. She had a CND badge in her lapel and was observing the world with a familiar "there will be tears before bedtime" sort of expression.’ His dead mother invites him to tea to her new flat in Rosemont Avenue and half suspecting he has lost his mind, he goes to visit her two days later.  During that visit his mother explains what death is like:

“Well, it’s like this,” began Mother. “When you die you go and live in another part of London. And that’s it.”

“Whaddya mean, that’s it?” I could already see all sorts of difficulties with this radical new view of death, even if I was sitting inside an example of it. “Whaddya mean, that’s it? Who decides which part of London? How is that no one’s heard of this before? How come people don’t notice all the dead people clogging up the transport system? What about paying bills? What about this phone book? You can’t tell me this lists all the people who have ever died in North London, it isn’t think enough.  And what about the dead estate agents, who do they work for? A Supreme Estate Agent?  And why Crouch End? You hate Crouch End.”

“It could have been worse. Some dead people live in Wanstead.”

The author in his native south London habitat
Almost ten years later, Self marked the millennium with the publication of How the Dead Live, (the title filched, quite openly, from a Derek Raymond thriller) the 15 pages of The North London Book of the Dead, had swollen monstrously into a 416 page opus narrated by the equally engorged character of mother, one Lily Bloom, an American born Londoner who dies in the opening pages but never shuts up, manically ranting until the exhausted Self ran out of printer ink or paper or his typewriter fell to pieces because if death won’t shut you up, little else will. After Lily dies in the London Ear Hospital she unexpectedly finds herself naked on Gower Street being accosted by an Aborigine spirit guide called Phar Lap Jones and then driven by a dead Greek Cypriot taxi driver to a new home in Dulston in North London  (if she had been slightly more respectable in life she would have probably found herself in Dulburb in South London).  Whilst her living daughters are left in the hospital to deal with the formalities of death certificates, burial arrangements and probate Lily finds herself joined in a squalid flat by the fossilised remains of a pregnancy she never knew she had, a pop obsessed lithopedion, (she is lucky, other woman who have suffered still births or miscarriages are united with their long lost foetuses which float around their heads still attached by the umbilical chord), three brainless blubbery beings formed from  the fat she has gained and lost over her life time and, eventually, by the ghost of her 9 year old son, who takes his time getting to Dulston because he has to find his way there from the States and once he is there sets about making his mother suffer for causing the accident which killed him in the early 60’s. In Dulston Lily finds an undemanding  job in a public relations company where no one minds that she is dead, attends night classes on being dead in the community centre,  and takes to haunting her still living daughters,  Natasha, a drug addled loser, and the haute bourgeoisie Charlotte.       
The critics were not kind to How The Dead Live when it appeared. Tom Shone in piece in the New York Times called Something to Offend Everyone said ‘we get wave after wave of viscous imagery (''congealed reality . . . blubbery blancmange of an evidence''). Throw this book at a wall and it will stick.’  In the Observer Adam Mars Jones was even more cutting; ‘It may seem a perverse criticism of a book like How the Dead Live to say that it lacks vitality. But a book about fish doesn't have scales and a book about death needs a pulse as much as any other, perhaps more than most.’  I like Will Self, I don’t mind his many faults because, like Byron’s cup formed from a human cranium, one can “behold the only skull from which, unlike a living head, whatever flows is never dull.” I like Self’s crazed and very un-English ambition, his scribomania, his pretensions, the learning paraded for our admiration, the endless streams of jokes, puns and tortured sentences, his unwillingness to shut up. I find his vision of dead London horribly plausible and very funny. 
  



Friday, 14 July 2017

Dean Swift and the Star Gazing Cobbler - John Partridge (1644-1715), St Mary's churchyard, Mortlake


In 1707 Jonathan Swift played a celebrated practical joke on the successful astrologer John Partridge, publishing a fake almanac which predicted the fortune teller’s death of fever at 11pm on the 29th March 1708. The Dean of St Patrick’s went on to publish a famous account of the astrologer’s death (even though Partridge remained rather inconveniently alive) and later proof’s that, despite his public protests to the contrary, the astrologer was really dead. 
 



Here, five feet deep, lies on his back
A cobbler, starmonger, and quack,
Who to the stars in pure good will
Does to his best look upward still:
Weep, all you customers that use
His pills, his almanacks, or shoes.
And you that did your fortunes seek,
Step to his grave but once a week.

Elegy On the Supposed Death of Mr. Partridge, the Almanac Maker– Jonathan Swift
 

According to his vilifiers John Partridge was born John Hewson at an alehouse in East Sheen after his unmarried mother tarried too long in the taproom on a journey to London. Neither the insinuation of illegitimacy nor the sly hint of dipsomania on the part of his mother were true; John Partridge was born on the 18 January 1644 in East Sheen, the son of a Thames Waterman who was respectable enough to act as a sidesman (a sort of assistant churchwarden) and parish assessor but not rich enough to ensure his precociously intellectual son more than a rudimentary education or able to arrange for him a career more elevated than cobbler.  The young artisan taught himself Latin along with a smattering of Greek and Hebrew and sought instruction in medicine and astrology from local mages like Dr Francis Wright. Again his calumniators concocted baseless stories alleging that he had everything he knew of the zodiacal arts from John Gadbury, (“neglecting his shoes,” they said, “to attend on this fellow’s heels”), the lie meant to undermine him in his later public battles with the Oxfordshire soothsayer.  In his early thirties he left Sheen and moved to Covent Garden where he simultaneously plied his two main two trades, cobbler and astrologer. He published his first almanac from Henrietta Street, Covent Garden in 1678, the Calendarium Judiacum and then swiftly went on to publish a stream of astrological treatises including  Mikropanastrōn, or, An Astrological Vade Mecum;  Ekklēsialogia: an Almanack, Vox lunaris, (‘being a philosophical and Astrological Discourse of two Moons which were seen in London on 11 June 1679’) and Prodromus, ‘an astrological essay’. 
 
In the 1680’s Partridge was increasingly drawn into politics, joining the Calves Head Club and practicing Whiggery almost to the point of republicanism. On the accession of the pro Catholic James II he prudently removed himself to the Netherlands from where he published An Almanack for the Year of our Redemption (1687) and Annus mirabilis (1688) under the transparent pseudonym John Wildfowl. These attacked James’  government and  declared that ‘a commonwealth's the thing that kingdoms want.’  In 1688 he went a stage further and used pseudo biblical prophecy in Mene Tekel to predict that King James would die that year. In November he returned to England joining the glorious revolution that put William of Orange on the throne.  Under the new protection of the new regime Partridge flourished and his annual almanac ‘Merlinus Liberatus’, became perhaps the most successful and widely read of the yearly flood of similar publications that hit the booksellers in the dying weeks of the old year.  


By April 1708 the 64 year old John Partridge, who now resided at the sign of the Blue Ball in Salisbury Court, Blackfriars, became one of that select band of people who discover they are dead by reading about it in the newspaper. Unlike other people who find themselves in this situation however he had been given 4 months notice of his imminent demise; the advance warning coming from one Isaac Bickerstaff Esquire, a mysterious personage who had, in late 1707, published ‘Predictions for the Year 1708; Written to prevent the people of England from being further imposed upon by the vulgar Almanack makers.’  As was usual even with genteel almanac makers   Bickerstaff’s opus predicted the death of several eminent personages including the Cardinal de Noailles and ‘upon the 29th of March next, about eleven at night, of a raging Feaver’ John Partridge.  Being a hugely successful vulgar almanac maker Partridge could hardly object, on principle, to a colleague so precisely predicting his death, even if it could be considered rather bad manners to do so. Whatever his public protestations of belief in the systems of astrology, years of failed prediction must surely have secretly undermined Partridge’s faith in the accuracy of horoscopes; he would not have been overly concerned by Bickerstaff’s confident forecast. The 29th March came and went without Partridge feeling in the slightest indisposed, he went about his normal business, chatting to friends and neighbours, eating his meals, making plans for the following days and never giving a second thought to the prospect of dying. He would must have been astonished therefore when on the 1st April (all fools day we note) someone gave him a copy of a broadsheet publication entitled ‘The Accomplishment of the First of Mr. Bickerstaff’s Predictions being an account of the death of Mr Partridge, the almanack-maker, upon the 29th instant’ in which an anonymous author, identified only as someone ‘employed in the revenue’, related in great detail the lugubrious story of Partridge’s last hours on earth. 
A wigless Dean Swift
The revenue man explained that “to satisfie my own Curiosity, I have for some Days past enquired constantly after Partrige, the Almanack-maker, of whom it was foretold in Mr. Bickerstaff's Predictions, publish'd about a Month ago, that he should die the 29th Instant about 11 at Night, of a Raging Fever….I saw him accidentally once or twice about 10 Days before he died, and observed he began very much to Droop and Languish, tho' I hear his Friends did not seem to apprehend him in any Danger. About Two or Three Days ago he grew Ill, was confin'd first to his Chamber, and in a few Hours after to his Bed, where Dr. Gase and Mrs. Kirlens were sent for to Visit and to Prescribe to him. Upon this Intelligence I sent thrice every Day one Servant or other to enquire after his Health; and yesterday, about Four in the Afternoon, Word was brought me that he was past Hopes; upon which I prevailed with my self to go and see him, partly out of Commiseration, and, I confess, partly out of Curiosity. He knew me very well, seem'd surprized at my Condescention, and made me Complements upon it as well as he could in the Condition he was. The People about him said he had been for some Hours delirious; But when I saw him he had his Understanding as well as ever I knew, and spoke Strong and Hearty, without any seeming Uneasiness or Constrain.”  Partridge’s tactless interlocutor could not stop himself asking what effect Bickerstaff’s predictions had on the astrologer, to which the response was that they were more or less what was killing him.  After half an hour in the dying man’s company and “being half stifled by the Closeness of the Room” the man from the Revenue made his excuses and retired to a nearby coffee house, leaving a servant at the house to advise him as soon as Partridge expired. A couple of hours later the servant arrived with the news that the astrologer was finally dead at five past 7, to which the revenue man noted “it is clear that Mr. Bickerstaff was mistaken almost Four Hours in his Calculation”.
John Partridge's astrological birth chart
Much to the disappointment of the many readers of Isaac Bickerstaff (who proved so popular that his works were translated and published on the continent) Partridge did not deign to respond to this transparent hoax. If he was not prepared to join the fray on his own account there were others who prepared to join it for him. Thus there appeared a counterblast under Partridge’s name but in actual fact composed by Dr Thomas Yalden, assisted by no less a figure than William Congreve the dramatist; 'Squire Bickerstaff detected; or, the astrological impostor convicted’ in which Bickerstaff was attacked for lambasting Partridge’s reputation, “most inhumanly” burying him alive, and defrauding the country of “those services, that I daily offer to the publick”.  The false Partridge thanked his “better stars, I am alive to confront this false and audacious predictor, and to make him rue the hour he ever affronted a man of science and resentment.” He went into battle for himself only though, poor Cardinal Noailles “may take what measures he pleases with him; as his excellency is a foreigner, and a papist, he has no reason to rely on me for his justification; I shall only assure the world he is alive--but as he was bred to letters, and is master of a pen, let him use it in his own defence.”  He then at great length demolished the pretensions of Isaac Bickerstaff to be as astrologer and a man of learning, and several thousand words later set down his pen thoroughly satisfied with himself.
The laughter had barely died down when in April 1709 shortly after the publication of Partridge’s latest almanac, the Bickerstaffian riposte was finally published; ‘A vindication of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq; against what is objected to him by Mr. Partridge in his almanack for the present year 1709.’  Bickerstaff’s opening salvo was that “Mr. Partridge hath been lately pleased to treat me after a very rough manner, in that which is called, his almanack for the present year: Such usage is very undecent from one gentleman to another, and does not at all contribute to the discovery of truth, which ought to be the great end in all disputes of the learned. To call a man fool and villain, and impudent fellow, only for differing from him in a point meer speculative, is, in my humble opinion, a very improper style for a person of his education.”  He felt forced to proudly “tell the reader that I have near a hundred honorary letters from several parts of Europe (some as far as Muscovy) in praise of my performance. Besides several others, which, as I have been credibly informed, were open'd in the post-office and never sent me.” He claimed that there had been only two objections made concerning the accuracy of his predictions, the first from a “French man, who was pleased to publish to the world, that the Cardinal de Noailles was still alive, notwithstanding the pretended prophecy of Monsieur Biquerstaffe: But how far a Frenchman, a papist, and an enemy is to be believed in his own case against an English Protestant, who is true to his government, I shall leave to the candid and impartial reader.” The second was from Partridge himself, but Bickerstaffe was determined to “prove that Mr. Partridge is not alive.” He pointed out that the increased sales of Partridge’s almanac that year had been down to “above a thousand gentleman” wanting to know what Partridge said against Bickerstaff  “at every line they read, they would lift up their eyes, and cry out, betwixt rage and laughter, ‘They were sure no man alive ever writ such damn'd stuff as this.’ Neither did I ever hear that opinion disputed.”   If “an uninformed carcase walks still about, and is pleased to call itself Partridge, Mr. Bickerstaff does not think himself any way answerable for that. Neither had the said carcase any right to beat the poor boy who happen'd to pass by it in the street, crying, "A full and true account of Dr. Partridge's death, etc."
St Mary's, Mortlake
No one is sure why Jonathan Swift (for the author of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ was the true identity behind the pseudonymous astrologer Isaac Bickerstaff - and of the ‘man from the revenue’ for that matter) picked John Partridge, to be the butt of his joke when he was clearly infuriated by the whole tribe of soothsayers, seers, mystics, astrologers and compilers of almanacs. Perhaps it was simply because ‘Merlinus Liberatus’ was the most successful and widely read of the yearly crop of horoscopic publication. Or perhaps it was because Partridge’s mystical mumbo jumbo was so strongly Whig and so obviously served the cause of Republican propaganda; Swift was by this point a tepid Tory after starting life as a lukewarm Whig and he generally eschewed extreme political opinions of any stripe. The hoax he played on Partridge is generally credited with finishing the astrologer’s career and often cited as the final nail in astrology’s coffin. Whilst it is true that Partridge’s almanac did not appear in 1710 this was not because, as is often alleged, the author was too disheartened at being the laughing stock of Europe to continue publication but because he was locked in a dispute over money with the Company of Stationer who were reluctant to give him the £150 fee he was demanding to allow them to print his work. When this dispute was resolved ‘Merlinus Liberatus’ continued to roll off the presses and make as much money as before. Partridge was certainly wealthy when he died; he left over £2000 in his will, an enormous sum for the time. And as for astrology itself, the quackery is alive and well as a cursory search of any tabloid newspaper will tell you and London itself, 300 years later has as many psychics, seers and fortune-tellers per head of population as it did in the early 1700’s.   
The burial of John Partridge recorded in St Mary's parish register
John Partridge really died in London on 24th June 1715 and at his own request was buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s in Mortlake on 30th June. His handsome chest tomb with the black marble top and white marble sides has weathered badly and the Latin inscription, which is no longer legible, said “Johannes Partridge astrologus et medicinæ doctor, natus est apud East-Sheen in comitatu Surrey 8° die Januarii anno 1644, et mortuus est Londini 24° die Junii anno 1715. Medicinam fecit duobus Regibus unique Reginæ Carolo scilicet Secundo, Willielmo Tertio, Reginæque Mariæ. Creatus medicinæ doctor Lugduni Batavorum.” Little or no knowledge of Latin is required to translate the first sentence and the second claims, almost certainly unjustifiably, that he was a doctor of medicine for two kings and one queen, Charles II, William III and Queen Mary and that he was made a doctor of medicine at Leiden in Holland. A more fitting epitaph would have been “Dean Swift granted me what little fame I have” for without the Dean of St Patrick’s joke at his expense Partridge would have long since disappeared into obscurity.    

Partridge's weathered tomb in St Mary's churchyard, Mortlake

 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Cemetery Club presents 'Stories From The Stones: The Great & the Good of Hampstead Cemetery' 24th June 2017


I was lucky enough to secure tickets for Cemetery Club’s recent sell out tour of Hampstead Cemetery.  Having failed to catch Sheldon and Sam locally at Tower Hamlets I had no choice last Saturday but to make the long haul out on the Jubilee line to Fortune Green Road, West Hampstead to see the eagerly anticipated  new tour ‘Stories from the Stones’.  This is my third cemetery tour; the other two were both of Highgate, one in the early 1990’s and the other a couple of years ago, both undertaken out of necessity rather than desire because the Friends of Highgate Cemetery won’t let you into the western half unless you join a guided tour. I rather resent being shepherded around places I would rather explore under my own steam but I like the Cemetery Club’s blog and I liked Sheldon when I saw him speak a couple of months ago at Greenwich University and so I was happy to park the prejudices of a lifetime and allow myself to become, temporarily, a sheep in his flock.  

Sheldon filling us in on Andrew Fisher, former Australian PM.

According to the brief biographical data on the Cemetery Club website Sam works in the entertainment industry by day but devotes her nights to cemeteries (perhaps they don’t put it quite like that…. free time is perhaps what they call the hours when she is not at work).  She was a guide at Highgate for 12 years (she definitely wasn’t the guide on my last tour there though, unfortunately) and is a blogger and independent researcher whose focus is “quirky characters, Victorian mourning customs and social history, particularly social history pertaining to London’s dark underbelly.” Her guiding and cemetery partner Sheldon is a qualified City of Westminster Guide who drudges in HR by day but “by night his passion is the past, our changing landscape and what went before us.”
The tour started at 1.30 sharp which meant that I missed the first grave as I was five minutes late. Sam and Sheldon took turns showing us noteworthy resting places and interesting memorials and the group trailed after them around the cemetery like ducklings following their mother.  Sheldon was on first but I missed almost everything he said and so have no idea who he was talking about. Sam then took us of down the main path towards the chapel and, after pausing to note the Frankau memorial and the Egyptian themed tomb of James ’Pasha’ Wilson,  introduced us to Frederick Hengler a circus proprietor and riding instructor to the Royal Family (whose father Henry worked for Andrew Ducrow) which lead on to a fascinating digression about the attempts of the British navy to train sea lions for military uses during the Second World War (the link being the sea lions and Hengler being someone who once worked for his son Charles if I understood the story correctly).  Sheldon ushered us on a few yards to admire the tomb of the euphoniously named Archduke Mikhail Mikhailovich, a grandson of Tsar Nicolas 1st of Russia whose attempts to find a wife to please his mother Sheldon managed to turn into a comedy. 10 yards away lies Fred Gaisberg, American born musician and artistic director of HMV in the very earliest days of recorded music.
Sam at the grave of the Short Brothers (with a leprechaun behind her?) 

During the next hour and a half we became acquainted with the last resting places (and these are just the ones I remember) of a plethora of the great and good; Banister Fletcher the architect, Florence Upton creator of the Golliwog (I find myself strangely fascinated by this woman, I may return to her at a later date),  Joseph Lister the pioneer of antiseptic surgery, Kate Greenaway the illustrator, Sebastian de Ferranti electrical engineer on the fledgling London Underground, Dame Gladys Cooper, actress (Rex Harrison’s mother in ‘My Fair Lady’ and later star in three episodes of the legendary ‘Twilight Zone’), the Short brothers, aviation pioneers  (Horace, I think, was the one who was kidnapped and worshipped  by cannibals),  Alan Coren, the TV pundit, Dennis Brain the French horn player, Andrew Fisher, Australian premier, and Arthur Prince ventriloquist. We weren’t able to see some of the graves up close – as in most London cemeteries Hampsteads grave markers stand at crazy angles threatening to topple over or collapse into the vaults beneath them. We were a large group (it really was a sell out tour) and allowing a herd of curious taphophiles to blunder around a closely packed patch of crumbling masonry could only have led to disaster. Instead Sam dispatched Sheldon to pick his way between the headstones and point to the one under discussion. 

The hour and a half went very quickly – Sam and Sheldon are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and entertaining guides and it was a pleasure to accompany them around the cemetery. The finale to the visit was provided by Sheldon whose studious exterior appears to conceal a suppressed exhibitionist waiting for any excuse to burst out. The grave of Marie Lloyd provided the pretext. Sheldon firstly apologised for having to perform acapella and without a costume as he had originally planned to be accompanied by a friend on the banjo and wearing some frothy lace concoction; the friend had begged off and he had had second thoughts about the dress. He then launched into Miss Lloyd’s classic ‘When I take my morning promenade.’ His delivery was, at the beginning, affected by a degree of nervousness; hardly surprising when singing in a cemetery in front of a crowd of strangers who were all probably slightly uncomfortable and not really sure what was going on.

Since Mother Eve in the Garden long ago
Started the fashion, fashion's been a passion
Eve wore a costume we might describe as brief
Still every season brought its change of leaf...

By the end of the first chorus the nerves were rapidly falling away, half way through the second verse there were the first signs of bodily movement that had turned by the middle of the second chorus into the definite shaking of an invisible dress apparently gathered up by the hem to reveal a shapely calf and ankle. By the end of the third chorus he had the audience joining in:

When I take my morning promenade
Quite a fashion card, on the Promenade
Oh! I don't mind nice boys staring hard
If it satisfies their desire...


Now that is a truly impressive achievement.   


Thursday, 22 June 2017

Sleeping with the alien Portuguese: Henry Fielding (1707-1754) Cemitério dos Ingleses, Lisbon


…… ‘neath the green Estrella trees
No Artist merely but a MAN
Wrought on our noblest island-plan
Sleeps with the alien Portuguese

Austin Dobson:  From verses read at the unveiling, by the United States Minister, the Hon.  Mr. J. Russell. Lowell, of the Bust of Henry Fielding by the Sculptor Miss Margaret Thomas in the Shire Hall Taunton.

Austin Dobson had it wrong, Henry Fielding does not sleep with the alien Portuguese. They, católicos to a man, would not be caught dead in the Cemitério dos Ingleses on the Avenida de Álvares Cabral, a heathen burial ground reserved for protestantes, judeusagnósticos and atheists. He shares his final resting place mainly with his fellow countrymen and a smattering of Germans, Dutch and other northern Europeans.  He was born in 1707 in Somerset and grew up in Dorset but he was one of London’s greatest citizens and the fact that he died and was buried in Lisbon does not stop him being one of the London Dead.  I had wanted to pay my respects at his memorial for some time, something that should have been relatively straightforward as I regularly visit Lisbon. But somehow whenever I resolved to make the trip to the cemetery something went wrong; I missed buses, got caught in downpours of monsoon like ferocity on the streets of Lisbon, turned up in the afternoon when the cemetery was closed, or lost my way in a tangle of side streets and alleyways.  This year I was determined to make sure there would be no mishaps and as soon as I was off the first easyjet flight of the day from Luton airport and out of customs I hailed a cab and had them take me straight to the cemetery. 

Walter Scott called Fielding the father of the English Novel (an honorific Defoe and Richardson might both have taken issue with) and Edward Gibbon said that Tom Jones “will outlive the palace of the Escurial, and the imperial eagle of the house of Austria” (the second part of his prediction has already been true for the best part of a century though the Escorial still stands firm). On the other hand Dr Johnson took Hannah Moore to task when she quoted from some “witty passage” in Tom Jones and expressed his shock “to hear you quote from so vicious a book. I am sorry to hear you have read it; a confession which no modest lady should ever make. I scarcely know a more corrupt work."  He also called Fielding a blockhead, and when Boswell demurred furiously elaborated “what I mean by his being a blockhead is that he was a barren rascal!"
"Will you not allow, Sir, that he draws very natural pictures of human life?" Boswell mildly countered.
"Why, Sir, it is of very low life,” Johnson thundered, ”Richardson used to say, that had he not known who Fielding was, he should have believed he was an ostler. Sir, there is more knowledge of the heart in one letter of Richardson's, than in all Tom Jones.”  Coleridge didn’t agree with either Johnson’s love of Richardson or his disdain for Fielding “What a master of composition Fielding was! Upon my word, I think the Oedipus Tyrannus, the Alchemist, and Tom Jones, the three most perfect plots ever planned. And how charming, how wholesome, Fielding always is! To take him up after Richardson, is like emerging from a sick room heated by stoves, into an open lawn.”


Leaving aside his literary achievements (he wrote for the stage as well as fathering the novel) Fielding is best known for his job as a Bow Street magistrate. In this capacity he was notable for his objections to public executions (the public nature of them being the cause of his opposition rather than the execution itself, which, like congress with serving girls, he had no particular issue with as long as it was decently carried out in private), his role in the formation of the Bow Street runners (in the early days, a wholly inadequate force of 6 which has multiplied, over the intervening two a half centuries to 32,000 with apparently little effect on the crime rate), his incorruptibility (in terms of monetary bribes) and his nepotism in job sharing his job over his blind half brother John.   

The marriage registry at St Benet Paul's Wharf showing Fielding's second marriage to Mary Daniels
Fielding’s first marriage, in 1734, was to Charlotte Craddock at their local church in Somerset. It would have been a completely happy marriage if four of the couples five children had not adopted the habit of dying in infancy and Charlotte, no doubt heart sore and broken willed, chosen to follow them at a relatively early age.  There is no reason to doubt that Fielding’s grief was both genuine and profound despite his seeking solace in the bed of Mary Daniel, his wife’s lady’s maid (who since the death of her mistress probably didn’t have much else to do).  The liaison was presumably satisfactory in every respect because Fielding decided to make Mary his second wife. They married on November 27, 1747 at the church of St Benet Paul’s Wharf. According to the 1904 DNB “their first child was christened three months afterwards. Lady Louisa Stuart reports that the second wife had been the maid of the first wife. She had ‘few personal charms,’ but had been strongly attached to her mistress, and had sympathised with Fielding's sorrow at her loss. He told his friends that he could not find a better mother for his children or nurse for himself.” Fielding did not share the view that his wife lacked personal charms; during the next five years she fell pregnant every year, only her husband’s ill health finally putting an end to the begetting of further Fielding offspring.

Hogarth's unflattering portrait of Fielding
By 1752 failing health and premature middle age forced Fielding to resign his position as magistrate and retire to Ealing where the gout and dropsy undermined his constitution so badly that by the summer of 1754 newspapers were reporting his death and then having to print hasty retractions; the Derby Mercury of the 21st June for example “we have the Pleasure to assure the Publick, that the Report of the Death of Henry Fielding, Esq; inserted in an Evening Paper of Thursday, is not true, that Gentleman's Health being  better than it has been for some Months past.”  Fielding was not put out by rumours of his demise; he was in such a poor physical state that he himself commented that “my face contained marks of a most diseased state, if not of death itself. Indeed, so ghastly was my countenance that timorous women with child had abstained from my house, for fear of the ill consequences of looking at me.” Knowing that if he did nothing the rumours could well become true he decided to leave Ealing and move south to a sunnier climate. He originally hankered after Aix-en-Provence but as gout had left him unable to walk and made carriage rides agony he cast around for someone reachable by ship and settled on Lisbon.

On the 3rd August the Oxford Journal reported that “a few Days since Henry Fielding, Esq; and his Family embark'd for Lisbon, in order to use the Baths for the Recovery of his Health; and not for the South of France, as mentioned in some of the Papers.”  Fielding had been trying to leave for Lisbon since June 26, the day he left Ealing on an excruciating two hour coach ride to join his ship, The Queen of Portugal, at Redriffe (Rotherhithe). On his own admission he “presented a spectacle of the highest horror. The total loss of limbs was apparent to all who saw me, and my face contained marks of a most diseased state, if not of death itself….. In this condition I ran the gauntlet (so I think I may justly call it) through rows of sailors and watermen, few of whom failed of paying their compliments to me by all manner of insults and jests on my misery.” For the five or six weeks Captain Richard Veale piloted his ship at an agonisingly slow pace down the Thames, into the estuary and then round the south coast, always hugging the coastline and waiting for a decent breeze to fill his sails. Fielding passed his time writing a diary that was published posthumously as ‘The Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon.’ Fielding may have been dying but he did his best to keep up his spirits and produce the sort of good humoured, rollicking prose in which he had written Tom Jones.  He failed. Unsurprisingly he struggled to make light of incidents such as having to call a doctor to drain his stomach of ten quarts of dropsical fluid. 

Fielding portrays Captain Veale as something of a martinet, a man very prone to standing upon his dignity. Not brutal, as many ships officers were in those days, but certainly unyielding and a little harsh except when it came to the ship’s cats. The dying Fielding wasn’t without a certain degree of sympathy himself when a kitten fell overboard:

A most tragical incident fell out this day at sea. While the ship was under sail, but making as will appear no great way, a kitten, one of four of the feline inhabitants of the cabin, fell from the window into the water: an alarm was immediately given to the captain, who was then upon deck, and received it with the utmost concern and many bitter oaths. He immediately gave orders to the steersman in favour of the poor thing, as he called it; the sails were instantly slackened, and all hands, as the phrase is, employed to recover the poor animal. I was, I own, extremely surprised at all this; less indeed at the captain's extreme tenderness than at his conceiving any possibility of success; for if puss had had nine thousand instead of nine lives, I concluded they had been all lost. The boatswain, however, had more sanguine hopes, for, having stripped himself of his jacket, breeches, and shirt, he leaped boldly into the water, and to my great astonishment in a few minutes returned to the ship, bearing the motionless animal in his mouth. Nor was this, I observed, a matter of such great difficulty as it appeared to my ignorance, and possibly may seem to that of my fresh-water reader. The kitten was now exposed to air and sun on the deck, where its life, of which it retained no symptoms, was despaired of by all.

But the cat lived, for the moment, “to the great joy of the good captain, but to the great disappointment of some of the sailors, who asserted that the drowning of a cat was the very surest way of raising a favourable wind.” Having survived a dunk in the ocean the cat that “could not be drowned was found suffocated under a feather-bed in the cabin. I will not endeavor to describe [Captain Veale’s] lamentations … than barely by saying they were grievous, and seemed to have some mixture of the Irish howl in them.”

Lisbon cats proving cemeteries are much safer places than ships for the average feline
The Queen of Portugal finally docked at Lisbon at the beginning of August 1754.  Approaching Lisbon on the river Tagus Fielding thought that it looked “very beautiful at a distance”; but was quickly disillusioned “as you approach nearer… all idea of beauty vanishes at once.” Soon he was calling it the “nastiest city in the world”. The blistering heat of August did nothing to mend the writers ailing constitution, just the opposite in fact, he was soon feeling worse than ever. Within two months he was dead, though the contrary British press, once keen to record his premature demise, perversely reported him as returning to full health under the Portuguese sun. On the 22nd October the Leeds Intelligencer (now there is an oxymoron for you) told it’s readers that “Letters by the last Mail from Lisbon advise, that Henry Fielding, Esq; is surprisingly recovered since his Arrival in that Climate. His Gout has entirely left him, and his Appetite returned.” He had actually died on the 8th of October and had been interred in the only possible burial ground for a protestant foreigner, the English Cemetery. His death left his wife penniless and she returned to England without arranging for a headstone or any other grave marker for the great author.

If Mary Daniel did not make arrangements for a headstone perhaps someone else did. Early accounts of the grave are conflicting as to whether there was a marker or not. In 1772 Richard Twist visited the cemetery and wrote that “the great author of Tom Jones (...) is here interred without even a stone to indicate that here lies Henry Fielding”, while Nathaniel Wraxall in the same year claimed to have found a headstone “nearly concealed by weeds and nettles”.  Twist also pointed out that the unmarked state of the grave was a national scandal as foreigners could not believe that “this [is] how the British honour their best and brightest” while the monied but otherwise undistinguished Portugal traders  filled the cemetery with “marble monuments with long, pompous, flattering inscriptions” to themselves and their wives.  Some of Fielding’s foreign admirers even proposed taking action themselves; the French consul  Chevalier de Meyrionne started one scheme in 1776 but was recalled to France before it could be completed and Dom Joâo de Braganza, the uncle of the Portuguese Queen and founder of the Lisbon Academy, tried to raise a monument with a learned Latin epitaph by the Abbé Correa de Serra but had to abandon the plan in the face of opposition from the catholic clergy.  It was the British Chaplin, the Reverend Christopher Neville who in 1830 finally raised the necessary cash from Fielding’s admirers to raise the large, but rather uninspiringly designed, monument that now stands over his burial place (or perhaps stands over his burial place; Wordsworth’s daughter Dora Quillien wrote in 1846 that “the exact spot where Fielding was buried (…) is not known. His monument (…) is on a spot selected by guess. The bones it covers may possibly have belonged to an idiot.”)  The massive chest tomb surmounted by an urn is very typical of the early 19th century and is not even enlivened with a portrait though there is an interminable Latin epitaph which starts ‘‘Henrici Fielding a Somersetensibus apud Glastoniam oriundi’. By the 1880’s newspapers were reporting that the tomb was being neglected by the guardians of the cemetery. The following report from the Pall Mall Gazette was reprinted verbatim in many provincial newspapers:

THE TOMB OF FIELDING. It appears that the English cemetery Lisbon is in a state of disgraceful neglect. Here, as everyone knows, Henry Fielding is buried, and here, as everyone does not know, cartloads of the bones of British soldiers collected from the battlefields of the Peninsular War, were deposited after 1810. The tomb Fielding, so a recent visitor writes to the Times, is entirely overgrown, and even the inscription is in places obliterated. This is certainly not as it should be, and if the English residents in Lisbon have not sufficient patriotic piety to tend Fielding's tomb, it devolves on literary England to see that it be rescued from its present state of neglect. Might not Mr Robert Buchanan at once advertise "Sophia" and express his gratitude towards Fielding by trimming and whitewashing his monument as he has trimmed and whitewashed "Tom Jones?" It would be a graceful act of expiation.  ( 01 December 1886, Dundee Evening Telegraph)

From an articles in THe Sphere, 1907

Eighteen months later the Illustrated London News was disputing these stories and claiming that the tomb was still the scene of veneration for the famous author:

MARCH 17, 1888 THE PLAYHOUSES A few months ago there was a discussion about the condition Henry Fielding's grave in the Protestant cemetery at Lisbon. Some officious person wrote to the papers that it was shamefully neglected; but it all turned out to be ridiculously untrue,' for the grave is of solid stone— perennius —and it is surrounded flowering shrubs and mournful cypresses, and the English ladies who visit Lisbon never fail to scatter roses on the solid sarcophagus containing all that is left of the author of “Tom Jones” and Joseph Andrews." Illustrated London News - Saturday 17 March 1888

Certainly no one can complain these days, the cemetery in general and Fielding’s tomb in particular are immaculately kept. Make sure you visit if you are ever in Lisbon. 

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The King of Little Italy: Luigi Fraulo (1857-1914), St Mary's Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green


British imperial servants serving in the distant scattered territories of the empire must have been avid for even the most trivial scraps of gossip about life back in London. News that merited only cursory mention or at most a few lines in the British newspapers might find itself extensively reported in the Straits Times of Singapore or the Hawera & Normanby Star of New Zealand.  The death of Luigi Fraulo, honorifically either King of Clerkenwell’s Little Italy or the King of Ice Cream, depending on which newspaper you read, was an example of the sort of story which seemed to interest the consumers of news in the provinces or the colonies more than your genuine jaded Londoner.  The capital’s newspapers confined to a one line notice of his death and a brief paragraph on his interment, noting that the “funeral took place this afternoon of Luigi Fraulo, the Italian ice-cream king. The cortege passed along Oxford-street, and the hearse was entirely covered with flowers. Between forty and fifty carriages followed containing compatriots of the deceased.” The Straits Times on the other hand published what amounted to a full obituary. 

 According to the Straits Times Luigi was from Ravello in southern Italy and was 21 when he emigrated to London. He arrived in Clerkenwell with a single £10 note (the proceeds of selling his Italian wine business) and died at the age of 57 leaving an estate valued at over £15,000. His £10 note was used to hire himself a barrow and set himself up as an ice cream man. He was a good salesman and his carefully husbanded profits were enough to eventually allow him to launch a new business as a supplier of raw materials to the ice cream producers. Opportunities to expand were limited however by an expensive crucial ingredient – ice. In those pre-refrigeration days ice had to be imported from Scandinavia and the ice business was controlled by a cartel of ice merchants who kept supplies limited and prices high. Luigi had enough capital to risk chartering a ship and importing ice on his own account. Initially his customers were his compatriots in the gelato business but as he seriously undercut his competitor’s prices he soon found himself importing vast quantities of ice from Norway and supplying the hotel and club trade. He became wealthy and influential and, according to the Straits Times, something of a padrone to the London Italian community: “a good number of the tradesmen in ‘Little Italy’ owed their start in business to him. Every compatriot in trouble or difficulty appealed to him and never in vain. He was always ready with sound advice and practical aid. He acted as arbitrator in family and business disputes, he transacted the legal business of ‘Little Italy,’ he helped everyone, and the neighbourhood is nearly inconsolable in its loss.”

If the Straits Times is correct and he was 21 when he emigrated then he arrived in England around 1878. He appears in the 1881 census living at 28 Eyre Street Hill in the household of Panteleone Manzi, general merchant, along with his brother Salvatore. By the time of the 1891 census, when he was 33, he was head of household and recently married to Annie, who was 10 years younger than him, and they already had their first child Salvatore. Luigi’s mother Eugene was living with them along with Salvatore and a couple of cousins who helped out in the business. The family were living at 8 Eyre Street Hill, the Clerkenwell Street that is a continuation of Leather Lane on the far side of the Clerkenwell Road; Luigi was still living here when he died in 1914. Luigi went on to have 9 children; Salvatore, Alfonso, Luigi, Maria, Pantaleoni, Anna, Rosario, Margherita and Giuseppina. Luigi’s brother Salvatore seems to have been his constant companion, never married and always lived with him at Eyre Street Hill.

Ice cream vendor in Italian village costume
The image of Salvatore as a respectable father and family man is slightly tarnished when you look at the way he is reflected in the stories published in the London newspapers during his lifetime. In August 1887 the Islington Gazette, under the headline ‘ITALIANS IN DISPUTE’ reported that the 31 year old Luigi found himself in Clerkenwell County Court being sued for £8 8s by one Eugenie Borro of Fleet Row , Eyre Street Hill. Borro was an employee of Luigi’s who claimed he was owed the money as back pay. He claimed to have left his employment in Luigi’s business and gone to Paris but had come back at his boss’s request and under the inducement of an increase in his wages to £1 10s a week.  Luigi denied begging Borro to come back to his old job or offering him an increase in wages. He told Judge Eddis that in fact he taken him on again out of compassion and had been forced to sack him when he refused to do his work. The Judge awarded £4 to Borro, reflecting his old rate of pay, but deducting 12 shillings that Luigi had lent him. In  February 1892 Luigi found himself in the dock for a crime assured to outrage English sensibilities – maltreatment of a horse. The Islington Gazette once again:

A VETERINARIAN SEVERELY CENSURED. At the Guildhail Police Court, Baseliga Amonda, 31, Eyre Street Hill, Clerkenwell, carman, was charged with cruelly working horse while lame. —Luigi Fraulo, provision merchant, of the same address, was brought up for causing the horse to be so worked —Mr. Savournin, veterinary surgeon, stated that the sores on the animal were very bad, and had not been attended to. —Mr. J. Baxter, M.R.C.V.S., was called for the defence, and stated that the horse was fit to work in its present condition.—Alderman Renals: I know something about horses; but I never hear d such a statement from a veterinary surgeon. I shall fine you, Amonda, 40s for taking the horse out, and the owner £5 and costs, or a month, and if comes here again will assuredly go to prison. I wish to say that, as long as I sit on this bench, I hope I shall not hear such evidence as one veterinary surgeon has given. It is a disgrace to the profession.

In January 1894 21 year Giovanni Agabba appeared at the Old Bailey accused of feloniously wounding Brassi Lutschia with intent to do him grievous bodily harm. Luigi, who wasn’t even called as a witness, was mentioned frequently during the trial. Agabba was accused of slashing Lutschia across the arm with a razor during a quarrel involving up to 15 drunk people outside Mr Prole’s shop on Eyre Street Hill. Almost all of the Italian witnesses, and the defendant, had to have their evidence interpreted for the court.  Many of the witnesses said Lutschia was a ’bad character’  and seemed to sympathetic to the young razor wielding hooligan on trial. Lutschia, who was an ice cream vendor, had a hard time in the witness box despite being the injured party.  Although the questions he was responding to are not given in the official record of the trial it is quite clear from Lutschia’s answers what the defending barrister was trying to imply about his character and his relationship with Luigi: “I do not carry a knife or a razor—the razor which the prisoner used was not taken out of my pocket—I have never been accused of stabbing a man—I have got no money, and never paid any to settle out of Court three charges of stabbing—my friends have only paid money for me once when I was accused of stabbing, and I was charged innocently—I was bound over to keep the peace for six months—Fraulo, who was with me before it began, has not paid money to prevent my being prosecuted—he is at his house now—it is not true that the prisoner's brother and I were quarrelling and fighting with knives.” Sadly Luigi did not appear as a witness. Agabba was found guilty by the jury but with a recommendation for mercy to the judge. He was given three months hard labour.

Luigi was back in court in May 1901 but this time he was the plaintiff. The Islington Gazette, loudly proclaiming ITALIANS SEEK LITIGATION, reported that he was suing Thomas Falco, a boot maker of Clerkenwell Close, for £23 9s owed for rent and provisions supplied since 1891. Falco counterclaimed for £34 saying that Luigi owed him 30 shillings a week for 6 years for repairing horse harnesses. Falco called a large number of witnesses (all of whom required interpreters) to back his story. Luigi called one William Downs, a saddler and harness maker, (and who presumably did not require an interpreter to give his evidence) to testify that he had been carrying out harness repairs on behalf of the plaintiff since 1890. The judge was not impressed  by Falco’s witnesses and found for Luigi, ordering Falco to pay £1 a month until the dent was cleared. 

Harvesting ice for the frost trade
Luigi’s final brush with the law came in February 1909 and was reported in the Evening Standard. Bedesta Toguolini boot and shoe maker of Mount Pleasant, Clerkenwell sued Luigi for £50 damages for alleged breach of covenant for quiet enjoyment of his rented premises. The paper explained that:

Mrs. Tuguolini and her husband were formerly tenants of a house in Mount  Pleasant, of which the defendant was the landlord. When the premises adjoining were let as a club they could never get any sleep Saturday and Sunday nights. Piano playing and dancing went on till six o’clock in the morning. Gambling was also carried on there and the witness spoke to other causes of complaint. Screams of ‘murder’ were sometimes to be heard, and on one occasion after a row the witness picked  up the razor produced.  Another witness said that on Sunday afternoons the people attending the club used to amuse themselves in the yard. It seemed to be an over flow meeting (laughter). The dancing was downstairs and the upstairs room was Monte Carlo. A police-sergeant’s evidence showed that there was a considerable amount of drunkenness amongst the girls frequenting the club as well as among the men.

Luigi denied that any ‘disgraceful behaviour’ went on at the club but the judge was having none of it. Neither was he having any nonsense about a £50 claim for damages – he awarded the plaintiff £15 from which he deducted Luigi’s £10 counter claim for rent arrears. The Tuguolini’s probably didn’t blow their £5 compensation down at the Italian social club.