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Tales from the Terrific Register: The Book of London
By Cate Ludlow
The History PressCopyright © 2014 Cate Ludlow
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The great concourse of foreigners who resort to London on various affairs, joined to the liberty of England, which permits all manner of persons, who conform to its laws in other respects, to follow their own private pursuits, and live in just what manner they think proper, render the inhabitants in general less curious about the arrival and sojourn of strangers amongst them, than those of any another country. The singular circumstances of the following history, which are literally true, are striking proofs of this observation.
In the year 1724, a gentleman frequented the Royal Exchange, who called himself Mr. Herby; and, passing for a Turkey merchant, took a large country-house, about three miles from London, in a retired place, in the neighbourhood of Chelsea where he constantly resided, and scarce ever made his appearance abroad, except on charge, and at the coffee-houses in the neighbourhood, where his chief intercourse seemed to be with foreign Jews, and it was imagined to be on the subject of exchange of money. He embellished his seat with every decoration of art and nature, sparing no cost or pains upon it; but so secret was he with respect to the internal affairs of his household, that no person out of doors knew the manner of life he led for some years; as he did not visit any neighbour, and was chiefly waited on by Turkish servants he had brought with him to England. His gardener, cook, his steward, and in short all his domestics whose employment made it necessary for them to be familiar in the house, were Turks; and the few English servants he employed were lodged in outhouses, and had certain bounds which they durst not pass on pain of being dismissed; and so amiable was his character as a good master, that none of them chose to disobey him; in short his liberality acquired him the reputation of being immensely rich.
The only remarkable circumstance that transpired was his keeping of a number of mistresses; but as there was the strictest order and decorum observed, none of them ever appearing abroad to give offence to the neighbourhood, and that he had engaged all the lower people about him in his interest, by his generosity, he was suffered to enjoy his private pleasures without any molestation whatsoever; nor was it till after his death that the public was informed of the following adventures.
From the time of his settling in this country, he had formed the resolution of having a seraglio in the same manner as if he had lived at Constantinople; and, with this view he took no thought about the birth or accomplishments of his mistresses, but chose them as they pleased his eye, and possessed personal charms calculated to gratify his sensual inclinations. His first prize was a very handsome seampstress, to whom he had given some work; and forming an acquaintance with her by these means, he at length seduced her by presents to consent to live with him. The great pains he took to make her situation happy, could not prevent her expressing some uneasiness at leading so solitary a life, which in a short time made her enter into Mr Herby's views of forming his seraglio for the sake of company. The fear of dividing his affections had less power over her, than the chagrin of being debarred from all female society. She therefore consented to write to three young girls of her acquaintance, inviting them to pay her a visit; and she gave them such an advantageous account of her situation, as could not fail to excite their curiosity; which was heightened by another circumstance: – they were told in the letter that the servant, who was the bearer, would attend them on any day they should appoint, with her coach, to conduct them to her; but that for particular reasons she was obliged to conceal from the names of the persons, or any description of the place of her residence. After a short consultation, the desire of again seeing their old acquaintance, whom they had given over, conceiving she had met with some fatal accident, joined to the entertaining account she had given of herself, engaged them to consent, and in a few days Mr Herby's servant conducted them safe to his house. Great preparations had been made for their reception; all the apartments were thrown open; the most costly furniture was displayed; jewels and valuable curiosities were carelessly placed in the different rooms, and every art made use of that could serve to convey the idea of immense riches. The seampstress herself was dressed magnificently, and seemed to be covered in diamonds. The three girls, who perhaps had never seen anything finer in the shops, were thunderstruck; envy, it is probable, succeeded to admiration, and doubtless secretly cursed their own hard fortune; but the seampstress did not suffer them to give way to these reflections longer than was necessary for their design. After a superb entertainment, at which she presided, and during the course of which Mr Herby treated her with every mark of affection, and then with uncommon politeness purposefully withdrew; she told the girls – that she should be very happy if they would consent to be partners with her in her good fortune; that she had sent for them with that view; and that they had only to signify their assent to become as absolute mistress of the house, and all the riches they saw in it, as herself. She then expiated on the amiable qualities of Mr Herby, who in fact was a well made, genteel man. At this instant he returned enforcing the lady's argument by a thousand civilities and some rich presents; he made them promise to take the first opportunity of eloping from their friends, and sent them back under the conduct of the same servant, who was provided with money, and ordered to attend their orders till their flight was accomplished.
By such sort of stratagems he gained in the end eight more, and he made their bondage so agreeable, that they wished it might never end. It may be imagined he must be very rich to be able to support the expenses of such an extravagant household, for he now become the father of twelve girls; but besides this, he was obliged to provide for their relations, owing to a very singular accident.
One of his mistresses grew extremely uneasy in her retreat; and such was the generosity of his temper, that he could not bear to see any of them unhappy: – she told him she could not support life any longer without seeing her father and mother, whom she knew must be inconsolable for her absence. She urged this matter with such pressing entreaties and tears, that as he durst not let her go home to them, he at last resolved to send for them to his house, and to observe the same conduct with respect to them, as he had done when he first received the three girls whom his seampstress had invited. – The same servant was sent on the commission; and the parents of the girl, overjoyed to receive a letter from their absent daughter, readily consented to accept the invitation. The coachman had orders to keep them a long time on the road, to take all the bye ways he could find to the house, and not to take them up till dusk of the evening. In the letter their daughter enjoined them to be discreet, and assured them her fortune was made beyond her expectation. All these precautions being taken, the good people, who were rather of the lower class of citizens, appointed the evening for making this extraordinary visit; and Mr Herby promised himself much pleasure from the confusion and surprise of our citizens. – To add to the magnificence of the apartments, prepared as before described, they were elegantly illuminated with wax candles, eleven of the girls were dressed very genteelly, and not without jewels. But as for their daughter, nothing could equal the splendour of her apparel; she almost sunk under the weight of her jewels, and was seated under a canopy in the largest apartment, with her companion standing on each side of her chair. In this manner she received her parents, who were led into the presence chamber by Mr Herby himself – who on this occasion appeared very ceremonious. The Turkish servants were ranged in the anti-chamber to complete the scene, which succeeded beyond expectation. The old couple concluded they were in one of the royal palaces, and that their daughter had made a conquest of some prince of the house of Hanover.
Supper was served with the same profusion, and magnificence; and when the guests were fully satisfied with the situation of their daughter, Mr Herby made them a present of a purse of gold. Thus the evening passed very agreeably, and a little after midnight they took leave of their kind host, conformably to the condition mentioned in the letter. The father, however, was not so blinded by the elevation of his daughter, as not to perceive, that all this mystery could only be necessary in the case of dishonourable connection; and concluded that his daughter was ruined. His suspicions determined him, if possible to find out the place of her abode; and the night was not so obscure as to prevent his observing some particular marks on the road, and at the entrance into town, by which he thought he should be able to trace it the next day. But that he might not give any suspicion to Mr Herby's servant, he and his wife quitted the coach in a careless manner in the streets, and walked home.
But the following day he succeeded so well, as to find his way out of town by the road he had entered, and pursuing his course to about the distance he imagined the coachman had made, he arrived in the neighbourhood, at no great distance from Mr Herby's house, where he learnt sufficient to confirm him in the opinion that it could be no other than the Turk, who was reputed to be so immensely rich, who had seduced and debauched his daughter.
With the cunning of the worldly-minded man he determined to bear the loss of his daughter's honour patiently, as an evil without remedy; and set about making an advantage to himself and family of this disaster.
He instantly wrote a menacing letter to Mr Herby, accusing him as the ravisher of his daughter, and informing him that if he did not make him satisfaction for the injury he had done him, he would do himself justice by prosecuting him. The fear of being exposed, and an entire ignorance of the laws of England, Mr Herby immediately submitted to gratify the avarice of the old man, who stipulated for a life-annuity for himself, his wife, and his daughter. This unlucky adventure unhappily transpiring through the jealousy, uneasiness, and discontent of the other girls, Mr Herby, to quiet those fears which interrupted his domestic happiness, compromised matters in a pecuniary way with the relations of all his mistresses; so that he had now twelve young women and their relations to provide for. The tranquillity of his little seraglio being thus restored, he pursued his usual course of life for some time, without any appearance of future molestation.
But on the 5th of May, 1734, one of the valets going into his master's chamber at his usual hour of rising, found in his bed only a bloody carcass, without a head; and the girl who slept with him that night lay murdered by his side, with a number of wounds, which appeared to be the stabs of a poignard. The screams of the valet soon brought the other women and domestics into the apartment, whose horrid consternation cannot be expressed. Two of the Turkish domestics were missing, and never heard of afterwards; all the cabinets were found broken open, and the treasures carried away, not so much as a jewel being left but what was in the women's apartments, and had been long given to them.
As soon as the officers of justice arrived, the following circumstances were given in evidence to the jury who sat on the bodies, by the Turks who came with their late master to England.
The real name of the pretended Mr Herby was Cidal Achmet, a native of Constantinople, illustrious descent, and in high favour with the grand signior; but having aspired to marry the grand signior's only daughter, the sultan banished him, and gave her to the old Bashaw of Cairo. But the sultana having conceived a reciprocal passion for Achmet, held a secret correspondence with him, and at last found means to escape from her husband, taking with her immense treasures belonging to her father and the Bashaw; fortune favoured their retreat to Venice, where they lived happily, till the sultana died, when Achmet fearing he was too near the grand signior, and having no longer a mediatrix to appease his vengeance, embarked with his effects in a vessel bound for London.
The carrying off of the head, and the absconding of the Turks, left no room to doubt, that the grand signior and the Bashaw had perpetrated this murder by their agents; and on making further enquires, some Turks, merchants in London, gave the government intelligence that three Turks had arrived before this event, with whom they had several conversations; that all they could gather from them, was, that they were charged with an important secret commission, and they were very careful to procure a list on their arrival of all the Turks in London: it was found out that these three men, in company with two others, left England and embarked for Holland the very day Achmet was found murdered; and as it is the practice of the Turks to pursue a mediated vengeance for twenty years or more, till they have executed it, the public were fully convinced, that the grand signior was at the bottom of this bloody affair. The jury could do no more than bring in their verdict of wilful murder against persons unknown.
The poor girls were sent home to their friends; and the remaining effects confiscated to the sheriffs of the county.
Thus ended a most tragical event, which has escaped the notice of our historians.
* * *
An Infant Restored To Life After Apparent Death
The following case was communicated in a letter to the directors of the Royal Human Society, from Mr Brown, surgeon, of Camberwell.
'It being my intention to avoid prolixity, and confine myself to a concise statement of the direct fact, I shall begin with informing you, gentlemen, that the uncle of the child, after a servitude of nine years at Bath, was discharged from the family, in consequence of his mind being deranged (the effect of a severe illness); upon which he came up to his brother, John Faulkner, No. 15, Adam Street, Mary-le-bone, for protection and support, which were kindly afforded him. On Monday afternoon, the 10th instant, he quitted the house, taking with him his brother's son, a child of six years, and strayed to Camberwell and its environs. The child, being exhausted with fatigue, as also in want of nutriment, exposed to the cold and a heavy rain, became unable to walk; he, therefore, took him up, and threw him over his back, suspending him by the heels. In this situation they were discovered, in the high road, by the watchman, about four o'clock on Tuesday morning. The man being remonstrated with, he changed the position of the child, took him in his arms, and went away. About six the same morning, he was seen near the Red Cap, on Camberwell Green, by Mr Spencer, a bricklayer of the village, with the child again suspended on his back, apparently dead. This unusual sight induced him to call some of his neighbours to his aid; and the man being taken into custody with the apparently lifeless child to the public house, where (with much credit to Mt Okines, who keeps it) the body was received with the utmost humanity and tender concern. It being deemed expedient to send for the parochial beadle, Mr Rickwood attended; and, on examining the body, which was laid upon one of the tap-room tables, to all appearance dead, he gave charge of the man to Mr Okines and the persons present, coming himself for me to inspect the corpse, and give my opinion thereon. It was half past seven when I got there, and examined the apparently dead child.
'State of the body. – His extremities cold; his eyes fixed; the arterial circulation suspended; vitality apparently extinct. – Under such depressed circumstances, there could hardly be a hope entertained of re-animation; however, I determined to attempt it according to the methods and by the means prescribed in the formula of our most excellent institution. The resuscitative process was most assiduously employed for full thirty minutes before the least signs of life could be discovered; at length a feeble and irregular pulsation was produced; which continuing gradually to get stronger, I insinuated a small quantity of volatile spirits into the stomach, which brought on repeated spasms of a very short duration. From that time the powers of life increasing, an irregular convulsive motion of the extremities came on; soon after which he rapidly recovered, and was taken in hot flannels to the workhouse, where he received some proper nourishment and human attention; he then slept nearly an hour and a half, when, waking greatly relieved, he again took refreshment, and was soon afterwards conveyed to his friends, who had been in the most painful state of mind respecting both him and his uncle. The parental feelings on this occasion may be conceived, but not easily described.'
Excerpted from Tales from the Terrific Register: The Book of London by Cate Ludlow. Copyright © 2014 Cate Ludlow. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
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