Grub Street News by John Jones
Acres is made by Sheridan to say, "The best terms will grow
obsolete." This, every day's experience proves to be true. "What
a shocking bad hat!" "There he goes with his eye out!" and "Flare
up!" were doomed to make way for "Who are you?"—as "All round
my hat," with the public street vocalists, has been superseded by
"Jump, Jim Crow."
But it may be remarked that popular phrases founded on a well-known
fact have had a longer duration than those which cannot be
proved to have any such origin.
The cry of "Nosey!" at the theatres, when it was wished that the
music should play up, which arose about a century ago in honour of
Mr. Cervetto, whose nasal promontory used to adorn the Drury-lane
orchestra, survived till a very late period, and indeed has hardly yet
fallen into desuetude; and "Grub-street news" is still spoken of by
our elder quidnuncs, though probably they would be puzzled to tell,
not the meaning of the sentence, but how those words came to convey
the meaning they embody.
It has been said that they took their rise from the circumstance
of a set of needy scribblers having established themselves in Grub-street,
a mean narrow passage leading from Chiswell-street to Fore-street,
now dignified with the name of Milton-street, and thence
sending forth fabricated intelligence. This may be true; but still
there was a founder of this hopeful colony, whose name has not been
preserved. It is intended in this paper to fill up the hiatus in history
which has so long been deplored. George Iland appears to have
been the man.
In the early part of the reign of Charles the Second, some very
bold inventions were hazarded, and given to the world duly attested,
with as good a set of signatures appended as Morison's pills can
command now. They somehow attracted the notice of those in authority,
and one of the marvellous narratives launched in the year
1661 was thought worthy to be made the subject of an official investigation.
Some curiosity will be felt to know what sort of a narrative
it could be that received this singular honour. A verbatim copy is
therefore subjoined. The original filled six pages, and was adorned
with a grotesque engraving, which it is hardly worth while to transcribe.
The title-page ran thus:
"A STRANGE AND TRUE
OF A WONDERFUL AND TERRIBLE
That happened at Hereford on Tuesday last, being the first of this
present October 1661,
A Church-Steeple and many gallant Houses were thrown down to
the ground, and several of the Inhabitants slain; with the terrible
Thunder-claps and violent Storm of great Hail-stones that then fell,
which were about the bigness of an Egge, many Cattle being thereby
utterly destroyed as they were feeding in the Field.
The prodigious and wonderful Apparitions that was seen in the Air,
to the great amazement of all Spectators, who beheld two perfect
Armes and Hands: In the Right-Hand being graspt a great broad
Sword, and in the Left, a Bowl full of Blood, from whence they heard
a most strange and loud Voice, to the wonderful astonishing of all
present, the fright whereof causing divers Women to fall in Travel,
amongst whom the Clerk's Wife, named Margaret Pelmore, fell in
labour and brought forth three Male-Children, who had all Teeth,
and spake as soon as they were born, and presently after gave up
the Ghost and died together; the like having never been known before
in any Age!
"The Truth hereof is witnessed by
Francis Smalman, and Henry Cross, Churchwardens.
Peter Philpot, Constable.
Nicholas Finch, Gent.
James Tulley, Gent.
Thomas Welford, &c.
"London, Printed for J.J. 1661."
"True and perfect Relation of the terrible Earth-quake,
great Claps of Thunder, and mighty Hail-stones, which
hapned at Hereford, on Tuesday last, the first of this
present October, &c.
"Before I mention any further concerning this strange and sudden
Accident, which hath so lately befaln at Hereford, and that this Real
and Authentique Truth may not seem doubtful, I shall put the
Reader hereof in minde to take notice and remember the several
Disasters that hath befaln, not long since, in and about London,
which I need not here to declare, yet none so wonderful or worthy
of observation as this; but let it not seem strange, for we know, and
often read, that the Lord doth sometimes manifest his will unto the
World in Wonders and Signes, thereby in some part to shew his
Omnipotency, and let them know that he is still the Almighty
God, and that he sees and knows all our ways, how slight soever we
make thereof. Then how can we praise him sufficiently, when we
hear of this strange Disaster that did so lately befal at Hereford, in
that he was pleased to keep the like from us here in London, we
being as sinful as any? But he that is all Mighty and all Powerful,
is also all Goodness and all Merciful, whereon depends the best hopes
of all good Christians.
"And now to descend to the subject I was before speaking of,
which was of the violent Tempest, and terrible Earth-quake, &c. that
hapned at Hereford, be pleased to observe the true Relation thereof,
which is thus:
"On Tuesday last, being the first of this present October 1661,
about 2 of the clock after Noon, there hapned a great and violent
storm to arise, to the amazing and astonishing of all the inhabitants.
The first beginning was with a most terrible Winde, which continued
for the space of 2 hours, with such vehemency, that it forced the
Tiles off the Houses, insomuch that none durst come out at their
doors; in the midst of which storm was blown down the Steeple of a
Church, and many brave Houses, the falling whereof hath killed some
persons, but what they are, or whom, we yet know not.
"Then the Air began to be darkned, but, suddenly clearing again,
the people began to look abroad; and so continuing for a while, all
assuredly thought the storm to be over: but contrary to their hopes,
about 6 or 7 of the clock in the evening, their ears were solicited
with unwonted Claps of Thunder; and, more to augment their fear,
presently fell such Hail-stones, that the like was never seen in any
Age before, each Hail-stone being about the bigness of an Egge, which
several gentlemen of quality affirm, here present in London, who certifie
that they destroyed the Cattle in the Field, and did much other
"Then followed a terrible and fearful Earth-quake, which continued
almost for the space of half an hour, which so amazed the inhabitants,
that they thought the last Day had been come; and immediately
appeared a great brightness, as if it had been Noon-day, but
was presently overcast with a Black Cloud, out of which appeared a
perfect Armes and Hands; in the right-hand was grasped a great
broad Sword, and in the left a Cup, or Boul, as they conceived, full
"Having glutted their eyes with amazement, and filled their hearts
with great fear, with beholding these prodigious Apparitions, more to
astonish both them and us, appeared to their eyes a piece of Corn,
ground, ready to mow, and a Sythe lying by, from whence they heard
a most strange and loud voice, which said, 'Woe, woe to thee, and to
the inhabitants thereof, for he cometh that is to come, and ye shall
all see him!'
"At the conclusion of these words, the people made a grievous
cry, as indeed they might, and many Women that were with Child,
through extream fear, fel in travel; but none so wonderful to be
taken notice of, as Mrs. Margaret Pelmore, the Clerk's Wife of the
Town, who, for the space of twenty Weeks, wanting her bodily health,
had sought for cure of the Doctors: This Margaret Pelmore at that
very instant fell in travel, being exceedingly affrighted, and brought
forth 3 Male Children, who had all teeth, and spake as soon as they
were born. The first said, 'The Day is appointed which no Man
can shun.' The second demanded, 'Where would be found sufficient
alive to bury the Dead?' And the third said, 'Where will there
be Corn enough to satisfie the hungry and needy?'
"As soon as they had spoken these words, they all immediately
gave up the Ghost and died, to the great astonishing and amazement
of all present; and the Mother of the said Children doth at this moment
lie Distracted, and raging in such extream manner, that none
can tell, as yet, whether she will live or die!
"The truth whereof is witnessed by
Henry Cross, Churchwardens.
Peter Philpot, Constable.
And divers others.
Such was the experiment then made on public credulity. The
inquiry which has been mentioned is proved to have taken place by
a paper found some years ago in the State Paper Office, attached to
the pamphlet itself, which was marked, "Examina[~c]on of Jo. Jones,"
and dated "20th 8ber, 1661." The examination is reported as
"This Examinate saith that he had a share in the printing of the
booke of an Earth quake at Hereford, but did not Print it; and that
it was printed in Mr. Alsop's house in grub streete where one Geo.
Iland, who brought the coppy, liveth.