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Title: Pugilistica: The History of British Boxing, Volume 1 (of 3)

Author: Henry Downes Miles

Release date: May 9, 2019 [eBook #59465]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Richard Tonsing, deaurider and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive)


Transcriber’s Note:

The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.



Vol. 1.       Frontispiece




The history of “the Ring,” its rise and progress, the deeds of the men whose manly courage illustrate its contests in the days of its prosperity and popularity, with the story of its decline and fall, as yet remain unwritten. The author proposes in the pages which follow to supply this blank in the home-records of the English people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The space covered in these volumes extends over one hundred and forty-four years, from the time when James Fig (the first acknowledged champion) opened his amphitheatre in the Oxford Road, in May, 1719, to the championship battle between John Camel Heenan, the American, and Tom King, the English champion, at Wadhurst, in Kent, on the 10th of December, 1863.

The author trusts he may claim, without laying himself open to a charge of egotism, exceptional qualifications for the task he has undertaken. His acquaintance with the doings of the Ring, and his personal knowledge of the most eminent professors of pugilism, extend over a retrospect of more than forty years. For a considerable portion of that period he was the reporter of its various incidents in Bell’s Life in London, in the Morning Advertiser, and various periodical publications which, during the better days of its career, gave a portion of their space to chronicle its doings. That the misconduct of its members, the degeneracy and dishonesty of its followers led to the deserved extinction of the Ring, he is free to admit: still, as a septuagenarian, he desires to preserve the memory of many brave and honourable deeds which the reader will here find recorded.

A few lines will suffice to elucidate the plan of the work.

Having decided that its most readable form would be that of a series of biographies of the principal boxers, in chronological order, so far as practicable, it was found convenient to group them in “Periods;” as each notable champion will be seen to have visibly impressed his style and characteristics on the period in which he and his imitators, antagonists or, as we may call it, “school” flourished in popular favour and success.

A glance at the “Lives of the Boxers” thus thrown into groups will explain this arrangement:—


Period I.—1719 to 1791.—From the Championship of Fig to the first appearance of Daniel Mendoza.

Period II.—1784 to 1798.—From Daniel Mendoza to the first battle of James Belcher.

Period III.—1798 to 1809.—From the Championship of Belcher to the appearance of Tom Cribb.

Period IV.—1805 to 1820.—From Cribb’s first battle to the Championship of Tom Spring.

⁂ To each period there is an Appendix containing notices and sketches of the minor professors of the ars pugnandi and of the light-weight boxers of the day.


Period V.—1820 to 1824.—From the Championship of Spring to his retirement from the Ring.

Period VI.—1825 to 1835.—From the Championship of Jem Ward to the appearance of Bendigo (William Thompson) of Nottingham.


Period VII.—1835 to 1845.—From the appearance of Bendigo to his last battle with Caunt.

Period VIII.—1845 to 1857.—The interregnum. Bill Perry (the Tipton Slasher), Harry Broome, Tom Paddock, &c.

Period IX.—1856 to 1863.—From the appearance of Tom Sayers to the last Championship battle of King and Heenan, December, 1863.

In “the Introduction” I have dealt with the “Classic” pugilism of Greece and Rome. The darkness of the middle ages is as barren of record of “the art of self-defence” as of other arts. With their revival in Italy we have an amusing coincidence in the “Memoirs of Benvenuto Cellini,” in which a triumvirate of renowned names are associated with the common-place event of “un grande punzone del naso”—a mighty punch on the nose.

“Michael-Angelo (Buonarotti’s) nose was flat from a blow which he received in his youth from Torrigiano,[1] a brother artist and countryman, who gave me the following account of the occurrence: ‘I was,’ said Torrigiano, ‘extremely irritated, and, doubling my fist, gave him such a violent blow on the nose that I felt the cartilages yield as if they had been made of paste, and the mark I then gave him he will carry to the grave.’” Cellini adds: “Torrigiano was a handsome man, of consummate audacity, having rather the air of a bravo than a sculptor: above all, his strange gestures,” [were they boxing attitudes?] “his enormous voice, with a manner of knitting his brows, enough to frighten any man who faced him, gave him a tremendous aspect, and he was continually talking of his great feats among ‘those bears of Englishmen,’ whose country he had lately quitted.”

Who knows—sempre il mal non vien par nocuere—but we have to thank the now-neglected art, whose precepts and practice inculcated the use of Nature’s weapon, that the clenched hand of Torrigiano did not grasp a stiletto? What then would have been the world’s loss? The majestic cupola of St. Peter’s, the wondrous frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, “The Last Judgment,” the “Sleeping Cupid” of Mautua, the “Bacchus” of Rome, and all the mighty works of the greatest painter, sculptor, and architect of the 16th century, had probably been uncreated had not Michael-Angelo’s fellow-student learned among “those bears of Englishmen,” the art of administering a “mighty punch on the nose” in lieu of the then ready stab of a lethal weapon.

The testimony of St. Bernard to the merits of boxing as a substitute for the deadly combats of his time, with an extract from Forsyth’s “Excursion in Italy,” will be found at page xv. of the Introduction to this volume; and these may bring us to the period when the first Stuart ascended the throne of “Merrie Englande.”

In Dr. Noble’s “History of the Cromwell Family,” we find the following interesting notice of the fistic prowess of the statesman-warrior who, in after-times, “made the sovereigns of Europe court the alliance and dread the might of England’s arm.” At p. 94 vol. i., we read:—

“They have a tradition at Huntingdon, that when King Charles I. (then Duke of York), in his journey from Scotland to London, in the year 1604, rested in his way at Hinchenbrooke, the seat of Sir Oliver Cromwell; the knight, to divert the young prince, sent for his nephew Oliver, that he, with his own sons, might play with his Royal Highness. It so chanced that the boys had not long been together before Charles and Oliver disagreed, and came to blows. As the former was a somewhat weakly boy, and the latter strong, it was no wonder the royal visitor was worsted. Oliver, even at this age, so little regarded dignity that he made the royal blood flow copiously from the Prince’s nose. This was looked upon by many as a bad presage for the King when the civil war had commenced.” The probability of this incident has been flippantly questioned. The writer has lighted on the following in the dry pages of “Toone’s Chronology,” under James I. “1603. April 27th. The King, arriving at Hinchenbrooke, was magnificently entertained by Sir Oliver Cromwell, where also the Cambridge Doctors waited upon his Majesty. May 3. The King arrived at Theobalds, in Hertfordshire, the seat of Mr. Secretary Cecil’s. He made 200 Knights on his arrival in London and on his journey thither from Edinburgh.” And in the next page we read: “1604. Jan. 4. Prince Charles came into England (from Scotland) and was created Duke of York. He had forty pounds per annum settled on him that he might more honourably maintain that dignity.” It may be as well to observe that Charles I. and Cromwell were of an age (both born in 1599), and each of them five years old in 1604‒5; so that this juvenile encounter is highly probable, exemplifying that “the child is father of the man.”

Again in Malcolm’s “Manners and Customs of London,” vol. i., p. 425, we find the subjoined extract from The Protestant Mercury, of January, 1681, which we take to be the first prize-fight on newspaper record.

“Yesterday a match of boxing was performed before his Grace the Duke of Albemarle, between the Duke’s footman and a butcher. The latter won the prize, as he hath done many before, being accounted, though but a little man, the best at that exercise in England.”

“Here be proofs”: 1, of ducal patronage; 2, of a stake of money; 3, of the custom of public boxing; 4, of the skill of the victor, “he being but a little man;” and all in a five-line paragraph. The names of the Champions are unwritten.

This brings us to the period at which our first volume opens, in which will be found the deeds and incidents of the Pugilists, the Prize-ring, and its patrons, detailed from contemporary and authentic sources, down to the opening of the present century. We cannot, however, close this somewhat gossiping preface without an extract from a pleasant paper which has just fallen under our notice, in which some of the notable men who admired and upheld the now-fallen fortunes of boxing are vividly introduced by one whose reminiscences of bygone men and manners are given in a sketch called “The Last of Limmer’s.” To the younger reader it may be necessary to premise, that from the days when the Prince Regent, Sheridan, and Beau Brummel imbibed their beeswing—when the nineteenth century was in its infancy—down to the year of grace 1860, the name of “Limmer’s Hotel” was “familiar in sporting men’s mouths as household words,” and co-extensive in celebrity with “Tattersall’s” and “Weatherby’s.”

My name is John Collins, head-waiter at “Limmer’s,”
Corner of Conduit Street, Hanover Square;
My chief occupation is filling of brimmers,
For spicy young gentlemen frequenting there.

Said “brimmers,” hodie “bumpers,” being a compound of gin, soda-water, ice lemon, and sugar, said to have been invented by John Collins, but recently re-imported as a Yankee novelty. This per parenthesis, and we return to our author.

“In that little tunnelled recess at the bottom of the dark, low-browed coffee-oom, the preliminaries of more prize-fights have been arranged by Sir St. Vincent Cotton, Parson Ambrose, the late Lord Queensberry, Colonel Berkeley, his son, the Marquis Drumlanrig, Sir Edward Kent, the famous Marquis of Waterford, Tom Crommelin, the two Jack Myttons, the late Lord Longford, and the committee of the Fair-play Club, than in the parlour of No. 5, Norfolk Street (the sanctum of Vincent Dowling, Editor of Bell’s Life), in Tom Spring’s parlour, or Jem Burn’s ‘snuggery.’

“Let it not be imagined that any apology is needed, nor will be here vouchsafed in defence of those to whom, whatever may have been their station in life, the prize-ring was formerly dear. The once well-known and well-liked Tom Crommelin, for instance, is the only survivor among those whom we chance to have named, but in his far-distant Australian home he will have no cause to remember with regret that he has often taken part in the promotion of pugilistic encounters.

“During the present century Great Britain has produced no more manly, no honester, or more thoroughly English statesman than the uncle of the present Earl Spencer, better known in political history under the name of Lord Althorp. The late Sir Denis Le Marchant, in his delightful memoir of the nobleman who led the House of Commons when the great Reform Bill was passed, tells us that ‘Lord Althorp made a real study of boxing, taking lessons from the best instructors, whilst practising most assiduously, and, as he boasted, with great success. He had many matches with his school-fellow, Lord Byron, and those who witnessed his exploits with the gloves, and observed his cool, steady eye, his broad chest and muscular limbs, and, above all, felt his hard blows, would have been justified in saying that he was born to be a prize-fighter rather than a Minister of State.’ Long after the retirement of Lord Althorp from office, Mr. Evelyn Denison, who died as Lord Ossington, paid him a visit at Wiseton, ‘The pros and cons of boxing were discussed,’ writes the late Speaker, ‘and Lord Althorp became eloquent. He said that his conviction of the advantages of pugilism was so strong that he had been seriously considering whether it was not a duty that he owed to the public to go and attend every prize-fight which took place, and thus to encourage the noble science to the extent of his power. He gave us an account of prize-fights which he had attended—how he had seen Mendoza knocked down for the first five or six rounds by Humphries, and seeming almost beaten until the Jews got their money on, when, a hint being given, he began in earnest and soon turned the tables. He described the fight between Gully and the Chicken—how he rode down to Brickhill himself, and was loitering about the inn door, when a barouche and four drove up with Lord Byron and a party, and Jackson, the trainer—how they all dined together, and how pleasant it had been. Next day came the fight, and he described the men stripping, the intense excitement, the sparring, then the first round, and the attitudes of the men—it was really worthy of Homer.’

“A pursuit which was enthusiastically supported and believed in by William Windham, Charles James Fox, Lord Althorp, and Lord Byron, stands in little need of modern excuse on behalf of its promoters when Limmer’s was at its apogee. Full many a well-known pugilist, with Michael-Angelo nose and square-cut jaw, has stood, cap in hand, at the door of that historical coffee-room within which Lord Queensberry—then Lord Drumlanrig—and Captain William Peel and the late Lord Strathmore were taking their meals. In one window stands Colonel Ouseley Higgins, Captain Little, and Major Hope Johnstone. A servant of the major’s, with an unmistakable fighting face, enters with a note for his master. It is from Lord Longford and Sir St. Vincent Cotton asking him to allow his valet to be trained by Johnny Walker for a proximate prize fight. The servant, who is no other than William Nelson, the breeder (before his death) of Plebeian, winner of the Middle Park Plate, however, firmly declines the pugilistic honours his aristocratic patrons design for him, so the fight is off. Hard by maybe seen the stately Lord George Bentinck, in conference with his chief-commissioner, Harry Hill,” &c., &c. We here break off the reminiscences of Limmer’s, as the rest of this most readable paper deals solely with the celebrities of the turf.

The last time the writer saw the late Sir Robert Peel, was at Willis’s Rooms, in King Street, on the occasion of an Assault of Arms, given by the Officers of the Household Brigade, whereat the art of self-defence was illustrated by the non-commissioned officers of the Life Guards, Grenadier Guards, and Royal Artillery. Corporal-Majors Limbert and Gray, Sergeants Dean and Venn, Corporal Toohig (Royal Artillery), with Professors Gillemand, Shury, and Arnold, displayed their skill with broadsword, foil, single-stick, and sabre against bayonet. The gloves, too, were put on, and some sharp and manly bouts played by the stalwart Guardsmen. The lamented Minister watched these with approving attention. Then came a glove display in which Alec Keene put on the mittens with Arnold, the “Professor of the Bond Street Gymnasium.” The sparring was admirable, and sir Robert, who was in the midst of an aristocratic group, pressed forward to the woollen boundary-rope. His eyes lighted up with the memories of Harrow school-days and he clapped his hands in hearty applause of each well-delivered left or right and each neat stop or parry. The bout was over, and neither was best man. The writer perceived the deep interest of Sir Robert, and conveyed to the friendly antagonists the desire of several gentlemen for “one round more.” It was complied with, and closed with a pretty rally, in which a clean cross-counter and first and sharpest home from Keene’s left proved the finale amid a round of applause. The practised pugilist was too many for the professor of “mimic warfare.” Next came another clever demonstration of the arts of attack and defence by Johnny Walker and Ned Donnelly. Sir Robert was as hilarious as a schoolboy cricketer when the winning run is got on the second innings. Turning to Mr. C. C. Greville and the Hon. Robert Grimstone, he exclaimed, “There is nothing that interests me like good boxing. It asks more steadiness, self-control, aye, and manly courage than any other combat. You must take as well as give—eye to eye, toe to toe, and arm to arm. Give my thanks to both the men, they are brave and clever fellows, and I hope we shall never want such among our countrymen.” It is gratifying to add that, to our knowledge, these sentiments are the inheritance of the third Sir Robert, whose manly and patriotic speech, at Exeter Hall, on the 17th of February, 1878, rings in our ears as we write these lines.

With such patrons of pugilism as those who faded away in “the last days of Limmer’s,” departed the fair play, the spirit, and the very honesty, often tainted, of the Ring. A few exceptional struggles—due rather to the uncompromising honesty and courage of the men, or the absence of the blacklegs, low gamblers, Hebrews, and flash publicans from the finding of the stakes, or making the market odds—occurred from time to time; but these were mere flickerings of the expiring flame. The Ring was doomed, not less by the misconduct of its professors than by the discord and dishonest doings of its so-called patrons and their ruffianly followers, unchecked by the saving salt of sporting gentlemen and men of honour, courage, and standing in society. Down, deeper down, and ever downward it went, till in its last days it became merely a ticket-selling swindle in the hands of keepers of Haymarket night-houses, and slowly perished in infamy and indigence. Yet, cannot the writer, looking back through a long vista of memorable battles, and with the personal recollection of such men as Cribb (in his latter days), Tom Spring, Jem Ward (still living), Painter, Neale, Jem Burn, John Martin, Frank Redmond, Owen Swift, Alec Keene, with Tom Sayers, his opponent John Heenan, and Tom King, the Ultimus Romanorum (now—1878—taking prizes as a floriculturist at horticultural shows), believe that the art which was practised by such men was without redeeming qualities. He would not seek to revive the “glory of the Ring,” that is past, but he has thought it a worthy task to collect and preserve its memories and its deeds of fortitude, skill, courage, and forbearance, of which these pages will be found to contain memorable, spirit-stirring, and honourable examples.


The curious reader may find some interest in a few paragraphs on the Bibliography of Boxing; for the Ring had a contemporary literature, contributed to by the ablest pens; and to this, in the earlier periods of its history, the author would be an ingrate were he not to acknowledge his indebtedness.

The earliest monograph is a neatly printed small quarto volume, entitled, A Treatise on the Useful Art of Self-Defence. By Captain Godfrey. The copy in the British Museum (bearing date 1740) appears to be a second edition. It has for its title Characters of the Masters. There is also a handsomely bound copy of the work in the Royal Library, presented to the nation by George III. The volume is dedicated to H.R.H. William, Duke of Cumberland. Frequent quotations are made from this book.

The Gymnasiud, or Boxing Match. A Poem. By the Champion and Bard of Leicester House, the Poet Laureate (Paul Whitehead), 1757. See page 19 of this volume.

In Dodsley’s Collections, 1777, &c., are various poetic pieces by Dr. John Byrom, Bramston (Man of Taste), and others, containing sketches of pugilism and allusions to the “fashionable art” of boxing, “or self-defence.”

During this period, The Gentleman’s Magazine, The Carlton House Magazine, The Flying Post, The Daily News Letter, The World, The Mercury, The Daily Advertiser (Woodfall’s), and other periodical publications, contained reports of the principal battles in the Ring.

Recollections of Pugilism and Sketches of the Ring. By an Amateur. 8vo. London, 1801.

Recollections of an Octogenarian. By J. C. 8vo. London, 1805. (See pp 29, 30.)

Lives of the Boxers. By Jon Bee, author of the “Lexicon Balatronium,” and “The Like o’ That.” 8vo. London, 1811.

Pancratia: a History of Pugilism. 1 vol. 8vo. 1811. By J. B. London: George Smeeton, St. Martin’s Lane.

Training for Pedestrianism and Boxing. 8vo. 1816. By Captain Robert Barclay (Allardyce of Ury).

This pamphlet contains an account of the Captain’s training of Cribb for his fight with Molineaux.

The Fancy: A Selection from the poetical remains of Peter Corcoran, Esq., student of Law (Pseudonymous). London: 1820. Quoted p. 313 of this volume.

Boxiana: Sketches of Antient and Modern Pugilism. Vol. I. 8vo. London: G. Smeeton, 139, St. Martin’s Lane, Charing Cross, July, 1812.

This very scarce volume, which was the production of George Smeeton, a well known sporting printer and engraver, was the basis of the larger work Boxiana, subsequently written and edited by Pierce Egan, and of which five volumes, appeared between 1818 and 1828. The well-written “Introduction,” much disfigured by the illiterate editor, were incorporated, and the handsome copperplate title-page will be found bound into the later work published by Sherwoods, Jones & Co. Pierce Egan was, at one time, a compositor in Smeeton’s office, and continued the work for Sherwoods.

Boxiana. Sketches of Ancient and Modern Pugilism, from the days of the renowned Broughton and Slack to the Championship of Crib. By Pierce Egan. In two volumes. London: Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, Paternoster Row, 1818.

This was the first complete book. A third volume followed in 1825. There are two fourth volumes owing to a circumstance which requires explanation. That published by George Virtue, and bearing the name of Pierce Egan, has for its title New Series of Boxiana: the only Original and Complete Lives of the Boxers. By Pierce Egan. London: George Virtue, Ivy Lane, Paternoster Row. Vol. I., 1828. Vol. II., 1829. These are generally bound as Vols. IV. and V., in sets of Boxiana. The other volume, IV., is identical in title, but not in contents, with Pierce Egan’s first volume of the “new series,” omitting those words. It was written by Jon Bee, for Messrs. Sherwoods, who moved an injunction against Pierce Egan for selling his fourth volume to another publisher. Lord Chancellor Eldon merely compelled Pierce Egan to prefix the words “new series” to his book, and the matter ended.

A Lecture on Pugilism: Delivered at the Society for Mutual Improvement, established by Jeremy Bentham, Esq., at No. 52, Great Marlborough Street, Oxford Street, April 14th, 1820. By S[eptimus] M[iles]. 8vo., 24 pp., White, 1820. This curious and elaborate defence of pugilism seems rather to have been a rhetorical exercitation for discussion at a debating society than a defence. It is printed at the end of the third volume of Boxiana.

Boxing; with a Chronology of the Ring, and a Memoir of Owen Swift. By Renton Nicholson. London: Published at 163, Fleet Street. 1837.

Owen Swift’s Handbook of Boxing. 1840. With Steel Portrait by Henning. This was also written by the facetious Renton Nicholson—styled “Chief-Baron Nicholson,” and originator of the once-famous “Judge and Jury” Society.

The Handbook of Boxing and Training for Athletic Sports. By H. D. M[iles]. London: W. M. Clark, Warwick Lane, Paternoster Row, 1838.

Fistiana; or, the Oracle of the Ring. By the Editor of Bell’s Life in London. This pocket volume, containing a Chronology of the Ring, the revised rules, forms of articles, duties of seconds, umpires, and referee, reached its 24th and last edition in 1864, and expired only with the ring itself. Its author, Mr. Vincent George Dowling, the “Nestor of the Ring,” a gentleman and a scholar, also contributed the article “Boxing” to Blaine’s “Cyclopædia of Rural Sports,” Longmans, 1840.

Fights for the Championship. 1 vol., 8vo. By the Editor of Bell’s Life in London. London: published at 170, Strand, 1858.

Championship Sketches, with Portraits. By Alfred Henry Holt. London: Newbold, Strand, 1862.

The Life of Tom Sayers. By Philopugilis. 8vo., with Portrait. London: S. O. Beeton, 248, Strand, 1864. [By the author of the present work.]

Among the authors of the early years of the present century, whose pens illustrated the current events of boxers and boxing, we may note, Tom Moore the poet, who contributed occasional squibs to the columns of the Morning Chronicle, and in 1818 published the humorous versicles, Tom Cribb’s Memorial to Congress, quoted at p. 306 of this volume. Lord Byron. See Moore’s “Life and Letters,” “Memoir of Jackson,” pp. 97, 98.

Christopher North (Professor Wilson) the Editor of Blackwood’s Magazine in the Noctes Ambrosiane, puts into the mouth of the Ettrick Shepherd (James Hogg) an eloquent defence of pugilism, while he takes opportunity, through Sir Morgan O’Doherty, to praise the manliness, fair play, and bravery of contemporary professors of boxing. Several sonnets and other extracts from Blackwood will be found scattered in these volumes.

Dr. Maginn (the Editor of Frazer’s Magazine), also exercised his pen in classic imitations apropos of our brave boxers.

Last, but not least, the gifted author of Pendennis, The Virginians, Esmond, Vanity Fair, Jeames’s Diary, &c., &c., has perpetuated the greatness of our latest champions in a paraphrase, rather than a parody of Macaulay’s “Lays of Ancient Rome,” entitled “Sayerinus and Henanus; a Lay of Ancient London,” which contains lines of power to make the blood of your Englishmen stir in days to come, should the preachers of peace-at-any-price, pump water, parsimonious pusillanimity, puritanic precision and propriety have left our youth any blood to stir. See “Life of Sayers,” in vol. iii. Volumes cannot better express the contempt which this keen observer of human nature and satirist of shams entertained for the mawworms, who “compound for sins they are inclined to by damning those they have no mind to,” than the subjoined brief extract:—

“Fighting, of course, is wrong; but there are occasions when.... I mean that one-handed fight of Sayers is one of the most spirit-stirring little stories; and with every love and respect for Morality, my spirit says to her, ‘Do, for goodness’ sake, my dear madam, keep your true, and pure, and womanly, and gentle remarks for another day. Have the great kindness to stand a leetle aside, and just let us see one or two more rounds between the men. That little man with the one hand powerless on his breast facing yonder giant for hours, and felling him, too, every now and then! It is the little Java and the Constitution over again.’”—W. M. Thackeray.

Or the following “happy thought,” to which Leech furnished an illustrative sketch:—

Serious Governor.—‘I am surprised, Charles, that you can take any interest in these repulsive details! How many rounds (I believe you term them) do you say these ruffians fought? Um, disgraceful! the Legislature ought to interfere; and it appears that this Benicia Man did not gain the—hem—best of it? I’ll take the paper when you have done with it, Charles.’”—Punch Illustration, April 8, 1860.

FROM 1719 TO 1863.

1719. James Fig, of Thame, Oxfordshire.

1730‒1733. Pipes and Gretting (with alternate success).

1734. George Taylor.

1740. Jack Broughton, the waterman.

1750. Jack Slack, of Norfolk.

1760. Bill Stevens, the nailer.

1761. George Meggs, of Bristol.

1762. George Millsom, the baker.

1764. Tom Juchau, the paviour.

1765‒9. Bill Darts.

1769. Lyons, the waterman.

1771. Peter Corcoran (doubtful). He beat Bill Darts, who had previously been defeated by Lyons.

1777. Harry Sellers.

1780. Jack Harris (doubtful).

1783‒91. Tom Johnson (Jackling), of York.

1791. Benjamin Brain (Big Ben), of Bristol.

1792. Daniel Mendoza.

1795. John Jackson. (Retired.)

1800‒5. Jem Belcher, of Bristol.

1805. Henry Pearce, the “Game Chicken.”

1808. (Retired). John Gully (afterwards M.P. for Pontefract).

1809. Tom Cribb, received a belt and cup, and retired.

1824. Tom Spring, received four cups, and retired.

1825. Jem Ward, received the belt.

1833. Jem Burke (the Deaf ’un), claimed the title.

1839. Bendigo (Wm. Thompson), of Nottingham, beat Burke, and received the belt from Ward.

1841. Benjamin Caunt, of Hucknall, beat Nick Ward, and received belt (transferable).

1845. Bendigo beat Caunt, and received the belt.

1850. Wm. Perry (Tipton Slasher), claimed belt, Bendigo declining his challenge.

1851. Harry Broome beat Perry, and claimed the title.

1853. Perry again challenged the title, and Broome retired from the ring.

1857. Tom Sayers beat Perry, and received the belt.

1860. Tom Sayers retired after his battle with Heenan, and left belt for competition.

1860. Samuel Hurst (the Staleybridge Infant), beat Paddock, the claimant, and received the belt.

1861. Jem Mace, of Norwich, beat Hurst, and claimed the title.

1863. Tom King beat Mace, and claimed the belt, but retired, and Mace claimed the trophy.

1863. Tom King beat J. C. Heenan for £1,000 a-side at Wadhurst, December 10th.



The origin of boxing has been assumed by some superficial writers as coeval with the earliest contests of man. This view appears to the writer both crude and unphilosophical. It might be argued with equal probability that the foil was antecedent to the sword, the sword to the dagger, or the singlestick to the club with which the first murder was perpetrated. The clumsiest and, so far as rude and blood-thirsty attack could contrive them, the most deadly weapons were the first used; the sudden destruction of life, not the art of defence, being the brutal instinct of the vengeful, cunning, and cowardly savage, or the treacherous manslayer. This, too, would lead us fairly to infer—as the most dangerous forms of the cæstus are the most ancient, and the naked fist in combat appears nowhere to have been used in the gladiatorial combats of Greece or Rome—that to England and her Anglo-Saxon race is due this fairest and least dangerous of all forms of the duel; and to attribute to a recent period the padded boxing-glove (at present the air or pneumatic glove), by means of which the truly noble art of self-defence can be safely and healthfully practised and illustrated.

The most polished people of antiquity included boxing among their sports. With them it was also a discipline, an exercise, and an art. A discipline, inasmuch as it was taught to pupils; an exercise, as followed in the public games; and an art, on account of the previous trainings and studies it presupposed in those who professed and practised it. Plutarch indeed asserts that the “pugilate” was the most ancient of the three gymnic games performed by the athletæ, who were divided into three classes—the Boxers, the Wrestlers, and the Runners. And thus Homer views the subject, and generally follows this order in his descriptions of public celebrations. This, too, is the natural sequence, in what philosopher Square would call “the eternal fitness of things.” First, the man attacks (or defends himself) with the fist; secondly, he closes or wrestles; and should fear, inferior skill, or deficient strength tell him he had better avoid the conflict, he resorts to the third course, and runs.

A word on the derivation of our words, pugilism, pugilist, and boxing, all of which have a common origin. Pugilism comes to us through the Latin pugilatus, the art of fighting with the fist, as also does pugnus, a fight. The Latin again took these words from the Greek πυγμὴ (pugmè), the fist doubled for fighting; whence also they had πύγμάχος (pugmachos), a fist-fighter, and πύγμαχια (pugmachia), a fist-fight. They had also πυγδον (pugdon), a measure of length from the elbow (cubitus) to the end of the vihand with the fingers clenched. Another form of the word, the Greek adverb πυξ (pux), pugno vel pugnis, gives us πυξος (puxos, Lat. buxus), in English, BOX; and it is remarkable that this form of the closed hand is the Greek synonyme for anything in the shape of a closed box or receptacle, and so it has passed to the moderns. The πυξ, box or pyx, is the chest in which the sacramental vessels are contained. Thus mine Ancient Pistol pleads for his red-nosed comrade:—

“Fortune is Bardolph’s foe, and frowns on him;
For he hath stolen a PYX, and hanged must ’a be.
Let gallows gape for dog; let man go free,
But Exeter hath given the doom of death,
For PYX of little price.”
Henry V., act iii., sc. vi.

The French have also imported le boxe into their dictionaries, where the Germans had it already, as buchs, a box. But enough of etymology; wherever we got the word, the thing itself—fair boxing, as we practise it—is of pure English origin. The Greeks, however, cultivated the science in their fashion, confined it by strict rules, and selected experienced masters and professors, who, by public lessons, delivered gratis in Palestræ and Gymnasiæ, instructed youth in the theory and practice of the art. Kings and princes, as we learn from the poets, laid aside their dignity for a few hours, and exchanged the sceptre for the cæstus; indeed, in Greece, boxing, as a liberal art, was cultivated with ardour, and when (once in three years) the whole nation assembled at Corinth to celebrate their Isthmian games, in honour of Neptune, the generous admiration of an applauding people placed the crown on the brow of the successful pugilist, who, on his return home, was hailed as the supporter of his country’s fame. Even Horace places the pugilist before the poet:—

Quem tu, Melpomene, semel
Nascentem placido lumine videris,
Illum non labor Isthmius
Clarabit pugilem.
Lib. iv., Ode 3, l. 1‒4.

And in another place:—

“Musa debit fidibus divos, puerosque deorum,
Et PUGILEM victorem, et equum certamine primum.”
De Arte Poet., l. 83‒84.

The sententious Cicero also says:—“It is certainly a glorious thing to do well for the republic, but also to speak well is not contemptible.”

Having alluded to the poets who have celebrated pugilism, we will take a hasty glance at the demigods and heroes by whom boxing has been illustrated. Pollux, the twin brother of Castor—sprung from the intrigue of Jupiter with the beauteous Leda, wife of Tyndarus, King of Sparta, and mother of the fair Helen of Troy—presents us with a lofty pedigree as the tutelary deity of the boxers. The twins fought their way to a seat on Mount Olympus, as also did Hercules himself:—

Hac arte Pollux, et vagus Hercules
Innixus arces attigit igneas;”

the sign Gemini in our zodiac representing this pair of “pugs.” As one of viithe unsuccessful competitors with Pollux, we may here mention Amycus. He was a son of Neptune, by Melia, and was king of the Bebryces. When the Argonauts touched at his port, on their voyage to Colchis, he received them with much hospitality. Amycus was renowned for his skill with the cæstus, and he kept up a standing challenge to all strangers for a trial of skill. Pollux accepted his challenge; but we learn from Apollonius that Amycus did not fight fair, and tried by a trick to beat Pollux, whereupon that “out-and-outer” killed him, pour encourager les autres, we presume.[2] There were two other pugilists of the same name among the “school” taken by Æneas into Italy as we shall presently see.

Eryx, also, figures among the heaven-descended pugilists. He was the son of Venus, by Butes, a descendant of Amycus, and very skilful in the use of the cæstus. He, too, kept up a standing challenge to all comers, and so came to grief. For Hercules, who “barred neither weight, country, nor colour,” coming that way, took up the gauntlet, and knocked poor Eryx clean out of time; so they buried him on a hill where he had, like a pious son, built a beautiful temple in honour of his rather too easy mamma. It is but fair, however, in this instance, to state that there is another version of the parentage of Eryx, not quite so lofty, but, to our poor thinking, quite as creditable. It runs thus:—Butes, being on a Mediterranean voyage, touched at the three-cornered island of Sicily (Trinacria), and there, sailor fashion, was hooked by one Lycaste, a beautiful harlot, who was called by the islanders “Venus.” She was the mother of Eryx, and so he was called the son of Venus. (See Virgil, Æneid, b. v., l. 372.) However this may be, the temple of Eryx and the “Erycinian Venus” were most renowned, and Diodorus, the Sicilian, tells us that the Carthaginians revered Venus Erycina as much as the Sicilians themselves, identifying her with the Phœnician Astarte. So much for the genealogy of the fourth boxer.

Antæus here claims a place. We have had a couple from heaven (by Jupiter), and one from the sea (by Neptune), our next shall be from earth and ocean combined. Antæus, though principally renowned as a wrestler, is represented with the cæstus. He was the son of Terra, by Neptune; or, as the stud-book would put it, by Neptune out of Terra. He was certainly dreadfully given to “bounce,” for he threatened to erect a temple to his father with the skulls of his conquered antagonists; but he planned his house before he had procured the materials. The story runs, that whenever he kissed his “mother earth” she renewed his strength, from which we may fairly infer that he was an adept in the art of “getting down,” like many of our modern pugilists. Hercules, however, found out the dodge by which the artful Antæus got “second wind” and renewed strength. He accordingly put on “the squeeze,” and giving him a cross-lift, held him off the ground till he expired, which we take to have been foul play on the part of his Herculean godship.[3] There was another Antæus, a friend of Turnus, killed by Æneas in the Latin wars.

Of the Homeric boxers, Epeus and Euryalus are the most renowned. Epeus was king of the Epei, a people of the Peloponnesus; he was son of Endymion, and brother to Pæon and Æolus. As his papa was the paramour of the goddess of chastity, Diana, the family may be said to have moved in viiihigh society. The story of Endymion and the goddess of the moon has been a favourite with poets. Epeus was a “big one,” and, like others of Homer’s heroes, a bit of a bully.

In the twenty-third book of the Iliad we find the father of poetry places the games at the funeral of Patroclus in this order:—1, The chariot race; 2, the cæstus fight; 3, the wrestling; 4, the foot race. As it is with the second of these only that Epeus and Euryalus are concerned, we shall confine ourselves to the Homeric description.

“The prizes next are ordered to the field,
For the bold champions who the cæstus wield;
A stately mule, as yet by toil unbroke,
Of six years’ age, unconscious of the yoke,
Is to the circus led and firmly bound:
Next stands a goblet, massive, large, and round.
Achilles, rising, thus: ‘Let Greece excite
Two heroes equal to this hardy fight;
Who dares the foe with lifted arms provoke,
And rush beneath the swift descending stroke,
On whom Apollo shall the palm bestow,
And whom the Greeks supreme by conquest know,
This mule his dauntless labours shall repay:
The vanquished bear the massy bowl away.’
This dreadful combat great Epeus chose.
High o’er the crowd, enormous bulk! he rose,
And seized the beast, and thus began to say:
‘Stand forth some man to bear the bowl away!
Price of his ruin; for who dares deny
This mule my right, the undoubted victor I?
Others, ’tis owned, in fields of battle shine,
But the first honours of this fight are mine.
For who excels in all? Then let my foe
Draw near, but first his certain fortune know,
Secure, this hand shall his whole frame confound,
Mash all his bones, and all his body pound:
So let his friends be nigh, a needful train,
To heave the battered carcase off the plain.’
The giant spoke; and in a stupid gaze
The host beheld him, silent with amaze!
’Twas thou, Euryalus! who durst aspire
To meet his might, and emulate thy sire,
The great Megestheus, who, in days of yore,
In Theban games the noblest trophy bore—
(The games ordain’d dead Œdipus to grace),
And singly vanquished the Cadmæan race.
Him great Tydides urges to contend,
Warm with the hopes of conquest for his friend:
Officious with the cincture girds him round;
And to his wrists the gloves of death are bound.
Amid the circle now each champion stands,
And poises high in air his iron hands:
With clashing gauntlets now they fiercely close,
Their crackling jaws re-echo to the blows,
And painful sweat from all their members flows.
At length Epeus dealt a weighty blow
Full on the cheek of his unwary foe;
Beneath the ponderous arm’s resistless sway
Down dropp’d he nerveless, and extended lay.
As a large fish, when winds and waters roar,
By some huge billow dash’d against the shore,
Lies panting: not less battered with the wound
The bleeding hero pants upon the ground.
To rear his fallen foe the victor lends,
Scornful, his hand, and gives him to his friends.
Whose arms support him reeling through the throng,
ixAnd dragging his disabled legs along,
Nodding, his head hangs down his shoulders o’er;
His mouth and nostrils pour the clotted gore:
Wrapped round in mists he lies, and lost to thought—
His friends receive the bowl too dearly bought.”

So far the first report of a prize fight, which came off 1184 years B.C., in the last year of the siege of Troy, anno mundi, 3530.

There was another Epeus, son of Panopæus, who was a skilful carpenter, and made the Greek mare, commonly but erroneously called the Trojan horse,[4] in the womb of which the Argive warriors were introduced to the ruin of beleaguered Troy, as related in the second book of the “Æneid.”

Euryalus will be known by name to newspaper readers of the present day as having given name to the steam frigate in which our sailor Prince Alfred took his earliest voyages to sea: to the scholar he is known as a valiant Greek prince, who went to the Trojan war with eighty ships, at least so says Homer, “Iliad,” b. ii.

“Next move to war the generous Argive train,
From high Trœzenè and Maseta’s plain;
And fair Ægina circled by the main,
Whom strong Tyrinthe’s lofty walls surround,
And Epidaure with viny harvest crowned,
And where fair Asinen and Hermion show
Their cliffs above and ample bay below.
These by the brave Euryalus were led,
Great Sthenelus and greater Diomed.
But chief Tydides bore the sovereign sway;
In fourscore barks they plough their watery way.”

We may here note that Tydides (the family name of Diomed, as the son of Tydeus) was Euryalus’s second in the mill with Epeus, wherein we have just seen him so soundly thrashed by the big and bounceable Epeus. As Virgil generally invents a “continuation” or counterpart of the Homeric heroes for his “Æneid,” we find Euryalus made the hero of an episode, and celebrated for his immortal friendship with Nisus: with him he had a partnership in fighting, and they died together in a night encounter with the troops of the Rutulians, whose camp they had plundered, but were overtaken and slain. (Virg. Æneid, ix., 176.) We will now therefore shift the scene from Greece, and come to Sicily and Italy, and the early boxing matches there.

Æneas’ companions were a “school” of boxers, and met with the like in Italy, among whom Entellus, Eryx, and Antæus (already mentioned), Dares, Cloanthus, Gyges, Gyas, etc., may be numbered.

Entellus, the intimate of Eryx, and who conquered Dares at the funeral games of Anchises (father of Æneas) in Sicily, deserves first mention. He was even then an “old ’un,” but, unlike most who have “trusted a battle to a waning age,” comes off gloriously in the encounter; which, as we shall presently see, under Dares, gives an occasion for the second ring report of xantiquity, as well as a minute description of the cæstus itself. The lines from the fifth book of the “Æneid” need no preface. After the rowing match (with galleys), in which Cloanthus (see post) is the victor, Æneas thus addresses his assembled companions:—

“‘If there be here whose dauntless courage dare
In gauntlet-fight, with back and body bare,
His opposite sustain in open view,
Stand forth thou, champion, and the games renew:
Two prizes I propose, and thus divide—
A bull with gilded horns and fillets tied,
Shall be the portion of the conq’ring chief;
A sword and helm shall cheer the loser’s grief.’
Then haughty Dares in the lists appears;
Stalking he strides, his head erected bears;
His nervous arms the weighty gauntlets wield
And loud applauses echo through the field.
Dares alone in combat sued to stand,
The match of mighty Paris, hand to hand;
The same at Hector’s funerals undertook
Gigantic Butes of the Amycian stock,
And by the stroke of his resistless hand,
Stretched his vast bulk along the yellow sand.
Such Dares was, and such he strode along,
And drew the wonder of the gazing throng.
His brawny bulk and ample breast he shows,
His lifted arms around his head he throws,
And deals, in whistling air, his empty blows.
His match is sought; but through the trembling band
Not one dares answer to his proud demand.
Presuming of his force, with sparkling eyes,
Already he devours the promised prize.
He claims the bull with lawless insolence,
And, having seized his horns, addressed the prince:
‘If none my matchless valour dares oppose,
How long shall Dares wait his dastard foes?
Permit me, chief, permit without delay,
To lead this uncontested gift away.’
The crowd assents, and, with redoubled cries,
For the proud challenger demands the prize.”

Acestes then reproaches Entellus for allowing the prize to be carried off uncontested. Entellus pleads “staleness” and “want of condition,” but accepts the challenge.

“Acestes fired with just disdain to see
A plain usurped without a victory,
Reproached Entellus thus, who sate beside,
And heard and saw, unmoved, the Trojan’s pride.
‘Once, but in vain, a champion of renown,
So tamely can you bear the ravished crown,
The prize in triumph borne before your sight,
And shun for fear the danger of the fight.
Where is your Eryx now, the boasted name,
The god who taught your thundering arm the game?
Where now your baffled honour? where the spoil
That filled your house, and fame that filled our isle?’
Entellus thus: ‘My soul is still the same,
Unmoved with fears, and moved with martial fame;
But my chill blood is curdled in my veins,
And scarce the shadow of a man remains.
Oh! could I turn to that fair prime again,
That prime of which this boaster is so vain,
The brave, who this decrepit age defies,
Should feel my force without the promised prize.’”

xiEntellus then throws down the gauntlets of Eryx (engraved under Cæstus, pp. xiii., xiv.), but Dares, declining the ponderous weapons, old Entellus offers to accommodate him, by permission of the umpires, with a round or two with a lighter pair.

“‘But if the challenger these arms refuse,
And cannot wield their weight, or dare not use;
If great Æneas and Acestes join
In his request, these gauntlets I resign:
Let us with equal arms perform the fight,
And let him learn to fear since I forego my right.
This said, Entellus for the fight prepares,
Stripped of his quilted coat, his body bares:
Composed of mighty bones and brawn he stands,
A goodly towering object on the sands.
Then just Æneas equal arms supplied,
Which round their shoulders to their wrists they tied.
Both on the tiptoe stand, at full extent,
Their arms aloft, their bodies inly bent;
Their heads from aiming blows they bear afar,
With clashing gauntlets then provoke the war.
One on his youth and pliant limbs relies,
One on his sinews and his giant size.
This last is stiff with age, his motion slow;
He heaves for breath, he staggers to and fro,
And clouds of issuing smoke his nostrils loudly blow
Yet equal in success, they ward, they strike,
Their ways are different, but their art alike.
Before, behind, the blows are dealt; around
Their hollow sides the rattling thumps resound;
A storm of strokes, well meant, with fury flies,
And errs about their temples, ears, and eyes—
Nor always errs, for oft the gauntlet draws
A sweeping stroke along the crackling jaws.
Hoary with age Entellus stands his ground,
But with his warping body wards the wound.
His hand and watchful eye keep even pace,
While Dares traverses and shifts his place,
And, like a captain who beleaguers round
Some strong-built castle on a rising ground,
Views all the approaches with observing eyes;
This and that other part in vain he tries,
And more on industry than force relies.
With hands on high Entellus threats the foe;
But Dares watched the motion from below,
And slipped a-side, and shunned the long-descending blow.
Entellus wastes his forces on the wind,
And, thus deluded of the stroke designed,
Headlong and heavy fell, his ample breast
And weighty limbs his ancient mother pressed.
So falls a hollow pine that long had stood
On Ida’s height or Erymanthus’ wood,
Torn from the roots. The differing nations rise,
And shouts, with mingled murmurs, rend the skies.
Acestes runs with eager haste to raise
The fallen companion of his youthful days.
Dauntless he rose, and to the fight returned;
With shame his glowing cheeks, his eyes with fury burned
Disdain and conscious virtue filled his breast,
And with redoubled force his foe he pressed.
He lays on load with either hand amain
And headlong drives the Trojan o’er the plain;
Nor stops nor stays nor rests nor breath allows
But storms of strokes descend about his brows,
A rattling tempest and a hail of blows.”

At this point of the combat—when, after what ought to have closed xiiround 1, by the fall of old Entellus, the latter jumps up and renews the fight, driving Dares in confusion before him—we find that the referee and stakeholder had a judicial discretionary power to stop the fight, the more necessary on account of the deadly gloves in use. Some such power, in cases of closing and attempts at garotting (such as occurred at Farnham and at Wadhurst in 1860 and 1863, and numerous minor battles), should be vested in the referee; but then where is the man who in modern times would be efficiently supported or obeyed in this judicial exercise of authority?

“But now the prince, who saw the wild increase
Of wounds, commands the combatants to cease,
And bounds Entellus’ wrath, and bids the peace.
First to the Trojan, spent with toil, he came,
And soothed his sorrow for the suffered shame.
‘What fury seized my friend? The gods,’ said he,
‘To him propitions, are averse to thee,
Have given his arm superior force to thine,
’Tis madness to contend with strength divine.’
The gauntlet fight thus ended, from the shore
His faithful friends the unhappy Dares bore:
His mouth and nostrils poured a purple flood,
And pounded teeth came rushing with his blood.
Faintly he staggered through the hissing throng,
And hung his head and trailed his legs along.
The sword and casque are carried by his train,
But with his foe the palm and ox remain.”

The reader will doubtless be forcibly struck with the close imitation of Homer by the later epic poet. The length of this account—given, as are those in the ensuing pages, under the name of the winner—will render superfluous a lengthy notice of the vanquished—

Dares, another of the companions of Æneas, who also, like St. Patrick, was “a jontleman, and came of dacent people.” Indeed, we see that he claimed to be descended from King Amycus. Your ancient pugilists seem to have been as anxious about “blood” as a modern horse-breeder. Dares was afterwards slain by Turnus in Italy. See Virg. Æneid, v. 369, xii. 363.

Cloanthus, too, fought some good battles; and from him the noble Roman family of the Cluentii boasted their descent. In “Æneid,” v. 122, he wins the rowing match.

Of Gyges’ match we merely learn that Turnus also slew him; and of Gyas, that he greatly distinguished himself by his prowess in the funeral games of Anchises in Sicily. As to the “pious” Æneas himself, another son of Venus, by Anchises, he was a fighting man all his days. First, in the Trojan war, where he engaged in combat with Diomed and with Achilles himself, and afterwards, on his various voyagings in Sicily, Africa, and Italy, where he fought for a wife and a kingdom, and won both by killing his rival Turnus, marrying Lavinia, and succeeding his father-in-law, Latinus. Despite his “piety” in carrying off his old father Anchises from the flames of Troy, and giving him such a grand funeral, Æneas seems to have been a filibustering sort of vagrant; and after getting rid of poor Turnus, not without suspicions of foul play, he was drowned in crossing a river in Etruria, which territory he had invaded on a marauding expedition. We cannot say much against him on the score of “cruelty and desertion” in the matter of Queen Dido, seeing that chronology proves that the Carthaginian Queen was not born until about three hundred years after the fall of Troy, and therefore the whole story is the pure fabrication of the Roman poets, Virgil and Ovid. xiiiThis, however, is by the way, so we will proceed to give a short account of the implements used in ancient boxing.

These were the Cæstus, a formidable gauntlet composed of thongs of raw hide, with the woollen glove covering the hand with its vellus or fringe; and the Amphotides, a kind of helmet or defensive armour for the head. Four principal forms of the cæstus are known by extant representations. The first is the most tremendous, and was found in bronze at Herculaneum. The original hand is somewhat above the natural size, and appears to have been part of the statue of some armed gladiator. It is formed of several thicknesses of raw hide strongly fastened together, and cut into a circular form. These have holes to admit the four fingers, the thumb being closed on the outer edge to secure the hold, while the whole is bound by thongs round the wrist and forearm, with its inner side on the palm of the hand and its outer edge projecting in front of the knuckles. Our Yankee friends have a small imitation in their modern “knuckle-dusters.” A glove of thick worsted was worn beneath the gauntlet, ending in a fringe or bunch of wool, called vellus. Lactantius says: “Pentedactylos laneos sub cæstibus habent.” The figure given in the Abbé St. Non’s, “Voyage Pittoresque de Naples et de Sicile,” is here copied.

Fig. 1.—Cæstus.

The second form of cæstus, though less deadly at first aspect, is capable of administering the most fatal blows. This sort is represented in a bronze group, engraved in the first volume of the “Bronzi del Museo Kircheriano,” which represents the battle between Amycus and Pollux, already noticed.

Fig. 2.

This (or the fourth form of glove) would also seem to have been that offered by Entellus to Dares in the fifth book of the Æneid, though the “knobs of brass,” “blunt points of iron,” “plummets of lead,” and other xivsuperfluities of barbarity, are not visible. Virgil’s description of the cæstus being the best, we here quote it:—

“He (Entellus) threw
Two pond’rous gauntlets down, in open view;
Gauntlets, which Eryx wont in fight to wield,
And sheathe his hands within the listed field.
With fear and wonder seiz’d the crowd beholds
The gloves of death,—with sev’n distinguish’d folds
Of tough bull’s hides; the space within is spread
With iron or with loads of heavy lead.
Dares himself was daunted at the sight,
Renounc’d his challenge, and refused to fight.
Astonish’d at their weight, the hero stands,
And pois’d the pond’rous engines in his hands.”

In Smith’s “Antiquities of Greece and Rome,” and in Lenu’s “Costumes des Peuples de l’Antiquité,” are other patterns. The subjoined is from the last named work.

Fig. 3.

The last form (No. 4) we shall give is also from a bas-relief found at Herculaneum. It is certainly of a less destructive form, the knuckles and back of the hand being covered by the leather, held in its place by a thumbhole, and further secured by two crossed straps to the vellus, which ends half way up the forearm. A similar engraving forms the tail-piece to the fifty-first page of the second volume of the Abbé St. Non’s “Voyage Pittoresque,” already quoted.

Fig. 4.

The Amphotides, a helmet or head-guard, to secure the temporal bones and arteries, encompassed the ears with thongs and ligatures, which were xvbuckled either under the chin or behind the head. They bore some resemblance to the head guards used in modern broadsword and stick play, but seem to have fitted close. They were made of hides of bulls, studded with knobs of iron, and thickly quilted inside to dull the concussion of the blows. Though it may be doubted whether the amphotides were introduced until a later period of the pugilistic era, yet as their representation would prevent the faces or heads of the combatants being seen, sculptors and fresco painters would leave them out unhesitatingly, as they do head-dresses, belts, reins, horses’ harness, etc., regardless of reality, and seeking only what they deemed high art in their representations.

The search after traces of boxing among the barbarism of the Middle Ages, with their iron cruelty and deadly warfare—not unredeemed, however, by rude codes of honour, knightly courtesy, and chivalrous gallantry, in defence of the weak and in honour of the fair—would not be worth the while. The higher orders jousted and tilted with lance, mace, and sword, the lower fought with sand-bags and the quarter-staff.

Wrestling, as an art, seems to have only survived among Gothic or Scandinavian peoples. A “punch on the head,” advocated by Mr. Grantley Berkeley as a poacher’s punishment, is, however, spoken of by Ariosto as the result of his romantic hero’s wrath, who gives the offender “un gran punzone sulla testa,” by way of caution. That there were “men before their time,” who saw the best remedy for the fatal abuse of deadly weapons in popular brawls, we have the testimony of no less an authority than St. Bernard. That holy and peace-loving father of the Church, as we are told by Forsyth, and numerous other writers, established boxing as a safety-valve for the pugnacious propensities of the people. He tells us: “The strongest bond of union among the Italians is only a coincidence of hatred. Never were the Tuscans so unanimous as in hating the other States of Italy. The Senesi agreed best in hating all the other Tuscans; the citizens of Siena in hating the rest of the Senesi; and in the city itself the same amiable passion was subdivided among the different wards.

“This last ramification of hatred had formerly exposed the town to very fatal conflicts, till at length, in the year 1200, St. Bernardine instituted Boxing as a more innocent vent to their hot blood, and laid the bruisers under certain laws, which are sacredly observed to this day. As they improved in prowess and skill, the pugilists came forward on every point of national honour: they were sung by poets and recorded in inscriptions. The elegant Savini ranks boxing among the holiday pleasures of Siena.”[5]

These desultory jottings must suffice to bring the history of boxing among the ancients down to the period of its gradual extinction as an art and its public and authorised practice. A few sentences from the pen of the late V. G. Dowling, Esq.[6] will appropriately close this introductory chapter.

“Both among the Greeks and Romans the practice of pugilism, although differing in its main features from our modern and less dangerous combats, was considered essential in the education of their youth, from its manifest utility in ‘strengthening the body, dissipating all fear, and infusing a manly courage into the system.’ The power of punishment, rather than the ‘art of self-defence,’ however, seems to have been the main object of the ancients; xviand he who dealt the heaviest blow, without regard to protecting his own person, stood foremost in the list of heroes. Not so in modern times; for while the quantum of punishment in the end must decide the question of victory or defeat, yet the true British boxer gains most applause by the degree of science which he displays in defending his own person, while with quickness and precision he returns the intended compliments of his antagonist, and like a skilful chess-player, takes advantage of every opening which chance presents, thereby illustrating the value of coolness and self-possession at the moment when danger is most imminent. The annals of our country from the invasion of the Romans downwards sufficiently demonstrates that the native Briton trusted more to the strength of his arm, the muscular vigour of his frame, and the fearless attributes of his mind in the hour of danger, than to any artificial expedients; and that, whether in attack or defence, the combination of those qualities rendered him at all times formidable in the eyes of his assailants, however skilled in the science or practice of warfare. If illustrations were required to establish this proposition, they are to be found in every page of our history, from the days of Alfred to the battle of Waterloo; and if it be asked how it is that Englishmen stand thus pre-eminent in the eyes of the world, it may be answered that it is to be ascribed to the encouragement given to those manly games (boxing more especially) which are characteristic of their country, and which, while they invigorate the system, sustain and induce that moral courage which experience has shown us to be the result as much of education as of constitution, perhaps more of the former than of the latter. The truth of this conclusion was so strongly impressed on the feelings of our forefathers, even in the most barbarous ages, that we find all their pastimes were tinctured with a desire to acquire superiority in their athletic recreations, thus in peace inculcating those principles which in war became their safest reliance.” Esto perpetua!

Boxers with the Cæstus.

JAMES FIG (Champion).

From Sir James Thornhill’s Portrait, 1732.


PERIOD I.—1719 TO 1791.


Prefatory Remarks.—Fig—Sutton—Whitaker—Peartree—Pipes—Gretting.

We have collected in our Introductory Chapter the few scattered notices of pugilism as practised and understood by the earlier Celtic nations. Despite, however, the proclivity of antiquaries, historians, and scholars to find a Roman or Greek origin for every manner, custom, and tradition—as if we had none originally of our own,—we may safely say that Boxing, in the noble manly forbearing and humane practice of the art, is the indigenous offspring of British hardihood, steady courage, and love of gymnic exercise and feats of bodily strength and skill, not unaccompanied with that amount of risk and severe exertion which lend a zest to sports unappreciated and unknown to more effeminate, more cruel, and more cowardly peoples. Let not this be taken as the hasty expression of insular prejudice. The writer, after deeply considering, and often witnessing, the personal contests of men in his own country and abroad, and dispassionately weighing the manner, accessories, and consequences of such contests, feels it a duty he owes to a half-informed and prejudiced society to express the result of his experience and his reflection, without fear, favour, or affection:—fear of the onslaughts of spiritual and moral quacks; favour for those who have degraded or debased a useful and laudable national exercise and sport; or affection, more than is due to an art which he would fain rescue from the obloquy and condemnation to which blind hostility and canting 2prejudice have consigned it. He would fain uphold that pugilistic combat which a fair field, no favour, and surrender at all times at the will of either party, distinguishes from every mode of conflict yet devised or practised for the settlement of those “offences” which the highest authority has told us “needs must come.” At a period within the earlier memories of the writer, a school of babblers flooded the press with theories of the perfectibility of man, the ultimate establishment of universal freedom, and the sublimation of the human faculties by general education and popular science; and a period was confidently predicted by these theorising shallowpates, when war would be an “impossibility” as against the “interests” of men and nations. We have lived to see the most sanguinary and ferocious contest in history among the people whom these sciolists set up as the bright example to the “less educated” nations of the Old World. We may, therefore, safely despise the “new light” philosophy, and revert to the eternal truth already cited—“needs must be that offences will come;” and this necessity being inevitable, the next logical step is to consider how these “offences” may be best dealt with and atoned.

So long as man is liable to the imperfections of his nature he will need the art of defending himself from attack and injury, and of redressing wrong or insult that may be offered him. All experience has taught us that the passions of pride and emulation (honourable like every human attribute within limits), and resentment for injury, are the springs of some of our noblest actions. It is to the stifling and too severe repression of the active energies of a resolute and independent spirit that the soul of man as an individual, and of a nation as a whole, sinks into the vengeful cowardice and cruel pusillanimity of the abject yet ferocious slave. As, then, a greater or less portion of evil must be attached to the best system of popular moral or civil restraint, the wisest policy is that which legislates for man as we find him, and not as the perfect or perfectible (?) creature which theorists and bigots pretend that he ought to be.

At the risk of repetition we will return to our argument. Individuals, as well as states, must have their disputes, their quarrels, and then—their battles. This is, there is no denying, the sad but natural—the regrettable but inevitable, condition and tenure on which human life—nay, all animal existence—is held. There must, then, be some mode through which the passions, when aroused, from whatever cause,—

Ambition, love, or greed and thirst of gold,—

may be assuaged, subdued, or extinguished; when the necessity for an appeal to the ultima ratio of conflict is unavoidable. And surely, in this extremity 3the fists—the symbol of personal courage, of prompt readiness for defence and attack—are the most harmless, the ever-present, and the least fatal weapons. We will leave, gentle or simple reader, the pistol to your higher-born countrymen of the “upper ten thousand,” if it so please them; the fatal fleuret to the fire-eating Gaul (whether soldier, litterateur, or “pekin”); the back-handed stiletto to the stabbing Italian; the sharp, triangular rapier or the dagger to the saturnine Spaniard; the slaughterous schlager to the beer-bemused burschen[7] of dreamy Vaterland; the gash-inflicting 4knife to the Dutch boor or seaman’s snicker-snee; the death-dealing “bowie,” “Kansas toothpick,” and murderous “six-shooter” to the catawampous citizen of the “univarsal Yankee nation;” the waved kreese, to the muck-running Malay; each tawny savage to his sharp tomahawk, his poisoned arrow, or his barbed assagai; and then we would ask the scribblers of the anti-pugilistic press which of these they are prepared to champion against the fist of the British boxer,—a weapon of defence which, as exemplified in the practice laid down in the latest code of Ring Law, is the perfection of the practice of cool courage, self-reticent combat, restraint, skill, and endurance that can illustrate and adorn the character of an unsophisticated and true-hearted Englishman in the supreme moment of conquest or of defeat.

It has frequently been urged by magistrates, and even ermined judges[8] of quasi-liberal sentiments, that pugilism, as a national practice, and an occasional or fortuitous occurrence, may be winked at by the authorities, or 5tacitly allowed, and prohibited or punished at discretion, as the occasion may seem to require: but that gymnastic schools where boxing is regularly taught, and pitched battles, are social nuisances which the law should rigorously suppress. Granting the possibility of this utter repression, which we deny, it may well be questioned whether we have not tried to suppress a lesser evil to evolve a greater.[9]

To boxing-schools and regulated combats we owe that noble system of fistic ethics, of fair play, which distinguishes and elevates our common people, and which stern, impartial, unprejudiced and logical minds must hail and foster as one of the proud attributes of our national character. We do not in the least undervalue peaceful pursuits, which constitute and uphold the blessings of peaceful life; yet a nation with no idea or principle beyond commerce would be unworthy, nay, would be impotent for national existence, much more for national power and progress. Subjection, conquest, and hence serfdom and poverty, must be its fate in presence of strong, rapacious, and encroaching neighbours. “The people that possesses steel,” said the ancient assailant of the Lydian Crœsus, “needs not long want for gold.” A 6portion, then, of a nation must be set apart, whose vocation it will be to secure and to defend the lives, liberties, and properties of the whole. Hence the honourable calling of the soldier and the sailor; and hence, to fit the people for these, and to prevent the too general indulgence of effeminacy, dread of enterprise, and the contagious spread of an enervating and fanatical peace-at-any-price quietism, it is wise and politic to encourage the manly and athletic sports and contests which invigorate the frame, brace the nerves, inspire contempt of personal suffering, and enable man to defend his rights as well as to enjoy them. Englishmen have learned, and we sincerely hope will continue to learn and to practise, fair boxing, as they have learned other arts of defence,—the use of the rifle among others, in which (as their sires of old did with the yeoman’s bow) they have already excelled Swiss, American, and Australian mountaineers and woodmen: men from countries celebrated for their practice of long shots, and constant handling of the weapon. Let them, therefore, see that the fair use of the fist is not sneered down by the craven or the canter. Were every pugilistic school shut up, the practice of boxing discouraged, and the fiat of our modern intolerant saints carried out, the manly spirit of fair play in our combats would disappear, and the people of this country lose one of their fairest characteristics. A retrospect of the last ten years will answer whether these are times to incur such risk; while at home, how-much-soever we may have had of the fist, we have indeed had too much of the loaded bludgeon, the mis-named “life-preserver,” the garotte, the knife, and the revolver.

Pugilistic exhibitions are falsely said to harden the heart, to induce ferocity of character, and that they are generally attended by the dregs of society. The last aspersion, for reasons that lie on the surface, has the most truth in it. The principle only, indeed the utility and necessity of the practice of boxing, is all we here propose to vindicate. Pugilism includes nothing essentially vicious; nothing, in itself, prompting to excess or debauchery. On the contrary, it asks temperance, exercise, and self-denial. If we are to argue and decide from the abuse of a custom or institution, where are we to stop? Men are not to be cured, even of errors, by the mere arbitrary force of laws, or by a cherished pursuit being vilified and contemned, mostly by those who are ignorant or averse to it. Teach men to respect themselves—this is the first step to make them respect others. Let this rule be applied to the Ring; let it be viewed as a popular institution; it may then, and we have warrant from experience, and in the history contained in these pages, become worthy of support and patronage. A series of biographies, which include the names of Cribb, Jackson, Gully, Shaw, Spring, Sayers, etc. (within the memory of 7men yet living) may be pointed to without a blush; while individual traits of heroism, generosity, forbearance, and humanity, will be found scattered as bright redeeming points through the lives of many of the “rough diamonds” preserved in the “setting” of our pages. We doubt not, were the character of the Ring raised, that successors of as good repute as these worthies would yet be found and arise among the brotherhood of the fist. Should this “consummation devoutly to be wished” ever be realised, our gymnasia, a public necessity, might then be licensed,—a security for their visitors, and adding respectability to their proprietors; for every government possesses the power of making expedient regulations, in the interest of society, even where it may not have the right to absolutely suppress or interdict. If free trade, and unrestricted leave to carry on profession or calling are such fundamental principles with our state economists, why not free boxing? and why not leave the morale of pugilism, as well as the morality of its professors, to find its level in the neglect or the patronage, the esteem or the contempt, of the people at large? Boxing and boxing schools, as free Britons, we must have. Let us, then, consider, how they can be best made to serve the cause of regulated pugilism. On the whole, there is no reason to doubt the practicability, as well as the desirability, of public boxing-schools as a branch of a system of national gymnastics. It is absurd as well as scandalous to assert that they must, ex necessitate, be the resort of profligates and thieves. As to the last named scourges of society, long observation and experience[10] have convinced us that we have our metropolitan and even rural nurseries for them; our “sin and crime gardens” for their special propagation, rearing, and multiplication; and we can conscientiously say, from an equally long observation, that among those thieves’ nurseries and “sin-gardens” the much-vilified Prize Ring has no special claim to be counted.

These remarks have extended to an extreme length, and we will here break off, premising that many opportunities will present themselves in the course of our history to illustrate and enforce the arguments and principles here laid down. Waiving, then, all question as to its origin, the ars pugilistica may be accepted as interwoven for many generations in the manners and habits of the English people; that it has become one of our “popular prejudices,” if you so please to term it; and that we will not abandon it to be suppressed by force or sneered down by cant or sophistry. It has long since, in this favoured country, been purged of its cruelty and barbarism, and restrained within well-considered bounds. No lacerating or stunning additions, such 8as we see pictured in our sketches of the ancient athletes, have been allowed to Nature’s weapon—the clenched fist. On the contrary, for the practice of the neophyte and the demonstration of the art by the professor, soft wool-padded gloves cover the knuckles and backs of the hands of the sparrers. Finally, foul blows, butting with the head, and deliberate falls, have been particularised and forbidden, and an unimpeachable system of fair play established, to be found in the “New Rules of the Ring.” We have nationally imbibed these principles, and hence among our lower orders the feeling of “fair play” is more remarkably prevalent than among any other people of Europe or the New World. Hence personal safety—the exceptions, though occasionally alarming, prove the rule[11]—is more general in England than in any other country. Here alone the fallen combatant is protected; and here the detestable practices of gouging, biting, kicking in vital parts, practised by Americans, Hiberno-Americans, and other foreigners, are heartily denounced and scouted; and to what do we owe these characteristics? We repeat it, to the Principles and Practice of Pugilism.

FIG (CHAMPION)—1719‒1734.

Although, doubtless, brave boxers in every shire of “merrie England” sported their Adam’s livery on the greensward, and stood up toe to toe for “love and a bellyful,” yet the name of James Fig, a native of Thame, in Oxfordshire, is, thanks to the pen of Captain Godfrey and the pencil of the great Hogarth, the first public champion “of the Ring” of whom we have authentic record. Doubtless—

Vixere fortes ante Agamemnon;

but their deeds and glories, for want of a chronicler, have lapsed into oblivion (carent quia vates sacro), and—

“Sleep where lie the songs and wars of earth
Before Pelides’ death, or Homer’s birth.”



9To Captain Godfrey’s spirited and scarce quarto, entitled “A Treatise on the Useful Science of Defence,” we are indebted for the preservation of the names and descriptions of the persons and styles of the athletes who were his contemporaries. It would seem that though Fig has been acknowledged as the Father of the Ring, he was as much, if not more, distinguished as a cudgel and back-sword player then as a pugilist. Captain Godfrey thus speaks of Fig:—“I have purchased my knowledge with many a broken head, and bruises in every part of me. I chose mostly to go to Fig[12] and exercise with him; partly, as I knew him to be the ablest master, and partly, as he was of a rugged temper, and would spare no man, high or low, who took up a stick against him. I bore his rough treatment with determined patience, and followed him so long, that Fig, at last, finding he could not have the beating of me at so cheap a rate as usual, did not show such fondness for my company. This is well known by gentlemen of distinguished rank, who used to be pleased in setting us together.”

The reputation of Fig having induced him to open an academy (A.D. 1719), known as “Fig’s Amphitheatre,” in Tottenham Court Road, the place became shortly a great attraction, and was crowded with spectators. It was here that Captain Godfrey (the Barclay of his time) displayed his skill and elegance in manly sports with the most determined competitors, the sports being witnessed by royal and noble personages, who supported the science as tending to endue the people with hardihood and intrepidity. About 1720 Fig resided in Oxford Road, now Oxford-street, and at the period of the curious fac-simile, here for the first time engraved, we find him still in the same neighbourhood.

The science of pugilism, as we now understand it, was certainly in its infancy; the system of “give and take” was adopted, and he who could hit the hardest, or submit to punishment with the best grace, seems to have been in highest favour with the amateurs. Yet Fig’s placards profess to teach “defence scientifically,” and his fame for “stops and parries” was so great, that we find him mentioned in the Tatler, Guardian, and Craftsman, the foremost miscellanies of the time.[13] Fig, like modern managers, added to the attractions of his amphitheatre by “stars;” among these were Ned Sutton, the Pipemaker of Gravesend, Timothy Buck, Thomas Stokes, and others, of whom only the names remain. Bill Flanders, or Flinders, “a noted 10scholar of Fig’s,” fought at the amphitheatre, in 1723, with one Chris. Clarkson, known as “the Old Soldier.” The battle is highly spoken of for determined courage in the “diurnals” of the period.

Smithfield, Moorfields, St. George’s Fields, Southwark, and Hyde Park,[14] during this period also had “booths” and “rings” for the display of boxing and stick play. In Hogarth’s celebrated picture of “Southwark Fair” our hero prominently figures, in a caricatured exaggeration, challenging any of the crowd to enter the lists with him for “money, love, or a bellyful.” This picture we have also chosen as an interesting illustration of the great English painter,—a record of manners in a rude period. As one of the bills relating to this fair (which was suppressed in 1763) is extant, we subjoin it:

On the Bowling Green, Southwark,
During the Time of the FAIR,
(Which begins on SATURDAY, the 18th of SEPTEMBER),
The TOWN will be entertained with the
Foil-play, Back-sword, Cudgelling, and Boxing,
in which
The noted PARKS, from Coventry, and the celebrated gentleman prize-fighter, Mr. MILLAR,
will display their skill in a tilting-bout, showing the advantages of Time and Measure:
Mr. JOHNSON, the great Swordsman, superior to any man in the world for his unrivalled
display of the hanging-guard, in a grand attack of SELF-DEFENCE, against the all-powerful
arm of the renowned SUTTON.
DELFORCE, the finished Cudgeller, will likewise exhibit his uncommon feats with the
single-stick; and who challenges any man in the kingdom to enter the lists with him for a
broken-head or a belly-full!
BUCKHORSE, and several other Pugilists, will show the Art of Boxing.
To conclude
With a GRAND PARADE by the Valiant FIG, who will exhibit his knowledge in various
Combats—with the Foil, Back-sword, Cudgel, and Fist.
To begin each Day at Twelve o’clock, and close at Ten.
Vivat Rex.
N.B. The Booth is fitted up in a most commodious manner, for the better reception of Gentlemen, &c. &c.

Besides this nobly patronised amphitheatre of Fig, there were several booths and rings strongly supported. That in Smithfield, we have it upon good authority, was presided over by one “Mr. Andrew Johnson,” asserted to be an uncle of the great lexicographer,[15] There was also that in Moorfields, 11called at times “the booth,” at others “the ring.” The “ring” was kept by an eccentric character known as “Old Vinegar,” the “booth” by Rimmington, whose sobriquet was “Long Charles.” This, it appears, had a curious emblazonment,—a skull and cross-bones on a black ground, inscribed “Death or Victory.” During the high tide of Fig’s prosperity (1733) occurred the battle between Bob Whitaker and the Venetian Gondolier, narrated under the head of “Whitaker.”

Let it not be thought that Fig, among his many antagonists, was without a rival. Sutton, the Gravesend Pipemaker, already mentioned, publicly dared the mighty Fig to the combat, and met him with alternate success, till a third trial “proved the fact” of Fig’s superiority. These contests, though given in all the “Chronologies” and “Histories” of the Ring, were neither more nor less than cudgel-matches, as will be seen by the subjoined contemporary verses by Dr. John Byrom. They are printed in “Dodsley’s Collection,” vol. vi., p. 312, under the title of—

Extempore Verses upon a Trial of Skill between those two Great Masters of Defence, Messieurs Fig and Sutton.
Long was the great Fig, by the prize-fighting swains,
Sole monarch acknowledged of Marybone plains,
To the towns far and near did his glory extend,
And swam down the river from Thame to Gravesend,
Where lived Mister Sutton, pipemaker by trade,
Who hearing that Fig was thought such a stout blade,
Resolved to go in for a share of his fame,
And so sent a challenge to the Champion of Thame.
With alternate advantage two trials had past,
When they fought out the rubber on Wednesday last;
To see such a contest, the house was quite full,
There hardly was room to thrust in your skull.
With a prelude of cudgels we first were saluted,
And two or three shoulders were handsomely fluted,
Till, weary at last with inferior disasters,
All the company cried, “The Masters! the Masters!”
Whereupon the bold Sutton first mounted the stage,
Made his honours as usual, and yearned to engage;
When Fig, with a visage so fierce, yet sedate,
Came and entered the lists with his fresh shaven pate;
Their arms were encircled with armigers too,
With a red ribbon Sutton’s, and Fig’s with a blue.
Thus advanced the two heroes, ’tween shoulder and elbow,
Shook hands, and went to’t, and the word it was, “Bilbo!”

Stanzas iv. to viii. describe the back-sword play, in which both men broke their weapons, and Fig has blood drawn by his own broken blade, whereon he appeals and another bout is granted. Fig then wounds Sutton in the 12arm and the sword play is over. Stanzas ix. and x. wind up the match (with cudgels), as follows:—

Then after that bout they went on to another,
But the matter must end in some fashion or other,
So Jove told the gods he had made a decree,
That Fig should hit Sutton a stroke on the knee;
Though Sutton, disabled as soon as he hit him,
Would still have fought on, strength would not permit him;
’Twas his fate, not his fault, that constrained him to yield
And thus the great Fig remained Lord of the Field.

At length the time arrived when “the valiant Fig’s” “cunning o’ the fence” no longer availed him. On December 8th, 1734,[16] grim death gave him his final knock down, as appears from a notice in the Gentleman’s Magazine for the month of January, 1735.

“In Fig,” says his pupil and admirer Captain Godfrey (in his “Characters of the Masters,” p. 40, ed. 1747), “strength, resolution, and unparalleled judgment, conspired to form a matchless master. There was a majesty shone in his countenance, and blazed in all his actions, beyond all I ever saw. His right leg bold and firm, and his left, which could hardly ever be disturbed, gave him the surprising advantage already proved, and struck his adversary with despair and panic.”


Two only of Whitaker’s battles have survived the tooth of old Tempus edax rerum: his victory over the Venetian Gondolier and his defeat by Ned Peartree.

In the year 1733 a gigantic Venetian came to this country in the suite of one of our travelling nobility, whose name not being recorded we may set down this part of the story as apocryphal; in fact, as a managerial trick to attract aristocratic patronage. Be that as it may, this immense fellow, who was known by the name of “The Gondolier,” was celebrated for feats of strength: his fame ran before him, and his length of arm and jaw-breaking power of fist were loudly trumpeted. Indeed, a challenge having been issued by the backers of the Venetian, Fig was applied to to find a man to meet this Goliath. The sequel shall be told in Captain Godfrey’s own words:—

“Bob Whitaker was the man pitched upon to fight the big Venetian. I was at Slaughter’s Coffee-house when the match was made by a gentleman of 13advanced station: he sent for Fig to procure a proper man for him. He told him to take care of his man, because it was for a large sum; and the Venetian was of wonderful strength, and famous for breaking the jawbone in boxing. Fig replied, in his rough manner, ‘I do not know, master, but he may break one of his countrymen’s jawbones with his fist; but I’ll bring him a man, and he shall not be able to break his jawbone with a sledge hammer.’

“The battle was fought at Fig’s amphitheatre, before a splendid company, the politest house of that kind I ever saw. While the Gondolier was stripping my heart yearned for my countryman. His arm took up all observation; it was surprisingly large, long, and muscular. He pitched himself forward with his right leg, and his arm full extended; and, as Whitaker approached, caught him a blow at the side of the head which knocked him quite off the stage, which was remarkable for its height. Whitaker’s misfortune in his fall was the grandeur of the company, on which account they suffered no common people in, that usually sat on the ground, and lined the stage all round. It was thus all clear, and Whitaker had nothing to stop him but the bottom. There was a general foreign huzza on the side of the Venetian, as proclaiming our countryman’s downfall; but Whitaker took no more time than was required to get up again, when, finding his fault in standing out to the length of the other’s arm, he, with a little stoop, dashed boldly in beyond the heavy mallet, and with one English peg in the stomach,” by which the captain in another place explains he means what is called “the mark,”—“quite a new thing to foreigners, brought him on his breech. The blow carried too much of the English rudeness with it for him to bear, and finding himself so unmannerly used, he scorned to have any more doings with such a slovenly fist.” We could not resist transcribing this graphic, terse, and natural account of a prize-fight; the rarity of Captain Godfrey’s book, and the bald, diluted, silly amplification of it in “Boxiana,” pp. 22‒25, vol. i., being the moving reasons thereto.

“So fine a house,” says Captain Godfrey, alluding to the company which assembled to see Whitaker fight the Gondolier, “was too engaging to Fig not to court another. He therefore stepped up, and told the gentlemen that they might think he had picked out the best man in London on this occasion; but to convince them to the contrary, he said, that if they would come on that day se’nnight, he would bring a man who should beat this Whitaker in ten minutes by fair hitting. This brought near as great and fine a company as the week before. The ‘man’ was Nathaniel Peartree, who, knowing the other’s bottom, and his deadly way of flinging, took a most judicious manner to beat him. Let his character come in here.—He was an admirable boxer, 14and I do not know one he was not a match for, before he lost his finger. He was famous, like Pipes, for fighting at the face, but was stronger in his blows. He knew Whitaker’s hardiness, and, being doubtful of beating him, cunningly determined to fight at his eyes. His judgment carried his arm so well, that, in about six minutes, both Whitaker’s eyes were shut; when, groping about a while for his man, and finding him not, he wisely gave out (modernicè, gave in), with these odd words—‘Damme, I’m not beat; but what signifies my fighting when I can’t see my man?’”

The columns of the Flying Post and Daily News Letter have many advertisements of “battles royal,” but none of sufficient merit to deserve a place in this history.


Two other pugilists only of the school of Fig claim our notice, and these are Pipes and Gretting. “Pipes was the neatest boxer I remember. He put in his blows about the face (which he fought at most) with surprising time and judgment. He maintained his battles for many years with extraordinary skill, against men of far superior strength. Pipes was but weakly made: his appearance bespoke activity, but his hand, arm, and body were small; though by that acquired spring of his arm he hit prodigious blows; and at last, when he was beat out of his championship, it was more owing to his debauchery than the merit of those who beat him.”

There is a moral in the downfall of Gretting, as tersely given by Captain Godfrey:—“Gretting was a strong antagonist to Pipes. They contended together for some time, and were almost alternate victors. Gretting had the nearest way of going to the stomach (which is what they call the ‘mark’) of any man I knew. He was a most artful boxer, much stronger made than Pipes, and dealt the straightest blows. But what made Pipes a match for him, was his rare bottom spirit, which would bear a great deal of beating; and this, in my mind, Gretting was not sufficiently furnished with; for after he was beaten twice by Pipes, a mere sloven of a boxer, and everybody that fought him afterwards beat him. I must, notwithstanding, do that justice to Gretting’s memory to own that his debauchery contributed to spoil a great boxer; yet, I think, he had not the bottom of the other.”

It was the opinion throughout Europe, at this period, that the English nation were more expert than any other, not only in boxing, but in the use 15of the back-sword; and sorry should we be were it not so at this day. The amphitheatre, boxing, foil-play, and cudgelling-schools, were openly advertised, and the amusements made known, like any of the regular theatres; the audiences were equally fashionable, and they were patronised by the noble and great, and not disturbed by the magistrates. Although it was admitted that these amphitheatrical practices were productive of some ill, as offering encouragement to idleness and extravagance among the vulgar, yet there is hardly any useful thing that does not present some opening for mischief, or is not liable to abuse.



GEORGE TAYLOR—1734‒1758.

Prince Boswell—James—Harris—Smallwood—Slack—Buckhorse—Tom Faulkner.

On the decease of Fig the immediate patrons of pugilism seem to have cooled in their ardour, as we hear but little of the doings at the amphitheatre. For four years George Taylor was his successor, and in 1740 we find him assuming the title of “Champion,” and proprietor of the “Great Booth in Tottenham Court Road.” With regard to the title of “Champion,” at this period, and for nearly a century subsequent, it was assumed by and applied to almost every boxer who challenged publicly. We make this remark to clear the way for some observations we shall make upon George Taylor’s defeat by the renowned Broughton. There is some curious blundering about the date of the first fight between George Taylor and Broughton; indeed, we should feel inclined to say that his first defeat was much earlier than the date of 1740, which is given in all the Chronologies, John Bee’s “Fistiana” and “Boxiana” included. He was proprietor of the “Great Booth” from 1734, and we have Captain Godfrey’s authority for saying that “he was not, when he fought Broughton, more than twenty years old,” and comments on the imprudence of such “a first attempt.” It will be seen, too, in the Life of Broughton, that the Captain speaks (writing in 1746‒7) thus of Broughton—“for seventeen or eighteen years he has fought, etc., and never been beaten.” From this we may fairly infer that it was some years prior to 1740 that Broughton first defeated George Taylor. Taylor, whose portrait is certainly good-humoured and prepossessing, is described as being a “strong, able pugilist,” according to the fashion of those times, but shifty and “deficient in bottom.” George’s skill in the “cross-buttock fall” is also recorded, and his cleverness in the “hanging-guard” and “back-sword” favourably spoken of. With these qualifications he entered Fig’s amphitheatre, and seems almost immediately to have become its proprietor. His advertisements invite “champions” of the different branches of “self-defence” to come and display their skill. The terms were that the proprietor should take one-third of the door-money, and the remaining two-thirds be divided among the “champions,” at the rate of one-third to the loser and two-thirds to the winner. We are told the entrance-money often reached £150, and occasionally it was more. Among the more noted boxers who illustrated the art at George Taylor’s “great booth,” were the renowned Jack Broughton the waterman, the Father of the English P.R., who beat all opposed to him, especially George Taylor himself; Prince Boswell, Stevenson the coachman, Will Willis, Tom Smallwood, Buckhorse, Jack James, Field the sailor, Pipes and Gretting already mentioned, and others of the school of Fig.

GEORGE TAYLOR, 1734‒1758.

From a Print published in 1740.

17One of the most remarkable battles at Taylor’s booth was that of Broughton and Stevenson, April 24, 1741 (see Life of Broughton, post, p. 22).

On the 16th of June, 1741, George Taylor met a formidable gipsy, known as Prince Boswell. He appears to have been a tricky fighter, and, like most such over-clever pugilists, deficient in pluck. He had, we are told, a terrific hit with his left (when he could plant it), but this being forbid by George’s skill, he made but a poor fight of it. Captain Godfrey says of this Bohemian, who is stated in “Pancratia” to have been son to the king of that wandering people, “Praise be to his power of fighting, his excellent choice of time and measure, his superior judgment despatching forth his executing arm! But fie upon his dastard heart, that mars it all! As I knew that fellow’s abilities, and his worm-dread soul, I never saw him beat but I wished him to be beaten. Though I am charmed with the idea of his power and manner of fighting, I am sick at the thoughts of his nurse-wanting courage. Farewell to him, with this fair acknowledgment, that, if he had true English bottom (the best fighting epithet for a man of spirit), he would carry all before him, and be a match even for Broughton himself.” Despite of all these qualifications, the Gipsy lost heart at finding Taylor so difficult to get at, and surrendered after a few sharp rounds.

On the 19th of July, 1741, we find recorded the name of Jack James, as beating one Chicken Harris, a poulterer, after a severe though short battle.

Tom Smallwood, too, was one of Taylor’s team. On the 23rd of November, 1741, one of the severest boxing matches that had taken place for years was fought between Tom Smallwood and Richard Harris, a backmaker, for fifty guineas. The fight lasted an hour, with many alternations of success, Smallwood 18proving the winner. Smallwood was a mere stripling, as we shall note hereafter.

On the same day we find a very good bye-battle was fought between Buckhorse and Harry Gray, the clogmaker (see Buckhorse, post).

The advertisements and challenges of the boxers of this period are matters of curiosity, as illustrating the manners of another age; we therefore insert a few which have been preserved in connexion with this period of Taylor’s career

From the Daily Advertiser, April 26th, 1742.

“At the Great Booth, Tottenham Court, on Wednesday next, the 28th instant, will be a trial of manhood, between the two following champions:

“Whereas I, William Willis, commonly known by the name of “the fighting Quaker,” have fought Mr. Smallwood about twelve months since, and held him the tightest to it, and bruised and battered him more than any one he ever encountered, though I had the ill-fortune to be beat by an accidental fall; the said Smallwood, flushed with the success blind Fortune then gave him, and the weak attempts of a few vain Irishmen and boys, that have of late fought him for a minute or two, makes him think himself unconquerable; to convince him of the falsity of which, I invite him to fight me for One Hundred Pounds, at the time and place above-mentioned, when I doubt not but I shall prove the truth of what I have asserted by pegs, darts, hard blows, falls, and cross-buttocks.


“I, Thomas Smallwood, known for my intrepid manhood and bravery on and off the stage, accept the challenge of this puffing Quaker, and will shew him that he is led by a false spirit, that means him no other good than that he should be chastised for offering to take upon him the arm of the flesh.


Note.—The Doors will be opened at Ten, and the Combatants mount at Twelve.

“There will be several bye-battles, as usual; and particularly one between John Divine and John Tipping, for Five Pounds each.”

The next notice is at the lapse of a month, and runs thus:—

“May 4th, 1742.
“At George Taylor’s Booth, Tottenham Court Road.

“There will be a trial of manhood here to-morrow, between the following champions, viz.:

“Whereas I, John Francis, commonly known by the name of the Jumping Soldier, who have always had the reputation of a good fellow, and have fought several bruisers in the street, etc., nor am I ashamed to mount the stage when my manhood is called in question by an Irish braggadocio, whom I fought some time ago, in a bye-battle, for twelve minutes, and though I had not the success due to my courage and ability in the art of boxing, I now invite him to fight me for two guineas, at the time and place above-mentioned, where I doubt not I shall give him the truth of a good beating.


“I, Patrick Henley, known to every one for the truth of a good fellow, who never refused any one on or off the stage, and fight as often for the diversion of gentlemen as for money, do accept the challenge of this Jumping Jack; and shall, if he don’t take care, give him one of my bothering blows, which will convince him of his ignorance in the art of boxing.


Pierce Egan says, “Paddy kept his promise, for he so bothered the gig of the Jumping Sailor, that he was not able to move, much more to jump, for some time. Paddy gave him a Tipperary fling, which so completely shook all his recollection out of him, that he never troubled the town afterwards with any of his epistolary challenges!” For all which Hibernian perfervidum ingenium we have no authority on record. The “Chronologies” say “Henley bt. Francis (J.),” we suppose on the faith of the accuracy of “Boxiana.”

19In the year 1742 differences arose between Broughton, now in the highest favour with the Duke William of Cumberland (afterwards so fatally known at Culloden in the year ’46), and other distinguished patrons of the Ring. The schism, which was fatal to George Taylor’s establishment, will be noticed in our Life of Broughton, and ended in Taylor’s joining Broughton’s company of “champions” in 1744‒5, after a sounding challenge to that boxer.

From this period George Taylor appears to have held his own in numerous displays, but nothing of importance occurred till his memorable battle with Slack (see Slack), a butcher from Norwich, afterwards so renowned for his conquest of the great Broughton. Taylor’s battle with Slack has come down with no details, farther than that it lasted twenty-five minutes, and was a display of steady coolness and science over rushing impetuosity. Slack proved an awkward fellow to keep off, but George was too wary, and in less than half-an-hour the butcher was beaten to a stand-still.

Among the patrons of “the noble art,” during the period of George Taylor’s proprietorship of the Great Booth, may be numbered Frederick, Prince of Wales, the father of George the Third, before whom we may fairly infer Taylor many times exhibited. It was not then the custom, except incidentally, to give the people anything like our present “Court Circular,” thus keeping the general public au courant to the movements of royalty and its branches. We find, however, among the works of Paul Whitehead, the poet, who is styled by Captain Thompson, his biographer, “The Champion and Bard of Leicester House,”[17] a poem entitled, “The Gymnasiad, or Boxing Match.” It is printed entire in the edition of his collected works. Dodsley, London, 1777.

Taylor, when he retired from the stage, became landlord of the Fountain Inn at Deptford. But as the old war-horse is said to prick his ears at the sound of the trumpet, so, although declining in the vale of years, he replied to the challenge of Tom Faulkner, “the noted cricketer.” Tom, it appears, had twice been worsted by Taylor, in bygone days; yet he felt so confident he could reverse the verdict, that he challenged George for 200 guineas and “the gate money.” They met on August the 5th, 1758, at a mile and a-half from St. Alban’s, Herts. The betting was three to one on Taylor, 20who is called in the account “the old successor of Fig.” It would appear that there was “no love lost” between the combatants. It was a complete hammering set-to. For the first twelve or thirteen rounds, Faulkner was dreadfully punished and floored several times. The fourteenth round proved a proper trial of skill and strength; at length, Faulkner levelled Taylor, when the odds began to drop a little, and Faulkner was getting into favour. George, finding that his man gained upon him, began to shift, and fell now and then without a blow, which occasioned considerable murmuring, and the friends of Faulkner insisted that he had won the battle; but Faulkner was above taking any advantage and wished to fight it out. The combatants set-to more furiously than ever.

Taylor, inspired with the thought of his fame and former victories, stood up like a hero; and Faulkner, recollecting that it must either make or break him, fought like a lion. After a terrible conflict of an hour and fifteen minutes, the veteran George Taylor acknowledged he was conquered. Greater courage and skill could not be displayed; and it was supposed, that had not Taylor laboured under the manifest disadvantage of an eye of which he had been blind for some time, Faulkner could not have beaten him; as the contest was only put an end to by Taylor having the other eye closed from a blow. The veteran hero thus added another to the list of great men who have “lingered too long upon the stage,” or returned to exhibit those powers in their decadence which were admired in their prime. “We shall have many occasions in the course of this history to show the unconsciousness of decaying powers among the heroes of the ring. George Taylor did not recover the shock of this defeat, and died in the December following (1758) at his house at Deptford.”




Broughton is indisputably entitled to be regarded as the founder of the modern art of self-defence. The successor of Fig in popularity, he far exceeded that stalwart cudgeller in fistic science, and in the application of those principles which stripped the practice of boxing of many of those features of ruffianism and barbarity with which the unregulated contests of mere bruisers had invested it. There was a neatness and quickness in his style which far distanced his competitors, and drew crowds to witness his exhibitions. He appears first to have introduced stopping and barring blows, then hitting and getting away; before him it appears to have been toe-to-toe work, or downright hammering; at any rate, his method appears to have had the novelty of a discovery with his spectators and his antagonists. He stopped the blows aimed at any part of him by his adversaries with so much skill, and hit his man away with so much ease, that he astonished and daunted his opponents, and those persons who had the temerity to enter the lists with Broughton, were soon convinced of his superior knowledge and athletic prowess: while most of his competitors, who were compelled to give in from their exhausted and beaten state, had the mortification to behold Broughton scarcely touched, displaying as much cheerfulness and indifference as if he had scarcely been engaged in a set-to.

He was indebted to nature for a good person; his countenance was manly and open, possessing a sharp and penetrating eye, that almost looked through the object before him, which gave animation to his face. His form was athletic and commanding, and denoted uncommon strength. Every spectator felt impressed who beheld him. Six feet, wanting an inch, in height, and fourteen stone, or thereabouts, in weight.

Broughton became as a fixed star in the pugilistic hemisphere, His talents as a boxer gained him many admirers and patrons; but his good temper, generosity of disposition, and gentleness of manners, ensured him numerous friends. He was intelligent, communicative, and not destitute of 22wit. The system he laid down was plain, and easy to be understood; and, under his instruction, several of his pupils arrived at pugilistic eminence, and gave distinguished proofs of the acquirements they had gained under so great a master.

Broughton was still, up to 1742, an exhibitor at the Great Booth of George Taylor; we shall, therefore, before giving an account of his adventures “on his own hook,” turn to his exploits at the Tottenham Court Road establishment.

Like all great masters, Broughton, we learn, always exhibited something new in his several contests; and those pugilists who had seen him fight, and supposed they had observed his method, were awfully deceived when they entered the lists with him, and expected to “nail” him on “the old suit.”

Contrary to most other boxers, he did not depend upon any particular blow, although he was distinguished for giving some remarkable hits, which were not easily forgotten. Broughton, when necessary in the conflict, by putting in “his stomach blow,” often decided the battle; and his lunge under the ear generally produced terrible consequences to his opponent. The eye of Broughton was lively, piercing, and acute, soon perceiving the weakness of any adversary; his arm, keeping pace with that valuable assistant, protected him from the most destructive blows; and his quick penetration made him always aware of any direct intent pursued by his adversary, so as immediately to render it unavailing. His guard was so complete, that his frame appeared secured as if in a fence, uncommon strength and bottom often fell before him, and his expertness in the cross-buttock was great. His various attitudes in the fight were fine and impressive, and his countenance always animated and cheerful.

Pipes and Gretting, already named, both distinguished pugilists—the former of whom hardily maintained the title of a “Champion” for a number of years—appeared nothing in the hands of Broughton, who gave them several chances to recover their lost laurels; these each proved beatings to them, and tended to increase his growing fame.

George Taylor, of whom honourable mention has been made, fell as a conquest to Broughton.

JACK BROUGHTON (Champion), 1734‒1750.

From the Painting by Frank Hayman, R.A., formerly in the possession of the Duke of Cumberland.

23“George Stevenson, the coachman,” says our perpetual resource, Captain Godfrey, whose thin quarto we must almost plead guilty to reprinting piecemeal, “stood up for the length of forty minutes in a most heroic style to Broughton. It was a hasty match, and although Broughton was extremely unwell, sooner than make any excuse, he agreed to fight Stevenson without having that regard for his preparation which he afterwards found he ought to have had. But here his true bottom was proved, and his conduct shone and admired. The battle was fought in one of the fair booths at Tottenham Court Road, railed at the end towards the pit. After a most desperate conflict of thirty-five minutes, being both against the rails, and the coachman endeavouring to get the whip-hand of Broughton, the latter, by his superior genius, got such a lock upon Stevenson as no mathematician could have devised a better. There he held him by this artificial lock, depriving him of all power of rising or falling, till resting his head for about three or four minutes upon his back, he found himself recovering, then loosed his hold. By this manœuvre Broughton became as a new man, and, on setting-to again, he gave the coachman a tremendous blow, as hard as any he had given him in the whole battle, so that he could no longer stand, and his brave contending heart, though with reluctance, was forced to yield. Stevenson was a beautiful hitter; he put in his blows faster than Broughton, but then one of the latter’s told for three of the former’s. Stevenson had a most daring spirit, but his strength could not keep pace with it.”

Broughton expressed a very high opinion of Stevenson as a pugilist.

Jack James, a dashing boxer, who ranked high in the annals of pugilism as a thorough-bred man, was compelled to acknowledge that he had found his master in Broughton. James’s wrist, which in other contests had been considered so remarkably “handsome,” lost its attraction when in contact with the athletic arm of Broughton.

We need not proceed further with an enumeration of his earlier contests, but come at once to his appearance at his own theatre, in the character of Champion of England.

We have noticed his differences with George Taylor. Broughton was promised liberal support and patronage if he would open a theatre for the better accommodation of the admirers of boxing.

Under the patronage we have already spoken of, Broughton seceded from the Tottenham Court Road establishment, rapidly completing a new building adjoining the Oxford Road, near the spot where Hanway Street, Oxford Street, now stands, and opened it on March 10th, 1743, with the subjoined advertisement in the Daily Advertiser. From prints yet existing in the British Museum, it appears that this edifice was somewhat similar to Astley’s original circus and riding school, in the Westminster Road, or rather the large temporary and removable theatres, which have of late travelled with equestrian exhibitions round our principal provincial towns. There were boxes, pit, and a gallery; a stage for the combatants in the centre of the ring, and the tout ensemble bore some resemblance to the pictures of the Old 24Fives Court, in Windmill Street. The following is a copy of the announcement:—

The back of the late Mr. Fig’s,
On Tuesday next, the 13th instant,
Will be exhibited
By the eight famed following men, viz.,
Abraham Evans,
—— Sweep,
—— Belas,
—— Glover,
—— Roger,
—— Allen,
Robert Spikes, and
Harry Gray, the Clogmaker.
The above eight men to be brought on the stage, and to be matched according to the
approbation of the gentlemen who shall be pleased to honour them with their company.
N.B.—There will be a BATTLE ROYAL between the
And SEVEN or EIGHT more; after which there will be several BYE-BATTLES by others.
Gentlemen are therefore desired to come by times. The doors will be open at nine; the
champions mount at eleven: and no person is to pay more than A SHILLING.

The appearance of this rival was a cruel blow to George Taylor, who saw the ruinous results which must ensue to his “booth” from Broughton’s popularity: he, therefore, as a counter hit, instantly let fly in the following terms:—

To the Patrons and Encouragers of the Manly Art of Boxing.

Whereas, Mr. Broughton, well knowing that I was to fight Mr. Field on Tuesday next, the 13th of March, 1743, in order to injure me, has maliciously advertised to open his Amphitheatre on that day, and where several battles are then to be fought. To prevent the public from being deceived, I feel it my duty to inform them, that the principal part of the persons mentioned were never made acquainted with such circumstances, and have no intention of so doing. Mr. Broughton wishes to make it appear that he never imposed upon any of the pugilists who had been concerned with him in any transaction whatever; but his imposition shall soon be made manifest to the world. And to show Mr. Broughton that I have no animosity against him as a pugilist, or any jealousy concerning his amphitheatre, I am willing to fight him, as soon as he may think proper, wherever it may please him, not regarding, as he loudly sets forth, the strength of his arm.

George Taylor.

We are inclined to suspect that there was a little “gag” in the names of the pugilists set forth by Broughton, from subsequent occurrences; be that as it may, Taylor had already fallen beneath his conquering fist, and his challenge was viewed as nothing more than mere bounce, to detract from the triumph of the rival manager.

The charges of Taylor, made from time to time, led to a sort of paper war. Taylor charged Broughton with appropriating to himself the “Lion’s Share” of the door-money, to the injury of the other pugilists. This accusation Broughton replied to by showing to the satisfaction of his patrons that he had not received one hundred pounds; that his amphitheatre had cost him upwards of £400; that he had appropriated but a third part of the door-money for his own individual emolument, and that the rest had been shared among the pugilists. This account proving satisfactory, firmly established Broughton; and Taylor, perceiving that it would be useless to oppose so 25powerful an opponent, relinquished his booth, and was engaged at the Amphitheatre, where the most noted of his “merry men” followed him, under an engagement to fight on no stage but his.

We now come to one of the most important epochs in the history of boxing, namely the promulgation of a “Code” for the guidance of the combatants, and the satisfaction of the judges. These rules were “produced by Mr. Broughton, for the better regulation of the Amphitheatre, and approved of by the gentlemen, and agreed to by the pugilists, August 18th, 1743.” The code promulgated by this Fistic Napoleon, whose law-making and fall were much like those of his great successor, had a much longer duration than the “Code Napoleon!” for they lasted in perfect integrity from the period of their date until 1838, when, after the fight between Owen Swift and Brighton Bill, the “New Rules of the Ring” superseded Broughton’s. We here give the original—


1. That a square of a yard be chalked in the middle of the stage; and every fresh set-to after a fall, or being parted from the rails, each second is to bring his man to the side of the square, and place him opposite to the other; and till they are fairly set-to at the lines, it shall not be lawful for the one to strike the other.

2. That, in order to prevent any disputes as to the time a man lies after a fall, if the second does not bring his man to the side of the square, within the space of half a minute, he shall be deemed a beaten man.

3. That, in every main battle, no person whatever shall be upon the stage, except the principals and their seconds; the same rule to be observed in bye-battles, except that in the latter, Mr. Broughton is allowed to be upon the stage to keep decorum, and to assist gentlemen in getting to their places; provided always, he does not interfere in the battle; and whoever presumes to infringe these rules, to be turned immediately out of the house. Everybody is to quit the stage as soon as the champions are stripped, before they set-to.

4. That no champion be deemed beaten, unless he fails coming up to the line in the limited time; or that his own second declares him beaten. No second is to be allowed to ask his man’s adversary any questions or advise him to give out.

5. That, in bye-battles, the winning man to have two-thirds of the money given, which shall be publicly divided upon the stage, notwithstanding any private agreement to the contrary.

6. That to prevent disputes, in every main battle, the principals shall, on the coming on the stage, choose from among the gentlemen present two umpires, who shall absolutely decide all disputes that may arise about the battle; and if the two umpires cannot agree, the said umpires to choose a third, who is to determine it.

7. That no person is to hit his adversary when he is down, or seize him by the ham, the breeches, or any part below the waist: a man on his knees to be reckoned down.

These rules may be called the groundwork of fair play and manly boxing, and no man, from his experience, was better able to frame such a code than Broughton. “It is to be observed,” says the talented author of ‘Fistiana’ (V. G. Dowling, Esq.), “that to them we greatly owe that spirit of fair play which offers so wide a contrast to the practices of barbarous ages, when every advantage was admissible when brute strength or accidental casualties placed a combatant in the power of his antagonist. It is to be lamented that, even in modern times, the inhuman practices of uncivilised periods have subsisted to a disgraceful extent, and hence we have heard of gouging, that is to say, 26forcing out the eye of an antagonist with the thumbs or fingers—purring, kicking a man with nailed shoes as he lies on the ground, striking him in vital parts below the waistband, seizing him when on his knees, and administering punishment till life be extinct, and a variety of other savage expedients by which revenge or passion has been gratified; and it is remarkable that in those counties in which pugilism or prize-fights have been least encouraged, these horrors have been most frequent. We refer to Lancashire in particular, where, even to this day, that species of contest called up-and-down fighting—that is, when a man is got down he is kept down and punished till incapable of motion—is permitted with impunity, unless indeed the death of the victim leads to the apprehension and trial of the survivor.”

The adoption of Broughton’s rules in the metropolis soon led to their extensive dissemination in the provinces, and public boxing was thereby stripped of half its evils; while in the adjustment of private quarrels, the settlement of the simple issue of “which was the better man” after “a fair stand up fight,” put an end to all bad feeling, and the conqueror or the conquered submitted with a good grace to “the fate of war;” the strongest proof of the effects of cultivation, and the best test of a manly and honourable feeling.

“To Broughton, then,” continues Mr. Dowling, “is to be ascribed the credit of two great reforms in the practice of pugilism, namely, the introduction of science and humanity; and by the moral effects these inculcated, more has been done to establish the high character of Englishmen for honour and fair play, than by all the eloquence of the pulpit or the senate.” To Broughton also do we owe the introduction of gloves, or mufflers, for conducting mock combats or sparring matches, as they are now called, by which men receive lessons without injury, or display the art of self-defence without those painful consequences to which Captain Godfrey so willingly submitted, and which he so feelingly describes, but which deterred young aspirants from entering those arenas in which, after harmless initiation, they often became distinguished adepts, or were prepared to take their own parts in unavoidable encounters. Broughton thus announces his new invention in the Daily Advertiser of February, 1747:—

“Mr. Broughton proposes, with proper assistance, to open an academy at his house in the Haymarket, for the instruction of those who are willing to be initiated in the mystery of boxing, where the whole theory and practice of that truly British art, with all the various stops, blows, cross-buttocks, etc., incident to combatants, will be fully taught and explained; and that persons of quality and distinction may not be debarred from entering into a course of those lectures, they will be given with the utmost tenderness and regard to the delicacy of the frame and constitution of the pupil; for which reason mufflers are provided, that will effectually secure them from the inconveniency of black eyes, broken jaws, and bloody noses.”

We have said that Broughton’s original calling was that of a waterman; 27it appears that the interest of his royal patron made him one of the Yeomen of the Guard to the King. He also accompanied the Duke of Cumberland on a tour to the Continent, of which an anecdote is preserved, of which we may say, si non è vero è ben trovato. “At Berlin he saw the fine regiment of Grenadiers raised by Frederick the Great. The champion was asked by his patron what he thought of any of them for a set-to, when Broughton, with a smile, instantly replied, ‘Why, your Royal Highness, I should have no objection to fight the whole regiment, only be kind enough to allow me a breakfast between each battle.’” Thomas Carlyle has omitted this.

Thus far, Broughton appears to have sailed on the wave of triumph. His patrons were numerous and aristocratic; but the confidence which good fortune begets was to prove to him a snare, as it has to many before and since. Slack, a butcher, and a pugilist of some note, but who had already succumbed to George Taylor, had, it appears, a quarrel with Broughton on a race-course, which led to a threat on the part of the champion that he would horsewhip Slack. The result was a challenge: Slack obtained friends, a match was made for £200 a-side, and as the door money was included in the sum contended for, it was estimated at £600 clear. Although properly falling under the biography of Slack, we here give the battle, for the purpose of rendering as complete as possible the history of the Father of Scientific Pugilism.

Broughton’s overweening confidence proved his ruin; for, as we learn from a contemporary authority, “he refused to take training preparation,” although “he had not fought for a long time.” Let others take warning by his fall.

On the evening previous to the battle (Tuesday, April 10, 1750) Broughton, who had invited his patrons and numerous friends to witness the battle, was rather apprehensive that Slack would not fight, and for fear any disappointment should take place, made the latter a present of ten guineas not to break his engagement.

For the first five minutes, Broughton’s superiority over Slack was so evident, that the odds were ten to one in his favour; when Slack, recovering a little from the effects of his antagonist’s blows, made a sudden and unexpected jump, planting a desperate hit between the champion’s eyes, which immediately closed them up. Broughton now appeared stupefied; and as it was two or three minutes before the effects of this fatal blow were manifest, the spectators were at a loss to account for the unusual movements of Broughton, who appeared to feel for, instead of boldly facing and attacking his man. At length his patron, the Duke of Cumberland, exclaimed, 28“What are you about, Broughton?—you can’t fight!—you’re beat!” To which Broughton instantly replied, “I can’t see my man, your highness—I’m blind, but not beat: only let me see my man, and he shall not gain the day yet.” Broughton’s situation was truly distressing; and Slack, following up this singular advantage, obtained a victory in fourteen minutes!

The Duke appears to have been most unworthily angered at his loss, which has been (we suspect extravagantly) stated to have amounted to £10,000. He always declared he had been “sold.” There seems no cause for such an assertion.

This defeat proved Broughton’s ruin. The Duke of Cumberland could never speak of this contest with any degree of temper, and turned his back on the beaten man. The legislature interfered, the amphitheatre was closed, and Broughton never fought more. Previous to this battle, it is said he had grown plethoric; if so, it requires no great acumen to opine the cause of the sudden swelling which temporarily blinded him.

The best monument to the memory of Broughton is the character and description of his pupil and admirer, the gallant Captain, which eulogy, like that of Lord Byron on the “eminent” Mr. John Jackson, remain permanent answers to the slanderers of pugilists and pugilism.

“Advance, brave Broughton!” exclaims Captain Godfrey. “Thee I pronounce captain of the boxers. As far as I can look back, I think I ought to open the ‘characters’ with him: I know none so fit, so able to lead up the van. This is giving him the living preference to the rest; but I hope I have not given any cause to say that there has appeared in any of my characters a partial tincture. I have thoroughly consulted nothing but my unbiassed mind, and my heart has known no call but merit. Wherever I have praised, I have no desire of pleasing; wherever decried, no fear of offending. Broughton, by his manly merit, has bid the highest, therefore has my heart. I really think all will poll with me, who poll with the same principle. Sure there is some standing reason for this preference: what can be stronger than to say that, for seventeen or eighteen years, he has fought every able boxer that appeared against him, and has never yet been beat? This being the case, we may venture to conclude from it; but not to build alone on this, let us examine farther into his merits. What is it that he wants? Has he not all that others want, and all the best can have? Strength equal to what is human, skill and judgment equal to what can be acquired, undebauched wind, and a bottom spirit never to pronounce the word ‘enough.’ He fights the stick as well as most men, and understands a good deal of the small sword. This practice has given him the distinction 29of time and measure beyond the rest. He stops as regularly as the swordsman, and carries his blows truly in the line; he steps not back, distrusting of himself, to stop a blow, and puddle in the return, with an arm unaided by his body, producing but fly-flap blows, such as pastrycooks use to beat those insects from their tarts and cheese-cakes. No! Broughton steps bold and firmly in, bids a welcome to the coming blow; receives it with his guardian arm; then, with a general summons of his swelling muscles, and his firm body seconding his arm, and supplying it with all its weight, pours the pile-driving force upon his man.

“That I may not be thought particular in dwelling long upon Broughton, I leave him with this assertion, that as he, I believe, will scarce trust a battle to a waning age, I never shall think he is to be beat till I see him beaten.”[18]

Broughton retired into private life. In his later days he resided in Walcot Place, Lambeth. He was for many years seen as a constant frequenter of sales of private property, where he purchased out-of-the-way things, curiosities, and articles of vertu, and adhered to the costume of the period of the Second George. Of these habits the author of “Recollections of an Octogenarian,” gives us the following information:—“He appeared to me,” says the writer, “a heavy, thick, round-made, large-boned man, about the height of Humphries.[19] To be sure when I saw him last he was in the vale of years, and had acquired some corpulency. It might be about the year 1785, when attending a lady, to look at some household goods, which were to be sold by auction in Walcot Place, Lambeth, a catalogue could not be procured, and seeing Broughton with one in his hand, I civilly requested the favour of him to permit the lady to look at a certain article in it. The old man replied with a sullen asperity of countenance, ‘I want it myself,’ turning his back upon me. At the instant, up started a little, pert, natty, humorous Jew broker, who, with real politeness, made the lady an offer of his catalogue, and casting an arch look at the testy old champion, who was still close to us, ‘Ah!’ said he, ‘Master Broughton, then you are a bear to-day,’ alluding to the bulls and bears of Change Alley, where Broughton was well known to be daily jobbing with his property.”

The “Octogenarian” confirms the statement given below from the Annual Register:—“He (Broughton) had long before left the ring, and lived independently 30on the property he had saved, and on an annuity which he enjoyed from his Royal Master, the old, or Culloden, Duke of Cumberland, whom, by the bye, he used in former days to style ‘Duke William.’” Boxiana says he died January the 8th, 1789, but this can hardly be the correct date. In the Annual Register for 1789, Chronicle for January, we read as follows:—“Died, at his house, at Walcot Place, Lambeth, in his 85th year, the celebrated John Broughton, whose skill in boxing is well known, and will ever be recorded in the annals of that science. He was originally bred a waterman. His patron, the late Duke of Cumberland, got him appointed one of the yeomen of the guard, which place he enjoyed till his death. He was buried in Lambeth Church on the 21st instant, and his funeral procession was adorned with the presence of the several capital professors of boxing. He is supposed to have died worth £7,000.”

His enjoyment of his place and pension till death seems to qualify the “utter desertion” of his patron, and falsify the “ruin” which is related in Boxiana apparently to “adorn a tale,” if not “to point a moral.”




Stevens—Smallwood—Edward Hunt—Buckhorse—Tom Faulkner—Bill Darts—Lyons (the Waterman)—Peter Corcoran—Harry Sellers—Joe Hood—Stephen Oliver (Death)—Sam Peters—Elisha Crabbe—Small.

Though the prestige of Broughton has gone far to illustrate the name of his conqueror, this lucky, rather than skilful, achievement will not give him the place he deserves among boxers with those with whom success is not “the be-all and end-all” in war or in worldly fortune. Slack fought better battles than that in which he tore the laurel from the brow of the veteran Broughton. We read of him in a contemporary journal:—“Slack is a butcher from Norwich; his height is five feet eight inches and a half, and his weight nearly fourteen stone. He is remarkably compact” (we should think so at fourteen stone for so short a man), “superior to the generality of men in strength, and of excellent bottom. His method of hitting is not regular, and he seldom fights on a preconcerted plan; but his style being suited to the man contending with him, few were able to resist him, when he resolved on victory. His blows were usually given with such force, that his name ‘Slack’ passed into a slang expression, and ‘a slack’un’ meant a smashing hit. His attitude was remarkably upright, legs little separated, the right hand covering the pit of the stomach, and the left placed immediately before the mouth.”[20] It is not possible to distinguish much science in such an attitude, and had he not been more resolute in attack, and more game in taking punishment than his opponents, he might have missed the proud title of champion. We are told, “with the greatest resolution he disputed every inch of ground, and was so averse to shifting or retreating, that he has risked and received a knock-down blow rather than give up his 32position. Slack frequently used the chopper,[21] and generally with success (this says little for his opponents’ defence), in a return. Bringing his fist to his breast, and projecting his elbow, he threw off a blow describing a segment of a circle(!), the centre of which was the elbow, unexpectedly striking his antagonist in the face with the back of his hand. This mode was completely his own, but has since been adopted by many.” (“Pancratia,” p. 40). We do not know that we have ever read more nonsense in as many lines; but this is not the place for a treatise on the art.

Slack, after numerous victories in the provinces, came up to Broughton’s booth, about 1748, to try his fortune. It may interest some of our readers to see a challenge of the day in which John Slack figures as the respondent. The advertisement is curious.

October 30, 1744.—At the Castle, in Framlingham, in Suffolk, on Monday, the 12th day of November next ensuing, there will be a severe trial of manhood between the following Champions, viz.,

I, Daniel Smith, the Suffolk Champion, do once more invite Mr. John Slack, the Norfolk Champion, to meet and fight me at the time and place above said, for the sum of forty guineas: and though I had the misfortune to be defeated by him before, am sure I am much superior in the art of boxing, and doubt not but I shall give him and the company entire satisfaction.


I, John Slack, the Norfolk Champion, do accept the above challenge, and will be certain to meet and fight the above hero for the said sum, at the time and place above mentioned; and don’t doubt but I shall support the character I have hitherto maintained.


N.B. They are to fight upon a stage, and galleries will be erected for the reception of gentlemen, &c.

The doors will be opened at nine o’clock, and the champions mount the stage at one.

It will be seen from this that Daniel Smith had already fallen before Slack’s ponderous arm. When and where we have found no record. That on this occasion he again made the Suffolk champion strike his colours, may be fairly assumed from the fact that when, after some successes over inferior boxers, he had the audacity to challenge George Taylor himself, it is recorded as Slack’s first defeat. “He had not been hitherto beaten.” The battle, as already narrated, took place on the last day of January, 1750, at Broughton’s amphitheatre, and was a desperate contest on the part of Slack, who rushed in till he was punished to helplessness.

JACK SLACK, of Bristol, the Conqueror of Broughton.

From a Bust sculptured by Sivier.

33Shortly after this defeat Slack was present at Hounslow Races. Here a dispute arose, in the course of which Broughton, considering Slack’s conduct insolent, assumed a high tone of superiority, threatening to horsewhip “the butcher” on the spot. With the merits of the quarrel we have nothing to do. Slack, in whose composition there was certainly no fear of man, at once challenged the redoubted and highly patronised waterman, who upon the spot accepted the defiance. Some of the preliminary incidents of this remarkable battle have been already touched upon in the memoir of Broughton. That skilful boxer appears to have viewed the challenge of Slack with a fatal self-confidence. Indeed, considering that Slack had recently surrendered to Taylor, whose qualifications none knew better than Broughton, who had long since defeated him, probably more than once, there was some ground for confidence, and we have it on authority that he considered there was no necessity for regular training, imperfectly as that process was carried out at that period. We prefer copying an account from a paper of the day, to the embellished apocrypha of later histories.

“On Wednesday, April 11 (1750), was fought the grand boxing match between the celebrated Broughton, hitherto invincible, and John Slack, the Norfolk butcher. Before the battle began Broughton gave Slack ten guineas to fight him, according to a previous promise, which Slack immediately betted against one hundred guineas offered as odds against him. The first two minutes the odds were ten to one in favour of Broughton; but Slack, recovering himself, struck a blow which blinded his adversary, and following up his advantage, obtained a complete victory in fourteen minutes, to the great mortification of the knowing ones, including a peer of the first rank, who, betting ten to one, lost £10,000. The money received at the doors was £130, besides 200 tickets at a guinea and a half each; and as the battle was for the whole house, it is supposed the victor cleared £600.”

We have already said that the downfal of Broughton was the downfal of public pugilism in the metropolis; whatever there was of good in the art to a great extent perishing at the caprice of a prince and the power of a few aristocrats. If these are necessary concomitants to its existence, it would not have been worth preserving, but it has survived the frowns of power, and had a better support in the favour of the people. If Broughton’s theatre was closed, the ars pugnandi dwelt in the provinces, and we find our hero engaged in 1751 at Harlston, in Norfolk, with a gigantic Frenchman, whose name, Petit or Pettit, almost savours of a jest. Pettit appears to have been an exhibitor in a circus as a “strong man,” and was noted for immense muscular powers. Of his boxing capabilities, like those of the Gondolier, we cannot form a high estimate. The following letter appeared in the papers of the time:—

Harlston, Norfolk, July 30th, 1751.

“Yesterday, in the afternoon, Slack and Pettit met and fought. At the first set-to Pettit seized Slack by the throat, held him up against the rails, and grained[22] him so much as to 34make him extremely black. This continued for half a minute, before Slack could break from Pettit’s hold; after which, for near ten minutes, Pettit kept fighting and driving hard at Slack, when at length Slack closed with his antagonist, and gave him a severe fall, after that a second and a third, but between these falls, Pettit threw Slack twice off the stage; indeed Pettit so much dreaded Slack’s falls, that he ran directly at his hams, and tumbled him down,[23] and by that means gave Slack an opportunity of making the falls easy. When they had been fighting 18 minutes the odds run against Slack, a guinea to a shilling; whereas, on first setting out, it was three or four to one on his head; but after this time Slack shortened Pettit so as to disable him from running and throwing him down in the manner he had done before, but obliged him to stand to close fighting. Slack then closed one of his eyes, and beat him very much about the face; at twenty minutes Pettit grew weaker and Slack stronger. This was occasioned by Slack’s straight way of fighting. At twenty-two minutes the best judges allowed Slack to have the advantage over Pettit very considerably, as he was then recovering his wind, owing to his game qualities. When they had boxed twenty-four minutes, Pettit once more threw Slack over the rails. This indeed Slack allowed him to do, for as he got his hold, Slack fired a blow under Pettit’s ribs that hurt severely. While Slack was again getting upon the stage (it was not half a minute before he remounted), Pettit had so much the fear of his antagonist before his eyes, that he walked off without so much as civilly taking leave of the spectators. The cockers call this rogueing it, for it is generally thought that Pettit ran away full strong. The whole time of their fighting was twenty-five minutes, and this morning the battle was judged to Slack, who drew the first ten guineas out of the box.”

From the last sentence it would seem that there was a subscribed fund, and principal and secondary prizes for the winners.

We read in “Pancratia,” that “the name of Slack was, and not unjustly, a terror to fightable rustics.” “At a country fair a ‘native,’ depending on his natural prowess, gave Slack a blow in the face. We may presume it was returned, and ‘a ring’ being called, a sharp set-to began. It is said the countryman had the advantage, until Slack exclaimed with fervour, ‘What! shall it be said a ploughman beat Jack Slack?’ The very name appalled the countryman, who, imagining his antagonist had been playing with him, said, ‘Have I been fightin’ wi’ Slack? I’ll ha’ no more on’t.’ And he was as good as his word, donning his clothes and leaving the field to the veteran professional.”

The next recorded battle of Slack was for 100 guineas with Cornelius Harris, a collier of Kingswood, near Bristol. It took place on the 13th of March, 1755. The skill and tactics of Slack were severely tried, Harris fighting desperately in Slack’s own early style for twenty minutes, when he gave in.

On October 20th, 1759, Slack is again recorded as victor in a fight for £50 aside with one Moreton, who had issued a challenge to the champion. It came off at Acton Wells. Moreton proved himself a courageous, if not a good boxer; but at the end of thirty-five minutes he acknowledged his mistake.

35Ten years had now elapsed since Slack had vanquished the renowned Broughton, and held the title of champion—but the honour was dazzling, and another hero put in his claim for the towering prize. Slack’s fame was well established; and here royalty once more appeared on the pugilistic scene; for Broughton’s old patron, the Duke of Cumberland, stepped forward and backed Slack for £100 against Bill Stevens, the Nailer, whom the Duke of York took under his patronage. The Haymarket was the scene of action, and a stage was erected in the Tennis Court, James Street, on the day of the 17th of June, 1760. Slack entered the field with all the confidence of a veteran, and was acknowledged to have the advantage in the first part of the battle; but the Nailer, with an arm like iron, received the ponderous blows of his antagonist on his left with ease, while with his right arm he so punished the champion’s nob, that he knocked off the title, picked it up, and wore it. Thus fell the hitherto invincible Slack.

This second great mistake of William of Cumberland seems to have disgusted him with the ring, and we hear no more of him. The Duke of York here spoken of was one of the uncles of George III., whose father, Frederick, Prince of Wales, died in George II.’s lifetime.

Slack now quitted the pugilistic profession, and returned to his old trade, opening a butcher’s shop in Chandos Street, Covent Garden. Here he carried on a good business, but still mixed himself in fistic matters. He backed and trained George Meggs, of whom more anon, to fight Bill Stevens, his conqueror, for the championship and 200 guineas. The fight came off on the 2nd of March, 1761, at the Tennis Court, St. James’ Street. The reporter says, “At the first onset Stevens missed his blow, and Meggs struck him that instant on the side of the head and knocked him down. This error seems to have lost him the battle. After this the battle lasted seventeen minutes, with scarcely a blow struck, when Stevens gave in.” We regret to say that this disgraceful affair was clearly traced to Slack, who gave Stevens 50 guineas and his stake. “Pancratia” says: “An old supporter of Stevens, meeting him one day, expressed his surprise at this defeat, when Bill drily answered him, ‘Why, Lord bless you, the day I fought Jack Slack I got 90 guineas; but I got 50 guineas more than I should otherwise have done by letting Georgy beat me; and, damme, ain’t I the same man still?’” The Nailer and Slack both fell into disrepute; but the latter stuck to his business, and appears to have prospered until his death in 1778.



This tremendous boxer, whose courage found no counterpart in his honesty, will aptly come in here. It would be tedious, could they even be dug up, to give an outline of his many battles before his crowning victory over Slack, with the exception of one, that with Jacob Taplin, the coal-eaver.

The winter of 1760 was rendered memorable in the annals of pugilism by a desperately contested battle, “fought in the month of February between William Stevens the Nailer and Jacob Taplin. The site fixed on for deciding the boxing match was the hollow known as Marylebone Basin, which held about 3,000 spectators. A ring was formed in its centre, and the champions commenced the combat. Taplin in the first rounds seemed to have much the best of the Nailer, who received some tremendous blows in the ‘bread-basket,’ which had several times knocked him down. The last time Stevens seemed to rise with the fury of a lion roused from slowness and placidity into excessive irritation. He faced his antagonist and let fly, levelling him at his feet. The odds, which had been in favour of Taplin, now became four to one on Stevens. In the next round he repeated his knock-down by a tremendous blow below the left breast. When Taplin rose next time, he closed on him suddenly and both fell. The next round decided the battle in favour of Stevens, who struck Taplin on the left eye with his left hand, while with the other he followed it by a blow on the temple, which laid him senseless. Taplin not being prepared in time to resume the contest, Stevens was declared the victor.”—Daily Advertiser, Feb. 20, 1760.

And now the fame of Stevens running abroad he received the highest patronage, and was matched for 100 guineas aside against the veteran champion Slack. The result has been already told. He disabled Slack’s guard by repeated and heavy blows on his left forearm, and followed them by a right hand lunge at the head, accompanied by a trip at his left foot, which disturbed the champion’s balance. In the words of the report, “he with his right hand beat him about the head, while at the same time tripping him off his centre with his foot.” The champion’s title fell to Stevens, but he did not long wear it, through his own misconduct. The battle, or rather sham fight at the Tennis Court with George Meggs, the collier, has been already noticed. Stevens, after seventeen minutes of trickery, scarcely knowing how to make a fight of it, gave in.[24]

37Stevens’ later fights were few. His backers had, of course, deserted him. On July 4, 1769, we find as follows: “William Stevens, the Nailer, who dexterously played the cross with George Meggs, fought a battle with M’Guire, an Irish pugilist, on the green stage at the back of Montague House. M’Guire was beaten.”

Stevens was also defeated by one Turner, but the date and circumstances are not recorded. We learn this fact from the account of Turner’s victory over Peter Corcoran, the Irish champion (Sept. 24, 1769).

Stevens’ career closed in defeat and disgrace. Eighteen years after his victory over Slack, he entered the ring with the rising Harry Sellers (see Sellers, post). Stevens added another illustration to the ring proverb—“Youth will be served.” Had Stevens kept the straight course, he might have emulated Taylor, Broughton, and Slack. The date of his death is uncertain.


Among the luminaries of George Taylor’s Great Booth, and subsequently of Broughton’s Amphitheatre, Tom Smallwood, though never opposed to the very foremost men of his time, was a ready and resolute boxer of no small pretensions. Captain Godfrey has enshrined him in his curious pages, so that entire omission of him would be inexcusable in these sketches of the early heroes of the ring. “Had he but possessed weight (whence we may infer he was what we should now call a ‘middle weight,’ say 11 stone), he was capable of standing against any man.” It must be remembered that “rushing,” and “hammering,” and “driving against the rails,” seem to have been much in vogue in the stage encounters of the period; and the preposterous weight of thirteen stone and a half and fourteen stone was 38thought advantageous for a man of five feet eight or nine inches! Smallwood’s battles were numerous and creditable, whether in defeat or success. His first battle recorded in the “Diurnals” was with one Dimmocks, a powerful carman, at Taylor’s Booth, in May, 1741, the month after Broughton had defeated Stevenson, the coachman. It was a desperate affair, and well contested by Smallwood, then a youth. After three-quarters of an hour of severe fighting, Smallwood was beaten by the superior strength of his opponent.

In the following November Tom Smallwood again entered the lists with Richard Harris, a brick-maker, for 50 guineas. It is described as “one of the severest boxing matches that had taken place for many years,” and “contested with alternate successes, with the greatest hardihood and intrepidity, for one hour, when victory decided in favour of Smallwood.” Broughton expressed a high opinion of the courage and skill of Smallwood. The day was also noted for the first appearance of “Buckhorse” (John Smith) upon this stage, who fought “a draw” with Harry Gray, the clogmaker. See Buckhorse, post.

In the notice of George Taylor will be found a couple of specimens of his booth advertisements. They contain the names of Tom Smallwood and Will Willis (the Fighting Quaker). On this occasion (April 28, 1742) our hero despised Willis, who derived his nickname from a remarkably plain and formal appearance, and a sedateness of manner not common among “knights of the fives,” with whom fun and flash appear to have been ever prevalent. At this point, after an imaginary account of Smallwood’s victory, stuffed with the slang of the first quarter of the present century, and bald attempts at facetiousness, the “Historian” adds, “Tom Smallwood fought several other battles, in all of which he proved victorious; but the combatants were not of sufficient importance to claim mention.”—Boxiana, vol. i., p. 33. He then proceeds, p. 67, to give a memoir of Edward Hunt, on whom he lavishes just praises, and records his defeat by Smallwood, as one out of the many specimens of method with which his hash is concocted.

Smallwood, after the closing of Taylor’s Booth in 1744, does not appear to have belonged to Broughton’s company, for we find him fighting one King, a butcher, at Stanton Green, who beat him, in January, 1746. The particulars of this battle are not recorded, but King is said to have also “fought several good battles at the Booth.” There is something obscure about this battle, as Captain Godfrey, writing in 1747, a constant visitor at Broughton’s, and au courant with every man in the fistic world, says, “If I was to choose a boxer for my money, and could but purchase him strength equal to his resolution, Smallwood should be the man.”

39The most remarkable of Smallwood’s triumphs was his victory over Broughton’s favourite pupil and protegé, Edward Hunt, whose defeat of Hawksley, the Life-guardsman, had made him the talk of the town. The battle had been long talked of, and was fought on a stage at Hounslow, July 14, 1757. The stake was 150 guineas. For thirty minutes the combat was carried on with equal resolution, and without any leading advantage. “For the first 35 minutes the odds were alternately on each man. After this time, Tom, who was the heavier man, closed with Hunt more frequently, and by superior strength followed it up with such advantage, that in 50 minutes the battle was decided in his favour.” Hunt is said to have weighed but nine stone. Smallwood was seconded by “Old George Taylor,” and Hunt by the champion, Jack Slack.

Smallwood, who had now been at least seventeen years before the public, seems to have retired a conqueror, as we have no further mention of his name.

EDWARD HUNT—1746‒1758.

This favourite pupil of Broughton continually appears in his master’s advertisements. He was a boxer of first-rate science, as then practised, with unquestionable courage, extreme hardihood, and remarkable activity. Though barely five feet five inches, and weighing but nine stone, he often fought and defeated men of large stature, and vastly his superiors in weight. “Being constantly overmatched, he had more difficulties to encounter than any other boxer on the list, and of the few instances of ‘shifting’ which occurred in his time, he is the most singular, for he conquered the stoutest men by his admirable art. With strength so much beyond his own opposed to him he might have been allowed to drop, but he seldom fell without a blow. He never confined himself to one attitude, for, being extremely active, he found he could more effectually confuse his antagonist by continually changing his guard. He endeavoured to avoid blows aimed at his body by stepping aside, and then took an opportunity of dexterously ‘winding’ his man, who was driven forward by his own force. If a blow was aimed at his head, he stooped to let his adversary’s arm pass over him, and then succeeded in general in planting a good body blow. These manœuvres proved highly advantageous to Hunt in his pugilistic career, for his opponents became aware of these practices, and accordingly fought 40on the defensive, by which means he became the assailant, and avoided being overwhelmed by their superior power.” This is the description of a consummate boxer by a master hand; quoted in “Pancratia,” pp. 50, 51. “What a picture of a combination of the styles of Young Dutch Sam and Bendigo! With this before you read Pierce Egan’s stuff about Hunt’s not “fearing the disparagement (sic) between him and his lofty opponent,” and “stood up to Hawksley prime as a game cock,” etc. The contemporary account of Hunt’s battle with Hawksley is brief:—

“On June 11th (1746) a very severe battle was contested at the Amphitheatre between Edward Hunt, a pupil of Mr. Broughton’s, weighing only nine stone,[25] and one Hawksley a Life-guardsman, who weighed seventeen stone. The odds before fighting were ten to one in favour of Hawksley. The battle lasted only ten minutes, during which the odds changed in favour of Hunt, who was declared the victor.” This affair is most unaccountable; shifting, and the “planting” of a nine stone man, could hardly have beaten Hawksley in ten minutes, unless he was out of condition, drunk, or a coward.

His next great battle was with Smallwood (1757), already narrated; and his last recorded appearance was with Richard Mills, a game boxer, known by the name of “the Onion Boy,” May 17, 1758, at Islington. After an hour’s severe fighting, Hunt, upon whom large odds were betted, was compelled to surrender.


There was one pugilist of this period, whose name we rather introduce as a remarkable lusus naturæ than as an illustrator of the noble art. This individual was John Smith, more commonly known as Buckhorse. The following particulars are chiefly derived from a memoir which appeared in the “Eccentric Magazine.”

BUCKHORSE (John Smith), 1732‒1746.

After an Etching by William Hogarth.

41Buckhorse, whose real name is said to have been John Smith, first saw the light in the house of a sinner, in that part of London known by the name of Lewkner’s Lane, a place notorious in the extreme for the eccentricity of the characters it contained: here the disciples of Bamfylde Moore Carew were to be found in crowds, and cadgers of all descriptions resorted to regale themselves upon the good things of this life, laughing at the credulity of the public in being so easily duped by their impositions; and here the juvenile prig was soon taught to become an adept in the profession, by taking out a handkerchief or a snuff-box, from the pocket of a coat covered with bells, without ringing any of them. In these slums the finished thief roosted from the prying eyes of society, and laid plans for his future depredations.

“It appears, then, that few places could boast of more originality of character than that from which Buckhorse sprang; and, from the variety of talents here displayed, there is little doubt he did not remain long a novice. As we have never been troubled with any account to what good-natured personage he owed his origin, we cannot determine; but suffice it to observe, that little Buckhorse and his mother were turned out upon the wide world, long before he knew its slippery qualities, by the cruel publican, their landlord, which inhuman circumstance took place about the year 1720.

“This freak of nature, it would seem, was indebted to his mother for what little instruction he received, the principal of which was an extraordinary volubility of speech; and from his early acquaintance with the streets he picked up the rest of his qualifications.

“Buckhorse’s composition, however rude and unsightly, was not without harmony; and although his fist might not appear musical to his antagonist by its potent touch, yet when applied to his own chin, was capable of producing a variety of popular tunes, to the astonishment of all those who heard and saw him, and by which peculiar trait he mostly subsisted, added to selling little switches for a halfpenny a-piece, his cry of which was so singular, that Shuter, the celebrated comedian, among his other imitations, was more than successful in his mimicry of Buckhorse, which was repeatedly called for a second time.

“As a pugilist, Buckhorse ranked high for strength and endurance among the boxers of the day, and displayed great muscular power in the battles he contested.”

“Boxiana” says, under date 1742, after the fight of Smallwood and Willis, “About this time the noted Buckhorse fought Harry Gray, when the latter got severely punished by this ugly customer.” It is true that this battle took place in 1742, but if Mr. Egan had read Fig’s bill, which he prints at p. 44, vol. i., he would have seen there that, ten years previous (Sept. 18, 1732), it is announced that “Buckhorse and several other pugilists will show the art of boxing.” Unless the infant was eight years old in 1720, he must have been “noted” enough to be specially underlined in capital 42letters at twelve years old! Fig died in 1734 (see p. 12, ante). Buckhorse continues, too, it will be seen, in Broughton’s bill for his “New Amphitheatre,” on the 13th of March, 1743 (p. 24, ante), and is there advertised, not for a match among the eight men specially named as to be paired, but in a singular manner, indicative of a mêlée rather than a boxing match. Thus: “N.B. There will be a battle royal by the Noted Buckhorse and seven or eight others, after which there will be several bye-battles with others.” Buckhorse seems to have fought previously in these bye-battles, e.g., that with Harry Gray (who here appears among the men to be matched), two years previously (23rd Nov., 1741), after Tom Smallwood had defeated Harris. (See ante, p. 38.)

There is something truly Hogarthian in the portrait handed down to us; and as he was a contemporary of “the valiant Fig,” it is no strained supposition that it came originally from the great English master’s pencil, as well as that of the champion himself.

“As ugly as Buckhorse” was for a long time the uncomplimentary expression for a remarkably ugly man. This singular being is said to have been in the custom of allowing himself to be knocked down for a trifling gratuity by any one who might fancy a trial of the strength of his own arm.


One of the best men of his day, and who divided his attention between the two great English games, cricket and boxing, both, in a scientific form, nearly contemporaneous, was Tom Faulkner. Twice, fired with the ambition of holding the champion’s title, did he enter the lists with the renowned George Taylor, and twice, after a good fight, he succumbed to his master in skill. But Tom feared not an uphill game. He felt that he had the key to the secret of his former defeats, and a third time, in 1758, challenged Taylor to the field. Taylor had now retired, and, as already stated, kept the Fountain at Deptford. The “old ’un” accepted the challenge without hesitation, and in Hertfordshire, one mile and a half from St. Alban’s, on the 13th of August, 1758, the heroes met, the stakes being 200 guineas and the door money. Faulkner, it is said, with the odds of three to one against him, risked all he possessed upon the event. Faulkner, knowing his man, determined 43to keep him to fighting. “He began the attack with astonishing courage, amounting almost to ferocity. For several of the earlier rounds Faulkner was either knocked down or thrown. About the fifteenth, Taylor was blowing, but in a rally each put in a dozen hard blows before Faulkner levelled his opponent. Taylor now began to shift, and several times fell without a blow.[26] This created much disapprobation and confusion, but Faulkner easily consented to proceed. Afterwards they set to more resolutely, if possible, than before, when after a severe contest of one hour and a quarter, Taylor acknowledged himself beaten. They were both carried off the ground, and it was the general opinion that more skill and courage never was displayed by any pugilist in this country. Taylor’s loss of an eye and a blow at the close of the fight on the other were the aiding excuses of his defeat.”

In the next year (1759) Tom Faulkner was in turn challenged by Joe James. Joe came of a fighting family, and his brother Jack James, “the bruiser at Broughton’s Amphitheatre,” with his father, “old Jockey James, of Newmarket,” seconded young Joe. The battle came off at Putney, Surrey, on April 8, 1759, for 100 guineas. “A stage was erected near the White Lion Inn, and they set-to about two o’clock. Before a blow was struck the odds were two to one (they betted preposterously tempting odds in those green and early days) in favour of James, and after the third round five to one. Joe knocked Faulkner down several times (here was piling up the agony), when, in the last round, which was not more than ten minutes from the commencement of the contest, Faulkner, by a well-aimed blow, brought down James (!), on which, though apparently not hurt or even fatigued, he gave in.” We should think so: it would have been mere tempting fortune to go on. The chronicler adds, “the indignation of the spectators was very highly expressed by their hissing him off the ground,”[27] which did not, it seems, prevent the bets going with the battle-money. Verily, as Bildad the Shuhite said of the man of Uz, so may we say of this ancient ring-scribe, “Behold, he is yet in his greenness.” “Old Jockey James” seems to have known when to give “the office” that the “book was full.”

Tom appears now to have betaken himself to attacking his opponents’ stumps, and bowling them out with “underhand twisters,” for as yet the hand above the elbow was not, the curve-bladed bat was like a butter-knife, and two stumps with a cross-piece gave every chance that a straight 44ball would go harmlessly through the wicket. Yet were there skill and enjoyment in those days of our forefathers, and the village green and its May-pole were institutions of “Merrie England.” The May-pole is as extinct as the megatherium, and what has modern science given us in its place? Among those who—

“At foot-ball or at cricket,
At prison-base or touching-chase
Right featly then could prick it,”

Tom Faulkner was long remembered. Yet does his name again occur in 1789. The bruisers of Birmingham challenged those of the best note in London. Isaac Perrins challenged Tom Johnson, the champion (See life of Johnson, post.) Jacombs challenged Bryan (Big Ben); Pickard, George Ingleston, the brewer; and these fights came off, as we shall see, in favour of the metropolis. Fired with the idea, Tom Faulkner (at 53 years of age!) challenged Watson, and Thornhill threw down the gauntlet to Hooper, the tinman. These two last matches went off; a proof, we think, that the Birmingham backers were not without judgment, though they did lose the first three events.

Tom Faulkner was certainly an evergreen of amazing sap and pith. Early in 1791 he was challenged by Thornhill (called in the report “the Warwickshire bruiser”), who had been disappointed in his match with Hooper, the tinman. The veteran Tom accepted the cartel, and they met at Studley, in Warwickshire, March 21, 1791. “Ryan seconded Faulkner, and Williams was his bottleholder. Jack Lea waited upon Thornhill, with Biggs his bottleholder.” We copy the report. “At two o’clock the combatants set-to, and throughout the battle Tom’s superiority in judgment and distance was manifestly evident. Thornhill was much the stronger man, and only fell by one knock-down blow during the contest, except the last, which Tom struck him in the neck, too forcibly to be withstood, and Thornhill gave in. The conflict was extremely severe, and lasted fifty minutes. The door money amounted to upwards of £80, two-thirds of which became the property of the winner, and the remainder to the unsuccessful combatant.” Faulkner was one of those lucky men who closed a career of exceptional length with the garland of victory on his grey head. Tom was living in 1798.



Among the boxers of his day, Bill Darts, the dyer, held a high reputation for steady courage and hard hitting, and by no means a contemptible amount of science. One of the most remarkable of his battles was with Tom Juchau,[28] at Guildford, Surrey, in May, 1766. It was a famous fight for forty minutes, when Juchau was beaten out of time. The stakes were 1,000 guineas.

Dogget, the West Country Bargeman, had secured so high a name among the “twoads” that an invite was given to Bill Darts to come down to Marlborough to be thrashed. With the first part of the invitation Bill complied; the second he not only declined, but, per contra, gave Mr. Dogget such a thrashing, that he carried off the honours of the day and the irate countryman’s 100 guineas staked upon the event.

Swansey, the butcher, found friends to back him for 50 guineas, and he and Darts met, Oct. 13, 1767, on Epping Forest. The butcher was soon knocked down and thoroughly cut up.

Bill Darts now invited all comers for the championship, which he had held for five years, when Lyons,[29] a waterman of Kingston-upon-Thames, disputed his title. They met, and Darts, for the first time, was defeated in forty-five minutes, on the 27th of June, 1769.

Bill Darts next entered the lists with a competitor of formidable name—Death 46(Stephen Oliver). Oliver was certainly “stale,” as he had been one of Broughton’s favourite pupils. (See Death.) It was a well-contested fight, Oliver proving extremely game and skilful; but the superior strength and weight of Darts’ hits overcame the darts of Death, and the namesake of the universal conqueror fell before Bill’s victorious arm. This battle was fought at Putney, on a stage, March 25th, 1770. “Boxiana” has not given a single date to any of Darts’ fights; accordingly, “Fights for the Championship,” 1855, informs its readers that, “the dates of these battles,” as well as those of George Meggs, Millsom, etc., “are not recorded!”

On the 18th of May, 1771, during Epsom races, Bill Darts fought Peter Corcoran, an Irish bruiser of vast pretensions, about whom Pierce Egan has indited his usual amount of rhodomontade, which we shall correct under his name. The match was made for £100 aside, by the notorious black-leg and bully, Captain O’Kelly, the lucky owner of Eclipse, who, “before the fight gave Bill Darts 100 guineas to play cross.”[30] The rest of this nefarious swindle we will give, according to our plan, under the notice of the so-called victor Corcoran. Bill had now sold his reputation, and was a lost man; his seducer, the greater scoundrel, fared, like woman’s seducer, none the worse

“Through tattered clothes small vices do appear—
Robes and furred gowns hide all.”

Perhaps one of the funniest pieces of historical perversion on record is Pierce Egan’s account (without a date) of this scandalous affair. It would be injustice to mutilate it. “The famous Bill Darts now mounted the stage with Corcoran for £200, to give additional sport to Epsom races. The set-to commenced with cautious sparring on the part of Darts, who soon discovered that he could not win (!), and in a short time gave in. A singular report crept into circulation, accounting for Darts losing the battle, that Colonel O’Kelly (one of the most celebrated sportsmen on the turf) backed his countryman to a large amount; but to make his bets dead sure, on the night previous to the fight, he presented Darts with £100 not to win the battle, but positively to lose it. Surely no thoroughbred sportsman could commit so barefaced a robbery!” This is rather modest, considering the Colonel’s character; what follows, however, distances it by lengths. “And upon the best information, we are assured that Darts in his prime was never half man enough for Peter Corcoran!” The notes of admiration are Pierce’s: we have omitted his emphasised italics and small capitals. The reader may form his own conclusion by reading Corcoran’s actual battles.

47Darts appears several times as a second during 1771 and the following years; notedly in a fight between Sam Peters, of Birmingham, and Rossemus Gregory, an Irishman, in which Darts seconded the Hibernian, but behaved so unfairly to save his man that Peters refused to fight on. The result will be found under Peters.


We may as well here dispatch Peter Corcoran, to whom Pierce Egan has devoted several pages of fabrication in honour of “ould Ireland.” First he thrashed all the potato diggers in the vicinity of his father’s mud edifice; then he, and perhaps another, beat an English butcher who refused to let him and a friend have a shoulder of mutton at their own price: Pierce almost hints they had no money. It seems that Paddy not only thrashed the butcher “Master Steel” in a few minutes, but “shortly afterwards enjoyed his mutton (is the reader or the mutton roasted?) with as keen an appetite as if nothing had happened (which we suppose was the case), and next day pursued his journey to London.”[31] At Portsmouth, after a trip to sea, he performed a number of feats of strength; one among them was “beating a whole press gang, and breaking the lieutenant’s sword over his head.” Here’s a scene for a new “Black-eyed Susan.” The promotion of Billy Taylor’s sweetheart did not, however, fall to the lot of Peter, and “on leaving the navy, he came to London,” etc.

The first authenticated notice of his name we find under the date of,

“Sept. 4th (1769). A boxing match was decided between Turner, a pugilist who had beaten Bill Stevens, and Peter Corcoran, an Irishman, for £20 aside, which was won by the former.” The battle took place in Hyde Park, and is correctly given in “Fistiana,” though without a date. Now let us turn to “Boxiana,” p. 59, vol. i. “Peter beat one Turner, who fought him for £20, and although the latter had beaten the Nailer, yet, in the hands of Corcoran, he was soon disposed of.” Three others, “good men,” Dalton and Davis and “Smiler, the bricklayer,” were also, according to the same veracious chronicler, “beaten dreadfully.” These exploits bring us to Corcoran’s two “crosses” and his final thrashing. That with Bill Darts we have said enough about. Of this we read in a contemporary print—“After 48a little sparring, Corcoran gave Darts a blow on the side of the head, which drove him against the rail of the stage, when he immediately gave in. It was said that Darts had played booty, and none of the sporting men would afterwards back him; thus by one dirty action Darts lost all the fame he had been for so many years acquiring.” This reflection has a peculiar moral squint, as we have already said. “What about the Colonel who bought the poor fellow?”

Whether his next battle with Peters was a victory we will just leave to the reader of the report. “The long expected match between Sam Peters and Peter Corcoran took place at Waltham Abbey, Essex, in June, 1774. At setting-to the bets were three to one in favour of Peters (this, we should say, was a good thing), who, though he maintained the superiority, gave in without any apparent cause at the expiry of fifteen minutes, greatly to the disappointment of the sporting ones.” We should think so. Here is the account from “Boxiana,” p. 86, “Sam Peters was the best man, according to Corcoran’s account, that ever set-to with him. It was a complete hammering fight (!), and at the expiration of ten minutes Peters declared he was satisfied, and Corcoran’s body for several days afterwards was entirely black, the bruises being extremely severe.” Heavy work on both sides for ten minutes. The fastest moderns cannot go this pace. The account of Corcoran’s battle with Harry Sellers, October 16th, 1776, will be found under Harry Sellers. As Peter was thrashed, it was of course “a sell,” though it looks like a victory on its merits, and “Boxiana” “points a moral,” which is applicable to this as to all other cases of betrayal of backers by pugilists, who should never forget—

“’Tis not in mortals to command success,”

but “do more, deserve it,” is very good—if the case warranted it.

The favourable notice in “Pancratia,” whence Pierce drew the staple he has spun out so absurdly, thus speaks of Corcoran: “Peter, as a pugilist of his period, stands first rank as a fair fighter; being generally engaged with powerful pugilists, he was unfortunate in the events of his contests, and indeed he had little reason to triumph when victorious, for as he never shifted or fell, unless accidentally, without a blow, he seldom escaped a severe drubbing.” These are the words of truth and soberness, and place Corcoran’s courage and game on a fair footing, despite the extravagant eulogies of his compatriot. Perhaps, however, Mr. Vincent Dowling, in his “Fistiana,” has exercised the wisest discretion; finding the accounts too discrepant for reconciling, he has left the name of Corcoran out of the letter C altogether.



Harry Sellers, a west country boxer of deserved provincial reputation, was chosen by some friends as a likely young fellow to reduce the braggadocia of Corcoran, whose challenges were of the true Hibernian cut of some hedge-schoolmaster transplanted to the Seven Dials. The match was made for 100 guineas “and a bet of £500 or £600 on the event,”—we do not profess to know what the last phrase means—and the combatants met at the Crown Inn, Staines, October 10, 1776. The attendance appears to have been remarkably good. Corcoran, with the “gift of the gab,” was the landlord of the Blakeney’s Head, St. Giles’s, and was a sort of “Stunning Joe Banks” of his day: what he was good for as a pugilist we cannot say. “At the first onset,” says the report, “Corcoran gave his antagonist a violent blow, which threw him to the farthest end of the stage, and the odds increased from three to four to one in Peter’s favour. Sellers now fought very shy for about eighteen minutes, in order to wind his antagonist, which having accomplished, he advanced boldly and beat him by straight-forward hitting in ten minutes.” Did any one ever read a more “plain unvarnished tale” of how a natural fighter and good boxer beat a bounceable publican? What need of the farrago we find at pages 86, 87, 88, vol. i. of “Boxiana,” to explain that which needs no explanation? Corcoran was thrashed, and, we believe, couldn’t help it. Pierce tells us a story of his house in St. Giles’s flowing with “all sorts of spirits, plenty of new pots, etc., inside and outside painted, and got up in superior style to what it was ever witnessed before,” etc. Moreover—and here is the detail that clinches it—“Peter was playing skittles next morning with all the activity and cheerfulness of a man who had never been engaged in pugilism.”

As Pierce about this period was a Dublin “gossoon,” he must have had an exact knowledge of the decorations, interior and exterior, of Peter’s hostelrie, and a reliable tradition of his morning’s amusements. For ourselves, a much more careful search than that of the inventor of “Boxiana” (who made none, by the way), fails to tell us more than we have hereinbefore set down.

On the 4th of June, 1777, at Ascot Heath races, Joe Hood,[32] a hardy and successful boxer, fought Harry Sellers for 50 guineas aside. Joe fought with great courage and skill, but the science and activity of Sellers secured the 50victory. Hood fought Sellers again, four weeks afterwards (June 2), and was again beaten.

In June, 1778, Harry Sellers met the once formidable champion, Bill Stevens, the Nailer. It was a one-sided affair. Stevens, still courageous, could not stand against the rapidity, skill, and freshness of Harry, and was defeated. The stake was but £25, which shows how the mighty Stevens had fallen.

The Crown, at Slough, a favourite rendezvous of the swell patrons of pugilism, was the scene, on the 25th of September, 1780, of a boxing match between Harry Sellers and Duggan Fearns, an Irish boatswain (called Jack Fearns in “Boxiana”). The accounts read very like a cross, though we can hardly say that there is clear evidence. “The battle lasted one minute and a half, when victory was declared in favour of Duggan.” We are not told how the event was brought about, but the reporter adds his own opinion: “the amateurs were swindled to a large amount,” and certainly very clumsily.

On the 7th of June (1785), we find that Harry Sellers contested a battle with William Harvey, an Irishman, in the Ass Field, near Holywell Mount, Grays Inn Road, “in which, notwithstanding he exerted himself to the utmost, he was conquered by dint of the Irishman’s strength in twenty minutes.” The reader will observe the date is the 7th of June. This may give him sufficient insight to value accordingly the story of “St. Patrick’s evening” (17th March), the “insult to Mr. Harvey’s shamrock in his hat,” the “leg of mutton and trimmings,” offered by Sellers to be let off a thrashing, and the wretched rubbish in “Boxiana,” pp. 88, 89, “for the greater glory of ould Ireland.” The red hot ire of Mr. Harvey remained to cool from March 17th to the 7th of the following June, if there be any truth in the periodical contemporary press.

The appearance of Humphries, Big Ben (Brain), and the rise of the great Tom Johnson, seem to have quite extinguished the minor pugilistic stars, and so occupied the whole attention of the patrons and historians of the ring, that Sellers disappears from the scene. In “Pancratia,” p. 63, we read, “It has been reported that Sellers actually died with grief, on account of his friends refusing to match him with the celebrated pugilist Tom Johnson when first he rose into fame.” This proves, at any rate, that Sellers was what the west countrymen call “a good woolled one:” there was no deficiency in breed, whatever there might be in his probity or judgment.



Of Stephen Oliver, whose singular sobriquet, “Death,” had a less terrible derivation than it might suggest, we have but scant contemporary notices, yet these have been neglected, and “Boxiana” dismisses him with an incidental mention in the notice under Darts (see p. 45, ante), and four lines in reference to his battle with Small. Oliver seems, by general consent of the best judges, to have been a remarkably skilful, steady, and formidable boxer. The deadly paleness of his visage during his pugilistic contests procured him the nickname of “Death.” Oliver, as one of Broughton’s pupils, stood high on the list of his favourites. The veteran often commended him as the best teacher and exponent of his system. “He was a well made man, and light (as they reckoned it then), never exceeding twelve stone; he did not possess great strength, but this he fully compensated by his astonishing agility. Oliver fought more battles than any man in England, and though frequently overmatched, often conquered against odds. But his sparring,” adds the author of “Historical Sketches,”[33] “notwithstanding it was thought excellent some years back, is now equalled by any pupil of Mendoza and Humphries. This indisputably shows we moderns have improved in science.”

We pass over a long interval of Stephen Oliver’s performances to come to his great fight with Bill Darts, March 25, 1770, wherein he was defeated by youth, length, weight, and strength.

Six years afterwards, July 3rd, 1776, Death fought a short battle at Barnet for £20 with a butcher of the name of William Small, a name by no means corresponding with his bulk. A diurnal print tried a small piece of wit in the form of what it called “an epigram.” Here it is—

“Ah! foolish wight, why strive to conquer Death?
When he, thou know’st, can stop thy vital breath;
That ruthless tyrant rules the lives of all,
And vanquishes the Great, as well as Small.”

The renowned Tom Johnson, of whom anon, had already beaten several commoners, and especially Jarvis, “the fighting carman.” Stephen accepted his general challenge, and, though stale and old, made a creditable fight, at Blackheath, in 1784. (See Johnson, post.) Though Jack Towers (brother of William, the bricklayer) is called the “conqueror of the celebrated Death,” we cannot find the record of his victory.

52Oliver still lingered on the stage till 1788, in which year, on April 17th, “he fought one Elisha Crabbe,[34] a Jew, on the turf, at Blackheath.” It was observed in the course of the contest that Death had the lead in fair boxing, but that Crabbe got the best in closing, when he was generally successful in flinging his adversary so as to pitch him on his head. Although Crabbe had received many sharp blows, they did not impair his strength, but Death was wounded badly in the face by a fall, and had a severe gash over his right eyebrow. This obstructed his sight, and very much contributed to lose him the battle. At the end of thirty-five minutes Crabbe succeeded in giving Death a knock-down blow, and the Jew was declared the conqueror. (“Pancratia,” p. 78.) The Prince of Wales (afterwards George IV.), Colonel Hanger (Lord Coleraine), and the leading patrons of the ring, were present on this occasion. A bye-battle between Doyle, a well known pugilist, and a sawyer from Deptford, which followed, ended in the anonymous sawyer beating the professional in twenty minutes.


Sam Peters, of Birmingham, is one of the second rates demanding notice previous to closing this chapter. After many victories in Warwickshire and the midland counties, Sam made his way to the metropolis, and was backed for £20 against Trainer, a stalwart Irish chairman. They met at Epping Forest, June 7, 1771, but Sam was so overmatched that, after a clever fight of thirty-seven minutes, he fell before the heavier metal of his antagonist.

The next month, on the 13th of July, Sam entered the ring at Fair Mead Bottom, near Epping, with Rossemus Gregory, another Hibernian pugilist. Bill Darts seconded Gregory, and Peters gave in on the ground of Darts interfering unfairly in favour of his man. Another match was accordingly 53made, and came off in the Riding School at the Three Hats, Islington.[35] Here Master Gregory found he had better not have “bitten his thumb” at Sam, for he got a most undeniable thrashing in half an hour. Sam Peters’ “sell” with Corcoran, in 1774, has been already commented on. From this time he ceased to find backers.

JOE HOOD—1773‒1780.

Joe Hood, a weaver, fought some good battles between 1773 and 1780. His first important contest was with the noted Jem Parrot, on the 9th of November, 1773, in White Conduit Fields, Islington, for a stake of 20 guineas. Rossemus Gregory (see Sam Peters, of Birmingham, ante) seconded Parrot, and Sam Peters attended upon Joe Hood. The fight was obstinately contested for thirty-five minutes, when a dispute arose between the seconds as to a foul blow. Rossy Gregory would not allow his man to fight longer, and Parrot left the ground, refusing to return. The battle, upon a reference, was awarded to Hood.

On the 31st of March, 1775, Joe Hood met and conquered Dennis Kellyhorn, “a famous Irish bruiser.” The battle was for 50 guineas, and took place at Chingford Hatch, Essex.

Macdonald, a sawyer, of great strength and stature, issued a challenge to Joe for £10. The set-to is described by the reporter as “furious on the part of Macdonald.” Joe fought on the defensive for half an hour, when the rush of Macdonald having slackened, Joe completely turned the tables, and milled the sawyer all over the ring. Macdonald fought obstinately: “he was beaten so dreadfully before he gave in, that both eyes were closed, and it was found that his jaw was broken.”

Joe’s next battle with the champion, Harry Sellers, June 4, 1777, ended in a defeat, though “Hood displayed astonishing judgment and bottom.” This important battle is not mentioned in “Boxiana” (Joe Hood, p. 81), nor 54in “Fistiana,” under Hood (p. 58, edit. 1864); nor does Hood’s second defeat (July 2, 1774) appear under his name in either authority.

A noted Birmingham pugilist (the “Hardware Village” has always been renowned for boxers) hight Joe Higgins, “who had fought fifteen battles, in all of which he had been the conqueror,”[36] challenged Hood. He had miscalculated his skill. They met July 23, 1778, when Hood gave him so severe a beating as, says the authority just quoted, “taught him the proper respect due to a scientific pugilist.”

The tide of battle now turned against Hood. On the 8th of September, 1778, after a severe attack of illness, Joe met “the Bristol Boy,” Peter Bath, at Maidenhead races, for £50 a-side. “The bets were two to one in Joe’s favour, notwithstanding his indifferent health.” Joe soon “found himself entirely unable to cope with his opponent, and gave in after fighting twenty minutes, when Bath[37] was hailed the conqueror.”

On the 4th of September, 1779, Hood was again unsuccessful in a pitched battle in Smithfield with William Day, an active and game pugilist. This seems to have been Joe’s last appearance as a principal, his constitution being impaired.




Tom Johnson, whose real name was Jackling, was a native of Derby, although a general claim of Yorkshire extraction has been made for him, and “Boxiana” so states it; followed, of course, by “Fights for the Championship,” London, 1855. However, as he signs himself “Thomas Jackling, of Derby,” in a printed letter, the point is not worth disputing. He surely could himself have no motive for such a misrepresentation.

Johnson, for we shall retain his popular name, was certainly a hero among heroes; and if Tom was inferior to Broughton in science, he came certainly nearest of any man that had hitherto appeared to that phœnix of pugilistic skill. Nature had endowed him with unusual strength of body, and he was universally admitted to possess a careful and precise style of hitting. His courage was of the highest order, and he possessed a constitutional coolness of disposition and temper. Johnson was born in 1750, the very year that Jack Slack defeated his prototype, the champion Broughton, and at an early age repaired to London, where he followed the laborious occupation of a corn-porter, on a wharf near Old Swan Stairs. His surprising strength was paralleled by his kindness of heart; and while in this employment an anecdote is recorded of him which deserves preservation. Johnson’s fellow porter was taken ill, and being burdened with a wife and a numerous family, dependent on his labour for support, they were likely to be reduced to want, had not Johnson immediately undertaken (unknown to them) to do his fellow porter’s work, as well as his own. The warehouses where the corn was deposited were situated at some distance from the wharf, at the end of a court, denominated, from its steepness, “Labour-in-vain Court,” and to which place Tom carried every journey two sacks of corn instead of one, and gave the money to his family, till his fellow porter was able to return to his work. We would recommend this anecdote for extract in the next number of the “Evangelical Magazine;” it can be much better authenticated than most of 56the “lose-nothing” benevolences of their portrait-loving “labourers in the vineyard.”

As we prefer truth unadorned to clumsy rhetoric we have here merely paraphrased what we find in contemporaries, and, where advisable, resorted to acknowledged quotations. “After he (Johnson) had assumed the profession of the gymnasium (somewhat pedantic this, but the writer as he goes on becomes more natural), he soon proved the most effective among the whole race of modern athletæ. His strength, science, and astonishing bottom gave him rank superior to all his contemporaries, but his greatest excellence was his surprising coolness and judgment. It may appear somewhat ridiculous to the inconsiderate, and those prejudiced against the art, to attempt panegyric upon the mental gifts of a pugilist, but where such a merit did or does exist, it is a duty incumbent on those who are just and impartial to record it. The natural powers of Johnson’s mind, although not developed by the care of what the schoolmaster calls fostering education, were remarkably extensive and capable of the accomplishment of great difficulties. Unlike many pugilists, who seldom form any rules for their guidance in emergencies until they find themselves on the stage, he invariably, long before, determined on a system of conduct adapted to his own advantage, and calculated to defeat the style of his adversary. To effect this, he calmly balanced the respective abilities of his opponents, their tempers, power, and mode of attack, and particularly noted the constitution and disposition of his opponent. His grand principle in fighting was never unnecessarily to expose himself to danger, nor hazard anything which could be obtained with certainty by waiting. By acting on this plan, he frequently at the conclusion of a battle, was nearly in as good condition as at its commencement; for though confident when first setting-to of an easy conquest, his prudence led him to protract an engagement, which perhaps he could not speedily terminate, unless by endangering himself. He usually, therefore, acted on the defensive, and never made a blow but when confident of getting home. If his opponent was cool, he was cooler; if warm and precipitate, he endeavoured to make him still more so, by using every justifiable measure to disappoint and baffle him; but he never took advantage of his man by unfair manœuvres.”[38] This description, despite a certain stiffness of the old school, is written by a master, and an appreciator of the art.

A few casual turns-up had shown the bent of Johnson’s natural genius for fistic fame; and at 23 years of age, in June, 1783, he met a carman of the 57name of Jarvis in Lock’s Fields, Walworth. The skill of Johnson, a supposed novice opposed to a practised boxer, astonished the spectators. Jarvis was severely thrashed, and Tom’s fame spread abroad.

A desperate rough, known as “the Croydon Drover,” next challenged Johnson, and they fought on Kennington Common, in March, 1784. The Drover was completely polished off in twenty-seven minutes.

Stephen Oliver (Death), though a decided “ould ’un,” would not believe in Johnson’s vast superiority until he tried him, on Blackheath, in June, 1784, when he had ocular demonstration by being beaten blind in thirty-five minutes.

Johnson now seems to have reposed on his laurels without a competitor till 1786. On the 11th of January in that year, Bill Love,[39] a butcher, fancied Tom for 50 guineas a-side. Johnson disposed of Bill Love’s pretensions in a few minutes.

Jack Towers, “the celebrated conqueror of Death,” says the reporter, though we have not met with the record, met Johnson (for a stake not stated), at Barnet, in February, 1786, and was soundly beaten without a chance of retrieving his fame.

About this period, 1786, Humphries, Martin, the Bath butcher, and Mendoza appeared. These celebrated men will be found duly chronicled “in their right place.”

Fry, a big, heavy, and powerful man, next challenged Johnson for 50 guineas, and they fought at Kingston, in June, 1786, but in less than half an hour Fry got so much broiled as to be very glad to put an end to the contest; and Tom walked off the ground almost without a scratch.

Johnson, about this period (1787) beat every one that was opposed to him, and the sporting world was almost nonplussed to find a man who might stand something like a chance with him. As the metropolis could produce no such character, Bristol was searched (the parsley-bed of pugilists), when Bill Warr[40] was selected as an article that could be depended upon. He was 58backed to fight Johnson for 200 guineas, on a stage, at Oakingham, in Berkshire, on January 18, 1787.

In the first round Warr found out he had got a trump to deal with, by receiving a doubler from Johnson. He immediately assumed the defensive. In fact, it was scarcely worthy of being called a fight, and the amateurs were not only disappointed but much displeased. Warr was convinced that he could not beat Johnson by standing up to him, and therefore determined to try whether he could not tire him out by shifting and falling; accordingly, whenever Tom seemed likely to make a blow, Bill Warr was on his knees praying for pluck, à la Tass Parker and Nick Ward of more modern days. This humbugging lasted for nearly an hour and a half, Johnson’s intentions being continually frustrated by Warr’s dropping. At length an ugly hit nailed him as he was falling. He insisted on a “foul!” which not being admitted, he instantly bolted, notwithstanding the remonstrances of his seconds to come back and finish the fight. In the words of the report: “Warr jumped up from his knees, crying ‘foul!’ and jumped from the stage. His second called him several times to return, but he ‘mizzled’ clean off.” Johnson was now firmly established as the champion; his fame ran before him, and it was some months before any person could be found hardy enough to dispute his well-earned title; at length, a brave Hibernian chief, who, like Tom Johnson, had milled all his opponents, came forward, and soon found backers.

How this came about must be told by an episode. On November 22, 1787, a severe contest was decided, in Stepney Fields, between W. Savage and Doyle. Tom Johnson seconded Savage, and Ryan, his countryman Doyle. After a sharp battle of forty-five minutes, Doyle was defeated, and Ryan in some heat challenged Johnson.

Michael Ryan, the Irish champion’s skill and courage stood so high, that the odds were six to four before the fight, which took place at Wradisbury, in Buckinghamshire, on December 19, 1787, for 300 guineas a-side. The seconds were chosen from the first-rate pugilists, Humphries for Johnson, and Dunn for Ryan; and even the bottle-holders were of fistic eminence, being Tom Tring for the latter, and Mendoza for the former. The spectators were numerous. The celebrated Mr. Windham, Sir Richard Symonds, Colonel Hanger, Colonel Hamilton, Mr. Bradyl, General Fitzpatrick, etc., were more than spectators on this occasion.

The contest long hung doubtful, though, at the commencement, the odds were in favour of Ryan. What follows is from “Boxiana.” “After the fight had continued nearly twenty minutes, and at the close of a most tremendous 59round, Ryan put in a blow upon Johnson’s temple, which so completely stunned him that his arms fell by his side, and was following up this advantage with another hit, which must have decided the contest, when Humphries ran in to save Johnson, and caught Ryan in his arms. Cries of ‘Foul! foul!’ resounded from all parts, and the friends of Ryan instantly demanded the money, by observing that, as long as Johnson had not fallen, it was perfectly fair on the part of Ryan to strike him, and that the latter had won the battle. Here a general clamour took place, during which Ryan, with the warmth peculiar to his country, indignantly told his second, Dunn, that he had not done his duty by him as a man, in suffering such conduct to take place without resenting it, and, had he not been prevented, he would have milled Dunn upon the spot, his rage was so great. Considerable time having now elapsed, Johnson was recovered, and challenged Ryan to renew the combat: the latter, like a man, notwithstanding it was considered there was no necessity for so doing, agreed to it, thinking he could beat Johnson.

“The battle was at length renewed; but it was soon perceived that Ryan’s strength was exhausted by passion, and he now, in about ten minutes, became an easy conquest to Johnson, by giving away the chance. Ryan’s conduct in the battle was so noble, and his manly courage and science so truly apparent, that the amateurs were still left in doubt to decide accurately which was the best man” (“Boxiana,” pp. 94, 95).

In consequence of this opinion, a second battle was determined upon, and fought upon a stage in the Rabbit Dell in Cashiobury Park, near Rickmansworth, in Hertfordshire, for 300 guineas a-side, on February 11, 1789. This was a contest of great anxiety, and the whole sporting world was there, from the Corinthian to the costermonger.

Johnson, who had for his second, Humphries, and Jackson as his bottleholder, mounted the stage at three o’clock, and were immediately followed by Ryan, who was seconded by Mr. Rolfe, a baker, and Nowlan his bottleholder. The set-to was one of the finest ever witnessed, and much science was displayed; the parries and feints eliciting general admiration. At length Ryan put in a severe blow on Johnson’s chest, which floored him.

The second round, which continued about two minutes, was terrible beyond description—science seemed forgotten—when Ryan received a knock-down blow. The battle was well sustained on both sides for some time; but Ryan’s passion getting the better of him, he began to lose ground. “Johnson,” says “Pancratia,” p. 83, “stopped Ryan’s blows with the greatest dexterity, and, hitting over his guard, cut him under the eyes.” Ryan’s head and eyes made a dreadful appearance. The contest lasted for thirty-three 60minutes, when Ryan gave in. A hat, ornamented with blue ribbons was placed upon the conqueror’s head; and Johnson gained a considerable sum of money, as, besides the 300 guineas stakes, and £512 door money, equally divided between the combatants, Mr. Hollingsworth, a cornfactor, and a former master of Johnson, settled £20 a year upon him for life, in consideration of the money he had won by backing him.

Brain, better known as Big Ben (see post), was now considered the only man capable of meeting Johnson, and a match was made for £1,000; but Ben, being taken ill at the appointed time, forfeited the deposit, which was £100.

We now approach one of the most interesting and remarkable contests in the annals of pugilism. The various coloured accounts of more modern writers cannot be excused of exaggerating the incidents of this fight, yet, as our object is rather authenticity than “sensation,” we shall simply transcribe the report from the old Sporting Magazine, for the month of September, 1789.

Birmingham having challenged London to produce its most noted men to meet their best pugilists, the matter has been put in train, and the combatants paired thus:—Isaac Perrins[41] challenges Tom Johnson, the champion; 61Jacombs will fight Bryan (Big Ben); Pickard, George Ingleston (the brewer); Tom Faulkner (the cricketer), Watson; and Thornhill, Hooper (the tinman). The challenges of the three first heroes were accepted, and the terms proposed by “the bruisers” agreed to.

The meeting of Johnson and Perrins was arranged for the first October meeting at Newmarket, to be fought on the turf, for 250 guineas a-side, and two-thirds of the door money to the winner, one-third to the defeated combatant. We continue from the contemporary report:—

“Perrins was an uncommonly strong man, gigantic in height and weight, with force adapted to his form, and, for his size, of astonishing activity. He stood six feet two inches in his stocking feet, and weighed seventeen stone, three stone heavier than Johnson. Perrins is stated to have lifted eight hundred weight of iron into a waggon, and to have performed other feats of strength almost beyond credibility. He was universally allowed to possess much skill in boxing, and excellent bottom. He had won many battles with ease, beating every competitor in Warwickshire, Staffordshire, and Worcestershire, and undoubtedly thought himself superior to every athlete, as is shown by his advertisement, challenging to fight any man in England for 500 guineas. His Birmingham friends considered him invincible, and backed him in the contest for many thousands of pounds, at two, and even three, to one against Johnson.

“The combatants, however, were not permitted to fight at Newmarket, and Banbury, in Oxfordshire, was then fixed upon, where they accordingly met on the 22nd of October, 1789. The battle was fought on a turfed stage, raised five feet from the ground, twenty-four feet square, and railed in. Johnson’s second was Will Ward (Warr), and his bottle-holder Joe Ward; Pickard seconded Perrins, and his brother was his bottle-holder. Colonel Tarleton was umpire for Johnson, and Mr. Meadows, of Birmingham, for Perrins.

“At a little before one the combatants set-to, and Johnson’s friends, who before had flattered themselves with certain success, when they viewed the wonderful difference of size between the bruisers, began to tremble for the event.

“For five minutes all was anxious expectation; Perrins then with great 62force aimed a blow, which Johnson very dexterously eluded, and gave the first blow, by which Perrins fell. The three next rounds terminated also in Johnson’s favour, who confused his antagonist by dancing round him, and occasionally planting an unexpected hit. Perrins became excessively irritated at this conduct, and throwing off the caution he had shown at the beginning, followed Johnson with vast resolution, and appearing to treat his manœuvres with contempt, he, despite of several sharp hits, at last got in a successful knock-down blow, which success he followed up for several rounds, in one of which he brought blood by a severe cut on Johnson’s lip.

“Johnson watched his opportunity, and in reply to a taunt from the Birmingham Goliath jumped in, and planting a blow over Perrins’ left eye, cut the eyebrow, and completely closed it up. This blow, and the failure of Perrins’ wind, which was now very visible, raised the bets amazingly in Johnson’s favour; the odds, however, again changed upon Perrins closing one of Johnson’s eyes; after this Johnson began once more to fight cunning, and having skilfully parried a violent attack of Perrins, he caught him so severe and swift a blow in the face as laid his nose completely open. Odds now rose 100 to 10 on Johnson.

“Perrins recovered his breath, and with great vigour and resolution attacked Johnson, who retreated parrying, but Perrins got in a blow over Johnson’s right eye that again brought down the odds, but not to even. Forty rounds of resolute boxing had now taken place.

“In the following round Johnson fell when not struck, and Perrins claimed the victory, but the umpires decided it was allowable,[42] as the articles did not specify to the contrary.” We suspect the Birmingham men, for Perrins was as brave a boxer as ever pulled off a shirt, were trying to “snatch a verdict,” as the day was clearly going against them.

“Perrins, in turn, seemed now to lose much of his strength. He tried to imitate his antagonist’s mode of fighting, with which he was totally unacquainted.[43] He fought low, and had recourse to chopping back-handed strokes, which at first drove back Johnson and disconcerted him, but against which he soon guarded himself very collectedly; often getting home a sharp return.

The Fight between TOM JOHNSON and ISAAC PERRINS, at Banbury, Oxfordshire, November 22nd, 1789.

From an Engraving published in 1790.

63“Johnson seemed to improve in strength as the battle went on, never beginning the attack. Perrins, in aiming several heavy blows, fell, as if from weakness. Johnson watched his falling, and hit him in the face, generally falling at the same time. He seemed now to hit Perrins whenever he tried. At the end of one hour and a quarter Johnson gathered himself for a blow, and it took effect directly, in the centre of the face,[44] and finished as severe a contest as stands recorded in the annals of pugilism; the combatants having fought sixty-two rounds of fair hard boxing.”

Mr. Bullock won £20,000 by the battle. He backed Johnson, taking high odds, and afterwards made him a present of £1000 (and he deserved the generous gift). The door-money amounted to £800, of which Johnson had £533, after expenses deducted. As the song says,

“Shall we ever, shall we ever;
Shall we ever see the like again?”

The remarkable print from which our engraving is furnished, is certainly, when we compare it with most of the art-productions of the day, a most creditable production. The descriptions which we have quoted from witnesses of the fight, and from persons who well knew the combatants, are fully realised. Although the stoop of Johnson certainly exaggerated the vast proportion of Perrins, the disparity, upon closer examination, is not so extreme. The faces, you feel, must be portraits.

The fights which followed will be found under Brain (Big Ben) and George Ingleston (note to John Jackson).

Johnson now seemed to be without a rival to dispute his supremacy; but about the year 1790, the Duke of Hamilton, who had been the firm friend and patron of Ben Brain of Bristol (Big Ben), was extremely anxious to back his protégé against the renowned, and as yet invincible Johnson. A challenge was accordingly published, the Duke backing Ben for 500 guineas.

“Johnson,” says “Pancratia,” “who the year before possessed the amount of £5000 acquired by his astonishing success in the battles he had fought, by an unlucky ‘leter’ of shaking the elbow, found himself obliged, in order to replenish the exchequer, to accept Ben’s offer. The conditions were agreed upon, and the day fixed for January 17th, 1791. Never was public curiosity more on tiptoe;” but as this battle belongs by our system to the memoir of the victor, it will be found in the memoir of Big Ben. This was the last fight of both these celebrated pugilists.

Johnson’s name appears from time to time as second to Hooper, the tinman, “Gentleman Jackson,” and other pugilists, but no more as principal. We 64find Bell soon after his victory over Stanyard, the Birmingham boxer, (in December 1792) challenging Johnson to “mill for a guinea;” whereon the reporter remarks: “Tom, however, has lost too many of the yellow-boys lately to trouble himself to win a single one, and left the stage.” A sufficient allusion to Tom’s improvidence.

Johnson, becoming a Boniface, took the “Grapes” in Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields. Here he failed in business, owing to his gambling propensities, which also caused the loss of his license. He then became the proprietor of an EO table at races, etc. This, too, failing, he migrated to Ireland. In Dublin he kept, as we see by advertisements, a public house in Cooper-Alley: but here again the gaming practices and frequenters incensed the magistrates, and he was deprived of his license. He next is found in Cork, where he advertised for pupils in the art of boxing, and where, on the 21st of January, 1797, aged forty-seven years, the Champion fell before the arm of the great leveller—death.

“Johnson’s appearance,” says a contemporary, “indicated, when stripped, more of strength than beauty of form. He was in height nearly five feet nine inches, and about fourteen stone in weight; a remarkably round-made man, with very fine chest and shoulders, and displaying immensely strong loins. He was by no means a showy fighter, and his guard was generally considered inelegant, and his attitudes more defensive than otherwise. In the fight he was peculiarly steady, watching every movement of his antagonist with a coolness unequalled, receiving the attack unappalled, and scarcely ever failing in the return of planting a most desperate hit. The head was his favourite object, and if his adversary did not possess considerable science, he was in extreme danger of being put in the dark. Johnson walked round his antagonist in a way peculiar to himself, that so puzzled his adversary to find out his intent, that he was frequently thrown off his guard, by which manœuvring Johnson often gained the most important advantages. Tom was thorough game, and showed the utmost contempt for retreating; at the same time careful to avoid exposing his person too much to the attacks of his antagonist. One pugilist,” continues the author of “Pancratia,” “may be superior in strength, a second in science, a third in endurance, but in Johnson have been more fully combined the requisites of a complete boxer than in any pugilist up to this day.”




Benjamin Brain (called in the chronologies Brian and Bryan) was a native of Bristol, where he was born in the year 1753. His familiar nickname, “Big Ben,” was scarcely justified by his size, his weight being rather under that of Johnson (14 stone), and his height 5 feet 10 inches. Brain was a powerful pugilist, celebrated for his straight and severe right-handed deliveries, though remarkably good with both hands. Ben’s early years were passed as a collier at Kingswood, near his native place; and it was here that the future champion first signalised himself by a battle with Clayton, “the Shropshire champion.” A fellow collier, also of Kingswood, called Bob Harris, who had earned a provincial reputation in that nursery for pugilists, Bristol, also succumbed to Ben, after a game and determined conquest.

Brain arrived in London in 1774, shortly after these battles, and passed several years as a coal-porter, at a wharf in the Strand. He was a good-looking man, and when out of his business always appeared clean and respectable, mild and sociable in his demeanour, and never ridiculously presuming upon his qualities as a boxer.

Ben’s first set-to in London was with “the Fighting Grenadier,” in the Long Fields, Bloomsbury, on October 31, 1786, in which, had it not been for the assistance of a medical man, who witnessed the contest, Ben must have been defeated. The soldier was a first-rate punisher, and Ben’s eyes were so swelled, from the heavy blows he received, that he could not see, when just at this juncture the ring was broken, during which accident the swellings were skilfully lanced by a surgeon, and Ben restored to vision. A fresh ring was made, and the combat renewed; and in the course of a few minutes the Grenadier gave in.

66Corbally, an Irish chairman, fought Ben, upon a stage, twenty-five feet square, at Navestock in Essex, on December 31, 1788, after Bill Warr had defeated Wood, the coachman. Notwithstanding the weather was extremely severe, the combatants stripped with the most perfect indifference, and the fight was carried on with determined courage on both sides; Corbally was eventually defeated. Mr. John Jackson seconded Ben on this occasion.

In 1789 he forfeited £100 to Johnson, as already noticed, which sum was deposited in part of £500, Brain being in a bad state of health.

Ben received a challenge from Jacombs, a Birmingham pugilist, which he accepted (See Johnson and Perrins), and the battle came off at Banbury, in Oxfordshire, on a twenty-four feet square stage, October 23, 1789. Jacombs[45] was a stout made man, of high courage, and not without science. In the early part of the combat, Jacombs exhibited determined resolution, and went into Brain in a style that would take no denial. Whether Ben felt any doubt about the battle, he did not conduct himself after his accustomed method, but fought on the retreat, shifting often to avoid Jacombs’ blows, and fell frequently. Jacombs, on the contrary, received Ben’s attacks undauntedly. Considerable disapprobation was expressed by the spectators, particularly the Warwickshire men, who were getting outrageous at Ben’s manœuvring. Brain at length stood to his adversary, and showed what he was capable of performing by putting in a tremendous floorer, which quickly convinced the spectators of his quality. First-rate courage was displayed upon both sides; but after a most dreadful battle of one hour and twenty-six minutes, the brave Jacombs was conquered.

Tom Tring (the Big Porter at Carlton House) was matched, as a sort of bye-battle, with Ben, who, as we gather from contemporary prints, had so very “little” opinion of his really “big” opponent’s boxing qualifications, that he met him at Dartford, for the paltry stake of 10 guineas a-side. Pierce Egan has invented a dreadful battle, in which “Ben was nearly blind,” “the blows that passed between them were tremendous in the 67extreme,” and that Big Ben “refused to enter the lists with Tom Tring a second time, but declared before his death that his constitution had suffered most materially from the severe blows which he had encountered at Dartford,” etc. (see “Boxiana,” vol i., pp. 298, 299, Tom Tring). The fact is, Tom could not hit his man, and was thoroughly beaten in twelve rounds, occupying under twenty minutes.[46]

In the following year (1790), the battle, long anxiously looked for between Big Ben and Hooper, the tinman (see Hooper’s other battles in Period II.) at Chapel Row Revel, near Newbury, Berkshire, on August 30, for 100 guineas.

Hooper’s patron had completely miscalculated his man’s powers. The affair could not be called a fight. Ben treated his opponent with perfect contempt. In a close at the end of the first round Ben hit Hooper so heavily in the body, that he could not be induced again to come within distance. He fell every time Ben’s hand reached him, and even before; ran all over the stage, filled his mouth with water and spirted it in Ben’s face, accompanied by provoking and blackguard epithets to irritate Ben and throw him off his guard. It is true Hooper got in some few “facers” by his trickery and activity, and he was on the ground before Ben could get in a return. At length Ben determined not to follow him, and none of the stratagems of the tinman could induce him to break ground. He stood firmly at the scratch, in the middle of the stage, and called upon Hooper to face him: this the latter did for a few seconds, and was then off and away. This piece of diversion took place on August 30, 1790, at Chapel Row Revel, near Newbury, in Berkshire, and continued for three hours and a half. The night coming on 68fast, several of the amateurs asked Ben if he should be able to finish the battle that day? He jocularly replied, “That it entirely depended upon his antagonist;” and observed, “they had better begin the next morning at six o’clock, and have the whole day before them.” The Fancy were completely disgusted with such treatment. After what was termed one hundred and eighty rounds had taken place, and it being nearly dark, it was declared a drawn battle, and Ben walked off without receiving any particular hurt.[47]

And now came Ben’s crowning victory over the renowned, brave, and skilful, but imprudent and reckless champion, Tom Johnson.

Towards the close of the year 1790, the Duke of Hamilton, the patron and firm supporter of Ben Brain in all his matches, was anxious to match him against the hitherto invincible Johnson, and offered to back his man for 500 guineas. We have already noticed Tom’s reckless prodigality and gambling, and necessity spurred him not to let pass the chance of such a golden prize. “Public expectation,” says the Oracle newspaper, “never was raised so high by any pugilistic contest; great bets were laid, and it is estimated £20,000 was wagered on this occasion.”

On a stage twenty feet square,[48] at Wrotham, in Kent, on January the 17th, 1791, the two best boxers in England met to decide the Championship. Punctually at one o’clock, the time named in the articles, Johnson ascended the theatre of combat, followed by Joe Ward, as second, and Dan Munday as his bottle-holder. He bore an aspect of steady composure and modest confidence. Big Ben immediately followed, with a cheerful countenance, having Will Warr as his second,[49] and Humphries as his bottle-holder. “The betting, from the first making of the match,” says the reporter, “was seven to four in favour of Johnson.” Truly our grandfathers were bold, nay reckless, layers of odds. What follows is a verbatim transcript of the contemporary report.

“The combatants being prepared, set to, and in the first round, which was much more violent and quickly terminated than usual, Johnson fell upon his forehead, from a violent blow on the nose. This blow determined the fate of the battle, for Johnson never was capable of recovering himself.

“In the second round he also fell by a severe blow; bets became even.

69“Third round he knocked Ben down, and odds again increased in his favour.

“After this, Ben reassumed his advantage, and kept it to the end. In this round (the fourth) both combatants seemed to throw aside skill, and, entering upon a rally, totally depended on strength and courage. At the expiration of twenty minutes, Johnson drew back, and springing in with a desperate blow at Ben, which the latter evaded, broke the metacarpal bone of his middle finger by striking the rail of the stage. At first this severe accident did not seem to affect his spirits and he manœuvred actively; but shortly afterwards Ben put in two successive blows which decided the turn of battle. One struck him in the ribs, another dreadfully cut his lip.” Another account describes Johnson as “holding Ben by the hair to prevent his striking, so unlike his conduct in former fights.” All, however, did not avail; the die was cast, and Ben Brain was the undisputed conqueror in eighteen rounds, occupying no more than twenty-one minutes. We resume the report:—“Johnson, in this battle, did not preserve that coolness and regularity of temper which hitherto have caused him to be considered so admirably pre-eminent as a safe boxer. His wind was good, but the first knock-down blow so much disconcerted him that he frequently shifted, and went back. Ben, however, seldom advanced, at least not at the instant, and when he did, he kept up good guard, and penned Johnson in without room to manœuvre, compelling him to fight out of it if he could. Though Johnson was so heavily punished, in appearance Ben seemed little hurt, and on the Monday following he displayed great agility in a sparring match at the Grecian Theatre, in the Strand.”[50]

After four years’ interval, during which Ben appears now and then as a second, our hero accepted a challenge from Will Wood, the coachman, to fight on the 24th of February, 1794. Though Ben’s health had been in a precarious state, the odds were largely in his favour. But a more formidable adversary declared himself: a scirrhous liver deranged Ben’s vital functions; his disease ran on rapidly, and on the 8th of April, 1794, the Champion died in full possession of the honour, at his dwelling in Gray’s-Inn-Road. On the Friday following (the 11th) we find him among the burials in St. Sepulchre’s churchyard. His funeral, which was conducted with the solemnity such occasions demand, was attended by his old friends and professional brothers, Johnson, Warr, Wood, Symonds, and several others of inferior note.

70A pugilist wrote the following epitaph for his tombstone:—

“Farewell, ye honours of my brow,
Victorious wreaths, farewell!
One blow from Death has laid me low,
By whom such brave ones fell.
Yet bravely I’ll dispute the prize,
Nor yield, though out of breath,
’Tis not a fall—I yet shall rise,
And conquer even Death!”

Of which rhymes we can conscientiously say the anonymous “brother pugilist” of Ben need not have been ashamed; for far worse have been written on marble by “unco’ guid folk” who would scorn to bestow a glance on the grave of a boxer.


PERIOD II.—1784‒1798.


DANIEL MENDOZA—1784‒1820.[51]

The conveniences of the plan of a biographical history the editor flatters himself are by this time sufficiently obvious to the reader: the index of names and of events at the end of the volume, and the grouping of the memoirs into Periods, bringing the men who contended their most important battles with each other into close companionship in our pages.

As the introducer of a new, a more rapid, and more elegant style of boxing, and a more artistic tactique, the Israelitish champion Mendoza deserves the distinction of heading a division of followers and pupils. Accordingly we begin with his pugilistic career, to be succeeded by those of his clever antagonists, Richard Humphries and Mr. John Jackson, Bill Warr, Tom Owen, Paddington (Tom) Jones, etc., with Stanyard, George Ingleston, Fewterel, and many minor stars in the Appendix, and in foot-notes, where their conflicts with more distinguished boxers have preserved their names from oblivion.

Daniel Mendoza, one of the most elegant and scientific boxers recorded in the annals of pugilism, was born in the year 1763, of Jewish parents, in the vicinity of Whitechapel. Of his earlier years nothing worthy of record is known. His first noted pugilistic contest took place at Mile End, in 1784, 72with a big rough, known by the name of Harry the Coalheaver. Dan appears to have polished off this black diamond in forty minutes—at least, so says “Boxiana;” yet so far from being drawn from his regular employment and pursuits by this triumph, his name does not figure until 1787. Shortly after, Dan rose like a phenomenon in the fistic horizon, where he long sparkled a star of the first magnitude. His advent was unquestionably a new feature in the practice of the art, and his style of fighting gave rise to much controversy and animadversion among the cognoscenti.[52] So far as it was illustrated in his own practice, it was substantial and complete; and it may be candidly allowed that whenever Mendoza failed, it was rather from insufficient muscular strength, and being overmatched in weight, than any deficiency of skill or courage. It has been contended that there was more elegance about his positions than strength, and more show than utility. No pugilist ever stopped with greater neatness, hit oftener, or put in his blows quicker, than Mendoza; but they often failed in doing that execution which might have been expected from want of force. In height about five feet seven inches, with a well-formed manly chest, and arms of a strong athletic nature; a courage never impeached; and possessing wind that was seldom disordered, his battles were numerous and well-contested.

On the 17th of April, 1787, Mendoza made his first public appearance in the lists, on Barnet race-course, with Martin, the Bath butcher, an opponent of Humphries, and of great provincial reputation. The victory was well disputed, Mendoza exhibiting thus early those points of excellence which soon afterwards ripened to perfection. The battle was for 25 guineas, and in twenty minutes the Bath boxer acknowledged that the young Israelite was his master in the art. Humphries, who had last fought Martin, in the previous year, had taken 105 minutes to dispose of him.

This victory was much talked of, and already the youthful Jew was mentioned as “the coming man” to lower the pretensions of “the Gentleman Boxer.” In 1787, a casual rencontre took place between these great rivals, at the Cock, at Epping, in which rumour gave Humphries so much the best that it led to a match in 1788, which, as Mendoza was defeated, will be found in Chapter II., under Humphries. The superiority of the latter was, however, a matter of very serious question with the most competent judges, 73and their doubts were proved valid by the sequel, for a second match was made, the progress and result of which we now proceed to detail.

May the 6th, 1789, was the day fixed for the long and anxiously expected battle. The place fixed upon was Mr. Thornton’s park, near Stilton, Hunts. In order to accommodate the spectators, a building was erected, enclosing a space of forty-eight feet in diameter (“Boxiana” says “in circumference”), with seats raised one above the other, capable of containing nearly three thousand persons, the highest seat being eighteen feet from the ground.

Humphries, attended by Tom Johnson, as his second, entered between one and two o’clock, followed by Butcher, as his bottle-holder, and Harvey Combe, Esq., the brewer and alderman, as his umpire. Mendoza immediately afterwards made his appearance, attended by Captain Brown and Michael Ryan, as his second and bottle-holder, having Sir Thomas Apreece for his umpire. The seconds, according to agreement, retired to separate comers on the setting-to. The reporter continues: “The first blow was struck by Humphries at the face of his antagonist, which Mendoza stopping with great adroitness, returned and knocked Humphries down. The second and third rounds terminated in precisely the same manner. Astonishment at the confidence and quickness of Mendoza was expressed by every spectator.

“After the contest had lasted about forty minutes, in which Mendoza, by generally catching his opponent’s blows on his arm and returning with his left hand, or throwing him, had indisputably the advantage of the combat, it was stopped by a circumstance that created the greatest confusion on both sides.

“In the twenty-second round, Mendoza having struck at Humphries, the latter dropped. The articles of agreement particularly specified that whichever combatant fell ‘without a blow,’ should lose the battle. Consequently a general cry of ‘Foul! foul!’ took place, and it was declared by Mendoza’s friends that he had won the battle. Humphries, Johnson, and the spectators interested on that side of the question, contended it was fair, asserting that Humphries had stopped the blow before he fell. The partizans on the opposite side as vehemently insisted on the contrary, and the whole was a scene of uproar and confusion. Sir Thomas Apreece, as the umpire of Mendoza, declared it foul, but Alderman Combe refused giving an opinion. During this affray, Captain Brown (Mendoza’s second) in a moment of irritation called Johnson a liar and a blackguard, which was answered by the approach of Johnson in a stern and menacing manner. This led to the expectation of a bye-battle between the seconds. Humphries came several times to his adversary, calling on him to fight out the battle, but Mendoza’s 74friends would not permit him. Humphries then threw up his hat, and challenged him again to the combat. However, numbers present said, that this went no way to the decision of the point in dispute, and the battle most likely would have been a drawn one, had not Mendoza, by the advice of his friends, or perhaps irritated by his adversary’s continually taunting him for not continuing the fight, consented to resume the contest.

“They again set-to, and the first two rounds terminated by Mendoza’s knocking down his adversary. They fought for about half an hour, Mendoza all the time evidently holding the advantage, and at last gained the victory, by Humphries again violating the articles of agreement. In the last round, after some blows had passed, Humphries had given way, Mendoza followed him up, and was preparing to strike, when his opponent fell, obviously without receiving any blow. Mendoza was immediately declared the conqueror.

“Mendoza in this battle displayed great superiority of skill. Humphries allowed his antagonist to gain ground upon him during the whole combat; and when he was preparing to strike, he always flinched. Mendoza, on the contrary, stood up to his man manfully, and followed him with coolness and resolution, which proved much more serviceable to him than the impetuosity of temper he displayed in his last contest with Humphries at Odiham. Several times, when Humphries was in the act of setting-to, he walked up to him, and viewing him with a keen look, seemed contemptuously to drop his guard. When Humphries closed, he several times said to Mendoza, ‘Very well, indeed—very well!’ and which Mendoza, when he succeeded in throwing him, repeated in a mocking tone of irony. Nevertheless, during the whole contest, up to his fall, the bets were in favour of Humphries.

“The only blows of consequence received by Mendoza were one on the cheek, and several on the ribs and back at the time of closing. Towards the end of the contest Humphries aimed several very severe darts at the pit of the stomach, which were admirably stopped by Mendoza; had they reached their aim, they might have proved fatal to his chance. Humphries was much beaten about the face; one eye was closed, and his forehead cut above the other; his lip was also cut, and he frequently spat blood, but we think the hemorrhage was merely from the last-mentioned wound.”

Humphries was by no means satisfied of the Jew’s superiority, and persisted he had been “wrangled” out of the fight. A third trial by battle was therefore sought by him, and readily agreed to. We copy the report.

Third Fight between DANIEL MENDOZA and GEORGE HUMPHRIES, at Doncaster, September 29th, 1790.

From an original Picture.

75“September 29th, 1790, is rendered memorable in the annals of pugilism by the well-fought third battle between the celebrated champions Humphries and Mendoza. An inn-yard at Doncaster was pitched upon as the spot for the decision of the contest. The time (the Sellinger and Cup week), and the place were capitally chosen. The ground was bounded on two sides by the backs of houses, at one end by the inn, at the other by a strong palisade, behind which ran the river Don.” Upwards of 500 tickets at half-a-guinea were sold, and the persons admitted. But the Yorkshire “tykes” of humbler means were not to be baffled; and a ‘cute ferryman having brought over some hundreds at sixpence a-head, the crowd outside soon demolished the paling, stout as it was, and an immense concourse got in. The spectators seated around the stage, however, prevented any inconvenience or interruption of the principal performers.

“At about half-past ten Humphries made his appearance, immediately followed by Mendoza; the former mounted the stage, which was about four feet high, and twenty-four square, with astonishing agility, evidently in high spirits. Mendoza also seemed equally alert and devoid of apprehension. Ward seconded Humphries, and Jackson was his bottle-holder; Colonel Hamilton being chosen by him as his umpire. Tom Johnson was second to Mendoza, and his bottle-holder Butcher. Sir Thomas Apreece, who was umpire for Mendoza on his last battle with Humphries, at Stilton, was also chosen on this occasion, and Mr. Harvey Aston was mutually agreed upon as the third umpire, should any altercation arise during the combat, and a difference of opinion arise between the Colonel and Sir Thomas with respect to its decision.

“Everything being thus arranged, the combatants began to strip. Odds were laid five to four in favour of Mendoza, and readily accepted by Humphries’s friends, who considered that although perhaps it might be impossible for him to beat the Jew by carrying on the fight regularly and in a scientific style, yet, by his impetuous exertions at the commencement, would be able to overcome his antagonist, and bear away the palm.”


Round 1.—The onset of Humphries was bold and astonishingly vigorous, but was repelled by Mendoza with equal force; they mutually closed, struggled, and both fell.

2.—The same vigorous spirit was manifested on both sides, but Humphries struck the most blows, though apparently without overpowering Mendoza.

3.—This round was fought with much caution on both sides, each being equally careful of giving or receiving a blow; what passed, however, were in Mendoza’s favour, and it terminated by his giving Humphries a knock-down blow.

4.—They engaged, but only for a few moments.

5.—Humphries aimed a severe blow at Mendoza’s stomach, which he dexterously stopped, and struck him in the face; this blow, however, Humphries returned, but at the same time fell.

“A number of rounds after this took place, but in every one of them Mendoza evidently had the advantage, and odds had risen forty to five, and ten to one in his favour; Humphries continually fell, sometimes in consequence of blows, but more frequently from a policy often used in boxing, which perhaps 76may be considered fair; several times he sunk without a blow, which conduct, although contrary to the articles of agreement, was passed unnoticed, as his general manners placed him above the suspicion of cowardice. For although he had undoubtedly the worst throughout the battle, he fought with great resolution, and even when his friends, perceiving him conquered, and one eye perfectly closed, persuaded him to yield, he solicited to fight a little longer. Notwithstanding all this display of excellent bottom, he was again obliged to acknowledge the ascendancy of the Israelite.

“Mendoza was very much cut about the left side of his head, his left eye and ear being much mutilated, and he had received a severe cut in the ribs on the right side by a projectile left-handed blow of his antagonist.

“Humphries had several hits which drew blood under his left arm; his right eye was closed early in the battle, and he had a severe cut over his left. He had a wound clear as a razor cut by the left side of his nose by a straight-forward springing blow of Mendoza’s. The same hit also split his upper lip. He was carried through the crowd on the shoulders of his friends, who conveyed him in a post-chaise out of the town. Mendoza walked on the race-ground on the Town Moor for some time after the combat, ‘the observed of all observers.’”

“Money was collected from the spectators and amateurs present, as a prize to be fought for between Aaron Mendoza, a cousin of the successful champion, and Packer, a West-country boxer; the former was seconded by Johnson, and the latter by Ward. It was a most severe contest; they fought for an hour with the greatest violence, when on closing, they fell, and when down, Aaron being uppermost, Packer raised his knee, and so threw him a perfect somerset against the railing.[53] This decided the battle, and Packer was declared the conqueror.”

Dan spent the year 1791 in a sparring tour; for like most of the “prophets” he had an eye to the “jewels of gold and the jewels of silver” to be collected from the Gentiles. He crossed from Liverpool to Ireland, and there we find one “Squire Fitzgerald,” a swell of “great weight” and little prudence, tried his “prentice han’” on Dan. He soon found he had a workman to deal with, for Mendoza soundly thrashed him in twenty minutes, on the 2nd of August, 1791, fully demonstrating the striking difference between professionals and amateurs in boxing as in most other arts and sciences.

On his return to “Duke’s Plashe,” the Fancy, who had been looking out for the triumphant Jew, decided that Bill Warr[54] was a likely man to lower the pride of Dan, and a match was made to come off in June, 1791. Stokenchurch, in Oxfordshire, was named as the rendezvous. As, however, the company were on the road, they received intimation that the magistrates of Oxfordshire were resolved to prevent the battle. Upon this the cavalcade stopped at Uxbridge, and an arrangement was made to fight in Fenner’s Cricket Ground. Objections were, however, started, and the Duke of Hamilton, on the part of Warr, and Alderman Macaulay, on the part of Mendoza, agreed that they should postpone the affair till the Doncaster Meeting in September; all bets to stand over. Here, however, the old cup and lip proverb was verified; the authorities interposed, and the treat was 77postponed till May 14th, 1792, when the venue was changed to Smitham Bottom, near Croydon. On this eventful morn pedestrians out of number, and vehicles of every quality, were seen in rapid motion, eager to arrive at the destined spot. Between one and two the combatants appeared upon the stage, and were greeted with shouts of applause. Mendoza had for his second and bottle-holder, Tom Johnson and Butcher, with Harvey Aston, Esq., as his umpire; Warr was attended by Joe Ward and Jackson, and Mr. Watson as umpire.

At the commencement of the fight the odds were in favour of Warr; and much was expected from his well-known skill and strength. For the first eight rounds of the battle he fought tremendously; and in the fourteenth he succeeded in nailing Mendoza on the jaw in such a style that the Star of Israel came down with uncommon violence. Warr’s friends were now in high spirits, as it was thought that Dan had received a sickener; but his game soon brought him about, and he finished two successive rounds by flooring his opponent cleverly. The superiority of Mendoza now became manifest, Warr perceived he was in the hands of his master, and the spectators began to change their opinions. Mendoza knocked down his antagonist every round; nevertheless, Warr fought gamely an uphill battle, and put in some good hits. In the twenty-third round the combatants closed, Warr was completely exhausted, and Mendoza falling on him, he reluctantly gave in. This victory established Dan’s fame as a game man.

Nevertheless, Bill Warr fancied that in another trial he might regain his laurels; accordingly a match was made to come off in January, 1794, near Hounslow, but the magistrates interfering, it was postponed till the 12th of November following, when it was decided upon Bexley Common.

The opening of the battle was good, and Warr seemed to feel that he should accomplish his wish; as before, in the earlier rounds he seemed to have a slight advantage, and his opponent fell before him. Whether Mendoza permitted him to show himself off in this manner that he might be enabled to exhibit his great superiority afterwards, or that he could not resist the efforts of his antagonist, cannot be ascertained; but it was evident that he treated all the attempts of Warr with perfect coolness, and seemed quite confident of the success of his waiting game. In the fifth round he went in, stopped the hits of his opponent with the greatest ease, and returned so tremendously, that Bill was disposed of in the short space of fifteen minutes! It was clear that Warr, from the moment Mendoza assumed the offensive, was lost; his opponent’s confidence completely overawed him, and it was visible that he laboured under its depressing effects.

78But amid all his glory he was doomed to experience the vicissitudes of fortune by a mortifying defeat in his contest with Mr. Jackson, at Hornchurch, on April 15, 1795, which will be detailed in the memoir of Mr. John Jackson. This preyed so much upon his feelings that, after six years had elapsed, they burst forth with fury, occasioned by the following circumstance. Jem Belcher, after defeating Burke at Hurley Bottom, challenged Dan to fight, who immediately replied, that he had given up pugilism, and supported by his industry (as a publican, at the Lord Nelson, in Whitechapel), a wife and six children, and only wished to fight Jackson, who had dealt unhandsomely by him as a pugilist; and he now publicly declared himself ready to enter the lists with him for 100 guineas, provided that he would not take the unmanly and cowardly advantage of holding his hair. This speech of Mendoza’s was soon trumpeted abroad, and some busy persons inserted a sort of challenge to Mr. Jackson in the Oracle and Daily Advertiser, which was immediately answered by the latter. The letters, as mere specimens of the ring correspondence of the time are given under the head of Jackson. It will be observed that Mendoza asserts therein that he had fought thirty-two pitched battles, and Pierce Egan makes up a list to that amount of names, which, for aught the records of pugilism show, may have been selected from the London Directory.[55] It will be, however, to the point to give one of Mendoza’s letters, from which it would seem that Dan’s challenge was not, in the first instance, inserted with his permission.

To the Editor of the Daily Advertiser.

Mr. Editor,—It was with inexpressible concern that, in your paper of Wednesday last, I observed a letter signed “John Jackson,” purporting to be an answer to a supposed challenge from me, inserted in your detailed account of the recent pugilistic contest at Maidenhead. Mistake me not, Sir. I was not concerned at the contents of Mr. Jackson’s elegant effusion, nor in the least affected or surprised at the opprobrious falsity, brazen impudence, or malignant calumny of his assertions, which I deny in toto; but felt particularly hurt at the idea that I was compelled either to sit down tamely under injury, or incur the risk of offending my best friends, and particularly the respectable magistrates of this division, by resuming a profession which, both from principle and conviction, I had wholly relinquished.

79In order satisfactorily to refute Mr. Jackson’s allegations, it is only necessary to observe that a month after our battle at Hornchurch I waited on him, upbraided him with his unmanly conduct, by laying hold of my hair, and offered to fight him for 200 guineas. Jackson proposed to fight for 100 guineas; and upon that sum being procured, declined fighting under 500 guineas. Here was courage, here was consistency, here was bottom, and yet Mr. Jackson is a man of honour and of his word!!!

Mr. Editor, after this I left London for five years, which may easily account to Mr. Jackson for the interval of silence. I have fought thirty-two pitched battles—four with Humphries (three of which I won), and two with Will Warr, in both of which I was victorious; these two men were both game, and good fighters, and of course, having received so many blows, my only motive for wishing again to fight Mr. Jackson must be that spirit of honour and retaliation ever inherent in the breast of man.

Mr. Editor, I repeat that I am delicately situated. I wish to fight Mr. Jackson, and intend it; but that, from a dread of injuring my family, by offending the magistrates as a challenger in a newspaper (which would be indecorous in a publican), I can only observe, that I should be very happy to see, as soon as possible, either Mr. Jackson or his friends, at my house, where they shall receive every attention from me, as I wish most earnestly to convince the world what a deep and just sense I entertain of all Mr. Jackson’s favours conferred upon

“Admiral Nelson,” Whitechapel.

Mendoza, in the year 1806, again introduced himself to the notice of the public in a diffuse correspondence, arising out of a personal quarrel with Harry Lee. Those curious may read the whole in “Boxiana,” vol. i. pp. 272‒276. We learn from it incidentally that Dan, after his retirement from the ring, was an officer of the Sheriff of Middlesex, a favourite Jewish calling in the days of arrest on mesne process and of sponging-houses. Harry, in his last letter, accepts the challenge of Dan, which is all we care about the quarrel.

Harry was well known as an elegant sparrer, but his ring capabilities were untried. He was also taller, younger, and more active than the veteran Dan.

On March 21, 1806, at Grinstead Green, a short distance beyond Bromley, in Kent, the combatants met, and 50 guineas were the stakes deposited. It was a roped ring of twenty-five feet. Mendoza had for his second his old opponent and firm friend, Bill Warr, and for his bottleholder, Bill Gibbons; Harry Lee was attended by the Game Chicken and John Gully. The odds were three to one that Dan proved the conqueror.


Round 1.—Mendoza, with his piercing black eye, looked at his opponent with scornful contempt, and a more than usual degree of confidence. Lee soon showed he was no novice in the art. He stood well up, with his left arm extended, and tried rather artfully to pop in a hit over Mendoza’s guard; but the latter stopped several of these, and eventually sent Harry down. The odds rose ten to one on Dan, and the bets were decided respecting the first knock-down and first blood.

2.—Lee rose exasperated, the claret flowing copiously. Mendoza made a hit, which was neatly returned by Lee upon Dan’s nose—they closed and fell.

3.—Lee, out of temper, went in to mill away; but Mendoza punished him right and left for his temerity, and he saluted his mother earth.

4.—Lee now convinced the spectators that he was something more than a sparrer, by showing game—he put in a good hit over the left eye of Mendoza; but Dan threw him in the close. The opinions of the cognoscenti began to waver, for it appeared not 80quite so easy a thing as imagined; and two to one was sported that Mendoza did not beat Lee in half an hour.

5.—Lee, not destitute of pluck, attempted to rally; but Mendoza, aware of his intentions, put in so severe a blow, that Harry went under the ropes. Three to one against Lee.

6.—Mendoza, experienced in all the manœuvres of the art, with the coolness of the veteran, judging that his opponent would attempt another rally, waited for him with the greatest composure; as he came in Dan put in a tremendous hit over Harry’s nose, and threw him.

7.—Of no account.

8.—Lee, trusting to impetuosity more than judgment, went in rapidly; but the folly of such conduct was self-evident—Mendoza hit him away with the greatest ease, following him, and, in the event, throwing him a cross-buttock. Lee’s frontispiece had now a variegated appearance.

9.—Lee, full of gaiety, rallied; but Mendoza hit him sharply over the left eye, which was already terribly swelled. Five to one on Mendoza.

10.—Dan laughed at his opponent; who made a feeble hit and fell upon his knees.

11.—It appeared from Lee’s conduct that he entertained an idea that his opponent was to be conquered by impetuosity. He rushed in most furiously, when the latter hit him; Harry retreated and took refuge upon the ground.

12.—Mendoza thought it was necessary to show a little fight, and, in a sharp rally, quickly punished his opponent out of the ring.

13.—Rallying was the order of the day with Lee; Dan put in a severe hit, and, to avoid going down, Harry caught hold of his opponent.

14.—Mendoza struck his adversary, who, to the astonishment of the spectators, laid himself down as before. (Some hisses and disapprobation occurred; and cries of “Foul—take him away!”)

15.—Trifling away time; Lee went down without a hit, and Dan laughed at him. (Six to one against Lee.)

16.—Mendoza waiting for his opponent, hit him in the throat, which more than tickled him, and he fell from its effects, to all appearance extremely weak. (The odds now were out of comparison: a guinea to half-a-crown was offered.)

17.—Lee went to the ground on the first blow.

18.—Mere flourishing-the men closed and fell.

19.—Harry, quite gay, tried what effect another rally might produce; but Mendoza’s sagacity rendered the attempt futile. He gave Lee a desperate blow upon the chin, which not only cut it severely, but sent him under the ropes.

20.—Mendoza laughing at the insufficiency of his opponent’s attempts—who now appeared quite passionate—stopped Harry’s blows with the greatest sang froid. In closing, both went to the ground.

21.—Dan gave Lee so severe a body hit that it instantly floored him. (All betters, no takers.)

22.—As Mendoza made himself up to strike his opponent, Lee fell. (Cries of “Foul!”)

23.—Of no consequence-both closed and fell.

24.—Lee, still fond of rallying, tried it on; but Mendoza hit him away easily, and Lee slipped down.

25.—Mendoza, as if expecting Lee would rally again, was perfectly prepared for the attempt. Lee went in, and got punished right and left, finally going to the ground, much exhausted.

26.—Dan, full of spirits and vigour, as soon as Lee stood up gave him a floorer.

27.—Lee, in making a hit, lost his distance and fell.

28.—This was a most singular round. Harry went in to his opponent, and by main force threw him down by the arm.

29.—A rally on both sides—Lee, undismayed, put in several hits: in the close Mendoza was uppermost.

30.—The science of Dan was truly conspicuous, he stopped every blow; but happening to slip, Lee put in some facers as Mendoza was going down.

31.—Of no note whatever.

32.—Dan appeared rather fatigued, in making a blow he went down upon his knees.

33.—Lee now endeavoured to show that his spirits were in good trim, and made the best use of his knowledge, which was by no means mediocre; but it was in vain: his heart was better than his skill, and Dan milled him down.

34.—Both the combatants fought well; but the turn was in Dan’s favour.

35.—Mendoza sent Lee under the ropes, from a well-directed blow.

36.—Dan repeated the dose.

37. 38, 39.—In all these rounds the superiority of Mendoza was manifest: Dan stopped and hit as he pleased.

40.—Mendoza punished Lee’s ribs severely; he fell from the effects of the blows.

41.—Lee was now becoming much exhausted: he fell from a mere touch.

42.—Lee began to be convinced that the chances were against him; his exertions were on the decline. Mendoza did as he pleased, and closed the round by throwing him.

53.—For the last ten rounds Lee had not the smallest prospect of success; still his game prompted him to continue the fight in hopes that some lucky chance might offer; but having fallen a second time without a blow, Mendoza was declared the conqueror.

81The amateurs were completely surprised at the protraction of the above fight, for one hour and ten minutes. It is certain that Lee was not equal to the task of encountering so experienced and finished a pugilist as Mendoza; but it is equally true that his conduct was entitled to honourable mention; and, considering it was his first appearance in the ring, Lee acquitted himself in a superior manner. That he was not wanting either in courage or resolution was evident; and his scientific efforts, in several instances, were entitled to much praise; indeed, he eradicated the prevalent idea that he was nothing more than a sparrer.

Among the amateurs present the reporter enumerates, Lords Albemarle and Seften, Count Beaujolais, Sir Watkin Williams Wynne, Sir John Shelley, Sir Eden Nagle, Captain Halliday, Squire Thornhill, General Keppel, Messrs. Baxter, Fletcher Reid, Bagley, Challis, Robert Allen, etc.

Year after year we find “Ould Dan,” with an eye to business, making tours and exhibiting the “noble art,” of which he was unquestionably a talented demonstrator. In the summer of 1819, Dan made a most successful sparring tour, and we find him at Lincoln issuing a hand-bill, of which the following is an extract:—

“Mr. Mendoza has the authority of members of the Senate and Judges on the Bench in asserting the tendency of the practice of boxing to prevent the more fatal resort to the knife or other deadly weapons. To gentlemen it may prove more than an exercise or an amusement, by initiating them in the principles of a science by which the skilful, though of inferior strength, may protect themselves from the ruffian assault of the powerful vulgar, or save their friends and those who are defenceless from insult and imposition.”

We have already had occasion to observe the rarity of men believing in the decline of their own physical capabilities; and Mendoza, unfortunately, must be added to the list of those who, in the words of Captain Godfrey, when speaking of Broughton, allow their “valour” so far to get the upper hand of their “discretion” as to “trust a battle to waning age.” But other men, as well as pugilists, are guilty of this mistake: we shall not therefore dwell upon it further than to say that Dan ended his career, like so many other celebrated men, in defeat, though by no means in disgrace.

In July, 1820, being fourteen years from his last appearance within the roped ring, Mendoza met Tom Owen, in a contest for fame and 50 guineas. The battle arose from an old grudge; and although no one can doubt the game of Tom Owen, as we shall duly note in our memoir of that boxer, yet the frothy outpourings of the “Historian” in honour of his friend “Tom,” 82and at the expense of Mendoza,[56] are as bad in taste as they are extravagant in phrase. Be that as it may, Dan was defeated, and we need hardly add it was his “last appearance” within the ropes, though not “upon any stage,” the Fives Court being occasionally illuminated by his displays. In August, 1820, he made an “appeal” to the amateurs for “past services” to the pugilistic state, and delivered the subjoined address, which breathes a tone of reproach to the boxers as well as gratitude to his patrons:—

Gentlemen,—I return you my most sincere thanks for the patronage you have afforded me to-day, and likewise for all past favours. To those persons who have set-to for me to-day, I also acknowledge my gratitude; and their services will never be forgotten by me. Gentlemen, after what I have done for the pugilists belonging to the prize ring, I do say they have not used me well upon this occasion; in fact, the principal men have deserted me in toto. Gentlemen, I think I have a right to call myself the father of the science; for it is well known that prize fighting lay dormant for several years after the time of Broughton and Slack. It was myself and Humphries that revived it in our three contests for superiority, and the science of pugilism has been highly patronised ever since. (Hear, hear, from some old amateurs.) Gentlemen, I have once more to thank you for the present, and all other past favours; nay, more, I now take my leave of you, and I trust that I shall never trouble you for another benefit. (Applause.) I have now only to say—Farewell.”

From this period Dan’s life no longer belongs to the history of the ring. We may, however, observe that for several years he supported a large family, a wife and eleven children, as a publican, keeping the Admiral Nelson, in Whitechapel. He died on the 3rd of September, 1836, among his “peoplesh” in the East, in the region where he had been so long the milling star, at the advanced age of 73.

Mendoza was, in company, a shrewd, intelligent, and communicative man. As a scientific professor of the art of self-defence it was Mendoza who trod most immediately in the steps of Broughton. His success as a professor was unrivalled; and there was scarcely a town in the kingdom where he did not exhibit his finished talents to admiring and applauding assemblages. It seems, from a work we have before us, published by Mendoza himself, and containing much forgotten squabbling between himself and Humphries, that he derived his first knowledge of the art, scientifically, from his elegant competitor, 83“the Gentleman Boxer.” But he so rapidly improved upon his master’s system as to stand for years without a rival. No man of his time united the theory of sparring with the practice of boxing so successfully as Daniel Mendoza; and hence, as a distinctive feature, the “School of Mendoza” marks a period in the History of Pugilism.




The popular cognomen of the “Gentleman Boxer” may give the cue to the prepossessing appearance, quiet self-possession, and amenity of manners, which contemporary writers agree in attributing to Richard Humphries. “His attitudes,” says the author of “Sketches and Reminiscences,” already quoted, “were remarkable for their impressive grace;” of course according to the taste of the old school. We doubt if modern cognoscenti, as they inspect our faithful copy of a contemporary engraving, will endorse the opinion; but, as the Latin poet told us two thousand years ago, “times change, and men change with them:”[57] though we must admit that our progress has brought improvement.

Humphries was about the middle size, 5 feet 8 inches, well-limbed, and had practised boxing to great advantage. He was apt and ready; his blows were effective; and his aims at the “mark,” or wind, and under the ear, are talked of by contemporaries. Contrary to our modern notions, Humphries puzzled his antagonists by hitting with his right at leading off, and stopping with his left. He did not, however, like Mendoza, use both hands with equal facility. His game was unquestionable, and he was justly esteemed a model of pugilistic excellence. He was so attractive as to give a new and increased impetus to the art of self-defence; and on the public announcement that “the Gentleman Boxer” would fight Samuel Martin, the Bath Butcher, on a stage at Newmarket, on the 3rd of May, 1786, the battle was attended by their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and Duke of York (arcades ambo), the Dukes of Orleans and De Fitzjames, and most of the French nobility then in England, with a crowd of the best and bravest of the land. A guinea was the admission-fee, which hundreds cheerfully paid, to go to the winner, and between £30,000 and £40,000 awaited the wager of battle.

85Sam Martin[58] was a boxer of some repute, shorter than Humphries, strongly made, a little heavier, and had seen some service in the field of battle. The set-to was remarkable for science, Humphries parrying Martin’s attacks with singular adroitness, and standing up to Martin manfully. Martin seemed deficient in distance, and occasionally fell; hence his deliveries were ineffective. Humphries retained his position of favourite. Martin, finding himself kept out of distance, went in boldly. Humphries exchanged, and fought “with” his man, till the betting became equal. Humphries appeared the stronger man, giving his opponent a most tremendous knock down, which brought the odds to his favour. Martin, notwithstanding, appeared game, and fought well, contesting every inch of ground; and it was not until after a determined combat of an hour and three quarters, (“Boxiana” states three quarters of an hour) that Martin declared he had had enough. The distinguished company were highly gratified, and Humphries won—“golden opinions from all sorts of men.”

Numerous sporting men rallied round pugilism, and the professors of the science were not without high and noble patrons. Royalty now frequently witnessed the display of the art, accompanied by dukes, earls, honourables, etc.; and men of the first distinction did not feel ashamed of being seen in the ring, or acting as umpires at a manly boxing match.

The science, courage, and gentleman-like conduct of Humphries had secured him many friends; and, with a mind by no means destitute of intelligence, he could not fail in obtaining admiration and respect. But, deservedly distinguished as Humphries stood in the boxing hemisphere, a competitor arose to share his fame and glory, if not to aspire to superiority. He was not only a daring, but a most formidable rival, as his pretensions to pugilistic excellence were known to be sound. He had been proved, and his displays of skill in trying conflicts had made a deep impression upon the best judges. As there was beyond this a personal jealousy and rivalry, there was little difficulty in bringing together Daniel Mendoza and Richard Humphries.

86We have already noticed the preliminary brush between the rivals at the “Cock,” at Epping.

Preliminaries being agreed to, Odiham, in Hampshire, was fixed upon as the place, and 400 guineas as the sum for which these masters of the art should contend. A raised twenty-four feet stage was prepared, in a paddock, and the door-money was to be divided between the combatants. On the day (January 9, 1788) being announced, the anxiety which prevailed upon the decision of this tourney was unprecedented. Odiham was then a distance from town; it is now a steam steed’s “stride.” Everybody was there, for Humphries and Mendoza were to fight. In the towns and villages near the scene of action, the country people were equally interested, and innumerable pedestrians were seen in all directions moving towards the fight, so that within an hour previous to the battle the multitude collected was truly astonishing. To prevent the combatants from being bilked of the door-money (which was half a guinea each), the most athletic of the milling corps were selected for the protection of the entrance, and the potent arms of Dunn, Ryan, Warr, and Tring, assisted by other powerful pugilists, kept for some time order in the crowd. But, as the time drew near for the combatants to mount the stage, John Bull’s anxiety increased beyond every other thought; and, with one desperate effort, the “majesty of the people,” like a mighty flood, swept all before it. The door-keepers were soon lost in the violence of the torrent, and thousands never gave themselves the trouble of asking the price of admission. All was noise, uproar, and confusion, for some minutes; but upon the appearance of the combatants their attention was so completely riveted that silence instantly prevailed.

According to our practice, whenever procurable we quote the report:—

“About one o’clock on Wednesday (January 9th, 1788), Humphries ascended the stage amid the cheers of the spectators, attended by Tom Johnson as his second, Tom Tring as his bottle-holder, and Mr. Allen as his chosen umpire. After bowing to all around, he proceeded to strip. His dress, when prepared for the contest, was a pair of fine flannel drawers, white silk stockings with gold-coloured clocks, pumps, and black shoe-ribands. While Humphries was preparing, Mendoza mounted the stage, and was received with reiterated plaudits. His second was David Benjamin; his bottle-holder, Jacobs, both Jews; and his umpire, Mr. Moravia. Mendoza’s dress was more plain than his opponent’s.

“In a few minutes the combatants were prepared for the onset, shook hands, and immediately Mendoza assumed his attitude with the air of a man determined on victory. Humphries appeared astonished, and both 87remained in serious expectation for some minutes before a blow was offered. Mendoza struck first, but recoiling, slipped and fell; Humphries caught it, and retreated. The second blow Mendoza gave his opponent brought him down, and in the next round they closed, and Mendoza threw his adversary. For full fifteen minutes did Mendoza attack with such violence and superiority, that the odds, which at the beginning were two to one against him, changed considerably in his favour; and during this time Humphries had many falls, but still remained undaunted.

“Whether the defensive mode of fighting adopted by Humphries in his first onset was manœuvre, or the nouvelle style in which he was attacked, and the unexpected vigour of his antagonist, made him give way, cannot but remain a matter of dispute. At the commencement of the battle Mendoza drove him to the side of the rail, and, while his body was suspended, aimed a blow at the bottom of his ribs, which undoubtedly would have decided the battle, had not Johnson caught it. Mendoza’s friends immediately exclaimed, ‘foul, foul;’ but the umpires decided Johnson was perfectly justified in acting as he had done, for that Humphries must be considered as being knocked down.[59]

“From the wetness of the day, the stage was extremely slippery, and this was particularly unfavourable to Humphries: he therefore took off his shoes; but silk stockings were ill calculated to remedy the inconvenience, and he afterwards put on a pair of worsted stockings, in which he stood more firm, and began to manifest great superiority. Having very much recovered himself, he stood up to his antagonist, and with great dexterity threw Mendoza, pitching him on the face, which cut his forehead above the right eye, and very much bruised his nose. From this moment odds changed again in favour of Humphries. He threw in a blow near the loins of his antagonist, and in the next round planted a most severe one in the neck. In this round Mendoza also struck him in the face; but slipping, he fell with his leg under him, sprained his foot, and immediately gave in: he shortly after fainted, and was carried off the stage.

“The contest lasted twenty-nine minutes (twenty-eight minutes fifty-four seconds), and it was acknowledged there never was more skill and science displayed in any boxing match in this kingdom.

“Mr. Bradyl, Humphries’ patron, not being on the ground, he immediately forwarded to him the result in the following laconic style:—

Sir,—I have done the Jew, and am in good health.


88The Israelites were severe sufferers; but although Mendoza was defeated, his fame and character as a pugilist were considerably increased. His style of fighting was highly spoken of by the scientific; and at close quarters, and as a quick hitter, he was evidently superior to his antagonist. The advantage was also upon the side of Mendoza in strength of arm; and, when struggling to obtain the throw, he punished his adversary considerably by keeping down his head. His guard was excellent, and displayed a thorough knowledge of the art; in consequence of keeping it closer to his body than that of his adversary, his blows were given with more force when he hit out; and with respect to stopping he was not inferior to Humphries. For elegance of position, cool and prompt judgment, fortitude of manner, and force of blow, however, he was thought much inferior. He wanted also that manly bearing which was so apparent in Humphries, whose confidence rendered him so apparently indifferent of self. In throwing, Mendoza, to the great surprise of many, had the advantage.

Humphries’ attitudes were of the most manly and tasteful description, and, even in the most trying moments of the fight, his postures were considered graceful. His intellectual capacity had rendered him more acquainted with the properties of the human frame than pugilists in general; and his habits of life had tended to make him more conversant and attractive in society than fighting men perhaps think essentially necessary. His manners were conciliatory, and he endeavoured through life to enact the gentleman. His friends were materially increased by such conduct.

It was extremely difficult to decide which was the neatest pugilist; so much activity, science, elegance, and courage, were displayed upon both sides, though extremely different as to character and manner: but it appeared that Humphries, in the defensive position, although he kept his adversary at a distance by extending his arms, lost that celerity and power which his hits might have possessed had his arms been nearer his body.

Thenceforward, the pugilistic career of Humphries was a fruitless attempt to prevent his victor’s wreath from falling into the hands and adorning the brow of his able Israelitish rival. Twice did he do all that man can do—his best—to stem the advancing tide of fate, but in vain. How he struggled is already written in the memoir of Mendoza. Humphries lived for many years after their last contest (September 29th, 1790), and died in respectable circumstances, his calling being that of a coal-merchant in the Adelphi, Strand.



MR. JOHN JACKSON—1788‒1795.

In penning the History of Pugilism, one object has been our polestar—a desire on the one hand to avoid fulsome adulation, and, on the other, never to cast undeserved censure: to “nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice,” but to speak of men as they were, and as their actions proved them.

These remarks appear appropriate to a notice of John Jackson, inasmuch as, blinded by early prejudices, which no after information has tended to dispel, and imposed upon by the contemptible sophisms and paltry libels of lily-livered scribes, who “earn their dirty pay” by pandering to what they suppose the taste of the reading public, no small proportion of that public has taken it for granted that pugilism and blackguardism are synonymes. It is as an antidote to these slanderers that we pen a candid history of the boxers; and, taking the general habits of men of humble origin (elevated by their courage and bodily gifts to be the associates of those more fortunate in worldly position), we fearlessly maintain that the best of our boxers (we take no account of outsiders, inasmuch as they have no claim to the designation,) present as good samples of honesty, generosity of spirit, goodness of heart, and humanity, as an equal number of men of any class of society. But the manly art of self-defence—one of the most generous, noble, and national traits of the English character—has never lacked detractors. The mean-spirited, the treacherous, and the cruel can never be its admirers. But does it appear that the mind is debased from witnessing such public displays? would the usages of society be infringed upon if such exhibitions were legalised? Are the feelings of men so blunted from these specimens of hardihood and valour, as to prevent them from fulfilling those public situations in life which many are called upon to perform, with fidelity, justice, and reputation? We reply, no! and experience corroborates our assertion. Were it otherwise, we should admit pugilism to be a disgrace to the country where it is permitted, and boxers obnoxious to society.

The “great moralist,” Samuel Johnson, surely saw the rough side of 90pugilism in his day; yet we read in his works, “Courage is a quality so necessary for maintaining virtue, that it is always respected, even when found associated with vice.” Without accepting the corollary of the ponderous Doctor, himself—as in the case of the brewer’s servant in Fleet Street, and of Davies, the bookseller in Covent Garden—a practical exponent of the ars pugnandi, we are ready to appeal to the readers of these pages, whether courage of the highest order, in the case of the leading pugilists, is not associated with forbearance, humanity, and active benevolence?

One of the most respected public characters in the early part of this century, whose patriotic attention to the preservation and due administration of the laws; whose firmness in supporting, upon all occasions, the liberty of the subject; whose dignity and consistency of conduct in representing the first city in the world in Parliament; and who filled the office of Lord Mayor of London, with honour to himself, and advantage to his fellow citizens, was an ardent and firm patron of pugilism, and “a friend” of John Jackson. We allude to Harvey Christian Coombe, Esq., whose name never suffered the slightest tarnish from his patronage of the Old English custom of boxing in the early part of his life; but, through a long and distinguished career, proved his pretensions so clearly to the character of a real Englishman, an honest citizen, and an independent senator, that in 1816 he was returned a fourth time as member for the City of London.

Another member of the senate, whose enlightened mind, classical acquirements, and transcendent talents, shone at a time when wits and orators were rife in St. Stephen’s Chapel, was the friend of John Jackson, and of pugilism. To a mind stored with ancient and modern literature, conversant with popular recreations in all their gradations, from the rusticity of a cudgelling bout at a country fair to an assaut d’armes in the aristocratic fencing-school, the Right Hon. William Windham added a true English spirit of fair play, when he thus publicly declared his sentiments:—“A smart contest this, between Maddox and Richmond! Why are we to boast so much of the native valour of our troops, as shown at Talavera, at Vimiera, and at Maida, yet to discourage all the practices and habits which tend to keep alive the same sentiments and feelings?” The sentiments that filled the minds of three thousand spectators who witnessed those two pugilists were the same in kind as those which inspired the higher combatants on that occasion. It is the circumstances only in which they are displayed that make the difference.

‘He that the world subdued, had been
But the best wrestler on the green.’


From an original Painting in possession of Sir Henry Smythe, Bart.

91There is no sense in the answer always made to this, ‘Are no men brave but boxers?’ Bravery is found in all habits, classes, circumstances, and conditions. But have habits and institutions of one sort no tendency to form it more than another? Longevity is found in persons of habits the most opposite; but are not certain habits more favourable to it than others? The courage does not arise from mere boxing, from the mere beating, or being beat, but from the sentiments excited by the contemplation and cultivation of such practices. “Will it make no difference in the mass of people, whether their amusements are all of a pacific, pleasurable, and effeminate nature; or whether they are of a sort that calls forth a continued admiration of prowess and hardihood?”

A slight anecdote, apropos of the prevalence of the taste for the use of the “muffles,” as boxing-gloves were then called, will take us back to the days when Vauxhall was in the height of its splendour. Old Tyers, then the proprietor of the Gardens, had commissioned Hayman, the painter, to panel the “Hall of British Worthies” with portraits of the heroes of our land. The gallant and good-natured Marquis of Granby was waited upon by Tyers, with a request that he would honour Hayman with a sitting. In consequence, the hero of Minden dropped in at the artist’s studio in St. Martin’s Lane. “But, Frank,” said the peer, “before I sit to you, I insist upon having a set-to with you.” Hayman, astonished at the oddity of the observation, affected not to understand his visitor, whereupon the Marquis exclaimed, “I have been told that you are one of the last boxers of the school of Broughton, and I flatter myself not altogether deficient in the pugilistic art; but since I have been in Germany I have got out of practice, therefore I want a little trial of your skill.” Hayman pleaded age and gout as obstacles to his consent. To the first the Marquis replied, “There was very little difference between them; and to the second, that he considered exercise as a specific remedy,” adding, laughing, “besides, a few rounds will cause a glow of countenance that will give animation to the canvass.” Hayman no longer resisted; the gloves were donned, and to it they went. After a good display of strength and science, Hayman delivered such a straight hit in the “breadbasket,” that down they both went with a tremendous crash. This brought up stairs the affrighted Mrs. Hayman, who found the academician and commander-in-chief rolling over each other on the carpet like two unchained bears. Frank, who was a humourist and bon vivant, often narrated this anecdote of the nobleman,

“Who filled our sign-posts then as Wellesley now,”

over a social glass at his own and his friends’ merry meetings.

92We cannot but think the reader will consider these slight notices of how our fathers viewed the science of self-defence—now, for a season only, as we trust, “fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf”—as a fitting preface to the life of Jackson, who flourished in the palmy days of pugilism; one of “nature’s gentlemen,” who not only supplanted Mendoza, but took a higher position in the social scale than any boxer who preceded or followed him, no less from the firmness and urbanity of his manners, than the high requisites he possessed for shining as an athlete.

John Jackson was born in London, in 1768, and was the son of an eminent builder, by whom the arch was thrown over the Old Fleet Ditch, near the mouth of the River Fleet, flowing from the Hampstead and Highgate Hills, and crossed by bridges at Holborn and Ludgate. This forms the great sewer of Blackfriars from the north into the new Low Level, over which run Farringdon Street (the site of the old Fleet Market), and Bridge Street, leading to the splendid bridge by Cubitt, with its ugly iron companion carrying the L. C. & D. R. John Jackson’s uncles were farmers, and tenants of the Duke of Bedford and the Marquis of Hertford. Nature had bestowed upon him all those athletic requisites which constitute the beau ideal of perfect manhood. There was a happy combination of muscular development with proportionate symmetry in his frame (his height was five feet eleven, and his weight fourteen stone), which rendered him a fitting model for the sculptor, and excited the admiration of all those by whom these qualities are appreciated. At the age of nineteen he became a frequenter of the sparring schools, and displayed such talents as proved that he was destined to eclipse the most favoured of his cotemporaries; added to which, possessing as he did the suaviter in modo as well as the fortiter in re, he soon found patrons of the highest grade.

It is stated that a conversation with Colonel Harvey Aston[60] led to his 93first encounter in the prize ring. Fewterel, a Birmingham boxer, as yet unbeaten, had been the conqueror, says “Pancratia,” in eighteen battles. The meeting took place at Smitham Bottom, near Croydon, June 9th, 1788. We copy the report.

“This day there were decided three boxing matches, which had been long depending, and great bets were depending on. The first was between Jackson, a fine young man of nineteen years only, and Fewterel,[61] of Birmingham. Tom Johnson seconded Jackson, and Bill Warr, Fewterel; Humphries and Dunn were the bottle-holders. Fewterel is a man of extremely great bulk, so much so that, at first setting-to, it was doubted whether Jackson would ever level such an opponent. Yet this he never failed to do when he could plant his blows at distance. The contest lasted one hour and seven minutes; its decision being very much procrastinated by Fewterel fighting shifty, 94getting down to avoid a blow, and then remaining so long on the floor as often to require the interposition of the umpires to remind his seconds of ‘time.’ Fewterel at last gave up the contest, and Major Hanger, by command of the Prince of Wales, who was present, gave young Jackson a bank note.”[62]

Jackson’s next contest (March 12th, 1789) was with George Ingleston, the brewer. It closed by an untoward accident, by which Jackson broke the small-bone of his leg, as will be seen under the head of Ingleston, in the Appendix to Period II.

Jackson’s next contest was one of the greatest interest to the pugilistic world. The victories of Mendoza had placed him on the pinnacle of fame; and the attempt to defeat the conqueror of Sam Martin, of Humphries (twice), of Bill Warr (twice), to say nothing of minor boxers, was viewed as indeed a bold flight of young ambition. On April 15th, 1795, the men met at Hornchurch, in Essex, for a stake of 200 guineas aside. We copy the contemporary report:—

“A twenty-four feet stage was erected in a most advantageous hollow, which accommodated upwards of three thousand spectators, and so excellently adapted that no one could claim a superiority of situation. All the eminent patrons and amateurs were present: the Duke of Hamilton, Lord Delaval, Sir John Phillipson, Mr. Clark, Mr. Bullock, Mr. Lee, Mr. Fawcett, etc.; and among the pugilists of note were Jackling, Will Warr and Joe Warr, George the Brewer, Tom Tyne, Fearby (the Young Ruffian), etc.

“At one o’clock Mendoza mounted the spot of combat, accompanied by his second, Harry Lea, and Symonds (the Old Ruffian), as his bottle-holder. Jackson immediately followed, with Tom Johnson as his second, and Wood, the coachman, for his bottle-holder. The chosen umpires were Mr. Alexander and Mr. Allen.

“They each politely bowed to the people, and were received with general acclamations. About five minutes after one they, as usual, saluted each other by shaking hands, and immediately set-to. Bets five to four in favour of Mendoza.”


Round 1.—Both having assumed their attitude, displayed the greatest caution; full a minute expired before a blow was struck, when Jackson made a hit, and his antagonist fell.

2.—Mendoza guarded with great science, avoided the blows of his opponent, and put in several severe ones.

3.—In this round there was much hard fighting. Odds rose two to one in favour of 95Mendoza, but the round terminated by Mendoza falling.

4.—This was the most severely contested round throughout the battle. Jackson seemed to hold his opponent’s manœuvres in contempt, followed him up with great resolution, and put in some dreadfully severe blows, by the last of which Mendoza fell, and his right eye was much cut; Jackson now evidently had the advantage.

5.—In this round Jackson caught his opponent by the hair, and holding him down, gave him several severe blows, which brought him to the ground; Mendoza’s friends called “foul,” but the umpires decided on the contrary. Odds had now changed two to one on Jackson.

6, 7, 8.—Throughout these three rounds Jackson supported his superiority. Mendoza acted entirely on the defensive.

9.—This was the last round. Jackson manifestly displayed astonishing advantage; he several times struck his adversary, when he fell quite exhausted, and gave in.

The battle only lasted ten minutes and a-half, and was acknowledged by every spectator to be the hardest contested that ever was fought in so short a time. Jackson was very little hurt, leaping from the stage with great agility, but Mendoza was quite cut up.

“A subscription purse was made and fought for between a Jew called Black Baruk, who was seconded by Symonds (the Old Ruffian), and Burk a glass-blower, seconded by James the waterman. It was very well contested for half an hour, when a dispute arose about a foul blow, and it was terminated by sharing the money between them.”

Nearly seven years after his combat with Mendoza, a “gag” paragraph having appeared in the newspaper, announcing a forthcoming fight as in arrangement between Mendoza and Jackson, the latter inserted the following letter to the Editor of the Oracle and Daily Advertiser of Wednesday, December 1, 1801:—

Sir,—I was somewhat astonished on my return to town on Saturday, to learn that a challenge was inserted in your paper on Thursday last, as if from Mr. Mendoza. Should I be right in my conclusion, by believing that it came from that celebrated pugilist, I beg you will inform the public through the medium of your paper, that for some years I have entirely withdrawn from a public life, and am more and more convinced of the propriety of my conduct by the happiness which I enjoy in private among many friends of great respectability, with whom it is my pride to be received on terms of familiarity and friendship: goaded, however, as I am to a petty conflict, I hope that it will not be considered too much arrogance on my part simply to observe, that, after waiting for more than three years to accept the challenge of any pugilist, however dexterous in the science, and however highly flattered by his friends, I think it rather extraordinary that Mr. Mendoza should add a silence of four years to those three, it being nearly seven years since I had the satisfaction of chastising him; but Mr. Mendoza derived one great good from the issue of that contest—he was taught to be less hasty in forming his resolutions, more slow in carrying them into effect.

“This cautious and wise principle of action deserves much commendation; and having served an apprenticeship of seven years to learn a certain portion of artificial courage, he now comes forward with a stock of impudence (the only capital which during that time he seems to have acquired) to force me to appear once more in that situation which I have for years cheerfully avoided.

“Reluctant, however, as I am to attract again, even for a moment, the public attention, I shall have no objection to vindicate my character by a meeting with Mr. Mendoza when and where he pleases, provided he’ll promise to fight, and provided he’ll also promise not to give previous information to the magistrates at Bow Street, or elsewhere.

“I am, Sir, yours and the public’s most respectfully,
Nov. 20, 1801.

Need we say that this was on the part of Mendoza a mere piece of that absurd system of gagging then so much in vogue, and on which we have elsewhere commented.

Independent of his pugilistic prowess, Mr. Jackson was distinguished for 96his extraordinary powers as a runner of a short distance, and as a leaper no man of his day was equal to him at a standing jump, of which many extraordinary feats are on record. His muscular strength was equal to his bodily activity, and in the presence of Mr. Harvey Coombe, and other gentlemen, he lifted ten hundred weight and one quarter, and wrote his own name with eighty-four pounds weight suspended from his little finger!

One of the most able and experienced sporting writers, the late Vincent George Dowling, Esq., the founder, and for more than thirty years the editor of Bell’s Life in London, has left on record a graceful tribute to the memory of his friend of many years, John Jackson, in the form of an obituary notice. From this we shall here make a few extracts.

“John Jackson was an instance of the glorious truth which this country is constantly evolving—that if a man be true to himself, he may defy the obloquy and malice of millions. No matter in what grade of life a creature be thrown; no matter whether from necessity or choice he mingles with the learned or the illiterate, the high or the low; give him the attribute of genius, or, if that be denied, honesty and perseverance, and he must distinguish himself. The choice of a profession is the puzzle of boyhood—be it so. A profession never degraded a man, if that man took care not to degrade his profession.” This last axiom deserves to be written in letters of adamant; it contains the philosophy we hope to inculcate by our pages. Mr. Dowling continues: “As there always have been, and always will be, ruffians loose upon society, who can only be met and quelled by the arguments such brutes can appreciate; and as

“Heads, nineteen in twenty, ’tis confest,
Can feel a crabstick quicker than a jest,”

it is essential that boxing, as an art, should not fall into desuetude. It empowers the little man to defend himself against the big one; makes the weaker man, to a considerable extent, able to protect himself against the onset of the stronger one, and, in some cases, to punish his want of skill and his presumption. Doubtless much has been done in our great cities by gas and an improved police; but even now things do occasionally occur to call upon every man to know how with his own hands to defend his own head, or, what is doubtless of more consequence, the heads of those near and dear to him, or under his protection. Such a power is a corps de reserve, which, though it may never be called into action, it is valuable and assuring to possess. So thought our grandfathers, so thought our grandfathers’ fathers in the days of Fielding. Boxing, to a gentleman, was a more modern and practical application of knight-errantry; it enabled a man 97to protect himself against aggression, and yet more, to defend an insulted woman. ‘Good,’ exclaims the anti-pugilist, ‘but what say you to the prize-fighter?’ The response is plain: He is the exemplar, the professor, the demonstrator of a practice, of an exercise. Could or can the sword or the bow be taught without professors, and can they teach without exemplifying?” * * * After a few facts, which will be found embodied in our Memoir, Mr. Dowling concludes: “From 1785, Mr. Jackson ceased to be a public pugilist, having fought but three battles, winning two, and not gaining (for it cannot be called losing) the third by an accident. On what basis, then, rests his fame as a thoroughly tried boxer? On none whatever; the pedestal of his popularity was conduct, the keystone to fortune in every grade of life. There is a singular similarity in the career of John Jackson and John Gully: the latter fought but thrice, was beaten once, won the other two, and then retired to enjoy a better fortune in a higher sphere of society.”

Ere quitting the mere active sporting career of Mr. Jackson, it may be as well to state that as a runner his speed was extraordinary, but he could not last: he also excelled as a jumper until the celebrated Ireland “took the shine out of all England.”

The opening of “Jackson’s Rooms, 13, Old Bond Street,” was literally an era in the gymnastic education of the aristocracy. Not to have had lessons of Jackson was a reproach. To attempt a list of his pupils would be to copy one-third of the then peerage. Byron, who was proud of being thought a pugilist, has in his correspondence spoken highly of his tutor; but the fact is, from lameness, the poet could neither hit nor stop effectively. When Jackson taught the author of “Childe Harold,” he was forty-four, Byron about twenty-three; the latter therefore stood a boy before a veteran. In a note to the 11th Canto of “Don Juan,” we find this: “My friend and corporeal pastor and master, John Jackson, Esquire, professor of pugilism, who I trust still retains the strength and symmetry of his model of a form, together with his good humour, and athletic as well as mental accomplishments.”

And in his diary we read:—“Jackson has been here; the boxing world much as usual, but the club increases (i.e. Pugilistic Club). I shall dine at Cribb’s to-morrow.”

He records going to this dinner thus: “Just returned from dinner with Jackson (the Emperor of Pugilism), and another of the select, at Cribb’s, the Champion’s.”

The next extract shows the author of “Childe Harold” actually in training: “I have been sparring with Jackson for exercise this morning, and 98mean to continue and renew my acquaintance with my muffles. My chest, and arms, and wind are in very good plight, and I am not in flesh. I used to be a hard hitter, and my arms are very long for my height (5 feet 8¼ inches); at any rate exercise is good, and this the severest of all; fencing and the broadsword never fatigued me half so much.” This latter is dated the 17th of March, 1814.

“Got up, if anything, earlier than usual; sparred with Jackson ad sudorem, and have been much better in health for many days.”

Byron kept at his work, for we find him writing thus on the 9th of April, 1814: “I have been boxing for exercise for the last month daily.”

In returning to the younger days of the “finest formed man in Europe,” we shall take the liberty of borrowing a graphic colloquial sketch from the lips of a veteran: “There were the Lades, the Hangers, the Bullocks, the Vernons, but give me Jack Jackson, as he stood alone amid the throng. I can see him now, as I saw him in ’84, walking down Holborn Hill, towards Smithfield. He had on a scarlet coat, worked in gold at the buttonholes, ruffles, and frill of fine lace, a small white stock, no collar (they were not then invented), a looped hat with a broad black band, buff knee-breeches, and long silk strings, striped white silk stockings, pumps, and paste buckles; his waistcoat was pale blue satin, sprigged with white. It was impossible to look on his fine ample chest, his noble shoulders, his waist, (if anything too small), his large, but not too large hips (the fulcrum of the human form, whether male or female), his limbs, his balustrade calf and beautifully turned but not over delicate ankle, his firm foot, and peculiarly small hand, without thinking that nature had sent him on earth as a model. On he went at a good five miles and a half an hour, the envy of all men, and the admiration of all women.”

As regards his face nature had not been bountiful; his forehead was rather low, and the mode he wore his hair made it peculiarly so. His cheek bones were high, and his nose and mouth coarse. His ears projected too much from his head, but his eyes were eyes to look at rather than look with; they were full and piercing, and formed a great portion of his power as a pugilist—with them he riveted his men.

Anatomists of the first standing examined Jackson, and artists and sculptors without number took sketches and models of his arm; but it was the extraordinary proportion of the man throughout that formed the wonder.

After 1795 Mr. Jackson resolved to teach others the art in which he himself excelled. For an instructor he had that invaluable requisite, temper; he was never too fast with his pupils. This made his initiatory lessons 99tedious to young gentlemen who go ahead, and it may readily be conceived that amid the aristocracy of England he had plenty of rough assailants to deal with. But he was always on his guard; there was no chance of rushing suddenly in and taking Jackson by surprise—he could not be flurried. Amid the other qualifications he had studied Lavater, and managed to reckon up his customers at first sight, and knew what he had to trust to. It has been said “he defied any man to hit him;” this is the truth, but not the whole truth—he defied any man to hit him whilst he (Jackson) stood merely on the defensive; in a fight, of course, it is impossible to avoid being hit.

“His sparring was elegant and easy. He was peculiarly light upon his feet, a good judge of distance, and when he indulged his friends with a taste of his real quality, the delivery of his blow was only observable in its effect. It literally came like lightning, and was felt before it was seen. Most big men are comparatively slow, but he was as rapid as Owen Swift or Johnny Walker, and this, too, when upwards of fifty years of age.

“Jackson not only told you what to do, but why you should do it; in this essential point many capital instructors are and have been deficient. The want of this power of explaining the purpose of an action made Young Dutch Sam and Richard Curtis bad instructors, though they were finished pugilists, and, which does not always follow, capital sparrers.

“Jackson was not unmindful of the fact that art never ends. If there was anything new in the gymnastic, equestrian, or pedestrian way, there be assured was Jackson; not merely witnessing the exhibition, but examining the means by which the effects were produced. He was consequently often at Astley’s and at the Surrey, when Ireland, the jumper, was there, and knew all the famous fencers, funambulists, dancers, and riders of his day, and his day was a long one.

“Of his private character, what can be said more than that all his pupils became his friends. Save with Dan Mendoza, it is not known that he ever had a quarrel. He was a careful man, not a mean man—saving, but not penurious. It is to be remembered, too, from his peculiar situation, continued calls were made upon his purse by the ruffianly and profligate, who claimed a brotherhood that he utterly and properly repudiated.”

In 1811, he procured a benefit at the Fives Court, in aid of the subscription for the suffering Portuguese; it realised £114. Next year he did the same for the British prisoners in France; this benefit amounted to £132 6s. He also aided the benefit for the Lancashire weavers (1826).

One old boxer (but who was not of Jackson’s day) pestered him incessantly 100for money. “No,” said Jackson, “I’ll give you no money; but you may go to the Horse and Groom, and you will find a clean bed, three meals, and a pot of beer a day; stay there until matters mend.” The man was thankful in the extreme; but a week had not elapsed ere he was found in the taproom bartering his dinner for gin!

Of course a “lion” like Jackson could not avoid being made a “show” of on particular occasions; accordingly, when the allied sovereigns were in England, his aid was required. On the 15th of June, 1814, at the house of Lord Lowther, in Pall Mall, a pugilistic fete came off in the presence of the Emperor of Russia, Platoff, Blucher, etc. The display so delighted those illustrious fighting men that it was resolved to carry the thing out on a grander scale; accordingly, the King of Prussia, the Prince Royal, Prince of Mecklenburg, and others assembled. Jackson, Cribb, Belcher, Oliver, Painter, and Richmond, were the principal performers. The foreign nobility now wanted a peep, and at Angelo’s rooms some splendid displays took place. It was said that Jackson had inoculated them with a pugilistic fever, but it is believed he never obtained a single pupil from among them. If this be a fact, it is an extraordinary one.

At the coronation of George the Fourth, 1821, Mr. Jackson was applied to to furnish an unarmed force “to preserve order.” Cribb, Spring, Belcher, Carter, Richmond, Ben Burn, Harmer, Harry Lee, Tom Owen, Joshua Hudson, Tom Oliver, Harry Holt, Crawley, Curtis, Medley, Purcell, Sampson, and Eales, with Jackson at their head, formed the corps, dressed as Royal Pages.

One gold coronation medal was given to the boxers—they raffled for it at a dinner. Tom Belcher won and wore it.

In 1822, a number of noblemen and gentlemen, admirers of the gymnastic sports of their country, with a Royal Duke (Clarence) at their head, presented John Jackson with a service of plate. The salver, which bears the subjoined inscription, is of magnificent workmanship, weighing one hundred and eighty-seven ounces.

(With other Plate),
Was purchased by Subscriptions from
And presented to
Under the Superintendence of the following Committee:
The Most Noble the Marquis of Worcester,
Henry Smith, Bart, M.P.,
Admiral Tollemache,
Major General Barton, and
John Harrison, Esq.

101Mr. Jackson had for many years been stakeholder, frequently referee, and was always ready to go round personally to solicit a subscription for the beaten man—and who could refuse John Jackson? A match was made in 1822, between Randall and Martin for 500 guineas a side, but Mr. Elliot, Martin’s backer, “cried for his toy again,” in fact, demanded his money back. Mr. Jackson declared he would never again be a stakeholder, and he kept his word. Thus virtually he retired from the ring, and from that moment the ring declined. Its progress downwards has been checked, now and then, by men of good conduct, and battles of great interest. Spring and Langan (1824) revived the hopes of many. Dutch Sam from 1827 to 1839, rallied a few of the right sort around him, so did Burn and Owen Swift. A sort of reaction took place when Broome fought Bungaree; another, when Caunt fought Bendigo; again on the occasion of the great resultless battle of Farnborough between Sayers and Heenan in 1861; and lastly, the Benicia Boy’s pulley-hauley match with Tom King, awakened attention; but down, down, down, the ring was doomed to go, and in 1879 we may safely say that in writing its later history we have penned its epitaph. The management of fights fell into the hands of Jew speculators in special railway trains, whose interest it became not to allow the announced battle to come off, and to repeat the process of plunder in the shape of extortionately charged “excursion tickets,” at one to three pounds each, until the fraud would no longer be submitted to.[63]

John Jackson lived for many years at the house in which he died, No. 4, Lower Grosvenor Street West. The Old “Tattersall’s” may be said to have divided his residence from that of another great artist, the late John Liston. “It is with pleasing melancholy we remember,” says his old friend Vincent Dowling, “the Yarmouths, the Coombes, the Lades, the Ashtons, wending their way to the house of the one, while the Kembles, with perhaps Charles Mathews and Charles Taylor, Theodore Hook and Young, were standing in converse near, or visiting the low-roofed house of the latter.”[64]

There is little more to say. Loved by many, respected by all, enjoying 102a large circle of excellent society, John Jackson passed his later days. Affluent, but not rich in the vulgar sense, he wanted less than he had, and his income exceeded his expenditure. He was a cheerful companion, sang a good song, told his anecdotes with great tact, and never obtruded them. For the last year or two before his death his health declined, but until then he rarely had a day’s illness. Peacefully and trustfully, with his hand in that of his niece (whom he loved, and had assisted as a daughter), John Jackson expired on the 7th of October, 1845, in the seventy-seventh year of his age. His death was as calm and resigned as his life had been exemplary.

The remains of John Jackson rest in Brompton Cemetery, beneath a handsome monument, by Mr. Thomas Butler, of which we give a faithful representation. On the side of the mausoleum nearest to the entrance is inscribed on each side of a medallion portrait of the deceased:—

HERE LIE THE   Born, Sept. 28,
REMAINS OF   1769,
JOHN JACKSON,   Died, Oct. 7, 1845.

On the opposite side to the footpath is a nude gladiator, holding a laurel wreath, and plunged in grief. On the top is a lion couchant, and on the farther end we read the following:—

“Stay, traveller,” the Roman records said,
To mark the classic dust beneath it laid;—
“Stay, traveller,” this brief memorial cries,
And read the record with attentive eyes.
Hast thou a lion’s heart, a giant’s strength?
Exult not, for these gifts must yield at length.
Do health and symmetry adorn thy frame?
The mouldering bones below possessed the same.
Does love, does friendship every step attend?
This man ne’er made a foe, ne’er lost a friend.
But death too soon dissolves all human ties,
And, his last combat o’er, here Jackson lies.
This Monument was erected by the subscriptions
of several noblemen and gentlemen,
to record their admiration of one
whose excellence of heart and incorruptible worth
endeared him to all who knew him.


Thomas Butler, Sculpsit, 1847.




As a foil to the bright memoir of a high-minded, self-respecting, and honoured athlete, we cannot better “point a moral” than by devoting a brief chapter to the sudden rise and inglorious fall of the “lion-hearted” boxer, known in the latter part of his career as “Bully Hooper;” his story is a beacon of warning to the successful pugilist in the day of his patronage, prosperity, and success.

William Hooper was born at Bristol in 1766, and previously to his unfortunate connexion with the notorious Lord Barrymore, followed his trade as a tinman in Tottenham Court Road, where he had the character of a smart, industrious, well-behaved young man. His qualifications as a pugilist were undoubted. Fear formed no part of his composition. His confidence was innate; and neither the size nor strength of his antagonist deterred him any more than a thorough-bred bull-dog would calculate the bulk of his unwieldy bovine foe. Transplanted from making saucepans to the festivities of Wargrave, and made the personal companion of a roué nobleman, he lost his head, as many better nurtured men than poor Hooper have done. The transition from narrow means and humble station made him insolent, overbearing, and ostentatious, and finally the petted pugilist sunk into the ferocious “bully,” thence from dissipation and violent excess into a shattered human wreck, his melancholy end marked by poverty, desertion, and disease.[65]

104In person Hooper was compact and symmetrical. His shoulders and arms were fine, his chest deep and broad; his height under five feet eight inches, giving him the weight of 11 stone, showing him to have been nowhere overloaded.

He is said to have fought “a number of good battles,” of which we have no evidence, save Pierce Egan’s assertion, to set against the per contra of a contemporary, that he had “fought but twice before he met Lord Barrymore’s man.” We suspect, however, an incidental trace of our hero to lurk in the following paragraph at the end of the account of the great battle between Tom Johnson and Ryan, at Cashiobury Park (see ante, page 59).

“Two other battles were likewise fought on the 11th of February, 1789, on the same stage. The first between Solly Sodicky, the Jew, and Wilson, in which the Jew beat. The second was between the Welchman and a Tinman, in which the former was cleverly defeated.” Be this as it may, on the 19th of August, 1789, Hooper was matched with a local celebrity, Bill Clarke, the plasterer, and the affair came off in Bloomsbury Fields, a plot now covered with streets and squares, adjacent to Tottenham Court Road, where Hooper exercised his vocation of a tinman. The battle was obstinately 105contested, Clarke being a powerful man, but the intuitive skill, activity, and courage of Hooper carried him through, and his fame as a boxer spread.

Cotterel, the shoemaker, challenged Hooper for 10 guineas a side, and they met on Barnet Common, September 5th, 1789. There was a numerous assemblage, for Hooper was looked upon as something surprising, and was seconded by Tom Johnson, the Champion, while Bill Warr picked up Cotterel. Thirty-five minutes’ desperate fighting on the part of Cotterel led to his utter defeat, and Hooper, little the worse for the conflict, was proclaimed the conqueror.

A carpenter at Binfield Heath, of the name of Wright, having acquired much fame in Berkshire for his fistic skill, was proposed by Lord Falkland as a competitor for the Tinman, and Lord Barrymore, who had witnessed Hooper’s prowess, at once accepted the cartel on Hooper’s behalf, naming his own seat of Wargrave as the place of battle. Whatever might have been Wright’s pretensions among the yokels, he made a poor figure before Hooper, who fought with such skill and rapidity at his opponent’s head, that in twenty minutes Wright[66] was all wrong, and so punished as to be compelled to give in. This battle took place December 3, 1789.

Bob Watson, of Bristol, whom we shall have occasion to mention elsewhere (see Watson, Appendix to Period II.), was next introduced as an antagonist for Hooper. This proved a most remarkable battle. The place was Langley Close, near Salt Hill, in the neighbourhood of Windsor, and the day February 17th, 1790. Bill Warr seconded, and Joe Ward was bottleholder to Watson; Hooper was waited on by Tom Johnson and Butcher. Major Churchill and Colonel Harvey Aston acted as umpires, but called in a referee, owing to several differences of opinion during the prolonged contest. In the third round the Tinman cleverly floored his opponent, being the first knock-down blow; and this success he repeated in the three following rounds: the odds were now high in favour of Hooper, and continued to increase as the battle went on. Watson, though he could not ward off Hooper’s attacks, proved thorough game, and rallied strongly at the close of each bout. Two hours and a half, and one hundred rounds were fought, not without several appeals as to Watson’s style of delivering a blow and falling, and other unfair practices. Finally, after Watson had been “seven times accused of striking unfairly,” Hooper was acknowledged the victor.

Lord Barrymore’s increasing folly now led to Hooper being matched with Brain (Big Ben). This mockery of boxing took place at Chapel Row Revel, 106near Newbury, Berks, August 30th, 1790; night coming on, after three hours and a half harlequinade by Hooper, it was declared “a drawn battle!”[67] (See ante, p. 67).

This exhibition much tarnished the fame of Hooper, who was now the boon companion of the depraved Lord Barrymore’s excesses, and for more than two years he did not appear within the ropes, save in the capacity of a second. As on one of these occasions we find him officiating for Bill Treadway in a combat which brings under our notice the earliest record of a black pugilist, we preserve the paragraph as we find it, under the date of—

“June 13th, 1791. A pitched match was contested in Marylebone Fields, between an excellent African pugilist and the well-known Treadway. Peter Bath seconded the Black, and Hooper, the Tinman, his antagonist. The battle lasted thirty-five minutes, when Treadway was carried senseless from the field. During the combat the African showed great agility, excellent bottom, and a thorough knowledge of the art, not to be exceeded by the most skilful among the boxers.” This black diamond’s name is not preserved.

In September, 1792 an announcement appeared in the Chelmsford Advertiser that two pugilistic contests would take place at Colchester on the 4th of that month. “The grand jury who were at that time sitting, addressed the mayor, recorder, and magistrates, expressing their wish that they might not be permitted within the corporate jurisdiction. The mayor accordingly, by the public wish, forbad the erection of any public stage or any prize fight within the limits of his jurisdiction.”

In consequence of this notice, “orders were given for the erection of a stage eighteen feet square at Bentley, about nine miles from Colchester.”

On Thursday, September 4, 1792, the men met, according to arrangement, and at four o’clock the first two combatants, Hooper, the Tinman, and Bunner of Colchester, mounted the stage. Tom Johnson seconded Hooper, with Sharp as bottle-holder. Bunner’s second was Williams, and his bottle-holder Johnson’s old opponent Ryan. The stakes were 50 guineas a side. Bunner, who was a young fellow of great strength and resolution, began so vigorously that he bored down Hooper, and in the second round closing upon him, brought him down heavily. The odds went up on Bunner, and the Essex men were triumphant. Hooper found it would not do to trifle with his opponent: he kept out, and displayed his superiority in the art in great style, punishing his man sharply. In the sixth round, however, 107Bunner fell by an overreach, and broke his right arm, thus giving Hooper an easy conquest.[68]

George Maddox,[69] whose battle with the young Tom Cribb, has preserved his name and memory, next challenged Hooper. They met for a stake of 50 guineas, at Sydenham Common, Kent, Monday, February 10, 1794. Tom Johnson once more seconded Hooper; Maddox was attended by Joe Ward and Bill Gibbons, the renowned of Westminster, as his bottle-holder. George had proved himself a good man, and great expectations were entertained of his ability to dispose of Hooper, who was much the lighter man. Betting was five to four on Maddox. The Duke of Hamilton and a number of the aristocratic patrons of pugilism were present. For the first three or four rounds Maddox appeared to have the lead, and his friends were confident. Hooper, however, met him with undaunted courage, hitting straight, and putting in his blows with cutting severity. After three quarters of an hour’s sharp fighting, Maddox fell off, while Hooper increased in activity, and at the end of fifty-five minutes, Maddox gave in with much reluctance, and the Tinman was hailed the victor.

So high had Hooper’s fame now risen that a match was made by his backer in March, 1794, for him to fight the renowned Dan Mendoza on a twenty-four foot stage, for 50 guineas within a month. Dan, however, was not to be had at such a bargain. The Israelite preferred forfeiting his friends’ £20 deposit to risking his reputation on such terms.

That determined boxer, Bill Wood[70] was anxious to try his abilities with our hero. His friends assisted him with £50, and on Monday, June 22nd, 1795, they met and fought upon a stage erected on Hounslow Heath, in the dangerous vicinity of the powder mills. At two o’clock the combatants set-to. The contemporary accounts describe it as “a truly desperate battle.” After the first few minutes, the odds rose five to one, ten to one, and twenty to one on Wood. After fighting twenty-five minutes, during which the punishment was heavy, Hooper levelled Wood with a stupefying blow under the left ear. From this time Wood, though he struggled gallantly, never entirely recovered, and the blow being repeated, at the end of forty-eight minutes[71] Hooper was victorious. Towards the close of the fight the odds had changed to twenty to one on the Tinman. “The Duke of Hamilton, Colonel Hamilton, and a 108distinguished party of amateurs were present,” says the chronicler of the day.

Hooper had now arrived at the summit of his success by the conquest of so game and experienced a pugilist as Wood. His time had come to tread the downward path that leads to the cold shade of poverty, disgrace, and neglect. Within one year of his conquest of Wood his excesses and riot began to tell on a constitution shaken by hard living, night-riot, and debauchery, and Tom Owen,[72] a powerful young fellow, then known as “the Fighting Oilman,” having been quarrelled with by Hooper, professed his desire for a fight with “the Bully,” as he was now generally called. Charley Coant, then a boxer of some note, forming a high opinion of Tom, introduced him to Mr. John Jackson, and that good judge, approving the new candidate for the honours of the P. R., obtained friends for “the Young Oilman,” and a match was made for 100 guineas, which came off at Harrow on the 14th of November, 1796. Owen proved himself a resolute and steady fighter, and in the words of the reporter, “constantly kept a straight guard of such prodigious strength that Hooper could never beat it down, and very seldom put in a hit. Hooper, in striking a blow, dislocated his shoulder, and being dreadfully bruised, gave in” after fifty rounds of hard fighting. (See Life of Tom Owen, post, p. 110). As we have already said, Hooper was but a shadow of his former self; luxury and debauchery had spoiled him.[73]

Few men are more obnoxious to the smiles and frowns of fickle fortune than the pugilist: victory brings him fame, riches, and patrons; his bruises are unheeded in the smiles of success; and, basking in the sunshine of prosperity, his life passes pleasantly, till defeat comes, and reverses the scene. Covered with aches and pains, distressed in mind and body, assailed by poverty, wretchedness, and misery, friends forsake him—his fame waxes dim—his character is suspected by the losers; no longer the “plaything of fashion,” he flies to inebriation for relief, and a premature death puts a period to his misfortunes. Thus it was with Hooper: sheltered under the wings of nobility, he became pampered, insolent, and mischievous. His courage was undoubted, and though his frame was but small, it contained the heart of a lion; big men struck no terror to his feelings, and he opposed them with all the hardihood of an equal competitor, determined to conquer. Lord Barrymore, 109as already noted, was fond of larking and practical jokes, and whenever he could not come through the piece in style, Hooper appeared as his bully—his name overawed, and many a time saved his patron a deserved thrashing. One evening his Lordship took Hooper to Vauxhall, “disguised in liquor,” yet farther disguised in band and cassock, as a clergyman. The visitors discovered “the bully and his patron,” and after some rough handling, they were summarily expelled from what Old Simpson, the M. C., grandiloquently termed “the Royal Property.” At length his lordship cast him off, which, as he had cast himself away before, is not surprising. Hooper soon afterwards became wretched, disease overtook him, repeated intoxication brought him to the brink of the grave. One evening he was found insensible on the step of a door in St. Giles’s, and conveyed to the watch-house; on enquiring who he was, he could but faintly articulate, “Hoop—Hoop—.” Being recognised as the miserable remnant of that once powerful pugilistic hero, he was humanely taken to the workhouse, where he immediately expired!—Sic transit gloria athletæ!



TOM OWEN—1796‒1799 (1820).[74]

Tom Owen, though living only in the memory of the present generation as a landlord combining liquor and literature, some fancy, more fun, a certain amount of old-school pugilism and much pretence, deserves a niche in this period of the History of British Boxing.

True it is the clumsy bespattering of praise with which, in bad English and worst taste, his name is loaded in “Boxiana,” may induce many of better judgment to turn from his biography; yet is there enough to furnish matter worthy the pen of the chronicler of deeds of courage and of skill.

Tom Owen was a native of Hampshire, being born at Portsea, on the 21st December, 1768.

Of the apocryphal rigmaroles which disfigure “Boxiana,” we shall not condescend to take any account; suffice it to say, that after several provincial encounters with the Smiths, Joneses, Greens, and Browns of his vicinity, Tom Owen came to London, where he followed the occupation of an oilman; a calling which the reader will perhaps condescend to remember was much more followed than now; for, as Byron says, “in those days we had not got to gas.”

A casual turn up caused an introduction to Mr. Jackson, who, perceiving the germ of future greatness in Tom, took him in hand, and, fancying his style, he was matched against the then celebrated Bully Hooper, for 100 guineas.

On the 14th, Nov., 1796, Owen met his formidable antagonist, who, it must be remembered (with the exception of his draw with Big Ben) was as yet unconquered. The battle-field was near Harrow. Owen was seconded by Joe Ward and Jack Bartholomew, Hooper by Symonds and Paddington Jones. “The contest,” says the reporter, “lasted rather more than an hour, during which the men fought fifty rounds of hard fighting, but for the most part of which Owen constantly kept a straight guard of such prodigious strength, that Hooper could never beat it down, and very seldom put in a hit. Hooper, in striking a blow, dislocated his shoulder, and being also dreadfully bruised, gave in. Owen was so little hurt, that he leisurely put on his clothes and walked away.”

TOM OWEN, 1820.

From a Portrait by George Sharples.

111Pierce Egan tells us of a second fight (Hooper not being satisfied) for 100 guineas, at the same place (Harrow), a few weeks afterwards, which “Owen won in equally good style.” We fail to find it in contemporary records, though Pierce adds, “the stakeholder had his pocket picked of the 100 guineas, and Owen never got a single farthing afterwards,” vol. ii., p. 194.

The fame of Owen now spread, and a match for 25 guineas a-side was made between Jack Bartholomew and Tom, which took place at Moulsey Hurst, August 22, 1797. George Maddox and Goff seconded Owen upon this occasion. It was a desperate battle, and highly spoken of at the time, for the courage displayed on both sides; but here Tom was forced to succumb; Bartholomew overfought him, both at close quarters and out-fighting, and the contest was finished by Owen being hit out of time.

On September 2, 1799, Tom entered the lists with one Houssa, a Jew, for 10 guineas a-side, on the race-ground at Enfield. Joe Ward was second to Owen. But here again Owen was so desperately beaten, that, after a struggle of forty minutes, he was incapable of coming to the scratch, and the Jew was the conqueror.

Davis, of Deptford, an excavator, weighing fourteen stone, was beaten by Owen in one hour, at Deptford, in December, 1799.

At a benefit which took place at the Horse-shoe and Hoop, Tower Hill, Owen and Jack Bartholomew had some words about their fight at Moulsey. The result was an exchange of blows. Pierce Egan tells us, “the smiles of victory crowned the exertions of Owen in a quarter of an hour.” Perhaps so—but old Tom was his own reporter.

At the Surrey Sessions, in January, 1805, Owen was indicted for a riot and conspiracy, on Putney Common, in aiding and abetting Joe Berks and Pearce to fight a pitched battle. The jury found Owen guilty, and he was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment in Horsemonger Lane.

From this period Tom figured as a trainer and second, and his judgment was generally considered good in all matters pugilistic; he also flourishes immensely in the benefit-taking line, and was, as the “Historian” terms him, “fly to every movement on the board.”

We shall decline transferring the trash of the Apocrypha of Boxing respecting the exploits of Owen, as no traces of them are to be found in the 112“canonical books,”—which, we take to be the journals of the time. Leaving him, therefore, as a blind guide, we proceed to the contest with Mendoza. This, although a very foolish affair on the part of the Jew, as the follies of great men, even in pugilism, outweigh in interest the wiser doings of lesser ones, is our chief reason for giving Owen a separate chapter in the history of pugilism—despite the immense, intense, and absurd gaggery of his injudicious friend and biographer.

In 1820, Tom (being no bad judge at match-making) proposed to Daniel Mendoza a “passage at arms” to settle an old grudge. Dan, like an old war-horse at the sound of the trumpet, though physically but a shadow of his former self, met the twelve stone Tom Owen. Thirty-three years had elapsed since the “Star of the East” had first peeled in the lists, and fourteen since his last appearance. Although, however, his deeds were, even to the existing generation of ring-goers, rather matter of tradition than evidence, the fame of Mendoza made him the favourite at six and five to four. Owen was known to be a good man, but it was thought he had not science enough to oppose the accomplished Israelite. Hence a great number of the oldest amateurs were induced to be present. It is worthy of note, that Sir Thomas Apreece, Bart., who was Mendoza’s umpire at Odiham, acted in that capacity on this occasion.

Owen, attended by Cribb and Josh. Hudson, threw up his hat first; and Mendoza, followed by Randall and Harry Lee, repeated the token of defiance. Mendoza was loudly cheered, and backed at five to four. Mendoza was quickly ready, and walked about the ring with a coat thrown over him. Owen was a considerable time preparing himself, and in making his shoes right; instead of drawers he fought in a pair of nankeen breeches. Mendoza’s colours were a blue silk bird’s eye, and tied over Owen’s.


Round 1.—Mendoza, on stripping, exhibited a fine manly bust; his eyes sparkled with confidence, and there was altogether an appearance about him that seldom characterises an individual of fifty-five years of age. Owen, on the contrary, looked thin; and his general appearance was rather meagre than otherwise. On setting-to, both the ould ones were extremely cautious, and a minute elapsed before a hit was made. Owen at length let fly, but without any effect. Some exchanges took place, when they closed at the ropes, and, after an attempt to fib on the part of Mendoza, which was frustrated by Owen, a struggle for throw ensued: in going down, Dan was the undermost.

2.—Mendoza ran in with great alacrity, made a sort of push forward, and got Owen on the ropes; the latter went down, and his neck got scored from them. (Great applause for Mendoza. While Tom was on the knee of Josh, the latter said, “Master!”—Owen, smiling, “What says my boy?”—“Have you brought the pepper castor with you?—“Yes, my lad, and the mustard and vinegar cruet too!”)

3.—The Jew behaved very handsomely, and showed some good fighting; but Owen planted a tremendous hit on his left cheek, just under the eye, whence the claret flowed copiously: Mendoza went down, yet jumped up gaily. (Randall told Mendoza he should not have done so. “Let these ould ones alone,” said Josh; “they know more about 113fighting than you or I do.” Even betting, but Owen for choice. “I say, master,” says Josh, “you furnished Danny with some sour crout then!”)

4.—Owen now showed the spectators that he was the younger man. Mendoza was again nobbed, and the claret profusely running down his cheek. In going down Owen was undermost. (“When am I to have the tobacco-stopper, master?” cries Josh.—“Leave it all to the cook yet!” Owen smilingly observed.)

5.—Mendoza now showed he was completely gone by as to any superiority of fighting. Owen, having nothing to oppose him, “displayed talents that astonished the ring.” Mendoza received a dreadful fall.

6.—Owen, in retreating from his antagonist, ran against the stakes, but the latter again planted a heavy facer. In struggling, both went down.

7.—Here Tom was the hero of the tale. He nobbed Mendoza, and got away with all the dexterity of a youth: it was now only Mendoza by name; his excellence as a fighter had evaporated, and his hits were generally short. Owen, in a close at the ropes, held Mendoza as firm as if the latter had been screwed in a vice, and pummelled him at the back of the neck so dreadfully, that Dan at length fell exhausted.

8.—Mendoza came to the scratch bleeding, and almost in a state of stupor, from the severity of the last round. Owen planted such a tremendous hit on Dan’s face, that he went back, and slipped down at the corner of the ring. The Jews were still backing Mendoza with confidence.

9.—Long sparring: Owen convinced the spectators that he was a perfect master of the art. He hit Mendoza in the eye, jobbed him also in the face, and at the end of the ropes held Mendoza by the arm, and punished him till he went down. (Two to one on Owen.)

10.—The appearance of Mendoza’s face was much changed; his left eye was encircled in claret. Owen got away from his antagonist in good style. Mendoza was punished all over the ring; Owen threw his opponent, and fell heavily upon him. (Three to one. Indeed, it was any odds.)

11.—Owen was determined not to give a chance away; and he also appeared determined not to have any more body blows. He accordingly kept at out-fighting. A short but sharp rally occurred, when Owen fell; and Mendoza likewise, at about two yards distance, came heavily down upon his face on the turf.

12th and last.—Mendoza was quite abroad, and hit short, and at the ropes was again held by Owen, and fibbed down. Mendoza said he would not fight any more, as he could not win it. He was terribly punished, and defeated in fourteen minutes and twenty-seven seconds and a quarter; while, on the contrary, Owen had not a scratch on his face. The latter was carried out of the ring by Cribb and Hudson, amidst the cheers of the spectators.

Mendoza, while being dressed, seemed sensibly affected at his defeat. He had not the least idea of losing the battle.

Mr. Jackson collected £20 on the ground for Mendoza, who was put into a coach. Owen soon returned to the ring, decorated in the spoils attendant upon conquest. Mendoza’s blue trophy was hung round Owen’s neck, surmounted by the yellow-man of Hooper; now doubly won.

This battle hardly deserves comment, after the observations we have already made under the memoir of Mendoza; yet it is valuable as a warning. The merits of the combatants remain, except in the balderdash of “the historian” of the P. R., just where they stood previous to the fight.

Tom’s judgment as a second was unquestionable. His coolness and readiness as second to Turner in his victory over Scroggins, and in the remarkable fight with Sutton and Painter, may be cited.

Tom was known for many years as a pleasant companion, a good convivial singer, and the landlord of a house on the ground now occupied by the basin of St. Katherine’s Docks, whence the hand of improvement compelled him to migrate. For several years he was well known as the landlord of the Shipwrights’ Arms at Northfleet, where the fancy of all grades found him a civil, pleasant, and obliging host. Owen died at Plumstead in 1843 aged 76 years.




This well-remembered pugilist, whose career forms a link between the Second and Third Periods of the History of the Ring, well deserves a chapter, from his numerous and game contests, his attentive civility during his protracted connexion with fistic affairs, and yet more from his identification with the renowned Jem Belcher, for whose first metropolitan competitor he had the honour to be selected. Tom, including his numerous “outside” or “bye-battles,” is supposed to have fought more battles than any other pugilist. The Ring in Hyde Park was the frequent arena of his contests, which in his noviciate were chiefly with roughs and commoners.

About the year 1766, Paddington gave birth to this hero, from which place he derived his pugilistic title. Tom commenced boxer when quite a youth, and, from the intuitive science which he displayed at that early period, attracted the notice of the veteran Tom Johnson, who pronounced him to be a promising pugilist. Jones’s weight was ten stone and a half, his height five feet eight inches, and his frame of much symmetry and activity.

Tom’s first regular contest was about the year 1786, with one Jack Holmes, in Harley Fields, near where Cavendish Square stands, for the important sum of half-a-crown, and it appears it was as well-contested as if £100 had been the stakes; but Jones being a mere novice, and quite a stripling, and Holmes a full grown man, the latter proved the conqueror.

A match was made between a one-eyed sailor, a most determined boxer, and Tom Jones, for 10 guineas a-side, in February, 1786, which was decided in the Ring, in Hyde Park. The contest proved a desperate one. The Sailor was considered as ugly a customer as ever stood up for a mill; but, in the event, Jones was declared victor. This hardy son of Neptune was not satisfied with the first broadside, and soon afterwards entered the lists for another 10 guineas, when he was again vanquished; yet, like a perfect true blue, he was valiant enough to endure a third engagement, in which he was 115also beaten. The Sailor displayed great bottom, and was punished severely before he gave in.

In the course of the twelvemonth, however, smarting under the recollection of defeat, Tom challenged Jack Holmes to a second trial (half-minute time), for a guinea and a half, when Jones obtained an easy conquest. This was on the 19th of December, 1786.

Aldridge, the Life-guardsman, who had been vaunting of his great deeds of pugilism at Tom Johnson’s house, near Lincoln’s Inn Fields, was told by Joe Ward that he would produce a boy who should soon take the conceit out of him: accordingly, a match was made for two guineas against a watch, and Paddington Jones was brought forward as the man to accept the challenge. It was to have been decided in the street, in the first instance, but was removed to Harley Fields. On stripping, the guardsman smiled with contempt at his boy-like antagonist, and, from his long arms, had the advantage at the first part of the battle, dealing out some sharp punishment; but the science and bottom of Tom soon stopped his career. After a most desperate conflict, which was witnessed by most of the celebrated pugilists of that day, who were astonished at the intrepidity displayed by Jones, the “boy” succeeded in milling his opponent in sixty rounds. Joe Ward seconded Jones.

Shortly after the above circumstance, in the same fields, Jones fought one Jack Blackwell, a lime-burner, for 10 shillings; and, although the latter showed complete ruffianism in the battle, he was easily disposed of by Tom. Tom Burley, a companion of Blackwell, thought he could now vanquish Jones, and had the temerity to enter the ring, immediately on the fight being over, and challenged him for the like sum. Tom instantly accepted the cartel. Burley was also a complete ruffian, and tried what downright force could effect; but Jones so completely foiled his attacks, and returned blows with so much science and effect, that Burley was perfectly satisfied. These contests were rendered somewhat conspicuous from the celebrated Major Hanger (afterwards Lord Coleraine) and his black servant performing the office of second and bottle-holder to Jones.[75]

On May 14, 1792, immediately after the fight of Mendoza and Bill Warr, at Smitham Bottom, near Croydon, upon the same stage, Jones fought Caleb Baldwin. The battle was for a purse of £20, but a dispute arising between the parties, although Caleb claimed the victory, it was declared a drawn battle.

116Soon after the above contest, Jones entered the ring in Hyde Park, with Dick Horton, a baker, for 20 guineas. The latter was considered to have some pretensions to pugilism; but Jones dealt out his hits so hard and fast, that the baker was glad to cry enough.

Jones, in company with Pardo Wilson, anxious to witness the fight between Hooper and Bunner, at Bentley Green (September 4, 1792) walked down to Colchester, and was extremely stiff from the effects of his journey. The following day, a man of the name of Abraham Challice, standing six feet high, and weighing fourteen stone (a perfect terror to the inhabitants of that part of the country from his great strength), observing Tom Jones upon the race-ground, and to show his dexterity, out of mere wantonness, endeavoured to trip up Jones’s heels, and otherwise insulted him, also threatening to give him a good hiding. Tom, notwithstanding the great disparity between them, was not to be insulted with impunity, and, perhaps with more pluck than prudence, instantly showed fight. Challice laughed at him with the most sovereign contempt, bidding him get along for “a boy,” or he would kick his breech for his impudence. The spectators were alarmed at the youthful appearance of Jones, who weighed but ten stone five pounds, and begged of him to desist, as the consequences might prove of the most serious nature; but Tom was not to be deterred, and soon pulled off his clothes. Upon setting-to, Challice had the advantage from his superior strength, and kept it for three rounds; but in the fourth, Jones put in a hit under Challice’s ear, that knocked him down, when Tom Johnson offered to back Jones for £100. Challice, on standing up, appeared much confused, and Tom served him out in the same style, and continued punishing him every round till he could scarcely move, and he soon acknowledged he had never received such a complete milling before. The farmers and others who witnessed the contest were so pleased that this insolent fellow, who had rendered himself so disgusting about that neighbourhood, had received a good thrashing, immediately made a subscription purse, which soon amounted to 30 guineas, and presented it to Jones for his bravery.

The next day a countryman, well known in the neighbourhood of Bentley Green under the name of “Leather Jacket,” mounted the stage, and, with considerable vaunting, publicly challenged any Londoner to enter the lists with him. The words had scarcely escaped from his lips, when up jumped Tom, without any consideration for his hands, which were bruised from the effects of the severe punishment he had bestowed upon the nob of Abraham Challice the preceding day, and instantly began to prepare for action. The countryman seemed thunderstruck with astonishment, and with faltering 117speech exclaimed, “Na! na! you be the man that beat Ab. Challice yesterday—I mean ony one but thee!” and made a hasty retreat from the stage, amid the laughter and sneers of the spectators at Leather Jacket’s vain boasting.

Jones beat Keely Lyons, the Jew, at Blackheath, on the 10th of May, 1794, for a purse of 20 guineas. Tom Johnson was second to Jones. It was a well-contested battle, in which much science and bottom were displayed on both sides.

In a second attempt on a stage at Hounslow, June 22, 1795, Jones disposed of the same boxer in nine rounds, occupying sixteen minutes. Lyons was a courageous pugilist, and a boxer above mediocrity.

In the August of 1795 Jones was at Bristol, the pugilistic nursery, with Tom Johnson and other celebrities: a match for a purse with Spaniard Harris took place. After twenty minutes’ fighting, Harris, during a wrangle, got hold of the purse, and bolted with it, leaving Jones and Co. “lamenting.”

On the renowned Jem Belcher’s appearance in the metropolis as a pugilist, Tom Jones was the man selected to have the trial set-to with him. This came off at Old Oak Common, Wormwood Scrubs, on April 12, 1799.

Belcher was seconded by Bill Warr, and Bill Gibbons acted as his bottle-holder. Jones had for his attendants, Joe Ward and Dick Hall. Belcher was, at this period, only nineteen years of age. The odds were six to four upon Jem. The spectators were much interested upon the commencement of the battle, from the very high character which had been promulgated by Bill Warr, as to the astonishing abilities that his pupil possessed, and the feats which he had achieved at Bristol. The first round, considerable science was displayed upon both sides—the experience and skill of Jones were well displayed; and the dexterity and new mode of fighting, so exclusively Belcher’s own, were soon exhibited. On the termination of the first round Belcher was knocked down. The advantages in the second and third rounds were evenly balanced; but in the fourth and fifth Jones was levelled. In the sixth and seventh rounds Jones showed off in most excellent style: skill, manliness, and fortitude, no shifting, nothing shy, hugging out of the question, and hauling not resorted to: it was a clean fight throughout, stopping and hitting were the order of the day, and it might be deemed a model for pugilists in general to follow. Belcher, with all the gaiety and confidence of youth, now exhibited a new feature as a boxer. The odds had changed five to four on Jones. The eighth and ninth were spiritedly contested; but, in the tenth round, Belcher put in some tremendous hits, with the rapidity of lightning. This immediately altered the appearance of 118things, Jem was looked upon as the favourite, and the odds were laid accordingly. Yet Jones nobly contested for victory for the space of thirty-three minutes, before he gave in. Jem weighed twelve stone six pounds, and Tom Jones but ten stone five pounds. It should not escape the memory, that Jones stood up to Belcher (before that distinguished pugilist lost his eye) considerably longer than any other man ever did.

In 1798 Jones was matched in London to fight George Nicholls (the conqueror of Cribb). Mendoza and Johnson took Tom down to Lansdown, near Bath, for that purpose; but upon the combatants stripping, and just as they were about commencing the set-to, the following singular circumstance occurred:—Nicholls cried out “Stop!” and observing that Jones was above his height, declared he would not fight him, and, sans ceremonie, immediately left the ring, to the great astonishment and disappointment of the spectators. After some years had elapsed, upon Nicholls arriving in London, a match was made for 20 guineas, and they tried their skill at Norwood, in March, 1802. Three rounds were well contested, and considerable science was displayed; but in the fourth, Nicholls ran furiously in, and getting his head between Jones’s legs, and catching fast hold of both his ankles, threw Tom with considerable violence. This was deemed an infringement upon the rules of pugilism by the friends of Jones: a considerable interruption was the consequence, and the fight was at an end. The stakes were demanded on the part of Jones; but Bill Warr, who seconded Nicholls, would not suffer them to be given up. Respecting which was the best man, it was impossible to form anything like a decision. Jones, on his road home, had a turn up with a man of the name of Carter, who had insulted him about a challenge from Simpson. Tom, who was not much hurt from the above contest, set-to with good pluck, and so soon convinced Carter he was in the wrong, that he sheered off.

Isaac Bittoon, the Jew, had offered himself to Jones’s notice, when Jem Belcher, who had beaten Jones, generously undertook to find him backers. Forty guineas were put down, and they met on Wimbledon Common, July 13, 1801. Jem Belcher seconded Jones. It was a severely-contested fight, but Bittoon was the heavier and stronger man, and although Tom displayed great science and courage, he was unable to come to time (half-minute) at the end of twenty-two minutes, being hit senseless.

Simpson, a pupil of Tom Johnson’s, upon whom considerable expectations had been raised, was matched against Jones for 10 guineas a-side, which battle was decided on the Green, near Putney, in June 1804. It was termed a good fight, and Tom proved the conqueror.

119On August 6th, 1805, Tom Jones fought another Lyons, known as “the Yokel Jew,” at Hounslow, for 10 guineas a-side. This was one of the most terrible conflicts in which Tom had been engaged. Yokel was a desperate punisher, and Jones suffered severely in the fight; nevertheless Yokel gave in.

Notwithstanding the numerous lists of battles which have been mentioned, it does not appear that Paddington Jones ever made pugilism his peculiar profession, but industriously followed through life his occupation, much respected by his friends for his civility and good nature. Jones was a man of mild and civil behaviour, and for a long series of years was well known as master of the ceremonies at the Fives and Tennis Courts, as a second and an attendant upon sparring exhibitions.

As a pugilist, Jones is entitled to honourable mention; to a respectable amount of skill he united game of the first quality. He turned out several good pupils. His guard was good and his position ready, with his left arm firm and extended to protect his body from assault, while his right was on the alert to give the return. Tom was a hard hitter, used both his hands with equal facility, stood well upon his legs, and met his man with fortitude.

Notwithstanding the evident disadvantages that Jones had to contend against in his battle with Jem Belcher—the disparagement of having been severely punished in numerous battles, and other hurts from skirmishes, contrasted with Belcher who had scarcely been pinked, and was blooming from the country—Tom’s conduct was far above mediocrity.

No man appeared oftener in the character of a second than Tom Jones, and few understood that duty better than himself. In most of Randall’s battles Tom performed that office.

It is impossible that we can take our leave of Paddington Jones without characterising him as a brave pugilist, and well deserving to occupy a niche in the temple of fame as a straightforward, courageous, and deserving man. Jones died at his birthplace, Paddington, August 22, 1833, at the age of 67.




William Warr (incorrectly spelt Ward in many chronologies, etc.) was one of the many boxers of the Bristol nursery. He was expressly brought to London to lower the pretensions of Tom Johnson, with what success we have already seen. He was five feet nine inches in height, strongly made, with symmetrical breast and arms, robust in appearance, extremely active, and altogether well framed for a pugilist. As a second, Will Warr figures in numerous fights of his period, and was of acknowledged judgment.

After his defeat by Johnson, Warr’s next battle was with Wood, the coachman, December 31, 1788, at Navestock, Essex. It snowed incessantly during the combat, “yet,” says the report, “the ardour of the combatants was not chilled, nor even the curiosity of the spectators damped. The snow, however, did not fail to have its effects upon the battle; for the boards of the stage being rendered extremely slippery, the pugilists were unable to keep their feet, and each in his turn, as well in giving as receiving blows, was brought to the ground. Warr fought in his usual style, with much clever shifting, and displayed great agility and science. Considering this Wood’s first essay, and against one of such experience in the pugilistic art, he showed great courage and determination. He fought, however, with too much impetuosity, and by this means exposed himself to the more deliberate defence of his opponent. For the first twenty minutes the battle was most admirably contested on both sides. In five minutes after setting-to Warr succeeded in closing Wood’s right eye, yet he continued the fight for half an hour with astonishing firmness, until Warr got some heavy hits in succession on the other eye, when he was forced to yield the victory.”

His two defeats by Mendoza are reported in the memoir of that pugilist (pp. 76, 77).

On the 5th of May, 1789, as Bill Warr and Watson were going down to Stilton to be present at the battle between Mendoza and Humphries, he met with an unfortunate occurrence. A man of the name of Swaine, a smith, who 121was an outside passenger of the same coach, having had some words with Warr about the merits of Mendoza, challenged Warr to fight. Accordingly, at the Bell Inn, Enfield, they turned out, when Warr struck him an unlucky blow in the chest: Swaine fell and instantly expired. Warr was taken into custody, and the following Sessions, at the Old Bailey, was convicted of manslaughter. The whole tenour of the evidence went to show that Warr tried everything short of cowardice to avoid the encounter.

Stanyard, of Birmingham, who had fought a draw with Andrew Gamble, an Irishman (one of Pierce Egan’s Irish heroes, renowned for being beaten, despite the most wondrous qualifications[76]), was liberally backed against Warr for 100 guineas, and they fought at Colnbrook, October 27, 1792. We may observe that “the fight was fixed to take place at Langley Broom, but was interrupted by the interference of the magistrates, and a move took place to Colnbrook.” We give, as shall be our custom, a report instead of an embellished paraphrase:—“A stage having been erected, at half-past two Stanyard ascended, accompanied by Tom Johnson as his second, and Butcher as his bottle-holder. Shortly afterwards Warr made his appearance, with Watson for his second, and Joe Ward as his bottle-holder. Captain Halliday and Mr. Sharp were chosen umpires. Mr. Harvey Aston, Lord Say and Sele, Mr. Dashwood, Sir Thomas Apreece, Colonel Hamilton, Mr. Bedingfield, and other distinguished persons were present.”

At forty-six minutes to two, the combatants being prepared, set-to.


Round 1.—Warr acted on the defensive; some minutes were lost in sparring, when Stanyard put in a body blow, but without much effect; they then exchanged several blows, and Warr was knocked down.

2.—Stanyard displayed superiority, and Warr fell.

3.—Warr gave his adversary a severe blow on the right cheek, which broke his jaw at the angle. It was generally allowed to be the severest blow thrown in.

4.—Notwithstanding this misfortune, Stanyard stood, and never even complained to his second. In this round Warr was knocked down.

5.—Warr was again knocked down, and at the conclusion held up his open hand to protect his face.

6.—In this round Stanyard displayed most astonishing strength, for he fairly held Warr up, struck him most severely, and threw him down on the stage with astonishing violence.

7 and 8.—Both these rounds Stanyard terminated by giving his antagonist a knock-down blow.

9.—Stanyard gave Warr a severe blow under the right eye, and he again fell.

10.—This was the last and best round, being the only one of any continuance, and during which much hard fighting was displayed; Warr gave his opponent four severe blows on his broken jaw, and it finished by both coming down.

At the conclusion of this round, although they had only fought thirteen minutes, Stanyard gave in. His appearance was in his favour, but no one had any idea of the injury he had sustained. He was immediately conveyed to Colnbrook, and medical assistance procured, when it was found his jawbone was fractured near the articulation. Warr was in prime condition, and never displayed greater skill and courage. He challenged Tom Johnson to fight for a guinea; an empty boast, as we have elsewhere observed.

122Will Warr, miscalculating his skill, sought another trial with the accomplished Mendoza, who disposed of him in fifteen minutes (see Mendoza). Warr became a publican at the One Tun, Jermyn Street, in after life, and seconded Jem Belcher, Tom Belcher, Henry Pearce (the Game Chicken), Mendoza, Tom Cribb, and others in important battles. In December, 1808, we find a benefit advertised at the Fives Court, for Warr, at which John Gully, Tom Cribb, Dutch Sam, Dogherty, Tom Belcher, and Richmond, set-to for the veteran. Warr died in March, 1809, and was buried in St. James’s burial ground, St. Pancras.


Bill Wood, although his defeats were preponderant, deserves honourable mention at the hands of the historian of pugilism as one of the bravest and hardiest of boxers. His opponents were the very best men of their day. Bill Warr, George the brewer, whom he beat, Hooper the tinman, Jack Bartholomew (beat), and Isaac Bittoon, were his antagonists. Wood was a fine straight-limbed man of five feet eleven inches in height, and twelve stone in weight. He fought well with both hands, and possessed unquestionable courage. His style was impetuous, and his attack formidable to all but the most skilful of defensive boxers.

Wood’s coup d’essai was at Navestock, Essex, as “Captain Robinson’s coachman,” on the last day of the year 1788. Although looked upon as a novice in the art pugilistic, he tried all the skill of Bill Warr before he surrendered. (See Life of Warr, Appendix, p. 120).

So well had our hero acquitted himself that George the brewer (Ingleston), “renowned as a stand-up fighter,” who had, as we have seen, beaten John Jackson, and Pickard (twice), having issued a challenge as Champion, it was accepted by Wood. The stake was 100 guineas, and on the 13th of February, 1793, at Hornchurch, in Essex, the men met on a stage twenty-four feet square. Wood was seconded by Joe Ward, while Dan Mendoza attended upon Ingleston. At one o’clock, the combatants, fully prepared, mounted the stage, and having shaken hands, set-to immediately. “In the first round Wood knocked down his antagonist with great violence. George rose immediately, and with inconsiderate impetuosity attacked his opponent. Wood, taking advantage of his fury and want of caution, retreated, and 123put in a tremendous blow on the point of the jaw, which broke it: every spectator,” says the report in “Pancratia,” “heard the crush, and immediately perceived the swelling consequent on the fracture. The battle was supposed to be at an end, but George, with unsubdued courage, renewed the attack, and in the rally dealt Wood a blow upon the head which almost stunned him. The odds now rose to two to one in favour of George. However, after twenty-five minutes of severe fighting, in which George received many heavy blows about the head, he, being almost senseless, gave in.” The reporter adds: “Wood was much beaten, but every one feared George would pay the forfeit of his life.”

Wood’s fame now stood so high, that in January, 1794, he was matched with the renowned Ben Brain (Big Ben) the Champion. Ben was now approaching his last illness, and a forfeit took place.

Our hero was not allowed to stand without a customer. Hooper was in the height of his fame, having beaten Wright and Watson, made a draw with Big Ben, and defeated Bunner and George Maddox. Yet Wood was thought by many good enough to lower his pride. They met at Hounslow, June 22, 1794, as related in the memoir of Hooper (p. 107); and Wood was beaten, but not ingloriously.

In the first month of 1797, we find Wood matched with the famous Jack Bartholomew, who had just beaten Firby (the young Ruffian). See Bartholomew, Appendix to Period III. The battle came off between Ealing and Harrow, on a stage, January 30th, 1797.[77] “At two o’clock the men set-to; but the amateurs were sadly disappointed. Bartholomew was sadly out of condition, and not only made no good defence against Wood’s attacks, but shifted, and struck foul; repeating the offence at the end of fifteen minutes, the battle was given in favour of Wood. The Duke of Hamilton and other distinguished ring-patrons were present, and Wood told his Grace he would fight Bartholomew again in a fortnight for £500, or when he pleased, if the Duke would back him.”

Wood, who was always a steady and industrious man, now retired for a while, pursuing the then flourishing avocation of a hackney coachman, and driving his own horses and lumbering leathern convenience. He often, however, figures in the interval as second or bottle-holder in the battles of the day. Isaac Bittoon, the Jew, having beaten Paddington Jones, and fought a drawn battle with George Maddox, was anxious for a shy at Wood, now a veteran in the field; the match was long talked about, but at length 124arranged for the 16th of July, 1804, for a purse of 50 guineas and some bye bets to be received by the winner. The magistrates were upon the alert, but the secret of the chosen spot was well kept, Willesden Green being named as the Campus Martius so late as the evening before the battle, which took place as early as ten o’clock on the Monday morning. It would have been well had the same secrecy and promptitude been practised in many more recent fights, which have come to grief from the publicity given to their probable whereabouts, and above all, from the abominable delays at the ring side.

The field at Willesden was early filled, and at three quarters past ten the combatants entered “a roped-ring.” Wood immediately began to strip, and appeared to be in robust condition. Bittoon followed in high spirits, and after the usual ceremony, the men set-to. Wood was defeated in thirty-six rounds, occupying fifty-six minutes; Wood, in the words of the contemporary report, “being quite worn out.” (See Bittoon, for the battle).

This was Wood’s last appearance within the ropes. He was for many years a well-known character among the Jehus at the West End. In May of the year 1821, we find under the head of “Some Slight Sketches of Boxers, who have retired from Public Contests, on account of Age or other Infirmities,” the following: “Bill Wood, the coachman, once the formidable opponent of Bill Warr, Bartholomew, George the Brewer, and Bittoon, enjoys a fine green old age, and frequently takes a peep into the Fives Court to see the young ’uns exhibit.” Wood died in St. Pancras, in January, 1839, aged 64.


George Ingleston, known as George the Brewer, was a powerful six-foot man, of somewhat heavy build, undoubted courage, but, like many big ones, fought slowly in comparison with lighter and more agile men. He was, however, “acknowledged to be a tremendous hard hitter,” says “Pancratia.” “He was first introduced to the notice of the amateurs by the celebrated Tom Johnson,” says the same authority, “who tried to cultivate his powers, but did not form any high opinion of his skill. His guard was low, like his renowned master’s; he never shifted, but unflinchingly met the coming blow, and trusted rather to a return than the quick and effective method of a counter hit.”

125We shall pass the earlier and unimportant battles of George the Brewer to come to his most important contest, that with John Jackson, which came off in presence of a distinguished company, in the yard of the Swan Inn, at Ingatestone, in Essex, on the 12th of May, 1789. Brain (Big Ben) seconded Jackson, Tom Tring (the Carlton House porter) attended upon Ingleston.

On setting-to the betting was even, but the superior skill of Jackson was evident in the first round, when after some skilful stops and parries, Jackson at the close of the round brought down the brewer. In the second and third rounds the skill and activity of Jackson brought the odds to seven to four in his favour. In this round, owing to a heavy rain which had fallen in the forenoon, the boards of the stage were extremely slippery, and in breaking ground Jackson slipped, and fell with such violence that his ankle was dislocated and the small-bone of his leg broken. There was no alternative but surrender; although the report of the day states that Jackson “offered to be fastened down to a chair (after the fashion of sailors on a chest in their boxing matches), provided the Brewer would do the like, and thus fight it out.” There was pluck at any rate in the proposition; but George, who saw the stakes within grasp, was not so green as to let go “the bird in hand.”

On the 23rd of October, 1789, Ingleston met and defeated Pickard, called “the Birmingham Champion.” The battle took place on a twenty-four foot stage, at Banbury, in Oxfordshire. It is described in the report as a desperate stand-up fight, in which, after thirty-four minutes of “fierce” rallying, Pickard cried “enough!” and Ingleston was hailed the victor. This was fought the day after the great battle of Johnson and Perrins. See ante, Life of Tom Johnson.

Pickard was not, however, satisfied of his inferiority to George, and again found friends to back him for 50 guineas against his old opponent. They met at Shipston-upon-Stour, Staffordshire, September 25, 1791, when the former decision was re-affirmed, and Pickard cleverly defeated.

Ingleston’s last battle was with Bill Wood, the coachman, at Hornchurch, for 100 guineas, February 13, 1793, which will be found under the pugilistic doings of Wood (p. 122). George Ingleston, on his retirement, resumed his calling of a brewer, and was for years known as a civil and industrious man in the neighbourhood of Enfield, where one of his old patrons, Captain Brailsford, held a brewery of some extent.



Bristol, for more than half a century renowned for its pugilistic champions, gave birth to Watson, a well-known man in the ring doings of the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Watson was related by marriage to the family of the Belchers, having married the sister of Jem and Tom Belcher, while his daughter was the wife of the late Jem Burn (see vol. iii., life of Burn). Watson was another sample of a large heart in a small body. His height was no more than five feet five inches, his weight nine stone two pounds, yet by courage and science, Bob went far to compensate these deficiencies. After many provincial victories, Watson entered the ring, after the victory of Jackson over Fewterel (June 9, 1788), at Croydon, in presence of the Prince of Wales and a distinguished company. His opponent was Elisha Crabbe, an Israelite, who had won fame by defeating old Stephen Oliver, known as “Death.” “This,” says the reporter, “was by far the best battle of the three, and lasted three quarters of an hour. Warr seconded Watson; Ryan (the opponent of the champion) attended upon Crabbe. Watson, though much the smaller man, displayed great science and activity, and in the end proved the conqueror.”

The skill and courage exhibited by Watson on this occasion, led to his being noticed by Jackson, then in high patronage. He was accordingly selected to contend with Bill Jones, mentioned under Tyne (p. 128).[78] The battle came off before the Prince, Colonel Hanger, and other guests at the Pavilion, and residents at Brighton, August 6th, 1788. The battle was spirited and scientific for about fifteen minutes, but so much to the advantage of Watson that Jones fell from weakness, and got down suspiciously more than once. (It must be remembered that only a month had elapsed since he was defeated by Tyne). At the end of eighteen minutes, Watson having hit him down heavily with both hands, Jones surrendered.

A strong outsider, named Anderson, a tinman, from the “land o’ cakes,” challenged Watson, and the day was fixed for April 25, 1789; accordingly the men met at Langley Broom, near Colnbrook, on the Windsor Road. Watson went in so resolutely that Anderson fell in two minutes, and nothing could induce him again to face his antagonist. The reporter adds, “the amateurs complained loudly that Anderson had played cross.”[79] A 127second fight was got up for a purse between Joe Ward and Townsend, which Joe won in twenty minutes; Townsend being said to have broken his arm.

Watson’s next encounter was with the formidable Hooper, by whom he was defeated, after a long fight of 150 minutes and 100 rounds, at Langley Broom, February 17, 1790. (See Hooper, p. 105.)

A townsman of Watson’s, and a brother “kill-bull,” of the name of Davies, proposed a “passage of arms” to our hero, and despite disparity of weight and size, Bob accepted the cartel. They met at Coalharbour, Gloucestershire, January 10, 1791. Watson was the favourite at long odds; but after the first ten minutes they changed rapidly. Bob’s science and shifting did not avail against the strength and quickness of Davis, who was by no means destitute of skill. Though at such a disadvantage, however, Watson never lost heart, and disputed every inch of ground with firmness and occasional advantage for three quarters of an hour, despite the remonstrances of his second, Bill Warr, till he could no longer stand. His second then gave in for him. Bob’s appearance upon any stage raised his character even in defeat.

Watson now returned to the regular pursuit of his trade, and was in business as a master butcher in Bristol for more than forty years from this period. He still took an interest in matters pugilistic, as we shall see incidentally in these pages, and often seconded, more especially in the neighbourhood of Bristol. Watson frequently gave expositions of the art on the stage of the Bristol theatre and in London. In 1810 he was engaged at Covent Garden with the younger Warr (son of Will Warr) and demonstrated the art in a scene in the pantomime. Warr, in an impetuous onset, knocked out one of Watson’s teeth, who proposed a combat then and there. This would have been an unrehearsed effect, and was of course prevented. Bob threw up his engagement, but was pacified by having another boxer to perform with him. He died in September, 1837, aged 71 years, generally respected.

TOM TYNE, “THE TAILOR”—1788‒1792.

Among the minor pugilists, Tom Tyne deserves a passing notice. The vulgar proverb of “nine tailors make a man” found its exception in this small-sized but large-souled boxer, who always fought “up-hill” against weight and inches, displaying much science, and in those rough days what was called too much “shiftiness.” Tyne’s first recorded fight came off at 128Croydon on the 1st of July, 1788, for 50 guineas. His opponent was Bill Jones, a powerful boxer, and who had earned a name by defeating Dunn, a clumsy and game Irishman, in Bloomsbury Fields, in 1786, besides other bye-battles. On this occasion Jones was seconded by Joe Ward, and Tyne by the renowned Tom Johnson. As it is our plan nothing to extenuate nor set down aught in malice, we shall, as is our practice, where possible, print the contemporary report.

“Tyne evidently possessed the advantage in science, independent of his great superiority arising from the shy mode of shifting and dropping. Jones, on the contrary, stood manfully up to his man, and made many dexterous efforts, which, however, were frustrated by the illusive and evasive system of his antagonist, who always fell whenever he received or put in a blow. Jones had in point of beating the worst of the battle, but still the best prospect of ultimate success, from his superior strength and bottom; until by following up a blow too far, he struck his antagonist unfairly, somewhere about the waistband of the breeches, when Tyne was immediately declared the conqueror.”

Tom’s next display was in the presence of royalty, and proved most unfortunate in its result. On August 6th, 1788, the Grand Stand on Brighton Race-course was crowded with nobility and gentry to witness the decision of three matches on a stage erected for that purpose. The Prince of Wales and a large party from the Pavilion were present. The first combatants were Bill Jones, already mentioned, and Watson, of Bristol (see Watson); the second, Joe Ward and Reynolds (see Ward); the third, between our hero and Earl.

This contest, unhappily for Tom, ended in a fatal accident. Earl was a powerful rustic, far heavier and taller than Tom, whose height was five feet seven inches, and weight nine stone seven pounds. Earl from his appearance was the favourite at odds, and “was becoming triumphant very fast, when Tyne struck him a sharp left-handed blow on the side of the head, which drove him against the rail of the stage. He fell insensible, and immediately expired. The Prince of Wales, greatly to his honour,” adds the reporter, “immediately settled an annuity on the wife and family of Earl, and took the determination never to be present at another pugilistic contest.” We hope the first promise was kept better than the second, otherwise the prince’s annuity was merely another stone in the pavement of that place where “good intentions” are said to make the roadway smooth.

Tom was now matched against a clever boxer, Elisha Crabbe, the Jew, who had earned some fame by beating “Old Oliver,” as he was termed. 129The battle took place in a field adjoining Boston Moor, on Monday, March 24, 1790. We copy the report from the Daily Advertiser.

“Tyne had Johnson for his second, and James, the waterman, for his bottle-holder. Lee seconded the Jew, and Joe Ward held the bottle. At about half-past two the contending bruisers appeared, amidst at least 2,000 spectators, and on stripping, six to four was betted in favour of the tailor.”


Round 1.—There was some extremely good sparring; they both closed, and Crabbe fell, but gave his adversary a severe blow on the nose which produced great effusion of blood.

8.—The Jew gave his opponent a real knock-down blow, and fell upon him.

14.—Tyne again fell by his antagonist’s blow.

16.—Tyne received another knock-down blow, but gave the Jew a most severe cut on the left eye, and another on the mouth.

18.—Tyne dropped, and it was generally considered by design; great cry of “foul, foul,” and the odds sunk five to four on the tailor.

22.—Was the best round during the contest, and in which science was most admirably displayed by both combatants; it lasted above a minute, and afforded some most skilful blows.

32.—Crabbe fell by a severe blow on the eye.

33.—Tyne most adroitly fell, and his antagonist making a severe blow, flew over him, and falling on the stage, cut his face dreadfully.

39.—This was the last round; Tyne again fell by a slight blow, and Crabbe was so exhausted that he fell on his belly, being utterly incapable of standing the contest any longer. In the intermediate rounds there was good sparring, but no blows of consequence.

“The battle lasted thirty-five minutes. Crabbe sparred the best, but Tyne never failed to make his blows tell, notwithstanding he frequently fell himself. The Jew several times attempted to chop, but in this failed. Johnson on this occasion displayed most excellent qualities as a second, and the event of the contest depended much on his conduct.”

Tom’s next appearance was in the ring in Hyde Park, on Friday, December 31, 1792. Firby, previously known as “Jack the waiter,” from his being employed in that capacity, at the London Tavern, though a civil fellow, had earned the title of “The Young Ruffian,” from his victory over Symonds, “The Old Ruffian,” in the previous year. Firby made a severe fight with Tyne, and, despite Tom’s cleverness in shifting and dropping, managed to force the fighting so cleverly, that he beat him off in twenty-two minutes.

Tom Tyne has two fights with Mendoza credited to his name in “Fistiana,” which appear nowhere in “the books.” This was Tyne’s last public appearance as a principal. He is named once or twice afterwards as a second. He returned to his trade, and became “Sartor Resartus.”



The repulsive sobriquet given to this boxer had, we find from contemporary authority, no relation to his personal appearance, nor to his ordinary behaviour, but was merely applied in ring slang to his mode of attacking his opponents in the twenty-four feet square, in defiance of mathematics called “the ring.” The ugly part of his cognomen descended to his juvenile conqueror, Firby, the waiter, who was designated “the Young Ruffian,” and Symonds thereafter was known by the epithet of “the Old Ruffian.”

Symonds’ first recorded ring fight was with Bill Jackling (called Ginger, from the colour of his hair), brother to the renowned Tom Johnson, the champion. This took place at Wrotham in Kent, on January 17, 1791, after his brother had been defeated by Big Ben (see ante, p. 68). It was a severe fight for twenty-three minutes, when Symonds was hit out of time.

His next encounter was at Fenner’s cricket ground, Uxbridge, with Gowlett, for 10 guineas, on the 22nd June, 1791. The battle was got up as a sort of compensation for the disappointment of the amateurs who were about to journey to Stokenchurch, Oxfordshire, to witness the battle between Dan Mendoza and Bill Warr. The Oxfordshire magistrates, however, had given notice of their intention to stop the “big” fight, and it was postponed. (See Life of Mendoza, ante, p. 76.) The men fought on the turf. The opponent of Symonds, Gowlett, was a big countrymen of provincial repute. Symonds, who was more practised than his huge opponent, delivered heavily, and then, à la Bendigo, found his way cleverly to the ground. In the words of the report, “Symonds sprung in, struck, and then fell, without being struck in return.” This is very obscure. However, “Gowlett, being irritated, kicked him as he lay on the ground. This decided the battle immediately in favour of Symonds.” We should think so. What follows is curious: “Many bets were paid; but after a consultation, the amateurs deciding it to be a drawn battle, the bets were refunded.” Our grandfathers were somewhat at sea as to betting law. However, as the Duke of Hamilton, Alderman Macauley, and other “distinguished patrons” were present, we suppose they acted equitably, according to their view of the case.

A fine young fellow, Jack Firby, a waiter at the London Tavern, met Symonds for a stake at Wimbledon, on the Ridgway, August 2, 1791, and defeated him, after a slashing fight of forty-five minutes.

131On Saturday, December 4, 1792, Symonds fought a most resolute battle of two hours with George Maddox at Datchet Sward, Berks, resulting in a draw. (See Maddox, post, p. 206.)

Symonds’ last appearance in the ring was on the 15th of April, 1795, when he fought a draw with a Jew, called Ugly Baruk, at Hornchurch; it lasted half an hour. For some years Symonds was an attendant at the Fives Court, and elsewhere, and was, like Firby, a good-tempered, obliging fellow, always ready to lend a hand to a brother pugilist in distress. Symonds died in 1820.


PERIOD III.—1798‒1809.



On the roll of fistic heroes to whom Bristol has given birth, the name of Jem Belcher may claim precedence. He came of a good fighting stock, being descended by the mother’s side from the renowned Jem Slack, the conqueror of Broughton, the former being the grandsire of the subject of this memoir.

On his first appearance in the London Ring, he was justly considered a phenomenon in the pugilistic art. Jem’s height was five feet eleven and a half inches; his weight under twelve stone. Though graceful and finely proportioned, he had none of those muscular exaggerations in his form when stripped, and still less when attired, which go, in the artistic as well as the popular notion, to make up a Hercules. Jem was formed more after the sculptor’s Apollo than the not-very-accurate classical idea, derived from bronze and marble, of a gladiator. In horse, as in man, this antique blunder is laughed at by those who have read and seen something more than Greek and Latin books or monuments can teach them. The horses of the Parthenon might do for Pickford’s vans, “a black job,” or a man in armour in my Lord Mayor’s show (and they would not carry him well); while Jem Belcher, Henry Pearce, Tom Spring, Jem Ward, or Tom Sayers, could thrash all your shoulder-tied, muscle-knotted, chairman-calved Milos that ever didn’t do the impossibles which ancient poets and fabulists, called historians, have attributed to them in verse and prose. But this is digression, and we return.

JAMES BELCHER, of Bristol (Champion of England), 1798‒1809.

133James Belcher struggled into the battle of life in St. James’s Churchyard, Bristol, on the 15th of April, 1781. He there, for some time, followed the occupation of a butcher, and early signalised himself by feats of pugilism and activity at Lansdown Fair.[80] At twenty years of age his skill with the gloves was the talk of the town, and he baffled the cleverest professors of the old school on their visits to Bristol, which were then neither few nor far between. His method appeared so peculiarly his own that it looked like intuition, and some of the “ould ’uns” who were sceptical as to his prowess, would not believe in it until they had experienced in their own persons the irresistibility of his attack and the cleverness of his almost invulnerable and ever-varying defence. Gaiety and intrepidity were combined in Jem’s style with curious felicity, and the rapidity with which he “got in” upon his opponent, the skill with which he retreated, armed at all points, and the masterly manner in which he “got out of trouble,” to the surprise of his assailant, were truly astonishing—in two words, Jem Belcher was a “natural fighter,” perfected by the practice of his art.

The first recorded fight of Belcher was with Britton, a pugilist of some notoriety, who afterwards contended with Dutch Sam; the contest took place near Bristol, on the 6th of March, 1798; it was a sharp and severe contest, in which Belcher, the boy of seventeen, disposed of his antagonist in thirty-three minutes, Britton being beaten to a stand-still, to the utter surprise of the spectators.

Our hero now came up to town, where his reputation accompanied him; being introduced to old Bill Warr, who then kept a house in Covent Garden, the “ould ’un” had a mind to judge personally of the merits of the young aspirant for pugilistic fame, and accordingly put on the gloves with him for a little “breathing” in his (Warr’s) own dining-room. The veteran, who in his best days was no Belcher, was so astounded at Jem’s quickness in hitting and recovering guard, that he puffed out, as he reeled against one of his tables, impelled thither by a “Belcherian” tip, “That’ll do; this youngster can go in with any man in the kingdom!” Jem quietly observed, during the discussion after dinner, “I could have done better, sir, but I was afraid I might hit you too hard, and that you would be offended.”—“Oh!” cried the undaunted veteran, “I was never afraid of a crack, my boy, and am not now; we’ll have a round, and you may do your best.” So saying, they instantly set-to, when Jem, almost at the request of his host, quietly hit him down several times, despite of the “ould ’un’s” attempts at stopping or countering. Warr was fully satisfied of Belcher’s talents; they sat down sociably, and Bill offered to back the young Bristolian against anything on the pugilistic list.

134Tom Jones, of Paddington, whose career closed the final chapter of the Second Period, was selected as the trial-horse of the new competitor in the race for fame and its more substantial rewards. The battle took place on Wormwood Scrubbs, on the 12th of April, 1799, for 25 guineas aside. The peculiar features of Belcher’s science were well displayed; and although Jones contended for victory with desperate determination, unflinching courage, and no small amount of skill and readiness, he was doomed to “pale his ineffective fires” before the rising luminary of Belcher’s fame. Thirty-three minutes of courageous and determined fighting placed the future champion’s star in the ascendant.

Jack Bartholomew, a pugilist whose victories over the gluttonous Firby (known as the “Young Ruffian”), Tom Owen, and others, had placed him high in the estimation of “the fancy,” was now picked out as a customer very likely to try the mettle of Belcher. Bartholomew was in high favour among the ring-goers, his weight between twelve and thirteen stone, his qualifications considerable, and his game of the first order. The stakes in the first instance were small, being but £20 a-side, owing to the affair arising out of a longing desire on the part of Bartholomew to try his skill with the Bristol “Phenomenon,” he himself feeling no apprehension as to the result. He accordingly challenged Jem for this sum, offering to “fight him for love,” rather than lose the opportunity of a “shy.” The mill came off, almost extemporaneously, August 15, 1799, at George’s Row, on the Uxbridge Road, and was so severely and evenly contested (Belcher was declared to be out of condition), that neither could be declared the conqueror. Towards the end of the fight Bartholomew was so completely exhausted that he fainted away, and could not come to time; and Jem so much done up, that it was with difficulty he was got up to the scratch. In fact, both men were out of time. Bartholomew, in the interval, recovering a little from his weakness, insisted upon renewing the combat, when the ring was again made; but he staggered about without command of himself, and appeared literally stupid. His game was so good, but his state so pitiable, that Cullington,[81] feeling for his bravery, exclaimed, “For heaven’s sake, Jem, don’t hit him!” upon which Belcher merely pushed him down; in fact, he was himself so exhausted as to be unable to make an effectual hit. The umpires pronounced it a drawn battle; and the stakes, which were held by Bill Gibbons’s brother, were drawn the same night at Cullington’s.

As Bartholomew possessed pluck of the first order, it was not to be supposed 135the matter would rest here; accordingly the world pugilistic was soon on the qui vive for another match, which was arranged for 300 guineas. This was fought upon a stage on Finchley Common, on Thursday, May 15, 1800. Bartholomew was at this time 37 years of age, Belcher just turned 20.

The combatants mounted the stage at half-past one o’clock, and little time was lost in preliminaries. Bartholomew had determined that sparring should avail Belcher but little, and ding-dong rushes were the game he had resolved on. Belcher, even in the early rounds of the fight, exhibited the tactics, afterwards conspicuous in some of Cribb’s battles, of “milling on the retreat;” but Bartholomew would not be denied, and seconded by his great strength and weight, he got in, planted upon Belcher, and hit him clean down with such violence, as to induce his over-sanguine friends to start off an express, per pigeon, to London, with the intelligence of their man’s victory. They were, however, premature, for Jem, taught by experience, did not give Bartholomew a chance of thus stealing a march on him; after pinking Bartholomew once or twice, he warded off his lunge, and catching him cleverly, threw him so dreadful a cross-buttock, that he was never entirely himself again during the fight. The odds now changed. Yet Bartholomew bravely contended, disputing every round with unyielding firmness, till the close of the seventeenth round, and the expiration of twenty minutes, when Belcher floored him with so terrific a body blow that all was U-P. The contest, considering the shortness of its duration, was considered the most desperate which had been witnessed for many years, and the loser was severely punished. It is erroneously stated in “Boxiana” (p. 129, vol. i.) that Belcher and Bartholomew fought again; but no date or place is mentioned, nor did any such battle ever come off. “Immediately after the fight,” says the report, “Bartholomew was taken into custody on a judge’s warrant, for breaking the peace before the expiration of his bond. He was brought to town in a coach, but bailed out immediately.”

Andrew Gamble, the “Irish champion,” was now backed by several influential amateurs to enter the lists with Belcher. Accordingly a match was made for 100 guineas, to be decided on Wimbledon Common, on Monday, December 22, 1800; and on that day vehicles of all descriptions, and crowds of pedestrians, flocked to witness this combat.

The journals of the day give on many occasions a sort of Morning Post list of “fashionables” on these occasions. On the present we find enumerated Lord Say and Sele, Colonels Montgomery and Ogle, Captain Desmond, Squire Mountain, Messrs. Cullington, Lee, Kelly, Aldridge, etc.; and among 136the professionals, John Jackson, Paddington Jones, Bill Gibbons, Caleb Baldwin, etc.

Belcher entered the ring about twelve o’clock, accompanied by his second, Joe Ward, with Bill Gibbons as his bottle-holder, and Tom Tring as an assistant. Mendoza was second to Gamble; his bottle-holder, Coady; and old Elisha Crabbe as deputy. Messrs. Mountain, Lee, and Cullington were chosen umpires; the latter also was stakeholder.

Notwithstanding Gamble had beat Noah James, the Cheshire champion, a pugilist who had been successful in seventeen pitched battles, and whose game was said to be superior to any man in the kingdom, still the bets from the first making of the match were six to four in favour of Belcher; and Bill Warr, before the combatants stripped, offered twenty-five guineas to twenty. On stripping, Gamble appeared much the heavier man, and his friends and countrymen offered five to four on him; but that was by no means the opinion of the London cognoscenti. A few minutes before one the fight commenced.


Round 1.—After some sparring, Gamble made play, but was prettily parried by Belcher, who, with unequalled celerity, planted in return three severe facers: they soon closed, and Belcher, being well aware of the superiority of his opponent’s strength, dropped. (The Paddies, in their eagerness to support their countryman, here offered five to four.)

2.—Belcher, full of spirit, advanced towards Gamble, who retreated. Jem made a feint with his right hand, and with his left struck Gamble so severely over the right eye, as not only to close it immediately, but knock him down with uncommon violence. (Two to one on Belcher.)

3.—Gamble again retreated, but put in several severe blows in the body of his antagonist with some cleverness. Belcher, by a sharp hit, made the claret fly copiously; but Gamble, notwithstanding, threw Belcher with considerable violence, and fell upon him cross-ways. (The odds rose four to one upon Jem.)

4.—Belcher, full of coolness and self-possession, showed first-rate science. His blows were well directed, and severe, particularly one in the neck, which brought Gamble down. (Ten to one Belcher was the winner.)

5th and last round.—Gamble received two such blows that struck him all of a heap—one in the mark, that nearly deprived him of breath, and the other on the side, which instantly swelled considerably. Gamble fell almost breathless, and when “time” was called, gave in. It is reported that not less than £20,000 changed hands on this occasion. The Irish were full of murmurings at Gamble’s conduct, who was beaten in five rounds, and in the short space of nine minutes! Gamble fought very badly. From his former experience much was expected, but he appeared utterly confused at his opponent’s quickness. Belcher treated Gamble’s knowledge of the art with the utmost contempt.

It may be worth noticing that the “Pride of Westminster,” in after years known as Caleb Baldwin, described in the report as a “dealer in greens,” polished off a big Irishman, named Kelly, in fifteen minutes, twelve rounds, for a purse of 20 guineas, in the same ring.

While Belcher was witnessing the battle between Bittoon the Jew and Tom Jones, on Wimbledon Common, on Monday, July 13, 1801, Joe Berks, who 137was excited and quarrelsome, made a disturbance in the outer ring,[82] and offensively called out, “Where’s young Jem Belcher? where’s your champion?” Jem went up to him and asked him what he wanted; the reply to which was a blow, cleverly warded off. A fierce set-to followed, for Jem was semper paratus, when Berks displayed so much courage and strength, that the spectators did not know what to think about the finish of this impromptu affair. The combat lasted nineteen minutes, and although Berks was beaten, an opinion became prevalent that had not Belcher applied all he knew of the science, and Berks fought, as it was termed, “hand over hand,” there was great probability of Jem’s falling before the resolute onslaught of the Shropshire man.

Berks having shown so much game under such evident disadvantages, Lord Camelford determined to back him for a second combat in a more regular manner, for 100 guineas. He was accordingly put out to nurse; a teacher appointed to initiate him into the mysteries of the science; and it was reported of Berks that he was a promising child—took his food regularly, minded what his master said to him, and, for the short time that he had taken to study, great improvement was visible. Berks ultimately turned out one of the most troublesome customers, and the hardest to be disposed of, that ever entered the lists with Belcher.

On Saturday, September 12, 1801, Belcher met Berks, at the Cock, in Sun Street, Spitalfields, when Jem accepted his formal challenge for 100 guineas, and seven days after, on the 19th, they met at the same house, to proceed to the battle-field—a rare instance of promptitude and eagerness on both sides; but the police having scent of the affair, a magistrate’s warrant 138was issued, and the battle postponed to the 12th of the next month. As there is no trace of these proceedings in “Boxiana,” and they are amusing as well as curious to the ring-goer, showing the disappointments and modus operandi of the ring in the olden times, we reprint the account from a contemporary newspaper; and as a specimen of what then was thought smart writing in the fashionable world.

“On Monday (12th October, 1801), as had been agreed upon, the long expected battle between James Belcher and Joseph Bourkes (Joe Berks) was to have taken place at Enfield, but much to the chagrin of the amateurs and lovers of the pugilistic art, it was prevented by the interposition of Mr. Ford, the magistrate of Bow Street, who, having received information of the intended combat, issued a warrant against Belcher, and on the Sunday night previous Townsend took him into limbo. Many circumstances combined to excite a most extraordinary degree of expectation, and produced a multitudinous attendance on this attractive occasion. The late ratification of peace had tended to annihilate fighting;[83] conversation which had been so lively supported by the race of two famous horses, Sir Solomon and Cock-fighter, had now become exhausted in the sporting circle; the combatants being of the highest renown in the science, could not fail to animate every amateur; and, to add still greater numbers to the assembly, a violent thunder-storm on the Saturday night had kept the heroes, who on that evening enjoy themselves, altogether inactive. All the loose cash, all the turbulence that had been amassed that night, now prompted by curiosity, broke forth with increased avidity. The ‘fight’ was the very goal of attraction; it consolidated every vagrant wish, every undecided mind, and every idle hope.

“This match first became the subject of contemplation from an accidental skirmish during the fight between Bittoon and Tom Jones, at Wimbledon, in which, although Berks seemingly had the worst of it, the amateurs considered it as a matter of surprise; and no previous training having taken place on either side, much consequence was not attached to the defeat, nor was it considered decisive of the merits of the rival heroes. Many knowing ones indeed conceived that Berks got thrashed in this contest only through his own rashness, and entertaining flattering hopes of his powers, took him into private nursing. Raw eggs to improve his wind, and raw beef to make him savage, were the glorious non-naturals that composed his regimen, and in all his exercises he topped even expectation’s self. All this was done in the anxious trust that Belcher would be backed with great odds, as he was 139thought to be the favourite with all, excepting those in the secret. They, however, did not manage with all that address which experience proves so requisite to gull the world; it soon spread that Berks had been in training, and had considerably improved in his sparring. Odds then took a contrary direction, but when the amateurs who con o’er these sublime subjects began to consider that Belcher, although not in training, had lived temperately, was in good condition, and full of stiff meat, he again became the favorite, and on the ground six to four were the standing odds.

“The hours appointed in the articles for the decision of the contest were between twelve and two. At about one o’clock Berks appeared on the stage, stripped, and began to show play for the amusement of his friends, who did not forget to make the welkin ring with their plaudits; however, Belcher not ascending the stage as expected, he dressed himself again, amidst cries of ‘Where is Belcher?’ Berks immediately assumed the attitude, not of a fighter, but of an orator, and in the following eloquent manner addressed the multitude:—

“‘Gemmen, I com’d here, d’ye see, to fight Jim Belcher. I’m here, and he isn’t. I wish he had; for, on the word of a butcher, I’d have cleaved his calf’s head, and given him such a chop in the kidneys, as would soon have brought him on his marrow bones.’

“The cry of ‘Where is Belcher?’ still continued, when Gamble, the Irish bruiser, came forward—‘Where is he? why at Bow-street, to be sure; he was grabbed on the road.’ This was not the fact, but something near it. The suspense, however, was not of long duration: two friends of Jemmy’s arrived with the sad and melancholy tidings of the ‘queer tip’ he had met with the last night.

“Bill Warr, Gamble, Lee, Jackson, many amateurs, and the usual number of pickpockets, were present.”

On Wednesday, November 25th, 1801, this oft postponed contest was brought to a decision. The greatest secrecy was observed, and “it was only on the Tuesday afternoon that the field of battle was precisely determined on. A stage was erected at Hurley Bottom, four and a-half miles from Maidenhead, between the Henley and Reading roads, thirty-two miles from Hyde Park turnpike.

“At ten minutes after twelve Belcher made his appearance, accompanied by his second, Joe Ward, and by a Bristol youth, as his bottle-holder, who was unknown to the London bruisers. He immediately began to strip, and when prepared, took the precaution of particularly examining the stage, lest any roughness or nail might do him an eventual injury. Shortly after Berks 140appeared, attended by Harry Lee, as his second, and George Rhodes, his bottle-holder.

“The combatants shook hands, and immediately set to. Bets, seven to four and two to one on Belcher.”


Round 1.—Several severe blows were exchanged. Berks showed in better style than usual. He put in a well directed hit under his antagonist’s right eye, who staggered. The men closed, and both fell.

2, 3, and 4.—During these rounds neither combatant displayed science, notwithstanding some good blows were reciprocally given and received.

5.—Belcher made a feint with his left hand, and with his right put in so sharp a hit on the nose of his opponent, that he laid it open, and brought him down with great violence. (Bets ten to one offered, but refused.)

6.—Much shy fighting, Berks keeping out at distance. Belcher at length struck Berks over the forehead, and cut him again severely; the blood now issued so freely from his wounds, that Lee could scarcely find handkerchiefs sufficient to keep him clean.

7 and 8.—Little done; Belcher propped Berks, who fell.

9.—Berks being the stronger man, rushed in, got a hold, and threw his antagonist with great violence.

13.—This was the best contested round throughout the battle, and was truly desperate fighting.

16.—At the conclusion of this round Berks was quite exhausted, and it is but justice to his gallantry and courage to record that, although in so dreadful a state, he refused to give in, and the yielding word was uttered by his second.

Remarks.—“The battle, which undoubtedly was the most desperately contested of any since that of Big Ben and Johnson in the year 1791, lasted twenty-five minutes; but although it displayed the height of courage on both sides, it was by no means so gratifying to the scientific amateur as many battles of the old school; very few straight blows were struck, but both the combatants fought round, and made a hugging fight of it.

“Berks was much cut and dreadfully bruised in the body. During the fight he displayed wonderful activity and bottom, but not an equal portion of skill. At the conclusion he was immediately put into a post-chaise, but very cruelly left there until after the decision of another battle, and then conveyed to town.

“Belcher appeared not the least hurt, and declared he never felt a blow during the whole of the battle; he was very highly elated by having gained the laurel, and still more perhaps the stake. He challenged Mendoza, who was present, and offered to fight him in a month for 300 to 200 guineas. To this bravado, Mendoza, greatly to his commendation, calmly answered, that he had given up the pugilistic profession; that he supported by his exertions, as landlord of the Lord Nelson, in Whitechapel, a family of six children. There was only one man he would fight, which was Jackson; his unhandsome and unfair conduct in a prior contest having excited his greatest indignation.” Dan ended a wily speech by declaring he would fight Jackson for 100 guineas, with a proviso that he should not avail himself of what he called the “base and cowardly advantage” of holding the hair of his antagonist. See Mendoza, ante, p. 79.

Caleb Baldwin, on this occasion also, added a second fight to the day’s proceedings, his antagonist being Lee, the butcher, whom he beat in twenty-three minutes.—See Life of Caleb Baldwin, Appendix to Period IV.

Lord Say and Sele, the Hon. Berkeley Craven, Sir Thomas Apreece, Colonel Montgomery, Captain Taylor, and other distinguished amateurs, were among the spectators.

We read in the newspapers of the day that “Lord Radnor, as Lord Lieutenant of the county of Berks., soon after the fight, issued warrants for the apprehension of James Belcher and Joseph Berks, as combatants, and 141Harry Lee and Joe Ward, the seconds, ‘for unlawfully assembling and publicly fighting at Hurley, in the county of Berkshire.’ They were taken into custody, and on Friday, January 29th, 1802, Belcher, Lee, and Ward, appeared at Bow Street, before Mr. Bond, and Mr. Reed, of Chelsea, with their bail (Mr. Brown, and Mr. Evans, an oyster merchant in Hungerford Market), where they entered into sureties for their appearance to answer this charge in the county of Berks., themselves in £200, and their bail in £100 each. Poor Berks was most shamefully deserted and neglected by all his friends, in this hour of need, and not being able to procure bail, remained ‘in durance vile’ at the common gaol of Reading.”

The then chief magistrate of Bow-street seems to have been particularly busy in the proceedings of Belcher, for we find, in the interim between his bail and surrender, that he stopped even a sparring match. “On Tuesday, April 6th, 1802, Belcher had announced a display of the art of self-defence, at a public-house called the Peahen, in Gray’s Inn Lane. Gamble, Belcher, and several pugilists of fame set-to, and highly diverted an immense concourse of persons until about ten o’clock, when Mr. Bond having received information, despatched officers, who very kindly paid them a visit, and took into custody not only the principals but the whole of the company, and lodged them in the Compter for the night.” The paragraph writer then becomes clumsily facetious about the appropriate transfer of the population of the Peahen to the Poultry Compter.[84]

In May, 1802, “on the last day of the Quarter Sessions at Newbury, Belcher, Joe Ward, and Harry Lee, appeared with their bail,” and poor Berks was brought up from the gaol. Jem’s aristocratic patrons had been busy, for we read, “Mr. Dundas, the Chairman of the Sessions, addressed them: he said the prosecution was at the instance of the county, but had been moved by certiorari into the Court of King’s Bench. He admonished them to leave off the pugilistic profession, and particularly directed his observations to Belcher, of whose generally peaceable conduct he had heard so favourable a report. The Court was very highly pleased at the respectful manner in which they all surrendered themselves to the laws of their country; and it was understood, that unless they were again sufficiently atrocious to violate them, they would not be called upon to answer for their misconduct.”

At the latter end of this month, May, notwithstanding this advice, the following paragraph appeared in the Oracle: “Belcher and Berks have been matched at Newmarket by Captain Fletcher and Fletcher Reid, Esq., for 142200 guineas a-side. Belcher has already set off to Yorkshire, to put himself in training, accompanied by Joe Ward, and Berks remains in the neighbourhood of Newmarket for the same purpose. The battle is agreed to take place within six weeks, but where or when will be kept as much a secret as possible.”

The best accounts of the disappointments these olden gymnasts met with in their attempts to decide this contest, may be collected from the following excerpts:—

From the York Herald.

“The boxing match made some time since, at Newmarket, to be fought by the above-named, it was agreed by the parties, should be decided on Thursday, June 17, between the hours of twelve and two, at the village of Grewelthorpe, about six miles from Ripon. The above village is in the West Riding; the division of that part of the county and the North Riding taking place there. Accordingly, on the morning of Thursday, a stage was erected at the bottom of a close adjoining the house of Mr. Pickersgill; the money, amounting to £1,450 a-side, deposited by the parties, and every necessary preparation made. In consequence of information having been previously sent to the magistrates, the Very Reverend the Deans of Ripon and Middleham, with several of the justices for the North and West Ridings, attended at Grewelthorpe, and signified their determination to put a stop to all such outrageous proceedings; but finding that the business was likely to be proceeded with, and that a number of people were assembling, they ordered the Riot Act to be read, which was accordingly done about twelve o’clock, by Mr. Taylors, the Town Clerk. However, between one and two o’clock, Belcher, with his second, etc., went upon the stage, and was followed by Berks, upon which Mr. Trapps went down to inform them, that if they did not instantly quit the stage, and the neighbourhood, they and their parties would be apprehended. They immediately obeyed, and left Grewelthorpe soon after.”

From the Morning Post.

“It appears that on Thursday, June 17, a stage, on which it was intended that Belcher and Berks should exhibit a fresh trial of their skill and strength, was erected in a bye place, about twenty miles distant from Middleham, in Yorkshire, and so conveniently situated for the purpose, that no persons present could have been deprived of a full view of the fight. At one o’clock, Fletcher Reid, Esq., on the part of Belcher, and Captain Fletcher, on behalf of Berks, met on the appointed spot, to make good the stake of 1,450 guineas a-side, being the sum for which Belcher and Berks were matched to fight. The conditions having been fulfilled, Belcher appeared on the stage at a quarter before two o’clock, attended by Joe Ward as his second, and Bill Gibbons as his bottle-holder; and shortly after Berks joined them, with Crabbe as his bottle-holder, but no second. The two bruisers shook hands, and Berks observed, ‘that it would now be determined which was the best man;’ to which Belcher replied, ‘he was surprised he did not know that already.’ There were several hundred persons present on the tiptoe of expectation to see the conflict commence; but the combatants could not set-to, as Harry Lee had not ascended the stage, who was Berks’ promised second. On his name being called out among the crowd, he answered to it; but when asked why he did not appear in his place, he gave no other explanation than that he would have nothing to do with the fight. This circumstance produced general dissatisfaction, as it was declared that this determination on the part of Lee could only have been occasioned by a previous understanding between him and Berks’ friends, who now began to think of the large sums they had betted, and the little chance they had of success. No bets could be procured on the ground, without staking considerable odds. As Berks refused to accept any other second in the room of Lee, all hopes of a contest now vanished, and the champions retired from the stage. Belcher, however, unwilling to disappoint the company, offered to have a few rounds with Berks for pure ‘love,’ but he declined, and immediately set off in a post-chaise.”

Mr. Fletcher Reid, who backed Belcher, made him a present of £50 for his trouble, and £5 to bear his expenses to London. He also made a present 143to Ward, his second, and to the bottle-holder, with money to bear their expenses to town.

In the beginning of July, 1802, the following letter from Berks appeared in the Oracle and Daily Advertiser:—

To the Editor of the Daily Advertiser.

Sir,—The wager for which I was to have fought with Belcher, at Grewelthorpe, in Yorkshire, was 1,450 guineas a-side; Captain Fletcher betting upon me, and Mr. Fletcher Reid upon Belcher; the match was to be fought between twelve and two.

“Captain Fletcher was on the stage half an hour before Mr. Fletcher Reid could make up the sum betted. Belcher did not come upon the stage until half past one, and then appeared in boots, consequently not very likely with an intention to fight. Immediately on his coming on the stage, Captain Fletcher came to me at the house, and desired me to put on my fighting dress, and be ready immediately, which I directly did. I was then asked by Fletcher Reid, ‘Where is your second?’ I answered, ‘Let us fight without seconds, for Harry Lee has refused to be one, on account of the magistrates.’

“I had wished to fight before the hour named, to prevent the interposition of the magistrates; for though no man can more respect their authority, which I would not attempt to resist, I thought it would be fair enough to get a start of them.

“Mr. Bolton, of York, held the bets, to the amount of 2,900 guineas.

“I had been in training seven weeks at Middleham, and was never in better condition. I ran and leaped with many people, and always beat them. I was exceedingly well treated by the people there, and must say that Captain Fletcher behaved amazingly well, and like a gentleman to me. I told him it was not for the sake of money, but of my honour, that I wanted to fight.

“Belcher had not been ten minutes on the stage, when two or three gentlemen came and told him to get off, for that the magistrates had issued their warrants.

“Belcher on this was directly going off, when I said, ‘Belcher, stop and fight at all risks, and we shall see who is the best man.’ I must say it is not true, as stated in some of the papers, that Belcher made a reply, ‘that he thought I knew already,’ for he made no answer, but acted the part of ‘Orator Mum.’

“It appears odd to me that Joe Ward was at Grewelthorpe the day before, but did not appear the day appointed for the fight at all. I do not wish to impute anything wrong to him, but think it very strange.

“The above is a true statement, which nobody will deny, and which Belcher, if he has a regard for truth, dares not contradict.—I am, sir, yours, etc.,

London, July 1.

On the 19th of August, it being Camberwell Fair, those two disappointed and hitherto considered equal champions accidentally met, never having seen each other since their proposed match in Yorkshire. “Belcher first espied his pugilistic rival entertaining a number of people with the manner in which he would serve out Belcher the first time he met him; but this seeming to have happened unexpectedly, their first salute was at least civil. Belcher, however, could not help expressing his regret that Berks should boast everywhere of his superior prowess, that he could beat Belcher with ease, that Belcher was afraid to fight, etc. Berks did not deny these accusations, and offered to fight him immediately. They then adjourned to the bowling-green belonging to the house where they met, and Berks attacked Belcher before he could get his shirt off. However, when they fairly met, Belcher put in a well-directed hit, knocked out one of Berks’ front teeth, and following it up with a blow under the ear, brought him down. Berks not being quite sober, 144and Belcher indisposed, their friends agreed that they should meet next day at Oxendon Street, Leicester Square. This being settled, they separated.”

August 20.—“This day they met according to agreement, and after some negotiation respecting the order of proceeding, they went, each in a separate hackney coach, accompanied by their friends.

“At a little before one o’clock the parties arrived at Tyburn Turnpike, where they immediately fixed on the first open space, a large field directly behind St. George’s Chapel, which faces Hyde Park. The combat having been so suddenly determined on, very few amateurs were present, excepting Mr. Fletcher Reid and Mr. Crook. There not being time to build a stage, an extensive ring was immediately formed, and the multitude, which was immense, placed around it. The first row almost lying, the second sitting, the third kneeling, and the remainder standing; those behind thinking themselves well favoured if they now and then got a peep.

“After walking about for a few minutes they began to strip, and when prepared, Berks asked Mr. Fletcher Reid ‘Whether it should be a fair stand-up fight.’—‘Certainly, in every way,’ said Mr. R., and immediately called Belcher to acquaint him with what Berks had asked, when he said ‘Certainly, I can do no otherwise.’ Berks then requested that the pauses between each round might be three quarters of a minute, but Belcher’s friends insisted on the old established interval of half a minute.

“A purse of thirty guineas was subscribed for the winner, and five for the loser, by the amateurs present. A few minutes after one they entered the ring; Belcher, accompanied by Joe Ward as his second, and Bill Gibbons as his bottle-holder; and Berks, by Tom Owen as his second, and Yokel, the Jew, for his bottle-holder. After the accustomed salutation they set-to.”


Round 1.—Berks showed in this round that his hope of gaining the battle rested upon his superior strength. He ran in, closed upon Belcher, and tried to throw him, but failed, when Belcher dexterously accomplished what his antagonist was so desirous of doing, and had his man down on the grass. Some blows were struck, but no blood drawn.

2.—Berks followed the plan he had commenced with, ran in, and received a well-aimed blow from Belcher in the throat, which drew blood. They closed, and Belcher again threw his opponent.

3.—Berks once more ran in with great pluck, and with much adroitness planted a sharp blow on Belcher’s right cheek bone with his left hand; he then put in a severe blow between the shoulder and the breast, which, had it been lower, would have done execution. While aiming another blow with his left hand, Belcher rallied, closed, and a third time brought Berks down with a hit and a close.

4.—Berks rushed upon his adversary, missed his blow, and fell. Here some groaned, calling out, “Berks is at his old tricks,” supposing him to be shifting, but his subsequent conduct showed the fallacy of such a charge.

5.—Berks ran in with great force, caught Belcher by the hams, doubled him up, and threw him in the style of a cross-buttock; Belcher pitched on his head with such force it was feared his neck was broken. A cry of “Foul! foul!” ran round, but Belcher 145rose as sprightly as ever, said he was not hurt, and in answer to the cries of “Foul,” said “No, never mind.”

6.—This was one of the most severe rounds that had been fought. Berks ran in as usual: several severe blows struck on each side. Belcher tremendously struck Berks on the side of the head, a second on the neck, and a third on the throat, all truly severe. They closed, struggled, changed legs, and each displayed his utmost skill and strength in wrestling; at last both fell, neither being able to claim any advantage.

7.—Berks had lost his gaiety; he seemed less eager, and his strength evidently began to fail: when put to the test, he still, however, showed great spirit. They closed, and Berks was a fourth time thrown.

8.—Berks during this round fought on the defensive, but at that he had no chance. Belcher put in several good blows, and terminated the round by bringing Berks down the fifth time.

9.—Bets at this time were twenty to one in favour of Belcher, who did not appear the least exhausted. While sparring, he was nodding and talking to his antagonist, at the same time putting in some most severe and unexpected blows. Poor Berks was again brought down.

10.—Berks set-to with spirit, and came to close quarters. Belcher put in some awful hits, and struck unusually sharp: he cut Berks under the left eye, then under the right, and thirdly, planted a most dreadful blow between the throat and chin, so severe that it lifted Berks off his feet, and his head came first to the ground. Belcher fell from the force of his blow, and as they both lay, the blood gushing up Berks’ throat, he collected it in his mouth, and squirted it over Belcher. This he did not relish, and swore he would pay him for it in the next round. Berks, however, declared he did not do it intentionally.

11.—Although Berks was evidently beaten, he still showed fight. Some blows were struck, they closed, and Belcher threw Berks, at the same time falling on his own hands, not wishing to hurt Berks more by falling on him, though the practice is customary, and considered fair in fighting.[85]

12.—Berks now showed considerable weakness, sat longer on the ground, and required greater assistance from his second than before. This round ended by Belcher’s throwing him.

13.—Berks again came up; Belcher struck five or six blows, closed, and again threw him. Berks was now heard to express a wish to give in, but his second desiring him to persevere, put a handkerchief to his mouth, and stopped his utterance. (This was disgraceful, and opposed to all rules of the ring.)

14.—Berks showed game, but his strength was gone; in short, he only stood up to be beat; every one manifestly saw he had no chance of success. After a few sharpish blows, Belcher closed and threw him on the chest, where he laid for some seconds, and then yielded the palm. He was several times asked by Joe Ward if he had given in, and distinctly answered “Yes.” He could scarcely see or stand, and was so shockingly cut about the face, that it was impossible to distinguish a feature. His friends placed him in a hackney coach, and carried him to a house in the neighbourhood of Grosvenor Square.

Remarks.—Belcher carried no marks of the battle, excepting the bruise on the cheek bone and his left shoulder. After the battle was over he leaped with great agility, and having walked three times round the field, left it on foot. His style of fighting in this contest was his own peculiarly, putting in with astonishing rapidity his three successive blows, and knowing Berks’ superiority of strength, avoided closing whenever he was able. The whole of the bets depending on the intended Yorkshire battle were decided by this contest.

Tuesday, August 24th, Mr. Fletcher Reid, the pugilistic amateur, gave a dinner at the One Tun public-house, in St. James’s Market, to a number of the professors of boxing. Berks was there, and in the evening Belcher called in, when Mr. Reid addressed Berks, telling him he must now be convinced it was impossible for him to beat Belcher, and asked him to give him his hand, which he immediately consented to do, and the two champions sat down at the same table, and spent the remainder of the day in good humour. Berks was astonishingly recovered, and said he felt no inconvenience now from the fight, but being a little stiff. In the course of the evening a wager was made between him and Jack Warr, Bill’s son, to run one hundred 146yards, for two guineas, which they immediately decided, and Berks won by five yards.

On Friday, October 8, 1802, James Belcher was carried before his attentive friend, Nicholas Bond, Esq., and Sir William Parsons, at the Public Office, Bow Street, being taken into custody on a warrant of Lord Ellenborough’s, dated the 22nd of July, 1802, in order to give bail for his appearance next term in the Court of King’s Bench, to answer an indictment found against him for certain riots and misdemeanours; alluding to the battle he fought with Berks at Hurley Bottom, in Berkshire, and which had been removed from the Quarter Sessions to that Court, where it would have rested, as before understood, had he not lately fought another battle.

The recognizance was himself in £200, and two sureties in £100 each.

This meddling Midas appears to have been one of those public nuisances that are occasionally entrusted with in-discretionary power. Belcher had engaged Sadler’s Wells Theatre for the evening of October 26th, 1802, for his benefit. But Mr. Bond and his brother magistrates disappointed hundreds, and robbed Belcher, by “closing the house for the season,” declaring sparring an “unlawful exhibition!” Such are the fantastic tricks of men “dressed in a little brief authority.”

John Firby (the Young Ruffian), who at this time, 1803, stood high in reputation, offered himself, though certainly stale, as a candidate for “the Bristol youth’s” favors. A purse of 100 guineas was subscribed by “the dons of Newmarket race-course,” as the prize; and they were to meet on Tuesday, April 12th, 1803. But the magistrates of Suffolk and Cambridge getting wind of the meeting, exerted their authority to prevent it, and on the Monday evening before, sent notices to the men that a fight would not be permitted. A secret meeting was immediately held, and it was determined to repair to the nearest spot in the county of Essex, where they might fight unmolested by the magistrates. Accordingly, by six o’clock the next morning, every one in the secret was in bustle, procuring vehicles and horses for their conveyance. “At seven o’clock Belcher started in a post-chaise, seated between Joe Ward, his second, and Bill Warr, his bottle-holder. They pursued the London Road, followed by an immense retinue, until they arrived at Bone Bridge, where they turned to the left, passed through Linton, instilling awe into the astonished inhabitants, who could conceive nothing else but that the French were come. When they had got to the distance of half-a-mile beyond Linton, and about fifteen from Newmarket, being in the appointed county, they turned out of the road on to a level piece of ground, and there resolved to decide the contest. To 147prevent a possibility of any interruption it was judged expedient to be as active as possible. They immediately commenced the formation of a ring, which was accomplished without much difficulty, there not being many pedestrians. This being executed, the combatants were called, and informed that the collection was 100 guineas, but with regard to the terms on which they contested, they must themselves decide. They immediately agreed 90 guineas for the winner, and 10 for the loser.

“The combatants without loss of time began to strip, and after the usual ceremony, at a quarter past nine, began.”


Round 1.—Every countenance expressed the greatest anxiety, while each stood on his guard, in expectation of his opponent’s blow. The disparity in size was considerable, Firby standing six feet one, and weighing fifteen stone; Belcher five feet eleven, and barely twelve stone. The combatants remained inactive for some seconds, when Firby put in a blow at the head, which Belcher avoided, and immediately returned by two blows left and right, but without much effect; they closed, and both fell, Belcher underneath. Many offers to take two to one that “the Ruffian” would win, but few betters.

2.—Belcher immediately struck Firby in the mouth, from which blood flowed copiously, and following it up by a right-handed blow on the side, brought his antagonist down. (Odds were now three to one in favour of Belcher.)

3.—No harm on either side. This round, Firby at the commencement aimed a blow at his opponent’s head, which he caught, and gave a returning blow, which Firby likewise parried with much dexterity. Belcher again made a blow which was also stopped; he, however, made a blow, followed up his opponent fighting half armed, and Firby fell.

4.—Both combatants rallied, and both put in some severe blows. They closed, Belcher fell, and while on his knees Firby struck him. A cry of “Foul! foul!” resounded from all sides. Belcher appealed for a decision of the point, but wished to go on rather than take advantage of such a circumstance. At this time a parson and a constable arrived from Linton, and endeavoured to prevent the further progress of the battle; but the combatants not paying much attention to the sacred cloth, or the legal staff, commenced the

5th round.—Firby, who now had a black eye, and spit up blood, shifted, and seemed afraid to approach his antagonist. Belcher facetiously beckoned to him, when he came up and struck, but so slowly, that Belcher avoided it by a jerk of the head, and while he was making a violent hit at Firby’s side, he fell. Belcher smiled; his opponent was evidently distressed.

6.—In this round, which undoubtedly was the best contested throughout the battle, it became apparent that Belcher’s strength increased, whilst that of his adversary was much exhausted. Firby, with much irritability, made some severe hits at Belcher, which he, however, either parried or avoided, so that not one of them told. Belcher smiled and looked about him with the greatest composure, even in the heat of the round, and carefully watching, put in a well directed blow in the stomach, at the same time closing, he gave his antagonist a cross buttock with great violence.

7.—Much hard straight-forward fighting on both sides, but Firby had the worst of it. (Odds ten to one on Belcher.)

8.—Firby rallied, made a hit, which Belcher stopped with great adroitness, and immediately struck Firby over the mouth, cutting his lip severely; Firby, however, returned it by a sharp hit, but did not draw blood. (Odds in this round sunk from ten to five to one.)

9.—At the first onset Belcher put in a severe blow over his antagonist’s right eye, and immediately resuming a defensive attitude, very cheerfully said, “How do you like that, Johnny?” Firby made a desperate blow, but over-reached himself, and fell; Belcher smiled, and while he was down pointed at him with great irony.

11.—Belcher followed his opponent round the ring, and put in some severe blows, which Firby stopped, but not effectually; Belcher at length gave him a knock-down blow, when his friends insisted he should give in.

The contest lasted twenty minutes, during which time Firby never had any chance of success. He had ever been considered a first-rate pugilist, and consequently the amateurs expected one of the best displays of science that ever had been witnessed; but whether Belcher’s name overawed him, or he really had fallen off in his style of fighting, he in this contest fell much short of what was anticipated. Belcher after the battle had not the mark of a blow perceivable.

148Thursday, May 12, 1803.—“Mr. Garrow this day moved for the judgment of the Court on four defendants, James Belcher, Joseph (but in the indictment erroneously called Edmund) Burke, Joe Ward, called also erroneously James, and Henry Lee, who were described to be labourers. These defendants had allowed judgment to go by default.”

The indictment charged, that they, being persons of evil and malicious dispositions, and fighters, duellers, rioters, etc., had, on the 25th of November, in the county of Berks, conspired and combined together, that James Belcher and Edmund Burke (!) should fight a duel, and that the other two defendants should be aiding and assisting in the said fight and duel; and that in pursuance of the said conspiracy, the said James Belcher and Edmund Burke unlawfully and riotously assembled together, with fifty others, to the disturbance of the public peace; and that Belcher and Burke “fought a duel,” and the other two “were present, aiding and assisting, together with fifty other persons.” Mr. Garrow, afterwards a brutal Tory attorney-general and truculent judge, earned his dirty fee by a more than ordinary amount of hireling abuse of pugilism. Of course he said little of the deadly weapons with which the prisoners’ “betters” settled their duels. The celebrated Erskine, afterwards Lord Chancellor, and Mr. Const defended the prisoners, merely asking the lenity of the Court. Lord Ellenborough finally bound the prisoners, each in his own recognizance of £400, to come up when called on for the judgment of the Court; a nominal judgment, upon which the defendants were discharged.

An unfortunate accident now struck down the skill of this talented boxer, and clouded his after life in every sense. While playing at rackets with Mr. Stuart at the Court in Little St. Martin’s Lane, on the 24th of July, 1803, Belcher received a blow from a ball struck by the marker, of such extraordinary violence as literally to almost knock his eyeball from its socket. This distressing accident and the heavy recognizance on which he was bound, had a most depressing effect on Jem’s spirits and health, and he announced his retirement from the ring. His friends rallied round him, and placed him in a public-house, the Jolly Brewers, in Wardour Street, Soho, where he was well supported. But Jem’s spirit was active, though prudence dictated entire retirement. A quarrel between a brother of Jem’s (who soon after died) and Hen. Pearce, the Game Chicken, his fellow townsman and protegé, led to this unfortunate rencontre. The lavish praises too of Pearce’s friends excited Belcher’s envy: he declared he had taught Pearce all he knew, and spoke slightingly of “the Chicken’s” ability and skill; but we are anticipating.

149Joe Berks, upon Belcher’s retirement, claimed the championship; but Pearce of whom we shall soon give the pugilistic career, was invited to London by Jem, with a promise to procure him patronage and a match with Berks. These matters will be found hereafter in our Life of Pearce, who had in the interim twice beaten Berks, and subsequently, Elias Spray, Carte, and lastly John Gully, when Belcher rashly challenged “the Chicken” for 500 guineas, to fight within two months. Pearce appears to have been much mortified at this challenge, but his position as champion forbade him to decline it. Mr. Fletcher Reid, Belcher’s firm friend, staked for Jem, and Captain Halliday posted the 500 for “the Chicken.” This, the first defeat of the renowned Jem, will be found fully detailed under the memoir of his conqueror.

Belcher had materially declined in constitution, independently of the loss of his eye. Among the serious effects of that accident was a nervous depression and irrepressible irritability, which, according to the testimony of many who knew him intimately, he tried in vain to control. Upwards of two years had passed in retirement from active pursuits, and in the ease and free living of a publican’s calling, when Belcher came forward, upon Pearce’s claim to the championship, to dispute his title. He could not be persuaded of the difficulties of meeting so skilful and formidable a boxer with the loss of an eye; and when too late he discovered his inferiority. How he did fight was long remembered by those who witnessed the lamentable but truly heroic and honourable combat, in which more unaffected courage, manly forbearance and true humanity were displayed and applauded, than ever entered into the narrow soul of craven slanderers of pugilism to conceive. Animosity was merged in honourable emulation, and the struggle for fair and unimpeachable victory. Belcher fought in his accustomed style, and tried his usual hits with adroit rapidity; but it was noticed that they were often out of distance, and that his defective eyesight was painfully made evident. When this was aggravated by blows over the good eye, his aim became utterly confused, and he became a victim to his own fatuity. Nevertheless, poor Jem endeavoured to make up for deficiency of sight and aim by an astonishing and unequalled display of courage and gaiety; and though the skill and science on both sides deserved respect, the spectators could not avoid seeing that Belcher’s guard was no longer ready, and his rapid antagonist planted on him so severely and frequently as to excite the regret of his friends that such a combat should have been provoked, and that the envious infirmity of human nature should have thus blinded the mental judgment as well as the bodily sight of so able a champion. Jem’s spirits, however, never 150forsook him during the fight; and at its close he declared, “That his sorrow was more occasioned by the recollection of the severe loss of a particular friend, who, in fact, had sported everything he possessed upon his head, and had been one of his most staunch backers and supporters through life, than as to any particular consideration respecting himself!” a generous sentiment and well worthy of record. Notwithstanding the somewhat ill-natured remark of John Gully, “That had Jem been in possession of four eyes, he never could have beaten Pearce,” it must be remembered that the future M.P. had been thrashed by Pearce, and had not even seen Belcher in his prime. Fully conceding the excellence evinced by the Chicken in science, wind, strength, and game, we may yet be allowed the supposition, that had this contest taken place when Jem Belcher possessed his eyesight in full perfection, its termination would, to say the least, have been very doubtful.

Respecting Belcher’s two battles with Cribb, when the circumstances of the case are duly appreciated; when it is recollected that his spirits must have been somewhat damped by previous defeat; and that his powers were known to be on the decay previous to his fight with the Chicken, it must be allowed that his heroism and science shone resplendently.

In the first fight with Cribb, as may be traced, Jem’s superiority in tactics was manifest. The former was severely punished; and not until Belcher had received a most violent hit over his good eye, and sprained his right hand, did Cribb appear to have an opening for a lead. In the seventeenth round the odds were two to one on Belcher, and in the eighteenth five to one, when Cribb was so much beaten, that considerable doubts were entertained whether he would be able to come again; and even at the conclusion of the battle Cribb was in a very exhausted state. Until Belcher lost his distance, from his confused sight, victory appeared to hover over him.

In the last battle that Belcher fought his courage was principally displayed, and he by no means proved an easy conquest to Cribb. Since the loss of his eye, it was the positive wish of his best friends that he should fight no more, but he was not to be deterred, obstinately neglected good advice, and would not believe in the decline of his physical powers. In this last battle, his disadvantages were great. His opponent had made rapid improvement in science, was in full vigour, and a glutton that was not to be satisfied in a common way; still Jem gave specimens of his former skill; but they were rather showy than effective, for the strength had departed. His hands, too, failed him, and for several of the latter rounds he endeavoured fruitlessly to prolong the contest without the indispensable weapons to bring it to a successful issue. Youth, weight, courage, freshness, and no 151mean amount of skill, were too much for the waning stamina and skill of even a Belcher to bear up against.

At the end of the report of his fight with Firby, a correspondent of the Morning Post thus sketches Belcher’s qualifications from personal acquaintance. “Belcher is a dashing, genteel young fellow, extremely placid in his behaviour, and agreeable in his address. He is without any remarkable appearance of superior bodily strength, but strips remarkably well, displaying much muscle. Considered merely as a bruiser, I should say he was not so much a man of science according to the rules of the pugilistic art, as that he possessed a style peculiar or rather natural to himself, capable of baffling all regular science, and what appeared self-taught or invented, rather than acquired by practice. He was remarkably quick, springing backwards and forwards with the rapidity of lightning. You heard his blows, but did not see them. At the conclusion of a round his antagonist was struck and bleeding; but he threw in his hits with such adroitness that you could not discern how the damage was done. His style was perfectly original, and extremely difficult to avoid or to withstand.” Again, “His style, like that of the great masters in every line, was truly ‘his own;’ the spectator was struck with its neatness and elegance—his opponent confused and terrified by its effects; while his gravity, coolness, and readiness, utterly disconcerted the fighting men with whom he was often opposed in mimic as well as actual combat. Add to this, that a braver boxer never pulled off a shirt, and we need hardly wonder at his eminent success, until an accident deprived him of one of the most valuable organs of man’s complex frame.”

In his social hours, Jem was good-natured in the extreme, and modest and unassuming to a degree almost bordering upon bashfulness. In the character of a publican, no man entertained a better sense of propriety and decorum; and the stranger, in casually mixing with the Fancy in his house, never felt any danger of being offended or molested. It would be well if as much could be said of all sporting publicans.

After his last defeat by Cribb, much of Belcher’s fine animal spirits departed. He was depressed and taciturn, and his health much broken by twenty-eight days’ imprisonment to which, with a fine, he was condemned for his breach of the peace by that battle. The old story too, for Jem was not prudent, is again to be told. His worldly circumstances had suffered with his health, and

“The summer friends
That ever wing the breeze of fair success,
But fly to sunnier spots when winter frowns,”

forgot to take what old Pierce would have called their nightly “perch,” or 152“roost,” at Jem’s “lush-crib.” His last illness approached, and, with at most two of his firmest friends, the once formidable champion departed this life on Tuesday, July 30, 1811, at the sign of the Coach and Horses, in Frith Street, Soho, in the thirty-first year of his age, and, on the following Sunday, was interred in the burial ground of Marylebone. The concourse of people to witness the funeral was immense; and a more general sympathy has rarely been witnessed. The proximate cause of his death was a family complaint, having its origin in an enlargement of the liver. The following inscription may be yet read upon his tombstone:—

Late of St. Anne’s Parish, Soho,
Who died
The 30th of July, 1811,
AGED 30.
Universally regretted by all who knew him.


TOM BELCHER—1804‒1822.[86]

The third of the Belchers, Tom, remains in the memory of a few old ’uns as, for many years, “mine host of the Castle,” a jolly, rubicund, pleasant, and generous fellow, and the worthy predecessor of the departed Tom Spring, in that ancient head quarters of the Fancy, now also Pythagorised into a feeding-shop, named after Sir Charles Napier—another fighting hero. Tom came to London in the year 1803, when his brother Jem was at the zenith of his fame, having beaten every man with whom he had fought, and attained the position of undisputed Champion of England. Although Tom’s ring career was not so brilliant as his elder brother’s, it had a less striking culmination and fall, and his thirteen battles, with eight victories and a draw (with the phenomenon Dutch Sam), tell well for Tom’s descent from the Slacks and Belchers.

Tom Belcher was born at Bristol, in the same house as his brother Jem, on the 14th of April, 1783. On his earlier years we need not dwell, and where there is little or no authentic material, we hold nothing in deeper contempt than the system of “gagging” a parcel of clumsy apocryphal battles, some of which there is inherent chronological and circumstantial evidence could never have taken place.

We have said Tom came to town at twenty years of age, and he was soon matched. His first salaam in the ring (which on this occasion was forty feet in diameter, instead of the customary twenty or twenty-four feet) was on the 26th of June, 1804. His opponent on this occasion was of a noted fighting stock, being Jack Warr, the son of the celebrated Bill Warr. The prize contested for was 50 guineas, and—hear it, ye who have in modern times travelled even to Ireland to see no fight—the battle-ground was no farther off than Tothill Fields, Westminster; the day, Tuesday, June 26, 1804.

Warr was much the firmer set and stouter man, though the youthful Tom 154had the advantage in the reach, and, upon stripping, the odds were a trifle in favour of Belcher, from the prestige of his family name, and the predilection of the amateurs for the school from which he came. We quote the contemporary report.

“On the Monday night the knowing ones determined that the scene of action should be Tothill Fields, and on the following day they accordingly met about two o’clock, attended by their friends. A ring was immediately formed, not exceeding forty feet in diameter, by driving stakes and attaching to them the reins lent them by the various hackney coachmen. On stripping, Warr appeared stouter than Belcher, but the latter was taller and longer in the reach. After the usual ceremonies they set-to. Odds six to four in favour of Belcher.

“The set-to was in clever style, both displaying excellent science. Warr put in the first blow and followed it up with a second, both of which took effect; no return. Had they taken place as aimed their violence might have settled the battle. Belcher rallied, and some desperate hits were exchanged. At the conclusion of the round bets became even. From this to the eighth round both combatants fought desperately. It was a scene of thorough hard fighting, each endeavouring to make his hits tell, without once shrinking from the blow of his opponent. Belcher evidently imitated his brother in his plan of fighting, putting in his blows with his left hand, straight, and with the rapidity of a dart. Odds rose in favour of Belcher six to four again, but not from any advantage he had as yet gained in the battle. Warr stood up manfully, and never once gave way.

“For the three following rounds Warr put in his blows so forcibly, and so well directed, that they were almost irresistible, and he undoubtedly had the advantage. It being considered, however, that Belcher’s bottom was good, betting did not go lower than par; he, however, at this time displayed great weakness, and evidently was greatly exhausted.

“Warr supported the superiority to the sixteenth round, and put in several desperate body blows. Belcher, on the contrary, fought all at the head, by which plan Warr’s eyes became greatly affected.

“The seventeenth round was most admirably contested. Belcher seemed to recruit his strength, changed his mode of fighting, and put in successfully several severe body blows. Warr persevered with undaunted fire throughout the round; they closed, and both fell.

“On rising, Warr appeared weak; however, the eighteenth round was another truly severe trial, both combatants being apparently determined to exert their greatest strength, and bring into action all their science. Warr stood his ground, and Belcher put in some severe blows over his eyes, which, already much cut, were entirely closed at the end of the round.


From a Portrait published in 1810.

155“Although in this state, Warr obstinately contested another round, in which he could not fail to be completely worsted. His friends now interfered, and insisted on his giving in. But he refused; and then fainting, was immediately carried off the ground almost lifeless, every one complimenting him by calling him ‘A chip off the old block.’

“The nineteen rounds were fought in thirty-three minutes.”

The son, emulous of the sire, seems at this time to have found favour with the pugilistic world as with the turf, on an absurd application of the “like begets like” principle.[87] Accordingly, Bill Ryan, son of Michael,[88] was selected to lower the pretensions of “Young Tom.” The “amateurs” might have done worse, as the event proved, for Bill polished off the youthful Tom in thirty-eight rounds, November 30, 1804, as we shall notice in the Appendix to this Period. (See Ryan, Bill, p. 229, post.)

It appears that Tom was not only dissatisfied with this defeat, but considered it a “snatched battle.” On Saturday, April 27, 1805, Pearce triumphantly beat Carte, the Birmingham bruiser (see Pearce), at Shepperton Common, Surrey, in thirty-five minutes. The “fancy” were unsatisfied, and a subscription purse being collected of 20 guineas, O’Donnel,[89] “the celebrated Irish hero,” offered himself. Pierce Egan says, “O’Donnel showed himself entitled to respectful attention; but who was completely satisfied in fifteen rounds.” The reporter from whom he copies says, in better English and with more sense, “Tom displayed his known dexterity, and showed good science; but O’Donnel, who fought well at the commencement, at the end of the fifteenth round played a cross, and gave in.” We suspect he was tired of the job.

Tom fretted, it appears, after the lost laurel with Bill Ryan, and challenged him a second time to the lists. They accordingly met for 25 guineas a-side, at Laleham Burway, near Chertsey, Surrey, June 4, 1805. Belcher was seconded by Tom Blake (Tom Tough), and was backed by Mr. Fletcher Reid; Bill Ryan was waited on by George Maddox and a “friend.” The Hon. Berkeley Craven posted his stake, and laid the odds of seven to four on 156Ryan. At one o’clock the men stripped, and two to one was offered on Ryan. We quote the report.


Round 1.—Both men kept at distance; but after some little sparring Ryan put in the first blow. Tom parried it extremely well; Ryan bored in and both fell, Ryan uppermost.

2.—Some good straight blows exchanged; Belcher struck, Ryan parried, and Belcher fell from the force of his own blow.

3.—Excellent fighting; as many as ten blows passed, when Belcher cleanly knocked down his opponent.

4.—Some sharp blows; Ryan threw Belcher a cross buttock with great violence.

5.—A tightly contested round; Belcher fell.

6.—No fighting; they closed and both came down.

7.—In this round Ryan displayed to advantage, but closing he fell.

8.—Very short; Ryan again fell.

9.—Both having received some desperate blows, now began to be more cautious, sparred a good deal, and the round was terminated rather favourably for Ryan.

10.—Some sharp blows quickly plied. Belcher fell. (Odds were now generally two to one on Ryan.)

11.—The men instantly closed, and Ryan fell.

12.—In this round Ryan put in some good hits and brought down his opponent.

13.—Both closed, struggled, and fell, Belcher uppermost.

14.—Ryan threw in a severe blow, which Belcher very scientifically stopped; he rallied, and both fell with great violence. When down, Belcher patted Ryan’s cheek, and said, laughing, “Bill, you’re done over.”

15.—No fighting, and the men closed and fell, Ryan uppermost.

16.—Both showed fight; Ryan down.

17.—Ryan very adroitly threw his opponent, still Belcher appeared very gay.

18.—Good fighting. Ryan brought down his opponent again, but not a clear fall.

19.—After some good hits exchanged, Ryan put in a severe blow in the kidneys, and threw Belcher.

20.—Ryan now appeared distressed in his wind; but he made a neat hit, but slipped and fell.

21.—Both fought with great resolution, and each showed courage. Ryan had the superiority in strength, and got his opponent down again.

22.—Both appeared fatigued; no fighting, they closed and both fell.

23.—Well contested; Belcher showed good fight, and his friends began to have a better opinion of his chance; he hit his man and got away, Ryan, however, threw him.

24.—Belcher recruited, stood up boldly, and by an excellent hit, brought down his opponent.

25.—Both very weak, closed, and fell.

26.—No fighting, at least no impression. Ryan fell.

27.—Both combatants seemed distressed. Belcher fell.

28.—Belcher at the end of this round fell, and laughing, fairly pulled his antagonist after him.

29.—Belcher immediately on setting to, put in a blow on the head, and Ryan gave in, not without a supposition of cross play. The fight lasted fifty minutes.

“Lord Craven, Lord Albemarle, General Fitzpatrick, Hon. Berkeley Craven, Mr. Fletcher Reid, Mr. Mellish, Mendoza, Jackson, Bill Warr, and others were present.”

On February the 8th, 1806, Tom was defeated by “the phenomenon,” Dutch Sam (Elias Samuels). See Dutch Sam, Chapter V. of this Period.

In the interval between this and his next contest he disposed of an aspirant (who took the name of “Jack in the Green”) for a ten pound note.

His next was a brave but ineffectual attempt to reverse the verdict in the case of Dutch Sam. Tom, though not quite beaten, fought a draw, July 20, 1807. This led to the final appeal, on August 21, 1807, when Tom’s objections to Sam’s superiority were finally disposed of. See Dutch Sam.

After these reverses, Dogherty, who had twice beaten Cribb’s younger brother, George, now challenged Tom, to fight in a month, and the 5th of April, 1803, was fixed for the tourney (the same day as Dutch Sam and Cropley’s 157fight was appointed); but it was interrupted by the Bow Street “redbreasts,” and postponed until Thursday, the 14th of April, when it came off near the Rubbing House on Epsom Downs. A roped ring of twenty-one feet was formed on the turf, and about twelve o’clock the combatants entered, Belcher accompanied by Mendoza and Clark, Dogherty by Cropley and Dick Hall. Without loss of time they set-to. Six to four on Belcher.


Round 1.—More than a minute elapsed before any blows were exchanged, both sparring to obtain the advantage. Belcher stopped his opponent’s attempts with great neatness; a rally took place, when they closed, but broke away. Some trifling hits took place; they again closed, and Dogherty threw Belcher. (The odds six to four were unchanged.)

2.—Belcher stopped a terrible left-hander which Dogherty aimed at his head; the latter rushed in, but Belcher knocked him off his legs.

3.—Skill and courage by no means deficient on either side. Dogherty tried to bustle his man, but Belcher was cool and prepared; he stopped his plunges, and put in some severe blows on Dogherty’s face, who, nevertheless, closed the round by throwing Tom.

4.—The skill of both men was conspicuous in this round; but Belcher had the best of it. Dogherty received a tremendous facer in endeavouring to plant a hit, and Belcher in settled in fine style. Dogherty convinced the spectators that he was no novice, by his dexterity in stopping—yet Tom, following his opponent round the ring, punished his head most terribly, and brought him down by a blow under the jaw. (Three to one on Belcher.)

5.—Belcher, with uncommon dexterity, broke through Dogherty’s guard, and with his left hand planted a most dreadful blow in his throat, which struck Dogherty so completely abroad, that he repeated the hit three times before Dogherty could recover himself, when they closed and fell.

6.—Belcher upon setting-to dropped his opponent from the first two blows.

7.—Dogherty’s efforts were completely defensive; he stopped Belcher’s blows with great neatness; nevertheless, Belcher rallied him down.

8.—Belcher had enough to do in warding off the well-aimed hits of his adversary, who now went in impetuously, yet not without science; in closing, Tom was thrown upon the ropes by Dogherty, and to all appearance without difficulty. The betting fell, for though Dogherty had been hit heavily, he was strong and dangerous.

9.—Several good blows were exchanged; but Belcher was not seen to so much advantage in this round. In closing, Belcher was underneath.

10.—Belcher sparred cautiously and retreated; when Dogherty, conceiving something might be gained by following him, put in two good hits. In closing the round, Dogherty was thrown.

11.—Belcher put in two facers, when both the combatants fell out of the ring.

12.—Dogherty was again thrown, previously to which Belcher planted two good hits.

13.—Dogherty, full of pluck, rattled in, but Tom threw him with considerable force.

14.—Tom, evidently superior in this round, rendered the bustling of Dogherty unavailing, and again threw him violently. (Three and four to one on Belcher.)

15.—The game of Dogherty claimed admiration, his appearance commiseration—his head was terrific, and his strength was nearly exhausted; nevertheless, he still forced the fighting, but his blows were of no effect, and he fell beneath the superiority of his opponent. Belcher’s half-arm hits were as swift as they were punishing, till Dogherty fell. (Any odds on Belcher.)

16 and 17.—In both these rounds the exhaustion of Dogherty was visible, and, to the honour of Belcher, be it recorded, he disdained taking any more advantage than was necessary to insure his contest: as his opponent fell on the ropes at his mercy, he walked away from him. Such humanity ought not to be forgotten.

18 and 19.—Dogherty’s spirits were good, but his stamina was exhausted; his blows did not tell, although he still stopped with considerable science. Belcher kept the lead in fine style; in closing, both men fell.

24.—Up to this round it was evident that Tom must win; but his game opponent was determined to try every effort while the least chance remained of success. Tom put in three desperate facers, and followed them by so severe a body-blow, that Dogherty fell quite bent and exhausted.

25‒33.—Dogherty, still determined, contended for eight more rounds, but was nothing more than a mere object of punishment to his opponent, who continually hit him down with ease. This could not last 158long, and in the thirty-third round, at the end of forty-five minutes’ sharp fighting, Belcher was declared the conqueror.

“Belcher was so little hurt,” continues the reporter, “that upon hearing of his adversary’s surrender, he immediately threw a somersault, and ran off to the Rubbing House (nearly half a mile) without stopping to put on his clothes. In this battle Belcher fought with greater skill and science, and more after the manner of his brother, than in any one he had contested. His distances were measured with exactness—every hit told. Dogherty’s only chance against such superior skill and steadiness was his sheer strength and game; but in this last Belcher showed himself his equal.”

Bill Richmond, whose memoir will appear hereafter, thrashed a countryman in the same ring.

On the 25th of October, 1808, a day memorable as that whereon Gregson was beaten after his desperate battle with Tom Cribb at Moulsey, Tom Belcher entered the same thirty-feet ring to fight Cropley for a purse of 50 guineas. At setting-to the odds were seven to four on Belcher. Cropley was seconded by Tom Jones; Dick Hall acted as his bottle-holder; and Belcher was waited on by Mendoza and Dutch Sam. The combatants were looked upon as well matched, and considerable expectation of a fine display of the art was entertained. During a contest of thirty-four rounds, which occupied fifty-six minutes—and it is but justice to observe that a more scientific fight was rarely seen—Cropley proved himself an excellent boxer, and possessed of undeniable game. But his attitude was bad; and his defeat was principally attributed to a knack of bringing his head too forward when putting in his blows. Belcher saw this advantage, and accepting the present thus made him, punished his face so dreadfully, that in the latter part of the battle Cropley was no longer recognizable. Tom’s blows, however, seem to have been rather more showy than effective, for it was with the utmost difficulty that Cropley was persuaded to give in, and he was still steady and strong; though, says the reporter, “all but blind, he even then felt desirous to try another round.”

One Farnborough, who rested his pretensions upon weight, strength, and pluck, three good points certainly, had the temerity to fight Tom Belcher, on Epsom race-ground, in a thirty-feet ring, on February 1, 1809. He proved a mere pretender; and after the first round Belcher treated him with the utmost sang froid. In the course of twenty minutes he so completely polished him off that Farnborough was glad to cry “enough,” while Belcher was scarcely touched. This was a small consolation for the Belchers, for in the same ring on the same day Tom Cribb beat Jem Belcher, as detailed in the Life of Cribb.

Silverthorne, a pugilist of some note and success (see Appendix to Period IV.), was matched for 100 guineas, and a subscription purse of £50, against Belcher. This battle was decided upon Crawley Heath, near Copthall, June 6, 1591811. Silverthorne was seconded by the veteran Caleb Baldwin, and his bottle-holder was Bill Gibbons; Belcher was attended by Mr. John Gully and Tom Jones. Four to one upon Belcher.


Round 1.—Belcher, upon the alert, stopped a tremendous body blow, and returned two sharp hits right and left in Silverthorne’s face, which immediately produced blood; after disengaging themselves, Belcher pelted away most effectually, putting in hits as quick as lightning. It was declared by several old ring-goers that such a first round was never before witnessed. Silverthorne went down during the hitting from the severe effects of Belcher’s blows.

2.—Silverthorne came to the scratch with something more than caution in his attitudes; he began by retreating from his adversary, who hit him right and left upon the head. Silverthorne, in planting a hit upon Belcher’s throat, was stopped; nevertheless he got in a severe body blow, which Belcher retaliated by hitting him down.

3.—Silverthorne, who bled profusely, rattled in, game as a pebble, but without effect—Belcher put in several severe blows. Silverthorne showed he was not without science by stopping several nasty ones; Belcher losing his distance closed, and was thrown by Silverthorne.

4.—It was now evident that Silverthorne was much inferior to his opponent, who frustrated all his attempts with ease and coolness. Silverthorne endeavoured to plant a severe body blow, which Tom stopped, when a rally commenced, which turned out to Belcher’s advantage, for he put in a terrible blow, then closed, and threw his opponent a cross-buttock enough to knock the breath out of him.

5.—Silverthorne came to the scratch anything but improved in appearance; he received two facers, and fell in an attempt to get in. (All betters but no takers.)

6.—Notwithstanding the chance was against him, Silverthorne showed play, and stopped very neatly a right-handed blow which was intended for his head. Belcher, however, got in one on the body, and Silverthorne fell in attempting to return the hit.

7.—It was now bellows to mend with Silverthorne, who was completely exhausted, but still wished to try another chance—Belcher did as he liked with him, and finished the contest by a hit in the throat, which knocked him down. The game Silverthorne could come no more, and Belcher was proclaimed the conqueror. Silverthorne was at once conveyed to a post-chaise, carried to the nearest inn, and put to bed. Belcher, as on a former occasion, threw a somersault, then mounted the box of a patron’s barouche, and started for town.

“In this battle Belcher had as fine an opportunity, despite Silverthorne’s experience, of showing off his superior science, as with the slow and unwieldy Farnborough. He fought cautiously, drawing his opponent, when he never had any difficulty in getting on to him. Silverthorne was beaten in spirit in the first round, though he did not give in till nature deserted him.”

After this triumph Belcher reposed awhile on his laurels; and in the early part of 1813 he started on a sparring tour through the provinces, visiting the northern parts of the island. In Liverpool he was particularly attractive, and numerous pupils attended his school, who, from their rapid progress in the science, gave proofs of the excellence of the master under whom they studied. His engagement being completed at this seaport, and being so near to the “tight boys of the sod,” he determined, previous to his return to the metropolis, to take a peep at “the land that gave Paddy his birth.” Tom’s arrival in Ireland, while it gave pleasure to the patrons of the science, created jealousy in another professor of boxing, who had been there some time previous, teaching the natives the advantages of the complete use of their fives, an art never properly understood or appreciated by Irishmen. Dogherty resented Tom’s visit as a sort of intrusion on his domain; added to 160which his scholars ran after the newly arrived “Sassenach.” This was unendurable. Dogherty issued a cartel to his former conqueror, and all other preliminaries being arranged, the rivals met on the Curragh of Kildare, on Friday, the 23rd of April, 1813, for a subscription purse of 100 guineas, and “the honour of ould Ireland,” as the “historian” expresses it.

The spot where the fight took place, known to this day as “Belcher’s Valley,” was particularly convenient for spectators, being in a glen on the Curragh, surrounded by sloping hills, forming a natural amphitheatre.

Belcher appeared first in the enclosure, dressed in a great coat, but, whilst it was completing, retired to a barouche, in which he had arrived. Dogherty now showed himself to the spectators, wrapped up in a box-coat of no trifling dimensions, and instantly gave his caster a toss in the air, loudly vociferating, “Ireland for ever.” This sentence, which came so directly home to the natives of Paddy’s Land, occasioned an electric expression of approbation from the surrounding multitude, accompanied by repeated shouts and huzzas. It might spontaneously have escaped the lips of Dogherty, from a warmth of feeling to his native soil, but it certainly was not calculated to place Belcher in a favourable point of view with the assembled multitude. Tom accordingly again entered the enclosure, seeming to feel (whatever the intention of it might be toward him) that, if suffered to pass over without notice, it might operate to his prejudice. After bowing to the spectators, he solicited a gentleman who had been chosen the umpire to address the public, that no improper impression might go forth respecting his character. This the gentleman did, nearly to the following effect:—“Gentlemen, Mr. Belcher wishes it to be understood that, if any aspersions have been levelled at him, stating that he has spoken disrespectfully of the Irish nation, he begs leave to assure you it is an absolute falsehood; and, as a proof of the truth of his statement, he is ready at any time to fight those who may dare assert to the contrary.” This pithy oration was favourably received; the combatants immediately stripped, and the ceremony of shaking hands having been gone through, the seconds took their stations. Isle of Wight Hall seconded Belcher, and Gamble attended upon Dogherty. Belcher, from his well-known excellence, was the favourite, two to one, yet, notwithstanding this great odds, there were scarcely any takers. Both the combatants appeared to possess confidence in themselves. Belcher having beaten Dogherty in England, felt that superiority which belongs to experience and practical knowledge. On the other hand, Dogherty was considerably improved, and for “the honour of Ireland,” and surrounded by his countrymen, felt an additional stimulus to 161win, and was determined not to yield the palm so long as he could struggle for it. With these feelings they set-to exactly at one o’clock.


Round 1.—The excellent attitude and neatness of style exhibited by Belcher, much attracted the attention of the Irish amateurs. Good science on both sides, when they both hit together; Dogherty received a sharp facer, and the blood issuing from his lip, Belcher exclaimed, “First blood,” several bets depending upon that event. Belcher received Dogherty’s return upon the ear. Some severe hits were exchanged, and, in closing, both went down, but Belcher undermost.

2.—Both combatants went sharply to work, and much good fighting was displayed. In closing, Belcher was thrown, but received no injury from his fall. Loud shouting occurred, and Dogherty was so elated with his dexterity, that in the pride of the moment, he offered 100 to 10, but it received no attention.

3.—Some excellent sparring opened the round, in which Dogherty showed that he was much improved since his former contest at Epsom; it was followed by the exchange of several severe blows. Dogherty’s mug was rather pinked, his temper seemed a little ruffled, and the round was concluded by his being thrown.

4.—Milling without ceremony was the order of the day; but the advantage was on the side of Belcher, from his superior science: he hit much more rapidly than his opponent, and his defensive tactics displayed a like superiority; he punished the face of his opponent terribly, and finally sent Dogherty down by a one, two, right and left.

5.—Caution became rather necessary on the part of Dogherty. Belcher was thrown, but not before some severe hits had been exchanged.

6.—Belcher punished the nob of his antagonist throughout this round. They closed and both down.

7.—The combatants made play, when an opening appearing, Belcher put in so severe a hit on Dogherty’s ribs that he reeled down.

8.—The contrast between the styles of the two pugilists at that early period of the battle was manifest to all the spectators. Dogherty had been most terribly punished. His face was materially altered, one of his eyes being closed; the claret trickled from his olfactories and potato trap, and the round was terminated by Dogherty’s receiving so severe a hit upon the thorax that he instantly went down. (Belcher a guinea to a shilling!)

9.—The game of Dogherty deserves peculiar notice, from the sharp milling he took without flinching; Belcher serving it out so hard and fast as to knock him down. In going over him, Belcher disengaged himself from Dogherty in neat style.

10.—Belcher full of gaiety showed his leading superiority by planting several hits; notwithstanding, in closing, Dogherty threw him.

11.—The combatants were determined to convince the lookers on there was no trifling between them; both milling away in every direction. The left eye of Belcher received an ugly blow, and Dogherty, still strong, threw him under the ropes.

12.—Fighting without intermission, and bravery truly conspicuous on both sides. The round was terminated by Belcher putting in a tremendous teaser on Dogherty’s throat, which not only floored him, but rendered him unable to move for a few seconds.

13.—Belcher held the advantage by punishing the face of Dogherty dreadfully, and ended the round by knocking him down.

14.—No alteration. Dogherty rather groggy, and Belcher getting second wind; still taking the lead in milling, and closing the round by throwing Dogherty, and falling upon him.

15.—The game of the latter was the theme of every one. He proved himself a perfect trump, rallying with good spirit, but receiving a straight hit under the eye, he went down.

16.—On setting-to Dogherty made play, but the judgment of Belcher foiled him; the latter putting in several blows in succession, fibbing him, and ending by throwing his man cleverly.

17.—Dogherty planted some severe body blows; nevertheless, Belcher closed and threw him.

18.—A smart rally, both men keeping up the game gaily. Belcher, in endeavouring to throw his antagonist, went down.

19.—Dogherty sparred with considerable judgment, to gain time, and put in a sharp blow upon the body of Belcher, who went down from a slip.

20.—Belcher seemed perfectly at home; as if he felt convinced how things were going. The advantage of superior science, enabled him to serve out Dogherty about the head with such severity as to occasion the latter to fall at his feet. (A bet could not be obtained at any odds.)

21.—Dogherty, still at the scratch, contended with the utmost bravery to prolong the fight, but it appeared only to receive additional punishment. His head and face 162exhibited a rueful aspect—he was covered with claret, and in the event milled to the ground.

22.—To the astonishment of every one present, the spirit of Dogherty was not broken. He attempted to put in some good hits upon the body of Belcher, but the wary guard of Tom stopped them with ease; in throwing Dogherty, he went down with him.

23.—Punishment was the lot of Dogherty, and his face and neck were terribly mauled; but in closing, he showed his strength by throwing Tom on his hip.

24.—Manœuvring again resorted to. Dogherty felt for Belcher’s body; but Tom returned the favour most liberally on his opponent’s mug. In closing, Dogherty experienced so severe a fall, as to remain a short period insensible.

25.—The pluck of Dogherty was not yet taken out of him, and whilst he entertained the smallest notion of a chance remaining, he was determined to stand up, although so dreadfully worsted every round. A desperate hit from Belcher again made him measure his length on the ground.

26 and last.—Dogherty, with the most determined resolution, endeavoured to rise superior to exhausted nature, and would not cry “enough!” He made a desperate rally to effect a change in his favour, evincing that no common caterer could satisfy his inordinate gluttony. Belcher, however, hit him almost where he pleased, and wound up the piece by throwing and falling on him. Dogherty could not come again; he was decidedly finished; and some time elapsed before he could get up. He was bled in both arms upon the ground, and instantly conveyed home and put to bed.

This well-contested fight continued thirty-five minutes, and upon Belcher’s being declared the conqueror, he threw a somersault, and immediately got into a barouche and drove off to Dublin to a dinner provided for him by a party of gentlemen.

If this distinguished boxer claimed the admiration of the spectators from the scientific manner in which he won the battle, and the superior adroitness he displayed in protecting himself from scarcely receiving any injury, it is but justice to observe, that Dan Dogherty proved himself a milling hero of the first stamp; and the true courage he displayed ought not to be forgotten. As a proof that his efforts made considerable impression, a subscription, amounting to upwards of £70, was immediately made for him, the Marquis of Sligo putting down 5 guineas; to this Belcher subscribed a guinea. Tom continued several months after this battle in Ireland, exhibiting specimens of his skill, in company with Hall, with increased reputation and success. At Cork and Dublin his well-earned fame produced him numerous respectable scholars, among whom several persons of rank were conspicuous.

The advantages of superior science were never more clearly shown, than in this combat. The dexterity, ease, and perfect sang froid with which Belcher defeated Dogherty surprised even those who were somewhat acquainted with the art, but, generally speaking, among the mere lookers on it excited astonishment—to view one man (and a scientific professor too) hit all to pieces, his head so transmogrified that few traces of his former phiz remained, completely doubled up, and perfectly insensible to his defeat; while the other combatant was seen retiring from the contest with barely a scratch, and driving away from the Curragh with all the gaiety of a spectator. It was impossible that such a vast superiority could be passed without remark.

On Belcher’s return to England, he took a benefit at the Fives Court (May 20, 1814), which was numerously patronised, preparatory to his commencing tavern keeper, at the Castle, in Holborn, previously in the occupation of Gregson, afterwards the caravansera of the respected Tom Spring; and here we must make room for a slight anecdote recorded by Pierce Egan.

“Tom, in company with Shelton, about a week after he had defeated Dogherty, upon coming down Highgate Hill, in a chaise, was challenged to have a trotting match, by a couple of fellows in a gig. Belcher endeavoured to give them the go-by, but they kept continually crossing him. At length, one of those heroes, determined upon kicking up a row, jumped out of his chaise, and without further ceremony, seized Tom by the leg, in order to pull him out to fight, threatening, at the same time, to mill both Belcher and Shelton.

163“‘Let go,’ said Tom, ‘and as soon as I get upon the ground, we will have a fair trial, depend upon it.’—One of Belcher’s fingers, at this period, was in a poultice, and his hand so sore that he could scarcely touch anything with it; however, this did not prevent the turn up from taking place. The cove’s nob was metamorphosed in a twinkling, and, by way of a finisher, he received a blow that sent him rolling down the hill, to the no small diversion of Shelton and Tom. The latter now mounted his gig with all the sang froid possible, good-naturedly advising this would be fighting man never to threaten, in future, beating two persons at once. Upon the blade’s stopping at the nearest inn to clean his face from the claret it was deluged with, he learnt, to his great surprise, he had been engaged with the celebrated Tom Belcher.”

“Belcher, whose desire for punishing his opponents always ceased on quitting the prize-ring, was attacked one evening, in June, 1817, upon his entering a genteel parlour in the vicinity of Holborn, in a most unhandsome manner, by Jack Firby (a fifteen stone man, and six feet high, but better known by the appellation of the Young Ruffian, and from his defeat by Jem Belcher). In spite of all his ruffianism and knowledge of boxing, his nob was instantly placed in chancery—his peepers were taken measure of for a suit of mourning—and his mug exhibited all the high vermilion touches of colouring, without the aid of a painter. In a few minutes he was so completely satisfied, from the celerity of his expert opponent, as scarcely to be able to retire, covered with shame and confusion for his insolence. Tom politely expressed himself sorry for the trifling interruption the company had experienced, without receiving the slightest scratch from his overgrown bully.”

In conclusion, we may take a glance at Belcher as the “retired pugilist,” a character which, in our own time, we have seen a sufficiency of examples to respect, despite the libels and lies of “Craven” and other calumniators.

Not to cite bygone landlords of “The Castle,” in themselves a tower of strength, we may mention that one pugilist (Mr. John Gully) whose memoir will appear in an early chapter, has risen to senatorial honours; another (Langan, the antagonist of Spring), received a piece of plate (on his retirement from business with a handsome fortune), as a testimonial of the high respect of his neighbours and acquaintance in the town of Liverpool; while the best conducted sporting houses, and those which least frequently figure before magistrates, are—we fearlessly assert it—those kept by ex-pugilists of the higher caste. Teste Belcher’s, Spring’s, Jem Burn’s, Owen Swift’s, in London, and many sporting houses in the provinces. There are 164exceptions, of course, but if the slanderers of pugilists and fair pugilism will insist on descending to personal or individual libel, to bolster up their cowardly onslaughts on this manly art, we pledge ourselves for every pugilist of note, whose name they produce as having come under the lash of the law for any dishonourable offence, to pick out a parson, a magistrate, or a doctor to match him; and if the highest criminality be the test of class profligacy and brutality, we will go higher and find them Quakers, military officers, aye, even bishops, guilty of capital felony. Truly it is enough to make one’s blood boil to read such canting drivel, such impotent spleen vented on bravery and courageous endurance. For ourselves, some acquaintance with the world has taught us that we had rather trust to the honour and generosity of a soldier than a priest, or a pugilist than a professing puritan. But to return to Belcher.

For several years Tom was a frequent exhibitor at the Tennis Court, where no boxer more decisively established the superiority of art over strength. The following instance may tend, in some degree, to illustrate the above opinion. Ikey Pig, the antagonist of Cribb, who possessed a smattering of the science, was not only knocked about like a child, but ultimately hit clean off the stage. Shaw, the life-guardsman, a Hercules in appearance, a man of undeniable courage, and with strength to match his mighty heart, was dead-beat with the gloves by Tom; although this son of Mars, but a day or two before, in a bout with Captain Barclay, had put the captain’s upper works to much confusion, and made his teeth chatter again. Gully, whose knowledge of boxing was far above mediocrity, appeared considerably inferior in his sets-to with Tom. Molineaux, too, when in his prime, was milled in all directions over the stage, and ultimately floored by Belcher. During the time Tom was in training at Norwich to fight with Farnborough, in an exhibition of sparring at the above place, he levelled the Champion Cribb, to the no small surprise of the spectators. The memorable disposal of Shock Jem (a lad of most determined spirit, and who had made the art of self-defence his study, under the tuition of the scientific George Head), was so complete and satisfactory upon the point in question by Belcher, as to need no further comment. Shock was “hit to pieces.” In competition with Cribb or any of the “big ones,” Tom’s excellence as a sparrer was never in the slightest degree doubtful; and of this a marked demonstration took place on the occasion of Cribb’s benefit, May 31, 1814. The massive bulky appearance of the champion standing over the compact elegant form of Belcher, reminded the spectator not inaptly of the difference between a small frigate contending with a first-rate man-of-war; and that however the former 165might, from its compact size and high state of discipline, perform its movements with greater celerity, and even create considerable annoyance by superiority of tactics, yet ultimately, in a decisive engagement, where there was no room for manœuvring, it must strike to heavier metal. So with these combatants. The ponderosity of Cribb, when in close quarters with his opponent, or he bored in upon him, was manifest; but when at arm’s length, and while there remained room for a display of adroitness and skill, Belcher appeared the greater man. The exclamations, which made the court resound again, with “well done, little Tom,” decided this point. Belcher put in some neat touches upon the nob of the Champion, on his resolutely boring in, and stopped, in several instances, the well-meant heavy blows of Cribb in the return, with considerable dexterity and judgment. True, when the Champion did get in, he drove Belcher to the corner of the stage, and the strength and resolution of Cribb prevailed.

In concluding our remarks on Belcher’s sparring, the following circumstance is worthy of note. It occurred on the 26th of February, 1817, at the benefit of Cribb. Upon Belcher ascending the stage with H. Lancaster, they were interrupted from all parts of the court, with the cry of “Scroggins.” Mr. Jackson also requested it, for the satisfaction of several amateurs of rank present. Upon this, that hardy little hero appeared, and Lancaster retired. The spectators were uncommonly anxious to witness this set-to, which might be denominated first-rate science against the most determined ruffianism. Scroggins, immediately on shaking hands with his opponent, rushed at him with all the impetuosity of an English bull-dog, and, for three rounds, it was a downright mill with the gloves. Belcher, from the fury of his antagonist, was driven more than once against the rails, and from want of room his science seemed somewhat at a discount. In the fourth, however, Tom began to feel his way with more certainty, faced his opponent sharply with his one-two, on his boring in, and had the best of the round, when Scroggins bowed and took off the gloves; and, although loudly and repeatedly solicited by the spectators to have another round, and particularly by Belcher, he immediately quitted the stage. A slight tint of the claret appeared on both their mugs, but was first visible from the mouth of Scroggins.

This little episode, with a man of Scroggins’s character, might reasonably be expected to result in something like a trial without the mufflers, and so it eventually proved. For on the 10th April, 1822, a sporting dinner having taken place at the Castle, Scroggins, who was bacchi plenis, got into a “skrimmage” with Belcher. The little hero would not be denied, and Tom feeling his character for courage touched, cast aside the counsel of discretion, 166and a mill took place. Twenty minutes ruffianing, boring in, and hard fighting on one side, and scientific administration of punishment on the other, settled the question, and Scroggins was forced to give in. This was a gratuitous and somewhat ill-advised exhibition on the part of Belcher, who needed no such triumph, yet it showed the spirit of the “old war-horse ready for the fray,” was still within him.

Tom Belcher was in height about five feet nine inches, weighing nearly eleven stone. His appearance was gentlemanly, and his manners and deportment of the most mild and inoffensive nature, well calculated to prepossess the stranger in his favour; who also found in his company the perfection of the pugilist, unmingled with the coarseness which the ignorant and the prejudiced are too apt to associate with their ideal of every brave boxer.

Belcher died at Bristol on the 9th of December, 1854, aged 71 years, universally respected.




Brilliant as a meteor Hen. Pearce shot across the pugilistic horizon, as quickly to fall extinguished. When Jem Belcher had reached the zenith of his fame, he cast his eyes toward Bristol for a successor, and the early reputation of Pearce pointed him out as a likely holder of the belt of championship on behalf of his own native city.

We shall not here dilate on the fistic capabilities of Pearce, convinced that a simple record of his deeds will far outweigh pompous panegyric and fulsome laudation. Pearce was another among the many scientific sons of boxing Bristol, and among the many ring recruits which that ancient city furnished to the metropolitan arena must ever hold a distinguished place.

The year of Pearce’s birth was 1777, and after serving his apprenticeship duly to the age of twenty-one, to a tradesman in Bristol, some of the cognoscenti were attracted by his remarkable skill in sparring, and in boxing matches, for which that city and its rival, Bath, were then famous.

After Jem Belcher’s accident, in July, 1803, the champion made a flattering overture to the young Bristolian[90] to come to London. Berks, as we have already observed, now asserted his title to the championship, and Jem soon found Pearce an introduction to that bumptious personage, who was as much a bully as a bruiser, at the well-known rendezvous in St. Martin’s Street, Leicester-square. Belcher, as might be expected, after himself testing Pearce’s qualifications, readily backed his townsman, and their first serious rencontre is thus told in “Pancratia,” pp. 182 et seq.:—

“Thursday, August 11, 1803, was a great day out with the sporting classes of the metropolis, and ‘the Chicken’ was there (at Shooter’s Hill) with other visitors. Joe Berks also was present. On the road home these 168already talked-of rivals for the championship eyed each other with minute attention, and doubtless with some feelings of envy. In the course of the evening they met again at the Fives Court, St. Martin’s Lane, and stories were industriously circulated of the utter contempt which each had formed for the other’s pugilistic powers. In the course of the evening Pearce having retired, the gluttonous butcher became offensively insolent towards Pearce’s friends, boasting his capability of making it an affair of a few minutes, with such a thread paper. The challenge was communicated to the Chicken, who rose with alacrity from his bed (he then lodged in Wardour-street, Soho), and everything was quickly got ready. A well-lighted room was selected, and notice sent round to some leading patrons, that a trial of skill was to take place between the new Bristol youth, and the celebrated glutton Berks; numbers soon assembled, and between the hours of eleven and twelve the battle commenced. Berks’ inferiority was soon manifest. His slow and round method of fighting failed in doing any execution when opposed to the straight rapid hits of his active adversary, and his pluck only enabled him to receive uncommon punishment. The Chicken lost no time in displaying the graces of the science, yet put in his blows so sharply that Berks soon exhibited signs of weakness. During a desperate contest of twenty minutes, in which fifteen rounds of tremendous milling took place, Berks evinced great courage, and endeavoured in the latter round to fight defensively, and parry the blows of the Chicken, but the latter followed him up so straight-forward, that it was impossible for Berks to resist the consequences, and he was twice floored by the Chicken, so decidedly that he lay stupefied. The two blows were allowed by all present, to have been the most tremendously effective they had ever witnessed. Berks was dreadfully milled, yet had the candour to acknowledge that he had never before met with such a rapid antagonist.”

It should be observed that the cause of this unusual mode of settling an important fight, was that Berks was at this time under recognizances of £200, and the conditions of a published prize-fight were supposed to be hereby evaded.

From the time “the Game Chicken” first appeared in London, the patrons of the pugilate felt desirous to match him regularly against Berks, but the latter’s recognizances proved an insurmountable obstacle. Time at length eradicated all fear of that process, and the match was made.


From a Drawing by Reeves, of Bristol, 1805.

169The sum staked was £100, and the combatants agreed to fight upon the terms of £90 to the winner, and £10 to be appropriated to the loser. Accordingly “on Monday, January 23, 1804, the heroes of the fist again graced the well-known spot on Wimbledon Common, and at eleven o’clock a ring was formed upon the highest part of the common near Coombe Wood; but receiving information that they were in a parish wherein they were liable to be molested, they immediately gave the word to form another near the telegraph. A race ensued of a curious description, some thousands of pedestrians and equestrians, with lots of carriages and carts, all were set in commotion, trying who should obtain the best situation for seeing the fight.

“A ring being formed, after the bustle had subsided, Berks entered, accompanied by Tom Owen for his second, and Paddington Jones his bottle-holder. Shortly afterwards Pearce appeared, attended by Bill Gibbons and Caleb Baldwin. They immediately began to strip; Berks was the tallest and displaying immense muscle appeared to possess uncommon strength. Pearce stood about five feet eight inches and three quarters; the conformation of his chest and limbs brought to recollection the athletic form of the noted Tom Johnson, but on a smaller and lighter scale.

“At precisely at eleven minutes before twelve they set to. Odds seven to four in favour of Pearce, from the former rencontre.”


Round 1.—Pearce showed great caution, opposing himself indirectly to superior strength; and Berks had learnt from the brushing he had got at St. Martin’s Lane, not to rush in. Without any blows being exchanged, both men closed and fell. (Two to one on Pearce.)

2.—The Shropshireman upon his mettle, game to the back-bone, went in desperately, and fought into a rally like a hero; but the Chicken, awake to his intent, milled on the retreat, and at length put in a stopper on Berks’ forehead, that made him reel again, when the Chicken caught him staggering, and threw him.

3.—Berks, though bleeding profusely, stood up well to his man, and a good display of hits was made on both sides. Berks again thrown.

4, 5.—Ditto repeated, the exchanges in favour of the Chicken.

6.—Pearce put in a blow, which Berks countered so heavily as to bring down Pearce on his knee. (Bravo, Berks!)

7 to 11.—Berks exceedingly shy of his opponent, always waiting for his antagonist to break ground, and suffering much from the repetition of his blows. From this to

15.—The Chicken so much the favourite, that the odds were four to one upon him. It was manifest that Berks was not a match for his man. His style of fighting was considerably inferior to that of his opponent’s, and he began to appear much distressed; he occasionally tried to affect the scientific style of his opponent, but at a still greater disadvantage than his own natural mode of fighting. The severe blows he received from the Chicken made him unruly and intemperate, and he was becoming fast an easy conquest up to the

20th round.—Berks’ passion was now exhausting his strength. His nose bleeding considerably, and, irritated in mind that no chance offered of proving successful, he ran in furiously upon his opponent. His intemperance rendered him a complete object for punishment, and the Chicken milled him in every direction. (Twenty to one the winner is named; and even bets that Berks don’t come again.)

21.—Passion uppermost; Berks desperate in the extreme, and by running in headlong, missed putting in a hit, and fell. Pearce smiling at his want of prudence, and holding up both his hands in triumph.

22.—A good rally, but Berks received a most tremendous floorer.

24 and last.—Berks still insensible to prudence, and determined to get at his man, received a severe milling. He was several times advised by his backers and seconds to give in, but resolutely refused, soliciting each time to “fight another round.” However, 170at the close of the twenty-fourth bout, he was hit down stupefied, but suddenly recovering, gave in. The battle lasted one hour and seventeen minutes, and Berks, we had almost said as usual, was severely punished. Pearce fought the last round as gaily as the first, and when it was over challenged Isaac Bittoon[91] for 200 guineas, but this match went off.

After this battle Maddox beat Seabrook in three rounds, and the afterwards well-known Bill Richmond in three more.

There was a little désagrément arising out of this “field day.” Tom Owen was indicted at the ensuing Surrey Sessions, for a “riot and conspiracy,” in seconding Berks, in a pitched battle on Wimbledon Common, and refusing to depart when warned by a warrant officer, sent by Mr. Conant, the magistrate, upon information laid. Tom was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment.

Elias Spray, the coppersmith, a boxer of renown in the neighbourhood of Bristol, and who had twice beaten Bill Jackling (Ginger), the brother of Tom Johnson, the champion, was next selected to try the mettle of our hero.

Monday, March 11, 1805, was the day appointed, and the fixture was Hampton Court; but fearing an interruption, they agreed to cross the water, and decide the contest upon Molesworth (Moulsey) Meadow. Considerable confusion took place in procuring boats to convey the numerous followers across the river, where several not only experienced a good ducking, but some narrowly escaped drowning, in their eagerness to reach the destined spot. At length, everything being completed, Pearce, attended by Maddox and Hall, as his second and bottle-holder, entered the ring (twenty feet square) and threw up his hat in defiance. Spray soon made his appearance, followed by Wood as his second, and Mountain as bottle-holder. Betting was seven to four on Pearce, even that the fight did not last twenty-five minutes, and ten to one that Pearce was not beaten in half an hour.

The combatants lost no time in stripping, and after shaking hands smilingly set-to at a little before one o’clock.


Round 1.—A little sparring; Spray made a short hit; the Chicken put in a severe blow and brought down his opponent.

2.—Good blows exchanged. Spray put in a blow in his antagonist’s breast. Pearce rallied, and again knocked Spray down. (Odds nine to four in favour of the Chicken.)

3.—The Coppersmith showed good courage, and fought well. The men closed, and both fell.

4.—Spray rather hastily made some hard blows, but they failed. Pearce gave him a cross-buttock.

5.—In this round Spray already appeared 171distressed. The Chicken showed excellent science, and a third time completely knocked down his opponent. As he fell, Pearce smiled.

6.—Both fought well; some sharp blows exchanged. Spray struck his opponent in the stomach. Pearce rallied, and threw him very cleverly.

7.—Pearce seemed much affected by Spray’s last blow in the bread-basket. He made a hit, but failed, and fell. (Odds fell to two to one.)

11.—No good blows, but Pearce again had the advantage the whole of these four rounds.

12.—Spray put in some good determined blows, but they mostly fell short; at length, by a successful blow on the nose, he brought down the Chicken.

13.—Pearce bled profusely. Spray evinced weakness, made a short blow, and fell.

14.—Pearce met his antagonist with determined resolution, and put in so severe a blow on the jaw, that every one feared lest he had broken it; Spray fell. (Odds now rose ten to one on Pearce.)

15.—Spray stood up to his man boldly, but quickly received a floorer from the Chicken.

16.—Courage displayed on both sides. Spray put in some well directed hits; but in closing, Pearce threw him a cross-buttock.

17.—Spray attempted to rally, but received a most desperate blow upon his temple that nearly deprived him of his recollection, and which spoilt him for the remainder of the fight. The ensuing five rounds upon the part of Spray were little better than mere exhibitions of animal courage.

23.—All in favour of the Chicken. (Twenty to one, but no takers.)

24.—Spray again showed himself, but his efforts to turn the tide were futile. The Chicken smiled at his attempts; yet the Coppersmith showed considerable skill, and continued the battle to

27.—Hardly to be called fighting. Spray was down as soon as he appeared.

28.—Spray could scarcely stand, yet could not bring himself to say “No.” He put up his hands and endeavoured to face his opponent. It was all up: the Chicken hit him as he liked, and finally knocked him off his legs.

29 and last.—Spray stood up, but only to exhibit the spectacle of a game man struggling against fate. Pearce put in a thrust rather than a blow, and poor Spray was persuaded to give in. The battle lasted thirty-five minutes. Pearce immediately sprang over the ropes, laid down on the grass for a few minutes, during which he accepted a challenge from Carte, the Birmingham “champion,” for 50 guineas. The money was immediately staked, and they agreed to fight within six weeks. The Chicken then started for town in a chaise, full of spirits.

On Saturday, the 27th April, 1805, the day appointed for Carte to enter the lists with the Chicken, the parties met at Shepperton Common, near Chertsey, in Surrey. The superiority of the Chicken was so manifest, that Carte had not the least chance whatever, although six feet three and a half inches in height, and weighing upwards of fifteen stone. It would be a waste of time and paper to give the rounds in the detail. Suffice it to observe, that after a contest of thirty-five minutes, in which twenty-five rounds took place, Carte, from his ignorance of the art, received a most terrible milling; while, on the contrary, the science of the Chicken so protected him from the attacks of his adversary, that he scarcely had a mark visible.

A new, young, and formidable rival now sought the notice of Pearce. This was the afterwards celebrated John Gully,[93] then a young man of twenty-one years of age: as we prefer the chronicler’s account where his details are available, we quote a contemporary journalist:—

“Henry Pearce, the Game Chicken, by the unprecedented adroitness and success with which he has contested every combatant matched against him, in London, has acquired, with almost universal assent, the proud title of Champion of England. It has ever been found, throughout the annals of 172pugilism, that whenever any hero has, however meritoriously, acquired such a flattering distinction, some emulous aspirant has sprung up to dispute his claim, and it has also as generally happened that at last the hero has been obliged, notwithstanding his accumulated honours, to acknowledge the triumph of a more youthful rival. Pearce has at this time conquered three most formidable practisers of the gymnasium, Berks, Spray, and Carte, and, after a general challenge, no one coming to take up the gauntlet, he quietly set himself to rest, to enjoy the enviable honour which no one dared dispute his title to. There was, however, yet to be produced, in order to keep up the spirit of pugilism, some one who possessed courage enough to enter the ring against this invincible hero. This was considered not easy to be accomplished; there happens, however, to be a man of the name of Gully, a native of Bristol, and fellow townsman of the Chicken’s, who for some time has followed the avocation of a butcher, but being unsuccessful, had taken country lodgings in the neighbourhood of St. George’s Fields,[94] in a fine open situation, where he found room enough to exert his muscles in the active amusement of rackets. Here Pearce, through generosity and goodwill, which were ever two prominent features of his mind, visited his townsman and acquaintance, to afford condolence. As every don fellow now does not consider his equipage complete, unless graced with the Broughtonian mufflers, Gully had a set, and to fill up the chasm in the afternoon’s amusement the host and guest must have a set-to. Good humour, as it always should, prevailed, but Gully did not fail to give the Chicken a few severe hits; in short Gully became fired with his success, and immediately took it into his head that it was, perhaps, not impossible to beat the champion. Mr. Fletcher Reid, always actively alive, like a true sportsman, soon got scent; ‘Gully,’ said he, ‘shall fight the Chicken:’ his debts were accordingly discharged, and he was taken to Virginia Water, about two miles beyond Egham, on the western road, to be put in training. Gully at this time was little known in London, having never signalized himself as a pugilist. In make he was much such a man as Jem Belcher, but taller, and longer in the reach. In point of muscular appearance, a knowing one would not set him down as altogether built for fighting; however, from the commencement he never funked, being always sanguine in his hopes of victory. Pearce found some of his old friends, who backed him 600 guineas to 400, and the day was fixed to be Saturday, July 20, on which day, in order to keep up the sport, two other matches were to be 173decided, between Tom Belcher and Dutch Sam, and between Ryan and Caleb Baldwin.

“Virginia Water was appointed as rendezvous, where Gully, Tom Belcher, and Ryan, had been two months in training, under the auspices of Mr. Fletcher Reid; and it being understood that the first and main battle would be fought by eight o’clock in the morning, the whole Fancy were in commotion and arrived there betimes. Hence they all proceeded to Chobham, three miles further, where a ring was formed, and all was anxious expectation.

“Whenever John Bull does not see all straight before him, notwithstanding his being a very drowsy hand at it, he begins to theorise, and this was the case now. Some said it was ‘all my eye,’ and others more certainly, ‘there’ll be no fight;’ while others deep in the secret said it would be a cross. For Mr. Chersey, a knowing one who had formerly backed Pearce very heavily, had turned round and backed Gully, ‘and by this no one could tell the enormous money he could win.’ So the sages and chiefs went to council, and first they decided that ‘all bets should be void.’ But during this awful crisis news arrived that the Surrey magistrates (dii minores) had interfered, that officers with warrants were abroad, and that that county was no land for them. Blackwater, beyond Bagshot, was named, and off started the whole cavalcade. Dutch Sam was mounted in a stylish buggy, but by some accident the reins broke, the driver jumped out, and left the Jew with a fast clutch of one rein. Away went the horse, Mishter Shamuels vociferating to all the heroes of the Pentateuch to save him. He was, however, soon unshipped, and so severely bruised as to be unable to fight, and so his match was lost. Blackwater was reached, but the day was advanced, and disputes went on. Mr. Fletcher Reid declared that if bets did not stand there should be no fight. Mr. Mellish and the Hon. Berkeley Craven, offered to back the Chicken to any amount, say 600 guineas to 500. The amateurs having covered thirty-two miles from London, raised a purse, and for this Tom Cribb (afterwards the renowned champion of England), entered the lists with George Nicholls, of Bristol, and was thrashed, for the first and last time.” See Nicholls, in Appendix to Period IV.

Tuesday, October 8th, 1805, was next named as “the great important day big with the fate” of Gully and of Pearce, and Hailsham, a small village in Sussex, between Brighton and Lewes, was pitched upon for the Campus Martius. The number of spectators was immense; the Downs being covered with equestrians and pedestrians, and the “swells” of royal and aristocratic Brighton being in unusual force. The Duke of Clarence, afterwards William IV., often referred to witnessing this fight.

174At ten o’clock the combatants met at the place appointed, and, after a short conference, a 24‒feet rope ring was formed on a green adjoining the village. At one o’clock the contending champions entered; Gully was seconded by Tom Jones and Dick Whale; Pearce had Clarke and Joe Ward for his attendants.


Round 1.—The anxiety round the ring was intense. Gully made a desperate hit at his opponent, but fell short, and Pearce immediately knocked him down. (“Three to one on the Chicken!” cried a leading amateur.)

2.—Gully put in first blow again. The Chicken returned sharply, and Gully fell.

3.—Pearce threw in a blow at his opponent’s head, which fell short. Gully hit out and dropped.

4.—Pearce stood up with a smile of confidence on his brow. Both combatants struck at once, and both hits were well stopped, but Gully fell.

5.—Pearce put in a heavy blow in the neck, and brought down his opponent.

6.—Pearce put in two good hits right and left, and brought Gully down once more. (Odds now rose to ten to two on the Chicken).

7.—Immediately on setting-to Pearce knocked down his opponent.

8.—Much sparring, Pearce put in a hit; Gully parried in style, and returned with a knock down blow; Pearce fell for the first time. Cheers for Gully, and cries, “They are both Bristol men.”

9.—Pearce appeared touched: he went in and knocked Gully down, then turning to his backers smiled in triumph.

10.—Gully struck out with spirit; Pearce stopped, and with a thump on the breast brought down Gully.

11.—Gully put in a neat hit, but the round terminated by the Chicken’s knocking him completely off his legs.

12.—Gully threw in a most severe blow, struck Pearce on the mouth, and brought him down. Cheers for Gully.

13.—In this round Gully displayed both good science and courage; he put in two good blows, but fell from the force of the last.

14.—Gully came up in good spirits, but the first blow of the Chicken’s knocked him off his legs.

15.—Both combatants struck, and both hits went home. Gully struck again and fell.

16.—Gully appeared rather shy, and fell without a blow being struck.[95]

17.—The best round during the battle, if not that ever was contested. Pearce seemed confident of beating his man, and stood up well. Gully rallied, and put in several good blows, which were returned by the Chicken without any stopping. Gully brought down his opponent, after having successfully planted two good hits on his left eye. This round was undoubtedly greatly in Gully’s favour, and the odds fell, bets being now six to four on the Chicken.

18.—No fighting. Pearce bled profusely, and Gully slipped while making play.

19.—Another excellent round. Gully rallied; Pearce returned; and after some good blows they closed, and both fell.

20.—Pearce seemed almost blind with his left eye, and as the blood issued freely, he fought very shy, and retreated. Gully followed him up round the ring, and by a good hit brought Pearce down.

21.—Pearce was very careful, and Gully in hitting fell.

23.—Some good blows exchanged. Gully fell; while falling, Pearce struck him a tremendous blow on the side of the head, and Gully vomited.

24.—Pearce struck, but fell short. Gully put in a good blow over his opponent’s right eye, and endeavoured to fall, but only being on his knees, Pearce struck him. Some cries of “Foul,” but the fight went on.

25.—Pearce very cautious. Gully stuck to him and followed him round the ring. Some good blows were exchanged, and Gully fell again.

29.—Pearce was now every round gaining advantage.

30.—Gully put in a good hit, and fell. This irritated Pearce, and he stood over him apparently much exasperated.

31.—Long sparring. Pearce struck, but fell short; Gully struck over his guard, and it was thought almost blinded his right eye.

33.—Pearce very shy. Gully followed him round the ring, but Pearce knocked him down with a blow in his throat.

36.—Gully appeared very weak. He made a hit at the Chicken’s head, which he caught, and Pearce made a slight return. Gully made a good hit, which Pearce parried with his left hand, and with his right knocked down his opponent.

37 to 43.—In all these rounds the Chicken had the advantage; both were bleeding freely, particularly Gully, whose ear flowed 175copiously. Gully appeared shy of advancing; his head was dreadfully swollen, and his eyes appeared nearly closed.

44.—Pearce dexterously put in his favourite hit in the throat, and his antagonist fell. Gully had now received so many severe blows, that he could not face his man; he, however, continued to protract the fight by making a feint hit, and falling, until the

64th round, when, by great persuasion, he yielded the palm, after a contest of one hour and seventeen minutes.

Remarks.—Both combatants were dreadfully beaten, neither being hardly able to see out of either eye. A subscription was immediately made for the unfortunate champion. Soon after Gully had given in, Pearce came up to him, shook hands with him, and said, “You’re a d——d good fellow; I’m hard put to it to stand. You are the only man that ever stood up to me.”

This was, as Pearce afterwards said in private conversation, the severest battle he ever fought, and that he was never so near being deprived of his hard-earned position. As to Gully’s being “a novice,” as he was termed, Pearce laughed at the notion. He had all the tactics of a good general, backed by weight, strength, youth, and resolution. “He has ‘a head’ for fighting,” said the Chicken, in his own rough but figurative language; “he must be a sharp chap, and get up early, as beats John Gully, I can tell you.”

To compliment Pearce on this battle would be unnecessary. His success, however, had an unexpected and unfortunate influence on the fortunes and fame of his patron and townsman Jem Belcher, who rashly challenged Pearce to fight for 500 guineas, play or pay, within two months. The Chicken, who claimed the championship, had no alternative but to resign the honour, or take up the gage thus ill-advisedly thrown down.

The opinions of the amateurs were, however, much divided. Many, true to their predilection, stuck to Jem’s irresistibility, and Mr. Fletcher Reid readily came forward to back Belcher. Captain Halliday covered the 500 on the part of Pearce. To avoid disappointment it was agreed that the battle should come off not less than 150 miles from the metropolis, to be decided by a toss between the parties. This Belcher won, and named a small common three miles from Barnby Moor, and nine miles from Doncaster. The ground was a short half mile from the seat of Captain Mellish, at Blythe, and 150 miles from London.

“On Friday, December 6th, 1805, Pearce, who had been staying at the Blue Bell Inn, Bamby Moor, started about eleven o’clock for Blythe, accompanied by his father. There they met Captain Mellish, Lord Say and Sele, Lord Eardley, Captain Halliday, the Hon. Berkeley Craven, and other gentlemen, who accompanied Pearce across the park to the appointed spot, where Belcher already awaited them. A ring of twenty feet diameter was formed within another of forty feet, to prevent interruption from the ‘outsiders.’ The partisans on this occasion sported ‘colours.’ Those favouring Pearce sported a blue silk handkerchief with a white spot, since called ‘bird’s-eye’ and ‘Chicken;’ whilst those adhering to Belcher, sported, with much pride, the yellow striped flag, known before by the name of the ‘Belcher,’ in honour of the hero. The combatants entered the ring, Will Ward seconded Pearce, and Bill Gibbons acted as bottle-holder; Joe Ward 176and Dick Whale performing the same offices for Belcher. On stripping Pearce appeared the stronger man and in best condition, but Belcher was not in the least daunted, and seemed confident of success. They performed the well-known salutation, and at half past twelve they set-to. Betting five to four on the Chicken.”


Round 1.—The attitudes of both men were masterly; and the cleverness in sparring for an opening excited general admiration. There was much cautious but active manœuvring. Each seemed aware that to throw away a chance might lose the battle. Belcher made several feints, and at length put in a severe blow on the Chicken’s eye, over his guard, that drew blood copiously. The Chicken returned the blow slightly, they closed, and the Chicken threw his man.

2.—Belcher remarkably active. He again made several feints, and the Chicken, whose face was covered with blood, stopped cautiously, then made a hit. Belcher put in two blows on the Chicken’s body, and they closed. The men disengaged themselves. The Chicken aimed a well-directed hit, which Belcher stopped dexterously; a rally, when the Chicken hit one, two, and threw his man. (Six to four on the Chicken.)

3.—A hard round, rather in favour of the Chicken. Several blows were exchanged in a rally made by him. A close, and Belcher was thrown upon the ropes.

4.—Chicken hit twice at his man, but was out of distance. Belcher rallied with some success, but was thrown at the end of the round.

5.—The Chicken continued to bleed freely from the blow he received in the first round. He smiled with confidence, however, went in, and rallied. The struggle closed, in favour of Belcher, who threw him.

6.—Belcher displayed a good deal of his accustomed science, and appeared to meet his man cautiously. In a rally several blows were exchanged; they closed and fell, Belcher undermost.

7.—This round was much in favour of Belcher. The Chicken made a hit, which Belcher stopped dexterously, and with his right hand hit the Chicken a severe blow in the face. A rally followed, in which Belcher had the advantage; they closed. The Chicken got his opponent’s head under his left arm, and hit him several blows with his right hand: both fell.

8.—Belcher went in, rallied courageously, and displayed his skill in pugilism to perfection. He struck several blows with his right hand, whilst he parried those of the Chicken with his left. He had considerable advantage during the round, and ultimately succeeded in throwing his man over the rope out of the ring. (The betting became level.)

9.—Both on their mettle, and apparently fresh. Belcher hit the Chicken a sharp blow in the face, which cut him severely; several other blows were exchanged before the men closed and fell.

10.—Somewhat in favour of the Chicken, without any blows of consequence. Belcher appeared to be fast growing weak.

11.—The Chicken overreached himself in making a hit, and the combatants closed. Belcher disengaged himself by a twist, and hit his man, who, nevertheless, threw him.

12.—The Chicken went in and rallied furiously, and it was evident Belcher had fallen off in strength. He had materially the worst of the rally. The Chicken closed, and threw him on the rope, and had a fair opportunity of ending the fight, for Belcher balanced upon his back, and had the Chicken given him one of his heavy blows, might have ended the battle at once. But just as he raised his hand, the spirit of a fair fighter rose within him: his foe was defenceless. He put himself in the attitude for delivering a blow, to show his advantage, then looking round the ring, he exclaimed, “No, Jem, I won’t take advantage of thee! no, lest I hurt thy other eye!” and raising his hands, went back to his second. “This honourable step,” says the reporter drily, “was applauded with shouts from the spectators.”

13.—Belcher came up slowly. The Chicken went in for a rally. To the surprise of many, the men got locked, when Belcher cleverly got hold of Pearce and sent him over, a severe cross-buttock.

14.—Tedious sparring. Belcher shy, and bleeding in the head and body with blows given in the former round. The Chicken followed him to the ropes, when he gave him a hard blow under the blind eye, through his guard, and threw him easy.

15.—This round left no hopes for Belcher; it also decided many bets respecting the first knock-down blow. The Chicken went in very gay, and gave his opponent two hits; they closed, and the Chicken hit Belcher a blow underneath, on the lower rib, which, to use the sporting phrase, doubled him together, and he fell. The umpire, for the satisfaction of the sporting men, declared this to be a knock-down blow.

16.—Belcher hit the Chicken a well-directed but feeble blow in the face, whilst sparring. The Chicken smiled, shook his head, and then went into a rally. Once 177more he got him on the ropes, as in the twelfth round, when he repeated his honourable conduct, and walked away without hitting him. This round decided the fight, notwithstanding Belcher fought one more. In the rally he was first thrown upon one of the stakes to which the ropes were fastened, and it was supposed he had broken the lower rib, the Chicken having hit him in the same place shortly before. (Ten to one.)

17.—Belcher summoned up all his efforts to put in a blow, but the Chicken again followed him to the ropes, and threw him.

18.—Belcher could not move his left arm from his side; he, however, stood up to fight the eighteenth round, but finding himself totally disabled, he resigned the contest, after fighting thirty-five minutes. The Chicken immediately leaped over the rope out of the ring, and entered it again in the same manner, displaying his agility by a somersault.

“On this day the wreath of victory, which had so long encircled the brow of Belcher, was torn off by the powerful grasp of the very man for whose success Belcher had evinced so much anxiety. Envy appeared the principal excitement in the mind of Jem to the contest, and to that passion he undoubtedly sacrificed his honours, and fell a pitiable victim. Under a mistaken impulse, after having successfully triumphed over such formidable opponents as Paddington Jones, Bartholomew, Gamble, Berks, and Firby, his well gained fame expired. It was evident, independent of the great disadvantage which Belcher unhappily sustained in the loss of an eye, that neither his strength nor constitution at this time could enable him to encounter with any chance of success, an opponent possessing such an astonishing degree of skill, agility, wind, muscular power, and, in short, every requisite that the most theoretic mind could suggest for a pugilist. Belcher, in the course of the combat, put in several of his favourite blows, and got off in his accustomed happy manner; but the longer the fight lasted, so much the greater became his disadvantage, and every one conversant in boxing allowed, that had he planted more hits, instead of employing his time in unavailing and useless sparring, he would have stood a better chance of gaining a victory. Pearce, throughout the combat, without a doubt, aimed the generality of his blows at Belcher’s good eye, well aware of the result of closing it, and in closing, Pearce gave him some tremendous falls.

“Upon the whole, if the combat was not so obstinately contested as might have been anticipated, there was in it a display of science perhaps unprecedented. Those, however, who had witnessed Belcher in any of his former battles, could perceive a deficiency in his fighting in many points, notwithstanding he displayed all his former courage. After they had fought a quarter of an hour, Belcher displayed marks of some violent hits in his face, and his firm bright eye rolled in the briny flood. The loss of his eyes was a greater disadvantage to him than à priori was supposed; it rendered him unable to judge the length of his opponent, nor could he perceive the hits coming towards him until it was too late to guard against them. With respect to his own blows, as he himself observed, after the fight, they were merely casual attempts, for his sight was not sufficiently quick and strong to plant them judiciously. Every one who had on former occasions admired with enthusiasm the unexampled courage and skill of Belcher, felt deeply for his unfortunate situation, and in many an eye was seen the sympathetic tear to start. His spirits were good to the last; and after its conclusion he exclaimed, not without seeming to feel the assertion, ‘I don’t mind for myself, but I’m sorry for a friend of mine, who has lost everything he had.’ A subscription was set on foot by Jackson, and very liberally supplied. Belcher was taken to a surgeon’s and bled, where, upon examination, they found the rib expected to have been broken was perfect.”

The Game Chicken retired to the Blue Bell Inn, at Barnby Moor, and seriously declared that once or twice he had it in his power to have killed Belcher. Elated with his victory, he cried out in the Somersetshire dialect, “Dang it, I’m not hurt, I have only cut my crook against his teeth;” and pulling out of his pocket a new blue silk handkerchief, spotted with white, tied it round his neck, and laughing, said, “Since I’ve won it I’ll wear it; no more Belchers now.” After taking some refreshment, they set off for Grantham, where Captain Halliday had ordered dinner for a large party.

The Chicken had now entirely proved himself thorough game; and was without a competitor for a while. A man of the name of Ford, a stalwart gamekeeper from Leicestershire, came up to London about this time, and 178challenged Pearce for fifty guineas. The Chicken offered to accommodate him for 200 guineas, as a minimum stake for the champion. Ford came to town in April, 1807, while Pearce was at Bristol, and vapoured greatly of his willingness to fight the absent champion for a glass of Liptrap.[96] It was probably fortunate the Chicken was not there, or Mr. Ford might have found himself out of his depth. We hear no more of “Master Ford,” who showed better wisdom in minding “buck-washing.”

Pearce, like too many of his predecessors of pugilistic notoriety, foundered on the same rock on which they had split. Examples, advice, and lessons, it should seem, all lose their effect upon persons, who, in the bloom of youth, health and vigour, laugh at the idea of incurring any serious consequences from intemperance, till they find it out for themselves, when, generally it is too late to be remedied. The Chicken during his residence in the metropolis had made rather too free with his constitution; yet we have authority for observing that it originated more from circumstances and place, than sheer inclination. His health became impaired, and he retired to his native city, to enjoy the comforts of domesticated life; and by the advice of his friends, he relinquished the calling of a pugilist for that of a publican.

We have now arrived at an episode in the life of Pearce, which we would earnestly recommend to the perusal of the calumniators of pugilists and pugilism; we doubt if a similar deed can be recorded of many of the canters who decry prize-fighters as “inhuman savages!”

In the month of November, 1807, a fire broke out at Mrs. Denzill’s, a silk-mercer, in Thomas Street, Bristol, and the flames had made such rapid progress, that the servant in the house, a poor girl, who had retired to rest in the attic story, was nearly enveloped in flames before she awoke to her dreadful situation. Frantic with despair, she presented herself at the window imploring help—her screams pierced the hearts of the spectators, who appeared riveted with terror to the spot, expecting every moment her threatened destruction. But none move; all are petrified with fear and horror. At length, Pearce (“the prize-fighter by profession and the savage by nature,” according to “Craven,”) appears in the crowd; he sees the life of a human being in danger, and feels prompted to the perilous endeavour of an immediate rescue. By the aid of the adjoining house, he reaches the parapet, and, hanging over it, firmly grasps the wrist of the wretched girl—the multitude are lost in astonishment, and never did a more interesting moment present itself—hope, fear, and all the stronger emotions are on the 179rack at the intrepidity of a man losing every thought of self in the hope of delivering a fellow-creature from a dreadful death. The additional weight, added to the height from the parapet, was almost too much for the nearly exhausted energies of Pearce.

“Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once;”

and so it proved—Pearce’s brave heart leaped within him, and with a supreme effort he drew his trembling charge from the window, placed her safe upon the parapet, and in an instant she was out of danger. The delighted multitude was loud in their plaudits—and the almost lifeless sufferer clinging round the knees of her deliverer, invoked blessings on his name. This was the proudest moment of Pearce’s life. The shouts of victory, and the flattering praises that had so often attended him in the hour of battle, were mere shadows compared with that of an approving conscience. Yet this was the act of a pugilist!—one who had entered the field to obtain a purse of gold as a prize-fighter. Here was no gold to tempt him to risk his life: the smallest deviation of balance must have precipitated him headlong to destruction; and no opportunity of retreating from the consequences. The gallant soldier in mounting the forlorn hope, and the hardy tar in boarding the ship of the enemy, are stimulated by a thirst of glory and love of country, but Pearce was actuated by no other motive than that of humanity; and when that “recording angel,” who dropped a tear and blotted out for ever the intemperate expression of my Uncle Toby, shall turn the page of the evil deeds of this pugilist, let us trust they may be similarly obliterated.

In Arliss’s Magazine, and the “Poets’ Corner” of Farley’s Bristol Journal, we find the subjoined lines, more remarkable for their good feeling than poetic merit:—

“In Bristol city, while a house in flames
Fills the beholders with amazement dire,
A damsel at an upper window claims
Their utmost pity, for th’ approaching fire—
Which every moment seems to gather near,
Nor hope of rescue does there aught appear.
“At length upon the neighb’ring house-top seen,
A gallant youth now hastens to her aid,
And o’er the fearful parapet does lean,
With spirit dauntless, to assist the maid;
Endowed by heaven with more than common might,
He grasps her arms, and draws her to the height.
“Oh, glorious act! Oh, courage well applied!
Oh, strength exerted in its proper cause!
Thy name, O Pearce! be sounded far and wide,
Live, ever honour’d, midst the world’s applause;
Be this thy triumph! know one creature saved,
Is greater glory than a world enslav’d.”

180A short time after the noble deed we have narrated the Game Chicken again distinguished himself in rescuing one of the fair sex from insult and danger. In his way over Clifton Downs, near Bristol, Pearce perceived a young woman suffering much from the rude attacks of three men. Regardless of the consequences Pearce instantly interposed, when they fell upon him with fury; but the courage and science of Pearce soon made them repent of their temerity. The Chicken received their onset with such coolness and intrepidity, and so successfully planted his levelling hits, that one of them of the name of Hood, was so satisfied, in seven minutes, that he bolted, and left his companions to the care of Pearce. In a quarter of an hour, the Chicken so served out Morris and Francis, the other two, that they declined the strife, and apologised for their rudeness, while the terrified female could only thank her gallant defender for his seasonable protection.

It would seem that, however Pearce might have been crowned with honour, gratified by the enviable title of champion, and admired by his friends in general—he was not happy. That source of true felicity and real consolation, to which a man flies to alleviate his troubles or participate in his honours, was unhappily polluted, and his wife’s incontinence had rendered home so miserable, that he left his native place never more to return.

Pearce now went to different country towns exhibiting sparring, and teaching the art of self-defence, and we need hardly say was much patronised. The Chicken was in the neighbourhood of Oxford when Jem Belcher and Cribb fought their last battle, and felt so anxious as to the issue of the combat, that he set off in a post-chaise overnight lest he should fail to witness the fight. On Cribb’s proving victorious, he exclaimed with great earnestness, “he hoped he should get well, that he might teach Cribb how to fight!”

Pearce took a benefit at the Fives Court, on February 9, 1809, when some good sparring was exhibited. Every interest was exerted to give him support. Pearce was now the victim of pulmonary consumption, and in the last stage of that afflicting disease; he was scarcely able to walk to the Court to thank his friends.

The appearance of the Chicken was muscular; his height about five feet nine inches; and the roundness of his chest and limbs denoted considerable strength, in some degree resembling the contour of the champion, Tom Johnson. During the time Pearce enjoyed sound health, his excellence as a pugilist was admitted by all parties; and he stood above all competitors. In uniting the courage of a lion with true kindness of heart, Pearce must command our praise. He was a tremendous hard hitter, and his left-handed 181blow was so terrible in its effects, that his opponents have been seen in a complete state of stupor for several seconds, and often never recovered the proper use of their faculties during the fight.

As a proof that he was not fond of vainly courting the popularity of the multitude, or of making a show of himself by figuring upon the box of some spoilt child of fortune’s four-in-hand—a fashion in full power in those days; we may state, that immediately upon putting on his clothes, after his memorable fight with Berks, on Wimbledon Common, he stole away unobserved. Being missed, a general inquiry took place among his friends, to know what had become of him. After considerable time lost in search of the Chicken, some person recollected that they saw a man like Pearce run and jump up behind a coach; upon which information his second, Bill Gibbons, endeavoured to trace him along the road, and at length found the Chicken in a public-house at Chelsea, cooking himself mutton-chops at the fire, with the most perfect indifference. Pearce immediately invited Gibbons to partake of them without alluding to his singularity in leaving the ground, instead of making his return to town in triumph on some swell-drag, in the style of the days of which we are writing.

At the Coach and Horses, St. Martin’s Lane,[97] on Sunday, April 30, 1809, the Game Chicken departed this life. His fortitude never forsook him, and in the most trying moments he displayed calmness and resignation; he experienced no terrors from his approaching end, expressing a wish to die in friendship with all mankind. He expressed a strong desire to be buried by the side of Bill Warr, in St. James’ burying ground, Pancras; and this wish was complied with. Pearce was in his thirty-second year.

“Strength, too; thou surly, and less gentle boast
Of those that laugh loud at the village ring;
A fit of common sickness pulls thee down
With greater ease than e’er thou didst the strippling
That rashly dared thee to th’ unequal fight.”


JOHN GULLY—1805‒1808.

When Hen. Pearce, compelled by severe bodily illness to retire from the fistic arena, seceded from the position of champion, John Gully was looked to by common consent as his successor. He was one of those who achieve a high fame by defeat, and we have Pearce’s own recorded opinion that he was the best man he had ever fought with. Gully’s ambition was of a high order; like Jackson, second and third-rate pugilists were beneath his aim, and spurning the better and safer mode of acquiring greatness step by step, his daring spirit made the essay of

“Vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself,
And falls o’ the other side.”

Yet here he showed an exception to the approved rule, for, by at once attacking the justly renowned Game Chicken, though he fell, he rose indisputably a greater man, from the excellent qualities he displayed on this bold but unsuccessful attempt. Gully convinced the sporting world that he was able to contend with honour, and even with a considerable chance of success, with the supposed invincibility of that eminent pugilist, whose generosity of disposition would not permit him to quit his vanquished adversary without complimenting him upon his uncommon bravery and fortitude.

In these two years (1805, 1806), Gully does not seem to have publicly desired the title of champion, which was rather conceded to him. In September, 1807, by an incidental passage in the daily papers, it would seem he was so considered. On the 5th of that month (September), Horton beat George Cribb (brother of Tom the after champion) and offered to fight either Gully “for the championship,” or Tom Cribb for fifty guineas, but both declined.


From a Miniature by Hudson, 1815.

183Gully, by the science and game he displayed, had become a distinguished favourite with the Fancy in general. His knowledge of the art of boxing was considered complete, and his courage an able second to his judgment. His supporters were numerous, and his fame stood so high, that upwards of two years elapsed, from the time of his battle with the Chicken, October 8, 1805, before any one had the temerity to call on him to defend his title to the championship. At length he entered the lists with the formidable and burly Bob Gregson, a boxer, who had been picked out by some of his friends in Lancashire, as likely to lower the crest of the champion. Gregson’s size was considerably in his favour, he being nearly six feet two inches high, of prodigious strength, and had signalised himself in several pugilistic contests in that part of the country; but, notwithstanding such striking advantages, his pretensions were considered on the score of strength rather than of science. Gregson’s game was unquestionable, and the amateurs wishing to see him enter the lists with so distinguished a boxer as Gully, a subscription was immediately entered into for that purpose.

On the 14th October, 1807, the contest took place in a valley, called Six Mile Bottom, on the Newmarket Road, on the spot where, in later days, the writer witnessed the defeat of Jemmy Massey, of Manchester, and Edwards, of Cheltenham. For miles round this part of the country the bustle commenced at an early hour, groups of people thronging from every direction, to witness the battle. Between nine and ten Gully and Gregson entered the ring, both in excellent spirits and good condition. The former was seconded by Cribb, Cropley acting as bottle holder. Richmond was Gregson’s mentor, and Harry Lee was his bottle holder. Bill Warr and John Jackson were also in the ring; “lest,” says the report, “occasion might demand their services.” On setting-to the odds were six to four in favour of Gully.

The combatants shook hands and bowed to the spectators, as if at a sparring benefit; and at a few minutes after ten o’clock, threw themselves into position for


Round 1.—The combatants fixed each other with a steady eye; a pause; some excellent sparring. Gully put in a well-aimed blow in his opponent’s face. Gregson returned on the side of the head. They closed and both fell.

2.—Gully now appeared conscious of his opponent’s strength, was very careful, and showed some excellent science; he put in another severe hit in Gregson’s face, blood ran profusely, and Gregson fell. (Odds rose 100 to 20 on Gully.)

6.—In every round some excellent hits were exchanged, and no advantage could be claimed.

7.—After some neat sparring, Gregson broke through his adversary’s guard, and put in a straight forward blow on his right eye. This drew blood; the eye swelled and nearly closed; Gully fell and lay quite 184stunned for three seconds. Among Gully’s friends the greatest anxiety remained for some moments, and the odds fell five to one.

8.—Gregson stood up, seemingly inspired with his success in the last round, summoned all his strength, and exerted all his science. Gully rallied; some good sparring, and afterwards both put in some excellent blows, and great skill was displayed in stopping; at last Gregson, by a sudden effort of power, caught up Gully in his arms, and flung him with astonishing force upon the ground; every one expected he would have fallen on him, but this, with the greatest generosity, he declined, for which he was cheered by every spectator. By the amateurs present this was thought to be the finest round that was ever fought, and now all felt convinced that it was only Gully’s superior science that could enable him to stand against so formidable an opponent. (Odds changed in favour of Gregson.)

9.—Gully put in another hit in the face, and Gregson very deliberately laid himself down on his hands and knees. This was thought to be something of the cur, but his conduct afterwards did away with such unfavourable impressions.

11.—Gully struck; Gregson closed, and threw his opponent.

12.—Gully in this round evinced great weakness, and the odds continued in Gregson’s favour; after some feeble hits from Gully, Gregson knocked him down by a most tremendous blow on the forehead.

13.—Gully’s science gave him a superiority again in this round. But he was very weak, and his deliveries devoid of force.

14.—Gregson struck Gully in the face, right and left; they rallied severely, and Gregson fell on his knees, apparently very weak.

15.—After exchanging a few hits, Gregson knocked Gully down.

16.—Gully carried the most marks in the face, and his eye was quite closed; they rallied, and Gully struck his adversary off his legs.

19.—At the end of the last round Gully had a severe fall, but the advantage throughout the whole.

20.—Gregson endeavoured to repeat his successful straight-forward blow, but missed, and while falling Gully struck him. “Foul!” and “Fair!” were vociferated, but the latter was correct, as Gregson was not down.

23.—Gully began to appear more gay, and both combatants rallied desperately; both appeared very weak, but Gully’s bottom was known, and odds were now eight to one in his favour.

25.—Here it was anybody’s battle; the combatants both appeared beaten and exhausted. They were dreadfully disfigured, and neither hardly capable of getting off his second’s knee.

Notwithstanding each from the great loss of blood had the utmost difficulty in making fight, the battle lasted eleven more rounds, each alternately having the advantage, and betting became even. At length they met like two inebriated men, helpless, and almost incapable of holding up their hands either to stop or hit, and every round finished by both rolling down together. Still Gully was the favourite, and by an astonishing effort of nature, in the thirty-sixth round he put in a blow, which, although feeble, was sufficiently strong to prevent Gregson’s rising again in time. Gregson laid for some minutes, incapable of either moving or speaking, but Gully, even now, elated with victory, leaped with joy.

Remarks.—It would be difficult to say which was the most beaten, such spectacles were never before witnessed. The battle was allowed to excel everything, in point of game and slashing exchanges, that ever had been displayed. Even those who had seen Johnson, Big Ben, Jackson, and Symonds contend, allowed this to exceed all. Captain Barclay took Gully off the ground in his carriage, and the next day both combatants appeared on the race-course, but Gregson could not remain long, and on returning home was forced to call in medical aid. Gully in this contest showed he had become much more expert than when he contended with the Game Chicken. He, however, certainly fought at great disadvantage against a man of such superior strength and length as Gregson. He could never make a hit until his opponent chose to begin, as Gregson sparred with his left arm fully extended, which was much longer and stronger than Gully’s. Gregson’s favourite hit is a desperate lunge with his right hand, which nothing can resist, and by that means Gully became so much beaten. Gregson was mostly abroad, and Gully generally returned with great adroitness and advantage. His left arm was severely hurt in the commencement of the battle, in endeavouring to parry the right-handed hits of his adversary.

November, 1807. Notwithstanding Gregson was so severely beaten by Gully in the last month, he still felt some confidence, that in the event of another battle he should prove victorious. His friends gave him all encouragement, and he sent Gully the following challenge, which was forwarded to Norwich, where he was then staying:—

185“Mr. Gully,—It is the wish of myself and friends that I should try my fortune with you in another battle, for £200 a-side. If you are inclined to give me the opportunity, I will thank you to say so, and also to name the time when it will be convenient to meet, to put down stakes, and arrange particulars.


To this Gully immediately returned the following answer:—

“Mr. Gregson,—I accept your challenge, but wish you would make the match for £250 instead of £200 a-side. I shall not delay a moment in returning to town to make the necessary arrangements as to time, place, etc.


As soon as Gully came to town, the heroes met, and the following agreement was entered into, which we give as a specimen of how they managed these matters some “sixty years since:”—

London, December 22, 1807.

“Major Morgan, on the part of Gregson, and Mr. Jackson, on the part of Gully, agree to deposit 50 guineas each this day, and a further deposit of 50 guineas on the 1st of March, 1808, or forfeit the first 50 guineas; and on the Monday following the Craven meeting, the remainder of the stakes to be made good by the contracting parties, or the 100 guineas to be also forfeited; and that the Hon. Berkeley Craven be requested to hold the stakes on the day of battle.


“1st.—The battle to take place on the Tuesday following the first Spring Meeting, between the hours of ten and twelve, a.m.

“2nd.—To fight in a roped square of forty feet.

“3rd.—Neither to fall without a knock-down blow, subject to the decision of the umpires.

“4th.—Three umpires to be chosen upon the ground, viz., two, and one in reference.

“Signed       “CHARLES MORGAN,

Gregson went immediately into training under Mendoza, at the Load of Hay, on the Hampstead Road.

Wednesday, May 10th, 1808, was soon known to be the day fixed for the “big fight for the championship.” On the previous Saturday it was understood in the privileged circle that those who repaired to the confines of the counties of Bedford and Bucks., about a couple of miles from Woburn, would be handy to the spot. This “tip” it would seem reached others than those for whom it was intended for. The Marquis of Buckingham publicly gave notice of his determination to frustrate the sport, by publishing the following notice in the County Chronicle:—

Buckingham House, London, May 8, 1808.

“Information having been transmitted to me, His Majesty’s Custos Rotulorum in and for the county of Bucks., of an intended riotous assembly, aiding and assisting in a breach of the peace, by a boxing match, within that part of the county of Bucks which touches or joins on the counties of Bedford and Herts, near the town of Dunstable; and that the said illegal and riotous assembly will take place on Tuesday, the 10th instant, notice is hereby given that proper steps have been taken for the detection and punishment of all persons acting as aforesaid, in breach of the peace, by the attendance of the magistrates, high constables, petty constables, and other peace officers, entrusted with the execution of the law within the said county.

“Custos Rotulorum of Bucks.”

186What follows may give a lively picture of an expedition to “see a fight” in the days of the “Third George.” We extract from the Morning Chronicle:—

“Some hundreds, whose leisure and disposition prompted them to be in action, started on the Saturday and Sunday, and secured beds and stabling in all the villages and hamlets contiguous to Woburn. The town of Woburn was on Monday in continual motion, all was uproar and confusion, people of all ranks continually arriving on foot, on horseback, and in carriages of all description, and all seeking accommodation which only a few comparatively could find. To add to the confusion, the Marquis of Buckingham did not fail to exert himself for the fulfilment of his threat; all the magistracy of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, at the head of their constables and posse comitatus, with a subsidiary force of volunteers from the surrounding districts, appeared determined to resist this unlicensed incursion into their territories, and to stand an insurmountable barrier to the amusement. The Dunstable volunteers were out very early on the Monday morning, with drums beating, colours flying, cartouch-boxes doubly provided, bayonets fixed, and all in awful military array. The peasantry were shaking with fear, supposing the French had landed, and those who had arrived began to think they were hoaxed, and that they should return without being gratified by the fight. Many who itched to be betting, began to sport on the question whether the fight was ‘to be or not to be,’ and ten to one was frequently betted, that no fight would take place.

“When Monday night arrived hundreds had flocked into the town, and all were eagerly enquiring for beds. Nothing could be obtained of this kind, for the night’s lodging, under 30s. a head, and to sit or lie on the chairs of the public rooms the usual price of a bed was extorted. In one room at Woburn fifteen gentlemen laid on the floor, and were happy to pay for this hard fare, and hundreds reposed in their carriages. The horses, notwithstanding the weather was severe, were obliged to stand without covering. Tuesday came, and these glorious comforts were yet to be endured; pay the price asked you must, as the landlord was generally sharp enough to secure the boots of every traveller, if he had nothing else to lay hold of for security.

“About five o’clock on the Wednesday morning all was again in commotion, and notwithstanding the endeavours of the magistrates, a ring was formed upon Ashley Common, raised with sods about twelve inches from the ground, and about forty feet in circumference. Between six and seven o’clock many of the amateurs came dashing direct from London, in their barouches and four, and in order to direct them to the proper spot, 187Bill Richmond was placed at the Magpie. The multitude soon got the hint, and followed the bang-up leaders. By nine o’clock a number of carriages had arrived, and were safely penned up. The amateurs viewed the ring, and were expressing their high approbation at its appearance, when a messenger arrived with fresh information that the magistrates had seen the ring in the morning, and were still determined to prevent the battle. Many of the knowing ones suspected that this was a hoax, and immediately sent off an express to Hogstale, a public-house about a mile distant, where Gregson held his head quarters. Before the answer, however, returned, Mendoza, dressed in green, and mounted in style, dashed up with two or three well-known amateurs, and gave positive assurances that the battle would not be fought there. Upon this solemn assurance every one started for Gregson’s lodgings, where they found the hero seated in Lord Barrymore’s barouche, with the horses’ heads turned towards Woburn, and escorted by about 150 noblemen and gentlemen on horseback, and an immense retinue of gigs, tandems, curricles, and every species of vehicle. Hundreds not apprised of the change in the seat of combat, were advancing from Woburn. Soon the two streams met, and forming one almost irresistible current, returned through Woburn with accumulated force, the knowing ones leading the way, having been before apprised, that in case of any unforeseen disappointment at the original spot, they were to rendezvous at several places in reversion; the first of which was Sir John Sebright’s, in Hertfordshire, about seventeen miles distant from Ashley Common, the whole extent of which was covered by one solid mass of passengers; and although many had sorely repented their expedition, and returned homewards, the multitude appeared not the least diminished. Broken down carriages obstructed the road; knocked up horses fell and could not be got any farther; a guinea a mile was offered for conveyance, and many hundreds of gentlemen were happy in being jolted in brick carts for a shilling a mile. By two o’clock they arrived at Sir John Sebright’s park; a flat spot immediately opposite the house, but about half-a-mile distant, was pitched upon for the battle, and upon the whole the uninvited guests behaved with tolerable decorum. A ring was formed, the exterior circle was nearly an acre, surrounded by a triple ring of horsemen, and a double row of pedestrians, who, notwithstanding the wetness of the ground, laid down with great pleasure, and the forty feet ring was soon completed.

“About three o’clock a torrent of rain poured down, and every one began to be anxious for the fight; very shortly after Gregson, Gully, Mendoza, Harry Lee, Joe Ward, Hen. Pearce, Cribb, Horton, Dutch Sam, Cropley, 188Gibbons, Richmond, and several other pugilists and amateurs, entered the ring. It is impossible to describe the pleasure that beamed in the eyes of every spectator at this moment, and the welkin echoed their repeated plaudits.

“Cribb and Horton, who, according to their articles, were to fight in the same ring as Gully and Gregson, directly stripped and set-to, both in excellent spirits. Odds four to five on Cribb who very easily gained the conquest.

“Immediately on the conclusion of this combat the champions stripped. Both fought in silk stockings without shoes, and white breeches. Harry Lee seconded Gregson, and Joe Word, Gully. Captain Barclay was appointed deciding umpire. After the usual etiquette they set-to.”


Round 1.—The combatants both sparred about a minute; the utmost silence prevailing in every part of the ring, and every one had his eye fixed stedfastly on the contending champions. Here Gully displayed one of the most signal specimens of the art of boxing that perhaps ever was witnessed, by putting in two most dexterous hits through his opponent’s guard, at the same moment, in the mouth and throat. Gregson fell like a log, and was instantly covered with blood. The greatest commotion was now excited, and peal succeeded peal of applause. (The odds rose six to four on Gully.)

2.—Gregson ineffectually aimed a hit at his opponent’s head, who shifted, and pointed at him. Gully now commenced a rally, and some blows were exchanged to his advantage. Gregson turned round and put in a back-handed blow in the loins; both fell.

3.—Gregson successfully planted a right-handed hit in Gully’s breast, and rallied; but Gully had the advantage of putting in most blows, although Gregson threw him. Gregson’s head had now began to swell, and he continued to bleed freely. (Odds two to one on Gully.)

4.—Gully made play, and after planting two good hits on his adversary’s head, slipped up.

5.—Gregson made a determined hit, which Gully scientifically parried, upon which he ran in, grasped Gully by the thighs, held him in his arms, and threw him down. Great disapprobation.

6.—Some good rallying, but in favour of Gully. Gregson appeared incapable of stopping, and Gully hit him as he pleased. At the close of the round Gregson put in a tremendous blow on the side of his adversary’s head, and both fell out of the ring.

7.—Gully rallied; put in six successive hits on Gregson’s head, and at length knocked him off his legs, without the latter getting home one blow.

8.—In this round Gregson slightly had the advantage. They closed, and Gully received a heavy fall; Gregson’s left eye was now almost closed, his nose broken, the blood flowed copiously, and his head was most hideously disfigured.

9.—Gregson evinced distress, and Gully hit him again severely in the face. Gregson fell on his knees.

10.—As early as this round the result of the battle was considered decided. Gregson fought shy, both eyes being nearly closed. He struck Gully, who was down, but it appeared to be with his own choice.

11.—Gregson excited commiseration; he put his hand to his left eye, and afterwards looked at it; but instantly commenced a rally, which ended again in his discomfiture. Gully knocked him down, but while falling he put in a back-handed hit.

12.—Gregson struck Gully on the breast, who immediately knocked him off his legs by a flush hit in the mouth.

13.—In making play Gully slipped.

14.—Gully again hit his opponent through his guard, both right and left, which brought him down.

15 and 16.—In both rounds Gregson ineffectually attempted to hold his ground. He seemed confused; however, he ran in, and completely bored Gully down.

17.—In this round Gregson became intemperate, and ran in upon his adversary, 189who continued hitting and avoiding him in a most surprising manner. Gregson twice turned his back upon his opponent, and made towards the ropes, but Gully followed him, changed his front, fibbed him, and kept him from falling, until he had hit him into an almost senseless state, and then dropped him quietly between his arms.

18.—Like the former, Gregson was again severely punished.

25.—In this round Gully put in two tremendous blows.

27.—Gregson was brought down by a heavy blow under the ear; and the

28th round decided the contest, Gregson being too much exhausted to be brought to the mark in time. The battle lasted one hour and a quarter.

The superiority of Gully in this battle was evident, and throughout the fight there was no comparison between the quickness, hitting, and confidence of the combatants. Several of the fighting men, and many good judges of pugilism, had great doubts as to the event, from the determined manner in which the former battle had been contested and several entertained a strong opinion that Gregson, having added science to his great strength, from the improvement he had evinced in sparring, had much increased his chances of success. Gully possessed so much confidence in his own abilities, that, a few minutes before he entered the ring, he offered to back himself for £50 (in addition to what he had already betted) that he was the winner.

Without offering further comments of our own on this most remarkable battle, as we do not find any worthy of preservation, in a pugilistic sense, in the published reports, we may take it as a significant fact of the excellence of Gully’s condition, that, before putting on his outer clothes, he advanced to the ropes and addressed the referee and leading patrons of the ring to the effect, that being now in business in a tavern in Carey Street, he was in hopes that he should have enjoyed peace unchallenged. That he had not intended to fight again, nor would he have done so in this instance, had he not considered himself bound in honour to accept Gregson’s challenge. That he had fought with a partially disabled left arm, and that Gregson surely would not urge him to another combat. “Gully then dressed himself, and was brought to town in Lord Barrymore’s barouche. The following morning he was facetiously answering questions respecting the fight, and serving his numerous customers at the Plough, in Carey Street.”[100]

The defeated Gregson was conveyed to the principal inn in Markyate Street, Herts., where he remained until the following Saturday, by which time he was well enough to return to Highgate, on the box of one of the Northampton coaches. Here he remained with a friend at the Bowling Green tavern for some time. Captain Barclay, the Marquis of Tweeddale, and other gentlemen and noblemen made a liberal subscription for him; and at his urgent request he was soon after matched with Tom Cribb, to fight for 500 guineas, in a thirty foot ring. (See Cribb, Period IV.)

In the beginning of the following month (June, 1808), Gully and Cribb took a joint benefit at the Fives Court; Gully and Jem Belcher, Cribb and Tom Belcher, Tom Jones and Tom Blake, Cropley and Dogherty, George Cribb and Wood, were among the leading exhibitors. Gully repeated his 190declaration of retirement from the ring, and public opinion looked upon the coming fight of Tom Cribb and Gregson as a sort of test as to Gully’s successor.

In taking leave of so remarkable a man as the subject of the present memoir, a man who after many years of intercourse with the most eminent public men of his time, arrived at fortune, fame, and even senatorial honours, we may be suspected of panegyric from personal knowledge, and a desire to dilate on a theme so immediately connected with the history of British pugilism as the merits of its professors, while it yet had the name and standing which it has, much through the misconduct of its members, temporarily lost.

Gully, as a pugilist, has well earned a niche in the temple of pancratic fame; and if his battles were not so numerous as many other professors have been, they were contested with a decision of science and game, rarely equalled, perhaps never excelled, and justly entitle him to honourable mention in the records of boxing. His practice, it was well known, had been very confined, and his theoretical knowledge of the science could not have been very extensive, yet his natural courage and quickness surmounted these difficulties, and, with a fortitude equal to any man, he entered the ring a most consummate pugilist. Though his frame was never a model of symmetry, he had many points of the athletic build. His height was about six feet.

We cannot conclude this sketch of Mr. Gully without remarking that, with the knowledge of the world, he united the manners of a well-bred man; intelligent and quick of observation, he united with those qualifications, when moving in a less elevated sphere, that proper sense of his own capabilities, which generally attends intelligence and merit. After a few years passed in the occupation of a tavern-keeper, in which he earned general respect, he was so fortunate in turf speculations, and so well served by sound judgment in racing matters, that he retired and became the purchaser of Ware Park, Hertfordshire. Here he associated with the first circles of the county; fortune still smiling on him, he became a spirited breeder and racehorse proprietor, an owner of collieries, and lastly, in 1832, attained the proud position of one of England’s senators; being returned to parliament as representative for Pontefract, in the first reformed parliament. We recently heard a blockhead object that Mr. Gully was originally a butcher: his father, whom he succeeded, was a master butcher of respectability—so was the father of Cardinal Wolsey. We have had among succeeding occupants of the woolsack, a Newcastle barber’s son, and the offspring of a grocer; one prime minister, 191the son of an actress; another the descendant of a cotton spinner; the greatest engineering genius of our age, the son of a pitman, himself a furnace-stoker, and, as we shall presently see, a pugilist; so that surely such sneers at self-made men by those who have certainly not made themselves are too snobbish and contemptible to affect any but their utterers. A paragraph from the pen of a sportsman must find a place here:

“It was the late Mr. Buckland who, when on a visit to Lord Fitzwilliam, told me of the impression made upon him by the appearance of a fine handsome gentleman coming up the staircase with a beautiful girl in green velvet on either arm—the member for Pontefract, with two of his daughters. Poor “Sylvanus” thus portrayed Mr. Gully in the very zenith of his career:—‘He had permanent lodgings at Newmarket, well and tastily furnished, and dispensed his hospitality to his friends with no sparing hand. An excellent cook, claret from Griffiths’, with an entertaining gentleman-like host, left little to be desired at the dinner awaiting us. Mr. Gully is justly esteemed, having raised himself from the lowest paths of life to the position, not merely of wealth, but to that of intimacy amongst gentlemen, on or off the turf, but still gentlemen in taste, which nought but the undeviating good manners, and entertaining, unpresuming deportment of Gully could for a moment, or rather for any length of time beyond a moment, suffer them to tolerate. No man ever possessed these qualifications, gained through innate acuteness, great common sense, and a plastic disposition to observe and benefit by the chance rencontres with the courtly patrons of his day to a greater degree, taking the early disadvantages he had to contend with into consideration, than John Gully. No man could be more above pretence, or less shy at any allusions to his early and not very polished career, than himself. When I dined with him at Newmarket, as well as upon subsequent occasions, I was most gratified by his manly openness, and lack of all sensitive false shame, on any occasional appeal being made to the bygone. He, on the contrary, entered freely into many entertaining portions of his history, answered all my questions con amore, and with perfect good nature, as to the mode of training, hitting so as not to injure the hand, wrestling, and other minutiæ of the ring; passing the claret and slicing the pine, as if foaled at Knowsley or Bretby. He had a quiet sly way of joking on any turf affair, on which, bear in mind, he was as au fait as Zamiel making a book for the Derby. The turbot came from Billingsgate by express, and the haunch from his own park. Moët purveyed the champagne, Marjoribanks the port, and, as I have before said, Griffiths the Lafitte. We had no skulking host be assured, but the most entertaining and liberal one alive.’ There is a genial tone about this sketch that tells at once for its truth, and it would be difficult to give any man a better character. Gully’s position at every turn and phase of fortune was still a trying one, but no man more fairly earned the respect he gained. There is a very moral of good manners in such a man’s history.”

Mr. Gully died at Durham, on Monday, the 9th of March, 1863, in the 80th year of his age, being born at Bristol, August 21, 1783. He was buried at Ackworth Hall, near that city, on Saturday, March 14, leaving a family of five sons and five daughters, moving in the best circles of society.




One of the most remarkable boxers of his time was the Israelitish phenomenon whose name heads this fifth chapter. In height about five feet six inches and a half; in weight nine stone four pounds, never more than nine stone eight pounds, Samuel Elias conquered some of the best eleven and twelve stone men of his time. When stripped Sam looked, in bust and ribs, more like a twelve stone than a nine stone man, showing he had his muscular power and weight in the right place. His shoulders were remarkably square, his arms round, long, muscular and hard; his hands seemed positively of iron, never puffing or knocking up from the punishing hits inflicted on his antagonist; while the quickness of his eagle eye, and the fierceness of his rally were unexampled among his fellow pugilists. A contemporary writer says: “As a hard hitter we except no pugilist whatever; Gully never struck with more force, nor Cribb more heavily than Sam, whose blows were truly dreadful to encounter.” It was the publicly expressed opinion of one of the most experienced and scientific pugilists of the day, that Sam would be a complete match for the mighty Cribb himself, if they could agree to give alternately merely blow for blow. Bill Cropley,[101] who was a burly and game boxer, declared he would rather stand half-an-hour’s milling from Tom Belcher (see Tom Belcher and Cropley, ante.), than five minutes of Sam’s punishment.

Samuel Elias was born on the 4th of April, 1775, in Petticoat Lane, Whitechapel. As we intend this work, so far as research will make it, to be reliable history, we shall omit the vamped up skirmishes of Pierce Egan, which he says “would fill a volume,” and come to the first authentic record of Sam’s fistic prowess.[102]

SAMUEL ELIAS (“DUTCH SAM”), 1801‒1814.

193If, as we conjecture, Sam had fought the battle mentioned below, the claim, urged by Pierce Egan, for Harry Lee of “first introducing Sam to the circle of boxers,” is mere bosh. We read in “Boxiana” (vol. i. 301):

“Harry Lee, on his return home from Enfield, on the day that Belcher and Bourke (Joe Berks) were to have fought (October 12, 1801), witnessed Sam fighting with a man by the roadside, very much his superior as to size and weight, and from the excellence which he displayed in that contest, Lee distinguished those peculiar traits in the youthful tyro which have since proved his judgment correct, and matured by time and practice, placed Sam as a first-rate boxer, and stamped him a complete pugilistic hero.”

In “Fistiana” (we know not on what authority), this battle is elevated to the dignity of a regular affair, and indexed as “beat Baker, five guineas, Enfield, October 12, 1801.” Possibly Mr. Dowling, who had access to every source of information, and was quite another sort of scribe from “the Historian,” found warrant for the stake and for his chronology.

With the exception of one Shipley, who is represented as the “champion of the Broadway” (Whitechapel), whom he met for a trifling sum in 1803, we do not hear of Sam in the doings of the ring. Shipley is stated to have been fourteen stone, “a scientific fighter, and to have beaten every one hitherto opposed to him.” He laughed at the presumption of Sam in offering to box with him—and treated the Jew in the most contemptuous manner, by making Sam a present of five shillings to stand before him for only ten minutes. The Jew pocketed the cash with the utmost sang froid, and after a contest of fifteen minutes, Shipley experienced such severe punishment that he was compelled to acknowledge the vast superiority of the arm of this iron-like pugilist. Warren, an East End boxer of some note, was also beaten, with ease, by Dutch Sam.

Despite “Harry Lee’s patronage,” obtained in 1801, the Hebrew phenomenon’s entrance upon the regular stage seems to have been delayed till Tuesday, the 7th of August, 1804, when he met the renowned “Pride of Westminster,” Caleb Baldwin,[103] at Wood Green, near Hornsey, for a stake of twenty-five guineas a-side. “On the Monday night it had been resolved that Fairlop, in Essex, should be the battle-field, but late at night the amateurs were informed that the ‘beaks’ of the county were up and active to stop the fight. Accordingly a council was held, Wood Green, near Muswell Hill, 194agreed upon, and towards there equestrians and pedestrians made the best of their way. On their arrival a ring was quickly formed; but owing to the delay occasioned by their being obliged to change the scene of action, it was past one o’clock before the combatants entered. Caleb first made his appearance, accompanied by George Maddox and Bill Gibbons; Dutch Sam following with Wood the coachman, the unsuccessful opponent of Bittoon, for his second, and Puss as his bottle-holder; they immediately stripped and set-to. Odds two to one in favour of Caleb.”


Round 1.—A little sparring. Sam put in the first blow with his left hand, but without effect; Caleb returned with his right, and following it up, put in a desperate left-handed hit over Sam’s forehead, and brought him down. (Odds rose three to one in favour of Caleb.)

2.—Sam shifted, but Caleb stuck to him manfully, put in two well-aimed blows right and left, and brought his opponent down the second time.

3.—In this round Sam displayed more resolution, both put in some good hits, and Caleb’s eye being cut much, bled very freely. Sam undoubtedly had the best of the round. (Odds fell two to one on Caleb.)

8.—From the last related round to this was one continued succession of severe hitting on both sides. Every amateur allowed that better fighting never was displayed. Both were cut and bled profusely, but no one could attribute to either any advantage. (Betting now became even.)

9.—Caleb put in a successful blow in Sam’s temple, which completely knocked him down. Sam putting his hand to his face was considered ominous of great severity, and odds rose again on Caleb.

13.—Caleb supported the superiority he had gained in the last round until this time. Caleb thought Sam appeared weak, and followed him up; Sam, however, put in several severe blows. At the end of this round Caleb showed great irritability, but Sam appeared perfectly collected.

20.—Caleb, through his exertions, began to show symptoms of exhaustion, and to avoid his antagonist’s blows, frequently endeavoured to close, and while struggling for the fall, Sam by a peculiar mode struck his blows upwards, which told dreadfully in Caleb’s face.[104]

23.—For the last three rounds Caleb evinced great distress. After making a blow or two, he was so excessively weak, as scarcely to be able to keep his hands straight before him; he, however, still put in his blows, but devoid of any force. Sam, on the contrary, seemed to gain fresh vigour from his opponent’s exhaustion, and gave no quarter.

26.—Sam now began to display imbecility, and both hit each other blow after blow without making any impression, and so completely were both combatants served out, that neither came to their time. Sam, however appeared least bruised, and the odds were slightly betted in his favour. In this round Sam displayed all that heroism and manly conduct which characterise the courageous pugilist. Having put in a most severe blow on his opponent’s head, over his guard, which stunned him, he was prepared to follow it by a right-handed hit, but desisted, drawing back his hand on seeing his adversary was already falling. Every one present applauded the generosity of the action.

From this to the 37th round, which closed the contest, Caleb fell off in strength; and in his distress several times fell from losing his balance or missing a blow. He became sick, and finally the luckless champion of Westminster was carried off almost insensible. Sam towards the close fought upon the saving system, husbanding his strength. The reporter adds, “in this unequal state of things, it was undoubtedly very wrong to bring Caleb to face his man, who, poor fellow, came willingly up to the last, though he could not hold up his hands, much less hit a blow.” The ring was broken by Caleb’s friends, on a claim of “foul,” “but the umpires would not be imposed upon by so stale a trick, and declared Sam to be the conqueror.”

195Caleb, assigning illness as the cause of his defeat, proposed a second trial with Sam. Accordingly in September a match was made for twenty guineas a-side. Sam however assigned “business reasons” for declining, and forfeited the deposit down.

On Saturday, the 27th April, 1805, there were three battles decided at Shepperton, Surrey. The first between Pearce, the Game Chicken, and Carte, of Birmingham; the second between Tom Belcher and O’Donnell; the third between our hero, and Britton of Bristol. For this battle of thirty rounds, Sam was, according to the report, totally unprepared; indeed he was positively inebriated when it began. Britton was introduced as “a yokel” who was ready to fight for a purse. A spectator says, “For the first four rounds Britton held a lead, when Sam was given to understand that his adversary was a plant upon him. Sam nodded his head, and forcing his man to fight, in a rapid rally dealt out such severe punishment that Britton went down almost done over. Sam’s conduct in this fight was most singular. After milling poor Britton down, he threw himself by his side, and patting him on the back, exclaimed “What, you are a plant are you? S’elp me Cot, I’ll soon plant you;” and once during the battle when Britton rushed wildly in, Sam, with the utmost contempt, threw up both his open hands, calling out to the spectators, “See the vay this plant is trying to kiss me,” and then stepping back quickly, he hit Britton clean off his legs!”

Sam’s fame now spread far and wide; but it would be utterly inconsistent with the character we would wish to impress upon this work, were we to omit a circumstance which occurred about this time, in which the pre-eminence of Dutch Sam was successfully disputed.

In the month of June, 1805, Sam was in training at Thames-Ditton, and on his way to town, over Wimbledon Common, he met one James Brown, a butcher of Wandsworth. A quarrel, how originating we have no account, ensued; and after some altercation, Sam, expecting to strike terror into his opponent, informed him he was “Dutch Sam.” The man very calmly answered as they stood in attitude, “Be you the devil as well, I’ll bang you, now I am at it,” and nobly he kept his word, for he brought Sam down with such terrible arguments every round, that Sam at the close of a dozen bouts, acknowledged he would have “no more of it”; adding that he was beaten for the first time in his life.[105] Such a casual turn-up as this proves surely that Brown was a natural boxer, as well as a plucky, game, strong, and active fellow; Sam’s reasons for not going on, need hardly be dwelt on, as he was in training to fight Tom Belcher. He was, however, very 196much mortified, and deservedly so, when the affair got into the newspapers.

After two postponements, Sam’s match with the celebrated Tom Belcher, was brought to an issue. In our memoir of John Gully, the reader will find the accident narrated which led to one of the postponements. Sam, it was thought by many, considered Belcher too clever as well as too big for him, and wished to shirk the encounter; when unexpectedly, at the latter end of January, Belcher received a challenge from Sam to fight for 100 guineas, naming the 8th of the following month, if suitable. Tom instantly accepted the offer, and his friends covered Sam’s hundred golden pieces, with the most sanguine hopes of the result.

Virginia Water was settled as the rendezvous, and accordingly, on Saturday morning, the 8th of February, 1806, all the amateurs attended, held a short consultation, and decided Sendon Heath, near the village of Thorpe, as the field of battle.[106] The combatants immediately repaired there, a rope ring was formed, and Dutch Sam entered, attended by Dan Mendoza for his second, and Tom Blake, bottle-holder. Tom Belcher soon followed with John Gully and Dick Whale. Betting was lively, but no odds offered. At one o’clock the heroes set-to.


Round 1.—Sam made a feint. Belcher put in a good hit; Sam returned it, and Belcher, putting in another blow, overreached himself and fell.

2.—Belcher put in two good hits right and left. Sam struck in return, but slightly; they closed, and both fell.

3.—Sam aimed a well-directed blow at his opponent’s ribs; Belcher parried well, and with his right put in a tolerably good hit; they closed and fell. (Odds five to four on Belcher.)

4.—A good round. Sam was very gay, went in and rallied; but Belcher parried most of his blows with his left hand, while he advantageously used his right. Many blows were exchanged, when Sam, by dint of superior activity, threw his antagonist. (Betting again even.)

5.—Belcher put in two slight blows, and in the struggle fell.

6.—An obstinately contested round, but much in favour of Tom. Sam went in and rallied; Belcher shifted, and stopped his hits, which were truly desperate, with great dexterity.

7.—Belcher rallied, and put in a most severe blow on the temple. Sam, however, stood firmly, and returned it on the eye; they closed, and both fell.

8.—Belcher’s eye evidently showed the force with which Sam’s blow had been struck. Some good blows exchanged, and Belcher threw his opponent. (Odds two to one in favour of Tom.)

9.—Belcher appeared fatigued. Sam ran in, avoided rallying, and by jobbing at his antagonist’s head and throat, knocked him down.

10.—Belcher made some ineffectual attempts at his adversary’s head. Sam rallied, and Belcher fell through weakness. (Odds now changed in favour of Sam seven to four.)

11.—Sam put in some good hits, which were well parried by Belcher. They closed and both fell, Sam uppermost.

12.—Belcher exerted himself, and appeared not so much distressed in his wind; all Belcher’s blows were very feeble, and he again fell seemingly exhausted. (Odds were now two to one on Sam.)

13.—Belcher recruited, and put in two 197good blows on his opponent’s head, Sam now appeared rather shy. Belcher went in and threw him.

14 and 15.—No blows either round. Sam still shy, and evinced fatigue. Bets level again, Belcher being known to be game.

16.—A good round. Sam, in a passion, went in and followed Belcher round the ring, who put in several good blows.

17.—On this round Tom displayed excellent science; threw in some good hits, but appeared very weak. (Odds six to five on Belcher.)

24.—Belcher kept up a slight superiority. Both combatants very much exhausted, and their hits made no impression.

25.—Sam very shy; did not face his adversary.

26.—Belcher immediately made play at the face, and put in a good hit, and terminated the round by throwing his opponent. (Odds rose in Tom’s favour.)

29.—Belcher in this round was so much exhausted, that all hopes of victory on his part were relinquished.

The contest was, however, spun out to the fifty-seventh round, when Belcher, severely punished, was forced to yield, not having strength enough to keep him on his legs.

Remarks.—This was, without dispute, one of the best contested and most skilful battles that ever had been witnessed. Sam proved himself a truly desperate hitter, and a very powerful man; to the latter quality may principally be attributed his success, for notwithstanding Tom Belcher was this day unfortunate, he stands as one of the prettiest fighters of the day; great allowance also must be made for his indisposition. Sam fought greatly in the Mendoza style, and his having that excellent pugilist at his elbow was no mean advantage.

The friends of Belcher considered this battle by no means decisive of the men’s merits. Belcher himself urged that he was labouring under a debilitating disorder, and moreover that the notice was too short for proper preparation. They proposed to fight for 200 guineas, and named Tuesday, July 28th, 1807, as the day.[107] Moulsey Hurst was the fixture, and as early as nine o’clock in the morning a roped ring was formed, twenty-eight feet in diameter, but before twelve o’clock it was found that the space allotted to pedestrians would not hold the immense concourse attending, and two hours were employed in removing to a more convenient place. As soon as 198the ring was completed, Belcher entered, attended by Bill Warr and Watson; Dutch Sam soon followed, with Mendoza and Bittoon. In a few minutes the combatants set-to, both appearing in good confidence as to the result.


Round 1.—Not much ceremony in sparring. Sam made a hit at Tom’s ribs, which fell short, and Tom put in two desperate blows at his opponent’s head, and retreated. Both now sparred very cautiously; Sam rallied, they closed, and both fell, Sam uppermost.

2.—Sam threw away many hits, at length put in a good right-hand blow in Belcher’s loins, which Tom returned by a severe hit in the face. Cautious sparring again, and Sam put in a desperate blow in the neck, and brought his adversary down. (Even betting yet.)

3.—Sam stood up with great courage and confidence; both put in some good hits, which were dexterously parried. Sam went in, and closing threw Belcher again.

4.—Belcher showed some marks of severe blows in the last rally, and bled profusely at the nose; Sam was not without a few evidences of his opponent’s skill, his eye was dreadfully swelled. Belcher put in a very clean blow over his opponent’s guard, in the face, when Sam closed, and threw Tom with great violence.

5.—It would be difficult to describe the courage and skill displayed in this round. Sam rallied, some good hits exchanged, and they closed; again disengaged, and Belcher rallied, but Sam had a most decided advantage throughout the round, driving his opponent to all parts of the ring, and at length brought Belcher down by a very feeble blow. (Odds five to four on Sam, but betting shy.)

6.—This was also an excellently contested round. After some blows had been exchanged, Sam put in two forcible blows at Belcher’s head, which were well stopped, but he fell, apparently very weak. (Odds six to four on Sam.)

7.—Sam appeared to judge his distances very badly, frequently striking short blows; they closed very irregularly, but Sam threw Belcher, and pitched him on his head.

9.—In this round Belcher gained considerable advantage, hit his antagonist severely in the face right and left, and after another very irregular close, threw Sam as heavy a fall as he had before experienced. Sam, however, still remained the favourite.

10.—Sam made a long body hit, and threw his opponent.

11.—Sam made two attempts at Belcher’s head, both of which were dexterously parried. After Sam had thrown away several blows they closed, and Belcher threw him.

12.—Belcher appeared fresher, but was very cautious; he retreated round the ring; Sam followed him closely, and ran him down on the spot.

13.—Sam made two unsuccessful hits, which were again stopped, and Belcher returned one with great violence; by a slight hit Sam fell, and evinced great distress.

14.—On setting to, it was observed Sam had two black eyes, and Belcher showed severe punishment on his left side. Sam repeated a hit on this spot, and Belcher immediately closed and threw him.

15.—Belcher retreated; Sam followed; no fighting; a hugging close, and Belcher fell, seemingly from weakness. (Odds seven to four on Sam.)

16.—A good rallying round, and some good blows made. Sam put in a good hit in the throat, and they closed, and Belcher threw his opponent.

17 and 18.—No blow of importance.

19.—A hard fought round; each exerted himself to the utmost, and excellent blows were exchanged in a rally at arm’s length, until both fell, as though it had been preconcerted.

20.—Sam hit Belcher on the nose, but was thrown in closing.

21.—A desperate round, all rallying at arm’s length, each hitting and stopping. Sam had the advantage, Belcher being very weak.

26.—In this round Belcher exerted his utmost, followed his opponent with great courage, and displayed great skill in hitting and stopping.

27.—At the end of this round very faint hopes were entertained for Belcher’s success. Sam made play, rallied, and hit three severe blows on Tom’s left side; Tom, however, threw him. (Odds three to one on Sam.)

28.—Greatly in favour of Sam, who put in several severe blows on Belcher’s head, and he fell.

29.—A good round. Sam still kept the superiority; Belcher’s blows were too feeble to make any impression. Sam threw him.

30.—Sam appeared in great spirits, and as fresh as ever, but his eyes were almost closed. He rallied, and Tom, being almost exhausted, was knocked down. (Odds four to one on Sam.)

31.—Every one felt commiseration for Tom. His exertions to maintain the fight received applause, and were truly courageous; but Sam, elated at the state to which he had reduced his opponent, mustering all fire, beat him out of the ring.

19932.—Belcher struck twice, but very feebly, and in vainly endeavouring to rally, fell.

33.—Tom had no chance whatever, his blows were perfectly useless. He fell without receiving a blow.

34.—This was the last round, and it unfortunately created a dispute. Belcher made a blow at Sam, and fell on his knees; Sam made a hit, intending to strike his adversary while on his legs and before his hands reached the earth; Sam’s blow reached him while on his knees. A cry of “Foul” was immediately raised, particularly by those on the wrong side with their bets, and the matter was referred to the two umpires. One of these declared it “fair,” the other “foul.” Mr. Jackson now stepped forward and explained that a man was not to be considered down until his hand had reached the floor, consequently the blow was fair, and Sam must be acknowledged the conqueror. “Notwithstanding this flowing declaration of Jackson’s,” says the reporter, “the umpires, Captain Barclay and the Hon. Berkeley Craven, agreed to refer the matter to Lord Say and Sele. His lordship declined giving a decision, when Lord Archibald Hamilton was immediately solicited, and he undertook the office of judge of appeal. Many meetings of the amateurs took place, and the subject of this foul play was warmly discussed. The rules of Broughton and all the first rate authorities were adduced, but the only case considered as in point throughout the annals of pugilism, was that of Humphries and Mendoza, in the battle they fought at Stilton, in May, 1789 (see p. 73); but from the irritability of Mendoza, the battle in that case was renewed. An offer was now made to Sam to draw stakes, but this was refused, on the plea that, if even Belcher was on his knees, he was doing his best still on the defensive. At length it was agreed on all sides that there should be a new trial.”

The third meeting accordingly was arranged for the 21st August, 1807. The men met at Lowfield Common, near Crawley, Sussex, in a thirty feet ring upon the turf. In the articles it was specified that the following article of Broughton’s rules should be decisive:—

“7.—That no person is to hit his adversary when down, or seize him by the ham, the breeches, or any part below the waist: a man on his knees to be reckoned down.”

Sam was seconded by Mendoza, and Bittoon was his bottle-holder. Tom Belcher was attended by Gully and Ward.


Round 1.—Considerable anxiety was manifested upon the combatants setting to, and the interested spectators were much agitated with hopes and fears, upon the decision of this third contest between two such distinguished pugilists. Sam made a feint with his left hand, and endeavoured with his right to hit Tom’s ribs; but they were stopped, and Belcher returned feebly with his left hand; in closing, Sam was underneath.

2.—Sam going in to rally. Tom hit him right and left, and likewise stopped two blows. In closing, Belcher was thrown. (Betting now commenced—five to two on Sam.)

3.—Sam extremely cautious till he had got his proper distance, when, after making a left-handed feint, he put in a terrible blow under Belcher’s left eye that brought the claret out in abundance, and its effects were so severe that Tom was confused, and, upon exchanging a hit, was thrown. (Three to one on Sam.)

4.—Both rallying, and exchanging hits at arm’s length; no advantage on either side; but the strength of Sam was prominent in closing. He threw his opponent.

5.—A most excellent round, but rather in favour of Belcher. Sam rallied, but without effect, as Belcher hit him off. Notwithstanding, Sam closed, disengaged, and commenced another rally, when Tom put in a most tremendous blow upon the left eye of his opponent, and also threw him a heavy fall.

6.—Desperate fighting; both exhausted, and fell together.

7.—Belcher put in two slight hits; when they closed irregularly and fell.

8.—Rallying and good science on both sides; hitting and stopping in good style, till they both fell. Belcher manifested first weakness.

9.—Sam incorrect in his distances; Belcher gave him a severe fall. (Four to one on Sam.)

10.—Belcher hit his opponent slightly, when Sam threw him.

11.—Sam, full of strength, rallied desperately, 200which was followed up by Tom, but in favour of the Jew. Sam’s blows were dreadful, and Belcher’s face and body suffered materially. He fell from weakness.

12.—No blows given. Tom ran himself down. (All betters, but no one sanguine enough to take them.)

13.—Sam followed the style of his opponent, and ran himself down.

14.—Belcher somewhat shy from the severe beating he had received. He fell from two of Sam’s right-handed body blows.

15.—Belcher made every effort to put in some good hits, but they were too feeble to do execution. He fell from weakness, while rallying.

16.—Of no importance, except both the combatants, after closing, appeared to fall from exhaustion.

17.—Belcher, in attempting to hit his opponent, was stopped, and, in closing, Tom fell between his adversary’s arms on his knees. Sam, who was strongly impressed with the articles, cleverly held up his hands, to show that no foul blows should put an end to this contest.

18.—Sam, in closing, got his opponent’s head under his arm, and fibbed Belcher so severely that he dropped.

19.—Tom fell on his knees; but Sam was on his guard, and only smiled.

20.—Sam beat his opponent to the ropes with considerable ease.

21.—Belcher still giving way under Sam’s superior strength.

22.—Belcher, rather recovered, obtained some little advantage.

23.—Belcher, still livelier, contended spiritedly, till they both fell and lay along on the ground.

24.—Belcher completely astonished his friends by his fine game and resolution, and obtained advantage in a desperate rally, when they both fell, quite exhausted.

25.—Tom’s excellence in the science of boxing was truly conspicuous in this round; his blows were well directed, but not effective.

26.—Sam, to avoid Tom’s favourite right-handed body blow, threw himself on his face.

27.—Sam received a heavy fall, after some irregular fighting.

28.—Belcher claimed considerable respect and attention, from the fine style in which he gained the superiority over his opponent, and also in giving Sam a very severe fall.

29 and 30.—Good rallies took place in both these rounds; rather in favour of Belcher.

From the thirty-first to the thirty-sixth round it was evident to the spectators that Belcher could not win. The onslaughts of Sam were tremendous in the extreme. He followed his opponent to all parts of the ring, putting in dreadful facers and body blows, dealing out punishment till his brave opponent fell, quite exhausted. His brother Jem took him out of the ring in the most feeble state, and placed him in a gentleman’s chariot. It was on the left side, from the kidneys to the crown of the head, where Tom was so severely beaten. Sam’s principal injury was a blow under the left eye, and some trifling marks. The Dutchman dressed himself with perfect indifference before he left the ring. The superiority of Sam’s hitting, and the severity of his blows, were visible throughout this battle. Belcher’s skill was apparent, but there was no comparison in the effectiveness of the two men’s mode of fighting.

Bill Cropley, as yet unconquered, challenged Dutch Sam for fifty guineas, and was accepted. The battle was fixed for April 5, 1808, the same day as that between Belcher and Dogherty, but the officers from Bow Street, appeared with special warrants, and took Sam and his opponent into custody; they were then bound over to keep the peace in four contiguous counties named in the bonds.

A new arrangement was therefore entered into, and on the 10th May, 1808, after Gully’s memorable defeat of Gregson, Sam and Cropley entered the enclosure and immediately set-to. Cropley stood over Sam in an alarming manner, and in the first round caught Sam heavily on the eye. On this success, however, he never improved; he tried every manœuvre to get at his head again, but ineffectually; Sam always got away, and punished him cuttingly for following him up. In twenty-five minutes Cropley was a piteous spectacle, and by the advice of his seconds, gave in.

Sam’s irregularity of living, and what he called his “gin training,” began 201now to tell upon his wonderful constitution; and though his name is of continual recurrence in affairs of the ring during two years, it is not until a quarrel again brought him within the ropes in May, 1810, that Sam publicly doffed his shirt. A series of bickerings and slight disputes had led to an ill feeling between Sam and a tradesman of the name of Medley, for many years after known in sporting circles. These at last came to a crisis in a challenge from Medley, to fight for 200 guineas, Medley putting down his own money. The affair created immense excitement at the time. The Daily Advertiser thus notices Sam’s opponent: “Ben Medley, as he is called by his intimates, is a muscular man, some twenty pounds heavier than Samuels (Elias). He has never before entered the ring for a stake, but fame records great things of him in resenting a personal injury, and as a setter-to with the gloves his excellence is well known at the Fives Court. Sam has regarded this fame so much, that, to avoid risking a chance, he preferred to forfeit some time ago, because he did not think himself in good condition at the appointed time.”

Famed Moulsey Hurst, on the 31st May, 1810, was crowded to excess, and it was with great difficulty that the ring could be kept clear. At one o’clock the champions entered, Sam waited on by Harry Lee and Puss; Joe Ward and Tom Cribb seconded Medley. They were not long in stripping. The betting varied, but the current price was two to one on Sam.


Round 1.—After a little sparring Sam put in a left-handed hit, which Medley stopped cleverly; they closed, but disengaged themselves. Medley stopped Sam’s left again, closed, and threw his opponent.

2.—Medley led off. They closed and broke away. Sam got in a left-hander on the ribs, and following it up, forced a rally, in which he caught Medley a tremendous blow on the temple. Medley fought hurriedly, and slipt down.

3.—Medley appeared quite confused from the violence of the blow on his temple. It evidently had taken much of the fight out of him. He, however, stood up with courage, and rallied. Sam stopped with great dexterity, and by a well planted hit under the chin, knocked Medley off his legs. (Odds four to one on Sam.)

4.—Medley rallied, but Sam brought him down by a body blow.

5.—Medley struck; Sam parried, and threw in right and left; both hits told. They closed, and Sam threw Medley by dint of superior strength.

6.—Medley’s eye was greatly swollen; he appeared shy, retreated. Sam, however, waited for his coming up, and threw in a violent blow on the face, which re-echoed again; they closed, and Sam threw Medley again.

7.—Sam quite gay, went in, and putting in a most tremendous blow in the breast, brought his opponent down.

8.—Medley bled profusely. Sam was coming in to rally, when Medley knocked him down and laughed at him; but his countenance was ghastly, from the tremendous blows he had received in the face.

9.—Sam appeared angry, ran in, and missed his distance. Medley displayed a great deal of science, but was at last knocked down.

10.—Medley was making play, when Sam knocked him down.

11.—An excellent round, and the longest in the battle. Medley showed weakness, yet he put in a good hit on Sam’s nose, who directly knocked him down.

12.—It would be impossible to describe the spectacle Medley’s face and head exhibited, the blood flowing in all directions. Before any blow was struck Medley fell from weakness.

20213.—Medley was again making play, when Sam put in a severe blow in the ribs, and Medley again fell. His side now began to swell.

14.—Sam slipped, but it was thought a trick to gain wind.

16.—Sam went in and rallied. Medley very weak, but gamely bored in upon Sam, who continued plying right and left until Medley fell.

Notwithstanding Medley was in this dreadful state, he continued the fight for thirty-three more rounds; but nature being at length exhausted, and his wounds bleeding beyond the skill of his second’s stopping, his brother declared him conquered.

Sam in this battle displayed great science, and his mercy to his opponent did him still greater honour. Medley showed game, but his hits were too light for a fighter, being in fact the taps of the sparring school.

Sam now resolved to retire from the ring as a principal. He was thirty-five years of age, and had always fought what is termed “up-hill;” that is, men of greater weight and size than himself. It would have been well for him had he adhered to this resolution, as we shall presently see.

Five years had elapsed during which Sam’s intemperance was the subject of regret among his acquaintance, when Bill Nosworthy, the baker, a wrestler and boxer of some repute with the “dead men” of the metropolis, offered himself to Sam’s notice; by whom, as we have already said, the poet’s warning was as unheeded as it was probably unknown:—

“Though I look old, yet I am strong and lusty;
For, in my youth, I never did apply
Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood:
Nor did I, with unbashful forehead, woo
The means of weakness and debility;
Therefore my age is as a lusty winter,
Frosty, but kindly.”

This, Sam’s final ring encounter, took place at Moulsey, on Tuesday, December 8th, 1814. Four to one had been betted on Sam previous to this fight, and he was backed, when fighting, till near the end of the battle, by the best judges in the pugilistic circles.

This defeat (which will be found detailed in the Appendix to Period IV., under Nosworthy), ruined him, and he sunk into dejection, misery, and want. Like many others of the headstrong race of hard drinkers, he was infatuated with the idea that nothing in the shape of excess could harm his iron frame. Indeed, Sam had been heard insanely to boast that he could train on “three glasses of gin, three times a day.” What wonder, then, that he fell? Excess, pride, and conceit destroyed his vigour and stamina, and on this occasion he might exclaim,—

“I’ve touched the highest point of all my greatness,
And from that full meridian of my glory,
I haste now to my setting.”

A few anecdotes from contemporary sources may show Sam’s fistic capabilities even in his decadence. Passing through Wapping, one evening, 203when it was almost dark, he observed a poor Jew and a sailor fighting, and, upon enquiring the cause, he was soon recognized by the unfortunate Mordecai, who had been several times floored by the rough son of Neptune. Sam stooped to pick up his Israelitish brother, when the latter whispered in his ear, “So help my Cot, Sam, I can’t fight any more.” “Hold your tongue, you fool,” replied Sam, at the same time falling down by his side: “you get up and pretend to pick me up: I’ll let fly at him.” This imposition was practised with success, and Sam, staggering on to his legs with well feigned grogginess, went bang in with his one-two at the Jack Tar, in such style that he saluted mother earth in a twinkling. The sailor, upon getting upon his pins, roughly exclaimed, “D—— my ——, this ain’t the man I was fighting with—it’s another. Shiver me, but his blows are like the kicks of a horse—I’ll have no more of this.” He instantly sheered off, while Sam and his friend dropped into a neighbouring gin-shop to laugh over the trick.

It is impossible correctly to ascertain the number of bye-battles in which Sam was engaged; but it is certainly within compass to assert, that he fought above one hundred.

In the vicinity of St. George’s Fields, a stout fellow of the name of Jones, a painter, and a neighbour of Dutch Sam’s, who valued himself upon his milling qualities, publicly declared that he was the champion of that quarter, and frequently had importuned Sam to have a set-to; the latter always declined. It happened one evening that Sam was regaling himself at a public-house, and glass succeeding glass of Deady’s brilliant fluid, had nearly obliterated worldly things from Sam’s pericranium, when Jones, learning the circumstance, entered the premises, and endeavoured to provoke him to a combat, but in vain. At length Jones struck him. This was too much, the staggering Sam returned it, and inquired “whether he was doing right or wrong to defend himself?” An adjournment to the street took place, when Sam, notwithstanding his intoxicated state, appeared to have the advantage, until Jones, seizing him by the hair of his head, threw him down, and struck him violently upon the stones. This unmanly act appeared to have a most unusual and electric effect, for it awoke Sam to a recollection of what he was about; and, to the surprise of the spectators, the Israelite started up exclaiming, “Take care, take care, I’m coming now!” put in such a bodier as nearly deprived Jones of his breath, following it up by a slashing hit over his eye, which levelled the brute in his congenial mud. Utterly flabbergasted by the severity and impetuosity of Sam’s hitting, he fairly bolted. Jones weighed thirteen stone six pounds; and, though destitute of propriety, 204was not without pretensions to science; this lesson taught him summarily the folly of vain boasting, and the superiority of a master in the art.

We cannot omit one bright trait in Sam’s character, and this was his honest determination to win his fight if he could. We read in his obituary notice, “Sam’s integrity was a bright jewel; it was undoubtedly of the first water; he was once tampered with by a large offer to lose a fight (Egan says 1000l.), but he at once disclosed the affair to his backers. If all our pugilists had displayed the like honesty, the ring would be in a very different state.”

Sam’s constitution originally was of the finest quality, and his strength, for his stature and weight, amazing. The day he fought with Cropley he asserted that he was able to “floor an ox.” The Game Chicken once affronted Sam, when the latter informed that formidable boxer that he could not beat him in a quarter of an hour. In private life, Sam possessed a good deal of comic humour; and he passed much of his latter time in the service of Saunders, the equestrian circus keeper, of Bartholomew Fair notoriety.

He suffered considerably in his illness, and died in the London Hospital, on Wednesday, July 3, 1816, in the forty-second year of his age. He was buried on the 4th of the same month, in the Jews’ burying ground, Whitechapel.

As a boxer, “take him for all in all,” while he lived he had no equal; but latterly his stamina was utterly ruined by excessive indulgence in ardent spirits.




As a connecting link between the Second and Third Periods, George Maddox furnishes a career of some interest. He was a civil, facetious, illiterate man, but possessed of manly courage and forbearance. “Though,” says one who knew him, “George Maddox fought more battles than any man I knew of his time, he never had a spark of resentment in his composition. His hardihood and resolution in the battle were not more remarkable than the coolness, almost stoical, with which he spoke of victory or defeat, in his own natural and rough manner. He seemed satisfied, that having done his best, the best could do no more, and generally spoke strongly of the ‘goodness’ of the men who had given in to him.” Maddox was born in Tothill Fields, Westminster, in 1756. In his fiftieth year he entered the lists with the powerful Tom Cribb, then in the prime of his youth and freshness, and, after fighting an hour and a half, the odds were still in his favour. Seventy-six rounds and two hours and ten minutes of courageous fighting passed before “the Veteran” cried “enough!” Once more in his fifty-fifth year he met Bill Richmond, the black (whom he had formerly beaten in three rounds), and after an hour yielded to exhaustion. The spirit did not surrender, but nature left him.[108] There can be nothing added to this but the record of George’s boxing career.

George Maddox was as modest and independent as he was courageous. He never hung about sporting public-houses or low tap-rooms, and never sponged upon gentlemen, nor sought the patronage of the great. After a memorable fight he sunk into his desired obscurity, following his humble occupation, and content with his moderate earnings, as an industrious costermonger, a calling much more lucrative and numerous than in our times. 206Indeed the “donkey dragoons” of Westminster, as they were then termed, formed a formidable squadron; and, among the lower classes, the proprietor of a “neddy and tumbler”—as in the days of slang a donkey and cart were termed—was often a velveteened fancy-dressed person with gold as well as silver and copper in his pocket, or “skin,” a taste for “the Fancy,” an attendant at every sport, the owner of a “tyke” or two, and a “dealer in curiosities,”—rats, squirrels, ferrets, badgers, an occasional mongoose, and fancy “pets,” coming particularly within the range of his tastes and trading.

After many bye-battles, Maddox’s first regular contest was with Symonds (the Ruffian). This took place at Datchet, near Windsor, on Saturday, December 4, 1792. See Symonds, ante, 130.

This battle stands unparalleled for desperation and unflinching resolution in the annals of pugilism. The spot first named was Langley Broom, in Buckinghamshire, but magisterial interference preventing the rencontre, “the wayfarers crossed the Thames carrying their boards and quartering with them, and in a very few minutes erected a stage,” in the renowned Shaksperian “Datchet Mead.” We must here remark, that Maddox was two inches shorter and more than two stone lighter than Symonds, to appreciate the battle which followed. There is no report worthy of transcription of this tremendous fight which is described in generalities. “Columns of our paper would not suffice to detail the rallies, the knock-down blows, the alternate advantages and the gluttony which marked this surprising battle. ‘The Ruffian,’ who was nearly two stone heavier than his antagonist, was by far the most beaten, and totally blind, from the closing of both his eyes, before he would allow himself to be carried from off the stage. Maddox, of course, was not quite in so desperate a condition, as he had the best of the hitting in the rallies, especially towards the latter rounds. It was stated by an experienced amateur that Maddox put in two, sometimes three blows to Symonds’s one throughout the contest,” which lasted two hours, during which 100 rounds were fought.

On Monday, February 10, 1794, Maddox met Hooper, the tinman, but after a game fight of nearly an hour, surrendered to that formidable boxer. (See Hooper, ante, p. 107.)

Isaac Bittoon, a Jew, known for many years after to the visitors of the Fives Court and sparring saloons of the metropolis, was Maddox’s next opponent. Bittoon’s qualifications as a boxer will be found noticed under his name. The battle came off on Monday, December 13th, 1802, on Wimbledon Common. The ground first named was Wormwood Scrubs, but 207“on arriving there a goodly posse of the Bow Street runners, with a number of special constables, had possession of the ground. A council of war now directed that each man’s party should separate and meet again at the five-mile-stone on the Edgware road, to elude the vigilance of the myrmidons of the law. When George and his friends reached the rendezvous, no Jew was there, and they waited two hours in anxious expectation. All hopes of a battle that day were given up, when a messenger on horseback arrived with the information that Bittoon was waiting for his opponent at Wimbledon Common, when off went gig, cart, curricle, carriage, buggy, and tumbler, over Putney Bridge, on a visit once again to the shrine of Jerry Abbershaw. At a quarter before three the pilgrims arrived, the ring was formed, and precisely at five minutes before three they set-to. Bittoon was seconded by Lyons, and Maddox by Joe Ward.

“For the first three rounds the Jew had a clear advantage, having three successive times brought down his opponent at the close of the round, but not without some sharp returns. The combatants manœuvred, then laid aside science for a display of unflinching courage, forcing the fighting rapidly, taking and giving heavily; but in this the agility of Maddox and his superior quickness in advancing and retreating brought the odds to seven to four in his favour. From the sixty-eighth to the seventy-third round, Bittoon recovered strength and well supported the contest. In the seventy-fourth round he threw Maddox heavily, who was also sadly beaten both in the face and body. It was now getting dark, and Maddox persevered to make it a ‘draw.’ Maddox’s brother and friends now entered the ring and stopped the battle, stating that no one could see fair. A general engagement with sticks and fists ensued, to clear the ring. A parley ensued, when it was agreed the battle should be postponed to a future day; the men having been engaged one hour and ten minutes, and fought seventy-four rounds, the seventy-fifth being interrupted as above stated.” The reporter adds, “in the fight both men displayed ‘bottom’ unequalled in the annals of pugilism.” At a further conference between the backers of the men, they humanely decided, that two such brave and evenly matched men should not meet again for the same stake, but each have his backer’s stake-money.

George, now, as on former occasions, like Caleb Baldwin and others of his time, returned to his humble and laborious calling. He however, more majorum, attended whenever there was a “good thing” on. Thus, on the 23rd January, 1804, he was present at the celebrated fight of the Game Chicken and Joe Berks, on Putney Common. The great event disposed of, a purse was got up, and Maddox, then called “the Veteran,” offered himself as a candidate. 208One Seabrook, a dustman, and a bounceable sort of chap, long known as a second rate pugilist, was induced by the offer of four pounds to enter the ring with George. The affair was a farce, Maddox punished Seabrook all over the ring for three rounds, when he fell out of the ropes and declared his arm was broken. “No sooner, however, had he nibbed the gull (Anglicè pocketed the money), than he boastingly swore he was not the least hurt.”[109] “Pancratia,” p. 199.

George’s day’s work was not, however, yet over. Bill Richmond, an athletic American black, of whom we shall hear more hereafter, who had served his time to a cabinet maker at York, and was at this time footman to the well-known Lord Camelford, having expressed himself desirous of a “shy” with a professed pugilist, was indulged by the deposit of a small stake. The affair, like that of Seabrook’s, was of three rounds only. In the last round Maddox caught Richmond an electrifying blow under the left eye, which in the words of the reporter, “so completely queered his ogle, that he at once gave in.”

George, though now in his fiftieth year, was always ready to try “a novice.” At a meeting at Wood Green, near Hornsey, on Monday, June 7, 1805, a subscription purse was offered of twenty-five guineas, twenty for the winner, five for the loser. For this Tom Cribb, “the Black Diamond,” offered himself. The battle will be detailed under Cribb. His after-renowned opponent, besides the advantages of youth, was two inches taller than George. Maddox fought like a hero, and gave in with reluctance, after two hours and ten minutes’ combat, with a stalwart and game youngster with stamina fresh and unwasted. Maddox fell gloriously, and Young Cribb, hitherto unknown, by this contest acquired a pugilistic fame that soon developed itself, and ultimately led him to the championship.

On Monday, June 5th, 1806, three boxing matches were decided at Padnal Corner, Epping Forest. The second of these was between George Maddox, “the Veteran,” and Coady,[110] an Irish boxer, of great pretence, for forty guineas. Maddox was considered “gone by,” and Coady made the favourite. We copy the report from the Daily Advertiser: “Maddox fought in the old style, that of rallying,[111] and in a great measure giving the first powerful hit in each round. Coady always waited for him to begin, and generally hit in return successfully in the rallies. His blows did not, however, seem to tell 209so much or to be put in so sharply as his adversary’s. After the combat had lasted half an hour there was some confusion, and the ring was broken in, but whether by design or accident could not be discovered. The combatants were, however, taken away until another ring was formed, when they again set-to. The combat lasted another three quarters of an hour, when a detachment of the 10th Light Dragoons appeared, headed by a magistrate, who, being also headborough, entered the ring, and with all the moderation and gentlemanly affability becoming his authority addressed the amateurs, informing them they must disperse in the name of the law, or he should be under the necessity of calling in military aid to enforce his mission. Upon this they all retired about a mile further, when the cavalry disappearing they formed another ring.” The name of this magisterial specimen of the suaviter in modo et fortiter re has not been recorded by the admiring reporter, or we would willingly have perpetuated it. Mr. Coady was now called to appear and face his man; but in the interval his eyes had nearly closed. “He refused to enter the ring,” says the report, “so the battle was declared a drawn one.”[112] That there was no further interruption is shown by the fact that there was a third battle, between O’Donnell and Smith. (See O’Donnell in Appendix.)

Maddox once more retired to his vocation as a street dealer in fish, fruit, flowers, and other commodities then generally hawked through the scattered suburbs, now solidified into the enormous mass of the mighty metropolis—in plain prose, he followed his vocation of a costermonger, and was a noted character among the Westminster fraternity. Meantime, Bill Richmond, his old antagonist, had won himself a name and position among the list of boxers, and the blot on his ’scutcheon, from his early and summary defeat by Maddox, so sorely troubled him that he longed to rub it out by another tourney. He challenged the veteran, who accepted the defiance. They met August 9, 1809. John Gully seconded the veteran, and Bill Gibbons, his Westminster “pal,” was his bottle-holder. Yet one more illustration of the soundness of Captain Godfrey’s axiom, not to “trust battle to a waning age,” was given. Maddox in his fifty-fourth year, after fifty-two rounds, reluctantly gave in to his younger, heavier, and stronger adversary.

In all the numerous contests in which Maddox had been engaged, his courage was pre-eminent. As a pugilist, he was conspicuous for determined rallying and quick hitting; and, though well acquainted with the science, 210he relied more on his true game than strictly following the principles of the art. It is but justice to his memory to state, according to the best information upon the subject, that pugilism was never disgraced by any of his public encounters, nor his character ever stained by making a cross.

A short time previous to his death a benefit was got up for “the veteran” at the One Tun Room, Jermyn Street, which was well attended, and at which the first pugilists exhibited specimens of self-defence; among whom several of his old opponents were not backward in assisting him by their efforts, as Cribb, Bittoon, O’Donnell, Richmond, etc.

The death of this courageous boxer was the consequence of an accident. The pipes (in those days hollowed trunks of elm trees) which conveyed water through the Borough Market were under repair, and the dark street “for in those days we had not got to gas,” left with a yawning chasm. Into one of these, while repairing to market before dawn, poor George was precipitated; he received a compound fracture of the thigh, erysipelas supervened, and our hero, for hero he was though humble, closed his career in St. Thomas’s Hospital. George was buried, by the subscriptions of some of his brother boxers in the churchyard of St. George the Martyr.




Caleb Stephen Ramsbottom, for such were the registered sponsorial and patronymic styles of this well-known boxer, was born beneath the shadow of the venerable abbey church of St. Peter’s, Westminster, in what were the head-quarters of the costermongery of western London, in the early days of the third George, to wit, the 22nd of April, 1769. We like to be particular in the birthdays of remarkable men, for Caleb, in his day, was a more noted character, and certainly more of an “original,” than many upon whom biographers have wasted mutton fat, or, more classically, “the midnight oil.”

The reader will best form a judgment of Caleb’s qualities as a “good piece of stuff,” from an unvarnished account of his performances within the ropes. We may premise, however, that Caleb in his later days weighed but 9st. 11lbs., and therefore may well take his own assertion, that he was quite four pounds less when in his younger days he met antagonists, without much distinction of age or height; his own being five feet seven inches.

We shall pass Caleb’s youthful skirmishes with unknown antagonists, referring the curious to “Boxiana,” vol. i., pp. 301‒307. The first of these, we are told, was with “one Gregory,” in 1786, and then follow flourishing accounts of victories over Jem Jones, Arthur Smith, Jerry Matthews, Bill Berks, Wadham (a grenadier), Kelly, “one Jones,” a fourteen stone coal-whipper, Bob Parker, etc., etc., all of which “the historian,” fancifully embellishes with such characteristic touches as would induce us to think that he had himself been eye witness and reporter of the frays.

In 1792, on the 14th of May, we find Caleb’s first recorded battle. It was with the well-known Tom (Paddington) Jones, at Hurley Bottom, after the fight between Mendoza and Bill Warr. They fought for a purse of £20, but after a game and even contest of half an hour, a dispute arose, and the 212battle was declared “a draw.” They were each so satisfied with the other’s goodness, that though they met for many long years afterwards at sparring benefits, outside the ring as spectators and inside as seconds, they never again held up naked fists as adversaries.[113]

After the great battle between Jem Belcher and Andrew Gamble, December 22, 1800, at Wimbledon Common, a purse of twenty guineas was contended for. Kelly, a stalwart Irishman, under the patronage of Coady, “the bruising publican,” and Burke (not Berks), offered himself. The reporter says, “Caleb Baldwin, a dealer in greens, well-known among the Westminster lads as a smart customer with the mufflers, accepted the contest. Joe Ward and Elisha Crabbe, offered themselves as Caleb’s seconds, and Tom Tring was his bottle-holder. They fought merrily twelve rounds in fifteen minutes, when Paddy, who could not latterly get in a blow, yielded to a hearty drubbing.”

In June, 1801, there is proof that Caleb was semper paratus, like other heroes. He was enjoying himself at the Pewter Platter, in St. John Street; Jackling, known as “Ginger,” brother of the renowned Tom Johnson, was there, and spoke contemptuously of Caleb’s capabilities. A quarrel was the result, and a challenge following, Caleb turned out there and then. The paragraph writer says, “Jackling, alias Ginger, Tom Johnson’s brother, having quarrelled with Caleb Baldwin, they fought a severe battle, in which the pungency of Ginger was completely overcome by the acrimony of his antagonist’s fist.”[114] This was thought smart writing in those days.

After Jem Belcher, of whom Caleb was always an admiring follower, had beaten the resolute Joe Berks, at Hurley Bottom, November 25th, 1801, Lee, “the butcher,”[115] made his appearance, followed by Caleb Baldwin, to decide their match for twenty guineas a side. Caleb was attended by Paddington Jones, his old opponent, and Joe Ward; Lee by Maddox and Seabrook. We preserve the report.


There was no time lost in setting-to, and for the first twelve rounds much science was displayed by the lighter combatant, “the Westminster Champion,” as he is now styled. He did not, however, much reduce Lee’s strength, who fought with determined resolution.

13.—Caleb put in two straight hits through Lee’s guard; the second brought down the butcher.

14.—Lee rallied manfully. He got in the first blow; but Caleb stepped in, put on the lock, and threw him neatly. (Great shouting from the “Neddy” drivers.)

21315.—Caleb gave his adversary a clean cross buttock.

16.—Lee had the advantage in hitting; he struck his opponent three severe blows, and brought him down.

17.—In this round Caleb displayed most excellent skill, strength, and activity. At the commencement six hard blows were struck, after which Caleb, fastening on his antagonist, threw him completely over his head. Lee’s back rebounded from the stage with great violence, and he lay panting on the ground.

18.—Caleb slipped and fell, upon the system of husbanding his strength.

19.—Caleb gave his antagonist a heavy knock-down blow.

20.—Lee fought this round with determined courage and great skill, but still Caleb had the best of it.

21.—Caleb gave another knock-down blow, and Lee, who was completely exhausted, gave in.

The contest lasted twenty-three minutes, and afforded more amusement and a greater display of science than even the preceding grand affair between Belcher and Berks.

Lord Say and Sele, The Hon. Berkeley Craven, Sir Thomas Apreece, Colonel Montgomery, Captain Taylor, and many other distinguished amateurs were present.

Jack O’Donnell having beaten Pardo Wilson (Belcher’s brother-in-law), and Smith, was now the recognised “Irish champion,” and he challenged Caleb for fifty guineas a-side, who, nothing loth, entered into articles of agreement. As there was great apprehension that the Bow Street authorities would interfere, the matter was “kept dark,” and on Friday morning, October 21st, 1803, the men and their friends started early by different roads out of town. Wimbledon Common, in the vicinity of that interesting landmark of civilisation,[116] the gibbet of the notorious Jerry Abershaw, was the rendezvous, and there at twelve o’clock all had arrived. Vehicles of every description and thousands of spectators and equestrians thronged the valley, a ring was quickly formed, and at half-past twelve O’Donnell entered, followed by the veteran Caleb. The men immediately threw themselves in attitude. Odds six to four on Baldwin, readily taken.


Round 1.—O’Donnell put in the first blow in his adversary’s side. Caleb returned dexterously right and left, then closing, threw his opponent.

2.—O’Donnell fought very shy, but Caleb stood to his man, followed him round the ring, and put in several severe blows, which were well parried by his adversary. It was here thought O’Donnell was endeavouring to wind Caleb; however, he did not fall off in putting in his blows, and having got O’Donnell to the edge of the ring, put in a most severe body hit, which brought him down.

3.—At the commencement of this round O’Donnell appeared sick from the effects of the last blow, which Caleb perceiving, stuck to him closely, not allowing him even time for breath. O’Donnell tried to avoid him, but failed. They closed, and Caleb again threw him. (Odds had now risen as high as four to one.)

4.—This round was well contested by both combatants. O’Donnell recovered, came up in better spirits, and fought more manfully. He put in several good blows, and cut his opponent over the right eye; they closed, and O’Donnell for the first time threw Caleb.

5.—The sun now was extremely troublesome, particularly to O’Donnell, who shifted and tried hard to get the shady side; but Caleb’s cleverness was not to be out done. Some severe straight-forward blows were 214given on both sides; O’Donnell’s last bringing his opponent down a second time. His friends now again began to hope for success, and odds triflingly changed.

6.—O’Donnell came up smiling; Caleb made several blows tell. A blow from O’Donnell made him stagger, on which he rushed in, and with great force knocked down O’Donnell.

7.—This, although not the last, was the decisive round. O’Donnell set-to with great spirits, and displayed great courage and excellent science. Caleb made several feints, which by many were considered weakness, and the odds fell back to even betting. Caleb, however, caught his opponent off his guard, and planted a most severe blow in his kidneys,[117] which had a most visible effect. They dosed, and O’Donnell was thrown.

8.—The effects of the blow, so powerfully put in by Caleb in the last round, were so great, that O’Donnell was scarcely able to stand. Caleb showed as much fight as ever, followed him up, put in several good blows, and concluded both the round and the battle by giving his opponent a violent cross buttock.

O’Donnell was immediately led off the ground greatly distressed, both by the kidney blow and the last fall; he was placed in a hackney coach, but his friends neglected him even more than Berks’ did; they left him there without any assistance for nearly two hours, while Caleb was carried in triumph round the ground, and also until the termination of another battle, which consisted of forty rounds.

This match was considered extremely even as to the skill and strength of the combatants. Both had fought numerous minor battles, and two or three regular ring-fights, in which neither of them had been beaten. Caleb being some years older than his opponent, O’Donnell’s youth was considered to be an equivalent for Caleb’s more practical science.

The fight above alluded to was between one Beckley, known as “Blue Breeches,” and Clarke, which ended in a draw after fifty minutes’ desperate milling.

In November of the same year, O’Donnell again challenged Caleb for 100 guineas. His friends declared the last fight a mistake, the next they said would be “the real thing.” This, however, came to nothing, and Caleb, who had long wished to try his skill with the Jewish phenomenon, Dutch Sam, was backed by his friends, for fifty guineas; and Tuesday, August 7th, 1804, fixed for the combat, which took place at Wood Green, near Hornsey. (See Life of Dutch Sam, ante, Chapter V.)

This first defeat of Caleb was by no means a dishonourable one, and when in the October following a second match was made, Sam, to the surprise of the amateurs, declined to go on with it, and forfeited his deposit. Caleb’s friends maintained that he was out of condition on the first occasion.

On Tuesday, August 6th, 1805, the long expected battle between Bill Ryan and Caleb Baldwin crowded the Lewisham side of Blackheath with thousands of eager spectators. The seat of combat was not determined until very late on the Monday night, and many who expected it to be at Wilsden Green, travelled there only to be disappointed. A ring having been formed, about eleven o’clock the combatants entered, Ryan attended by Tom Jones and Puss, and Caleb by Pearce, the Game Chicken, and Mountain. Odds were rather in favour of Caleb, but in general betting was even. After the usual ceremony they set-to.


Round 1.—Much sparring; Caleb at last put in two good blows right and left. They closed, and both fell.

2.—Caleb made a hit, and while closing, Ryan threw in a severe blow, and cut his opponent in the face; closed, and both fell.

3.—Caleb threw in some tolerably clean body blows. Ryan ran in and threw him.

4.—Caleb put in a blow over Ryan’s eye; it soon swelled and became black. Caleb terminated the round by giving Ryan a complete somersault. The advantage was all with Baldwin.

5.—A good round. Caleb held his lead by several sharp blows. They closed, and after a sharp struggle Caleb was uppermost. (Shouts for Westminster.)

10.—Every move in favour of Caleb, who was the quicker and more resolute fighter.

11.—Caleb slipped in, hit, and slipped out again. Ryan followed him, when Caleb hit up, closed, and threw him another swinging fall.

12.—Slow sparring. Both blowing, and Ryan very shy of his man. Caleb put in a tremendous blow upon his opponent’s head, and brought him down.

13.—Caleb with great dexterity repeated his blow, and Ryan fell again. (Odds were now five to one in favour of Caleb.)

15.—Ryan very shy. He, however, rallied, and threw in several very good hits. Caleb now began to show exhaustion, as was somewhat expected from his violent exertion.

16.—Ryan began to show to advantage. Caleb was fatigued, and Ryan’s superior strength appeared manifest.

21.—Every round now added fresh superiority to Ryan, who, although much fatigued, threw his opponent every time.

22.—This was the last round in which there was any fighting. Caleb summoned all his courage, put in some well-aimed blows, but was too weak to withstand his opponent, who again brought him down.

26.—Caleb fell, almost exhausted, and while falling Ryan hit him. The ring was instantly broken in, and a cry of “Foul” raised. It was clearly a mere dodge to save the stakes. But while the connoisseurs were debating the question, a party of dragoons arrived and dispersed the assemblage. The combatants, both pretty well thrashed, were put together in a postchaise and brought to London. The fight had lasted half an hour, when this wrangle took place.

At a subsequent meeting it was agreed that the military interference made it a drawn battle. Ryan declined a renewal of the match.

This may be considered the legitimate wind-up of Caleb’s professional career as a pugilist, after twenty years of ring practice (1786‒1806), with one solitary defeat, and that at the hands of the renowned Dutch Sam. From this time Caleb figures as one of the most active and interesting characters in “the Fancy,” and the liveliest leader and councillor of the followers of the ring. For years he was in his sphere a sort of pugilistic Palmerston in the Westminster purlieus of Downing Street. His courage was never doubted; his science was unquestionable; his honesty never impeached, and his fun was perennial. Caleb, though never quarrelsome, was always ready upon warrantable occasion to “sport his canvas.” Few harder hitters were to be found, and many first-rate pupils were turned out by him. In his own dominion, on the downs of Tothill, his opinions upon sporting matters commanded deference, and Caleb’s judgment in matters concerning man, dog, badger, or bull, was almost without appeal.

In May, 1816, a curious day’s “outing” took place, to witness a battle between a couple of “darkies,” hight Stephenson[118] and Sam Robinson; 216“Ethiopian” bruisers, like Ethiopian serenaders, being now in fashion, from the exploits of such men as Richmond, Kendrick, and Co. To Coombe Warren, also, one Bristow, known as “Young Massa,” in the service of a sporting gentleman, had repaired. Caleb as one of the M.C.’s was beating out the ring, when he applied the thong to Young Massa, who, new to his freedom and unacquainted with the person and privileges of Caleb as a public functionary, retorted by a couple of such unexpected facers as drew “the veteran’s” cork. A row was the immediate consequence, in which Caleb proposed to cast the question of his ring privilege to the winds, and then and there vindicate his insulted manhood. He was at length indulged. The two principals actually quitted the ropes and Caleb was “indulged” with “a round or two,” as he expressed it. Bill Richmond hereon offered to pick up Bristow, and Harry Harmer valeted the Veteran. The affair showed that Young Massa was not to be easily disposed of. The report is Pierce Egan’s, though it is not even alluded to in his life of Caleb Baldwin.


Round 1.—Caleb seemed angry, and eager to check this daring novice for his presumption, set-to with great courage, and wished to mill off hand this sprig of colour, but Massa laughed at the attempt, returned hit for hit, and in closing brought the veteran down.

2.—Young Massa not only showed pluck, but his attitudes were imposing, and the champion of Westminster did not know what to make of him. Caleb hit out viciously, which the black returned on the nob of his opponent, and the veteran, in a close, went down undermost.

3.—On setting-to Massa put in a severe facer, and followed it up so strongly, that the champion was fairly hit down.

4.—Young Blacky, full of gaiety, pointed his finger at the veteran, by way of derision, and kept moving with great agility that he might not be smashed by the superior science he had to contend against. Some blows were exchanged, and, in closing, this game sprig fibbed Caleb severely, and brought him again down undermost.

5.—The youth of the Black encouraged him to proceed, and he hit out rather in a scientific style, as if he had taken lessons. Caleb seemed not able to stop him, and the veteran’s sight appeared somewhat defective, as he generally hit short. In closing, as before, the Black fibbed away, and Caleb went down undermost.

6.—Caleb, on his guard, had the best of this round, and, in closing, turned the novice down.

7.—Young Massa seemed an apt scholar, quite on the alert, and, under the guidance of such a second as Richmond he stood more than a chance to do something. He put in three severe hits, got away cleverly, and succeeded finally in bringing down his man.

8.—Caleb’s nob was properly crimsoned, and in every round he received more than he gave. His once acknowledged talent for serving out appeared to be gone by, or else this almost conqueror of Dutch Sam could never have suffered so many rounds to have passed over to his evident disadvantage. The young Black had too much gaiety for him, and he threw the champion against his will.

9.—Caleb got a little into work, and gave Massa a small taste; but he seemed to make no impression; however, he ultimately brought the young one down.

10.—This was a sort of scuffling round, but Caleb had the best of the throw.

11.—Blacky ran in with great velocity, and gave his opponent a tremendous body blow—a perfect winder! It was heard at some distance, and the champion felt not a little surprised. In closing, they both went down.

12.—Appearances were most certainly against Caleb; but yet some trifling odds were betted, from what he had formerly done, that the old trump would be able to come through the piece. At Caleb’s age, the Black must have been considered a dangerous unlucky customer to have fallen in his way, so unprepared as he then was. It was altogether an unfortunate turn up for 217the veteran; and even the terrors of the ring did not in the least abate the confidence of the young adventurer, who hit out and faced his man more like an experienced boxer than a raw chance miller. Caleb again found himself on the ground.

13 and last.—Caleb, full of pluck, seemed to rally all his capabilities into action, and rushed toward the scratch with all the eagerness of a Richard, mentally exclaiming—“Perish the thought; ne’er be it said that Caleb, the renowned Caleb Baldwin, of milling notoriety, ever surrendered his hard-earned laurels into the hands of a mere strippling novice, and that too a Black!” The champion put in some of his teasers, and, it is but justice to observe, that the young one was not a jot behind hand in returning some good hits. It was a milling round altogether, but, in closing, Caleb was again down. Some interference now appeared to be made, and the darling fame of Caleb was rescued from the tottering brink of destruction by Blacky giving in, to the great astonishment and surprise of the spectators, as the young one had only a very slight scratch over one of his eyes. Caleb was thus enabled once more to return to his dominions as the conquering hero. Young Blacky, upon being persuaded to relinquish the contest, received the sum of 30s., collected by subscription, as a reward for the pluck he manifested in daring to enter the lists with so renowned a punisher as Caleb Ramsbottom Baldwin.[119]

Caleb henceforth wisely confined himself to seconding and ring-keeping, in which his services were conspicuous and constant. On May 15, 1817, we find a joint benefit announced for two veterans, Caleb Baldwin and “Old Joe Ward,” now in his seventy-second year. Cribb and Tom Oliver sparred on this occasion. The wind-up was between Caleb and Paddington Jones. “The first-named old trump prefaced his set-to by informing the company that twenty-eight years ago he and his friend Jones fought a tough fight together and had been ‘pals’ ever since. (Applause.) Caleb still retains considerable energy, and the display of the ‘old school’ was very creditable. Two sons of Caleb also exhibited their skill with the gloves, the second with young Perry, who ‘bested’ him. Caleb’s first-born set-to with Jack Martin, but his pipes were out of order and he took off the gloves as quickly as he well could. They will not continue the renown of the father’s name.”

We find Caleb’s name in numerous benefits for his brother pugilists, and in 1819 (Sept. 16), he advertised a benefit at the “Minor Theatre in the Strand.” As these announcements occasionally possess a curiosity from their scarcity, we subjoin one of Caleb’s as a specimen:—

Respectfully acquaints his Friends and the Public, he would be proud to see them at the
On Thursday, 16th September, 1819,

Where he intends to exhibit with one of the Primest Little Nonpareils[120] of the Day; and as several of the First-rate Pugilists have promised to meet him there, he anticipates they will receive a High Treat.

The Cognoscenti, the Lads of the Turf, and the Fancy in general, cannot obliterate from 218memory the amusement they have enjoyed from the able, spirited, and active manner in which Caleb always kept the Ring for them on Days of Sport; nor can it be forgotten, he has fought upwards of Thirty Battles, and was never beat, previous to that unsuccessful set-to with Dutch Sam.

This true-bottomed Champion of his day once moved in comfort and prosperity; and we have to deplore that the case is now altered. We trust a Real-bred Sportsman will never see a Worthy Veteran of the Turf in Distress, and shut up that spirit which should distinguish such a character. The single reflection of


will require no further invitation, nor suffer exertion to sleep on the subject.

The Amusements will commence at Two O’clock.
Tickets, 3s. each, to be had at

Tom Oliver’s, Great Peter Street, Westminster; Randall’s, Chancery Lane; Harmer’s, Plough, Smithfield; T. Cribb’s, Mountain’s, St. Martin’s Lane; and W. Austin’s, the Black-a-Moor’s Head, Whitcomb Street.

On the 8th November, 1827, the veteran Caleb received his last “warning to quit,” and shuffled off this mortal coil, in the spot of his nativity, and many an “old one” recounted his early deeds, with disparaging reflections (not always deserved) on the young ’uns who were likely to succeed him.



ANDREW GAMBLE—1792‒1800.

Andrew Gamble, another of Pierce Egan’s Irish “champions,” appears to have been a powerful, game, hard-hitting, clumsy, knock-kneed Hibernian, of six feet in stature, and a strong fighting instinct. His eulogium may be read in “Boxiana,” vol. i., pp. 239 et seq. We here give what we can find in the contemporary prints.

“Andrew Gamble,” says “Pancratia,” (p. 132), “was born in Dublin in 1771, apprenticed to a stonemason, and early displayed a propensity for the pugilistic art. He is about six feet in height and has contested many battles, particularly those with Stanyard in 1792;[121] with Jones, in 1800; and with Jem Belcher.”

Gamble’s first appearance in the English ring was on the 5th September, 1792, at Bentley Green, nine miles from Colchester, which is thus recorded:

“This day (Friday, September 5), Hooper, the tinman (See Hooper, ante), having beaten Bunner, of Colchester, the day previous, Ben Stanyard, a pugilist from Birmingham, mounted the stage to box with Andrew Gamble, an Irishman. Joe Ward seconded Stanyard, and Hooper was his bottle-holder, looking little worse for his yesterday’s battle. Gamble was seconded by one Williams, and had Ryan for his bottle-holder. The stage was enlarged from eighteen to twenty-one feet square. The spot was Bentley Green, nine miles from Colchester.

“At first setting-to odds were greatly in favour of Gamble, till after some few rounds, when they became even, but Gamble’s superiority gained the bets in his favour five to four, and they again changed to the same height in favour of Stanyard, during the last six rounds, who then unfortunately made 220a foul blow at his adversary, which every one considered would have terminated the battle. Gamble’s friends, however, advising him to continue the contest, they fought another round, at the end of which Stanyard fell and Gamble retired, declaring himself victorious. Stanyard remained on the ground until his friends triumphantly carried him away. The umpires, seconds, etc., had many meetings, and it was at length declared a drawn battle. The contest was well supported, the combatants having met nineteen times in twenty-five minutes.

“To make amends for the disappointment, a bye-battle was fought between two countrymen, and very well contested.”

For eight years we lose sight of Gamble, as a pugilist, until in July, 1800, we find him matched with Noah James,[122] the guardsman. The battle is thus reported:—

“On Tuesday, July 1 (1800), a boxing match which had long been expected was fought in a hollow near the foot of Abbershaw’s gibbet, on Wimbledon Common, for 100 guineas, and bets to the amount of £5000, between Andrew Gamble the Irish pugilist, and Noah James, formerly belonging to the horseguards. Ben Stanyard, his old opponent, and now fast friend, was Gamble’s second, and Jack Bartholomew his bottle-holder; Joe Ward seconded James, and Hall was his bottle-holder.

“About ten o’clock the combatants set-to, when odds were six to four in favour of James; they fought with astonishing fierceness and displayed great science. In the twelfth round Gamble put in a severe blow in the face of his antagonist, and cut his nose dreadfully; in the twentieth he broke his collar-bone, and in the twenty-first his jaw bone; but notwithstanding such a dreadful state of disablement, James fought four rounds afterwards with determined courage, when he fell almost lifeless on the stage.

“James was a Cheshire man, and had fought seventeen battles. He was allowed to display more bottom than any other man. After this battle, being given over by his medical attendants, and considering himself at the last extremity, he sent for Gamble, and generously exchanged forgiveness with the successful champion. Gamble, equally open hearted, gave Mrs. James a very handsome present for the more comfortable support of the unfortunate bruiser.”

This was Andrew Gamble’s best fight. His warm-hearted friends, now 221overrating his capabilities, determined to match him with the best English pugilist of the day, the young Bristol champion, Jem Belcher. December 22nd, 1800, was fixed, and the friends of Gamble, having won the choice of place, named the old hollow, by Abbershaw’s gibbet, on Wimbledon Common, as the spot. How triumphantly he was thrashed may be read in the memoir of Jem Belcher; what disgraceful abuse, and worse, he received at the hands of “his enraged backers,” may be read in “Boxiana,” p. 242. We have extracted it as a specimen of “history,” omitting the small capitals, italics, and emphasised slang.

“Gamble’s being so soon deprived of his laurels, created the most dreadful murmurings among his countrymen, many of whom were nearly ruined from Gamble being defeated. St. Giles’s was in a complete uproar upon this occasion, and the Paddies had not been so neatly cleaned out since the days of the renowned hero Peter Corcoran! It proved a most woeful day for the Irish indeed; the dealers in wild ducks had not a feather left to fly with; the rabbit merchants were so reduced as to be even without poles, and not a copper to go the next morning to market; never were men so completely dished and done up. Andrew’s name had hitherto been a tower of strength, he was the tight Irish boy, and the darling of his country—but alas! the scene was changed, he was now called a cur, an overgrown thing, a mere apology, and was in danger of being tossed in a blanket by his enraged and disappointed backers. Gamble, from this defeat, lost the warm hearts of the Paddies ever afterwards. Gamble appeared truly contemptible in this fight, in comparison with even the worst of his former displays—and it was the opinion of the amateurs, that the evident superiority of Belcher completely frightened all Gamble’s courage and science out of him.”

Sic transit gloria, etc.; Andrew Gamble appears to have returned to Ireland, and probably to his laborious calling.


One of the true breed of old-school British boxers was Jack Bartholomew. His game was undoubted and his style manly. His opponents, too, were the very best men of their day, and if his career was not a brilliant one, Jack was always highly esteemed by his backers, and reckoned a formidable competitor.

222Bartholomew was born at Brentford, Middlesex, in 1770, and early convinced several of the amateurs in that neighbourhood of his gift of hitting, activity, and courage. Jack Firby, who had earned the unenviable cognomen of “the Young Ruffian,” from his conquest of Symonds, “the Old Ruffian,” on the 2nd August, 1791, was picked out as a trial-horse for young Jack, in the regular P.R. A stake of ten guineas seems to have tempted Firby to tackle the youngster. The fight came off on Hounslow Heath, near Bartholomew’s native spot. Firby, who weighed fifteen stone, and stood six feet, considered the stakes “a gift.” Jack, at this time was nearly twelve stone, and stood five feet nine inches and a half, a height and weight which the best authorities have considered “big enough for anything on two legs.” Firby seems to have considered his fame involved, for he fought with unusual desperation, but the youth was not to be “ruffianised” out of his skill and coolness; and after a desperate fight of fifty minutes, in which his firmness and manly intrepidity were finely contrasted with the opponent’s impetuous assaults, Firby was beaten blind, and his “gluttony perfectly satisfied.”

Bill Wood, the coachman, then in the height of his fame, was next matched with Bartholomew. They met on a stage between Ealing and Harrow, January 30, 1797. Bartholomew had the battle declared against him for a foul blow. (See Wood, ante, Appendix to Period II.)

Tom Owen’s renown in conquering Hooper, the tinman, induced him to issue a challenge to Jack; it was accepted, and they met for a stake of fifty guineas, on Sunbury Common, August 22, 1797. Five and six to four were the current odds in favour of Owen, who was the bigger and stronger man, forced the fighting desperately, but he could not break Jack’s guard, and was so heavily punished that in about half an hour he was all abroad, and at the end of the twenty-sixth round, fought in thirty minutes, he was compelled to give in, after a fight of unusual rapidity and punishment.

Bartholomew now met a master of the art in the person of Jem Belcher, with whom he had the honour of fighting a drawn battle, on the 15th August, 1799. His final defeat by the champion, May 15th, 1800, was also without disgrace. (See memoir of Jem Belcher.)

During the period of his active life in the ring, scarcely a battle of note happened without the name of Bartholomew appearing as second or bottleholder. Shortly after his last defeat by Belcher, however, Jack seems to have been attacked by liver disease. He died, after a few weeks’ illness, at his lodgings in the Almonry, Westminster, July 14, 1803. He left a particular request that his body might be opened (against which practice an ignorant prejudice then prevailed). A post mortem examination took place, 223and a considerable scirrhous enlargement of the liver was found. He further requested that his grave should be “as near as possible to St. Margaret’s watch-house.” His funeral was attended by a considerable number of his brother pugilists.

JACK O’DONNELL—1802‒1806.[123]

John O’Donnell, a native of the sister isle, for a short period was much overrated and unduly puffed by what Pierce Egan calls his “warm-hearted countrymen.” We know nothing more of him than that shortly after his appearance in ring circles he was matched with Pardo Wilson, a relative of the celebrated Belcher’s, on Tuesday, October 26th, 1802. The extravagant estimate of “the historian” does not seem to have been shared by the backers and friends of Wilson, as Pardo, whose last and only other fight fourteen years before, had been with Solly Sodicky, a Jew, on that occasion suffered defeat (February 11th, 1789). The ground was Wormwood Scrubbs, on the bank of the Paddington Canal, four miles from Hyde Park. The stake was twenty guineas aside. We copy the report:—

“Wilson was thirty-five years of age, and O’Donnell, who had the advantage in height and weight, was said to be only eighteen.

“About one o’clock a ring was attempted to be formed, but such numbers of people had assembled that it was not without the greatest trouble it was accomplished by two, when the combatants entered. O’Donnell was accompanied by two of his own countrymen; Wilson, by Belcher, his brother-in-law, for his second, and Tom Jones bottle-holder. They began to strip immediately, both appeared in high spirits and eyed each other minutely. When ready the seconds proposed that they should toss up for the side of the ring, each being desirous to avoid the sun. This was agreed to, and the advantage gained by Wilson, in whose favour, on account of his freshness, bets appeared to be. At five minutes past two o’clock, after the usual ceremony, the heroes set-to.”


Round 1.—Both displayed good attitude, and kept a strong guard for some time. O’Donnell put in the first blow, which Wilson parried and returned. Both fell, O’Donnell having received a blow on the lip, which bled a little.

2242.—Wilson made a feint but his opponent struck him at the same time. A few sharp blows passed, when O’Donnell gave Wilson a cross buttock.

3.—In this round O’Donnell displayed great strength. Wilson fell back, and with success chopped at his adversary as he came up to him. Some hard fighting ensued, and O’Donnell knocked down his antagonist. (Bets now changed in favour of the Irishman.)

4.—This round began with some good straight-forward fighting. O’Donnell aimed several blows at the body, which Wilson dexterously stopped and returned. O’Donnell, however, followed him up until he fell. Wilson’s strength appeared to be failing.

5.—Wilson seemed afraid of his opponent, and manœuvred round the ring. O’Donnell, however, stuck close to him, and put in the first blow, and Wilson, though apparently not hurt, fell. (Odds were now three to one in favour of O’Donnell.)

6.—Wilson at the beginning put in a successful blow at O’Donnell’s head; after which O’Donnell gave a body blow, and brought down his adversary. It now appeared settled, but Wilson’s friends persisted he had not yet shown any of his best play.

7.—Wilson now tried to alter his mode of fighting, by allowing O’Donnell to strike, stopping the blow, and returning it with the same arm; but in this he failed, his returns not being successful. O’Donnell followed up, and again brought down his opponent.

8.—Immediately they were up, they set-to with great eagerness, and displayed some excellent straight-forward fighting. Wilson appeared to recruit his strength, but it soon failed again, and he fell.

9.—O’Donnell struck his adversary on the temple; Wilson reeled, and receiving another blow, fell again.

10.—This was a very short round, Wilson received a violent blow on the ribs, reeled, and fell against the people, when Belcher advised him to give in, to which he consented.

O’Donnell being declared the conqueror, his countrymen, of whom there were numbers present, mounted him on their shoulders, and carried him out in triumph.

We think the reader will agree that there is nothing in this victory over an old stale man to call for the epithets of “eminent,” “distinguished,” etc., used in “Boxiana,” nor that the Irishman, should “be so raised in the eyes of his countrymen as their future champion, reminding them of those proud days when Peter Corcoran flourished in all his greatness!” But let that pass.

On Monday, November 15th, 1802, a match having been made between O’Donnell, and one Smith, a boot closer, they met at Wormwood Scrubbs, to decide the contest, for twenty guineas. Lenox seconded O’Donnell, and one Anderson picked up Smith.

After some trouble, and by the aid of Caleb Baldwin, who had recently beaten Jack Lee, at Hurley Bottom, a ring was formed, the combatants entered, and five minutes after two o’clock set-to.


Round 1.—Much sparring. O’Donnell put in the first blow, a straight-forward hit with his right hand, and struck his adversary under the left eye. Smith aimed a blow at his opponent’s head, which O’Donnell caught with his hand, and returned it with a blow on the side of the head. They closed and fell, O’Donnell having the advantage, being uppermost.

2.—Much sparring. Smith put in two body blows, but slight; they closed and fell. Smith under again.

3.—Smith gave his antagonist a severe knock-down blow, by which he fell.

4.—Both shifted. O’Donnell displayed good science. When retreating, and followed up by Smith, he put in several well planted body blows, and brought Smith down; but in falling, Smith struck a tremendous blow in the face of his opponent.

5.—Smith struck O’Donnell on the jaw. The round was well contested, several severe blows being exchanged, by one of which O’Donnell fell.

2256.—Smith being off his guard, O’Donnell put in a severe right-handed blow on the head, but Smith quickly recovered; they closed and fell. O’Donnell beginning to appear weak, odds were five to four in Smith’s favour.

7.—This was a hard round. Smith threw in three uncommonly clean blows; O’Donnell closed, and both fell, Smith under.

8.—A great deal of hard fighting, but O’Donnell shifted. They closed and fell, O’Donnell under. (Bets still remained five to four on Smith.)

9.—O’Donnell had the best of this round, put in most blows. Smith, in striking, slipped and fell.

10.—O’Donnell seemed endeavouring to rally his courage and irritate his adversary, by pointing and smiling; Smith, however, put in some severe blows. They closed, fell, and O’Donnell was again under. (Bets now rose two to one in favour of Smith.)

11.—It was some time before any blows were struck, both shifting. They closed, and O’Donnell gave his antagonist a cross buttock, something in the Belcher style.

12.—O’Donnell evidently mended; both fought well. They closed, and Smith fell under. (Odds still were six to four in favour of Smith.)

13.—Smith threw in two severe blows with great dexterity, one in the face and the other in the pit of the stomach, by which O’Donnell fell; while going, Smith tried to give him a cross buttock, but failed.

14.—Both put in some hard blows, but O’Donnell had the advantage. Smith fell.

15.—In O’Donnell’s favour.

16.—Both shifted; much sparring. Smith fell, but still had the best of the round.

17.—Smith, in retreating, fell; no blows struck.

18.—This round was very short, but in favour of O’Donnell. Smith fell by a blow.

19.—After a few tolerably hard blows were exchanged, Smith struck O’Donnell with great force on the left side of the head; they then closed, and Smith fell under.

20.—At the end of this round Smith had a tremendous fall; O’Donnell also fell on him with great violence.

21.—Both fought hard, but O’Donnell brought down his adversary. (Bets now became even.)

22.—O’Donnell put in a severe blow on the side of the head; Smith slipped and fell. After fighting these twenty-two rounds, neither displayed much external injury, excepting the black eye Smith got in the first round. (This does not say much for either of the men’s gift of hitting.)

23.—After much sparring and shifting O’Donnell brought his opponent down. (Odds had now changed in favour of O’Donnell.)

24.—Smith had the best of this round. After several hard blows had been exchanged, O’Donnell, in making a hit, slipped, fell forwards, and pitched upon his head.

25.—In this round O’Donnell displayed great activity, and by a well-directed blow brought down his opponent.

26.—Smith put in some good body blows, and O’Donnell fell.

27.—In this round the greatest science was displayed by both parties. Some blows were well struck, in which Smith had the advantage. They closed and fell, Smith under.

28.—This round was equal, if not superior, to the last in scientific display. Smith aimed all his blows at the head, and O’Donnell at the body, by which Smith had the advantage. They closed and fell, Smith being under again.

29.—Here O’Donnell manifestly obtained great advantage; Smith fell. (Odds now rose five to four in favour of O’Donnell.)

33.—In this round O’Donnell showed still greater superiority. He put in several very severe blows about the ribs, and as his antagonist was retreating, he struck him in the face and brought him down.

34 to 37.—In every round Smith fell. (Odds rose six to four on O’Donnell.)

38.—O’Donnell struck Smith in the pit of the stomach, and he fell. This blow thoroughly winded him, and it was supposed the battle would have been finished; but Smith by his proper time came up again.

39 to 43.—All these rounds were very short, and O’Donnell evidently had the advantage.

44.—O’Donnell, from having continually throughout the combat used his right hand, had severely strained it, and it was expected that this circumstance would have obliged him to give in, but dexterously putting in a blow with the left hand, he brought down his adversary.

45.—O’Donnell in this round repeated his winding dose in the stomach, which undoubtedly decided the battle, for Smith never afterwards struck any blow of consequence.

The 48th round decided the contest in favour of the Hibernian, Smith being almost too much exhausted to support his guard. O’Donnell by a dreadful blow brought him down, when he immediately gave in, after a contest of one hour and twenty minutes. O’Donnell throughout the battle had constantly struck his antagonist on the left ribs, which part, when the battle ceased, was greatly swelled and bruised.

Coady, Gamble, Berks, Belcher, Wood, and many professors of the art were present. O’Donnell’s countrymen carried him home in triumph, exulting in his glory.

O’Donnell’s game, if not his skill, or his capabilities for punishing, was fully established by this encounter, and he was backed to fight one Henigan. 226The miscarriage of this event may be read in the subjoined paragraph:—“Tuesday, the 18th of January, 1803, was the day determined upon for the decision of a pugilistic contest between O’Donnell, who was now considered by the Irish as their champion, and the restorer of their fame in the noble science of pugilism, and one Henigan, a new candidate of bruising celebrity, brought forward and matched by Jackling, the brother-in-law of the well-known and lamented Tom Johnson. On the night before, however, both these heroes, notwithstanding they each boasted strength in the fore paw, felt somewhat confused by a visit from Armstrong, who without much ceremony conveyed them to Worship Street, and bound them in sureties of £400 to keep the peace for six months. O’Donnell on hearing this considered the fight at an end, but Henigan fearing lest such a restriction might blast his rising genius, determined to run all risks, and accordingly repaired to Dulwich, the appointed Campus Martius. His opponent, however, was not there, and the travellers returned with great chagrin depicted in their countenances.”

O’Donnell’s next opponent was the well-known Caleb Baldwin; but here his friends had made a mistake. He was polished off triumphantly (October 13th, 1803), by the Westminster hero. (See Caleb Baldwin, ante, p. 213.) Pierce Egan thus pathetically records this defeat:—“O’Donnell was matched against Caleb Baldwin, but being defeated—MARK THE DIFFERENCE!!!—No smiles! no shouts! no shoulders offered to support the drooping hero! but he was placed in a hackney coach, to groan and reflect upon the reverse of fortune! Any further comment is unnecessary!!!” With this we fully agree. Where were the “warm-hearted countrymen?”

O’Donnell having some altercation at Belcher’s about his defeat of Pardo Wilson, a challenge was the result. On this occasion O’Donnell, who is styled by Pierce “the celebrated Irish hero,” embraced the opportunity of meeting Tom for a subscription purse of twenty guineas, at Shepperton, Surrey, April 17, 1805, when he was thoroughly thrashed in fifteen rounds.[124]

A big fellow of the name of Emery, who, we learn incidentally, had on a former occasion beaten O’Donnell, was challenged by him for fifty guineas, and the challenge accepted. We copy the report:—

“On Tuesday, December 3rd (1805), a battle was fought in the Five Fields, Chelsea, between O’Donnell, the Irish bruiser, and a man of the name of Emery, for a subscription purse. The combatants had some time 227since quarrelled, when Emery being the bigger man, and O’Donnell out of health, he had an easy conquest, but the result of this battle proved a salutary warning to those who under the conceit of superior strength presume to try conclusions against practised skill.

“A ring having been formed at two o’clock, the combatants entered; Tom Blake (Tom Tough), and Bill Ryan seconded O’Donnell; Emery was handled by Paddington Jones and Wight.

“On stripping Emery showed such astonishing muscle that he appeared capable of seizing his opponent in his arms and carrying him off. He was not only much taller, but two stone heavier than O’Donnell, and among the crowd two to one was betted in his favour, despite a partisanship for the lesser man.

“At setting-to Emery showed great confidence, and stood up in good style. O’Donnell making a feint with his left hand, put in a severe blow with his right on the mouth; they closed, and both fell. O’Donnell in this round displayed all the advantage arising from skill; this he supported, and at the end of five rounds bets became even. In the ninth round Emery exerted his greatest powers, and some good blows were exchanged, but O’Donnell hitting right and left, brought him down. Odds two to one in favour of O’Donnell. The eleventh round Emery made a false hit, and completely ran from his man, and in the following round fell without a blow. O’Donnell continued to support a decided superiority, and at the end of three quarters of an hour Emery resigned the contest, carrying with him marks sufficient to deter him from again attempting to meet a professional boxer.”

O’Donnell, taught by experience, did not fly at the highest game, and avoided Dutch Sam and such professionals of the first rank. An aspirant of the name of Wasdell, a weaver from Spitalfields, having acquired great renown among the East Enders, his friends offered to back him for twenty guineas a-side against O’Donnell. This was arranged, and Tuesday, June 3rd, 1806, and Wilsden Green, near Hendon, named as the day and place. At twelve the combatants entered the ring; O’Donnell was seconded by John Gully and Bill Ryan; Wasdell by Rhodes and his brother. Seven to four on O’Donnell.


Round 1.—Much sparring. Wasdell extremely awkward, hit short twice; in recovering his position, O’Donnell caught him in the body and knocked him down cleverly. (Three to one on O’Donnell.)

2.—Wasdell made play pluckily, but O’Donnell met him and dropped him again.

3.—Wasdell already was marked about the head. He made a plunging hit, but O’Donnell parried it, feinted, followed him, 228and hit him completely off his legs, when he set very quietly on his nether end on the grass for a few seconds, till taken to his corner.

4.—Wasdell tried to catch hold of his opponent with his right hand. O’Donnell dropped in two sharp hits, the left at the head, the right at the body, which brought him to grief again.

5.—The men closed. O’Donnell hit up in Wasdell’s face, and he was down again. (Any odds on O’Donnell.)

6.—Wasdell, game, rushed in furiously, receiving a severe hit in the face, through his guard. The round ended by O’Donnell hitting him off his legs.

7.—O’Donnell well on the body. The men closed, but broke away. Wasdell made another attempt to seize his opponent’s hand, but O’Donnell frustrated his endeavour by a severe blow.

8.—Wasdell was quite done over. O’Donnell fought him as he liked, showing great good humour. He forbore hitting him hard, and pushed him down.

9.—Wasdell would not be denied; he rushed in, when O’Donnell hit him severely right and left in the face, and he fell stupefied. On coming to, he acknowledged O’Donnell to be the conqueror.

In weight and length of arm Wasdell had the advantage, but in science he was the merest novice, totally ignorant of the art of boxing, and scarcely as clever as may often be seen in a street fight.

On the 5th of June, only two days after the above battle, there was a grand field day at Padnall Corner, on Epping Forest, wherein Jack Warr and Quirk, for 100 guineas, and George Maddox and Coady having exhibited their skill, Smith and O’Donnell entered the ropes for forty guineas a-side. Of this the reporter simply says: “The third contest between Smith and O’Donnell was utterly unworthy of detail. O’Donnell proved the victor in five rounds.”

As upon principle throughout these biographies we have avoided the suggestio falsi so shall we eschew the suppressio veri. Jack O’Donnell is one of the warning examples of the effects of dishonest companions. He became connected with a gang of known “putters-up” of robberies; among them two men named Samuel Carter and John Jose. With these men he was apprehended for stealing from a public house kept by Jonathan Kendall, bank notes to the amount of £60. At the September Old Bailey Sessions, 1806, the three were found guilty of stealing, but “not in the dwelling house.” The offence, however, was then capital, the amount being above forty shillings, and they were sentenced to transportation for life. Berks and another of the gang, James Travers, who appears to have been Joe’s tempter, were convicted at the same sessions. (See Berks.)


This boxer had a short career, for a reason that will fully develope itself in the next few paragraphs. He was the son of the “renowned first champion of the same name.” Pierce Egan also informs us that Bill was “a much 229superior fighter to his veteran sire,” which is an opinion worth as much as you please, recollecting that Pierce was then placing his legs under Tom Belcher’s mahogany, and Tom had been beaten by Young Ryan. As the “historian” dismisses him in half a page of large print, we will preserve what we find of him in contemporaries.

“On Friday, November 30, 1804, Tom Belcher, brother of the nonpareil Jem, met Bill Ryan, son of Michael Ryan who fought Johnson, at Wilsden Green, which has become a favourite spot for these encounters. By the articles, Monday was fixed, but a difficulty having arisen, it was postponed. At ten o’clock the combatants having arrived a ring was formed. Belcher first, in high spirits, threw his hat into the ropes in defiance. Ryan smiled at Tom’s style of bravado, and bowing to some bystanding patrons, got within the enclosure. Belcher was attended by George Maddox and Joe Norton, and Ryan seconded by Tom Jones and Dick Whale. In a few minutes they set-to. Odds six to four in favour of Belcher.”


Round 1.—No sparring. Several good hits put in and well stopped on both sides; they closed, and both fell.

3 and 4.—Both rounds greatly in favour of Ryan.

6.—This round was fought with determined courage. Belcher threw in a severe blow on his opponent’s temple, and brought him down. Ryan appeared a little distressed. (Seven to four on Belcher.)

18.—No great alteration up to this round, which was admirably contested on both sides. Belcher struck his opponent very cleverly over the mouth. Ryan rallied, and put in a knock-down blow; Belcher fell and evinced great weakness. From this to the

30th—Ryan supported his superiority, and the odds changed in his favour. Belcher’s friends now began greatly to despair of success, but still he displayed great science and steadiness.

31‒34.—Every one of these rounds Ryan terminated by knocking down his opponent(?)

35.—James Belcher came and whispered to his brother, who seemed to profit by his advice, and contested the two following rounds with great skill and determination, but at the end of the

37th—He fell quite exhausted.

38.—Belcher was, however, brought up to stand another round, and Ryan immediately knocked him down. At this moment the ring was broken, and Belcher’s friends declared the last blow was foul. Bob Watson challenged to fight any man who should dare to say the blow was not foul, but his bluster soon evaporated on Joe Ward’s displaying buff. The affair was left to the gentleman who held the purse, and he decided that Ryan had won it, as Belcher was beaten full a quarter of an hour before. Many of the dons of the first class were there, as Berks, Mendoza, Joe Ward, Bill Warr, Jem Belcher, Holmes, etc.

Bill was next matched with Caleb Baldwin, and fought him at Blackheath, August 6, 1805. The interruption, the chances and changes of the fight, and the decision, “a draw,” will be found under Caleb Baldwin, Chapter VII., Period III.

Tom Belcher, smarting under the sense of defeat, invited Bill to a second trial, which took place at Laleham Burway, Surrey, June 4, 1806. Ryan, although so young a man, was so given to drinking ardent spirits, that he 230was already internally diseased. He was beaten in fifty minutes, twenty-nine rounds, but not without much difficulty. (See life of Tom Belcher, ante.)

Two months afterwards Bill made his last appearance in the ring, Tuesday, June 17, 1806, at Wilsden Green, where he gained by his superior skill a victory over Clark, a clumsy boxer, with not a single pretension beyond strength and pluck.

Ryan’s drunken habits now grew so rapidly upon him, that on June 23rd, six days afterwards, he was expelled from the Fives Court, on the occasion of the benefit of Gully and Elias Spray. Bill set-to with Richmond, and afterwards made himself so offensive as to be formally excluded. No dependence could be placed upon him for an hour, and training was out of the question. He died in obscurity and poverty in the winter of 1807, date not recorded.

ISAAC BITTOON—1801‒1804.

Isaac Bittoon, a Jew of great strength, coolness, some skill in singlestick, fencing, and with the gloves, and well-known for more than thirty years to the ring-going world of the last generation, deserves a place in our Appendix for several reasons. In “Boxiana,” the error of his having beaten Paddington Jones, July 13, 1801, originated, and has been copied into all the chronologies.[125] His draw with Maddox and his great battle with Bill Wood, also deserve preservation, and for these reasons we have given the ponderous Isaac a niche in our history. The first-mentioned affair, the draw with George Maddox, will be found in the life of “the Veteran,” Chapter VI. of this Period. The second, his game fight with Bill Wood, the coachman, shall be given from the report of the day.

“A match having been for some time on the carpet, for fifty guineas, between Isaac Bittoon[126] (the Jew), and Bill Wood, the coachman, the officers were on the alert to find out the time and place of the contest, but the amateurs, always awake, kept these points secret until the night previous, 231when Wilsden Green, the spot where so much courage had been displayed by Tom Tough[127] and Jack Holmes, some few months ago, was settled as the Campus Martius; to prevent interruption it was agreed the fight should take place at ten o’clock in the morning. Accordingly on Monday, July 16, 1804, the admirers of pugilism were active, and the field was filled at an early hour; a ring being formed, at three quarters past ten the combatants entered. Wood immediately began to strip, and appeared in excellent condition. Bittoon followed in high spirits, and after the usual ceremonies they set-to, without any very sanguine opinion being entertained on either side.”


Round 1.—Wood beat down his antagonist’s guard, and put in two blows without any impression; Bittoon returned with his right hand, and some hard hitting followed by both. Wood had greatly the advantage in strength, beat Bittoon against the ropes, by which he became entangled. Here Wood put in some good blows, and Bittoon fell.

2.—Wood put in the first blow again. Bittoon struck several good straight-forward blows, rallied, and a second time fell.

3.—This round was very short. Wood fell, Bittoon gaining advantage.

4.—Bittoon put in several good blows, but Wood rallied, and by superior strength drove him to one side of the ring, where he fell.

5.—Much sparring at setting-to; both exchanged some severe hits. Wood bled freely, but rallied Bittoon again against the rope, and threw him. (Odds were now six to four in favour of Bittoon, for, although he so often fell, his blows did not disappoint in execution.)

6.—The sun being troublesome to Bittoon, he manœuvred to change sides, and had somewhat succeeded, when Wood ran in and threw him.

7.—Wood still kept the shady side, and with great exertion put in several blows which Bittoon vainly attempted to stop, and driving him again to the ropes, Bittoon fell. (Odds remained, however, in favour of Bittoon, who was still in good strength, while Wood displayed signs of fatigue.)

8.—Wood immediately ran in, and closing, threw his opponent, who when down he patted on the head in triumph.

9.—Bittoon on rising appeared greatly exasperated, ran in upon Wood with much fury, who struck him with his left hand, and brought him down. Wood for this gained great applause.

10.—In this round Bittoon resumed his former temperance, rallied, and put in several good hits. Wood, while making a blow, slipped and turned round, during which his opponent took advantage of an opening, and threw in a severe body blow. Wood fell. (Odds still six to four on Bittoon.)

11.—Wood showed somewhat fearful of encountering Bittoon’s hits, but, conscious of his strength, ran in and threw his opponent.

15.—During the intermediate rounds there was some severe hitting, and Bittoon, by adopting the Mendoza style, stopping and returning with the same hand, was very successful. This round had nearly proved fatal to the Coachman; while rallying, Bittoon put in a most severe blow in the stomach, which brought him down, and he laid breathless for some time. A cry of “Time, time,” was vociferated, and he tried to conform to the rules of pugilism by returning in the half minute; this, however, he could not do, and the multitude considering the battle concluded, rushed in. This caused much confusion, and gave Wood opportunity for recovery, and the battle proceeded. (Odds were now ten to one on Bittoon.)[128]

17.—Wood exhibited symptoms of exhaustion, and hinted to his second he could not stand it much longer. Bittoon, on the contrary, was in full vigour, but did not exert his strength, as he found it unnecessary.

18.—In this round Wood, greatly to the surprise of every one, recovered, appeared re-invigorated, and undoubtedly had the best of the round. To the

25th.—Wood supported a superiority, and fought the whole of these rounds with astonishing resolution, but the impression on his opponent was very slight.

26.—During this round the conduct of the spectators seemed to indicate a determination that the Jew should lose the battle. They rushed in, broke the ropes, and pulled up the stakes. To settle this a body of horsemen rode up, driving the crowd before them, and after much mischief formed another ring.

23232.—A general engagement having been the consequence of this intrusion, there was great confusion, and only an imperfect ring was kept up to this round; the advantage during this time was alternate. Bittoon fell at the end of every round, but invariably first cut his opponent by a severe blow in the face. About this time the bustle began to subside, and the battle went on again more regularly.

36.—Wood made a good stand-up fight, and many supposed that, by Bittoon’s frequently falling, Wood had the advantage; but he gained more by his well-aimed hits than his opponent did by the falls. This round, however, finished the fight, as Wood was quite worn out.

A number of Bow Street officers had by this time arrived, and the company retired homewards, a little disappointed as there were no bye-battles.

Isaac, who was always a sporting character among the Israelites of the East End, now retired from challenges, and became a licensed victualler in Whitechapel. For many years he kept a sparring school and saloon for fencing, singlestick, and broadsword, in Gulston Street, Whitechapel. His weight after his retirement so immensely increased, that although his activity was remarkable for his size (he drew at scale seventeen stone), his appearances at the Fives Court, Tennis Court, Jackson’s Rooms, etc., were a standing source of amusement to the visitors. In a song chanted by the celebrated Robert Emery, the Yorkshire comedian, of Covent Garden Theatre, we find a verse apropos of this “feature” of Bittoon’s person and of his “pluck,” then expressed by the word “bottom;” he is describing the “qualities of the millers,”—

“Bittoon then came, a champion bold,
And dealt some hard and sly knocks;
But yet, when all the truth is told,
Some ranked him with the shy cocks.
Still prate like this we must not mind,
A Dutchman true begot ’um,
Whoe’er has seen Bittoon behind,
Will ne’er dispute his bottom.”

At length, in the month of February, 1838, “Old Ikey,” after a few weeks’ illness, breathed his last at the age of sixty, in the eastern quarter, wherein he was so long known, and lies in the Jewish burial ground near Bethnal Green.

BILL CROPLEY—1807‒1810.

As the antagonist of Dutch Sam and Tom Belcher, with whom he made good fights, the name of Bill Cropley has been preserved. As a teacher of self-defence and an exhibitor at the Fives Court for more than a quarter of a century, he is also remembered. Cropley’s two defeats, where in both 233cases he had the misfortune to “catch a Tartar,” were balanced by other contests which were more satisfactory in result. He successively defeated “Jemmy from Town,” Tom Hazel, and George Cribb, brother of the champion.

The first of these we find thus recorded. “An obstinate battle was this day contested between Bill Cropley, well known at the ring side, and for years as a shining light among the stalwart brotherhood of coal-whippers, as ‘a good bit of stuff,’ and ‘Jemmy from Town,’ whose game qualities with Morgan and Rolfe have procured him so much patronage. The day on which this took place was memorable, the 7th of April, 1807, as that on which Tom Cribb (see post) beat Jem Belcher, and the roped ring was the same (twenty feet square), that had been just left by those renowned gladiators. Cropley quickly disposed of his antagonist, twenty-five minutes, eighteen rounds, polishing off the plucky Jemmy without giving him a chance of turning the tide of battle.”

Cropley’s next ring fight was with an aspirant named Tom Hazel (misprinted Lazel under Cropley, in “Fistiana”), on the 21st of August, 1807, at Crawley Common, after Dutch Sam had conquered Tom Belcher. A subscription purse of thirty guineas had been raised by Captain Barclay, Lord Say and Sele, Lord Archibald Hamilton, and other amateurs, for Hazel to try his capabilities, much being thought of his pretensions to the art. Cropley entered the ring, but Hazel proved a mere pretender in actual combat. Cropley took the lead and kept it, throwing all Hazel’s cleverness out, and in fifteen rounds proving the difference between smart and courageous boxing and clever tapping with “the mufflers.”

The year 1808 was unlucky for our hero. His first match was with Dutch Sam, on April 5, for fifty guineas, but was stopped by the authorities, as was that of Jem Belcher and Dogherty, calendared for the same day. It accordingly went off until the 10th of May, 1808, when Gully beat Gregson a second time at Markyate Street, Herts. The “big battle” over, Dutch Sam and Cropley mounted the stage at half past six o’clock in the evening. In the first round Cropley got in heavily, and nearly closed Sam’s right eye, but this was his only gleam of success. He tried “all he knew,” but never again effectively spotted the wily Israelite. Sam was too active, and in twenty-five minutes Cropley’s last chance was gone. Bill gave in at the general desire of the amateurs, though he wished to fight on: it was seven o’clock, and all were “homeward bound.”

On Saturday, June 11, after the fight of Dogherty and Pentikin, a talk about the merits of the recent battle between Bill Cropley and Dutch Sam 234led to some difference of opinion, and an amateur posted fifty guineas for Bill to fight Tom Belcher in the same ring as Gregson and Tom Cribb (October 28th, 1808). Accordingly, at Moulsey Hurst, the heroes met, when Cropley fell, but not discreditably, as may be seen in the life of Tom Belcher, ante, Chapter II., Period III.

Cropley’s last ring fight was with George Cribb, on Friday, August 9th, 1809, at Pope’s Head Watch House, Reinbow, near Margate, after Richmond the Black had beaten the veteran George Maddox. (See Life of Richmond, Period IV.)

George proved a clumsy and slow fighter, a mere receiver-general. He fought desperately and heavily for sixteen minutes, but at the end of that short time was completely “told out,” and taken away by his friends. “The match was extremely unequal,” says the report, “Cropley being equal to Dutch Sam in skill, and much quicker than Cribb.”

From this time we hear of Cropley as a second and a sparrer for a number of years. As late as May 1821, in a kind of supplementary summary of “Boxers who have retired,” Pierce Egan thus notices the subject of these lines. “Bill Cropley, in his day an excellent fighter. His contests with Dutch Sam and Tom Belcher will always preserve his name from obscurity; but, having no patron [he must have been going on for fifty], he follows his occupation as a coal-whipper, but also keeps a school for the minor amateurs. He seldom exhibits now.” “Boxiana,” second edition, vol. iii., p. 554.

We have not found the date of Cropley’s death.

TOM BLAKE (TOM TOUGH)—1804‒1810.

Tom Blake, a civil and ready fellow, whose boyish days had been passed in the navy, deserves a corner in these records of the ring. We shall pass Tom’s “outside” affairs, which were numerous, to come at once to his battle with Jack Holmes, the Coachman, long remembered as one of the most remarkable of the time.

A great company of the patrons of the fistic art having been drawn together by the great battle of Pearce, the Game Chicken, and Berks, January 23rd, 1804, a proposition was made, and a purse of 20 guineas raised, as a prize to be contested for in a few days by two pugilistic heroes, to be approved as a fair match by the contributors to the stake.

235“The candidates, principally second-rate, were very numerous, and from them were selected two boxers, both well-known in the fighting world, and possessed of true bottom. These were Tom Blake, better known by the appellation of ‘Tom Tough,’ and Jack Holmes, a son of Jehu, who in the year 1794 contested a desperate battle in Harley Fields.[129]

“The cash being properly fixed and arranged, St. George’s-row, near the Paddington Canal, the spot where Belcher and Berks first contested, was determined for the battle. Early on the Monday morning, a great crowd having assembled, the owner of the field sent to give information at Bow Street. This the combatants heard, and immediately resolved to start for Wilsden Green, about four miles from town. On their arrival a ring was formed, and at half past twelve the combatants entered, stripped and set-to. Odds six to four in favour of Tom Tough.”


Round 1.—Holmes put in the first blow on his opponent’s left side; this rather staggered him, and following him up, put in a bit with his left hand and brought him down. (Odds immediately changed six to four in favour of the coachman.)

2 to 11.—During the whole of the ten rounds neither of the combatants tried by any manœuvre to evade the blow of his opponent. At the commencement of each round there was no shifting, no attempts at closing, or endeavours to throw each other down, but immediately on setting to one put in a blow, which was returned and manfully supported both right and left, until a hit brought one or other down. This having been the coachman’s bad luck for the last three rounds, odds changed much against him, as high as four to one.

12 to 17.—Tom for the two first of these rounds displayed great advantage. In both he brought down his opponent by the first blow. The four following rounds were, however, more fairly contested; neither showed any signs of distress, and neither could claim any advantage.

19.—This round was contested with as much spirit as though the battle was really depending on the issue. Tom, however, had the advantage. Great applause.

20 to 26.—Both fought with unabated desperation. The odds incessantly varied, being, during these rounds, six to four in favour of one or other of the combatants. Every round brought down great applause, from their astonishing exertions. Tom’s side by this time exhibited marks of many well planted blows, being perfectly raw. (Odds were, however, three to one in his favour.)

28.—This round had nearly proved fatal to Tom Tough, as the coachman nearly carried away his bowsprit. He twisted round, but did not fall, and tacking about put in a severe blow on the coachman’s larboard side, but fell from his own blow. (Odds were now three to one in favour of the coachman.)

29.—Tom came up quite lame; he had sprained his knee in the fall, and could only with great pain point his foot to the earth. His seconds and friends wished him to give up, but Tom insisted on another broadside. Tom being lame, waited for his opponent’s coming up, and throwing out his left hand, struck him and brought him down. This, however, was considered as only chance, or that perhaps Holmes slipped, and odds of ten to four were offered against Tom. From this to the

34th.—Tom every round stood firmly, waiting for the attack of his adversary.

23635.—In this round Tom greatly recovered of his lameness, and got in better spirits. During the round he patted Holmes on the cheek, and said, “Thou’rt a good fellow, but must be beat.” (Odds in Tom’s favour again.)

41.—Holmes rallied, knocked down Tom, and evidently had the best of the round. The combatants continued the contest up to the

48th.—Both hitting as hard as at first. Holmes’ face was now even worse beat than Joe Berks’ during any of his battles, and Tom’s side was sad to behold. Tom, however, was now the favourite.

49 to 51.—The first of these rounds Holmes had the advantage, brought down his opponent in style. Tom, however, perceiving Holmes showed signs of being faint, fought more sprightly, and having put in a tolerably successful blow, any odds were offered that “coachee” would not touch collar again; but greatly to the astonishment of all, the coachman rallied, and in the last round made a wonderful effort to beat down his opponent, and succeeded. This round the one upon which the coachman depended for the success of the battle, for though he struggled hard for the superiority up to the sixtieth round, he failed in the attempt, and yielded.

Holmes’ defeat was considered so much more to his credit than several of his “outside” victories, that the amateurs made a liberal collection on his behalf before leaving the ground.

Blake certainly vindicated his popular cognomen, of “Tom Tough,” in this encounter. His name is “familiar as a household word,” through the ring combats of Cribb, Maddox, Richmond, etc., etc.

After Tom Cribb, “the novice,” had beaten old Maddox, January 7th, 1805, Tom Blake seems to have thought himself clever enough to try it on with the rising “young ’un,” for a purse of 40 guineas, at Blackheath, February 15, 1806. This proved a sad miscalculation. The embryo champion had height, reach, weight, and youth on his side, and poor Tom was finished by a cross-buttock in the last round but one, after an hour’s gallant but hopeless struggle. “Belcher, Ward, Mendoza, Bittoon, Berks, Maddox, and Jack Holmes were present, and a leading amateur offered to back Cribb against any pugilist living, but no one accepted the challenge.” (See life of Tom Cribb, Period IV., Chapter 1.)

Five years afterwards, when forty years old, Tom, rough, tough, and ready, offered himself as a “trial-horse” for the much talked of “young black,” Tom Molineaux. There is no mistaking the pluck of this offer, whatever we may think of its discretion. But as Blake is said to have expressed it, “If he’s ever so good it’ll only be one hiding more, and at any rate I’ll find out what stuff’s in him,” the match went on. The battle took place on the coast, a few miles from Margate. Tom Cribb, by a curious coincidence, seconded Tom Blake, and Richmond—under whose patronage Molineaux then was—seconded his brother black. The resolution of Blake upheld his established fame; he was hit completely out of time by the fresh and powerful young American. The report will be found under Molineaux, Chapter II., Period IV.

From this period Tom confined himself to the functions of a second or bottle-holder. In November, 1814, poor Tom, despite his toughness, caught his death-cold; he was laid up with rheumatic fever, and finally died of an 237attack of paralysis, early in 1815. Tom’s battles were always courageous, and in his earlier day remarkably dexterous and skilful. His gameness rendered him formidable, and his endurance, teste his battle with Holmes, and later with Tom Cribb, fully evidenced that his alias, “Tom Tough,” was a well-bestowed title.

BOB GREGSON—1807‒1809.[130]

Few men were more widely known in the sporting circles of London, for the few years that he made the metropolis his home, than the burly, bigboned, gigantic landlord of “Bob’s Chophouse,” better known as the Castle, Holborn; the head-quarters of pugilism in the great days of the Belchers, Cribbs, and Tom Spring; the first and last, for a long series of years, being bonifaces of this well-known hostelry.

Gregson was born July 21st, 1778, at Heskin, three miles from Chorley, and ten from Preston, Lancashire; and we have Pierce Egan’s word for it, who doubtless had it from Bob’s own lips, that he commanded the Liverpool and Wigan Packet, for several years with credit and respect. What follows is somewhat strange. “For the period of seven years, all the pugilistic 238heroes of Lancashire, as well as those from other parts, that met him in combat, surrendered to his conquering arm, and the name of Gregson was resounded from one end to the other as the proud champion of that most populous county. His pitched battles were numerous; but the skirmishes of Bob were by far too frequent for us to treat upon, and we have, therefore, slightly touched on those achievements which claim a prominency of feature.”

The captain of “the Liverpool and Wigan Packet,” must have had his hands pretty full, for besides “all the pugilistic heroes of Lancashire, as well as those from other parts,” Bob Gregson is related to have beaten a rival for the hand and affections of Mrs. G., of the name of Harry Mandersley; after which one “Ned Waller, a sort of second champion of the county,” had to be disposed of, which he of course was. James Ayschire, Ned Prescot, James Benton, “one Tom Dawber,” Robert Fance, Tom Wright, Bill Hallrop, and other real or phantom boxers, all fall in succession before Gregson’s “conquering arm,” each under circumstances minutely manufactured with a detail and diffuseness that may well excite the envy of the most prolix penny-a-liner that ever stuffed out emptiness with verbose nothings. Finally Pierce brings down the “tremendous Joe Berks,” introducing him in the following choice rhodomontade:—

“The tremendous Joe Berks now made his appearance in Manchester, threatening destruction to all the pugilists in the county, who should have the temerity to enter the lists with him, when Gregson was once more called upon to avenge the honour of his native soil, and to expel, if possible, this daring invader. It was a truly brave contest, and the gluttony of this pugilistic cormorant was never more completely satisfied, and who publicly declared a short time afterwards, that his appetite had never been good since that period. The battle took place at Higher Hardwicke, when after forty minutes had elapsed Berks acknowledged Gregson to be his master.” Need we say, after a perusal of Berks’ memoir, that the whole of this is pure invention. Gregson and Berks never met. The historian proceeds, “Soon after this circumstance,” the imaginary encounter with Joe Berks, “Bob’s prospects in life experienced a material change, owing to a severe domestic calamity, in the loss of an amiable and affectionate partner; and he now not only bid [bade] adieu to Lancashire, but in all probability to pugilism in future, in being presented with a commission in the army, which regiment, named after the county, was quartered at Plymouth, to which place Gregson repaired, to join the standard; but finding that his finances were not able to support the character of an officer with that respectability which such a situation required, he relinquished the project, and entered, rather imprudently, into the gay pursuits of fashion at that place, that when he arrived in the metropolis, to use a sporting phrase, he was nearly cleaned out. Bob now experienced some vicissitudes—facts are stubborn things—and it was from the necessity of the moment only, that Gregson was induced to enter the ring again as a pugilist.” Of this we may believe as much or as little as we please. The Lancashire hero’s first interview with John Gully, seems, however, somewhat inconsistent with “behaviour becoming an officer and a gentleman,” as the phrase runs. His eulogist shall tell it in his own words: “Upon Bob’s first meeting with Gully, at a public house, some harsh epithets passed between them, when Gregson, to show his strength took Gully up under his arm, and threw him down on the ground; upon which a match was the consequence between those heroes.” This is pretty good. We will not, however, pursue this branch of the subject further.[131]


239Gregson, who stood six feet one inch and a half in height, and weighed fifteen stone six pounds, was a Lancashire rough, of undaunted courage, immense endurance, trusting to brute strength for victory, and falling before skilful practitioners of the art of self-defence. His battles with Gully at Newmarket, October 14, 1807; and at Markyate Street, Herts., May 10, 2401808 (for which see life of John Gully); with Tom Cribb, at Moulsey, October 25, 1808 (see life of Tom Cribb), sufficiently illustrate his strength and courage. As to Gregson’s poetical merits, whereon Pierce Egan expatiates in several pages of his own marvellous prose, we may pass them safely to the limbo of lost reputations; lest, however, we should be thought invidious, we will give the best stanza we can find among the specimens preserved in “Boxiana,” vol. i., p. 358, in the Appendix of “Prime Chaunts for the Fancy.”

“The garden of freedom is the British land we live in,
And welcomes every slave from his banish’d isle,
Allows them to impose on a nation good and generous,
To incumber and pollute our native soil.
But John Bull cries out aloud,
We’re neither poor nor proud,
But open to all nations, let them come from where they will;
The British lads that’s here,
Quite strangers are to fear,
Here’s Tom Cribb, with bumpers round, for he can them mill!”[132]

With this specimen of crambo the reader will be satisfied. Some really clever poetical effusions from the pens of Mr. Hunter, of Southampton, Mr. Vincent Dowling and others, which from time to time adorned the columns of Bell’s Life in London, will occur among the records of passing ring events, and these we shall gladly transfer to the enlivening of the pages of our history.

From 1808 to 1814, when Tom Belcher succeeded him as landlord of the Castle, “Bob’s Chop-house,” as it was called, was the head quarters of ring patrons and pugilists. As a business speculation, however, Gregson did not make it pay. The celebrated Yorkshire actor, Robert Emery, of Covent Garden, appears to have been a staunch patron of Bob’s, taking the chair at his opening dinner, and contributing his great vocal and conversational talents to his service on festive occasions. On one of these we find a song containing a stanza laudatory of Bob, in which his early position as the commander of a packet is clearly mentioned:—

241“A captain from afar,
Kick’d up such a racket,
Though not a man of war,
He did command a packet:
Wind and weather howl,
Never did appal him,
Let the tempest scowl,
His lads were sure to haul him.”

After enumerating his four defeats the singer concludes:

“Now he’s got a job,
He keeps the Castle Inn, sir,
In Holborn, call on Bob,
There’s wine, and beer, and gin, sir.
“If once you pull his bell,
You’re sure to call again, sir,
For though in fight he fell,
He’s not the worst of men, sir:
No more he’ll fight for stakes,
He’s done with hits and stops, sir,
With Gullys, Cribbs, or Blacks;
In peace he’ll mind his chops, sir.”

After an attempt at establishing a sparring school in London, Gregson left the metropolis for Dublin, where his peculiar merits were more likely to be appreciated. He opened the rooms once occupied by the “Royal Irish Academy,” as a “School for teaching the art of self-defence,” and is said to have been “well supported by the first class of amateurs in Dublin.” In April, 1819, Gregson was in London, and took a benefit at the theatre in Catherine Street, Strand, at which Donnelly, “the Irish champion,” showed, with an arm lamed by an accident. In August, 1819, Donnelly, George Cooper and Gregson, were on a sparring tour in Ireland, and later we find Bob figuring as the landlord of “the Punch House,” Moor Street, Dublin. In 1824, Gregson, whose health had been for some time failing, died at Liverpool, in the month of November, and lies buried in St. Nicholas’ churchyard.


PERIOD IV—1805‒1820.



“Advance, brave Broughton!” exclaims Captain Godfrey, with manly enthusiasm; “thee I pronounce Captain of the Boxers!” Had the worthy and trueborn writer of “the Characters” lived in the nineteenth century, he would have bestowed this compliment on “honest and brave Old Tom.” Since first the honour of champion was a coveted and distinguished prize for men of bold heart and iron sinew, for men of forbearing coolness and pain-defying fortitude, down to these evil days of wrangle, chaffing, bullying, and shifting, a more straightforward, excellent, simple-hearted, generous, and brave man than Tom Cribb, never held the hard-won trophy.

There are curious parallels to be traced in pugilistic as well as public annals, which exemplify the sagacious remark of a philosophic writer, that history is always repeating itself. Thus renown awakens emulation in other hearts, and bold adventurers are ready to challenge imputed superiority. In such competitions with man, horse, or hound, in athletic exercises, in courage, endurance, and in cool self-reliance even against odds physical or numerical, England has no cause to blush for her sons. In the days of Fig, we have seen that a Venetian gondolier, a formidable fellow, vaunted as “the strongest man in Europe,” proposed to tear the champion’s wreath from—

“England, that never did nor never shall
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror.”

THOMAS CRIBB (Champion of England).

From the Painting by De Wild, 1811.

243In the time of Cribb, the descendant of an African race, remarkable for insensibility to pain, a low cerebral development, and immense muscular powers, challenged the belt, was met by Tom Cribb, defeated, and died a self-destroyed victim to his mortification and reckless excess. In our own time an Irish-American of superior stature, weight, and physique, with the advantages of youth, activity, and unexhausted energy, offered himself as challenger of the belt, which might well be taken as the symbol of the championship of the world. Its holder was a middle weight, whose many hard fought battles had left him outward marks on his person, and still more told upon his elasticity and lasting powers. Yet Tom Sayers undauntedly met the defiance, and the result, though unsatisfactory in the main, showed what lion-hearted courage and a determination to “do or die” can achieve. The trophy was retained in our little “nook-shotten isle,” again to be contended for by Englishmen, though “open to all comers,” without regard to country and colour. But we are anticipating our history, which has now to do with the honest, hearty, and gallant Tom Cribb.

Cribb was born July 8th, 1781, at Hanham, in the parish of Bitton, Gloucester, on the borders of Somerset, situate about five miles from Bristol, and it is rather a disputed point to which of the counties contiguous to Hanham this spot belongs.

Pierce Egan, from Cribb’s own lips, has compiled a diffuse account of his earlier career, to which we are indebted for the following particulars:—

Our hero left his native place at a very early period, and arrived in the metropolis, when no more than thirteen years old, to follow the trade of a bell-hanger, under the guidance of a relative; but the confined occupation of hanging bells not exactly meeting his ideas, and being a strong youth, he preferred an out-door calling, and commenced porter at the wharfs, during which time he met with two accidents that had nearly deprived him of existence—in stepping from one coal barge to another, he fell between them, and got jammed in a dreadful manner; and in carrying a very heavy package of oranges, weighing nearly 500 pounds, he slipped upon his back, and the load fell upon his chest, which occasioned him to spit blood for several days afterwards. By the excellence of his constitution, he was soon enabled to recover his strength from those severe accidents; and aided by the invigorating air of the ocean, upon which he had the honour of serving against the enemies of his country, his fine natural stamina was improved. The natural good temper and forbearance of this brave man has left his historian little to record in the way of skirmishes; and the important contests which it will become our duty and pleasing task to record, were all conducted 244on the principles of professional boxing—the very first elements of which are manliness, forbearance, and fair play. Though Cribb was generally considered a slow fighter, he was as generally admired as a sure hitter; his wind was of the first quality, and his game never excelled. With such sound pugilistic pretensions it will not appear surprising that Tom quickly scaled his way to fame and fortune, in which career we shall leave his actions to speak for themselves.

In the beginning of 1805, Cribb fought his first public battle with that veteran of fistic glory, George Maddox, on Wood Green, near Highgate, January 7th, 1805, for a subscription purse of twenty-five guineas—twenty for the winner and five for the loser. The disparity of years was considerable between the combatants; and Cribb, besides possessing the advantages of youth, was somewhat taller than Maddox, and, consequently rather the favourite.

As we find no report, beyond a mere mention of this fight in “Boxiana,” or elsewhere, we give the brief account we find in the weekly papers: “On Monday (January 7), at Wood Green, about two miles north of Highgate, a severe boxing match took place, between the pugilistic veteran, George Maddox (in his 50th year), and Thomas Cribb, a young man, who had never entered the lists before, but known in the neighbourhood of Wapping, where he has been working as a coal-porter, as ‘the Black Diamond.’ Maddox’s second was Tom Jones, and Black Sam sympathetically seconded the Black Diamond.

“The contest was for an amateur subscription purse of 25 guineas, 20 for the winner, and five for the loser. A ring having been formed, at about twelve o’clock the combatants entered. On stripping appearances were greatly in favour of Cribb; he being a well made man, standing five feet ten inches, about two inches taller than Maddox. After the usual ceremonies they set-to.”


Round 1.—This was little more than sparring. The Diamond put in a blow, but no harm done.

4.—Well contested. Maddox showed considerable skill, and finished it by closing his opponent’s eye. (Odds rose two to one in favour of George.) From this to the

30th.—Nothing of consequence happened; both men fought desperately, Maddox with great tact as well as pluck, and each endeavoured to out-do his opponent. Maddox by this time finding his antagonist possessed good bottom, exerted his utmost to blind him, and hit always at his head, Cribb fighting with undaunted courage.

40.—By this time they had fought exactly an hour, and Cribb’s eye was severely hurt. (Odds four to one on Maddox.) To the

52nd.—Was a continued series of hard fighting.

53.—Odds again rose in favour of Maddox, and he put in a most severe blow a little beneath his opponent’s left eye, which perfectly closed it. The fight had now lasted one hour and a half; but from this to the

60th.—Maddox continued to lose ground, 245becoming almost worn out. The friends and partisans of Maddox perceiving this, got up a row in another part of the ring, and his seconds led him off, declaring it a drawn battle. On this Cribb demanded the purse; but this was refused, and a general engagement ensued. Caleb Baldwin, Tom Jones, Black Sam, Dutch Sam, and the spectators took a very active share. During the scuffle some ruffian treacherously cut Cribb over the head with a stick. Order, however, was, after some time, restored, and Cribb insisted either on the purse or that his antagonist should return to the combat. This generous offer was to Maddox’s friends a perfect poser, but rather than lose ‘the cole,’ they brought George out of a hackney coach to renew the fight, and the combatants again set-to. They supported the contest for sixteen rounds, making in all seventy-six, and the time two hours and twelve minutes, when George, thoroughly exhausted, gave in. Cribb, having but just come forward, found but few friends, and consequently was obliged to put up with much unfair play.

Such is the contemporary report, and one that shows that the “win, tie, or wrangle” school is not altogether modern, and that ruffians at the ring side, as elsewhere, were among our grandfathers as in the present time. Cribb’s reputation rose greatly by the coolness, even temper, and game he displayed, as a novice contending against one of the best and most experienced tacticians of his time.

Young Cribb was well in three days, and at the Fives Court, where he was challenged by Tom Blake (Tom Tough). See Appendix, ante, p. 236. Preliminaries were quickly arranged, and a month’s time given, February 15th, 1805, being appointed, on which day they met on Blackheath. We quote the report:—


Both parties had been a month in training. All the patrons and admirers of pugilism having gained information on the preceding evening of the seat of combat, early in the morning Blackheath was thronged. A ring was formed, and about eleven o’clock Cribb entered, accompanied by Richmond, the black, and Joe Norton, as his seconds. Blake soon followed, with Dick Hall and Webb, for his attendants. They stripped, and immediately set-to. Bets even, but odds generally considered in favour of Cribb, from his known agility and skill. The combatants met each other with great eagerness, and each put in some exceedingly good blows. For a quarter of an hour bets remained stationary, and both champions in that time had displayed a degree of science and courage almost unprecedented. Cribb, however, being longer in the reach than his opponent, it was seldom Blake could effectively get home a blow. At the end of an hour Blake began to show great symptoms of distress, and odds were now strongly betted in favour of Cribb. Still Blake stood up manfully, and displayed a great deal of his usual dexterity. Until within the two last rounds of the battle, Cribb astonishingly supported his advantage; but here Blake brought his utmost, both in strength and skill, into action. He put in several excellent straight hits about his opponent’s head; Cribb rallied most determinedly. Blake recovered and returned to the rally, but overreaching himself, Cribb threw him a cross-buttock.

The next round decided the contest; Blake found he was fighting at an overpowering disadvantage, and gave in. Blake was extremely weak; he could hardly stand; and Cribb showed marks of his antagonist’s dexterity.

Belcher, Warr, Mendoza, Bittoon, Berks, Maddox, and Jack Holmes were there. Several amateurs offered to back Cribb against any pugilist going, but no one accepted the challenge.

Cribb was not allowed to rest long upon the laurels he had thus acquired by two victories in two months. A ponderous Jew, known as Ikey Pig, well known among the sparring schools, fancied he could take the shine 246out of the Black Diamond, whom many declared to be “slow as a top.” Fifty guineas was posted, and Blackheath named as the rendezvous. On May 21st, 1805, the battle came off. Tom Jones seconded Cribb, and Will Wood, the coachman, picked up the Jew.

For the first quarter of an hour Ikey made good use of his strength. He closed at the end of each round, and brought Cribb down heavily more than once. Cribb fought very steadily and cautiously, generally drawing his man after him. Being, however, down and undermost at the end of several rounds, superficial observers thought that Cribb had the worst of it, and betted against him. In the eighth and ninth rounds, however, though Cribb was down, Ikey’s friends perceived their man had much the worst of it. He was not only much disfigured but sadly distressed by some heavy half-arm hits which Cribb had delivered with the right on his left side. They fought two more rounds, making eleven in all, when Ikey, who was terribly distressed, refused to fight any more, alleging that he had sprained his wrist. “This defeat sadly mortified many of the Israelites, who considered Ikey had shown ‘the white feather.’ It was afterwards, however, agreed that he had no chance of victory.”

Cribb was unquestionably “going the pace,” and “it is the pace that kills.” The next month (June), he was matched to fight George Nicholls, on the 20th July. They met at Broadwater, and here Cribb experienced his first and last defeat. The details will be found under Nicholls’ memoir in the Appendix to this Period.

As colour or country made no difference to Tom Cribb, any more than to his smaller successor Tom Sayers, Cribb entered the ring on the 8th October, 1805, with Bill Richmond, the black, at Hailsham, Sussex, after Gully had been defeated by the accomplished Pearce, the Game Chicken. The purse was 25 guineas, twenty to the winner.

“At any other time,” says the reporter, “a contest between these men would have demanded the greatest attention, but so highly were the minds of the amateurs excited by the merit of the first contenders, that little notice seemed paid to the present battle. To call it a battle, however, is to disgrace the synonyme of fight. It was a most unequal match. Richmond, finding he could not get at his steady and formidable opponent, hopped and danced about the ring, sometimes falling down, at others jigging round in the style of an Otaheitan dance. Cribb appeared somewhat puzzled by his opponent’s long black pegs, and could not be persuaded to go in and lick him off hand, as every one knew was well in his power. Twenty minutes elapsed without a single blow of any consequence passing. In this manner they spun it out 247for one hour and a half, when Cribb was acknowledged the victor, without being the least hurt. Among the numerous sporting equestrians present was the Duke of Clarence.”

Cribb now rose into general notice, and John Jackson having introduced him to the renowned Captain Barclay, of Ury (of whom more anon), that excellent judge quickly perceived his natural good qualities; he took him in hand, trained him under his own eye, and backed him for 200 guineas against the famous Jem Belcher, whose prestige was still so great, that, despite the loss of an eye, six to four was laid upon him so soon as the match was made.

On the classic hurst of Moulsey, on the 8th April, 1807, in a twenty feet roped ring, Tom Cribb and Jem Belcher met. Gully and Bob Watson, of Bristol, waited upon Belcher; Bill Warr and Bill Richmond (last defeated by Cribb), waited on the champion.


Round 1.—The science on both sides was shown in the excellence of their defensive attitudes; Belcher’s, however, was far the most graceful and unconstrained. Belcher broke ground, and got in two light hits left and right on the body of his opponent, which were returned slightly by Cribb, who rallied, closed, and was thrown by Belcher.

2.—Belcher put in two severe blows upon Cribb’s head and body, when the latter returned a hit, but slipped down upon his hands in attempting to follow it up. Cribb showed the first blood.

3.—Several severe blows were exchanged, when Cribb threw Belcher, who planted a heavy body blow while in the act of falling. This round rather in favour of Cribb.

4.—Cribb displayed good science in warding off two blows of Belcher’s, when they closed and fell.

5.—Belcher with his right hand put in a dreadful blow on Cribb’s left eye, and in closing hit his opponent twice in the body, and threw him. (Five to two on Belcher.)

6.—Cribb began to show symptoms of weakness. Belcher put in a hit, warding off which caused Cribb to fall.

7.—Belcher’s punishment was now visible on the body of Cribb, who endeavoured to put in two blows, which were parried by Belcher, and Jem returned both right and left with great dexterity, and rallied his man to the ropes, when Cribb clung to them, and fell much fatigued; Belcher also went down on his knees, but seemed in good spirits. (Three to one on Jem.)

8.—A good supply of home-brewed from Cribb; hitting and retreating neatly on both sides; when they closed and both went down.

9.—Belcher hit his adversary right and left, but only the latter told, when Jem fell from the force of his own blow.

10.—Belcher commenced this round with great spirit, and gave Cribb some severe blows, without letting him have a chance; following and rallying his opponent to the ropes, when Cribb, appearing quite fatigued, fell. (The odds now rose four to one on Jem.)

11.—Belcher planted two hits, which Cribb skilfully warded off, but Belcher was so rapid in closing upon his antagonist, that they both went down.

12.—A small change was now making its appearance between the combatants—Cribb seemed rather gaining his strength, while Belcher appeared rather distressed from his exertions; Cribb rallied successfully, planted a hit under Belcher’s perfect eye, closed, and threw him.

13.—Belcher in all his contests never showed himself to greater advantage than in this round; his skill was of the finest order, and only equalled by his courage. In closing, Belcher threw Cribb.

14.—Both on the alert. Belcher let go both right and left, which were parried by Cribb, who returned two blows in the body, when they closed and fell. (Still four to one on Belcher.)

15.—Belcher, full of gaiety, rallied Cribb to the extremity of the ring, and, in struggling, put an end to the round by falling.

16.—Cribb stopped Belcher’s blows with great skill. The knowing ones were, at this period of the battle, rather at a stand-still with regard to sporting their money. Cribb, it was certain, by his appearance, had received severe punishment, but not enough to satisfy anything like his gluttony and Belcher’s stamina had been considered on the 248decline previous to the contest, and it was apprehended that he could not last.

17.—Belcher, still confident, forced the fighting, until Cribb fell from fatigue.

18.—Belcher put in some severe blows in the body, and followed them with a heavy right-hander on the throat of his opponent, and Cribb fell violently, and quite exhausted. It was in this round that Belcher sprained his wrist, and was almost deprived of the use of his right hand afterwards.

19.—Belcher slipped in making play.

20.—The combatants closed and fell.

21.—Cribb planted two blows on his opponent’s head, who slipped in returning them. It was now perceived that Belcher proved incorrect in his distances, and that several of his blows were thrown away, from the bad state of his eye.

23.—Belcher, full of gaiety, put in a good hit, and threw Cribb a cross-buttock.

24.—Cribb the most conspicuous in the round, when they closed and fell.

25.—Cribb put in a tremendous blow, and in attempting to follow it up, Belcher shifted, and Cribb ran himself down.

26.—The constitution of Belcher was now giving way; his strength was not able to resist the heavy punishment of Cribb, who hit Jem from him, and gave him a leveller. Cribb upon this became the favourite.

27.—A well-contested round, and, notwithstanding Belcher gave Cribb a cross-buttock, it was considered in favour of the latter.

28.—Belcher made a hit, which was warded off by his opponent and returned, when they closed and fell.

29.—Without hesitation Cribb closed, and, from his uncommon strength, threw Belcher over the ropes.

30.—After slight exchanges, Belcher fell from a very slight hit.

31.—A good round, without any particular advantage to either; though Cribb put in the most blows, yet Belcher gave his adversary a violent fall.

32.—Both closed and fell.

33.—Belcher, quite game, endeavoured to make the best of it, but Cribb rallied and threw him.

34, 35, and 36.—In all these rounds Cribb maintained the superiority.

37.—Belcher had scarcely any strength left to stand, and his brave opponent was not in a much better state; and from this period to the fortieth it was little better than mere hugging, blows they could not be called, from the exhausted state of both the combatants.

41 and last.—Thirty-five minutes had now elapsed, and Cribb proving the stronger man, put in two weak blows, when Belcher, quite exhausted, fell upon the ropes, and gave up the contest.

Remarks.—Every one present could not but feel surprised at the astonishing improvement Cribb had made in the science of pugilism. In all his preceding contests he had only displayed the pluck of a novice, but in this he showed himself equal to his opponent in stopping and measuring his distances. Had it been generally known that he had so amply possessed these qualities, as well as his astonishing game, the result might have been anticipated. Notwithstanding this just praise is paid to Cribb’s merit, he cannot be considered equally scientific with his unsuccessful opponent. He was decidedly slow, and until after the hit he so dexterously put in on Belcher’s perfect eye, and the latter had sprained his wrist, he stood a doubtful chance. Belcher fought with all that vigour and skill which ever were his characteristics, but seemed incapable of judging his distances accurately.

From the above somewhat meagre report of this battle, it will be gathered that notwithstanding the strength of Cribb, who was nearly two stone heavier than his opponent, he was only just able to pull through against the wonderful skill and activity of Jem Belcher. Indeed, it is said in “Boxiana,” that had it not been for the manœuvring of Bill Warr, the boot would have been on the other leg. It appears that in the eighteenth round, when Cribb fell exhausted, Gully, who was seconding Belcher, was so satisfied that Cribb could not come to time, that he offered five to one to Warr that Belcher had won. Bill accepted the bet, and then craftily insisted that it should be staked. This ceremony, although only occupying a minute, gave sufficient time to enable a glutton like Cribb to recover himself.

George Cribb, who was emulous of his brother’s fame, made his first unsuccessful effort with Horton, a big provincial boxer, of the Bristol School. 249Horton, whose only claim to survive in ring history is the fact of his having fought Tom Cribb, beat “the young ’un” in twenty-five minutes. The report, given in “Pancratia,” p. 302, says, “Cribb, like his more distinguished brother, fights too slow, while Horton, who is a rare doublehanded fellow, hit him abroad every round. Horton, when the battle was over, offered to fight either Tom Cribb or John Gully, but both declined.” Tom, however, merely waited, and Gully had already a match on with Gregson, and, therefore, Mister Horton’s challenge looks much like “bounce.” In January, 1808, Cribb accepted the challenge of Horton; the latter being under the care and tuition of Pearce, the Game Chicken. The stake was 100 guineas, ten posted as a forfeit, and the fight to come off in the same ring as Gully and Gregson’s battle. From the flourishing accounts of Horton’s improvement in sparring while on a tour with the “Chicken,” all but Captain Barclay, and a few firm friends of Cribb, declined laying any odds. The combat came off on the 10th May, 1808, at Markyate Street, Herts. The absorbing interest of the Gully and Gregson contest seems to have prevented the reporters from doing justice to this battle, which, nevertheless, was a poor one-sided affair. If young George had no chance with Horton, Horton had less with “brother Tom.” At the close of the first round six to four was betted upon Cribb, which increased to two and three to one soon afterwards. Tom’s steadiness and safe milling qualities made it merely a question of time. Twenty-five rounds, however, for Cribb was never in a hurry, were required before Horton gave in utterly beaten.

The sporting world was now divided in opinion as to the pugilistic merits of the burly host of the Castle, Bob Gregson, and Tom Cribb. It was maintained by one party that Gregson, though overmatched by the skill of Gully, who had now formally retired from the championship, would shine conspicuously from his great strength and pluck, if matched against such “a slow one” (for on this point Cribb’s opponents, like Tom Sayers’, always insisted). Accordingly in June, 1808, when Gully and Cribb had a joint benefit at the Fives Court, a challenge was given, and Tuesday, October 25th, 1808, fixed as the day of battle. Moulsey Hurst, in a thirty feet roped ring, was the locus in quo, and for the details we quote the Daily Advertiser:—

“The dreadful beating Gregson had received from Gully, so far from disheartening him, only tended to make him tenfold solicitous for another chance of acquiring pugilistic fame. Major Morgan, his last backer, however, declined patronising him; but he soon found another friend in the Marquis of Tweeddale. Paul Methuen, Esq., backed Cribb in this contest.”

250A thirty feet ring having been formed, at half past twelve the combatants entered; Cribb attended by Gully and Bill Gibbons, and Gregson with his seconds, Jem Belcher and Richmond. Odds five to four in favour of Cribb, more betters than takers. At a quarter before one they set-to.


Round 1.—The instant Cribb shook hands he stept back, and assumed his attitude. Short sparring, each anxious for the first hit. Gregson attempted to lead with his left hand, but his distance was ill-judged, and fell short. Cribb was also ineffectual, as his blow went over his opponent’s shoulder. They closed, and both fell, Gregson uppermost.

2.—Cribb put in two body blows, right and left. Gregson made a courageous attempt to hit Cribb, who shifted and avoided him dexterously, and immediately threw in a severe hit in the right side of the face with his left hand. Blood issued from the cut profusely, and never ceased during the combat. Gregson lost his temper, and threw in some desperate blows in the neck, which, had Cribb not partially avoided, it was supposed would have ended the contest. Cribb rallied, and threw his opponent. (Odds two to one in Cribb’s favour.)

4.—Gregson rallied, and put in a severe hit under Cribb’s ear; Cribb retreated, according to his usual mode of fighting, and Gregson following him, he at every retreating step put in a severe hit with his left hand on the right side of Gregson’s face. Gregson, however, followed up until he fell, absolutely stunned.

5.—No fighting; Cribb fell in making play.

6.—This round odds fell again. Gregson judged his distance well, and the first hit threw in so tremendous a blow on the temple, that Cribb was glaringly abroad and stupefied. Had Gregson now possessed science as a pugilist equal to his strength, he must have beaten Cribb out of time, but while Cribb was retreating to the ropes, desirous of finishing the round, Gregson followed him, and lost this glorious opportunity of winning the battle, by idly sparring away the time, instead of repeating his blows. Cribb, with all his dexterity, was obliged to sustain another disadvantageous rally before he could close the round, and then was knocked off his legs.

7.—Cribb’s head cut a sorry figure, and Gregson’s mouth and nose continued to bleed copiously. They rallied, and both exchanged hits to a stand-still, when Gregson threw Cribb.

8.—Gregson made play, but no dependance could be placed on his hits, from the bad judgment he displayed in his distances. Cribb put in his favourite left-handed hit again over Gregson’s dreadfully sore mouth. Gregson, almost wild, closed, and threw Cribb a severe cross-buttock. Nevertheless, odds rose again two to one on Cribb.

9.—Gregson showed evident distress. Cribb still kept up his old game of retreating. Gregson, impelled by the warmth of his temper, followed him, and was severely punished by some dreadful repeats on the right side of his face. He fell on his knees, and appeared unable to rise again alone. (Three to one on Cribb.)

10.—Cribb supported his superiority. They fought until both fell on their knees, and after a fraternal hug, both laid themselves down, exhausted with fatigue.

11.—Both appeared distressed in their wind, and showed great caution; closed, and both fell.

12.—In this round the combatants seemed recovering, and a display of greater courage never was seen. Gregson threw in a most tremendous hit, but it fell short by an inch. He then rallied, and successfully planted a hit on the head, and another on the body. Cribb seemed abroad, and Gregson threw him. (Odds seven to four on Cribb.)

13.—Language would be incapable of describing the dreadful appearance of the faces of both combatants. They, however, obstinately stood and exchanged hits until Gregson fell, more by exhaustion than by the force of the hit.

14.—This round was as resolutely contended. Gregson exerted his utmost to gain the advantage, but Cribb seemed to have recovered both his wind and strength. Gregson was so weak that his knees gave way, and he fell on his hands, and actually pulled at the grass with passion.

15.—Cribb beat his opponent in this round dreadfully. Gregson fell again; then tried to get on his knees, but in vain.

16.—By chance Gregson struck Cribb on the head at setting-to, and brought him down.

19.—It appeared to require the greatest exertions of both combatants to make any impression, and he who for a minute was favoured by nature had the advantage.

20.—Both displayed excellent bottom. 251They mutually ran in, met, and fell like men perfectly inebriated.

22.—A rally, and Gregson bored down his opponent. (Ten to one was offered that Cribb did not come again.)

23.—Cribb at meeting had just strength enough to put in two slight hits, and closed. They wrestled, and Cribb threw Gregson, who fell like lead. He was, however, put again on his second’s knee, but on time being called was unable to come forward, having been seriously hurt in the last fall. Cribb, on hearing the news might have considered it the luckiest moment of his life: he immediately fell into his second’s arms, and remained apparently exhausted for some minutes.

On recovering, Cribb challenged Richmond, who had offended him, to fight immediately for 50 guineas, but this was prevented.

Remarks.—Gregson sustained in this contest as much injury as he did with Gully, and proved himself a bad judge of his distances, and, as every scientific amateur always considered him, a novice in the art of pugilism. In rallying he had but one hit, which, if it failed not only to take effect, but to stun his adversary, the rally was sure to terminate greatly to his disadvantage; still Cribb never was secure of beating him, for although hit several times to a stand-still, he recovered his wind at intervals, and certainly stood up with the most undaunted courage. Cribb fought upon his old plan of retreating, in order to wind his adversary, and by this means always fights at home. He was here particularly successful with his left-handed hits, as Gregson’s face showed by its dreadfully bruised state. Cribb’s principal backer presented him with £150, as a reward for his undaunted courage; and Mr. Jackson kindly collected a handsome subscription purse for the unfortunate Gregson. Gregson was conveyed to the King’s Head at Hampton, and Cribb to the Toy Inn at Hampton Court. They were both bled, and remained quiet until Wednesday evening, when they returned to town. The Duke of York, the Marquis of Tweeddale, Lords Yarmouth, Craven, Brook, Barrymore, and Somerville, with a large number of military and naval officers and sporting gentlemen were upon the ground.

This battle, which almost equalled in severity that between Gully and Gregson, brought Cribb to the elevation of the championship, Mr. Gully having, as we have seen, formally retired from the position. No sooner did this come to the ears of Jem Belcher—who was still smarting under the defeat he had sustained at the hands of Cribb, which he never ceased maintaining was the result of an accident to his wrist—than he sent forth a challenge to Cribb, for another trial for the belt and 200 guineas. Cribb readily responded; the preliminaries were arranged, and Monday, February 1, 1809, fixed for the combat. Captain Barclay again came forward as Cribb’s backer and trainer, and the odds were seven to four in Tom’s favour. Belcher went into training at Virginia Water, and it was stated he was in excellent condition and spirits.

On the Monday above-mentioned, in a thirty feet roped ring, on Epsom race-course, the men met, Belcher entering the enclosure at half past twelve, waited upon by Dan Mendoza and Bob Clarke. Soon afterwards Cribb threw his “castor” into the ring, followed by Joe Ward and Bill Gibbons. Two and then three to one were offered on Cribb.


Round 1.—Sparring for half a minute, Belcher made two hits; Cribb parried one, but the other got home in the body. Cribb returned; Belcher made a half-armed stop. They closed, and Belcher fell, but lightly.

2.—Cribb made play, and threw in a body hit. Belcher rallied. Some good blows exchanged, and Cribb threw his opponent.

3.—No visible marks of hitting yet. Belcher very gay, with great skill made two 252lunging hits right and left, the last of which Cribb received in full force under his left ear, and a copious discharge of blood followed. Some blows well exchanged at a distance. Cribb threw Belcher again, but manifestly had the worst of the round as to hitting.

4.—A good display of science. Every hit stopped on both sides. Cribb surprised the amateurs by his steady stops and back-stops. Belcher attempted to rally, but fell, seemingly distressed in his wind.

5.—Belcher put in right and left hits; but it was evident that he had once more lamed his right hand. Cribb again rallied successfully, and threw his opponent.

6.—Belcher retreated, seemingly to recruit his wind, to the ropes, where Cribb planted some good blows. Belcher now, in order to avoid his adversary’s superior strength, hit out, and successfully planted a blow at arm’s length with his lame hand on the spot he had before severely struck under the ear, and which was also the precise place in which Gregson put his tremendous blow in their last contest. The blood again issued with increased force; they closed, and Belcher threw Cribb a cross-buttock. (Great joy among the Bristol people. Cribb’s gluttony, however, being well known, odds were even now four to one in his favour.)

7.—In this round Belcher indisputably had the advantage, but his well-known infirmities prevented his becoming the favourite. He rallied, and hit with astonishing success. The men closed, and Cribb fell easily.

8.—Belcher appeared winded from his exertions in the last round. He retreated towards the ropes, where again he was reduced to a courageous effort to extricate himself. He rallied, put in a few hits, but so slight, that Cribb appeared to be unconscious of them. The men closed, hugged, and contended for the fall, until both struggled over the ropes.

9.—The combatants closed, and the seconds separated them.[134]

10.—Belcher had evidently great disadvantages to labour under, and this round indicated strongly in whose favour the contest must terminate; Cribb had as yet made little play. He now went in, hit, stopped, and hit again five or six times successively, and finally gave his opponent a heavy fall. (Any odds, but no takers.)

11.—Cribb forced the fighting, as in the preceding round, and again threw Belcher. Both Belcher’s hands were now injured, and Cribb kept the lead he had gained up to the

19th.—Belcher now convinced the spectators of his fine science. Unable to hit effectively, he stopped Cribb’s blows with marvellous neatness. Despite his dexterity, however, Cribb now bored in and forced him down; nevertheless, Belcher fought defensively, prolonging the battle to the

31st and final round.—It was piteous to see this once renowned and brave champion contending against nature. For the last ten rounds there was not a chance of success; still his olden skill made him difficult to beat, and Cribb, slow and sure, never threw away a chance. Belcher’s knuckles of his right hand were swelled immensely, and his right forearm covered with bruises from stopping Cribb’s left hand. At the end of forty minutes, at the urgent request of his backers and friends, Belcher gave in, never again to enter the field of honour.

Remarks.—Greatly as this victory adds to the fame of the champion, as a resolute, cautious, and truly brave boxer, the best judges were agreed that had Belcher possessed his once excellent constitution and both his eyes, Cribb must have been defeated. There were not wanting others who maintained that, despite his slow hitting, Cribb’s retreating and defensive tactics, with his wonderful stamina, strength, and never-failing courage, must make it a doubtful point if Belcher ever could have thrashed him, as Cribb always seemed to have a “little left” when his adversary was on the totter, and he was called upon “to finish.” When Belcher first came from Bristol, he was justly considered a phenomenon; under the age of twenty he adduced a new system of fighting, which completely baffled the most scientific adepts in the old school, and to him boxing in a great measure owed its support, particularly by the emulation he excited, and the attempts made to produce a man to contend with him. But at this period, at the age of only twenty-seven, he was so far degenerated as to oppose, with very little chance of success, any pugilist of note; he was unable to make but very few hits with his now enfeebled hands, and after a contest of half an hour nature deserted him; still he retained some of his former gaiety, which only reminded those who knew him what he once was, and every one, with an eye of pity, saw that all powers of execution had deserted him.

Cribb seemed now to have reached the topmost round of fortune’s ladder as a pugilist. Like Alexander Selkirk he could exclaim,—

My title there’s none to dispute,

when a rival arose from an unexpected quarter. Tom Molineaux, an athletic 253American black, had astonished the amateurs by the wonderful strength and gluttony he had shown in his conquest of Tom Blake (Tom Tough); indeed his countryman, Bill Richmond, vaunted loudly that “the man of colour” must win. Two hundred guineas was posted on behalf of Molineaux, and a further purse of 100 guineas was subscribed by patrons of the ring to be presented personally to the conqueror after the combat. Many persons were astonished at the Nigger’s audacity, while others, who knew their man, not only exhibited no surprise, but expressed their confidence that the Darkey would prove the most formidable antagonist that Cribb had ever encountered. Cribb was among those who held Molineaux very cheap, and he expressed an opinion that he should win with ease. We read in a journal of the day, “Some persons feel alarmed at the bare idea that a black man and a foreigner should seize the championship of England, and decorate his sable brow with the hard-earned laurels of Cribb. He must, however, have his fair chance, though Tom swears that, for the honour of old England, ‘He’ll be d—— if he will relinquish a single sprig except with his life.’”

The affair excited the most extraordinary sensation, not only in the pugilistic world, but also among classes who had hitherto considered boxing as beneath their notice, and who now, thinking the honour of their country was at stake, took a most lively interest in the affair. Although Cribb considered that the conquest of such a beginner in the art as he supposed Molineaux to be, would be mere child’s play, he was still wise enough not to throw a chance away, and got himself into good condition, although he was, perhaps, a little too fleshy. The betting upon the event was heavier than had been known for many years. Odds were laid that Molineaux would be defeated in fifteen minutes, and it was considered the excess of fool-hardiness in any one who betted that he would stand more than half-an-hour.

On the other hand we find Molineaux was in the highest state of confidence; indeed his vaunting bordered upon insolent braggadocia.

The day selected for this grand milling exhibition was December 18th, 1810, at Copthall Common, in the neighbourhood of East Grimstead, Sussex, within thirty miles of the metropolis.

Notwithstanding the rain came down in torrents, and the distance from London (hear this ye railroad travellers of 1879!), the Fancy were not to be deterred from witnessing the mill, and waded through a clayey road, nearly knee-deep for five miles, with alacrity and cheerfulness, so great was the curiosity and interest manifested upon this battle. We shall, according to our arrangement, where practicable, give the original report, vice the written-up rhodomontade of “Boxiana,” copied servilely by later publications.

254At twelve o’clock, Mr. Jackson, who generally officiates as master of the ceremonies, formed an outer circle of the various vehicles which had transported so many thousands from the metropolis, at the foot of a hill, in order to shield the combatants as much as possible from the chilling rain and wind from the eastward. A twenty-four feet ring, according to preceding arrangement, was constructed within this circle, with stakes and ropes, and as soon as completed Molineaux came forward, bowed to all around, hurled up his cap in defiance, and then withdrew to strip. Cribb followed his example, and both soon returned eager for the fray, amid the plaudits of the populace, whose animated countenances seemed to express the passing thought, “What a glorious thing’s a battle.” Gully and Joe Ward seconded Cribb; and Richmond and Jones officiated for Molineaux.

On stripping, the appearance of the men was really formidable; Cribb, who stood five feet ten inches and a half, weighed fourteen stone three pounds, while Molineaux, who was five feet eight inches and a quarter, was only a pound lighter, and consequently looked far more muscular. His arms were of wondrous length and roundness of form. He looked confident and fierce, rather than smiling, and nodded his head as he shook hands.


Round 1.—The combatants shook hands, retired two steps, put themselves in attitude, eyeing each other with the most penetrating looks, and each highly attentive to his guard. For a moment a solemn pause ensued. A little sparring, and Molineaux put in the first hit by a right-handed body-blow on the left side of his opponent. Cribb smartly returned right and left on the head, and one for luck on the body. Molineaux closed, and Cribb threw him. Thus the round ended without bloodshed.

2.—Both set-to with great eagerness, apparently fully determined on a manly stand-up fight, seeming to exclude sparring and shifting altogether. A furious rally, heavy blows exchanged. Cribb’s did most execution, being thrown in straight forward, while Molineaux struck hand over head with most astonishing power, but little judgment, and Cribb either parried or spoilt the effort, by planting the first hit. Cribb, although he showed first blood by a cut on the lip, evidently had the best of the round.

3.—Molineaux faced his antagonist with great courage. Cribb met him with equal resolution, and after a little sparring brought his left fist in contact with his antagonist’s head at arm’s length with such tremendous force, that he laid him to measure his full length on the earth. (Four to one on Cribb.)

4.—Molineaux immediately jumped on his legs, and commenced a desperate rally, in which Cribb again brought him down.

5.—An excellent round, good straight-forward fighting, and both rallied in great style. Molineaux tried to bore down his opponent by main strength; Cribb determined to prevent him if possible, by repeating some desperate blows on the head. They closed, and Molineaux fibbed very dexterously in Dutch Sam’s style, but at length fell.

6.—Molineaux commenced furiously. Cribb slipped, but partially recovered, and by a blow brought down Molineaux.

7.—Molineaux rushed in as before, and Cribb put in a violent blow on the forehead, by which he picked up a handsome “rainbow.” His countenance was, however, not the more clouded, and he was first to the time.

8.—Both combatants by this time had been taught discrimination, and had discovered each other’s physical powers. Cribb found out that his notion of beating Molineaux off hand was truly fallacious, as he really was an ugly customer, and he also became sensible that if Molineaux could so reduce him as to make his sledge hammer hits tell, he should not willingly lay his head for the anvil. He therefore now brought forward his science, and began to adopt his usual famous retreating system. The men rallied 255desperately; success was alternate. At length Molineaux fell; but Cribb, from his violent exertion, appeared weaker than his opponent.

9.—Gallantly contested. Cribb made play. Molineaux followed courageously, giving no quarter, put in a severe hit, and Cribb fell, evidently much exhausted. The knowing ones looked queer; Cribb had been fighting too fast.

10.—The conceit by this time was tolerably well taken out of both combatants; their heads and faces were hideously disfigured. Molineaux again displayed superiority of strength. For full two minutes hits were exchanged greatly to the disadvantage of Cribb; he, however, at length brought down his opponent.

11.—Courageously contested. Molineaux brought Cribb down.

12.—Cribb put in a severe hit in the body. Molineaux returned on the head and fell.

17.—Cribb still continued his shy plan, and Molineaux evidently had the advantage.[135]

23.—In this round Cribb perceiving Molineaux falling off, made play and brought him down, the first time for several rounds.

24 to 28.—Bets considerably reduced. They had been four to one on Molineaux, but were now even.

29.—Molineaux ineffectually endeavoured to get Cribb’s head under his left arm, and also to throw him, but failed in both. The men rallied, and Cribb, who now appeared to possess more confidence than he had for some rounds, knocked his opponent down.

30.—Cribb now again got the lead, and stuck up to his opponent until he fairly rallied him down.

31.—A short rally. Molineaux threw Cribb, but in the struggle fell over him and pitched upon his head, which so severely affected him that he could hardly stand. Richmond, however, prompted him to go on, in hopes of Cribb being exhausted.

33.—Molineaux fell by an effort to keep his legs. This by Cribb’s party was called falling without a blow, and a squabble would have ensued, had not Molineaux exclaimed, “I can fight no more.”

Cribb was greatly elated at such a sound, but was too weak to throw his usual somersault. The contest lasted fifty-five minutes.

Remarks.—Molineaux in this contest proved himself as courageous a man as ever an adversary contended with, and Cribb’s merits as a pugilist cannot but be enhanced by a victory over so tremendous an opponent. The Black astonished every one, not only by his extraordinary power of hitting, and his gigantic strength, but also by his acquaintance with the science, which was far greater than any one had given him credit for. In the 28th round, after the men were carried to their corners, Cribb was so much exhausted that he could hardly rise from his second’s knee at the call of “Time,” which was uttered loudly by Sir Thomas Apreece, one of the umpires. Joe Ward, his second, by a little manœuvring, occupied the attention of the Black’s seconds, and so managed to prolong the period sufficiently to enable the champion to recover a little, and thus assisted him to pull through.

The following appeared in the papers of the ensuing week:—

Sir,—My friends think that had the weather on last Tuesday, the day on which I contended with you, not been so unfavourable, I should have won the battle; I therefore challenge you to a second meeting, at any time within two months, for such sum as those gentlemen who place confidence in me may be pleased to arrange.

“As it is possible this letter may meet the public eye, I cannot omit the opportunity of expressing a confident hope, that the circumstance of my being of a different colour to that of a people amongst whom I have sought protection, will not in any way operate to my prejudice.

“I am, sir,
“Your most obedient humble servant,
“Witness, J. Scholefield.”
To Mr. Thomas Cribb, St. Martin’s Street, Leicester Square,
December 21, 1810.

On Tuesday, January 29th, Cribb took a benefit at the Fives Court, at which nearly 3000 persons were present. Cribb and Tom Belcher, Molineaux 256and Richmond, Firby, Power, Ben Burn, Cropley, Tom O’Donnell, Rimmer,[136] a young big one brought forward by Gregson, set-to.

Molineaux’s second fight with Cribb, was postponed by the intervention of Rimmer’s challenge, as Richmond thought it a safer match. Molineaux, having disposed of the big Lancashire man’s pretensions, the opinion of many of the public was evidently shared by Molineaux, who pleaded that, in addition to the above circumstance, the weather had proved unpropitious, and had more effect upon his constitution—which was little acclimated to cold and wet—than upon the more hardy frame of Cribb, the latter could not decline giving his opponent a chance to retrieve his laurels. A match was accordingly made for £300 a-side, and on Saturday, September 28th, 1811, was brought to issue at Thistleton Gap, in the parish of Wymondham, in the county of Leicester, very near Crown Point, the spot where the three counties, Lincoln, Leicester, and Rutland unite. This match created, if possible, more interest than that which had preceded it, and for twenty miles round the scene of action not a bed was to be obtained for love or money the previous night, unless bespoken days beforehand. By six o’clock in the morning, hundreds were astir in order to get good places near the stage which had been erected, and by the time the men arrived there were about 20,000 persons present, including many Corinthians of the highest rank. Neither man on this occasion weighed so much, by nearly a stone, as in the former fight. Captain Barclay had trained Cribb on a system peculiar to himself, and had reduced him to thirteen stone six pounds, and still kept his stamina unimpaired. The men mounted the stage at twelve o’clock, Cribb being the first to show, and both were greeted with loud applause. A twenty-five feet stage was erected in a stubble ground without the slightest interruption. Cribb’s second was his old friend and intimate companion Gully, and Joe Ward bottle-holder; Bill Richmond and Bill Gibbons officiated for Molineaux. At eighteen minutes after twelve they set-to; betting three to one on Cribb, and six to four in his favour for the first knock-down blow.


Round 1.—Sparring for about a minute, when Cribb made play right and left. The right-handed blow told slightly in the body of Molineaux, who returned slightly on the head; a rally now ensued, they exchanged their blows, when Molineaux fell from a dexterous hit in the throat; the blows, however, throughout this round were not at a distance to do very great execution. Betting unaltered.

2.—Cribb showed first blood at the mouth at setting-to. A dreadful rally commenced. Cribb put in a good body hit with the right hand, which Molineaux returned on the head with the left flush; both combatants now fought at half-arm, and exchanged some 257half dozen hits with great force. They then closed, and after a severe trial of strength Molineaux threw his opponent. Odds six to four on Cribb.

3.—In the last rally Cribb’s right eye was nearly closed, and now another equally sanguinary followed. After sparring for wind, in which essential Molineaux was evidently deficient, Cribb put in a dreadful “doubler” on the body of his opponent, who, although hit away, kept his legs and renewed the rally with such ferocity, that the backers of the odds looked blue. The rally lasted a minute and a half, when the combatants closed, and Molineaux again threw Cribb with astonishing force. Odds fell, but Cribb’s tried game still kept him the favourite.

4.—In the rally Cribb had hit right and left at the body and head, but Molineaux fought at the head only. He was so successful with the left hand, that he planted many flush hits. Both Cribb’s eyes were now damaged, his face dreadfully disfigured, and he bled profusely. Molineaux evidently was in great distress, his chest and sides heaving fearfully. Cribb smiled at such a favourable omen, and renewed the rally with a heroism, perhaps, never excelled, and in point of judgment most adroitly timed. Hits in abundance were exchanged, Cribb still fighting at the “mark,” and Molineaux at the head; at length Cribb fell, evincing great exhaustion. Odds however were now seven to four in his favour.

5.—Molineaux accepted the rally, and the execution on both sides was truly terrific. Molineaux had the best of the exchanges, and Cribb fell from a blow and in falling received another. This excited some murmurs and applause from the partisans of the contending heroes, and on reference to the umpires was decided “fair,” Cribb’s hands being at liberty, and not having yet touched the floor.

6.—Molineaux distressed for wind and exhausted, lunged right and left. Cribb avoided his blows, and then put in a good hit with his right, which Molineaux stopped exceedingly well. Cribb now got in a destructive blow at his “mark,” which doubled up Molineaux; he got away pitifully cut up: he, however, returned to begin a rally, seemingly anxious to go in, but still sensible of the ugly consequences. He appeared almost frantic, and no dancing-master could have performed a pirouette more gratifying to Cribb’s friends. Molineaux hit short, capered about, and was quite abroad. Cribb followed him round the ring, and after some astonishing execution, floored him by a tremendous hit at full arm’s length. The odds rose five to one.

7.—Molineaux seemed lost in rage. He ran in, and undoubtedly did some execution; but Cribb put in several straight hits about the throat, stepping back after each. Molineaux bored in till he fell.

8.—Molineaux again rallied, seemingly as a forlorn hope, but his distance was ill-judged. Cribb once and again nobbed him, and getting his head (his own trick by the bye) under his left arm, fibbed him until he fell.

9.—Lombard Street to a China orange. Molineaux was dead beat, and only stood up to encounter Cribb’s ponderous blows. He ran in, Cribb met him with his left hand; the blow was tremendous, being doubled in force by the black’s impetuous rush, Molineaux’s jaw was fractured, and he fell like a log. He did not come to time within the half minute, but Cribb, wishing to show his superiority, gave away this chance, dancing a hornpipe about the stage, until—

10.—With great difficulty Molineaux got off his second’s knee, only for fresh punishment. His rush was desperate, but equally unsuccessful, and he fell evidently from distress.

11.—Here ended the contest. Cribb gave away another chance in the time. Molineaux’s senses, however, were absolutely hit out of him; he was perfectly unable to stand, and a Scotch reel by Gully and Cribb announced the victory, while the very welkin echoed with applause.

Remarks.[137]—This battle, which lasted only nineteen minutes ten seconds, left no doubt as to the superiority of Cribb. The science of Molineaux at the opening of the fight was quite equal to that of the champion, but the condition of Cribb was far better, his temper more under restraint, and although there was no question of Molineaux’s courage, which almost amounted to ferocity, Cribb was his superior in steadiness and self-possession. During the battle the spectators gave applause to both combatants, and many were surprised that Molineaux should have found himself necessitated to relinquish the palm in so short a time, when he so obstinately contested with the same opponent thrice the duration so very recently. It is to be considered, that in the first combat Cribb was full of flesh, and by no means in prime condition; and again, that in this battle, although Molineaux had acquired an increased degree of science, he had by his own conduct impaired his stamina. Although it has been acknowledged that applause was mutually given, and that Molineaux in every point had fair play shown him, it cannot but be granted that the exulting clamour of congratulation, proceeding from the Champion’s friends, when even the slightest advantage seemed to favour him, must have tended to 258hurt the feelings of the man of colour, and very probably to have cowed him. It should have been considered that Molineaux was a stranger, that he stood indisputably a man of courage; that he came to the contest unprotected and unsupported by friends of note; while his opponent commanded the patronage of the leading men as well as the natural partiality of his countrymen in his favour. Much has been said of Molineaux’s savage denunciations against Cribb; of his vapouring professions of what he should like to do to him; and these were thought sufficiently disgusting to have excited animosity against him. But granting that Molineaux was brutish enough to make use of many of the barbarous expressions imputed to him, we certainly ought to take into consideration the circumstances under which they were uttered. The black could not but be sensible that Cribb was better supported by his many surrounding friends than himself. He knew and felt that Cribb was under the care of the first trainer in the country, while he was left to the government of Tom Belcher and Richmond, who made him an instrument of getting money, by carrying him round the country to exhibit sparring, and, to keep him in good temper and pliable to their wishes, allowing him to drink stout and ale by gallons. It is said that on the morning of the fight, he bolted a boiled fowl, an apple pie, and a tankard of porter for his breakfast. When all these circumstances are considered, by an unprejudiced mind, it cannot be denied, that whatever national pride we may justly feel in our Champion’s triumph, and admiration of his pluck and manly prowess, we cannot but admit that the man of colour was a formidable antagonist, and one who, but for his own imprudence, might have won fame and fortune in the pugilistic arena.[138]

The stage, which was twenty-five feet square, was erected in a stubble field, surrounded first by a roped ring, in order to prevent any interruption by the crowd, and secondly, by as well framed and supported a circle of pedestrians as perhaps was ever witnessed, notwithstanding the great distance from the metropolis. The first row of these, as usual upon most occasions, lying down, the second kneeling, and the rest standing up. Outside these again were numerous horsemen, some seated, while others more eager stood, circus-like, upon their saddle; these were intermixed with every description of carriage, gig, barouche, buggy, cart, and waggon. The display of sporting men, from the peer on the box of his four-in-hand to the rustic in clouted shoes, but as perfect a picture as the fancy can well conceive. Every fighting man of note, every pugilistic amateur was to be seen, and among those active and peculiarly interested we noted Lord Yarmouth, the Hon. Berkeley Craven, Major Mellish, Captain Barclay (Allardyce of Ury),[139] Sir Francis Bayntun, General Grosvenor, Thomas Goddard, Esq., Sir Henry Smith, the Marquis of Queensberry, Lord Pomfret, Sir Charles Astor, etc., etc.

On the Sunday after the battle the champion passed through Stamford in a barouche and four, the horses decorated with blue ribbons (Cribb’s colours). He called on Molineaux at Grantham, and on the Monday arrived in London, where he was received with a public ovation, the wide street at Holborn being almost impassable from the crowds which assembled to greet the Champion of England. At the Horse and Dolphin,[140] St. Martin’s Street, Richmond’s house, on the Saturday night, the crowd was so immense that a posse of officers attended and the house was closed. Cribb’s passage home to his house, in White Lion Street, Seven Dials, was through so dense an assemblage of applauding spectators that the streets were almost impassable. 259We read in “Boxiana,” that “Cribb gained £400 by this set-to, and his patron, Captain Barclay, £10,000; a baker, in the Borough, sported all his blunt, personal property, together with the lease of his house, etc., amounting to £1,700, upon the Champion. A curious bet was also made between two sporting characters, the winner to get a complete suit of clothes, shirt, cravat, etc., etc., with walking stick, gloves, and a guinea in the trousers pocket. Through the kind interference of Mr. Jackson, a collection of nearly £50 was made for Molineaux.” We have already referred to the superior condition of Cribb in this second battle, and the present appears a fitting place to narrate a few circumstances relating to this remarkable instance of the first recorded results of the modern system of training. It is extracted from a little work on “Pedestrianism and Training,” published in 1816, “revised” by Captain Barclay himself.

“The Champion arrived at Ury on the 7th of July of that year. He weighed sixteen stone; and from his mode of living in London, and the confinement of a crowded city, he had become corpulent, big-bellied, full of gross humours, and short-breathed; and it was with difficulty he could walk ten miles. He first went through a course of physic, which consisted of three doses; but for two weeks he walked about as he pleased, and generally traversed the woods and plantations with a fowling-piece in his hand; the reports of his gun resounded every where through the groves and the hollows of that delightful place, to the great terror of the magpies and wood pigeons.

“After amusing himself in this way for about a fortnight, he then commenced his regular walking exercise, which at first was about ten or twelve miles a day. It was soon after increased to eighteen or twenty; and he ran regularly, morning and evening, a quarter of a mile at the top of his speed. In consequence of his physic and exercise, his weight was reduced, in the course of five weeks, from sixteen stone to fourteen and nine pounds. At this period he commenced his sweats, and took three during the month he remained at Ury afterwards; and his weight was gradually reduced to thirteen stone and five pounds, which was ascertained to be his pitch of condition, as he would not reduce farther without weakening.

“During the course of his training, the Champion went twice to the Highlands, and took strong exercise. He walked to Mar Lodge, which is about sixty miles distant from Ury, where he arrived to dinner on the second day, being now able to go thirty miles a day with ease, and probably he could have walked twice as far if it had been necessary. He remained in the Highlands about a week each time, and amused himself with shooting. The 260principal advantage which he derived from these expeditions was the severe exercise he was obliged to undergo in following Captain Barclay. He improved more in strength and wind by his journeys to the Highlands than by any other part of the training process.

“His diet and drink were the same as used in the pedestrian regimen, and in other respects, the rules previously laid down were generally applied to him. That he was brought to his ultimate pitch of condition was evident, from the high state of health and strength in which he appeared when he mounted the stage to contend with Molineaux, who has since confessed that when he saw his fine condition, he totally despaired of gaining the battle.

“Cribb was altogether about eleven weeks under training, but he remained only nine weeks at Ury. Besides his regular exercise, he was occasionally employed in sparring at Stonehaven, where he gave lessons in the pugilistic art. He was not allowed much rest, but was constantly occupied in some active employment. He enjoyed good spirits, being at the time fully convinced that he should beat his antagonist. He was managed, however, with great address, and the result corresponded with the wishes of his friends.

“It would be perhaps improper, while speaking of Cribb, to omit mentioning that, during his residence in the north of Scotland, he conducted himself in all respects with much propriety. He showed traits of a feeling, humane, and charitable disposition, on various occasions. While walking along Union Street in Aberdeen, he was accosted by a woman apparently in great distress. Her story affected him, and the emotions of his heart became evident in the muscles of his face. He gave her all the silver he had in his pocket. ‘God bless your honour,’ she said, ‘ye’are surely not an or’nary mon!’ This circumstance is mentioned with the more pleasure, as it affords one instance, at least, in opposition to the mistaken opinion that professional pugilists are ferocious, and totally destitute of the better propensities of mankind. The illustrious Mr. Windham, entertained juster sentiments of the pugilistic art, as evinced by a print he presented to Mr. Jackson as a mark of his esteem. In one compartment an Italian, darting his stiletto at his victim, is represented; and in the other, the combat of two Englishmen in the ring. For this celebrated genius was always of opinion, that nothing tended more to preserve among the English peasantry those sentiments of good faith and honour, which have ever distinguished them from the natives of Italy and Spain, than the frequent practice of fair and open boxing.”

Shortly after Cribb’s final triumph, in honour of his hard-earned victories, a splendid dinner was given at Gregson’s (the Castle, Holborn), by a large 261party of the Champion’s admirers and patrons. Cribb was unanimously called to the chair. His conduct as president was unassuming and pleasant, receiving the approbation of the patrons of distinction by whom he was surrounded. Harmony prevailed, and several excellent songs written for the occasion, full of point, were most rapturously received, particularly one of Bob Gregson’s, which was applauded to the echo, and loudly encored. The company did not depart till they unanimously voted the Champion a silver cup, valued 50 guineas, as a memorial of the high opinion which the sporting world held of his uniform courage in his pugilistic combats; also for his having voluntarily entered the ring (after positively declining pugilism in general), on the score of nationality, his own individual fame, and to prevent a foreigner from triumphing over the heroes of England.

The subscriptions for this purpose proving ample, the sum was increased, and a silver cup of 80 guineas value was presented to the Champion at the Castle Tavern, Holborn, on Monday, the 2nd of December, 1811, at a dinner appointed for that purpose, Tom Cribb in the chair, supported by one of the most numerous and respectable assemblages of the “fancy” ever witnessed. After the cloth was removed, and the usual loyal toasts given, Mr. Emery (of the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden), who had at a previous meeting been unanimously voted to present the plate, was now called upon to fulfil the wishes of the company. The cup was produced, the son of Thespis rose, and after drinking to “Cribb, the Champion of England!” addressed the chairman to the following effect:—

“Thomas Cribb, I have the honour this day of being the representative of a numerous and respectable body of your friends; and though I am by no means qualified to attempt the undertaking which has devolved on me by a vote of the subscribers, yet the cause will, I am confident, prove a sufficient excuse for my want of ability. You are requested to accept this cup as a tribute of respect, for the uniform valour and integrity you have shown in your several combats, but most particularly for the additional proofs of native skill and manly intrepidity displayed by your last memorable battle, when the cause rested, not merely upon individual fame, but for the pugilistic reputation of your country, in contending with a formidable foreign antagonist. In that combat you gave proof that the hand of a foreigner, when lifted against a son of Britannia, must not only be aided by the strength of a lion, but the heart also.

“The fame you have so well earned has been by manly and upright conduct; and such conduct, I have no doubt, will ever mark your very creditable retirement from the ring, or stage of pugilism. However intoxicated 262the cup or its contents may at any future period make you, I am sufficiently persuaded the gentlemen present, and the sons of John Bull in general, will never consider you have a cup too much.”

The cup, filled with wine, having gone round, the Champion thus briefly addressed his patrons:—“Gentlemen, for the honour you have done me in presenting this cup, I most respectfully beg of you to accept my warmest thanks.”

Harmony reigned throughout, and the Champion, impressed with gratitude to his leading patrons, Sir Henry Smyth, Bart., Captain Barclay, Thirlwall Harrison, Esq., etc., drank their healths with marked animation and respect; and the cup, in being put round, upon its arrival into the hands of Mr. Jackson, Gully, Gregson, and the veteran Joe Ward (who acted as vice), the company, as a mark of esteem for their past services, loudly cheered those heroes of the fist.

After an unsuccessful venture as a coal-merchant, at Hungerford Wharf, Cribb underwent the usual metamorphosis from a pugilist to a publican, and opened a house at the Golden Lion in the Borough; but finding his position too far eastward for his numerous aristocratic patrons, “honest Tom” moved his quarters to the King’s Arms,[141] the corner of Duke Street and King Street, St. James’s, and subsequently to the Union Arms, at the corner of Panton Street and Oxendon Street, Haymarket.

With one interruption, presently to be noticed, our hero’s life was henceforth of a peaceful character. In 1814, upon the conclusion of the gigantic European struggle with the first Napoleon, Cribb had the honour of sparring before the monarchs, princes, and marshals, who visited the Prince Regent in honour of the pacification of Europe. On Wednesday, June 15, 1814, the Emperor of Russia, the Hetman Platoff, Marshal Blucher, and an illustrious party, assembled at the house of Lord Lowther, in Pall Mall, to an elegant déjeuner, when boxing, as a peculiar trait of the brave nation of England, was introduced. “The distinguished visitors were so much gratified with this generous mode of settling quarrels, and the scientific mode of attack and defence exhibited, that they requested of Lord Lowther that another trial of 263skill might take place on the Friday following, when, in addition to the visitors, the King of Prussia, the Prince Royal of Prussia, Princes Frederick and William of Prussia, the Prince of Mecklenburg, General D’Yorck, etc., honoured the meeting with their presence. Some elegant specimens of the pugilistic art were displayed between Messrs. Jackson, Belcher, Cribb, Richmond, Painter, Oliver, etc. The set-tos in general were excellent; but the sparring of Jackson was particularly admired. The Champion of England (Cribb) occasioned a general stare among the spectators, and the veteran Blucher eyed him with more than common attention. The royal guests expressed their satisfaction at the treat they had experienced; and upon taking their departure, complimented his lordship as the patron of so manly and characteristic a trait of his country.”

About this period, and for several years, Tom’s character and doings seem to have been a favourite theme with “penny-a-liners” and paragraph writers, and the papers of the time, furnish a crop of anecdotes, good, bad, and indifferent, many of which are scattered up and down Pierce Egan’s volumes. We give a few of them on his authority.

Tom Cribb and the Pig.—During the time Tom was in training, previous to his match with Gregson, as he was taking his morning’s exercise through a country village, accompanied by his friend Gully, dressed in long smock frocks, they observed an overgrown fellow beating a pig in a very cruel manner. Upon inquiry, they found the animal belonged to a neighbour, and civilly begged him to desist from such cruelty. The fellow abused them for their interfering, and, relying on his strength, threatened to give them both a good hiding, assisted by three or four hawbucks, who had joined the squabble. Without farther ceremony the fellow put himself in an offensive attitude, and made a violent blow at Cribb, which the latter stopped with the utmost sang froid, not forgetting to put in his one-two tremendously, the effects of which floored this unfeeling brute in a twinkling. His nob was materially shook, and the claret tapped in a masterly style. This small taste of Cribb’s quality had the desired effect. The fight was instantly taken out of the chaw-bacon, who went off, growling to himself, from the scene of his cruelty and impertinence; but not, however, before receiving an admonition from the Champion to be more temperate in his language and humane in his conduct in future. Gully, smiling to himself, now wished another of these Johnny Raws, who had been also very busy and impudent, to try what he could do with him, observing, that he might have better luck than his fellow servant. But in vain, the milling specimen exhibited by Cribb had completely terrified all their boasted valour into submission. It 264was soon afterwards learned in the village that the row in question had been with Gully and Cribb.

Cribb and the Navvy.—A navigator, from Lancashire, as big and as rough an article as can be imagined, prompted, it is supposed, by the great pugilistic success of Carter, took a turn, on Thursday evening, November 7, 1816, in the neighbourhood of Westminster, and suddenly pounced on the Champion of England and Tom Oliver, in the friendly act of blowing a cloud together. Without waiting for the formality of an introduction to those heroes of the fist, he boasted of his milling pretensions, and sans cérémonie, challenged Oliver for a turn-up. The coat of Oliver was half way off to resent this unprovoked attack upon his prowess, but Cribb forbade it, observing that the navigator was too heavy, and that he should be more fitted to accommodate this hasty customer, having no doubt but that he should quickly alter his opinion of his own capabilities. The parties retired to a large shed at the back of the house, when a turn-up commenced without further delay. The navigator run in like a bull, head foremost, and endeavoured to bring the Champion down after the Lancashire method, by seizing hold of his thighs; but he failed in his attempts most wofully, for in five minutes he was so punished that he cried out, “I yeald.” Cribb left him to reflect on his folly, but in the course of a few minutes he came in and again insisted upon having another set-to with “the stout ’un.” This was agreed to, but the navigator soon adopted his former phrase of “I yeald!” Cribb now retired, supposing he had given complete satisfaction; but it was not long before he was compelled to renew the combat for the third time with this dissatisfied brute. The navigator resorted to purring, and endeavoured to effect a conquest by hugging; but Cribb clareted him in all directions, and marked his body so severely, that he now could scarcely articulate the provincial, “I yeald!” The only regret expressed by the Champion was that, during an attack of twenty minutes, he could not put in a straight blow, as the navigator never stood up like a man, merely attempting by foul means to throw or disable his man. Cribb returned home without a scratch, while the man of mud received an important lesson on the advantages of science.

The Champion and the Jew.—The placid and forbearing character of Cribb is strikingly illustrated in the following incident. Cribb, in passing through Fore Street, Cripplegate, was most grossly insulted by a Jew of the name of Simmonds, who, valuing himself upon his manhood, and not knowing whom he was in contact with, endeavoured to give our hero a facer. The Champion, with the utmost composure, seized hold of this mere apology for a boxer (in his hands), yet disdained to inflict that sort of punishment which, had 265he given way to passion, from his well-known strength and science, must in all probability nearly annihilated this presuming Israelite. Instead of this, however, Tom instantly compelled Mordecai to go before the Lord Mayor to answer for the assault. His Lordship, on hearing the case, was struck with the magnanimity displayed by Cribb on this occasion, and highly praised him for his manliness of temper, at the same time reprimanding the Jew severely for his improper behaviour. The Jew was, however, discharged on paying the costs, upon the Champion good-naturedly interposing to prevent a fine.

Cribb and Massa Kendrick.—A sable hero, well known in the fancy circles as Massa Kendrick, was brought before Mr. Birnie, at Bow Street, on a Bench warrant, for an assault on the Champion of England. The African kicked most confoundedly at finding himself in the grasp of the law. When told by the magistrate that he must find good and sufficient bail, he exclaimed, “Bail! what ‘casion for bail? Massa Cribb the most quarrelsomest man in all England. He’s a fighting man, and I’m a fighting man, and if I gibs him punch ob the head, and he gib me another, what that to anumbody else? What the use ob talking about bail?” In reply to this tirade the Champion calmly observed, “If I was not to take such a step as this now and then, I could not carry on my business, or even live in my own house, for these swaggering blackguards.” He then explained to the magistrate that the defendant was noisy and riotous in his house, and in consequence he insisted on his leaving; but, instead of doing so, he seized the Champion by the cravat, and attempted to extinguish his glories by strangulation, at the same time placing his hand under his thigh, apparently with the intention of throwing him. “But,” said the Champion, “that was all my eye, for I put him down.” Kendrick was about to retort, but the magistrate stopped his mouth, by ordering him to find the required bail.

The Champion and his Dwarf.—To these proofs of courage and forbearance we will append a sample or two of his humanity, an unfailing accompaniment of true valour.

Our hero made his bow before the magistrate on Wednesday, December 18, 1822, as the friend and protector of the helpless, in the person of a German dwarf, named John Hauptman. This little fellow, whose extreme altitude was forty inches, obtained a living during many years by hiring himself out as an exhibition to itinerant showmen. But his day had gone by—other and more youthful dwarfs had superseded him in the public favour, and poverty was pressing heavily on his head, when, in the midst of his destitution, accident led him to the hospitable fireside of Tom Cribb. The Champion 266listened to his tale of poverty; cheered his frame with the comforts of his bar and his larder, and told him he was welcome to stay at the Union Arms till he could find a better shelter, and he resided there as a sort of assistant waiter.

A drunken hackney-coach master, named Beckett, during the champion’s absence, on the previous Monday, not only insulted the little fellow, but encouraged his son, a lad of about ten years old, to beat him, and for this outrage on his protégé, the Champion now sought redress.

The burly-built hero of the ring entered the office, leading his tiny friend by the hand; and he and the lad having been placed side by side on a stool before the bench, the Champion stated what he had heard of the transaction, adding, “The poor little fellow has no friend in the world but me, your worship, and hang me if I would not rather have been beat myself.”

“That would not have been so easy a matter, Mr. Cribb,” observed his worship, and directed the dwarf to be sworn.

The little fellow then gave a very humble and modest account of the affair. He said, in tolerable English, that he was very sorry anybody should be troubled on his account, but Mr. Beckett would not be satisfied unless he would fight with the boy, and because he would not fight, he urged the boy on, till he knocked him down by “a blow on de mout, which cut him vor mush, and hurt him a mush deal.”

The lad pulled out his torn shirt-frill in reply, and the father delivered his defence thus:—“It was the brandy and water that did it, your worship; I’ll tell the truth: it was the brandy and water sure enough. I have known Mr. Cribb many years.” “That’s the reason you ought not to have taken advantage of my absence, to insult a poor little fellow you know I cared so much for,” observed the kind-hearted Champion.

The magistrate, after having warmly commended the conduct of the Champion, directed the hackneyman to find bail for the assault. Upon retiring to settle the row, the dragsman made it “all right” with Cribb, by making the dwarf a present of a sovereign.

At the Fives Court, on the occasion of Scroggins’s benefit, March 23, 1817, Jack Carter, who then aspired to the championship, which for nearly eight years had remained undisputed in the hands of Cribb, made his appearance upon the stage, and a glove being thrown up as a defiance, the Champion of England presented himself, to answer the challenge. However, upon Gregson ascending the platform to spar, Cribb was about to retire, when “Cribb, Cribb!” was vociferated from all parts of the court. The anxiety was so great, that the disturbance was hardly appeased until Cribb appeared ready 267for the combat. Cribb looked well and kept his position like a rock. He could neither be drawn nor stepped in upon, and the skirmishing tactics of the Lancashire hero could make no impression on the veteran of the ring. At in-fighting Cribb also decidedly took the lead. Carter put in one or two facers with much dexterity; but upon the milling system the Black Diamond proved that he was still a diamond, and instead of losing any of his former brilliancy, he shone with increased lustre and effect.

“From this period,” says “Boxiana,” “Carter seems to have ‘fancied’ a shy at Cribb, and on his return from Ireland on Tuesday, February 1, 1820, he challenged the man of colour, Sutton, for 100 guineas a-side. While this match was on, Carter called in at a sporting house, at the west end of the town; and, in consequence of his not being admitted into a private party, then assembled, he intemperately addressed a note to the chairman as ‘Mr. Swell.’ He was, however, admitted, when he had the bad taste to begin flourishing about his repeated conquests over the dark part of the creation. He also sneered at the Champion, saying, he had left off fighting, because fighting had left him off; but he (Carter) had come to fight somebody, and indeed he would fight ‘onybody!’ This sort of chaffing was attempted to be checked by a person present, when the Lancashire brute, sans ceremonie, threw the contents of a glass of wine in his face, part of which alighted on Tom Cribb. This insult was not to be borne, and the champion of England exclaimed “it was wrong!” Carter hereon defied him. Little parley ensued, ere the lion of the ring, although rather worse for the juice of the grape, grappled his enemy. He held up the Lancashire hero with the utmost ease, with one hand, in the Randall style, and Carter’s frontispiece received such repeated quiltings from the fist of Cribb that it was like a fashionable footman paying away at a knocker. It was close quarters—in fact, yard-arm to yard-arm; but the heavy shot of the first rate, although long laid up in ordinary, and nearly invalided, told heavily on the mug of his opponent. It was an up-and-down contest, and the Champion made such good use of his time, that his opponent was quite satisfied he had enough, and begged, in a piteous manner, that some person would take Cribb away from him, or else he should be killed! This entreaty was at length complied with; and upon the fallen hero getting upon his pins, the lads of the Fancy declared, from his altered appearance, that it was meeting an old friend with a new face. This severe thrashing scarcely occupied Cribb one minute! He did not receive a hurt in the slightest degree. Carter upon feeling his mouth, declared that part of his railings had departed.”

Until his formal retirement, Cribb never allowed his title of Champion to 268be questioned; and at the conclusion of the set-to between Harmer and Lancaster, at the Fives Court, on August 7th, 1820, the Champion rushed in, almost out of wind, made his way through the audience in a twinkling, ascended the stage with great rapidity, and threw up his hat. With his other hand he snatched out his pocket-book, and, with great animation and good emphasis, spoke to the following effect—keeping in mind our immortal bard’s advice to the actors, to

“Suit the action to the word.”

“Gentlemen,—I will fight Neate for 1000 guineas, or for 500 a-side (bravo). I have been just told, while I was taking a few whiffs over some cold brandy and water, that Neate had publicly challenged me. I therefore lost no time to show myself before you. Gentlemen, I do not like this chaffing behind a man’s back. I won’t have it. I am an Englishman; and I will behave like one. An Englishman never refuses a challenge (thunders of applause from all parts of the court). Neate is my countryman, but what of that? If he refuses to meet me, I will fight any man in Bristol for 1,000 guineas, and stake £100 directly. Here’s the blunt! My countrymen used me ill when I was last at Bristol; and Neate behaved rude to me (hear! and ‘Tom’s quite an orator; he must certainly have taken lessons from Thelwall.’) Perhaps ‘the old fool’ may be licked; but I will give any of them some trouble first before they do it (‘There is no one on the list can do it, Tom.’) I will tell you, gentlemen, they say Neate shall fight my boy, Spring, because they know he is unwell. This conduct isn’t right; my boy’s in a consumption (loud laughter), therefore I will fight Neate instead of him (bravo). My boy Spring has not got belly enough for him, but I have (clapping his hand upon his rotundity of abdomen.) ‘You have too much of it.’ Never mind, then, I am right enough about my bottom (great applause and laughter). I will fight; and blow my dickey (striking his fist very hard on the rails of the stage), but I will give any of them that fight me pepper (tumultuous cheering, and ‘To a certainty you will, Tom.’)”

This challenge of Neate, however, soon assumed a palpable form, for on Thursday evening, January 4, 1821, the Champion having called in at the Castle Tavern, to take a glass with his friend Tom Belcher, a swell from Bristol, and an admirer of Neate, without ceremony proposed the battle. The challenge was immediately taken up by Mr. James Soares, who felt for the pride of the metropolitan prize ring, and offered to stake £100 if the champion would consent to fight for the sum mentioned. Cribb answered, that he had said he would not fight for less than £500 a-side, in consequence 269of his business, but there had been so much chaffing about it, that he would fight Neate for £200 (loud cheers). The articles were immediately drawn up, and signed by the respective parties:—

Castle Tavern, Holborn, January 4, 1821.

“Mr. James Soares, on the part of Thomas Cribb, puts down £10; and Mr. J. E., on the part of William Neate, also puts down £10; to fight for £200 a-side, between Bath and London, on Wednesday, the 9th of May, 1821. To be a fair stand-up fight; half a minute time; in a twenty-four feet ring. The above £20 are placed in the hands of Mr. Belcher. The whole of the stakes are to be deposited in the hands of Mr. Belcher, and who is appointed to name the place of fighting. The sum of £100 a-side to be made good, at the said Mr. Belcher’s, the Castle Tavern, Holborn, on the 24th of January, 1821. An umpire to be chosen by each party, and Mr. Jackson to name referee. The whole of the money to be made good, £200 a-side, on the 9th of April, 1821, at Mr. Cribb’s, the Union Arms, corner of Panton and Oxendon Streets, Haymarket, between the hours of seven and ten o’clock in the evening. In case of either party not making the £100 good, the above deposit, £20, to be forfeited.

“Signed,       “J. S.
“J. E.”
“Witnessed, P. E.
“Thomas Belcher.”

A screw, it seems, had been loose between Neate and the Champion of England for some time past, which was now to be decided by the fist. Several wagers were immediately offered that the stakes were not made good; more especially as Neate was to be consulted upon the subject. It was, however, well known that Neate a short time ago offered to fight Cribb for £200 a-side. The Champion was much too heavy, but the good effects of training, it was thought, would put that all to rights. The sporting world were all upon the alert, to see the ‘ould one’ once more take the field. The Champion’s last memorable contest was with Molineaux, on September 28, 1811; nearly ten years having elapsed without receiving a challenge; Cribb ought not to fight—it was giving a chance away—so said the knowing ones.

At ten o’clock on the night mentioned (24th January), the articles were called for and read; and the backer of Cribb (the President of the Daffy Club), said his £100 was ready, but no person appearing on the part of Neate, the deposit money, £10 a-side, was given up to the Champion. The chairman then gave the health of Cribb. The Champion in returning thanks for the honour he had received, said he “was much more capable—nay, he would sooner fight than make a speech.”

The chairman, in an appropriate speech, thought the sporting world ought not to permit the Champion to accept any more challenges. It was upwards of nine years and a half since he had entered the ring. He was growing old, had young kids to provide for, and the gout now and then paid him a visit. He had beaten all his opponents in the highest style of courage, but it could not be expected that he could “get the best” of the infirmities of human nature. Yet the Champion was too game to say “No” to any challenge. 270He thought Cribb ought to retain his championship till he was floored by Old Time.[142]

Several first-rate amateurs, in short but pithy speeches, addressed the meeting on the subject, and all of them concurred in the opinion of the chairman: but, as to fighting, in future the Champion must “tie it up.”

On the day of the Coronation, July 19, 1821, his Majesty, in passing down the Hall, during the procession to the Abbey, cast a pleasing glance upon the person of Mr. Jackson, by way of recognition, which convinced the Commander-in-Chief of the P.R., that he still lived in the memory of his beloved sovereign and once great patron. Tom Cribb and Tom Spring were also habited as pages, guarding the entrance of Westminster Hall. The manly appearance of the two “big ones” attracted the notice of most of the great folks who were present at the gorgeous ceremony.

The following letters of thanks were individually received by those pugilists who assisted to keep the peace, and protect the persons of the visitors at the Coronation:—

Whitehall, 21st July, 1821.

My Lord,—I am commanded by His Majesty, to express to your Lordship His Majesty’s high approbation of the arrangements made by your Lordship in the department of the Great Chamberlain of England, for the august ceremony of His Majesty’s coronation, and of the correctness and regularity with which they were carried into effect.

“To the exemplary manner in which these duties were performed by your Lordship, and by those officers who acted under your Lordship’s authority, His Majesty is graciously pleased to consider that the order and dignity, which so peculiarly distinguished the ceremony, are in a great degree to be ascribed; and I have to request that your Lordship will communicate to the persons referred to the sense which His Majesty has condescended to express of their services.

“I have the honour to be, my Lord,
“Your Lordship’s most obedient, humble servant,
The Lord Gwydyr,
Deputy Great Chamberlain of England,
etc., etc., etc.
271Great Chamberlain’s Office, July the 22nd, 1821.”

Sir,—Having received His Majesty’s commands, through the Secretary of State for the Home Department, to communicate to you, sir, His Majesty’s gracious approbation of the manner in which you discharged your duty on the 19th of July, I know no way so effectual of executing these most gratifying instructions, as by inclosing you a copy of the original document. Permit me at the same time to add, how sensible I am of your attention to the very imperfect directions I was enabled to furnish you with, and that the arrangements, which have been with so much condescension noticed by your King, are in a great degree to be attributed to the loyalty, judgment, and temper, exhibited by you at His Majesty’s coronation.

“I remain, sir,
“Your faithful and obedient servant,
To Mr. Thomas Cribb, etc.

Lord Gwydyr, presented one of the gold coronation medals, which he had received from the hands of his Majesty King George the Fourth, to the boxers who gave their assistance at Westminster Hall. His lordship also provided a most excellent dinner for all the pugilists, at Tom Cribb’s, upon the occasion. After the cloth was removed, and the health of the king drank with four times four; the gold medal was raffled for, by the whole of the boxers, when Tom Belcher proved the lucky man, and held the trophy until his death.

We now come to our hero’s formal retirement; an event which excited considerable interest throughout the circles of the fancy. On Saturday, May 18, 1822, the Champion of England made his bow to the amateurs, at the Fives Court. Tom had to boast of a Corinthian attendance, and St. Martin’s Street was filled with carriages. The sets-to were generally good. The champion of England and Spring ascended the stage, amidst loud approbation. Cribb was decorated with the belt. It was an excellent combat; and, although Tom had a touch of the gout, he displayed great activity. But the awful moment had now arrived for poor Tom to say, farewell! He scratched his nob—looked about him—his heart full of gratitude—at a loss what to say—and his tongue almost forsook its office. After a struggle to give vent to his feelings, he at length delivered himself of the following words:—“Gentlemen, I return you thanks for your kindness this day. (A short pause.) Indeed, gentlemen, I sincerely thank you for all the favours you have conferred on me—I do indeed. (A long pause, as if Tom had stuck fast.) Gentlemen, may your health and purses never fail you.” Cribb now retired, amid long and loud plaudits, accompanied with, “It will be a long time before we shall look upon your like again in the prize ring.”

Spring now mounted the stage, and thus addressed the spectators:—“Gentlemen, I once more present myself to your notice; but as my old dad has retired from the stage and the prize ring altogether, and as I have stood next to him for some time past, I mean now to stand in his place, till I am beat out of it!” An amateur and Spring went up to Tom Belcher, and 272informed him that Spring was ready to fight Neate for £300. “Very well,” replied the hero of the Castle; “now I know what you mean, we will talk about it. I shall name it to Neate.” The result of this challenge will be fully recorded in the Life of Tom Spring, opening the next period.

From this time Tom led the life of a retired veteran, but his house was the rendezvous of sporting men. Cribb, however, occasionally figured in the public prints, for then, as now, noisy, troublesome, and drunken fellows annoyed licensed victuallers in their business. The Morning Herald thus reports a “Morning at Bow Street.”

Cribb and his Customer.—The Champion brought a little shrivelled tailor before Sir Robert Baker, on Tuesday, December 12, 1820, at Bow Street, and charged the ninth part of a man with calling him, the said Champion, ‘a great big fighting cove;’ with exclaiming, ‘Oh, that I was but big enough to whop you!’ and with frequenting his house, the Union Arms Tavern, Panton Street, for the purpose of abusing him and annoying his company. In reply to this, the little remnant of shreds and patches looked up in the champion’s face, and humbly begged his pardon, promising most solemnly, before his worship, never to offend in the like manner again. Cribb’s placability is well known; he, who has so often stood unshaken before the stoutest hearts in the ring, could not stand this pathetic appeal from a forlorn little tailor, and, relaxing his features into a smile, he confessed himself appeased, but trusted Master Snip would get rid of his bad habits in future, and never more measure his way to the Union Arms: or else if he did, Cribb said he would cut his cloth in a way that he would not like. The hero of the needle was in consequence discharged. The magistrate observed that he had heard the various houses kept by the champion to have always been conducted with the utmost propriety. Cribb moved his castor and retired.”

Here is another of Tom’s magisterial interviews.

The Three Tailors.—Three natty tailors were charged, at Marlborough Street Police Office, in September, 1826, with creating a disturbance, and assaulting Thomas Cribb, the ex-champion of England. The defendants went into Cribb’s house, where they partook of some liquor. After a few minutes they commenced a disturbance, and he requested them to be quiet; but they swore at him, and challenged him to fight. One of them being pot-valiant, struck him. The example was followed by the others, who insisted on his having a turn with them. A person said, “No, Cribb, don’t strike the three tailors, who are only the third part of a man!” The astonished tailors, on hearing his name mentioned, took up their clothes and 273ran quickly out of the house; but Cribb, determining to teach them better, pursued and lodged them in the hands of the watchman. Sir George Farrant: ‘Did they beat you?’ Cribb, smiling: ‘No, their blows were something like themselves—of little importance.’ Sir George Farrant: ‘Did you return the blow?’ Cribb: ‘No, sir, I was afraid of hurting ’em; I should not like to do that.’ The tailors in their defence, said they were sorry for what had occurred; at the same time, they were not aware that the person whom they had challenged to fight was the Champion: on finding their mistake they instantly left his house. Sir George Farrant: ‘Aye, you thought you had better try the lightness of your heels than the weight of his fists.’ Cribb declined making any charge against them, and they were discharged on paying their fees.”

Cribb and the Cobbler.—In the same month the ex-champion again made his bow before the beak; but, on this occasion, Bow Street was honoured with his portly presence, where he charged a cobbler with causing a disturbance in his house. Cribb said that the prisoner was, about two years ago, very annoying, and he ordered him never to enter his house again. A few days ago he renewed his visit; and on Wednesday night he was most riotous and abusive. He (Cribb) did not care much for his abuse; but he could not contain himself when the cobbler had the impudence to begin abusing the king: he seized him under the arms, and dropped him gently in the street. The magistrate told Cribb that he had on this, as on all other occasions, evinced great forbearance, and directed the warrant to stand over; and, if the prisoner annoyed him again, he would be committed to prison.”

Cribb’s declining years, however, were disturbed by domestic troubles and severe pecuniary losses; and after a long struggle against adverse circumstances, produced by lending money and becoming responsible for a relative, he was forced to give up the Union Arms to his creditors. His last appearance was on November 12, 1840, when under the auspices of the Pugilistic Association, he took a benefit at the National Baths, Westminster Road. At this time, and for some years previously, Cribb had resided at the house of his son, a baker, in the High Street, Woolwich, where he died on the 11th of May, 1848, aged 67.


The editor of Bell’s Life (Vincent G. Dowling, Esq.), and some friends and admirers of the champion, having resolved to erect a monument to his memory, the matter was thus spoken of in the columns of the leading sporting paper of England, in the beginning of 1851.

274“Among the interesting incidents connected with the approaching season of the Great Exhibition, we have much pleasure in announcing the completion of the long promised monument to the memory of Tom Cribb, one of the most justly esteemed champions of the pugilistic school of England. As a professor of his art he was matchless, and as a demonstrator of fair play, in principle and in practice, he was never excelled. He had still a higher virtue, displayed in sustaining throughout his gallant career, independent of indomitable courage—a reputation for unimpeachable integrity and unquestionable humanity. His hand was ever open to the distresses of his fellow-creatures, and whether they befell friend or foe, he promptly, by relieving them, exhibited the influence of the charitable and kindly impulses of a truly benevolent heart—an example well worthy of imitation, and justly entitling him to the present distinction, which, while it cherishes his memory, will show to others of his class, who follow in his steps, that their good deeds will live beyond the grave.

“It will be remembered that poor Cribb, after enjoying the sunshine of good fortune for a series of years, respected by all classes, from the prince to the peasant, o’erstepped the bounds of prudence and self-consideration, fell into distress, and retired to the house of his son, at Woolwich, where after a lingering illness, he died on the 11th May, 1848. Happily, through the sympathy of those who felt as we felt, his last moments were soothed by the enjoyment of every comfort, and he departed in peace, deeply grateful to those whose kindness he had experienced. The last sad duty of consigning his remains to their final resting place was performed in Woolwich churchyard, his ashes mingling with those of naval and military heroes honourably distinguished in their respective vocations. We took care that every expense connected with his illness and death was defrayed, but we still felt that such a man should not depart from among us without some lasting token of the estimation in which the noble qualities by which he had been distinguished were held, and therefore suggested the erection of a monument to his memory—such a monument as would honour and preserve it. This suggestion received a ready response. Our work is now nearly accomplished, and we would fain hope it will be found to fulfil our desire, that of showing to our expected foreign visitors, as well as to our countrymen, that, however humble our heroes, where valour is accompanied by sterling honesty and humanity, we have pride in commemorating their deeds and their virtues....


275“The grave over which this monument is to be erected has long since been bricked and covered with a suitable slab. Upon this will be placed a plinth, also of solid Portland stone, about two feet in height, to receive the statue. On the edge of the plinth will be engraved this impressive sentence, ‘Respect the ashes of the brave.’ The grave being on an elevated bank close to the path leading to the church from the town of Woolwich, the whole will command the attention of all persons entering the burial ground from London, or passing along that thoroughfare immediately in front, which at all hours of the day is thronged with soldiers, sailors, dockyard men, and civilians.

“We hardly doubt that this monument, from the moral it is calculated to enforce, will be without its beneficial effects on the minds of all those by whom it is seen, and we trust it may be gratifying to those strangers who on their visits to the Arsenal will have an opportunity of witnessing the veneration in which Englishmen hold the memory of those who, although not ‘licensed’ warriors, are yet honest types of our national principles and character.”

On the eve of the first of May, 1854, the monument, of which we here give an engraving, was placed in the position it now occupies in Woolwich Churchyard, and its first view by the public was coincident with the first opening of the first Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. We again quote Bell’s Life:—“Far be it from us to connect this simple occurrence further than in point of time with the Exhibition in question; but the coincidence is fortunate, and the object creditable to those by whom it has been carried out—that object being to testify the respect entertained for the memory of a man who, in his position, entitled himself to universal respect for his unimpeachable honesty, indomitable courage, and unquestionable humanity. Exception may be taken to the sphere in which those qualities were exhibited, but those acquainted with English feeling, English character, and English habits must hold in estimation the memory of a man who, in his own person and by his own acts, impressed on thousands, we might say millions, those principles of fair play, combined with gallant bearing, which have been the distinguishing features of our countrymen, soldiers, sailors, or civilians, in whatever circumstances placed. From these feelings sprung a desire to erect the present monument, for the double purpose of perpetuating the memory of the most distinguished of his class, and of impressing on those who followed in his footsteps the sense entertained of the virtues he so prominently displayed. A subscription was commenced, at the head of which were the names of noblemen and gentlemen of the highest rank, swollen by more humble contributors. The work has been accomplished, thanks to the unceasing assiduity and generous devotion of Mr. Timothy Butler, the sculptor, who has performed his task in a manner that must increase his 276reputation, and entitle him to a distinguished position in the profession of which he is so bright an ornament. The design is simple yet grand in its conception. It represents a British lion grieving over the ashes of a British hero; for, putting aside all prejudice, Cribb was a hero of whom his country might well be proud. The drawing affords a correct idea of the monument, but falls short of the effect of the original; for we do not believe there is in existence a more beautiful specimen of animal sculpture, whether we regard the exquisite proportions of the figure, or the deep impression of sorrow expressed on the countenance. The paw of the lion, it will be seen, rests on an urn supposed to contain the ashes of the dead, over which is lightly thrown the belt which was presented to Cribb as ‘the Champion of England.’ For obvious reasons—principally the close proximity to the House of Peace—all allusion to the circumstances which have led to this distinction is avoided, and the inscription is simply this:—‘Sacred to the Memory of Thomas Cribb, born July 8, 1781, died May 11, 1848.’ On the plinth beneath are the words—‘Respect the ashes of the brave’—an inscription which, it is hoped, will prevent those encroachments in which idle visitors to a churchyard but too often indulge. The lion, of colossal size, stands on a rock, and the whole was sculptured from a solid block of Portland stone weighing twenty tons, from which some idea may be formed of the labour and perseverance with which such a chef d’œuvre has been accomplished and removed without accident from the studio of the artist in Middlesex Place, New Road, to its present position. The monument stands on a plinth which elevates it among surrounding tombs, rendering it visible even from the river Thames; while from the footpath, in front of the churchyard, it invites immediate attention as well as admiration—a sentiment which has been unequivocally expressed by thousands.

“It is fit we should state that there are some fastidious persons in Woolwich, the town in which poor Cribb breathed his last, who find fault with the erection of such a monument in such a place. It is due to the rector of Woolwich, to state, that although he may in some respects participate in the feelings of the parishioners, his objections were removed by the statement of the fact, that before the monument was commenced, the drawing of the design was submitted to his predecessor, by whom it was so heartily approved that he regretted it could not be surrounded by an iron railing, to protect it from trespassers, who are but too apt to treat with indifference the most exquisite specimens of art.[143] There were, however, some words in the inscription to which the rector did object, and which at his request have been omitted. 277Respect for this gentleman’s impressions has induced us to omit the following not inappropriate epitaph:—

“‘When some proud earl or rich patrician dies,
Unmoved we mark the storied marble rise,
Unmoved we read the praises blazoned forth,
And doubt the meed if giv’n to wealth or worth;
But truth shall guide this record, and proclaim
Who raised himself without a crime to fame;
Whose heart was tender as his arm was strong;
Who still upheld the right, abhorred the wrong;
Who stood unconquered champion in that field,
Where hardy heroes nature’s weapons wield—
’Twas poor Tom Cribb—beneath his ashes lie:
Peace to his spirit’s immortality!’”



Thomas Molineaux, the hardy, determined and dangerous opponent of Cribb, under whose memoir we have already given the details of the two championship contests, next deserves a niche in the temple of fistic fame. Unnoticed, unheralded, unfriended, and unknown, this sable gladiator made his way to London. His skill and strength had been tried in several combats in his native country, Virginia. Confident in his own capabilities, no sooner did he arrive in the world’s metropolis, than, proceeding to the best known sporting houses, he offered himself as a candidate for pugilistic honours. He was not long before he attracted the notice of the patrons of those gymnastic sports, which, from their practice and support, instil the principles of endurance and courage into the hardy sons of England, and have not only given greatness but added stability to the national character.

Molineaux deserves credit for his bold challenge of the highest prize of pugilism; his merits were certainly of no mean order, and his defeat adds to the honours of the conqueror of such a formidable antagonist.


From a Drawing by George Sharples.

279Molineaux’s trial set-to was with an anonymous Bristol man, on Tuesday, July 14th, 1810. The papers inform us, “the newly come American black is a formidable fellow; in height five feet nine inches, his weight between thirteen and fourteen stone, his age twenty-six years. He was introduced under the auspices of his coloured countryman, Bill Richmond, who seconded him. Tom Cribb, waiting upon the Bristol man, who was a robust but rather clumsy fellow of six feet in height, weight not stated. The scene of action was Tothill Fields. The Bristol boxer was strong and game; but, beyond these qualities he was a poor specimen of the west country school. The black kept himself close, but seemed to have little idea of delivering at distance. He merely ‘flipped’ or hit at half-arm, and when he struck kept his elbows close to his body. His style of in-fighting, however, was peculiar, and he caught his big antagonist so heavily and frequently in the body as to knock the wind out of him, and then began to practise upon his head so dexterously that at the end of an hour of desperate up-hill fighting the Bristol man was compelled to give in, scarcely a feature in his face being distinguishable. The two seconds, Cribb and Richmond, had a quarrel concerning an alleged foul blow, and had a short sharp turn-up by way of a second course. There was but one round, but that quite satisfied Richmond, who is too good a judge to take a thrashing ‘for love,’ which he might soon have had. Although not the most expert boxer that ever offered himself for pugilistic fame, Molineaux was considered a promising ‘Chicken,’ and was immediately matched for 100 guineas with Tom Blake, better known by the title of Tom Tough, who was at this time forty years of age, and whose battles are related in the Appendix, ante, p. 236.

“Tuesday, August 21, 1810, was the day fixed, and the spot where Richmond and Maddox last contended agreed upon, on the coast about four miles from Margate, and two from Reculvers. At an early hour every vehicle was in motion to gain the goal of sport, and at one o’clock Blake came in dashing style, seated in an honourable baronet’s barouche, with his seconds, Tom Cribb and Bill Gibbons. A ring was formed, and at half past one Molineaux was modestly introduced by his humble, but perhaps more firm, supporter Richmond. After the usual ceremony the combatants set-to.”


Round 1.—There was considerable curiosity among the “swell” division to see the new specimen in ebony, on whose merits Massa Richmond was so eloquent to all visitors to the Horse and Dolphin. There was some cautious sparring for about a minute, in which Molineaux showed he had taken lessons and improved by them. Soon, however, Blake[144] seized an opening, put in two smart hits right and left, and stopped Molineaux’s return. The men closed and fought at half-arm. Blake slipped from Molineaux, but while in the act received a tremendous chopping blow on the back of his neck, which Molineaux repeated with his right hand over the head, and brought him down. (Betting even.)

2.—Blake again made play, but soon found that two or three hits, although well planted, were not sufficient to throw Molineaux off his legs. He received the hits with great sang froid, and at length beat down his opponent’s guard with his left hand, and with a degree of quickness and dexterity, which in Dutch Sam or Tom Belcher would have been considered an astonishing effort of science, brought Blake down by a most severe blow with the right. (Six to four on the Black.)

3.—Blake evinced great distress in his wind. Molineaux run in to take advantage, but was received with a chattering jaw hit. They rallied, and both fell, Molineaux uppermost.

4.—A hard round, and such a one as convinced the judges that Blake had trained off. Molineaux rendered his guard perfectly useless, as by strength of hitting he broke through it, and although Blake planted many good blows, they had not an equal effect to those of his opponent, as his face sufficiently exemplified. The round lasted 280two minutes, obstinate ruffianing fighting, and Blake, after putting in a good body hit, was knocked down. (Odds rose five to two in favour of Molineaux.)

5.—Blake bled copiously, but with great courage rushed to a rally, in which Molineaux got his left arm round his neck, and holding his head up, fibbed him so dreadfully that Blake fell exhausted.

6.—Molineaux now thought it time to beat his man off hand. He rushed in, chopped down his opponent’s guard with his left hand, and knocked him completely off his legs with his right, by a tremendous hit. (Any odds in favour of Molineaux.)

7.—Blake in this round rallied determinedly; he exchanged some good hits dexterously, but was too weak for this work, and fell.

8.—This was the last round. Molineaux began as furiously as in the sixth. Blake retreated, but was forced to rally, to extricate himself from the iron grasp of his adversary. He put in a successful hit on Molineaux’s cheek, but it was returned so forcibly on the head, that it laid him asleep for some time.

The time having expired, Blake was still insensible, and accordingly Molineaux was acknowledged the victor.

Remarks.—In this battle Molineaux evinced great improvement in the science of pugilism, particularly in the art of giving, while nature seemed to have endowed him abundantly with the gift of taking, his body being almost callous to fistic punishment. It was generally considered that should he be able to combine an equal degree of skill with his gluttony, he would mill the whole race of modern pugilists.

Encouraged by his friend and countryman Richmond, and patronised by some leading amateurs, the aspiring nigger now avowed his aim was no less than the championship. Molineaux, with the vanity so remarkably characteristic of his race, never ceased amusing his visitors and patrons with grotesque illustrations of how he would serve out “Massa Cribb,” for he possessed, mixed with a considerable amount of ferocity, the vis comica of the negro race. This could not go on long, and a match was made for 200 guineas, to come off December 18th, 1810. How this event was decided at Copthorne, near East Grinstead, Essex, may be read in the Life of Cribb, ante, p. 254.

Notwithstanding this defeat, Molineaux felt that he was entitled to another chance, and accordingly sent a challenge three days after the battle, which letter will be found in its proper place, at p. 255, under Cribb’s second victory.

About this time Bob Gregson, who was fond of match-making, had at his hostelrie a young Lancashire man of the name of Rimmer, twenty-two years of age, and considered by his countrymen a second Jem Belcher. His friends were anxious to get him on with Molineaux, now defeated, and issued a challenge for 100 guineas, which was directly answered on the part of Molineaux. The day was fixed for May 21, 1811, and accordingly at the well-trodden hurst of Moulsey, at one o’clock on the appointed day, Rimmer threw his hat into a twenty-five feet roped ring, pitched by the commissary-general Bill Gibbons, who, moreover, in company with Richmond, performed the duty of second to Molineaux. The like office to Rimmer was delegated to Power and Tom Jones. The betting on starting was three to one on Molineaux.


Round 1.—A couple of minutes were spent in sparring, in which neither man displayed much grace, though both looked formidable. Rimmer then let go both hands, but was short; he got away without a return. More sparring; at length Molineaux put in a left-handed blow on his adversary’s neck with great force; Rimmer returned, but slightly, and fell. (Four to one on Molineaux.)

2.—Rimmer again made play, and another effort to hit right and left, but the distance was again ill-judged, and he got away. Molineaux waited very patiently for him; they rallied, and Molineaux made some excellent stops. They broke away and got together again, when Molineaux brought down his opponent by two hits, right and left, of most astonishing force and quickness. (Odds four to one in favour of Molineaux.)

3.—Molineaux appeared much elated with his success, smiled significantly at his opponent, and sparred low, evidently to show he disregarded any effort he might attempt. He waited until Rimmer made play, when he hit him, and following him up, repeated his blows until Rimmer fell, but apparently from no other cause than to avoid a repetition of the tremendous hits he had received.

4.—Rimmer’s head was covered with blood, and he was, in fact, stupefied for a time, in consequence of a blow on the temple in the last round. Molineaux again put in two successful hits right and left, over his guard, on the head and neck, and Rimmer fell as if shot. Every one now sympathised with the dreadful situation of the novice, and odds rose to any amount in favour of Molineaux, but no takers.

5.—Rimmer evinced great alertness, made a long hit at double distance, and fell.

6.—Rimmer again hit short, and fell, evidently very weak.

7.—For the first time Rimmer had the best of fighting in this round; he put in a good blow with his left hand, and rallied with great courage, but fell at length over his opponent’s legs.

8.—Both hit over, and Rimmer fell.

9.—Rimmer exerted every effort to gain the superiority, rallied well, and threw Molineaux.

10.—Molineaux appeared almost ferocious, and went in determined to repay him for past favours. He followed Rimmer, milling him to every part of the ring, and at length floored him.

11.—Rimmer rallied, and showed pluck. Some good hits exchanged, but Rimmer hit widely, without judging distance, and gave his head doubled in his chest, which stopped several blows, and he at length came down.

12.—Rimmer made a body hit, which again fell short, and almost in a state of frenzy he ran in, caught Molineaux up by the thighs, and threw him in the Lancashire style. Many cried “Foul,” others “Fair,” but the fight went on.

13.—Rimmer struck Molineaux over the mouth, when the Black ran in and threw him.

14.—A rally. Rimmer closed, and a complete trial of strength ensued. Both fell, Rimmer bringing down his man by Lancashire ingenuity.

15.—Rimmer retreated round the ring, Molineaux following, and at length by a severe blow in the wind, brought him down, when he was indisputably “dead beat.”

At this time the ring was broken; peers, ploughmen, fighting men, chimney-sweepers, costermongers, were all in one tumultuous uproar, which continued for at least twenty minutes, without any reason being assignable. At length, however, by the exertions of Cribb and others, the ring was restored, and the combatants, who had neither left the ring, were again set-to. Six more rounds were fought, but greatly to the discomfiture of Rimmer, who could hardly stand. During this time he received about ten more tremendous blows and then gave in. Rimmer displayed great courage; he has an unfortunate knack of giving his head when he hits, and appears to be timid of advancing towards his adversary, by which errors many blows fall short.

Such is the contemporary report: the slang version may be found in “Boxiana,” vol. i., pp. 365, 366. Of the formidable powers of Molineaux at this time, of which some writers who recorded his later career have expressed themselves sceptical, this battle and that with Blake must be convincing proof. No pugilist from this time offered a challenge to Molineaux, nor could he get a battle on until Tom Cribb, who had publicly announced his retirement from the ring, was called upon to “prevent the championship of England from being held by a foreigner,” or as Pierce Egan oddly calls the American nigger ‘a Moor’. Poor Pierce’s geography was sadly confused, 282and the term “the Moor” occurs—perhaps from some jumbled reminiscences of Othello, in his stage readings—in a hundred places in his work as a favourite epithet for the States’ black whose ring career we are now tracing. Molineaux had now once again to enter the lists with the Champion, which he did on the 28th September, 1811, at Thistleton Gap, Leicestershire, where, after a desperate battle of less than twenty minutes, he fell before the conquering arm of Cribb. See p. 256, ante.

The losers who have, according to the proverb, “leave to grumble,” were loud, in speech and in the press, upon the depressing influences of prejudice, jealousy, envy, and “apprehension” lest “a black should win the championship.” Very natural is all this, and would be so again; but nothing unfair was ever substantiated. Pierce Egan thus sums up (vol. i., pp. 367‒370), which we condense in quotation.

“It was this prejudice, a disheartening one to bear up against, that Molineaux, by never even approaching to unfairness, and by the exercise of a manly forbearance in critical situations, was called on to remove; he could not help seeing the applause and cheering were decidedly on the part of the Champion; in fact, the man of colour experienced from the bulk of the spectators a very different reception, occasioned by the extreme anxiety of the friends of Cribb for the safety of his honour and renown; for his sable opponent was truly formidable. These observations, nevertheless do not pluck a single leaf from his well-merited laurels; but impartiality must supersede every other consideration. It would be absurd to say that Molineaux underwent anything like a regular training; on the contrary, he indulged himself to excess—without a patron, he had to range from town to town, to support himself by exhibitions of sparring, and entering into all the glorious confusion of larks and sprees that might present themselves; while far different was the position of the Champion. Placed under the immediate direction of Captain Barclay, and secluded from the world at the estate of that gentleman in far Scotland, his condition was in the finest possible tone, his mind cheerful, and he felt confident that every chance was in favour of his success. Molineaux, in spite of his undoubted high courage, laboured under considerable depression; wherever he went he was unpopular; which circumstance was considerably heightened upon his public appearance to face his antagonist. His constitution, too, was by no means so good as in the former contest: but his efforts were tremendous and terrible, and for the first few rounds of the battle the flash side trembled for the result.”

Molineaux about this period entered upon a downward course: the facilis descensus was fully exemplified. He quarrelled with all his best friends, 283scorned advice, and declared himself on all occasions, especially when maddened with liquor, an ill-used man. A street fight with Power, in which Molineaux had the best for seventeen minutes’ roughing, is recorded in “Boxiana.” However his fame and name were a passport to money-getting, and he started on a provincial tour, to gather the silver of gaping rustics, who would pay willingly to see the man who fought the Champion twice.

Molineaux was also a pretty good wrestler, and displayed great activity and powers at the Exeter meeting of July 27, 1812, where he entered himself for the public prize of ten guineas, but received a dreadful fall from John Snow, of Moreton.

We find the following paragraph in the Leicester Mercury, of Feb. 3rd, 1813:

“Jay, the pugilist, has challenged Molineaux to fight at any notice he may please, but Blackee remains both deaf and dumb to this challenge, as he did to Cribb’s immediate acceptance of a vaunting challenge to him. The champion promises him a love-dressing for his bounce, if he could be prevailed on to come to London.”

To which Molineaux replied,—

Leicester, February 10th, 1813.

“I, the said Molineaux, do declare that I never received any challenge, but through the medium of your print; but I am ready to fight Jay at any place within the county of Leicester, for a sum not exceeding £200, if accepted within one month of the above date. In opposition to that part of the paragraph which relates to Cribb, I do declare that I sent him a challenge within two months, but I have received no answer; my friends being mentioned in the challenge, who would back me to any amount; and that I have never received any challenge from Cribb since I last fought him.

“N.B. Letters left at the Post Office, Leicester, will be duly attended to.

“The mark of X THOS. MOLINEAUX.”

We will now refer back to the all-important and absorbing event of our hero’s second contest with Cribb, from which eighteen months elapsed before Molineaux met with a competitor in Carter, a Lancashire man, though he repeatedly challenged all England. This match, however, went off for a time, owing to Richmond, his erewhile patron, “guide, philosopher, and friend,” issuing a writ against him and taking him to a sponging house upon a ca. sa. This is now a bit of antiquated law for which our fathers smarted, and for which the young “Templars” may refer to their “Reader,” while we congratulate our reader that John Roe and Richard Doe are defunct, and no more “seize the body until the debt is satisfied.”

Richmond was now at war to the knife with Molineaux, and made a match for Carter to fight his late protégé for 100 guineas, on Friday, the 2nd April, 1813, when the men met at Remington, Gloucestershire, six miles from Banbury, at the junction of four counties. That there was a doubt about the honesty of this fight, the subjoined extracts from contemporary papers will 284show:—“Previous to the battle, the articles were read over to the combatants, in which it was stated that the winner was to have a purse of 100 guineas—when Carter stepped up, inquiring what the ‘loser was to have!!!’ Richmond, who was his second, gnashed his teeth and shrugged up his shoulders; Bob Gregson, his friend and patron, tremblingly alive as to the event of the contest, and flattering himself that Lancashire would prove proudly triumphant on this occasion, animatedly exclaimed, ‘Jack, never talk of losing, boy—thee must win, the chance is all in thy favour!’”

As we have already said Richmond seconded Carter, with Cooper as his junior counsel; Joe Ward and Bill Gibbons held briefs for Molineaux. Six to four, and in some instances three to one, were betted on the black. We regret to say that the only report we can discover of this battle is that by Pierce Egan, which, with some necessary pruning of slang and corrections of ungrammatical phrases must serve, faute de mieux:—


Round 1.—It was the opinion of the most experienced pugilists that such a set-to was never before witnessed; one “was afraid, and the other dared not,” and two minutes were trifled away in this sort of caricaturing, when Carter touched Molineaux on the mouth, who genteelly returned it. They closed, and the man of colour was thrown. It would be absurd to detail by way of rounds any more of this worst of fights, though we readily admit that Carter was the best man after the battle began, and continued so throughout the fight. Molineaux was wretched in the extreme, and at one time bolted from his second, and had it not been for Colonel and Captain Barclay, he would never have returned to the scratch, he wished so much to get away. At another period he was down on one knee, and with both hands laid fast hold of the ropes, and being hit in this situation, he roared out lustily “Foul!” but he was given to understand that, by the laws of boxing, no one is considered down “without having both knees on the ground, with either one or both hands also.” In the fifteenth round he was so terrified that, upon being driven to one corner of the ring, he cried out lamentably, “Oh dear! oh dear! murder!” a little previous to which, he declared Carter “had bit him in the neck!” and soon afterwards he repeated, “there, he has bit me again!” and it was with great difficulty Joe Ward could persuade him that it was the knuckles of Carter, and not his mouth. This the once brave competitor of the champion! impossible! Could he have thus degenerated? Twenty-five rounds occurred, in which coaxing, persuading, dramming, and threatening, were resorted to, in order to make the man of colour perform something like fighting. But to the great astonishment of all the spectators, when Molineaux was dead beat, Carter fainted, and dropped his head as he sat on the knee of his second. With all the exertions of Richmond, it seems, he could not arouse Carter from his lethargic state, and he thus lost the battle in not coming to time. His fame, it is urged, was not only tarnished from this circumstance, but even his integrity called into question. The above battle created universal dissatisfaction.

Poor Bob Gregson, agitated beyond description at seeing Lancashire (as he considered) thus trampled on with disgrace, went up to Carter, exclaiming, “Jack, Jack, what be’est thee at? get up and fight, man!” But Bob might as well have sung psalms to a dead horse. Carter, some little time afterwards raised his head, feebly observing, “Stop a bit! stop a bit!” And whether by accident, design, or with an intent to conclude this farce in style we are not in the secret to unfold, but a disciple of Esculapius stepped up, and in the twinkling of an eye pulled out his lancet, and bled Carter, to the great astonishment of his friends and the spectators in general; thus preventing, even had any inclination remained on the side of Carter to have renewed the fight. The latter’s clothes had hitherto been preserved, during the fight, in the chariot of a man of distinction, but who, it is said, was so disgusted with the scene before him, that he instantly ordered them to be thrown out with disdain and contempt. In once more taking a slight view of the man of colour, whatever certainty there might have been of Molineaux being a sound man at the 285core, it is strongly urged that if his heart had been a good one, he must have won the first battle with the champion; however, be that as it may, since that period he has been dissipated to excess, completely gone off in constitution, and broken winded. One improvement appeared to have taken place: he was more temperate in setting-to, but he did not like to face his man, and it required no small ingenuity to get him into the ring.

Between a “Town” and “Country Amateur” at Oxford; or, in the phrase of the day, Between a “Johnny Raw” and a “Knowing One!”
On witnessing Carter faint away when he had won the battle, but who contrived to lose the purse, in his contest with Molineaux.
Says Jack to Bob, “Look, poor Carter’s hipp’d!”
“Hipp’d, be d——d!” cries Bob, “the R——’s tipp’d!”
“No, no,” quoth Jack, “they put in too hard pats:”
“Put in,” echoes Bob, “they’ve put in—the flats!”

With this specimen of “the historian’s” style we dismiss the affair of Carter and Molineaux. We shall hear more of the so-called “Lancashire hero,” when we come to the life of Tom Spring in the next Period.

Molineaux once more started on a tour, extending it this time to Scotland, where he exhibited sparring in the principal towns. The black, like most of his race, had a childish propensity for gaiety, and a strong passion for dress, was amorously inclined, and devoted himself by turns to Bacchus and Venus. Of course the Black Samson met with many mercenary Dalilahs, and—

In general riot, melted down his youth
In different beds of lust, and never learn’d
The icy precepts of respect, but follow’d
The sugar’d game before him.”

With dress of the best quality and fashion, the man of colour soon appeared a swell of the first magnitude. Maintaining, then, the highest secondary rank as a boxer, he dashed about regardless of future consequences to his milling fame. Pleasure was the order of the day with him, and the stews tended not only to ease him of his cash, but soon undermined that overwhelming power and pluck so conspicuously displayed in his terrible combats with the mighty Cribb. The consequences of such a line of conduct need be scarcely dwelt on; the iron frame of the black soon seriously felt the dilapidating effects of intemperance. Yet, notwithstanding this visible falling off, Molineaux with all the drawbacks of enervating excess, was not to be beaten off hand, and none but a boxer of more than common skill and strength seemed likely to accomplish this task.

Fuller, a clever and well-informed man, who had beaten Bill Jay, and whose character for science and game entitled him to every consideration, fancied he was able to contend with this renowned milling hero, and the amateurs of Scotland, in order to facilitate a match between them, entered into a subscription purse of 100 guineas, to be fought in a forty feet ring. 286Early in the morning, on the day appointed for the above trial of skill to be decided, Friday, the 27th May, 1814, at Bishopstorff, Paisley, Ayrshire, the fancy were in motion. Numerous vehicles of all descriptions were seen rattling along the road to the scene of action, and scampering pedestrians out of number, to witness the novelty of a prize-mill in Scotland. Some thousands of spectators formed the ring, and upwards of one hundred carriages belonging to gentlemen were upon the ground. Molineaux was seconded by Carter, and Fuller had the veteran Joe Ward and George Cooper. Five to four on the black. At one o’clock the ceremony of shaking hands was performed, and the men set-to. Both the combatants displayed good science, but the blows of Fuller, although he put in several with much dexterity, appeared more showy than effective. However, on Fuller’s planting a desperate ribber, Joe Ward ironically observed, that “if he continued to hit his man so hard, they should all be baulked, and the fight be over too soon.” The battle had continued only eight minutes, when the sheriff of Renfrewshire, attended by constables, entered the ring, and put a stop to it in the fourth round. Both the combatants appeared much chagrined, particularly Molineaux, who vauntingly declared, “had he foreseen such an interruption, he would have finished off his opponent before the arrival of the sheriff.” The man of colour, it seems, was so confident of victory, that previous to the fight, he betted five to two he drew first blood—this bet he won; and also two to one he floored Fuller first—the latter was not decided. Fuller expressed himself ready to settle the matter the next day, but Molineaux insisted the fight should not take place till the following Tuesday.

The above arrangement was agreed to, and on Tuesday, May 31, they again met at Auchineux, twelve miles from Glasgow. Fuller was attended by Ward and Cooper, Molineaux by an Irish sergeant, of the name of Hailward, assisted by a private. The umpires were Captain Cadogan and Mr. George Stirling, and in case of any dispute, Mr. Graham, of Guntmaux, as the referee. This battle is without parallel. There is nothing like it in the annals of pugilism. It is thus described by the veteran Joe Ward, from whom the account given in “Boxiana” was gathered, and which we here reprint:—


Round 1.—Fuller displayed some good positions, and convinced the spectators that he was a scientific boxer. His guard was firm and imposing, and he seemed confident of success. They sparred a considerable time, with good skill, before any punishment was exhibited; at length Fuller, by a tremendous hit, drew the cork of his antagonist. Molineaux, upon the claret making its appearance, became rather impetuous, and attacked Fuller fiercely; but the latter stopped with much adroitness, and gave 287some heavy nobbing returns. A desperate rally now took place, during which severe milling was dealt out on both sides; the men broke away, and again resorted to sparring. Fuller’s nose was much peppered, and the crimson flowed abundantly. In short, this unprecedented round was filled with rallies, recoveries, retreating, following each other alternately round the ring, stopping and hitting with various success, and both exhausted by turns, till at length Molineaux was levelled by a tremendous blow, and the round finished after a lapse of twenty-eight minutes.

2.—To describe anything like the various changes which occurred during this set-to would fill the space of an ordinary report of a whole fight. Suffice it to observe, that almost every “dodge” of the milling art was resorted to, from beginning to end. The skill, practice, and experience of both the combatants were made use of to the best advantage. Fuller proved himself a boxer of more than ordinary science and game. Molineaux was convinced he had got a troublesome customer to deal with, who required serving out in a masterly style before he could be satisfied. In fact, the strength of the man of colour seemed materially deteriorated as compared with his former exhibitions, when he used to hit his men away from him, and levelled his opponent with the most perfect sang froid. The severe blows of Fuller, who stuck close to Molineaux, made him wince again. The Black appeared much exhausted from the great portion required to give, and heartily tired of what he had to take. The claret was liberally tapped on both sides, and as regarded Fuller, stauncher game was never displayed by any pugilist whatever. Upon the whole, it was a truly singular fight, and the people of Scotland witnessed the most unique specimen of English prize-fighting. In sixty-eight minutes two rounds only had taken place.

The contest terminated in rather a singular manner. Molineaux asserted that “Joe Ward had behaved foul, in pulling Fuller down, when he was much distressed, and had been beaten all over the ring in a rally; and that this prevented him from putting in a decisive blow.” The umpires decided it was so, and the purse was accordingly awarded to Molineaux. The latter did not appear anything like the once tremendous competitor of Cribb; on the contrary, instead of going boldly up to his man, he was always shy, and tried to win by tiring out his man. Molineaux fought at the head, Fuller at the body. Notwithstanding the supposed falling off of the man of colour, it was considered great temerity on the part of Fuller to enter the lists with Molineaux. The conduct of Fuller in this fight gave such general satisfaction, that a purse of 50 guineas, which had been subscribed for at the match between Cooper and Carter, in consequence of that battle not taking place, was presented to Fuller.

Molineaux now attracted great attention in Scotland, and a match was at length made between him and George Cooper, a boxer of superior talent. On the 11th of March, 1815, these first-rate heroes of the fist met at Corset Hill, in Lanarkshire. In twenty minutes Molineaux was defeated. (See life of George Cooper, post, Chapter IV).

Intemperance was the ruin of Molineaux; and, it would seem, that within a brief period his fame had become so tarnished, that every strong commoner entertained an idea that he could serve out the once formidable man of colour, as the following anecdote will evince. During Molineaux’s provincial tour of 1813, he visited Derby, to give the natives an exhibition of his milling accomplishments. The competitor of Cribb was well attended, and several Johnny Raws had the temerity to have a taste with the Black; but these, possessing little more than strength and courage, soon found themselves inadequate to contend against the science of Molineaux, and therefore wisely laid down the gloves. Not so a country pugilist of the name of Abraham Denston, possessing Herculean strength, and the stature of a giant, added to which his fame was well abroad in these parts for milling, in which none dared to oppose him. Abraham had rather “crept into favour with himself,” 288and entertained an idea that, with the mufflers, he should be able to serve out the nigger in style, and increase his renown as a miller. Great things were expected from the countryman; and considerable interest was excited among the spectators on their setting-to. But, unfortunately for Abraham, he had calculated somewhat too hastily upon his great size and strength, and two rallies with the Black were quite enough to convince him of his error. Molineaux punished the chaw-bacon most severely for his self-conceit, and, with one of his favourite left-handed lunges, gave him such a remembrancer under his left eye, that the claret flew in all directions, and the big ’un found his way to the ground, saluting it roughly with his seat of honour. The conceit of Abraham now evaporated, and he hastily retired amidst the laughter of the audience.

From Scotland, Molineaux went on a sparring tour into Ireland; and at the latter end of the year 1817, he was travelling over the northern parts of that country, teaching the stick fighting natives the use of their fists; an accomplishment which might save many a jury the trouble of a trial ending in a verdict of manslaughter or even of murder. But the sun of his prosperity was set; and according to an obituary sketch (given in the Sporting Magazine, vol. ii., p. 230, 1818), he was dependent for bare existence on the humanity of two coloured compatriots, serving in the 77th regiment then quartered at Galway. He expired in the band-room of that regiment, on the 4th of August, 1818, a wasted skeleton, the mere shadow of his former self. For the last four years he strolled about the country. Intemperance, and its sure follower disease, brought down the once formidable gladiator to a mere anatomy, and he latterly declined to fight the oft-defeated and gone-by Dan Dogherty. Molineaux was illiterate and ostentatious, but good-tempered, liberal, and generous to a fault. Fond of gay life, fine clothes, and amorous to the extreme, he deluded himself with the idea that his strength of constitution was proof against excesses. Alas! poor Molineaux found out the vanity of his conceited boast, and repented, but too late, his folly. Peace be to his manes! he was a brave but reckless and inconsiderate man, on whose integrity and straightforwardness none who knew him ever cast a slur; nevertheless he was the worst of fools, inasmuch as he sacrificed fame, fortune, and life; excusing himself by the absurd plea, that “he was a fool to no one but himself.”



BILL RICHMOND—1804‒1818.

Quoad the biography of this clever man of colour, we may safely follow “Boxiana,” seeing that he was a contemporary of Pierce Egan, who took his accounts, for better or for worse, of what happened outside the circle of his knowledge from one or other of the men whose memoirs are scattered fragmentarily up and down the five volumes of his “Sketches.”

Richmond was born at a place called Richmond, otherwise Cockold’s Town, on Staaten Island,[145] New York, on August 5th, 1763. His mother was owned by a reverend divine of the name of Charlton, to whose worldly wealth young Bill was of course an accession. When the English troops, in 1777, held New York during the War of Independence, General Earl Percy, afterwards Duke of Northumberland, finding Bill to possess good capacity took him under his protection, and he served him for some time till he came to England, whither he brought the sable youth with him, and considerately put him to school in Yorkshire. Nor did the English nobleman stop here. He apprenticed him to a cabinet maker in York, where he worked at his trade with credit to himself and satisfaction to his employers. Richmond, however, had the childish and nigger propensity for fine clothes and the service of a “gran’ massa,” and as black servants were the fashion of the day, he became what in the prevailing slang was called a “knight of the rainbow,” taking service with that very “fast” nobleman Lord Camelford, as Pierce Egan incidentally informs us.

The first display in the pugilistic art which brought Bill into notice was with one George Moore, a soldier in the 19th regiment, known by the name of Docky Moore, who insulted Richmond upon the course at York, during the time of the races. This Docky before his enlistment had been known as “the hero of Sheffield.” He was well proportioned, possessing considerable 290strength, and the necessary requisites for milling; in height five feet nine inches and a half, and weighing fourteen stone. The friends of Richmond persuaded him from attempting to fight with such a man, Bill only weighing ten stone twelve pounds; but he was not to be deterred, and the event proved his judgment, for in the course of twenty-five minutes, our hero punished Docky so completely that he gave in, and was taken out of the ring.

On the same course, not long after the above affair, in a quarrel arising out of the former exploit, Richmond beat two soldiers, one after the other, belonging to the Inniskillen dragoons.

Richmond’s milling qualities getting noised abroad, a few of the Yorkshire lads who had a bit of fight in their composition, envied his success. One in particular, a blacksmith weighing thirteen stone, and in height about five feet ten inches, took the following method of provoking Bill to have a brush. Richmond was noticed in York for going smart, and appearing clean after he had done his work. Bill met this hammer-man one evening, as he was taking a walk, who openly insulted him with opprobrious epithets. Our hero remonstrated with him on the impropriety of his behaviour, and told the blacksmith that if he wanted to fight him he should be accommodated at the Groves the next morning, on which they agreed to meet, when the son of Vulcan was quickly satisfied, and acknowledged Richmond the best man.

Richmond, in passing through the streets of York one evening, with a female under his protection, was accosted by one Frank Myers, with the epithets of “black devil,” etc, who otherwise insulted the young woman for being in company of a man of colour. Bill, with a becoming spirit of indignation, requested him to desist for the present, but to meet him at the Groves on the next Monday morning, when they would settle this difference (this circumstance happening on a Saturday night), to which Myers agreed. This affair of honour being buzzed about, a great concourse of people assembled early the next day to witness the conflict. Richmond was there at the appointed hour, but after a considerable time, Myers not making his appearance, the spectators became impatient, and it was judged expedient that Richmond and his friends should repair to the house of Myers to remind him of his engagement. Myers returned with them, and the battle commenced, and raged with fury for some time, Myers getting the worst of it, and eventually Richmond taught him to acknowledge that it was wrong, and beneath the character of an Englishman, to insult any individual on account of his country or his colour. Myers received a complete milling.

Richmond’s first public set-to in London was with a whip-maker of the name of Green, in the fields near White Conduit House. Phips Medley seconded Richmond, who got the whip-hand of Green in such good style, that in ten minutes he cried—enough!


From a Portrait by Hillman, 1812.

291Thus far Pierce Egan, whose apocrypha we will now quit.

After the battle between Pearce (the Game Chicken) and Joe Berks, on Wimbledon Common, Jan. 23rd, 1804 (see life of Pearce, ante, p. 170), George Maddox having disposed of Seabrook in three rounds (see the account of this cross in life of Maddox, ante, p. 208), our sable hero expressed to his master (Lord Camelford) his opinion that he could polish off “the veteran.” A stake, amount not mentioned, was immediately posted. “Old George, nothing loth, declared his readiness. But the new black turned out a ‘duffer,’ George hitting him down the third time with a crack under the left eye, which so completely queered his ogle that he gave out.”[146]

On Tuesday, May 21, 1805, Tom Cribb, having beaten the ponderous Israelite “Ikey Pig,” the tribes were in desolation and mourning. At this juncture a Jew known as fighting Youssop (Joseph), came forward, like another Maccabeus, to do battle in honour of his peoplesh, but not with the same success, and “See the conquering hero comes,” was not sung that night by the Israelitish virgins of Rosemary Lane or Duke’s Plashe. Here is the report: “The ring being cleared, one Youssop, a Jew, who turned out to be more ready than able, stepped forward to redeem the valorous character of his fraternity, when a match was proposed for him in Bill Richmond, the American black, for which a purse of ten guineas was soon collected. The Jew accepted his opponent; they stripped, shook hands, and set-to without loss of time.

“The battle was well contested, neither man flinching from his work, or falling without a knock-down. For the first and second rounds Youssop showed off his dexterity, and this superiority he particularly displayed in the third round, when he stopped Richmond neatly and followed him up till he drove him nearly out of the ring. He did not, however, seem to mark or hurt his man. In the fourth round Richmond improved, and following up his opponent in turn gave him several desperate blows in the face, sadly to the disfigurement of the Mosaic countenance. Youssop gave way altogether, and at the close of the sixth round declared, like Ikey Pig, ‘He’d have no more of it.’ Richmond accordingly was proclaimed the conqueror, and pocketed the stakes.”

This battle raised Richmond’s credit as a pugilist, and he soon received a 292challenge from “Jack Holmes,” the coachman,[147] who on the 30th of January, in the preceding year, had been conquered by Tom Blake (Tom Tough), see ante, p. 235. Here is the report:—

“Mr. Fletcher Reid, the firm supporter of pugilism, backed Richmond for 50 guineas, Mr. Peter Ward patronised old Jack Holmes. They met at Cricklewood Green, a short distance from Kilburn Wells, where a twenty-one foot ring had been roped out, on Monday, July 8th [1805]. Paddington Jones seconded the black, and Tom Blake picked up his old antagonist the coachman. About twelve o’clock the men stripped and began the set-to.”


Round 1.—Holmes stood up well, and appeared in excellent condition for an old ’un. Much sparring, no good hits.

2.—Both rallied smartly, but no falling.

3.—Richmond put in a good hit, but fell. (Odds two to one in favour of Holmes.)

4, 5, and 6.—Nothing interesting in these three rounds.

7.—An excellent round. Richmond was very gay and full of fight; some good blows exchanged.

8.—Holmes began to puff, and appeared distressed in his wind. (Bets, nevertheless, three to two on Holmes.)

9.—Some sparring. Richmond put in a severe blow, and cut his opponent under his right eye, and Holmes fell.

10.—No fighting; the men closed, and both fell. (Betting had now become even.)

11.—The best round during the battle; both fought well and rallied. Richmond terminated it by bringing down his opponent heavily.

15.—Very poorly contested. Holmes could hardly puff wind enough to support himself, and he also appeared weak.

16.—No fighting. The men closed and fell, Richmond uppermost. (Odds had now changed three to one in favour of Richmond.)

To the 24th—All hugging rounds, Holmes upon the saving system.

25.—Richmond appeared in high spirits, fought well, and evidently had the advantage.

26.—Decisive. Richmond stepped in and immediately knocked Holmes down, and, although with great reluctance, he was obliged to give in.

The contest lasted thirty-nine minutes.

Among the amateurs and professors there were Mr. Fletcher Reid, Hon. Berkeley Craven, Thomas Sheridan, Esq., Mr. Upton, John Gully, Jem and Tom Belcher, Bill Ryan, Puss the Jew, Tom Cribb, Jack Ward, and Dan Mendoza.

On the 8th October, 1805, at Hailsham, Sussex, Richmond met Tom Cribb, for a stake of 25 guineas. He never dared to face his man, and after a wretched merry-andrew burlesque of an hour and a half gave in, see Tom Cribb, ante, p. 246.[148] This affair seems to have taken the conceit out of Mr. Richmond, for he only appears as a ring attendant and follower until 1808, a period of nearly three years, when we have an account (on April 14, 1809),[149] of his beating “a countryman named Carter from Nuneaton, near Birmingham, on Epsom Downs.” As this is given on no other authority, that we can discover, than that of Pierce Egan, we quote him ipsissimis verbis:—

293“Carter was much the strongest and a heavier man than Richmond; and who in a turn-up with those heroes of the fist, Jem Belcher and Jack Gully, had convinced them both that he was no trifler; and now having expressed his fancy for a mill with Mr. Richmond, Bill without hesitation informed Carter that he should be accommodated with a trial of skill. Paddington Jones and Bob Clarke seconded Richmond. Upon setting-to the odds were seven to one against the man of colour, and in the fourth round the odds ran so high against Richmond, that twenty to one was sported that Carter won the battle, and ten to one that Bill did not come again. This great odds was occasioned by a severe blow that Richmond received on the side of his head, that rendered him nearly senseless; but Bill soon recovering from this momentary disadvantage, showed off his science in such good style, that in the course of twenty-five minutes, Carter was so punished as to resign the contest. Immediately upon this being declared, Richmond jumped over the ropes, and caught hold of a man denominated China-eyed Brown, threatening to serve him out (if he had not been prevented), as it appeared that Brown had loudly vociferated, during the time Richmond was suffering from the effects of the above blow, that Bill had got a white feather in his tail! Richmond was patronised upon the above occasion by Sir Clement Brigg, Bart.”

We next have upon the same authority, “In seconding a baker a few months after the above circumstance, near Wilsden Green, a man of the same trade, weighing close upon seventeen stone, challenged Richmond on the spot, when a turn-up commenced, and in about two minutes the baker’s dough was so well kneaded, that he would have no more of it at that time; offering to fight Richmond for £50 in a month, which was agreed to by Bill, and two guineas put down to make the bets good before that period; but the baker, it appeared, preferred losing his two quid than submitting his overgrown carcass to the punishment of Richmond.

“Bill fought a man of the name of Atkinson, from Banbury, at Golder’s Green, near Hendon, a bargeman, for a subscription purse; it was a good fight, but in the course of twenty minutes Atkinson was perfectly satisfied the chance was against him, and acknowledged that he was beaten.” “Boxiana,” vol. i. 443‒5.

It does not appear from Richmond’s next legitimate match after his defeat by Tom Cribb, that our sable friend’s prowess was in very high esteem, for his next battle, Tuesday, April 11, 1809, was fought for ten guineas, at Coombe Wood, near Kingston, with “one Isaac Wood, a waterman,” who has no other chronicle in the chronologies but this black defeat. However, 294Pierce answers negatively for his “not being unacquainted with science,” and his “determined spirit.” The contemporary report is as follows:—

“At one o’clock the combatants arrived in post-chaises; a twenty-five feet ring was immediately formed, and at half past one the heroes entered, and set-to; Richmond seconded by Jones and Bob Clarke, and Wood by Tom Cribb and Cropley.”


Round 1.—A little sparring. Richmond threw in a left-handed hit on his opponent’s jaw. Wood rallied, but was thrown. (Odds seven to four on Richmond.)

2.—Wood hit; Richmond parried, and returned right and left. The men closed, and both fell.

3.—A good round. Wood rallied; some good hits exchanged. Richmond displayed great superiority in science, and again threw his opponent. (Odds two to one in his favour.)

4.—Richmond made play, and successfully planted a right-handed hit. Wood attempted to rally, but Richmond parried both right and left, when Wood was so much abroad, that he was milled round the ring, and thrown over the ropes. (Odds four to one on Richmond.)

5.—Wood made play, and rallied courageously. Hits exchanged at half-arm for half a minute, to the advantage of Richmond, who closed, and threw Wood again.

6.—Wood’s head now appeared dreadfully disfigured. Richmond rallied, but Wood evinced great weakness and fell.

7.—Both rallied, and Richmond threw Wood.

8.—Somewhat in favour of Wood. Richmond made a false hit. Wood struck twice, and then threw him.

9.—Richmond, in making play, slipt.

10.—Both stood up manfully, and hit at full length until both fell.

11.—In this round Wood displayed good bottom, but no science. An excellent rally. The men closed, and Richmond fibbed Wood until he was covered with blood, and both fell weak.

12.—Wood appeared as though he had exerted his last effort in the last round. Richmond threw in three successive blows in the face, rallying him to the ropes, when he gave a somersault over him.

14.—In this round Richmond threw his opponent.

15.—This round, although not the last, was decisive. Richmond again put in three successive hits on the head. Wood attempted, but was evidently unable to return, and Richmond threw him. Wood with great courage, but evident disadvantage, stood up to the

23rd.—When Richmond again brought him down, and he was unable to come to time. Richmond was very little hurt.

Another battle was fought between Frere and Power, which in twenty-five minutes was decided in favour of the latter, who possessed the greatest science.

Richmond had always suffered in reputation from his first display with “the veteran” Maddox, and anxious to retrieve his credit, he was continually carping at the “old ’un,” and proposing matches. George, who was brave as a lion, at last agreed to risk his established reputation, and 100 guineas of his backer’s money, to accommodate his old antagonist, and on the 9th of August, 1809, in his 54th year, was defeated as hereafter reported. The battle was fought at Pope’s Head Watchhouse, on the coast between Margate and Reculvers.

“A twenty-seven feet ring was formed with ropes, and the heroes, without loss of time, entered and set-to; Maddox seconded by Gully and Bill Gibbons, and Richmond by Bob Clarke and Jack Ward. At setting-to odds six to four on Maddox.”


Round 1.—Maddox went in as usual with great gaiety; Richmond stopped him, and planting two successful blows on the neck, brought him down.

2.—Maddox rallied, and threw his opponent over the ropes.

3.—An excellently contested round, in which Richmond displayed great superiority, both in science and strength, and after good fighting threw his aged adversary with a force which astonished every spectator.

10.—Maddox evidently fought at great disadvantage, but stood up courageously. (Odds were now changed in favour of Richmond four to one.)

The bravery of Maddox, however, spun out the battle for fifty-two minutes, and he displayed as much game as, perhaps, ever was seen. Within a few minutes of the termination of the contest, when quite blind, he was on his knees, and by a sudden effort he sprung up, and holding Richmond round the neck with one hand, continued to deal out some tremendous hits with the other, but nature was at length exhausted, and he fell.

George was liberally rewarded for his prowess by a subscription. This was the battle which the Right Hon. William Windham eulogised in a speech in Parliament, which we have quoted already at pp. 90, 91.

Richmond, having thus “fed fat his ancient grudge,” appears merely as a second in several leading events. Having quarrelled with Power, when seconding “Uncle Ben” (Burn) against Dogherty (see Ben Burn in Appendix), the following turn-up took place, of which we find the record in “Pancratia,” p. 334‒5. We extract it as a specimen of the state of society, which, with all our advocacy of legitimate pugilism and a fight in its proper time and place, or when necessity and self-defence compel it, we should be sorry to see restored.

“On May 1st, 1810, a large party of amateurs and pugilists, amongst whom were Gully, Jackson, Richmond, Dogherty, Cribb, and Tom Belcher, dined at the Castle (then called Bob’s Chophouse), in Holborn. After the cloth was cleared, several sporting theatricals being present some capital songs were sung, and the bottle circled freely. Some excellent sparring was then exhibited by some of the first professors, and at length it was agreed that a subscription purse of £20 should be made by the company present, and immediately fought for by young Cribb and Dogherty. Tom Cribb seconded his brother, and Richmond, who is handy on all occasions, seconded Dogherty; betting even. Cribb displayed great gluttony, threw in some excellent hits successfully, and often rallied and beat away the superior science of his opponent; but at the end of an hour, being quite exhausted, gave in, when Dogherty was declared the conqueror. Both combatants were several times hit off their legs.

“By the termination of this battle, Power, who was originally intended to have contested with Dogherty, but could no where be found, came in, and another purse was subscribed to the same amount for him and Richmond. An honourable baronet and Cribb seconded Richmond, and an amateur Colonel and Bill Gibbons, Power.

296“Richmond having seconded the preceding battle for an hour, set-to with great disadvantage, and for the first round had the worst of it, but, as every amateur might have expected, his science gave him the best of the remainder. Richmond excels in hitting and getting away; and Power, who is a resolute fighter, was continually boring in upon his opponent, and this sort of game always gets a man the worst of the battle with such an opponent as the black. By this system Power was completely beat in a quarter of an hour. He was frequently hit twice in the face in a second, and frequently brought down by a favourite left-handed hit of Richmond’s, who, on the other hand, received no other injury throughout the battle than a slight blow in the face. Forty shillings out of the purse consoled Power for his bad fate; and Richmond sat down to his wine £18 richer, and with the amateurs toasted fighters and fighting till three o’clock in the morning.”

Richmond now became a publican, at the Horse and Dolphin, in St. Martin’s Street, and as he was a shrewd fellow, his house was well frequented.

Richmond acquired considerable notoriety from his patronage of Molineaux; and, so far as we can learn, his generous behaviour to that pugilist, who came to him an entire stranger, destitute of friends or money, received an ungrateful return. It is certain Molineaux was indebted for that patronage and attention which he afterwards received from persons of distinction, to his introduction by Richmond.

Richmond, after the contest between Molineaux and Carter, April 2, 1813, challenged either of them for £100.

Five years had nearly elapsed since Richmond had exhibited in the P.R., when, to the astonishment of many, he declared his intention of contending for the first purse of 50 guineas, given by the Pugilistic Club, at Coombe Wood, on Tuesday, May 3, 1814. Everything was conducted with appropriate attention congenial to the patronage bestowed upon the occasion, which was much more conspicuous than hitherto. The members of the club were dressed in their uniform (blue and buff); and those persons who were appointed to clear the outer ring wore dark blue ribbons in their hats, to designate their appointment, tending to prevent any sort of confusion, because, at other times, men so acting have been challenged with officiousness. The stakes and ropes were entirely new, and upon the former the initials of the club (P.C.) were painted. Three ropes went round the ring, which was twenty-four feet. Davis, a fine, tall, powerful, young, athletic navigator, had thumped his way into notice, by serving seven or eight customers with tolerable ease; his weight was twelve stone ten pounds, and 297his age twenty-four years. The veteran man of colour, who dared him to the conflict was twelve stone two pounds, and in his fifty-second year! Davis entered first; he threw up his hat, bowed to the spectators and was well received. Richmond soon followed, paid the like attention and was equally applauded. Their seconds now began to perform their office, Joe Ward and Dick Whale for Davis, and Tom Belcher and Bill Gibbons for Richmond. It was a sunny day, and the toss for the shady side was won for Richmond. A few minutes after one the set-to commenced.


Round 1.—From the well known science of Richmond, and his peculiar forte of hitting and getting away, considerable interest was excited. Davis being under the guidance of the veteran Joe Ward, it was presumed by the fancy that the navigator would be made awake to the dangerous mode of his antagonist, and be on the alert not to be cut up and spoiled before his powers could be fairly brought into action. Davis did not want for confidence; he made a good hit with his left, which was stopped by Richmond, who also returned right and left, but without material effect. Davis, anxious to make a beginning, and full of vigour, followed up his man, and planted a smart hit on Richmond’s temple with his right, which knocked him down instantly. (Betting took a lift, and seven to four was loudly vociferated upon Davis.)

2.—Spirited exchanges, and some heavy blows passed. Richmond drew the cork of his antagonist; nevertheless, the man of colour was again levelled. (Two to one was sported upon Davis, in the exultation of the moment, by his friends.)

3.—Richmond began to show off the mastery of the art; milling the nob of his antagonist severely, and getting away; Davis, with much resolution, bored in, when, after closing, both went down, Richmond undermost.

4.—Richmond rallied in fine style, and with his left hand put in a most tremendous blow, which irritated Davis so much, that he suffered his passion to get uppermost, and rushed in furiously, but, his distance being short, Richmond went down from a slight touch of the mouth. Davis bled profusely.

5.—The skill of Richmond in this round burst forth so conspicuously, that the doubtful were satisfied of his superiority. Confident in himself, and with science and courage united, he nobly opposed a rally, and got away with uncommon dexterity, punishing the head of Davis most terribly at every retreating step. The navigator, in pursuing, threw nearly all his blows away, when Richmond, quite unexpectedly stopped short, and planted so severe a teazer on the mouth of Davis that sent him quickly on the grass. (Even betting.)

6.—Davis, from the severity of the last hit, was unable to gain any advantage over Richmond, who again took the lead in high style, milling and dropping his antagonist.

7.—The manner of Davis was much altered, and he appeared distressed. His temper forsook him, and he still kept boring after Richmond, who milled him in every direction, and at length put in so tremendous a blow upon his jaw, that, in his confusion, he made blows without any sort of direction, till he hit himself down under the ropes.

8.—Davis, in a rally, hit Richmond slightly on the mouth; the latter kept punishing his adversary severely, and getting away. In closing, Richmond went down.

9.—The inferiority of Davis was apparent. In science he was by no means competent, and his strength was much reduced by the skill of his opponent. Richmond continued his retreating system with great success, and put in so weighty a blow under the ear of Davis, that he was instantly down.

10.—This round was of little importance; the men closed and fell, but Richmond undermost.

11.—Richmond completely spoiled his antagonist. Davis was going in to smash the Black in haste, but met with such a stopper right in the wind that completely changed his course: he reeled again. Davis now closed, and endeavoured to throw Richmond, which he accomplished, fell upon his latter end, his head rolling towards the ground, distressed beyond measure.

12.—Had Davis possessed the strength of a giant, it must have been exhausted by the mode in which he fought. Notwithstanding the severe remembrancers he had received in the preceding rounds, he had gained no experience from them, but still kept following Richmond all over the ring, hitting wide and losing himself. The Black kept punishing, but received nothing; retreating, retreating, and retreating again, and at almost every step made woeful havoc on the nob of his adversary, completely showing the spectators what might be accomplished by scientific 298movements. At length he suddenly made a stand, and, his distance proving correct, with his right hand hit the mouth of Davis with such uncommon severity, that he went down like a log of wood. (Numerous betters, but no takers.)

13.—It was plain that Davis was nearly finished; he appeared stupid, and his efforts were feeble. Richmond put an end to the combat by sending him partly under the ropes. Davis could not come again.

Upon Richmond’s being declared the conqueror, he leaped over the ropes, which were nearly five feet in height, with the agility of a tumbler. He received little hurt, except a blow on the temple, and a slight touch on the mouth. On the contrary, Davis was so dreadfully punished that he was supported off the ground. The battle continued twenty minutes. Richmond remained on the ground during the sports of the day, without inconvenience from this conflict.

It was scarcely imagined, from the advanced age of Richmond, that he would ever fight any more prize battles; and upon a battle being announced between the man of colour and the navigator, Tom Shelton, great surprise was manifested by the amateurs at the vast disparagement between them; the latter pugilist being little more than half the age of Richmond, and possessing all the advantages of youth, strength, and science. It, however, created so great an interest in the sporting circles, that on Tuesday, the 1st of August, 1815, upwards of ten thousand persons assembled on Moulsey Hurst to witness the trial of skill. Oliver and Painter seconded the veteran nigger, and Cribb and Clarke waited upon Shelton. It appears this battle originated in a quarrel between the combatants; and so strongly did it operate on the feelings of Shelton, that he positively refused to comply with the usual custom of shaking hands with his opponent previous to their setting-to. But upon the champion’s declaring he would instantly quit the ring if he did not, Shelton laid hold of Richmond’s hand, and the fight commenced, the odds being six and seven to four on the man of colour.


Round 1.—Shelton, from his eagerness to be at work, missed his adversary in making a blow, and Richmond also hit short; but the man of colour soon planted a severe blow with his left hand, when Shelton, with great readiness, damaged one of Richmond’s peepers so sharply that the claret was seen trickling down his face. Shelton, full of resolution, fought his way into a rally, which was well contested, and the navigator was thought to have the best of it. Richmond went down from a hit. (The betting immediately changed, and even was the order of the day.)

2.—Richmond, anxious to return the favour he had received, planted a hit so clean and dexterously upon Shelton’s mouth, that the claret followed, like drawing the cork of a bottle. Shelton positively appeared electrified, and went down like a log. (Two to one offered upon the man of colour.)

3.—The right eye of Richmond was terribly puffed. Shelton had the best of the rally, and his aged opponent went down.

4.—The veteran was all alive, Shelton showed good science, but seemed determined that nothing less than downright milling should go on; he made a good right-handed blow. Richmond missed a desperately aimed hit at his adversary’s ear, which was attributed to the bad state of his own eye, and in closing, got down in an easy style.

5.—The navigator got into work successfully, and felt for Richmond’s head and body not very delicately; but the man of colour again touched him on the sore place of his mouth. The advantage of this round was evidently with Shelton, and he sent his opponent down. (The odds now rapidly changed, and two to one was loudly offered upon the navigator.)

6.—Richmond found that no time was to be lost, and to win in anything like his usual style the fight must soon be taken out of his 299adversary. He, with much judgment, planted a tremendous blow with his right hand upon Shelton’s nob, who instantly went down.

7.—Both combatants on their mettle, and reciprocal punishment. The man of colour went down. It was altogether a good round, and a sharp rally took place.

8.—The passion of the navigator at length prevailed over his judgment, and he went in furiously, regardless of the consequences. This conduct rendered victory almost certain to Richmond, who planted so desperate a blow on his opponent’s throat that he went down almost senseless.

9.—Richmond set-to with increased confidence from the success of the last round, but, after a short rally, in closing, both down.

10.—Shelton, full of pluck, attacked his opponent with much gaiety, when Richmond got down from a slight blow.

11.—Richmond appeared the fresher man of the two; but little execution on either side. (The odds, however, were upon Richmond.)

12.—Shelton slipped on setting-to, and went down.

13.—The man of colour seemed well assured of his own superiority. He hit Shelton right and left so tremendously, that he went down in a twinkling. The partisans of Richmond thought it quite safe, and offered, without hesitation, two to one upon him.

14.—The discretion of Shelton was now at an end, and he was furious in the extreme. He completely bored Richmond off his legs.

15.—Richmond, in making a hit, over-reached himself, and went down.

16.—Richmond was again on the grass.

17.—This round was decidedly in favour of Richmond, who not only milled, but threw his adversary.

18.—It was distressing to see the punishment Shelton brought upon himself, from the rushing system he pursued. The right hand of the man of colour was at work like a sledge hammer.

19.—The combatants soon fought their way into a sharp rally, when Richmond made some good hits and got down.

20.—Richmond went down rather unsatisfactorily, and some marks of disapprobation were expressed; but the umpires did not deem it worthy of attention.

21.—The man of colour now completely satisfied the spectators of the advantages of hitting and getting away; and this destructive system, to an adversary who will suffer himself to be decoyed by it, was completely exemplified by the dreadful punishment Shelton received. Some murmurings occurred about a foul blow; but the umpires did not stop the battle. (Any odds upon Richmond.)

22.—It was plain that Shelton could not last much longer; he went down from a heavy blow upon one of his eyes.

23 and last.—Richmond now had it all his own way, and, with the utmost sang froid, planted so tremendous a hit upon Shelton’s temple, that he went down. The effects were so severe that he appeared quite stunned, and when “time” was announced, could not quit the knees of his second. The battle continued twenty-nine minutes and a half. Richmond, elated with the success of victory, jumped out of the ring.

By this victory the man of colour added another laurel to his wreath; and although he did not escape without some punishment, he won the battle in good style. Shelton’s impetuous passion completely ruined him; and it was observed by a noble lord that Richmond was “a most extraordinary man, for the older he grew the better he fought!”

This was Richmond’s last regular appearance in the P. R., yet his rooms in Whitcomb Street, Haymarket, were highly patronised by the nobility and gentry; and about this period Lord Byron became acquainted with him, as may be seen in his lordship’s Life and Journals edited by Thomas Moore. His athletic form, though fast approaching threescore years of age, his civility, self-control, and temperate habits, compelled the respect of all who knew him; and that “still beneath the snow of age slept the fire of youth” was well proven by a casual affair, in which the veteran man of colour was involved by the violent conduct of Jack Carter, then known as the “Lancashire Hero,” and aspiring to the championship of England.

The latter pugilist had lately returned from the Continent, intoxicated by the applause he had received at Aix-la-Chapelle, and he had “crept so much into favour with himself,” that he annoyed several companies he went into with 300his vast prowess, and his challenge to fight any man in the world. This conduct he carried to such excess on Thursday evening, November 12, 1818, at a respectable tavern in the neighbourhood of Chancery Lane, that the company rose in a body and put him out of the room by force. The degradation of being thus ousted, raised his choler that he roared out, “Is there any one among you dare face Jack Carter?” Richmond, who was present, answered that he did not fear him, whereon Carter defied him to a bout, and a turn-up commenced, sans ceremonie, in the yard belonging to the house, where three bustling rounds took place. The report is from “Boxiana.”


Round 1.—Science was not much in request. A few random hits, however, were exchanged. In closing, Carter endeavoured to weave the man of colour, and, in going down, Richmond had the worst of the fall. Carter held Richmond so fast, that his friends were obliged to pull the man of colour away; in the struggle the buttons of Richmond’s coat were floored. Upon the Lancashire hero getting up, the claret was seen trickling over his mouth.

2.—This round was full of bustle; in fact, it was pummelling and hugging each other; but Richmond was not idle, and had the best of it till they went down.

3 and last.—This was the quietus; and the man of colour was not long in putting in the coup de grace. Carter seemed confused, when Richmond planted one of his desperate right-handed hits (for which he was so distinguished in the ring) upon Carter’s upper works, that not only loosened his ivories, but produced the claret, and floored the late hero of Aix-la-Chapelle like a shot. He laid stunned for a short period, when, once more feeling the use of his legs, he exclaimed, “I’ve been finely served out this evening.”

Thus ended the skirmish, and Carter retired, weeping over the stupidity of the fracas and folly of intemperance. “Oh that men should put an enemy into their mouths to steal away their brains!”

Richmond returned to his company to finish the evening with the utmost nonchalance over his sober heavy wet, with no other damage but knocking up his right hand a little.

Richmond was an active, excellent second, and, from his temperate mode of living, preferring exercise to wasting his time or injuring his constitution by a too frequent repetition of the charms of the bottle, obtained the character of being a good and steady trainer, and, notwithstanding the defect in one of his knees, excelled as a cricketer.

In concluding this sketch, we cannot omit stating of our hero that in private life Richmond was intelligent, communicative, and well-behaved; and, however actively engaged in promulgating the principles of milling, never so completely absorbed with fighting as to be incapable of discoursing upon any other subject; in fact, he was rather facetious over a glass of noyeau, his favourite wet with a swell, and endeavoured to gain his point by 301attempting to prove that there is more certainty in his preservation of bodies (in allusion to his method of training) than either the cobbler or parson have in their taking care of the “soles!” He had much more to say than many who style themselves “amateurs,” but was never known to be so deficient in eloquence as when Molineaux experienced defeat. His experience in life taught him to be awake to the tricks of it, and there were few subjects upon which Richmond was not capable of conversing. It could never be denied that he “wore a head;” and although its colour did not prepossess the million in its favour, yet the liberal part of mankind will acquiesce with Desdemona, that “the visage” may be often best “seen in the mind!”

Richmond may be pointed to as one of the men who never lost sight of the situation in which he was placed in society. In the elevation of the moment, he always bore in mind that, however the Corinthian fancier may connect himself with milling, there are times when he has a different character to support, and must not be intruded upon. Would that many of our whitefaced boxers would take a hint on this point from Bill Richmond, the Black.

Thus respected and supported lived Bill Richmond, till the universal visitor, grim Death, gave him his final summons, on the 28th of December, 1829, at the house now occupied by Owen Swift (the Horse-shoe Tavern), Titchbourne Street, Haymarket, in the sixty-sixth year of his age.



GEORGE COOPER—1812‒1825.

The pugilistic position of George Cooper at one period placed him in the very first rank. He was a pupil of Paddington Jones, and afterwards a particular favourite with Bill Richmond, who declared him “the best natural fighter” he had ever met with.

Cooper was a native of Stone, in Staffordshire. His height, five feet ten inches; his weight, twelve stone. On the other hand, his constitution did not come up to his other qualifications. He trained badly; and, being a temperate man, seemed really better in his physique when left alone than when subject to systematic diet and discipline. In fact, George Cooper, as Captain Barclay most expressively termed it, “trained off,” instead of “on.”

Cooper’s first appearance in the prize-ring ropes was on the 15th of December, 1812, at Combe Warren, with Harry Lancaster, for a subscription purse of 85 guineas. On this occasion George was seconded by his tutors, Paddington Jones and Bill Richmond; Lancaster was waited upon by Jack Lancaster and Cropley. From the superior boxing capabilities of Cooper, the contest was over in seventeen minutes and a half. Lancaster had, however, not only the length of his opponent, and equal weight, but possessed the advantage of standing over him. Lancaster commenced milling with much gaiety, and endeavoured to nob Cooper in a sharp rally, but the latter stopped his onset with great neatness, and ultimately floored him. In short, throughout the fight, Harry had but little chance of success, although he planted several severe blows on Cooper’s head. The steadiness of Cooper, the excellent use he made of both hands, the science he portrayed in stopping, and the quickness and severity of his returns, were the admiration of all present. Lancaster could not once take the lead, and retired from the ring with heavy marks of punishment.


303Cooper derived considerable fame from this first attempt, and he was next matched as a competent competitor for Tom Oliver, for a subscription purse, at Moulsey Hurst, on May 15, 1813. It was a truly determined battle (see life of Tom Oliver, Period V.), and at one period of the fight, his superiority was so great, that it was thought almost impossible for Cooper to lose it; however, one tremendous blow defeated him. The victory seemed as if stolen from Cooper, so nearly did it appear within his grasp.

Cooper now entered the lists with Jay, on the termination of the battle between Painter and Oliver, at Shepperton Range, on Tuesday, the 17th of May, 1814, for a purse of 25 guineas, given by the Pugilistic Club.

On the first appearance of Jay, at Rickmansworth, when he defeated Fuller, it was thought that he bade fair to obtain a high position on the roll of pugilistic fame. His unquestionable strength, firmness of position, and severity of hitting, were great traits in his favour; and, even in his second contest with Fuller, when he experienced a reverse of fortune, and was compelled to yield to superior science, he claimed respect for his great gameness. In the hands of Cooper, however, Jay appeared a mere commoner, and few traces of his former milling were visible. In the short space of eight minutes he was punished out of all conceit of himself and the purse, declaring he had had enough, while Cooper retired from the ring with scarcely a scratch on his face. The spectators were completely astonished at the finishing qualities of Cooper. It should, however, in fairness, be stated that Jay felt so much depression at his defeat by Fuller, that he took no care of himself, and was never afterwards in anything like condition to enter the prize ring.

Shortly after the above battle Cooper went to Scotland, where he opened a school for teaching the art of self-defence. At Edinburgh, in particular, his conduct was much praised: it not only gained him many patrons and backers, but his school was well attended.

A match was proposed between Cooper and Carter for £100 a-side, both being at Edinburgh; but it went off in consequence of the bad state of health of the former. It was generally supposed that this would have proved a fight of great equality.

The patrons of pugilism, anxious to witness a prize battle in Scotland, entered into a subscription purse for that purpose, to be fought for by Cooper and Molineaux. This mill took place at Corsethill, Lanarkshire, March 10, 1815. Early in the morning the fancy were on the alert, and not a drag or a nag was to be had in Edinburgh by nine o’clock. Thousands pedestrianised it before daylight, so as to arrive in time, and numbers, it seems, went on a wrong scent and sailed for Inchkeith. At half-past twelve Cooper and Molineaux appeared in the ring, and at fourteen minutes before one, shook 304hands and set-to. Oliver and a Yorkshireman seconded Cooper; and Joe Ward and Richmond picked up Molineaux. Six to four on the black.


Round 1.—Silence prevailed, and the Caledonians appeared anxiously interested to witness the opening attack. Considerable sparring took place, both being aware of the milling talents possessed by the other. Molineaux commenced offensive operations right and left, and Cooper, in return, put in a sharp bodier, but, in slipping, received a hit which sent him under the ropes.

2.—Milling without ceremony, and both the combatants on their mettle. Molineaux planted a sharp nobber, but received for this favour two tremendous rib-roasters, that made him wince again and gasp for breath. Some blows were exchanged; in closing, both down.

3.—Molineaux, with the most determined spirit, kept fighting at his opponent’s head; while Cooper directed most of his blows at the body. Some heavy hits passed, and, in a desperate rally against the ropes, the claret was first observed upon Cooper; however, the round was finished to his advantage, for he hit the man of colour through the ropes. (Seven to four upon Cooper.)

4.—Molineaux appeared at the scratch rather distressed from the last round. Cooper, full of gaiety, took the lead, and floored Molineaux in grand style. (Two to one on Cooper.)

5.—The superiority of Cooper was conspicuous. He stopped the fury of the Black with skill, nobbed him at will, and again hit the man of colour down. (Any odds on Cooper.)

6.—Molineaux was growing weak. Cooper having the best of him, eventually put in a tremendous facer, which floored the Black like a shot.

7 to 9.—In all these rounds the best of the fighting was decidedly on the part of Cooper. Molineaux was hit down every round.

10.—The Black, still determined, rallied Cooper against the ropes, and some hard fighting followed; but Cooper planted so desperate a blow on his opponent’s body, that he went down quite rolled up, his head falling against the stake.

11.—Molineaux, despite his defects and falling off, astonished the ring from the gallant manner he fought this round. Some terrible exchanges of blows were witnessed, when the Black again rallied Cooper to the ropes. In closing, Molineaux was severely fibbed, but broke from his antagonist cleverly, and ultimately floored Cooper by a heavy blow upon his face. From great exertion, however, Molineaux fell exhausted. This rather reduced the odds.

12.—Cooper appeared at the scratch eager to finish the Black, whom he nobbed repeatedly, and completely hit off his legs. The man of colour was sick, and brandy was given him to recruit his declining spirits. (Any odds, but no takers.)

13.—Molineaux was sent down as soon as he toed the scratch.

14 and last.—The Black could scarcely leave the knee of his second, and, upon meeting his man, he was again floored. The battle was thus at an end, twenty minutes only having elapsed.

From the superior style of Cooper in this battle, he rose high in the opinion of the Scotch fancy, and, on this occasion, he entered the ring in good condition. Molineaux trusted principally to his weight and length, neglecting any preparatory care of his health, so that the right-handed body blows of Cooper proved irresistible. The tourney was well conducted, and afforded a high treat to the northern admirers of boxing.

A few months after the above battle, while on a sparring tour in Ireland, a match was made between Cooper and Dan Donnelly, the champion of Ireland, which took place on the Curragh of Kildare, on the 13th December, 1815, as noticed in the memoir of Donnelly. Cooper, after a desperate struggle, was defeated. The advantages of size and weight were much on the side of Donnelly.

In June, 1816, Cooper returned to England, when it was expected a match would have been made between him and Harry Harmer, but, in consequence of not meeting with a customer of any description, he once more directed his steps towards his patrons in Scotland, where he was again well received and 305liberally patronised. He was at length matched with Robinson (a man of colour) who had gained considerable notoriety from two contests with the Lancashire hero, Carter—particularly the latter one, a match against time (half an hour)—although defeated in both instances. The Caledonian fanciers, like the metropolitan high-bred swells, were all in motion at an early period to witness this black and white game, and an unusually strong muster of amateurs of all pedigrees, from the laird of broad acres to the more humble “bonnie chiel,” were seen “trotting along the road,” so great was the anxiety to view these heroes of the “London ring” exhibit their acquirements in self-defence. Considerable betting took place previous to the fight; but whatever opinions might have been entertained by the patrons of pugilism in Scotland respecting the milling qualities of Robinson, it should seem the more experienced ones in England viewed the match in question as a certainty, and booked it Cooper must win in style. They asserted that Robinson had no peculiar boxing trait to rely upon, nor even a shadow of chance, except from superior strength. Anticipation, in this instance, was justified by the event; for Robinson was beaten off-hand, with the same ease that Cooper disposed of Jay.

On Monday, the 24th of February, 1817, the men entered the ring, at one o’clock, attended by their respective seconds, in a twenty feet ring, at Costerton Houghhead, about fourteen miles from Edinburgh, for a purse of fifty guineas.

The style of Cooper proved a perfect treat to the Scotch admirers of boxing. His superiority was evident upon lifting up his hands, and putting himself in attitude; before the first round was finished all the spectators were perfectly satisfied what must be the result of the battle. It would be superfluous to detail the minutiæ of the rounds, short even as they proved, being only seven in number. Robinson, in the hands of Cooper, appeared no more than a fresh-caught novice,—indeed, George treated the capabilities of the man of colour with the most mortifying contempt; punished him severely in all directions, put in hits on every part he aimed at, and concluded every round so finishingly as to receive loud and repeated applause. Poor Robinson could only stop his opponent’s blows with his head or carcase, and only in one instance did he make anything like a successful return. He was floored every round; and it was universally admitted, that if Cooper had possessed that primary requisite for a fighting man, sound stamina, he would have been an equal competitor for anything either upon the Scotch or English list. From this elegant display of Cooper, the gentlemen composing the fancy, both south and north of Carlisle, felt anxious to back him against 306any one of his weight. It was remarked as somewhat curious, that Oliver beat Cooper, and Carter defeated Oliver; and again, Cooper conquered Molineaux, and Molineaux proved the victor in his contest with Carter.

Cooper, from the union of his superior practical knowledge of the art of self-defence and civil deportmen