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Note.—If any Gentlemen or Ladies (after the above Performance) either single or in company, in or out of mask, is desirous of seeing a representation of any deceased Person, such as Husband or Wife, Sister or Brother, or any intimate Friend of either sex, upon making a gratuity to the Performer, shall be gratified by seeing and conversing with them for some minutes, as if alive; likewise, if desired, he will tell you your most secret thoughts in your past Life, and give you a full view of persons who have injured you, whether dead or alive. For those Gentlemen and Ladies who are desirous of seeing this last part, there is a private Room provided.
These performances have been seen by most of the crowned Heads of Asia, Africa, and Europe, and never appeared public any where but once; but will wait on any at their Houses, and perform as above, for five Pounds each time. A proper guard is appointed to prevent disorder.
On the appointed day the theatre was crowded to excess, but as there was not even a single fiddle provided to keep the audience in good-humour, signs of impatience soon began to manifest themselves. When the hour was past at which the conjuror had to make his appearance, there arose a horrible uproar, and the loud cat-calls, heightened by cries and beating of sticks, soon brought a person on the stage, who, amidst endless bowing and scraping, declared that if the performer did not appear within a quarter of an hour, the money should be returned. At the same time a wag in the pit exclaimed that if the ladies and gentlemen would give double prices he would creep into a pint bottle. Scarcely was the quarter of an hour's grace elapsed, when a gentleman in one of the boxes seized a lighted candle and threw it on the stage. This was the signal for a general outbreak, the benches were torn up and everything that could be moved was thrown about. The greater part of the audience made the best of their way out of the house, the rush to the doors being so dreadful that wigs, hats, cloaks, and dresses, were left behind and lost. Meantime the mob remained and almost gutted the building: the wood was carried into the street and made into a mighty bonfire, whilst the curtain was hoisted upon a pole by way of a flag. Of the conjuror nothing was ever heard, but the affair gave rise to a number of curious advertisements. The Duke of Cumberland having lost his sword in the general panic, it was advertised in the following manner:—
TOST, fast Monday night at the Little Play house in the Hay market, -*—' a Sword with a gold Hilt and cutting Blade, with a crimson and gold Swordknot tied round the Hilt. Whoever brings it to Mr Chevenix's Toy shop, over against Great Suffolk Street, near Chearing Cross, shall receive thirty Guineas reward, and no Questions asked.
It was probably a Jacobite who answered this by the following:—
"C* OUND entangled in the slit of a Lady's demolished smock Petticoat,
■*■ a gold hilted Sword, of martial length and temper, nothing worse for wear, with the Spey curiously wrought on one side of the blade, and the Scheldt on the other; supposed to have been stolen from the plump side of a great General, in his precipitate retreat from the Battle of Bottle-Noodles, at Station Foote. Enquire at the Quart Bottle and Musical Cane in Potter's Row.
N.B.—Every word of a certain late advertisement is true, except all the advertisement.
Foote having been blamed by many for the occurrence of this disgraceful hoax, excused himself by an advertisement, in which he threw the blame upon Potter, the proprietor of the playhouse, whom Foote had warned that he thought a fraud on the public was intended. To this Potter replied by a counter-advertisement, explaining the precautions he had taken: how he had not allowed the conjuror or any of his men to take the money, but placed his own servants at the door, and how he would have returned it all, but that the house was sacked and the takings stolen. On the 20th of January there appeared an advertisement of Potter's, which ran as follows :—
\\ WHEREAS a letter signed S. M. dated the 18th instant, was sent
*" yesterday by the Penny Post, directed to Mr Potter, in the Hay market; which by the contents seems to come from the person who took Mr Potter's Theatre, for Monday last; wherein he complains of much ill usage, and insists that the Man can perform the things he arlvertised, and would have performed them, and was actually in a Coach in order to come, but was intimidated by two Gentlemen who came from the Gun Tavern, who told him he would be taken up if he performed : and in his Letter he threatens, that in case Mr Potter will not give him £,12, which he says he was out of pocket, that he will apply to some Court of Law or Equity, for justice: He also desires an answer in this Paper—In answer to which, S. M. is desired to appear personally and to give an Account of his Name and place of Abode; and he shall have such Satisfaction as in justice deserves.
The same paper also contained the following exculpation :—
WHEREAS the Public was on Monday last basely abused by an Impostor, who pretended to perform what was impracticable, at the Theatre in the Hay market; the same imposition some evilminded villains imagined John Coustos, Lapidary, to be the author of: This is to assure the Public that the said John Coustos had never such Design, nor ever hired or caused to be hired, the House on any occasion whatever; and to caution those his Enemies, who are the Authors of this Report, not to assert a thing which they know to be a gross Falsity: And there are those who are ready to attest on Oath that he was in their company that Evening, and was at the Theatre as a spectator only.
Many attempts were made to fathom the depth and discover the origin of this hoax, and several humorous explanations were given in the papers, among them being the following :—
WHEREAS various stories have been told the Public, about the Man and the Bottle, the following account seems to be the best as yet given of that odd Affair; viz. A Gentleman went to him the same evening he was to perform in the Haymarket, and asking him what he must have to perform to him in private, he said on which they agreed ; and the Conjuror getting ready to go into the Bottle, which was set on a Table, the gentleman having provided a Parcel of Corks, fitted one to the Bottle ; then the Conjuror, having darkened the Room as much as was necessary, at last with much squeezing got into the Bottle, which, in a moment the Gentleman corked up, and whipt into his Pocket, and in great haste and seeming confusion, went out of the House, telling the Servants who waited at the door, that their Master had bewitched him, and bid them go in and take care of him. Thus the poor Man being bit himself, in being confined in the Bottle and in a Gentleman's Pocket, could not be in another Place; for he never advertised he would go into two Bottles at one and the same time. He is still in the Gentleman's custody, who uncorks him now and then to feed him; but his long Confinement has so damped his Spirits, that instead of singing and dancing, he is perpetually crying and cursing his ill Fate. But though the Town have been disappointed of seeing him go into the Bottle, in a few days they will have the pleasure of seeing him come out of the Bottle; of which timely notice will be given in the daily Papers.
Pamphlets ridiculing the public for its gullibility issued from the press with alarming rapidity, and advertisements of performances equally impossible as the bottle-hoax continued to be inserted in the papers for several weeks after. Among them were the following :—
Lately arrived from Italy,
SIGNOR CAPITELLO JUMPEDO a surprising Dwarf, no taller than a common Tavern Tobacco Pipe: who can perform many wonderful Equilibreson the slack or tight Rope: likewise he will transform his Body in above ten thousand different Shapes and Postures, and after he has diverted the Spectators two hours and a half, he will open his Mouth wide and jump down his own Throat! He being the most wonderfullest Wonder of Wonders, as ever the World wondered at, would be willing to join in performance with that surprising Musician, on Monday next in the Hay market. He is to be spoke with at the Black Raven in Golden Lane, every day from seven till twelve, and from two to all day long.
This was also an emanation caused by the current excitement, and was published January 27, 1749 :—
J-\ ON JOHN DE NASAQUITINE, sworn Brother and Companion ■*-' to the Man that was to have jumped into the Bottle at the Little Theatre in the Hay market, on Monday the 16th past ; hereby invites all such as were then disappointed to repair to the Theatre aforesaid on Monday the 30th; and that shall be exhibited unto them, which never has heretofore, nor ever will be hereafter seen. All such as shall swear upon the Book of Wisdom that they paid for seeing the Bottle Man will be admitted gratis j the rest at Gotham prices.
And then the public were treated to this, for the purpose of keeping up the interest:—
Lately arrivedfrom Ethiopia,
THE most wonderful and surprising Doctor Benimbe ZammanPoango, Oculist and Body Surgeon to Emperor of Monoemungi,
who will perform on Sunday next, at the little T in the Hay
market, the following surprising Operations; viz. 1st, He desires any one of the Spectators only to pull out his own Eyes, which as soon as he has done, the Doctor will shew them to any Lady or Gentleman then present, to convince them there is no Cheat, and then replace them in the Sockets, as perfect and entire as ever. 2dly, He desires any officer or other, to rip up his own Belly, which when he has done, he (without any Equivocation) takes out his Bowels, washes them, and returns them to their place, without the Person's suffering the least hurt. 3dly,
He opens the head of a J of P , takes out his Brains, and
exchanges them for those of a Calf; the Brains of a Beau for those of an Ass, and the Heart of a Bully for that of a Sheep : which Operations will render the Persons more sociable and rational Creatures than they ever were in their Lives. And to convince the town that no imposition is intended, he desires no Money until the Performance is over. Boxes, 5 guin. Pit 3. Gallery 2.
N.B. — The famous Oculist will be there, and honest S
F H will come if he can. Ladies may come masked,
so may Fribbles. The Faculty and Clergy gratis. The Orator would be there, but is engaged.
Money seems to have been at least as plentiful as wit in those days, for, from a lot of other notices bearing on this subject, we take this :—
This is to inform the Public,
THAT notwithstanding the great Abuse that has been put upon the Gentry, there is now in Town a Man, who instead of creeping into a Quart or Pint Bottle, will change himself into a Rattle; which he hopes will please both young and old. If this Person meets with encouragement to this Advertisement, he will then acquaint the Gentry where and when he performs.
Strange as it may seem, and notwithstanding all the expenditure of wit and humour upon the credulity of the times that had been made, one showman still thought there was room left for a further attempt at attracting the public with the tenant of a bottle. Very soon after the great hoax he published the following advertisement, which shows the