Louder Fenn

Friday, March 01, 2002

I've previously made two excerpts from my jen-yoo-wine copy of The London Gazette from July 1691 (on the Ottoman [read Muslim] siege of Vienna and a sale of Francis Bacon's Essays); here is another interesting excerpt:

A Tall slim Youth, with lank light brown Hair, aged about 16, of a fresh Complexion, with a long Roman Nose, Servant to Mr. John Young, of Westminster, Dancing-Master, rid away on the 4th instant, with 95 Guinea's; on a White Nag about 14 hands, with two Blood Spavings on the inside of his hind Legs, and a shorn Mane. Whoever secures him, and gives notice at Buffelo Head Tavern in King-Street, Westminster, shall have 5 Guinea's Reward, and Charges.

Calling all Cars! Be on the lookout...

Notice how the Youth is not even named. This doesn't seem to be merely the fashion; there are other notices of robberies and the suspects are named. I wonder if Mr. Young knew his servant's name. Probably. But it's amusing to think otherwise.

Briefly it seems as if Dancing-Master is the county (?) that contains Westminster; but it must be Mr. Young's profession -- yes?

It says the Youth "rid" (presumably rode) away "on the 4th instant." Now, what does that mean? Four o'clock? Or, in the late 17th century, did they keep time of the precise seconds? "I shall meet You on the 8,345th instant of to-day..." Of course not. But what's an "instant" in this context?

Other cool details: The measurement by Hands (which is actually familiar to me) and the mention of the "Blood Spavings." At first I thought maybe this was some sort of branding; but actually it's a disease (and it's defined right there in my Random House Dictionary).

And look! The "Buffelo Head Tavern." This was 1691. Did they know about buffalo? How could they? Had Europeans infiltrated the Great Plains by then? I admit ignorance here. Could be, though. Or is "buffelo" a word that was appropriated for what we call buffalo? Did it once just refer to bulls? Hm.

The niftiest part is that this is essentially an advertisement for a bounty ("5 Guinea's Reward, and Charges"). I'm almost certain 1691 was before the creation of the London Metropolitan Police. You wanted to catch a crook, you got a hunter. Wow -- the Wild, Wild East!
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