Monday, January 30, 2017

Captain James Lowry, 1752

Captain James Lowry, R. Bennett, 1752, British Museum.

My favorite Scottish sea captain/murderous tyrant returns!

In case you missed the previous posts, Captain Lowry was master of the Molly merchantman and during a return voyage from Jamaica to London, he tied up an ill sailor named Kenneth Hossack and beat him to death. Claiming that Hossack was faking his illness ('shamming Abraham'), Lowry's brutality led to a lawful mutiny. Once he and the Molly's crew returned to England, Lowry was arrested, tried, convicted, and hanged.

R. Bennett depicts Lowry as a well dressed Scotch gentleman, standing over the ship's log, a compass, whip, chart of Jamaica, and cross-staff. These surmount a verse from Proverbs 2:22:
But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressours shall be rooted out of it.

The cross-staff is of particular interest because of its obsolescence. Cross-staffs were a useful tool in navigation, particularly for latitudinal navigation, but had long been eclipsed by the backstaff (Davis quadrant) and octant by 1752. They continued to be produced and used, as with this 1779 Dutch example in the National Maritime Museum, but were not a preferred means of navigation by the time Bennett etched this print.

To the left of Lowry is a boat full of sailors, some of whom cower behind the officer in the bow at the sight of the murderous captain.

Between the viewer and the boat is Lowry's cane, marked 'Royal oak Fore Mast.' This is the same stick Lowry carried about the ship. As John Hunt testified in Lowry's trial:
Wm. Waum's scull had a piece of wood stuck in it; and after the prisoner [Lowry] had given him a plaister, he beat him round the deck with the Royal Oak Foremast, (as he called it) which was a large cane as thick as my hand; he broke it all to pieces.
William Dwite, another of the Molly's crew, corroborated Hunt's testimony, saying that for nearly the entire crew, Lowry 'saw nothing farther than beating and abusing them with the Royal Oak Foremast.'

Lowry's nickname for his favorite instrument of torture might have been derived from the remarkably old ship of the line Royal Oak. Launched as a 74 gun ship in 1674, she was rebuilt as a 70 gun several successive times through the late seventeenth and first half of the eighteenth centuries, before being converted to a prison ship in 1756.

Side note: direct links to OldBaileyOnline can be a bit dodgy. Use the reference number t17520218-1 to find Lowry's trial transcript.

The Scotch Triumvirate, artist unknown, 1752, British Museum.

The Royal Oak Foremast makes an appearance in another print from 1752, in which Scotsmen are roundly condemned as murderers, with 'The Scotch Triumvirate' as the artist's evidence. Lowry is front and center, with the noose tugged tightly around his neck.

From the earth rises Kenneth Hossack in his burial shroud, who cries 'You suffer'd justly for Wipping me to Death.' Behind the outstretched clasping hand of Hossack's corpse is the Royal Oak Fore Mast.

The sailors in the boat are either hatless or wear cocked hats. One of the oarsmen appears to be wearing his reversed. Looking terribly afraid, the sailor behind his officer wears a single breasted waistcoat (as do two of his mates), and striped petticoat trousers. The sailor on the far right wears a bob wig and carries a stick. All of the cuffs we can see are scalloped mariner's cuffs and closed.

Another boat pulls alongside the Molly, this one with kitted out bargemen. Her stern is crowded with sailors bearing sticks, wearing single breasted waistcoats, jackets, and wearing cocked hats. The bargemen are in shirt sleeves with jockey style barge caps. Two sailors near the bow wear bob wigs and trousers.

The Molly is depicted as a two decker Man of War with her guns run out, rather than a merchant ship returning from Jamaica at a time of peace. Lowry lashes Hassock with a cat o' nine tails while cursing, 'Dam him he shams Abram.'

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Siege of Louisbourg, c.1760

The Siege of Louisbourg, artist unknown, c.1760, eBay.

Louisbourg was one of the key cities that British and American forces had to take in order to subdue Canada during the French and Indian War. In order to bring guns to bear on the citadel, General Wolfe seized Lighthouse Point (you can see the lighthouse in the right of the frame) and brought their guns to bear. Weeks of bombardment climaxed on July 21, 1758 when a British mortar struck the powder magazine of the French 64 gun Célèbre. Two nearby vessels, including the 74 gun flagship L'Entreprenant, caught fire. Wind whipped their flames onto the two remaining vessels in the French fleet, which were saved.

British boats rowed out to rescue the sailors, in a scene that would be repeated at Gibraltar a generation later. Thankfully for the French, much of the crew had been sent ashore to man the fortress, and so spared their lives.

The fires of July 21, 1758 were a popular subject for marine artists at the time. The unknown artist of this piece chose to include the fortress, a British 74 gun (the Terrible, Dublin, or Invincible), a burning French warship, the boats heading out to save her crew, and lighthouse point. It is a crowded canvas.

The 74 gun shown here might be the Dublin, which was under command of that legendary naval figure George Rodney. As a side note, the Siege of Louisbourg hosted some of the great British military men of their age, including Admiral Boscawen, George Cook, James Wolfe, and Jeffery Amherst.

Her crew are clad in blue jackets and red coats (though these may very well be marines).

Some of the boats that the warship was dispatched to the rescue of her enemies give us a slightly better look at the men. They are likewise clad mostly in blue jackets, thought a couple of brown jackets have worked their way in.

Their hats are a mixture of cocked and round hats, with the possibility of a barge cap in the jockey style thrown in there.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Fanny Hill and the Sailor, 1770 [NSFW]

Fanny Hill and the sailor from Nouvelle Traduction de Woman of Pleasur ou Fille de Ioye, 1770, as seen in Ars Erotica page 126.

This engraving comes to us from the 1770 French translation of John Cleland's famous erotic novel Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. As such, and this should be obvious by now, the image itself and this post are not safe for work. I debated for some time about including this print, but it wouldn't be a thorough study if I ignored those images that might be seen as distasteful.

Rather than uploading the image as I usually do, I will instead link to it for the curious. This will prevent any misunderstandings that might come from scrolling through my posts. You can find it here.

Despite being a French translation, this edition of Fanny Hill was printed in London on the Strand by G. Fenton. This may be a pseudonym used by the printer in an attempt to obscure their direct connection to smut, but it is the same pseudonym used when they ran the first edition of Fanny Hill back in 1748. Fenton's French version is accompanied by engraved illustrations of Fanny Hill's many salacious adventures.

This print depicts one of the lesser known trysts that Fanny Hill engaged in. It is described in a single paragraph. Perhaps Fenton chose to depict this scene because it was a character he was already familiar with. The Strand, as I've mentioned before, was a sailor community. With their very particular dress, it was easy enough to put that character on paper.

Fanny is walking home from a frustrating evening with an impotent man when "a young sailor...seized me as a prize." Despite her initial anger at his unwelcome kiss, she accepts his offer to join him in a tavern, and there they do the deed "with an impetuosity and eagerness, bred very likely by a long fast at sea."

Cleland peppers the scene with naval metaphors befitting Bowles' prints of sailors courting women. "He fell directly on board me," Fanny says. And when he "was not going by the right door, and knocking desperately at the wrong one, I told him of it:—'Pooh!' says he, 'my dear, any port in a storm.'" When they came to their conclusion, he treated her with "a warm broadside."

Fenton depicts the sailor with a reversed cocked hat and bob wig with a striped neckcloth draped over his jacket. The single breasted jacket is fitted with metal buttons and slash cuffs. Notably, his stick is nearby, despite never being mentioned in the text of the story.