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Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions by Charles Mackay

Part 5 out of 5

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in its full perfection on market nights in any great thoroughfare; and
the words of the song might be heard, piercing above all the din and
buzz of the ever-moving multitude. He, the calm observer, who during
the hey-day popularity of this doggrel,

"Sate beside the public way,
Thick strewn with summer dust, and saw the stream
Of people there was hurrying to and fro,
Numerous as gnats upon the evening gleam,"

might have exclaimed with Shelley, whose fine lines we quote, that

"The million, with fierce song and maniac dance,
Did rage around."

The philosophic theorist we have already supposed soliloquising upon
the English character, and forming his opinion of it from their
exceeding love for a sea-song, might, if he had again dropped suddenly
into London, have formed another very plausible theory to account for
our unremitting efforts for the abolition of the Slave Trade.
"Benevolent people!" he might have said, "how unbounded are your
sympathies! Your unhappy brethren of Africa, differing from you only
in the colour of their skins, are so dear to you, and you begrudge so
little the twenty millions you have paid on their behalf, that you
love to have a memento of them continually in your sight. Jim Crow is
the representative of that injured race, and as such is the idol of
your populace! See how they all sing his praises! -- how they imitate
his peculiarities! -- how they repeat his name in their moments of
leisure and relaxation! They even carve images of him to adorn their
hearths, that his cause and his sufferings may never be forgotten !
Oh, philanthropic England! -- oh, vanguard of civilization!"

Such are a few of the peculiarities of the London multitude, when
no riot, no execution, no murder, no balloon, disturbs the even
current of their thoughts. These are the whimseys of the mass - the
harmless follies by which they unconsciously endeavour to lighten the
load of care which presses upon their existence. The wise man, even
though he smile at them, will not altogether withhold his sympathy,
and will say, "Let them enjoy their slang phrases and their choruses
if they will; and if they cannot be happy, at least let them be
merry." To the Englishman, as well as to the Frenchman of whom
Beranger sings, there may be some comfort in so small a thing as a
song, and we may, own with him that

"Au peuple attriste
Ce qui rendra la gaite,
O gue!
C'est la GAUDRIOLE!"


And these things bred a great combustion in the town.
Wagstaffe's "Apparition of Mother Haggis."

The acrimonious warfare carried on for a length of time by the
playgoers of London against the proprietors of Covent-Garden Theatre,
is one of the most singular instances upon record of the small folly
which will sometimes pervade a multitude of intelligent men. Carried
on at first from mere obstinacy by a few, and afterwards for mingled
obstinacy and frolic by a greater number, it increased at last to such
a height, that the sober dwellers in the provinces held up their hands
in astonishment, and wondered that the people of London should be such
fools. As much firmness and perseverance displayed in a better cause,
might have achieved important triumphs; and we cannot but feel regret,
in recording this matter, that so much good and wholesome energy
should have been thrown away on so unworthy an object. But we will
begin with the beginning, and trace the O. P. mania from its source.

On the night of the 20th of September, 1808, the old theatre of
Covent-Garden was totally destroyed by fire. Preparations were
immediately made for the erection of a more splendid edifice, and the
managers, Harris and the celebrated John Philip Kemble, announced that
the new theatre should be without a rival in Europe. In less than
three months, the rubbish of the old building was cleared away, and
the foundation-stone of the new one laid with all due ceremony by the
Duke of Sussex. With so much celerity were the works carried on that,
in nine months more, the edifice was completed, both without and
within. The opening night was announced for the 18th of September
1809, within two days of a twelvemonth since the destruction of the
original building.

But the undertaking had proved more expensive than the Committee
anticipated. To render the pit entrance more commodious, it had been
deemed advisable to remove a low public-house that stood in the way.
This turned out a matter of no little difficulty, for the proprietor
was a man well skilled in driving a hard bargain. The more eager the
Committee showed themselves to come to terms with him for his
miserable pot-house, the more grasping he became in his demands for
compensation. They were ultimately obliged to pay him an exorbitant
sum. Added to this, the interior decorations were on the most costly
scale; and Mrs. Siddons, and other members of the Kemble family,
together with the celebrated Italian singer, Madame Catalani, had been
engaged at very high salaries. As the night of opening drew near, the
Committee found that they had gone a little beyond their means; and
they issued a notice, stating that, in consequence of the great
expense they had been at in building the theatre, and the large
salaries they had agreed to pay, to secure the services of the most
eminent actors, they were under the necessity of fixing the prices of
admission at seven shillings to the boxes and four shillings to the
pit, instead of six shillings and three and sixpence, as heretofore.

This announcement created the greatest dissatisfaction. The boxes
might have borne the oppression, but the dignity of the pit was
wounded. A war-cry was raised immediately. For some weeks previous to
the opening, a continual clatter was kept up in clubs and
coffee-rooms, against what was considered a most unconstitutional
aggression on the rights of play-going man. The newspapers assiduously
kept up the excitement, and represented, day after day, to the
managers the impolicy of the proposed advance. The bitter politics of
the time were disregarded, and Kemble and Covent-Garden became as
great sources of interest as Napoleon and France. Public attention was
the more fixed upon the proceedings at Covent-Garden, since it was the
only patent theatre then in existence, Drury-Lane theatre having also
been destroyed by fire in the month of February previous. But great as
was the indignation of the lovers of the drama at that time, no one
could have anticipated the extraordinary lengths to which opposition
would be carried.

First Night, September 20th. -- The performances announced were
the tragedy of "Macbeth" and the afterpiece of "The Quaker." The house
was excessively crowded (the pit especially) with persons who had gone
for no other purpose than to make a disturbance. They soon discovered
another grievance to add to the list. The whole of the lower, and
three-fourths of the upper tier of boxes, were let out for the season;
so that those who had paid at the door for a seat in the boxes, were
obliged to mount to a level with the gallery. Here they were stowed
into boxes which, from their size and shape, received the
contemptuous, and not inappropriate designation of pigeon-holes. This
was considered in the light of a new aggression upon established
rights; and long before the curtain drew up, the managers might have
heard in their green-room the indignant shouts of "Down with the
pigeon-holes!" -- "Old prices for ever!" Amid this din the curtain
rose, and Mr. Kemble stood forward to deliver a poetical address in
honour of the occasion. The riot now began in earnest; not a word of
the address was audible, from the stamping and groaning of the people
in the pit. This continued, almost without intermission, through the
five acts of the tragedy. Now and then, the sublime acting of Mrs.
Siddons, as "the awful woman," hushed the noisy multitude into
silence, in spite of themselves: but it was only for a moment; the
recollection of their fancied wrongs made them ashamed of their
admiration, and they shouted and hooted again more vigorously than
before. The comedy of Munden in the afterpiece met with no better
reception; not a word was listened to, and the curtain fell amid still
increasing uproar and shouts of "Old prices!" Some magistrates, who
happened to be present, zealously came to the rescue, and appeared on
the stage with copies of the Riot Act. This ill-judged proceeding made
the matter worse. The men of the pit were exasperated by the
indignity, and strained their lungs to express how deeply they felt
it. Thus remained the war till long after midnight, when the
belligerents withdrew from sheer exhaustion.

Second Night. -- The crowd was not so great; all those who had
gone on the previous evening to listen to the performances, now stayed
away, and the rioters had it nearly all to themselves. With the
latter, "the play was not the thing," and Macheath and Polly sang in
"The Beggar's Opera" in vain. The actors and the public appeared to
have changed sides -- the audience acted, and the actors listened. A
new feature of this night's proceedings was the introduction of
placards. Several were displayed from the pit and boxes, inscribed in
large letters with the words, "Old prices." With a view of striking
terror, the constables who had been plentifully introduced into the
house, attacked the placard-bearers, and succeeded, after several
severe battles, in dragging off a few of them to the neighbouring
watch-house, in Bow Street. Confusion now became worse and worse
confounded. The pitites screamed themselves hoarse; while, to increase
the uproar, some mischievous frequenters of the upper regions squeaked
through dozens of cat-calls, till the combined noise was enough to
blister every tympanum in the house.

Third Night.--The appearance of several gentlemen in the morning
at the bar of the Bow Street police office, to answer for their
riotous conduct, had been indignantly commented upon during the day.
All augured ill for the quiet of the night. The performances announced
were "Richard the Third" and "The Poor Soldier," but the popularity of
the tragedy could not obtain it a hearing. The pitites seemed to be
drawn into closer union by the attacks made upon them, and to act more
in concert than on the previous nights. The placards were, also, more
numerous; not only the pit, but the boxes and galleries exhibited
them. Among the most conspicuous, was one inscribed, "John Bull
against John Kemble. -- Who'll win?" Another bore "King George for
ever! but no King Kemble." A third was levelled against Madame
Catalani, whose large salary was supposed to be one of the causes of
the increased prices, and was inscribed "No foreigners to tax us --
we're taxed enough already." This last was a double-barrelled one,
expressing both dramatic and political discontent, and was received
with loud cheers by the pitites.

The tragedy and afterpiece were concluded full two hours before
their regular time; and the cries for Mr. Kemble became so loud, that
the manager thought proper to obey the summons. Amid all these scenes
of uproar he preserved his equanimity, and was never once betrayed
into any expression of petulance or anger. With some difficulty he
obtained a hearing. He entered into a detail of the affairs of the
theatre, assuring the audience at the same time of the solicitude of
the proprietors to accommodate themselves to the public wish. This was
received with some applause, as it was thought at first to manifest a
willingness to come back to the old prices, and the pit eagerly waited
for the next sentence, that was to confirm their hopes. That sentence
was never uttered, for Mr. Kemble, folding his arms majestically,
added, in his deep tragic voice, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I wait here to
know what you want!" Immediately the uproar was renewed, and became so
tremendous and so deafening, that the manager, seeing the uselessness
of further parley, made his bow and retired.

A gentleman then rose in the boxes and requested a hearing. He
obtained it without difficulty. He began by inveighing in severe terms
against the pretended ignorance of Mr. Kemble, in asking them so
offensively what they wanted, and concluded by exhorting the people
never to cease their opposition until they brought down the prices to
their old level. The speaker, whose name was understood to be Leigh,
then requested a cheer for the actors, to show that no disrespect was
intended them. The cheer was given immediately.

A barrister of the name of Smythe then rose to crave another
hearing for Mr. Kemble. The manager stood forth again, calm, unmoved,
and severe. "Ladies and gentlemen," said he, "I wait here to know your
wishes." Mr. Leigh, who took upon himself, "for that night only," the
character of popular leader, said, the only reply he could give was
one in three words, "the old prices." Hereat the shouts of applause
again rose, till the building rang. Still serene amid the storm, the
manager endeavoured to enter into explanations. The men of the pit
would hear nothing of the sort. They wanted entire and absolute
acquiescence. Less would not satisfy them; and, as Mr. Kemble only
wished to explain, they would not hear a word. He finally withdrew
amid a noise to which Babel must have been comparatively silent.

Fourth night. -- The rioters were more obstinate than ever. The
noises were increased by the addition of whistles, bugle-horns, and
watchmen's rattles, sniffling, snorting, and clattering from all parts
of the house. Human lungs were taxed to the uttermost, and the
stamping on the floor raised such a dust as to render all objects but
dimly visible. In placards, too, there was greater variety. The loose
wits of the town had all day been straining their ingenuity to invent
new ones. Among them were, "Come forth, O Kemble! come forth and
tremble!" "Foolish John Kemble, we'll make you tremble!" and "No cats!
no Catalani! English actors for ever!"

Those who wish to oppose a mob successfully, should never lose
their temper. It is a proof of weakness which masses of people at once
perceive, and never fail to take advantage of. Thus, when the managers
unwisely resolved to fight the mob with their own weapons, it only
increased the opposition it was intended to allay. A dozen pugilists,
commanded by a notorious boxer of the day, were introduced into the
pit, to use the argumentum ad hominem to the rioters. Continual
scuffles ensued: but the invincible resolution of the playgoers would
not allow them to quail; it rather aroused them to renewed opposition,
and a determination never to submit or yield. It also strengthened
their cause, by affording them further ground of complaint against the

The performances announced on the bills were the opera of "Love in
a Village," and "Who wins?" but the bills had it all to themselves,
for neither actors nor public were much burthened with them. The
latter, indeed, afforded some sport. The title was too apt to the
occasion to escape notice, and shouts of "Who wins? who wins?"
displaced for a time the accustomed cry of old prices.

After the fall of the curtain, Mr. Leigh, with another gentleman,
again spoke, complaining bitterly of the introduction of the
prize-fighters, and exhorting the public never to give in. Mr. Kemble
was again called forward; but when he came, the full tide of discord
ran so strongly against him that, being totally unable to stem it, he
withdrew. Each man seemed to shout as if he had been a Stentor; and
when his lungs were wearied, took to his feet and stamped, till all
the black coats in his vicinity became grey with dust. At last the
audience were tired out, and the theatre was closed before eleven

Fifth night. -- The play was Coleman's amusing comedy of" John
Bull." There was no diminution of the uproar. Every note on the
diapason of discord was run through. The prize-fighters, or hitites as
they were called, mustered in considerable numbers, and the battles
between them and the pitites were fierce and many. It was now, for the
first time, that the letters O.P. came into general use as an
abbreviation of the accustomed watchword of old prices. Several
placards were thus inscribed; and, as brevity is so desirable in
shouting, the mob adopted the emendation. As usual, the manager was
called for. After some delay he came forward, and was listened to with
considerable patience. He repeated, in respectful terms, the great
loss that would be occasioned to the proprietors by a return to the
old prices, and offered to submit a statement of their accounts to the
eminent lawyers, Sir Vicary Gibbs and Sir Thomas Plumer; the eminent
merchants, Sir Francis Baring and Mr. Angerstein; and Mr. Whitmore,
the Governor of the Bank of England. By their decision as to the
possibility of carrying on the theatre at the old prices, he would
consent to be governed, and he hoped the public would do the same.
This reasonable proposition was scouted immediately. Not even the high
and reputable names he had mentioned were thought to afford any
guarantee for impartiality. The pitites were too wrong-headed to abate
one iota of their pretensions; and they had been too much insulted by
the prize-fighters in the manager's pay, to show any consideration for
him, or agree to any terms he might propose. They wanted full
acquiescence, and nothing less. Thus the conference broke off, and the
manager retired amid a storm of hisses.

An Irish gentleman, named O'Reilly, then stood up in one of the
boxes. With true Irish gallantry, he came to the rescue of an ill-used
lady. He said he was disgusted at the attacks made upon Madame
Catalani, the finest singer in the world, and a lady inestimable in
private life. It was unjust, unmanly, and un-English to make the
innocent suffer for the guilty; and he hoped this blot would be no
longer allowed to stain a fair cause. As to the quarrel with the
manager, he recommended them to persevere. They were not only wronged
by his increased prices, but insulted by his boxers, and he hoped,
that before they had done with him, they would teach him a lesson he
would not soon forget. The gallant Hibernian soon became a favourite,
and sat down amid loud cheers.

Sixth night. - No signs of a cessation of hostilities on the one
side, or of a return to the old prices on the other. The playgoers
seemed to grow more united as the managers grew more obstinate. The
actors had by far the best time of it; for they were spared nearly all
the labour of their parts, and merely strutted on the stage to see how
matters went on, and then strutted off again. Notwithstanding the
remonstrance of Mr. O'Reilly on the previous night, numerous placards
reflecting upon Madame Catalani were exhibited. One was inscribed with
the following doggrel :-

"Seventeen thousand a-year goes pat,
To Kemble, his sister, and Madame Cat."

On another was displayed, in large letters, "No compromise, old
prices, and native talent!" Some of these were stuck against the front
of the boxes, and others were hoisted from the pit on long poles. The
following specimens will suffice to show the spirit of them; wit they
had none, or humour either, although when they were successively
exhibited, they elicited roars of laughter:--

"John Kemble alone is the cause of this riot;
When he lowers his prices, John Bull will be quiet."

"John Kemble be damn'd,
We will not be cramm'd."

"Squire Kemble
Begins to tremble."

The curtain fell as early as nine o'clock, when there being loud
calls for Mr. Kemble, he stood forward. He announced that Madame
Catalani, against whom so unjustifiable a prejudice had been excited,
had thrown up her engagement rather than stand in the way of any
accommodation of existing differences. This announcement was received
with great applause. Mr. Kemble then went on to vindicate himself and
co-proprietors from the charge of despising public opinion. No
assertion, he assured them, could be more unjust. They were sincerely
anxious to bring these unhappy differences to a close, and he thought
he had acted in the most fair and reasonable manner in offering to
submit the accounts to an impartial committee, whose decision, and the
grounds for it, should be fully promulgated. This speech was received
with cheering, but interrupted at the close by some individuals, who
objected to any committee of the manager's nomination. This led to a
renewal of the uproar, and it was some time before silence could be
obtained. When, at last, he was able to make himself heard, he gave
notice, that until the decision of the committee had been drawn up,
the theatre should remain closed. Immediately every person in the pit
stood up, and a long shout of triumph resounded through the house,
which was heard at the extremity of Bow Street. As if this result had
been anticipated, a placard was at the same moment hoisted, inscribed,
"Here lies the body of NEW PRICE, an ugly brat and base born, who
expired on the 23rd of September 1809, aged six days. -- Requiescat in

Mr. Kemble then retired, and the pitites flung up their hats in
the air, or sprang over the benches, shouting and hallooing in the
exuberance of their joy; and thus ended the first act of this popular

The committee ultimately chosen differed from that first named,
Alderman Sir Charles Price, Bart. and Mr. Silvester, the Recorder of
London, being substituted for Sir Francis Baring and Sir Vicary Gibbs.
In a few days they had examined the multitudinous documents of the
theatre, and agreed to a report which was published in all the
newspapers, and otherwise distributed. They stated the average profits
of the six preceding years at 6 and 3/8 per cent, being only 1 and 3/8
per cent. beyond the legal interest of money, to recompense the
proprietors for all their care and enterprise. Under the new prices
they would receive 3 and 1/2 per cent. profit; but if they returned to
the old prices, they would suffer a loss of fifteen shillings per
cent. upon their capital. Under these circumstances, they could do no
other than recommend the proprietors to continue the new prices.

This report gave no satisfaction. It certainly convinced the
reasonable, but they, unfortunately, were in a minority of one to ten.
The managers, disregarding the outcry that it excited, advertised the
recommencement of the performances for Wednesday the 4th of October
following. They endeavoured to pack the house with their friends, but
the sturdy O.P. men were on the alert, and congregated in the pit in
great numbers. The play was "The Beggar's Opera," but, as on former
occasions, it was wholly inaudible. The noises were systematically
arranged, and the actors, seeing how useless it was to struggle
against the popular feeling, hurried over their parts as quickly as
they could, and the curtain fell shortly after nine o'clock. Once more
the manager essayed the difficult task of convincing madness by
appealing to reason. As soon as the din of the rattles and post-horns
would permit him to speak, he said, he would throw himself on the
fairness of the most enlightened metropolis in the world. He was sure,
however strongly they might feel upon the subject, they would not be
accessory to the ruin of the theatre, by insisting upon a return to
the former prices. Notwithstanding the little sop he had thrown out to
feed the vanity of this roaring Cerberus, the only answer he received
was a renewal of the noise, intermingled with shouts of "Hoax! hoax!
imposition!" Mr. O'Reilly, the gallant friend of Madame Catalani,
afterwards addressed the pit, and said no reliance could be placed on
the report of the committee. The profits of the theatre were evidently
great: they had saved the heavy salary of Madame Catalani; and by
shutting out the public from all the boxes but the pigeon-holes, they
made large sums. The first and second tiers were let at high rents to
notorious courtesans, several of whom he then saw in the house; and it
was clear that the managers preferred a large revenue from this impure
source to the reasonable profits they would receive from respectable
people. Loud cheers greeted this speech; every eye was turned towards
the boxes, and the few ladies in them immediately withdrew. At the
same moment, some inveterate pitite hoisted a large placard, on which
was inscribed,

"We lads of the pit
Will never submit."

Several others were introduced. One of them was a caricature likeness
of Mr. Kemble, asking, "What do you want?" with a pitite replying,
"The old prices, and no pigeon-holes!" Others merely bore the drawing
of a large key, in allusion to a notorious house in the neighbourhood,
the denizens of which were said to be great frequenters of the private
boxes. These appeared to give the managers more annoyance than all the
rest, and the prize-fighters made vigorous attacks upon the holders of
them. Several persons were, on this night, and indeed nearly every
night, taken into custody, and locked up in the watchhouse. On their
appearance the following morning, they were generally held to bail in
considerable sums to keep the peace. This proceeding greatly augmented
the animosity of the pit.

It would be useless to detail the scenes of confusion which
followed night after night. For about three weeks the war continued
with unabated fury. Its characteristics were nearly always the same.
Invention was racked to discover new noises, and it was thought a
happy idea when one fellow got into the gallery with a dustman's bell,
and rang it furiously. Dogs were also brought into the boxes, to add
their sweet voices to the general uproar. The animals seemed to join
in it con amore, and one night a large mastiff growled and barked so
loudly, as to draw down upon his exertions three cheers from the
gratified pitites.

So strong did the popular enthusiasm run in favour of the row,
that well-dressed ladies appeared in the boxes with the letters O. P.
on their bonnets. O. P. hats for the gentlemen were still more common,
and some were so zealous in the cause, as to sport waistcoats with an
O embroidered upon one flap and a P on the other. O.P. toothpicks were
also in fashion; and gentlemen and ladies carried O.P. handkerchiefs,
which they waved triumphantly whenever the row was unusually
deafening. The latter suggested the idea of O. P. flags, which were
occasionally unfurled from the gallery to the length of a dozen feet.
Sometimes the first part of the night's performances were listened to
with comparative patience, a majority of the manager's friends being
in possession of the house. But as soon as the half-price commenced,
the row began again in all its pristine glory. At the fall of the
curtain it soon became customary to sing "God save the King," the
whole of the O.P.'s joining in loyal chorus. Sometimes this was
followed by "Rule Britannia;" and, on two or three occasions, by a
parody of the national anthem, which excited great laughter. A verse
may not be uninteresting as a specimen.

"O Johnny Bull, be true,
Confound the prices new,
And make them fall!
Curse Kemble's politics,
Frustrate his knavish tricks,
On thee our hopes we fix,
T' upset them all !"

This done, they scrambled over the benches, got up sham fights in the
pit, or danced the famous O.P. dance. The latter may as well be
described here: half a dozen, or a dozen fellows formed in a ring, and
stamped alternately with the right and left foot, calling out at
regular intervals, O. P. - O. P. with a drawling and monotonous sound.
This uniformly lasted till the lights were put out, when the rioters
withdrew, generally in gangs of ten or twenty, to defend themselves
from sudden attacks on the part of the constables.

An idea seemed about this time to break in upon them, that
notwithstanding the annoyance they caused the manager, they were
aiding to fill his coffers. This was hinted at in some of the
newspapers, and the consequence was, that many stayed away to punish
him, if possible, under the silent system. But this did not last long.
The love of mischief was as great an incentive to many of them as
enmity to the new prices. Accidental circumstances also contributed to
disturb the temporary calm. At the Westminster quarter-sessions, on
the 27th of October, bills of indictment were preferred against
forty-one persons for creating a disturbance and interrupting the
performances of the theatre. The grand jury ignored twenty-seven of
the bills, left two undecided, and found true bills against twelve.
The latter exercised their right of traverse till the ensuing
sessions. The preferment of these bills had the effect of re-awakening
the subsiding excitement. Another circumstance about the same time
gave a still greater impetus to it, and furnished the rioters with a
chief, round whom they were eager to rally. Mr. Clifford, a barrister,
appeared in the pit on the night of the 31st of October, with the
letters O. P. on his hat. Being a man of some note, he was pounced
upon by the constables, and led off to Bow Street police office, where
Brandon, the box-keeper, charged him with riotous and disorderly
conduct. This was exactly what Clifford wanted. He told the presiding
magistrate, a Mr. Read, that he had purposely displayed the letters on
his hat, in order that the question of right might be determined
before a competent tribunal. He denied that he had committed any
offence, and seemed to manifest so intimate an acquaintance with the
law upon the subject, that the magistrate, convinced by his reasoning,
ordered his immediate dismissal, and stated that he had been taken
into custody without the slightest grounds. The result was made known
in the theatre a few minutes afterwards, where Mr. Clifford, on his
appearance victorious, was received with reiterated huzzas. On his
leaving the house, he was greeted by a mob of five or six hundred
persons, who had congregated outside to do him honour as he passed.
From that night the riots may be said to have recommenced, and
"Clifford and O. P." became the rallying cry of the party. The
officious box-keeper became at the same time the object of the popular
dislike, and the contempt with which the genius and fine qualities of
Mr. Kemble would not permit them to regard him, was fastened upon his
underling. So much ill-feeling was directed towards the latter, that
at this time a return to the old prices, unaccompanied by his
dismissal, would not have made the manager's peace with the pitites.

In the course of the few succeeding weeks, during which the riots
continued with undiminished fury, O. P. medals were struck, and worn
in great numbers in the theatre. A few of the ultra-zealous even wore
them in the streets. A new fashion also came into favour for hats,
waistcoats, and handkerchiefs, on which the mark, instead of the
separate letters O and P, was a large O, with a small P in the middle
of it: thus,

x x
x xxx x
x x x x
x xxx x
x x x
x x x
x x

The managers, seeing that Mr. Clifford was so identified with the
rioters, determined to make him responsible. An action was accordingly
brought against him and other defendants in the Court of King's Bench.
On the 20th of November, the Attorney-general moved, before Lord
Ellenborough, for a rule to show cause why a criminal information
should not be filed against Clifford for unlawfully conspiring with
certain others to intimidate the proprietors of Covent-Garden Theatre,
and force them, to their loss and detriment, to lower their prices of
admission. The rule was granted, and an early day fixed for the trial.
In the mean time, these proceedings kept up the acerbity of the O.
P.s, and every night at the fall of the curtain, three groans were
given for John Kemble and three cheers for John Bull.

It was during this year that the national Jubilee was celebrated,
in honour of tile fiftieth year of the reign of George III. When the
riots had reached their fiftieth night, the O. P.s also determined to
have a jubilee. All their previous efforts in the way of roaring,
great as they were, were this night outdone, and would have continued
long after "the wee short hour," had not the managers wisely put the
extinguisher upon them and the lights about eleven o'clock.

Pending the criminal prosecution against himself, Mr. Clifford
brought an action for false imprisonment against Brandon. The cause
was fixed for trial in the Court of Common Pleas, on the 5th of
December, before Lord Chief-Justice Mansfield. From an early hour in
the morning all the avenues leading to the court were thronged with an
eager multitude; all London was in anxiety for the resuit. So dense
was the crowd, that counsel found the greatest difficulty in making
their way into court. Mr. Sergeant Best was retained on the part of
the plaintiff, and Mr. Sergeant Shepherd for the defence. The
defendant put two pleas upon the record; first, that he was not
guilty, and secondly, that he was justified. Sergeant Best, in stating
the plaintiff's case, blamed the managers for all the disturbances
that had taken place, and contended that his client, in affixing the
letters O. P. to his hat, was not guilty of any offence. Even if he
had joined in the noises, which he had not, his so doing would not
subject him to the penalties for rioting. Several witnesses were then
called to prove the capture of Mr. Clifford, the hearing of the case
before the magistrate at Bow Street, and his ultimate dismissal.
Sergeant Shepherd was heard at great length on the other side, and
contended that his client was perfectly justified in taking into
custody a man who was inciting others to commit a breach of the peace.

The Lord Chief-Justice summed up, with an evident bias in favour
of the defendant. He said an undue apprehension of the rights of an
audience had got abroad. Even supposing the object of the rioters to
be fair and legal, they were not authorized to carry it by unfair
means. In order to constitute a riot, it was not necessary that
personal violence should be committed, and it seemed to him that the
defendant had not acted in an improper manner in giving into custody a
person who, by the display of a symbol, was encouraging others to
commit a riot.

The jury retired to consider their verdict. The crowd without and
within the court awaited the result in feverish suspense. Half an hour
elapsed, when the jury returned with a verdict for the plaintiff --
Damages, five pounds. The satisfaction of the spectators was evident
upon their countenances, that of the judge expressed the contrary
feeling. Turning to the foreman of the jury, his Lordship asked upon
which of the two points referred to them, namely, the broad question,
whether a riot had been committed, and, if committed, whether the
plaintiff had participated in it, they had found their verdict?

The foreman stated, that they were all of opinion generally that
the plaintiff had been illegally arrested. This vague answer did not
satisfy his Lordship, and he repeated his question. He could not,
however, obtain a more satisfactory reply. Evidently vexed at what he
deemed the obtuseness or partiality of the jury, he turned to the bar,
and said, that a spirit of a mischievous and destructive nature was
abroad, which, if not repressed, threatened awful consequences. The
country would be lost, he said, and the government overturned, if such
a spirit were encouraged; it was impossible it could end in good.
Time, the destroyer and fulfiller of predictions, has proved that his
Lordship was a false prophet. The harmless O. P. war has been
productive of no such dire results.

It was to be expected that after this triumph, the war in the pit
would rage with redoubled acrimony. A riot beginning at half-price
would not satisfy the excited feelings of the O. P.s on the night of
such a victory. Long before the curtain drew up, the house was filled
with them, and several placards were exhibited, which the constables
and friends of the managers strove, as usual, to tear into shreds. One
of them, which met this fate, was inscribed, "Success to O.P.! A
British jury for ever!" It was soon replaced by another of a similar
purport. It is needless to detail the uproar that ensued; the jumping,
the fighting, the roaring, and the howling. For nine nights more the
same system was continued; but the end was at hand.

On the 14th a grand dinner was given at the Crown and Anchor
tavern, to celebrate the victory of Mr. Clifford. "The reprobators of
managerial insolence," as they called themselves, attended in
considerable numbers; and Mr. Clifford was voted to the chair. The
cloth had been removed, and a few speeches made, when the company were
surprised by a message that their arch-enemy himself solicited the
honour of an audience. It was some time ere they could believe that
Mr. Kemble had ventured to such a place. After some parley the manager
was admitted, and a conference was held. A treaty was ultimately
signed and sealed, which put an end to the long-contested wars of
O.P., and restored peace to the drama.

All this time the disturbance proceeded at the theatre with its
usual spirit. It was now the sixty-sixth night of its continuance, and
the rioters were still untired -- still determined to resist to the
last. In the midst of it a gentleman arrived from the Crown and
Anchor, and announced to the pit that Mr. Kemble had attended the
dinner, and had yielded at last to the demand of the public. He
stated, that it had been agreed upon between him and the Committee for
defending the persons under prosecution, that the boxes should remain
at the advanced price; that the pit should be reduced to three
shillings and sixpence; that the private boxes should be done away
with; and that all prosecutions, on both sides, should be immediately
stayed. This announcement was received with deafening cheers. As soon
as the first burst of enthusiasm was over, the O. P.s became anxious
for a confirmation of the intelligence, and commenced a loud call for
Mr. Kemble. He had not then returned from the Crown and Anchor; but of
this the pitites were not aware, and for nearly half an hour they kept
up a most excruciating din. At length the great actor made his
appearance, in his walking dress, with his cane in hand, as he had
left the tavern. It was a long time before he could obtain silence.
He. apologized in the most respectful terms for appearing before them
in such unbecoming costume, which was caused solely by his ignorance
that he should have to appear before them that night. After
announcing, as well as occasional interruptions would allow, the terms
that had been agreed upon, he added, "In order that no trace or
recollection of the past differences, which had unhappily prevailed so
long, should remain, he was instructed by the proprietors to say, that
they most sincerely lamented the course that had been pursued, and
engaged that, on their parts, all legal proceedings should forthwith
be put a stop to." The cheering which greeted this speech was
interrupted at the close by loud cries from the pit of "Dismiss
Brandon," while one or two exclaimed, "We want old prices generally,
-- six shillings for the boxes." After an ineffectual attempt to
address them again upon this point, Mr. Kemble made respectful and
repeated obeisances, and withdrew. The noises still continued, until
Munden stood forward, leading by the hand the humbled box-keeper,
contrition in his looks, and in his hands a written apology, which he
endeavoured to read. The uproar was increased threefold by his
presence, and, amid cries of "We won't hear him!" "Where's his
master?" he was obliged to retire. Mr. Harris, the son of Kemble's
co-manager, afterwards endeavoured to propitiate the audience in his
favour; but it was of no avail; nothing less than his dismissal would
satisfy the offended majesty of the pit. Amid this uproar the curtain
finally fell, and the O. P. dance was danced for the last time within
the walls of Covent Garden.

On the following night it was announced that Brandon had resigned
his situation. This turned the tide of popular ill-will. The
performances were "The Wheel of Fortune," and an afterpiece. The house
was crowded to excess; a desire to be pleased was manifest on every
countenance, and when Mr. Kemble, who took his favourite character of
Penruddock, appeared upon the stage, he was greeted with the most
vehement applause. The noises ceased entirely, and the symbols of
opposition disappeared. The audience, hushed into attention, gave vent
to no sounds but those of admiration for the genius of the actor.
When, in the course of his part, he repeated the words, "So! I am in
London again !" the aptness of the expression to the circumstances of
the night, was felt by all present, and acknowledged by a round of
boisterous and thrice repeated cheering. It was a triumphant scene for
Mr. Kemble after his long annoyances. He had achieved a double
victory. He had, not only as a manager, soothed the obstinate
opposition of the play-goers, but as an actor he had forced from one
of the largest audiences he had ever beheld, approbation more cordial
and unanimous than he had ever enjoyed before. The popular favour not
only turned towards him; it embraced everybody connected with the
theatre, except the poor victim, Brandon. Most of the favourite actors
were called before the curtain to make their bow, and receive the
acclamations of the pit. At the close of the performances, a few
individuals, implacable and stubborn, got up a feeble cry of "Old
prices for the boxes;" but they were quickly silenced by the
reiterated cheers of the majority, or by cries of "Turn them out!" A
placard, the last of its race, was at the same time exhibited in the
front of the pit, bearing, in large letters, the words "We are

Thus ended the famous wars of O. P., which, for a period of nearly
three months, had kept the metropolis in an uproar. And after all,
what was the grand result? As if the whole proceeding had been a
parody upon the more destructive, but scarcely more sensible wars
recorded in history, it was commenced in injustice, carried on in
bitterness of spirit, and ended, like the labour of the mountain, in a
mouse. The abatement of sixpence in the price of admission to the pit,
and the dismissal of an unfortunate servant, whose only fault was too
much zeal in the service of his employers, -- such were the grand
victories of the O. P.'s.


Orribili favelle -- parole di dolor.--DANTE.

Among the black deeds which Superstition has imposed as duties
upon her wretched votaries, none are more horrible than the practices
of the murderers, who, under the name of Thugs, or Phansigars, have so
long been the scourge of India. For ages they have pursued their dark
and dreadful calling, moulding assassination into a science, or
extolling it as a virtue, worthy only to be practised by a race
favoured of Heaven. Of late years this atrocious delusion has excited
much attention, both in this country and in India; an attention which,
it is to be hoped, will speedily lead to the uprooting of a doctrine
so revolting and anti-human. Although the British Government has
extended over Hindostan for so long a period, it does not appear that
Europeans even suspected the existence of this mysterious sect until
the commencement of the present century. In the year 1807, a gang of
Thugs, laden with the plunder of murdered travellers, was accidentally
discovered. The inquiries then set on foot revealed to the astonished
Government a system of iniquity unparalleled in the history of man.
Subsequent investigation extended the knowledge; and by throwing light
upon the peculiar habits of the murderers, explained the reason why
their crimes had remained so long undiscovered. In the following pages
will be found an epitome of all the information which has reached
Europe concerning them, derived principally from Dr. Sherwood's
treatise upon the subject, published in 1816, and the still more
valuable and more recent work of Mr. Sleeman, entitled the
"Ramaseeana; or, Vocabulary of the peculiar Language of the Thugs."

The followers of this sect are called Thugs, or T'hugs, and their
profession Thuggee. In the south of India they are called Phansigars:
the former word signifying "a deceiver;" and the latter, "a
strangler." They are both singularly appropriate. The profession of
Thuggee is hereditary, and embraces, it is supposed, in every part of
India, a body of at least ten thousand individuals, trained to murder
from their childhood; carrying it on in secret and in silence, yet
glorying in it, and holding the practice of it higher than any earthly
honour. During the winter months, they usually follow some reputable
calling, to elude suspicion; and in the summer, they set out in gangs
over all the roads of India, to plunder and destroy. These gangs
generally contain from ten to forty Thugs, and sometimes as many as
two hundred. Each strangler is provided with a noose, to despatch the
unfortunate victim, as the Thugs make it a point never to cause death
by any other means. When the gangs are very large, they divide into
smaller bodies; and each taking a different route, they arrive at the
same general place of rendezvous to divide the spoil. They sometimes
travel in the disguise of respectable traders; sometimes as sepoys or
native soldiers; and at others, as government officers. If they chance
to fall in with an unprotected wayfarer, his fate is certain. One Thug
approaches him from behind, and throws the end of a sash round his
neck; the other end is seized by a second at the same instant, crossed
behind the neck, and drawn tightly, while with their other hand the
two Thugs thrust his head forward to expedite the strangulation: a
third Thug seizes the traveller by the legs at the same moment, and he
is thrown to the ground, a corpse before he reaches it.

But solitary travellers are not the prey they are anxious to seek.
A wealthy caravan of forty or fifty individuals has not unfrequently
been destroyed by them; not one soul being permitted to escape.
Indeed, there is hardly an instance upon record of any one's escape
from their hands, so surely are their measures taken, and so well do
they calculate beforehand all the risks and difficulties of the
undertaking. Each individual of the gang has his peculiar duty
allotted to him. Upon-approaching a town, or serai, two or three,
known as the Soothaes, or "inveiglers," are sent in advance to
ascertain if any travellers are there; to learn, if possible, the
amount of money or merchandize they carry with them, their hours of
starting in the morning, or any other particulars that may be of use.
If they can, they enter into conversation with them, pretend to be
travelling to the same place, and propose, for mutual security, to
travel with them. This intelligence is duly communicated to the
remainder of the gang. The. place usually chosen for the murder is
some lonely part of the road in the vicinity of a jungle, and the
time, just before dusk. At given signals, understood only by
themselves, the scouts of the party station themselves in the front,
in the rear, and on each side, to guard against surprise. A strangler
and assistant strangler, called Bhurtote and Shamshea, place
themselves, the one on the right, and the other on the left of the
victim, without exciting his suspicion. At another signal the noose is
twisted, drawn tightly by a strong hand at each extremity, and the
traveller, in a few seconds, hurried into eternity. Ten, twelve,
twenty, and in some instances, sixty persons have been thus despatched
at the same moment. Should any victim, by a rare chance, escape their
hands, he falls into those of the scouts who are stationed within
hearing, who run upon him and soon overpower him.

Their next care is to dispose of the bodies. So cautious are they
to prevent detection, that they usually break all the joints to hasten
decomposition. They then cut open the body to prevent it swelling in
the grave and causing fissures in the soil above, by which means the
jackals might be attracted to the spot, and thereby lead to discovery.
When obliged to bury the body in a frequented district, they kindle a
fire over the grave to obliterate the traces of the newly turned
earth. Sometimes the grave-diggers of the party, whose office, like
that of all the rest, is hereditary, are despatched to make the graves
in the morning at some distant spot, by which it is known the
travellers will pass. The stranglers, in the mean time, journey
quietly with their victims, conversing with them in the most friendly
manner. Towards nightfall they approach the spot selected for their
murder; the signal is given, and they fall into the graves that have
been ready for them since day-break. On one occasion, related by
Captain Sleeman, a party of fifty-nine people, consisting of fifty-two
men and seven women, were thus simultaneously strangled, and thrown
into the graves prepared for them in the morning. Some of these
travellers were on horseback and well armed, but the Thugs, who appear
to have been upwards of two hundred in a gang, had provided against
all risk of failure. The only one left alive of all that numerous
party, was an infant four years old, who was afterwards initiated into
all the mysteries of Thuggee.

If they cannot find a convenient opportunity for disposing of the
bodies, they carry them for many miles, until they come to a spot
secure from intrusion, and to a soil adapted to receive them. If fear
of putrefaction admonishes them to use despatch, they set up a large
screen or tent, as other travellers do, and bury the body within the
enclosure, pretending, if inquiries are made, that their women are
within. But this only happens when they fall in with a victim
unexpectedly. In murders which they have planned previously, the
finding of a place of sepulture is never left to hazard.

Travellers who have the misfortune to lodge in the same choultry
or hostelry, as the Thugs, are often murdered during the night. It is
either against their creed to destroy a sleeper, or they find a
difficulty in placing the noose round the neck of a person in a
recumbent position. When this is the case, the slumberer is suddenly
aroused by the alarm of a snake or a scorpion. He starts to his feet,
and finds the fatal sash around his neck. -- He never escapes.

In addition to these Thugs who frequent the highways, there are
others, who infest the rivers, and are called Pungoos. They do not
differ in creed, but only in a few of their customs, from their
brethren on shore. They go up and down the rivers in their own boats,
pretending to be travellers of consequence, or pilgrims, proceeding
to, or returning from Benares, Allahabad, or other sacred places. The
boatmen, who are also Thugs, are not different in appearance from the
ordinary boatmen on the river. The artifices used to entice victims on
board are precisely similar to those employed by the highway Thugs.
They send out their "inveiglers" to scrape acquaintance with
travellers, and find out the direction in which they are journeying.
They always pretend to be bound for the same place, and vaunt the
superior accommodation of the boat by which they are going. The
travellers fall into the snare, are led to the Thug captain, who very
often, to allay suspicion, demurs to take them, but eventually agrees
for a moderate sum. The boat strikes off into the middle of the
stream; the victims are amused and kept in conversation for hours by
their insidious foes, until three taps are given on the deck above.
This is a signal from the Thugs on the look-out that the coast is
clear. In an instant the fatal noose is ready, and the travellers are
no more. The bodies are then thrown, warm and palpitating, into the
river, from a hole in the side of the boat, contrived expressly for
the purpose.

A river Thug, who was apprehended, turned approver, to save his
own life, and gave the following evidence relative to the practices of
his fraternity: -- "We embarked at Rajmahul. The travellers sat on one
side of the boat, and the Thugs on the other; while we three (himself
and two "stranglers,") were placed in the stern, the Thugs on our
left, and the travellers on our right. Some of the Thugs, dressed as
boatmen, were above deck, and others walking along the bank of the
river, and pulling the boat by the joon, or rope, and all, at the same
time, on the look-out. We came up with a gentleman's pinnace and two
baggage-boats, and were obliged to stop, and let them go on. The
travellers seemed anxious; but were quieted by being told that the men
at the rope were tired, and must take some refreshment. They pulled
out something, and began to eat; and when the pinnace had got on a
good way, they resumed their work, and our boat proceeded. It was now
afternoon; and, when a signal was given above, that all was clear, the
five Thugs who sat opposite the travellers sprang in upon them, and,
with the aid of others, strangled them. Having done this, they broke
their spinal bones, and then threw them out of a hole made at the
side, into the river, and kept on their course; the boat being all
this time pulled along by the men on the bank."

That such atrocities as these should have been carried on for
nearly two centuries without exciting the attention of the British
Government, seems incredible. But our wonder will be diminished when
we reflect upon the extreme caution of the Thugs, and the ordinary
dangers of travelling in India. The Thugs never murder a man near his
own home, and they never dispose of their booty near the scene of the
murder. They also pay, in common with other and less atrocious
robbers, a portion of their gains to the Polygars, or native
authorities of the districts in which they reside, to secure
protection. The friends and relatives of the victims, perhaps a
thousand miles off, never surmise their fate till a period has elapsed
when all inquiry would be fruitless, or, at least, extremely
difficult. They have no clue to the assassins, and very often impute
to the wild beasts of the jungles the slaughter committed by that
wilder beast, man.

There are several gradations through which every member of the
fraternity must regularly pass before he arrives at the high office of
a Bhurtote, or strangler. He is first employed as a scout -- then as a
sexton -- then as a Shumseea, or holder of hands, and lastly as a
Bhurtote. When a man who is not of Thug lineage, or who has not been
brought up from his infancy among them, wishes to become a strangler,
he solicits the oldest, and most pious and experienced Thug, to take
him under his protection and make him his disciple; and under his
guidance he is regularly initiated. When he has acquired sufficient
experience in the lower ranks of the profession, he applies to his
Gooroo, or preceptor, to give the finishing grace to his education,
and make a strangler of him. An opportunity is found when a solitary
traveller is to be murdered; and the tyro, with his preceptor, having
seen that the proposed victim is asleep, and in safe keeping till
their return, proceed to a neighbouring field and perform several
religious ceremonies, accompanied by three or four of the oldest and
steadiest members of the gang. The Gooroo first offers up a prayer to
the goddess, saying, "Oh, Kalee! Kun-kalee! Bhud-kalee! Oh, Kalee!
Maha-kalee! Calkutta Walee! if it seems fit to thee that the traveller
now at our lodging should die by the hands of this thy slave,
vouchsafe us thy good omen." They then sit down and watch for the good
omen; and if they receive it within half an hour, conclude that their
goddess is favourable to the claims of the new candidate for
admission. If they have a bad omen, or no omen at all, some other Thug
must put the traveller to death, and the aspirant must wait a more
favourable opportunity, purifying himself in the mean time by prayer
and humiliation for the favour of the goddess. If the good omen has
been obtained, they return to their quarters; and the Gooroo takes a
handkerchief and, turning his face to the west, ties a knot at one end
of it, inserting a rupee, or other piece of silver. This knot is
called the goor khat, or holy knot, and no man who has not been
properly ordained is allowed to tie it. The aspirant receives it
reverently in his right hand from his Gooroo, and stands over the
sleeping victim, with a Shumseea, or holder of hands, at his side. The
traveller is aroused, the handkerchief is passed around his neck, and,
at a signal from the Gooroo, is drawn tight till the victim is
strangled; the Shumseea holding his hands to prevent his making any
resistance. The work being now completed, the Bhurtote (no longer an
aspirant, but an admitted member) bows down reverently in the dust
before his Gooroo, and touches his feet with both his hands, and
afterwards performs the same respect to his relatives and friends who
have assembled to witness the solemn ceremony. He then waits for
another favourable omen, when he unties the knot and takes out the
rupee, which he gives to his Gooroo, with any other silver which he
may have about him. The Gooroo adds some of his own money, with which
he purchases what they call goor, or consecrated sugar, when a solemn
sacrifice is performed, to which all the gang are invited. The
relationship between the Gooroo and his disciple is accounted the most
holy that can be formed, and subsists to the latest period of life. A
Thug may betray his father, but never his Gooroo.

Dark and forbidding as is the picture already drawn, it will
become still darker and more repulsive, when we consider the motives
which prompt these men to systematic murder. Horrible as their
practices would be, if love of plunder alone incited them, it is
infinitely more horrible to reflect that the idea of duty and religion
is joined to the hope of gain, in making them the scourges of their
fellows. If plunder were their sole object, there would be reason to
hope, that when a member of the brotherhood grew rich, he would rest
from his infernal toils; but the dismal superstition which he
cherishes tells him never to desist. He was sent into the world to be
a slayer of men, and he religiously works out his destiny. As
religiously he educates his children to pursue the same career,
instilling into their minds, at the earliest age, that Thuggee is the
noblest profession a man can follow, and that the dark goddess they
worship will always provide rich travellers for her zealous devotees.

The following is the wild and startling legend upon which the
Thugs found the divine origin of their sect. They believe that, in the
earliest ages of the world, a gigantic demon infested the earth, and
devoured mankind as soon as they were created. He was of so tall a
stature, that when he strode through the most unfathomable depths of
the great sea, the waves, even in tempest, could not reach above his
middle. His insatiable appetite for human flesh almost unpeopled the
world, until Bhawanee, Kalee, or Davee, the goddess of the Thugs,
determined to save mankind by the destruction of the monster. Nerving
herself for the encounter, she armed herself with an immense sword;
and, meeting with the demon, she ran him through the body. His blood
flowed in torrents as he fell dead at her feet; but from every drop
there sprang up another monster, as rapacious and as terrible as the
first. Again the goddess upraised her massive sword, and hewed down
the hellish brood by hundreds; but the more she slew, the more
numerous they became. Every drop of their blood generated a demon;
and, although the goddess endeavoured to lap up the blood ere it
sprang into life, they increased upon her so rapidly, that the labour
of killing became too great for endurance. The perspiration rolled
down her arms in large drops, and she was compelled to think of some
other mode of exterminating them. In this emergency, she created two
men out of the perspiration of her body, to whom she confided the holy
task of delivering the earth from the monsters. To each of the men she
gave a handkerchief, and showed them how to kill without shedding
blood. From her they learned to tie the fatal noose; and they became,
under her tuition, such expert stranglers, that, in a very short space
of time, the race of demons became extinct.

When there were no more to slay, the two men sought the great
goddess, in order to return the handkerchiefs. The grateful Bhawanee
desired that they would retain them, as memorials of their heroic
deeds; and in order that they might never lose the dexterity that they
had acquired in using them, she commanded that, from thenceforward,
they should strangle men. These were the two first Thugs, and from
them the whole race have descended. To the early Thugs the goddess was
more direct in her favours, than she has been to their successors. At
first, she undertook to bury the bodies of all the men they slew and
plundered, upon the condition that they should never look back to see
what she was doing. The command was religiously observed for many
ages, and the Thugs relied with implicit faith upon the promise of
Bhawanee; but as men became more corrupt, the ungovernable curiosity
of a young Thug offended the goddess, and led to the withdrawal of a
portion of her favour. This youth, burning with a desire to see how
she made her graves, looked back, and beheld her in the act, not of
burying, but of devouring, the body of a man just strangled. Half of
the still palpitating remains was dangling over her lips. She was so
highly displeased that she condemned the Thugs, from that time
forward, to bury their victims themselves. Another account states that
the goddess was merely tossing the body in the air; and that, being
naked, her anger was aggravated by the gaze of mortal eyes upon her
charms. Before taking a final leave of her devotees, she presented
them with one of her teeth for a pickaxe, one of her ribs for a knife,
and the hem of her garment for a noose. She has not since appeared to
human eyes.

The original tooth having been lost in the lapse of ages, new
pickaxes have been constructed, with great care and many ceremonies,
by each considerable gang of Thugs, to be used in making the graves of
strangled travellers. The pickaxe is looked upon with the utmost
veneration by the tribe. A short account of the process of making it,
and the rites performed, may be interesting, as showing still further
their gloomy superstition. In the first place, it is necessary to fix
upon a lucky day. The chief Thug then instructs a smith to forge the
holy instrument: no other eye is permitted to see the operation. The
smith must engage in no other occupation until it is completed, and
the chief Thug never quits his side during the process. When the
instrument is formed, it becomes necessary to consecrate it to the
especial service of Bhawnee. Another lucky day is chosen for this
ceremony, care being had in the mean time that the shadow of no
earthly thing fall upon the pickaxe, as its efficacy would be for ever
destroyed. A learned Thug then sits down; and turning his face to the
west, receives the pickaxe in a brass dish. After muttering some
incantation, he throws it into a pit already prepared for it, where it
is washed in clear water. It is then taken out, and washed again three
times; the first time in sugar and water, the second in sour milk, and
the third in spirits. It is then dried, and marked from the head to
the point with seven red spots. This is the first part of the
ceremony: the second consists in its purification by fire. The pickaxe
is again placed upon the brass dish, along with a cocoa-nut, some
sugar, cloves, white sandal-wood, and other articles. A fire of the
mango tree, mixed with dried cow-dung, is then kindled; and the
officiating Thug, taking the pickaxe with both hands, passes it seven
times through the flames.

It now remains to be ascertained whether the goddess is favourable
to her followers. For this purpose, the cocoa-nut is taken from the
dish and placed upon the ground. The officiating Thug, turning to the
spectators, and holding the axe uplifted, asks, "Shall I strike?"
Assent being given, he strikes the nut with the but-end of the axe,
exclaiming, "All hail! mighty Davee! great mother of us all!" The
spectators respond, "All hail! mighty Davee! and prosper thy children,
the Thugs!"

If the nut is severed at the first blow, the goddess is
favourable; if not, she is unpropitious: all their labour is thrown
away, and the ceremony must be repeated upon some more fitting
occasion. But if the sign be favourable, the axe is tied carefully in
a white cloth and turned towards the west, all the spectators
prostrating themselves before it. It is then buried in the earth, with
its point turned in the direction the gang wishes to take on their
approaching expedition. If the goddess desires to warn them that they
will be unsuccessful, or that they have not chosen the right track,
the Thugs believe that the point of the axe will veer round, and point
to the better way. During an expedition, it is entrusted to the most
prudent and exemplary Thug of the party: it is his care to hold it
fast. If by any chance he should let it fall, consternation spreads
through the gang: the goddess is thought to be offended; the
enterprise is at once abandoned; and the Thugs return home in
humiliation and sorrow, to sacrifice to their gloomy deity, and win
back her estranged favour. So great is the reverence in which they
hold the sacred axe, that a Thug will never break an oath that he has
taken upon it. He fears that, should he perjure himself, his neck
would be so twisted by the offended Bhawanee as to make his face turn
to his back; and that, in the course of a few days, he would expire in
the most excruciating agonies.

The Thugs are diligent observers of signs and omens. No expedition
is ever undertaken before the auspices are solemnly taken. Upon this
subject Captain Sleeman says, "Even the most sensible approvers, who
have been with me for many years, as well Hindoos as Mussulmans,
believe that their good or ill success depended upon the skill with
which the omens were discovered and interpreted, and the strictness
with which they were observed and obeyed. One of the old Sindouse
stock told me, in presence of twelve others, from Hydrabad, Behar, the
Dooah, Oude, Rajpootana, and Bundelcund, that, had they not attended
to these omens, they never could have thrived as they did. In ordinary
cases of murder, other men seldom escaped punishment, while they and
their families had, for ten generations, thrived, although they had
murdered hundreds of people. 'This,' said the Thug,' could never have
been the case had we not attended to omens, and had not omens been
intended for us. There were always signs around us to guide us to rich
booty, and warn us of danger, had we been always wise enough to
discern them and religious enough to attend to them.' Every Thug
present concurred with him from his soul."

A Thug, of polished manners and great eloquence, being asked by a
native gentleman, in the presence of Captain Sleeman, whether he never
felt compunction in murdering innocent people, replied with a smile
that he did not. "Does any man," said he, "feel compunction in
following his trade? and are not all our trades assigned us by
Providence?" He was then asked how many people he had killed with his
own hands in the course of his life? "I have killed none," was the
reply. "What! and have you not been describing a number of murders in
which you were concerned?" "True; but do you suppose that I committed
them? Is any man killed by man's killing? Is it not the hand of God
that kills, and are we not the mere instruments in the hands of God?"

Upon another occasion, Sahib, an approver, being asked if he had
never felt any pity or compunction at murdering old men or young
children, or persons with whom he had sat and conversed, and who had
told him, perchance, of their private affairs -- their hopes and their
fears, their wives and their little ones? replied unhesi- tatingly
that he never did. From the time that the omens were favourable, the
Thugs considered all the travellers they met as victims thrown into
their hands by their divinity to be killed. The Thugs were the mere
instruments in the hands of Bhawanee to destroy them. "If we did not
kill them," said Sahib, "the goddess would never again be propitious
to us, and we and our families would be involved in misery and want.
If we see or hear a bad omen, it is the order of the goddess not to
kill the travellers we are in pursuit of, and we dare not disobey."

As soon as an expedition has been planned, the goddess is
consulted. On the day chosen for starting, which is never during the
unlucky months of July, September, and December, nor on a Wednesday or
Thursday; the chief Thug of the party fills a brass jug with water,
which he carries in his right hand by his side. With his left, he
holds upon his breast the sacred pickaxe, wrapped carefully in a white
cloth, along with five knots of turmeric, two copper, and one silver
coin. He then moves slowly on, followed by the whole of the gang, to
some field or retired place, where halting, with his countenance
turned in the direction they wish to pursue, he lifts up his eyes to
heaven, saying, "Great goddess! universal mother! if this, our
meditated expedition, be fitting in thy sight, vouchsafe to help us,
and give us the signs of thy approbation." All the Thugs present
solemnly repeat the prayer after their leader, and wait in silence for
the omen. If within half an hour they see Pilhaoo, or good omen on the
left, it signifies that the goddess has taken them by the left hand to
lead them on; if they see the Thibaoo, or omen on the right, it
signifies that she has taken them by the right hand also. The leader
then places the brazen pitcher on the ground and sits down beside it,
with his face turned in the same direction for seven hours, during
which time his followers make all the necessary preparations for the
journey. If, during this interval, no unfavourable signs are observed,
the expedition advances slowly, until it arrives at the bank of the
nearest stream, when they all sit down and eat of the goor, or
consecrated sugar. Any evil omens that are perceived after this
ceremony may be averted by sacrifices; but any evil omens before,
would at once put an end to the expedition.

Among the evil omens are the following: -- If the brazen pitcher
drops from the hand of the Jemadar or leader, it threatens great evil
either to him or to the gang -- sometimes to both. If they meet a
funeral procession, a blind man, a lame man, an oil-vender, a
carpenter, a potter, or a dancing-master, the expedition will be
dangerous. In like manner it is unlucky to sneeze, to meet a woman
with an empty pail, a couple of jackals, or a hare. The crossing of
their path by the latter is considered peculiarly inauspicious. Its
cry at night on the left is sometimes a good omen, but if they hear it
on the right it is very bad; a warning sent to them from Bhawanee that
there is danger if they kill. Should they disregard this warning, and
led on by the hope of gain, strangle any traveller, they would either
find no booty on him, or such booty as would eventually lead to the
ruin and dispersion of the gang. Bhawanee would be wroth with her
children; and causing them to perish in the jungle, would send the
hares to drink water out of their skulls.

The good omens are quite as numerous as the evil. It promises a
fortunate expedition, if, on the first day, they pass through a
village where there is a fair. It is also deemed fortunate, if they
hear wailing for the dead in any village but their own. To meet a
woman with a pitcher full of water upon her head, bodes a prosperous
journey and a safe return. The omen is still more favourable if she be
in a state of pregnancy. It is said of the Thugs of the Jumaldehee and
Lodaha tribes, that they always make the youngest Thug of the party
kick the body of the first person they strangle, five times on the
back, thinking that it will bring them good luck. This practice,
however, is not general. If they hear an ass bray on the left at the
commencement of an expedition, and an another soon afterwards on the
right, they believe that they shall be supereminently successful, that
they shall strangle a multitude of travellers, and find great booty.

After every murder a solemn sacrifice, called the Tuponee, is
performed by all the gang. The goor, or consecrated sugar, is placed
upon a large cloth or blanket, which is spread upon the grass. Beside
it is deposited the sacred pickaxe, and a piece of silver for an
offering. The Jemadar, or chief of the party, together with all the
oldest and most prudent Thugs, take their places upon the cloth, and
turn their faces to the west. Those inferior Thugs who cannot find
room upon the privileged cloth, sit round as close to it as possible.
A pit is then dug, into which the Jemadar pours a small quantity of
the goor, praying at the same time that the goddess will always reward
her followers with abundant spoils. All the Thugs repeat the prayer
after him. He then sprinkles water upon the pickaxe, and puts a little
of the goor upon the head of every one who has obtained a seat beside
him on the cloth. A short pause ensues, when the signal for strangling
is given, as if a murder were actually about to be committed, and each
Thug eats his goor in solemn silence. So powerful is the impression
made upon their imagination by this ceremony, that it almost drives
them frantic with enthusiasm. Captain Sleeman relates, that when he
reproached a Thug for his share in a murder of great atrocity, and
asked him whether he never felt pity; the man replied, "We all feel
pity sometimes; but the goor of the Tuponee changes our nature; it
would change the nature of a horse. Let any man once taste of that
goor, and he will be a Thug, though he know all the trades and have
all the wealth in the world. I never was in want of food; my mother's
family was opulent, and her relations high in office. I have been high
in office myself, and became so great a favourite wherever I went that
I was sure of promotion; yet I was always miserable when absent from
my gang, and obliged to return to Thuggee. My father made me taste of
that fatal goor, when I was yet a mere boy; and if I were to live a
thousand years I should never be able to follow any other trade."

The possession of wealth, station in society, and the esteem of
his fellows, could not keep this man from murder. From his
extraordinary confession we may judge of the extreme difficulty of
exterminating a sect who are impelled to their horrid practises, not
only by the motives of self-interest which govern mankind in general,
but by a fanaticism which fills up the measure of their whole
existence. Even severity seems thrown away upon the followers of this
brutalizing creed. To them, punishment is no example; they have no
sympathy for a brother Thug who is hung at his own door by the British
Government, nor have they any dread of his fate. Their invariable idea
is, that their goddess only suffers those Thugs to fall into the hands
of the law, who have contravened the peculiar observances of Thuggee,
and who have neglected the omens she sent them for their guidance.

To their neglect of the warnings of the goddess they attribute all
the reverses which have of late years befallen their sect. It is
expressly forbidden, in the creed of the old Thugs, to murder women or
cripples. The modern Thugs have become unscrupulous upon this point,
murdering women, and even children, with unrelenting barbarity.
Captain Sleeman reports several conversations upon this subject, which
he held at different times with Thugs, who had been taken prisoners,
or who had turned approvers. One of them, named Zolfukar, said, in
reply to the Captain, who accused him of murdering women, "Yes, and
was not the greater part of Feringeea's and my gang seized, after we
had murdered the two women and the little girl, at Manora, in 1830?
and were we not ourselves both seized soon after? How could we survive
things like that? Our ancestors never did such things." Lalmun,
another Thug, in reply to a similar question, said, "Most of our
misfortunes have come upon us for the murder of women. We all knew
that they would come upon us some day, for this and other great sins.
We were often admonished, but we did not take warning; and we deserve
our fates." In speaking of the supposed protection which their goddess
had extended to them in former times, Zolfukar said: -- "Ah! we had
some regard for religion then! We have lost it since. All kinds of men
have been made Thugs, and all classes of people murdered, without
distinction; and little attention has been paid to omens. How, after
this, could we think to escape? * * * * Davee never forsook us till we
neglected her!"

It might be imagined that men who spoke in this manner of the
anger of the goddess, and who, even in custody, showed so much
veneration for their unhappy calling, would hesitate before they
turned informers, and laid bare the secrets and exposed the haunts of
their fellows: -- among the more civilized ruffians of Europe, we
often find the one chivalrous trait of character, which makes them
scorn a reward that must be earned by the blood of their accomplices:
but in India there is no honour among thieves. When the approvers are
asked, if they, who still believe in the power of the terrible goddess
Davee, are not afraid to incur her displeasure by informing of their
fellows, they reply, that Davee has done her worst in abandoning them.
She can inflict no severer punishment, and therefore gives herself no
further concern about her degenerate children. This cowardly doctrine
is, however, of advantage to the Government that seeks to put an end
to the sect, and has thrown a light upon their practices, which could
never have been obtained from other sources.

Another branch of the Thug abomination has more recently been
discovered by the indefatigable Captain Sleeman. The followers of this
sect are called MEGPUNNAS, and they murder travellers, not to rob them
of their wealth, but of their children, whom they afterwards sell into
slavery. They entertain the same religious opinions as the Thugs, and
have carried on their hideous practices, and entertained their dismal
superstition, for about a dozen years with impunity. The report of
Captain Sleeman states, that the crime prevails almost exclusively in
Delhi and the native principalities, or Rajpootana of Ulwar and
Bhurtpore; and that it first spread extensively after the siege of
Bhurtpore in 1826.

The original Thugs never or rarely travel with their wives; but
the Megpunnas invariably take their families with them, the women and
children being used to inveigle the victims. Poor travellers are
always chosen by the Megpunnas as the objects of their murderous
traffic. The females and children are sent on in advance to make
acquaintance with emigrants or beggars on the road, travelling with
their families, whom they entice to pass the night in some secluded
place, where they are afterwards set upon by the men, and strangled.
The women take care of the children. Such of them as are beautiful are
sold at a high price to the brothels of Delhi, or other large cities;
while the boys and ill-favoured girls are sold for servants at a more
moderate rate. These murders are perpetrated perhaps five hundred
miles from the homes of the unfortunate victims; and the children thus
obtained, deprived of all their relatives, are never inquired after.
Even should any of their kin be alive, they are too far off and too
poor to institute inquiries. One of the members, on being questioned,
said the Megpunnas made more money than the other Thugs; it was more
profitable to kill poor people for the sake of their children, than
rich people for their wealth. Megpunnaism is supposed by its votaries
to be, like Thuggee, under the immediate protection of the great
goddess Davee, or Kalee, whose favour is to be obtained before the
commencement of every expedition, and whose omens, whether of good or
evil, are to be diligently sought on all occasions. The first apostle
to whom she communicated her commands for the formation of the new
sect, and the rules and ordinances by which it was to be guided, was
called Kheama Jemadar. He was considered so holy a man, that the Thugs
and Megpunnas considered it an extreme felicity to gaze upon and touch
him. At the moment of his arrest by the British authorities, a fire
was raging in the village, and the inhabitants gathered round him and
implored him to intercede with his god, that the flames might be
extinguished. The Megpunna, says the tradition, stretched forth his
hand to heaven, prayed, and the fire ceased immediately.

There now only remain to be considered the exertions that have
been made to remove from the face of India this purulent and
disgusting sore. From the year 1807 until 1826, the proceedings
against Thuggee were not carried on with any extraordinary degree of
vigour; but, in the latter year, the Government seems to have begun to
act upon a settled determination to destroy it altogether. From 1826
to 1855, both included, there were committed to prison, in the various
Presidencies, 1562 persons accused of this crime. Of these, 328 were
hanged; 999 transported; 77 imprisoned for life; 71 imprisoned for
shorter periods; 21 held to bail; and only 21 acquitted. Of the
remainder, 31 died in prison, before they were brought to trial, 11
escaped, and 49 turned approvers.

One Feringeea, a Thug leader of great notoreity, was delivered up
to justice in the year 1830, in consequence of the reward of five
hundred rupees offered for his apprehension by the Government. He was
brought before Captain Sleeman, at Sangir, in the December of that
year, and offered, if his life were spared, to give such information
as would lead to the arrest of several extensive gangs which had
carried on their murderous practices undetected for several years. He
mentioned the place of rendezvous, for the following February, of some
well organized gangs, who were to proceed into Guzerat and Candeish.
Captain Sleeman appeared to doubt his information; but accompanied the
Thug to a mango grove, two stages from Sangir, on the road to
Seronage. They reached this place in the evening, and in the morning
Feringeea pointed out three places in which he and his gang had, at
different intervals, buried the bodies of three parties of travellers
whom they had murdered. The sward had grown over all the spots, and
not the slightest traces were to be seen that it had ever been
disturbed. Under the sod of Captain Sleeman's tent were found the
bodies of the first party, consisting of a pundit and his six
attendants, murdered in 1818. Another party of five, murdered in 1824,
were under the ground at the place where the Captain's horses had been
tied up for the night; and four Brahmin carriers of the Ganges water,
with a woman, were buried under his sleeping tent. Before the ground
was moved, Captain Sleeman expressed some doubts; but Feringeea, after
looking at the position of some neighbouring trees, said be would risk
his life on the accuracy of his remembrance. The workmen dug five feet
without discovering the bodies; but they were at length found a little
beyond that depth, exactly as the Thug had described them. With this
proof of his knowledge of the haunts of his brethren, Feringeea was
promised his liberty and pardon if he would aid in bringing to justice
the many large gangs to which he had belonged, and which were still
prowling over the country. They were arrested in the February
following, at the place of rendezvous pointed out by the approver, and
most of them condemned and executed.

So far we learn from Captain Sleeman, who only brought down his
tables to the close of the year 1835. A writer in the "Foreign
Quarterly Review" furnishes an additional list of 241 persons,
committed to prison in 1836, for being concerned in the murder and
robbery of 474 individuals. Of these criminals, 91 were sentenced to
death, and 22 to imprisonment for life, leaving 306, who were
sentenced to transportation for life, or shorter periods of
imprisonment, or who turned approvers, or died in gaol. Not one of the
whole number was acquitted.

Great as is this amount of criminals who have been brought to
justice, it is to be feared that many years must elapse before an evil
so deeply rooted can be eradicated. The difficulty is increased by the
utter hopelessness of reformation as regards the survivors. Their
numbers are still calculated to amount to ten thousand persons, who,
taking the average of three murders annually for each, as calculated
by Captain Sleeman and other writers, murder every year thirty
thousand of their fellow creatures. This average is said to be under
the mark; but even if we were to take it at only a third of this
calculation, what a frightful list it would be! When religion teaches
men to go astray, they go far astray indeed!


Bangor House, Shoe Lane.

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