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Mrs. Parsons and Mary Fraser were kept in Bridewell, with hard labour, for six months. Mr. Brown, of Amen-corner, for publishing letters on the subject, was fined £50. When Parsons was pilloried, the populace treated him as an object of compassion, and a large collection was made for him. Dr. Johnson was ridiculed in Churchill's “Ghost” for the part he took in the affair; but Boswell mentions that Johnson had expressed great indignation at the fraud, and related the exertions he had made to expose the cheat. The satirical poet asserts that the doctor went into the vault of St. John's Church, but there is no fair ground for the charge. No doubt our great moralist was superstitious, and prone to believe supernatural tales; but in this instance his doubts were quickly roused, and he appears to have been extremely anxious to disabuse the public mind.
The trick was carried on by means of ventriloquism a faculty then little understood. The girl ultimately confessed as much. She died so recently as 1807, having been twice married. Her second husband was a marketgardener at Chiswick.
Here are a few specimens from Churchill's “Ghost," a poem long forgotten, yet possessing great cleverness :
“ Poets who believe not God nor ghost,
And fools who worship every post;
Hark! something creeps about the house !
As to the number, you are right;
And Plausible his prayers forgets.” After much consultation, the sages and wits of the poem agree to visit the vault. They tremble at the entrance, but at last, for very shame, resolve to risk the adventure; and the finale is thus told :
“Let the poets famed of old,
The Hammersmith Ghost was the last “spirit” of much repute in Cockneydom. I can well remember the mighty throngs of inquisitive mortals who wended their way to that then rural suburb, in pursuit of the marvellous; and even when the white-sheeted wag who thus trifled with the fears of the public received a bullet for his pains, many persons still pertinaciously insisted on his unearthly character. Mystery must always have an irresistible charm, and we all long to have a glimpse of the vast unknown future. Some daring criminal is reported to have said, the minute previous to his leap into eternity, “In another moment I shall know the great secret." .. May we not be surrounded by disembodied spirits, who, though they have unravelled the mystery of mysteries, do yet “revisit the glimpses of the moon,” attracted by the sympathies which still connect them with the world ? However that may be, the wildest fictions relative to the unseen universe will continue to have ready credence as long as mortals mourn for the lost, and cherish the hope of a reunion.
THE fate of streets, as of persons, is strangely uncertain. The dark narrow lanes and passages, which at no remote period formed the neighbourhood of Oxford-street, have brightened, and widened, and prospered into the noblest of our thoroughfares-Regent-street; while Skinner-street, projected by the Alderman of that name in 1802, to avoid the difficult pass of Snow, or Snore, or Sore Hill—with capital houses, a wide gangway, and an immense traffichas never flourished or put on an inviting look. building scheme it was a failure; when the dwellings were ready for occupation, tall and substantial as they really were, the high rents frightened intending shopkeepers ; tenants were not to be had; and in order to get over the money difficulty, a lottery, sanctioned by Parliament, was announced. Lotteries were then common tricks of finance, and nobody wondered at the new venture; but even the most desperate fortune-hunters were slow to invest their capital, and the tickets hung sadly on hand. The day for the drawing was postponed several times, and when it came, there was little or no excitement on the subject; and whoever rejoiced in becoming a house-owner on such easy terms, the original projectors and builders were understood to have suffered considerably. The winners found the property in a very unfinished condition; few of the dwellings were habitable, and as funds were often wanting, a majority of the houses remained empty, and the shops unopened. After two or three years, things began to improve; the vast many-storied house which then covered the site of Commercial-place was converted into a warehousing depôt; a capital house, opposite the Saracen's Head, was taken by a hosier of the name of Theobald—who, opening his shop with the determination of selling the best hosiery, and nothing else, was able to convince the citizens that his hose was first-rate, and desiring only a living profit, succeeded, after thirty years of unwearying industry, in accumulating a large fortune. Theobald was possessed of literary tastes, and at the sale of Sir Walter Scott's manuscripts was a liberal purchaser. He also collected a library of exceedingly choice books, and when aristocratic customers purchased stockings of him was soon able to interest them on matters of far higher interest. The worthy cit—the last of the old class of tradesmen who delighted in the oneness of business, and were mercers, cutlers, hosiers, drapers (exclusively), and had no notion of monster stores for the sale of everything from a pin to a pedestal—has long passed away, but the hosiery trade is still carried on in the same premises, and should you require a merino waistcoat, a pair of women's blacks, or some fine white cotton hose, you can hardly do better than visit Skinner-street. You smile at the phrase, “women's blacks." Well, it's the trade term, and Theobald greatly advanced his fortune by purchasing, at a low figure, a shipload of the article which had been prepared for the use of the sable ladies of Sierra Leone.