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boxes. Now and again we see the portrait of one real and justly-celebrated actress surrounded by these demireps, but of late what are known as actresses' portraits consist mainly of those to whom the title is convenient, or of those who combine a little of the actress with a great deal of the courtesan. Those artists whose portraits should grace the photographers' show-cases hardly care to run the risk of being mixed, up in the questionable society they see there; and we can vouch for the fact that in a leading thoroughfare, of twenty-five English portraits exhibited in a window as those of actresses, at which we were looking but recently, there were not five that were really what they pretended to be. Of hoaxes which come within our scope a very noticeable one took place in August 1815. A short time previous to the departure of the French Emperor from our coast on his last journey, to St Helena, a respectably-dressed man caused a quantity of handbills to be distributed through Chester, in , which he informed the public that a great number of genteel families had embarked at Plymouth, and would certainly proceed with the British regiment appointed to accompany the ex-Emperor to St Helena: he added further, that the island being dreadfully infested with rats, his Majesty's ministers had determined that it should be forthwith effectually cleared of those noxious animals. To facilitate this important purpose, he had been deputed to purchase as many cats and thriving kittens as could possibly be procured for money, in a short space of time ; and therefore he publicly offered in his handbills “sixteen shillings for every athletic ful/ grown tom-cat, ten shillings for every adult female fuss, and half-a-crown for every thriving zigorous kitten that could szeill milk, pursue a ball of thread, or fasten its young fangs in a dying mouse.” On the evening of the third day after this advertisement had been distributed, the people of Chester were astonished by an irruption of a multitude of old women, boys, and girls into
their streets, each of whom carried on his or her shoulders either a bag or a basket, which appeared to contain some restless animal. Every road, every lane, was thronged with this comical procession ; and before night a congregation of nearly three thousand cats was collected in Chester. The happy bearers of these sweet-voiced creatures proceeded (as directed by the advertisement) towards one street with their delectable burdens. Here they became closely wedged together. A vocal concert soon ensued. The women screamed ; the cats squalled; the boys and girls shrieked aloud, and the dogs of the street howled to match, so that it soon became difficult for the nicest ear to ascertain whether the canine, the feline, or the human tones were predominant. Some of the cat-bearing ladies, whose dispositions were not of the most placid nature, finding themselves annoyed by their neighbours, soon cast down their burdens and began to box. A battle royal ensued. The cats sounded the war-whoop with might and main. Meanwhile the boys of the town, who seemed mightily to relish the sport, were actively employed in opening the mouths of the deserted sacks, and liberating the cats from their forlorn situations. The enraged animals bounded immediately on the shoulders and heads of the combatants, and ran spitting, squalling, and clawing along the undulating sea of skulls, towards the walls of the houses of the good people of Chester. The citizens, attracted by the noise, had opened the windows to gaze at the fun. The cats, rushing with the rapidity of lightning up the pillars, and then across the balustrades and galleries, for which the town is so famous, leaped slap-dash through the open windows into the apartments. Never, since the days of the celebrated Hugh Lupus, were the drawing-rooms of Chester filled with such a crowd of unwelcome guests. Now were heard the crashes of broken china; the howling of affrighted dogs; the cries of distressed damsels, and the groans of well-fed citizens. All Chester was soon in arms; and dire
were the deeds of vengeance executed on the feline race. Next morning above five hundred dead bodies were seen floating on the river Dee, where they had been ignominiously thrown by the two-legged victors. The rest of the invading host having evacuated the town, dispersed in the utmost confusion to their respective homes. In 1826 the following handbill was circulated in Norwich and its neighbourhood for some days previous to the date mentioned in it, and caused great excitement:—
St James's Hill, back of the Horse Barracks.
The Public are respectfully informed that Signor CARLO GRAM VILLECROP, the celebrated Swiss Mountain Flyer, from Geneva and Mont Blanc, is just arrived in this City, and will exhibit with a Tyrolese Pole, fisty feet long, his most astonishing Gymnastic Flights, never before witnessed in this country. Signor Villecrop has had the great honour of exhibiting his most extraordinary Feats on the Continent before the King of Prussia, Emperor of Austria, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and all the resident Nobility in Switzerland. He begs to inform the Ladies and Gentlemen of this City that he has selected St James's Hill and the adjoining hills for his performances, and will first display his remarkable strength in running up the hill with his Tyrolese Pole between his teeth. He will next lay on his back, and balance the same Pole on his nose, chin, and different parts of his body. He will climb upon it with the astonishing swiftness of a cat, and stand on his head at the top ; on a sudden he will leap three feet from the Pole without falling, suspending himself by a shenese cord only. He will also walk on his head up and down the hill, balancing the Pole on one foot. Many other feats will be exhibited, in which Signor Villecrop will display to the audience the much-admired art of toppling, peculiar only to the Peasantry of Switzerland. He will conclude his performance by repeated flights in the air, up and down the hill, with a velocity almost imperceptible, assisted only by his Pole, with which he will frequently jump the astonishing distance of Forty and Fifty Yards at a time. Signor Villecrop begs to assure the ladies and gentlemen who honour him with their company that no money will be collected till after the exhibition, feeling convinced that his exertions will be liberally rewarded by their generosity. The Exhibition to commence on Monday, the 28th of August 1826, precisely at half-past five o'clock in the evening.
On the evening of the 28th August there were more than twenty thousand people assembled at the foot of the hill, on
foot, on horseback, and in every kind of conveyance. Of course Signor Carlo Gram Villecrop did not put in an appearance, for that best of all the reasons that could be given—his having no existence out of the minds of the perpetrators of the swindle.
We had intended to introduce as a congenial subject the great bottle-trick hoax, but as we have already run to such length, and as this famous piece of humbug will stand well alone, we give it a chapter to itself.
T the close of the year 1748, or in the beginning of 1749, the Duke of Montague, Lord Portman, and
some other noblemen were talking about the gullibility of the people, and the Duke offered to wager that, let a man advertise the most impossible thing in the world, he would find fools enough in London to fill a playhouse, and pay handsomely for the privilege of being there. “Surely,” said the Earl of Chesterfield, “if a man should say that he would jump into a quart bottle, nobody would believe that.” The Duke was somewhat staggered at this, but for the sake of the jest determined to make the experiment. Accordingly the following advertisement was inserted in the papers of the first week in January 1749:—
A" the New Theatre in the Hay market, on Monday next, the 12th instant, is to be seen a Person who performs the several most surprising things following; viz. –Ist. He takes a common walking Cane from any of the Spectators, and thereon plays the music of every Instrument now in use, and likewise sings to surprising perfection.— 2dly. He presents you with a common Wine Bottle, which any of the spectators may first examine; this Bottle is placed on a Table in the middle of the Stage, and he (without any equivocation) goes into it, in the sight of all the Spectators, and sings in it; during his stay in the bottle, any Person may handle it, and see plainly that it does not exceed a common Tavern Bottle.—Those on the Stage, or in the Boxes, may come in masked habits (if agreeable to them); and the Performer, if desired, will inform them who they are.—Stage, 7s. 6d. Boxes, 5s. Pit, 3s. Gallery, 2s. Tickets to be had at the Theatre —To begin at half an hour after six o'clock. The performance continues about two hours and a half.