Friday, August 12, 2016


The Pictorial Press - Its Origin and Progress by Mason Jackson: Chapter 2 Part 2

Remarkable murders were even more favourite subjects with the early news-writers than storms and floods, a partiality that has continued down to our own time. A tract of 1613 is devoted to the details of ‘Three Bloodie Murders,’ but it is mainly taken up with an account of the murder of the Rev. William Storre, of Market Rasen, Lincolnshire. The full title runs thus:—‘Three Bloodie Murders. The first committed by Francis Cartwright upon William Storre, M. Arts Minister and Preacher at Market Rasen in the countie of Lincolne. The second committed by Elizabeth James on the body of her Mayde, in the Parish of Egham in Surrie: who was condemned for the same fact at Sainte Margaret hill in Southwark, the 2 of July 1613, and lieth in the White Lion till her deliverie; discovered by a dombe Mayde and her Dogge. The third committed upon a stranger very lately near Highgate foure mile from London, very strangely found out by a Dogge. Also the 2 of July 1613.

The circumstances relating to the murder of the Rev. William Storre are given at great length and with much minuteness:—‘Not long since, there happened some controversey between the Lords and the rest of the inhabitants of Market Raisin in the Countie of Lincolne concerning the Commons and Libertie in the Towne Fields; and the matter being mooted by one of them in the Church immediately after evening prayer on a Sabaoth day, divers hot intemperate speeches passed among them; whereupon their Minister, whose name was Mr. Storre, much disliking so indiscreete a course, wished them to have respect both to the time and place where they were: And further advised, seeing the cause in hand concerned a multitude, (amongst whom, some of the least government would always be the readiest to speake) that they would therefore make choice of two or three of the fittest and most substantial men, to answere and undertake for all the rest. This motion seemed to please them well, and therefore they intreated him, that he would first, as a man indifferent speake what he thought concerning the cause. But he not wishing to intermeddle in that matter, twice or thrice denied their request; and the rather, for that there was present one Francis Cartwright, a young man of an unbridled humour, the only Sonne and Heire to one of the same Lordes of the Towne, betwixt whom and himselfe, there was growne no small unkindnesse. Yet in the end being pressed thereunto by their importunities with the consent of both the parties he delivered his opinion, useing therein such discretion and reasons to confirme the same that they could not directly except against him. Notwithstanding, seeing him incline more to the right of the Freeholders and the rest of the Commons than to favour their intended purpose, they seemed to dislike his speaches, and to cavill at the same.

‘Young Cartwright standing by, not able any longer to contain himselfe tooke occassion hereupon to breake forthe abruptly into these wordes: The Priest deserveth a good Fee, he speaketh so like a Lawyer. Maister Storre having often aforetime had experience of his hotte stomacke and hastinesse as well towards others as himselfe, thought it best to reply little against him for that present.’ The Rev. Mr. Storre’s forbearance was of no avail, for next day young Cartwright took occasion to renew the quarrel, and in the public market-place ‘proclaymed that Storre was a scurvie, lowsie, paltrie Priest; that whoever sayd he was his friend or spake in his cause, was a Rogue and a Rascall, that he would (but for the Law) cut his Throat, tear out his Heart, and hang his Quarters on the May-pole.’ These sanguinary threats caused Mr. Storre to seek the protection of the Magistrates; and he afterwards preached a sermon containing words which young Cartwright thought were purposely directed against him, so that he ‘more and more thirsted for revenge.’

‘About a week after, he espied Mr. Storre walking about eight of the clocke in the morning alone, by the south side of the Towne in his cloake, went to a cutler’s shop, and tooke out of the same a short sword, formerly provided and made very sharpe for that purpose, and presently overtooke him.’ The young man attacked the clergyman, and the pamphlet gives a minute account of the dreadful wounds he inflicted upon him until ‘A Mayde coming that way by occassion of businesse, cried out, whereupon he fledde.’

The clergyman died of the frightful wounds he received, and the murderer was taken and carried before a justice, ‘where, either for lacke of their due information of the truth, or by the corrupt and favourable affection of the magistrate, or both, there was a very slender bayle taken, and the malefactor by this flight sent away.’ Cartwright’s friends ‘laboured by corrupt dealing and wrong information’ to procure his pardon; but so barbarous a murder could not be hushed up, and the culprit eventually ‘fled beyonde the seas.’


On the title-page of the pamphlet is a woodcut representing the murder of the Rev. Mr. Storre, which is copied above.

The two other murders are not related at such great length, and are not illustrated.

This is the earliest example I have met with of a kind of illustrated news that is very popular even in our own day. From the pains taken to describe all the circumstances of the crime and its consequences, the author evidently regarded it as a subject of the highest interest, and worthy of all the elaboration he was capable of bestowing upon it.


There is a very curious and rare tract of the date of 1618, which describes the circumstances of another remarkable murder. It is entitled ‘News from Perin (Penrhyn), in Cornwall, of a most Bloody and unexampled Murther very lately committed by a Father on his owne sonne (who was lately returned from the Indyes), at the instigation of a mercilesse Step Mother, together with their severall most wretched endes, being all performed in the Month of September last, Anno 1618.’ On the title-page is a woodcut representing the discovery of the murder, which is reprinted in the body of the pamphlet. Another woodcut illustrates a scene before the murder is committed, where the son hands his bag of treasure to his step-mother. The story is a very minute history of a scapegrace son, who, after various adventures, returns to his father’s house a penitent and reformed man. Many years having elapsed, the son is not recognised by his father, who has married a second wife and is in straitened circumstances. The son begs a night’s lodging and resolves not to make himself known till next morning. In the meantime, to show that he will be able to recompense his host and hostess for their hospitality, he gives the latter a bag of gold and jewels to take care of for him till the morrow. The woman, excited by the possession of the gold, thinks how easy it would be to relieve themselves from their embarrassments by murdering their guest and keeping possession of his treasure. She urges her husband to do the deed. After many refusals he consents, and the father murders his own son. In the morning it is made known to him who his victim is, and, in a fit of remorse and despair, he kills himself; upon which the guilty wife also commits suicide, and the tract thus winds up:—‘And to the end it may be a warning to all covetous step mothers, and a content for all easie Fathers to avoyde the like hereafter. At the entreaty of divers Gentlemen in the Countrey, It is as neere the life as Pen and Incke could draw it out, thus put in Print.’

William Lillo, the author of George Barnwell, is said to have founded his play of ‘Fatal Curiosity’ on this tract. Lillo was a prosperous London jeweller and a successful dramatic author. He depicted the harrowing details of this tragic story with great power; and the agonies of old Wilmot, the father, constitute one of the most appalling and affecting incidents of the drama.


A curious black-letter tract of 1616, which is illustrated with a fearful apparition of three skeletons, is entitled, ‘Miraculous Newes from the cittie of Holdt, in the Lordship of Munster (in Germany), the twentieth of September last past 1616, wherein there were plainly beheld three dead bodyes rise out of their Graves, admonishing the people of Judgements to come.’ The truth of this miraculous news is vouched for by ‘divers worthy Persons and Burgimasters of the same citty,’ whose names are given. This miraculous appearance was preceded by a fearful tempest of thunder and lightning. ‘When this great tempest of thunder and lightning was ceased, there was heard throughout all the parts and places of the citty a most hideous and dolefull clamour or outcry, striking terror into all the people, yet no man could perceive whence it came, or where this clamour should bee. The people came over all the citty after the noise, but could not finde it; for when they were at one corner of the citty they then heard it at another; and when they were come to that other corner there it seemed to them to be in the middle of the citty; and to them that were in the middest it seemed farther off. So that all heard it, but none could find where it was, or from whence it came.

‘At length the people assembling in the churchyard behelde there so strange and incredible judgements sent by the Lord, that for the most part the beholders fell flatt on their faces to the ground, crying loude unto the Lord for mercy. For there they beheld coming out of their graves three most ghostly and fearfull dead bodyes.

‘Whereof the first that was seen to arise out of the earth, seemed very white, cleane, and cleere, who opening his mouth and beating his handes together spake thus: “Blessed be God in the highest Heaven, that our releasement is come, for we have wayted many a hundred yeare for this time.” The people hearing this fell upon their knees and prayed unto the Lord with weeping and great lamentation, saying: O Lord beholde us with thy merciful eyes, and let us not be overwhelmed or smothered in our sinnes.

‘The second dead man that arose out of the earth caused farre greater feare and trembling then the former, for the beholders saw him altogether from the toppe to the toe, like unto a burning fire; he likewise opened his mouth, and wringing his handes, and tearing his haire, cryed with a loude voyce: Repent yee, Repent yee; Almighty God hath taken his chastising rodde in hand, to punish the people for their sinnes, for their great wealth, for their great talke or presumptious wordes, for their pompe, and for their pride: The which the Lord will no longer suffer nor endure, for the cry and complaint of these sinnes is asended up into his eares; Wherefore hee will destroy you with a suddaine sicknesse, and fiery Pestilence, so that you shall not have so much time as one houre, to utter one worde, to call upon God.

‘After this fiery apparition and threatening speech ended, there appeared likewise rising out of the grave a third dead man, grinding and gnashing his teeth together, striking his handes the one against the other, and crying with a most fearful and hideous voyce, insomuch that it seemed to all the multitude there present, that the earth would certainly have rent in sunder; and spake that all the people plainly heard and understood his wordes, which were these; Woe, woe, woe, to the wicked; this is the time that wee have long attended and looked for; wherefore (ye people) looke to it, and beware lest the great day of the Lord come upon you suddainly, and fall upon you unprovided; for the time of his comming is neerer than you thinke.

‘After the uttering of these wordes, the three dead Bodyes vanished and the Graves were shut againe, the heavens became cleere, the Tempest ceased, and all the people being released of their present horror and feare, rejoyced, and assembling themselves together, gave glory and laude, and praise unto the Lord for his Fatherly mercy and unspeakable goodnesse, in the mitigation of his furie, and withdrawing his heavy hand for the present. And thereupon appointed a sett day of supplications, prayers, and fasting, with true and unfained Repentance to be proclaimed, and observed.’

This account is supplemented by an ‘apology,’ setting forth that men must not be incredulous because they hear of miraculous occurrences—that God is able to bring back the age of miracles, etc. The writer evidently thought his readers might require to be strengthened by argument before they could place implicit faith in his narrative, and so he takes some pains in his ‘apology’ to convince them that however unnatural and uncommon may be the appearances he relates, the wickedness of the world was a sufficient justification for this and other extraordinary events.


In 1620 Nathaniel Butter printed an illustrated tract entitled ’Good Newes to Christendome, sent to a Venetian in Ligorne, from a Merchant in Alexandria, Discovering a Wonderfull and Strange Apparition, visibly seene for many dayes together in Arabia over the place where the supposed Tombe of Mahomet (the Turkish Prophet) is inclosed; By which the learned Arabians prognosticate the Reducing and Calling of the great Turke to Christianitie. With many other Notable Accidents: But the most remarkable is the miraculous rayning of Bloud about Rome.’ This tract, which is very long and discursive, relates, among other things, the apparition of a woman in the air, with a book in her hand, being the same apparition that is described at great length in a tract of 1642, which I shall quote hereafter. In the tract under notice there is a woodcut representing an army in the clouds—the clouds raining blood over a city; a woman with sword and book; and a crowd of men below watching the aerial phenomenon. The writer, in winding up his narrative, thus addresses his reader:—‘If you cannot beleeve it as truth, yet to make that use of it as if it were true; and then shall you know, there is but one way to happiness, and all the predictions, prophesies, visions, apparitions, comets, inundations, stormes, tempests, famine, warre, alteration, and subversion of kingdomes, with all the cabinet of mysteries, tend to this end that premium and pœna be the mastering curbs of the world; that is, that God hath a Magazine of judgements to inflict on the obstinate sinner with punishments: and a store-house of mercy to support the penitent soule with comfort.’

In 1627 we come upon a very curious and literal example of illustrated news. In that year Charles I., having declared war against France, fitted out an expedition of a hundred sail and an army of 7000 men for the support of the Protestant cause in that country. The King’s favourite, the self-confident and vainglorious Duke of Buckingham, took the command of the expedition, although he was totally unfit for that position. He was personally brave, but possessed no other quality of a commander. He had no knowledge or experience of the art of war, and was too proud and presumptuous to be guided by the advice of others. The expedition was destined for Rochelle, then in possession of the Huguenots; but Buckingham went to sea without any understanding with his allies; and, when he anchored off Rochelle, he was refused admission to the town. He then directed his course to the neighbouring Isle of Rhè, where he succeeded in landing his men under the fire of his ships, and defeated a small French force commanded by the governor of the island. Instead of immediately following up his success, Buckingham allowed the French commander to secure and strengthen the fortress of St. Martin; and when he did advance he foolishly left the enemy in possession of another fort in his rear. He besieged the Castle of St. Martin for many weeks, and then led his men to storm the place without having made a single breach in the walls. They were repulsed at all points with considerable loss, and attempted to retreat to their ships; but Marshal Schomberg with a French army had thrown himself between the Duke and the fleet, and had put a strong corps and artillery into the fort of La Prèe, which Buckingham had left in his rear. No precautions whatever had been taken, and they suffered great loss before they could re-embark. The expedition was a total failure, and Buckingham returned to England beaten and disgraced.

While the Duke of Buckingham was besieging the citadel of St. Martin, an attempt was made, or was said to have been made, upon his life by a French Papist or Jesuit, with a thick four-edged knife. An account of the Duke’s proceedings while in the Isle of Rhè appears to have been sent home, and was published probably with a view of influencing the people in his favour and showing to what dangers he was exposed in the national service. There is in the British Museum a tract entitled ‘A Continued Journal of all the Proceedings of the Duke of Buckingham his Grace, in the Isle of Ree since the last day of July. With the names of the Noblemen as were drowned and taken in going to releeve the Fort. As also the Portraiture of the knife with which his Excellence should have been murdered, which very knife was brought over by Captaine Buckestone and delivered unto the Duchess of Buckingham her Grace on Monday night last. Published by Authoritie. London, Printed for Thomas Walkley, and are to be sold at his shop at the Eagle and Childe in Britaines Bursse, 1627.’ The following account is given of the intended assassination of the Duke:—


‘Received the 27 of August.

‘Here I have sent you all the remarkable Newes that I have upon the last of July. There was taken by a Perdue of ours, in the night (a Frenchman), that was sent by Monsieur de Thorax, the Governour of the Citadell, with a full intent to kill my Lord Duke; and for the speedy effecting of the same he had prepared a strange and dangerous Poynado, which, although it was taken about him, he confidently denied that he came not with any intent to kill the Duke untill he came to the Tortures, which being presented before him he promised to discover all to my Lord if he would promise him life, the which he did, and doth so performe with him, like a noble and mercifull Generall.’ The tract contains a large woodcut of a knife and underneath the engraving is the following description:—‘This is the true Portraiture of the poysoned knife, both in length and breadth, having foure edges, with which a Jesuited Vilaine was sent out of the Fort by Monsieur de Thorax, the Governour of that Island, with an intent to have killed his Excellence, but by God’s providence was delivered. His Grace hath used the French so nobly in all respects that he rather deserved their love than any wayes to have his life thus treacherously sought after, under the pretence that it was a meritorious act. Which knife was brought over into England by Captaine Buckestone, and by him delivered unto the Dutches of Buckingham her Grace on Monday night last.’

Whether the attempt on Buckingham’s life was a reality or was got up for the purpose of endearing the court favourite to all good Protestants, it foreshadowed his ultimate fate. In the following year, while he was at Portsmouth, and about to embark on a second expedition to Rochelle, he was stabbed by Felton, who had served under him in the expedition to the Isle of Rhè.

Besides the subjects already noticed, the old news-writers delighted in signs and portents in the air, and failed not to improve the occasion whenever they met with a text so much to their liking. There was a fall of meteorites in 1628, which was chronicled at the time in an illustrated pamphlet, entitled, ‘Looke up and See Wonders: a miraculous Apparition in the Ayre, lately seen in Barke-shire, at Bawlkin Greene, neere Hatford, April 9th, 1628.’ The author, like his fellow chroniclers, already quoted, regards the occurrence as a sign of Heaven’s displeasure, and addresses his readers thus:—‘So Benummed wee are in our Sences, that albeit God himselfe Holla in our Eares, wee by our wills are loath to heare him. His dreadfull Pursiuants of Thunder and Lightning terrifie us so long as they have us in their fingers, but beeing off, wee dance and sing in the midst of our Follies.’ He then goes on to tell how ‘the foure great quarter-masters of the World (the foure Elements) ... have bin in civill Warres one against another.... As for Fire, it hath denied of late to warme us, but at unreasonable rates, and extreame hard conditions. But what talke I of this earthy nourishment of fire? How have the Fires of Heaven (some few yeares past) gone beyond their bounds, and appeared in the shapes of Comets and Blazing Starres?... The Aire is the shop of Thunder and Lightning. In that, hath of late been held a Muster of terrible enemies and threatners of Vengeance, which the great Generall of the Field who Conducts and Commands all such Armies (God Almighty, I meane) avert from our Kingdome, and shoote the arrowes of his indignation some other way, upon the bosomes of those that would confound his Gospell.... Many windowes hath he set open in heaven, to shewe what Artillery hee has lying there, and many of our Kings have trembled, when they were shewne unto them. What blazing Starres (even at Noone-dayes) in those times hung hovering in the Aire? How many frightfull Ecclipses both of Sun and Moone?... It is not for man to dispute with God, why he has done this so often ... but, with feare and trembling casting our eyes up to Heaven, let us now behold him, bending his Fist onely, as lately he did to the terrour and affrightment of all the Inhabitants dwelling within a Towne in the County of Barkshire.... The name of the Towne is Hatford, some eight miles from Oxford. Over this Towne, upon Wensday being the ninth of this instant Moneth of April, 1628, about five of the clocke in the afternoone this miraculous, prodigious and fearefull handy-worke of God was presented.... The weather was warme, and without any great shewe of distemperature, only the skye waxed by degrees a little gloomy, yet not so darkened but that the Sunne still and anon, by the power of the brightnesse, brake through the thicke clouds....

‘A gentle gale of wind then blowing from betweene the West and North-west, in an instant was heard, first a hideous rumbling in the Ayre, and presently after followed a strange and fearfull peale of Thunder, running up and downe these parts of the Countrey, but it strake with the loudest violence, and more furious tearing of the Ayre, about a place called The White Horse Hill, than in any other. The whole order of this thunder, carried a kind of Majesticall state with it, for it maintayned (to the affrighted Beholders’ seeming) the fashion of a fought Battaile.

‘It beganne thus: First, for an onset, went off one great Cannon as it were of thunder alone, like a warning peece to the rest that were to follow. Then a little while after was heard a second; and so by degrees a third, until the number of 20 were discharged (or thereabouts) in very good order, though in very great terror.

‘In some little distance of time after this was audibly heard the sound of a Drum beating a Retreate. Amongst all these angry peales shot off from Heaven, this begat a wonderful admiration, that at the end of the report of every cracke, or Cannon-thundering, a hizzing noyse made way through the Ayre, not unlike the flying of Bullets from the mouthes of great Ordnance; and by the judgement of all the terror-stricken witnesses they were Thunder-bolts. For one of them was seene by many people to fall at a place called Bawlkin Greene, being a mile and a half from Hatford: Which Thunder-bolt was by one Mistris Greene caused to be digged out of the ground, she being an eye-witnesse amongst many others, of the manner of the falling.

‘The forme of the Stone is three-square, and picked in the end: In colour outwardly blackish, some-what like Iron: Crusted over with that blacknesse about the thicknesse of a shilling. Within it is soft, of a grey colour, mixed with some kind of minerall, shining like small peeces of glasse.

‘This Stone brake in the fal: The whole peece is in weight nineteene pound and a halfe: The greater peece that fell off weigheth five pound, which with other small peeces being put together, make foure and twenty pound and better....

‘It is in the Countrey credibly reported that some other Thunder-stones have bin found in other places: but for certainty there was one taken up at Letcombe, and is now in the custody of the Shriefe.’

This curious account is illustrated with a quaint woodcut, in the foreground of which the thunder-bolt seen by Mistress Green is being ‘digged out of the ground.’



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