Monday, January 9, 2017

Fanny Hill and the Sailor, 1770 [NSFW]

Fanny Hill and the sailor from Nouvelle Traduction de Woman of Pleasur ou Fille de Ioye, 1770, as seen in Ars Erotica page 126.

This engraving comes to us from the 1770 French translation of John Cleland's famous erotic novel Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. As such, and this should be obvious by now, the image itself and this post are not safe for work. I debated for some time about including this print, but it wouldn't be a thorough study if I ignored those images that might be seen as distasteful.

Rather than uploading the image as I usually do, I will instead link to it for the curious. This will prevent any misunderstandings that might come from scrolling through my posts. You can find it here.

Despite being a French translation, this edition of Fanny Hill was printed in London on the Strand by G. Fenton. This may be a pseudonym used by the printer in an attempt to obscure their direct connection to smut, but it is the same pseudonym used when they ran the first edition of Fanny Hill back in 1748. Fenton's French version is accompanied by engraved illustrations of Fanny Hill's many salacious adventures.

This print depicts one of the lesser known trysts that Fanny Hill engaged in. It is described in a single paragraph. Perhaps Fenton chose to depict this scene because it was a character he was already familiar with. The Strand, as I've mentioned before, was a sailor community. With their very particular dress, it was easy enough to put that character on paper.

Fanny is walking home from a frustrating evening with an impotent man when "a young sailor...seized me as a prize." Despite her initial anger at his unwelcome kiss, she accepts his offer to join him in a tavern, and there they do the deed "with an impetuosity and eagerness, bred very likely by a long fast at sea."

Cleland peppers the scene with naval metaphors befitting Bowles' prints of sailors courting women. "He fell directly on board me," Fanny says. And when he "was not going by the right door, and knocking desperately at the wrong one, I told him of it:—'Pooh!' says he, 'my dear, any port in a storm.'" When they came to their conclusion, he treated her with "a warm broadside."

Fenton depicts the sailor with a reversed cocked hat and bob wig with a striped neckerchief draped over his jacket. The single breasted jacket is fitted with metal buttons and slash cuffs. Notably, his stick is nearby, despite never being mentioned in the text of the story.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Punch Bowl, c.1765

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Punch bowl, William Jackson, c.1770, Victoria and Albert Museum.

Jackson's distinctive sails are once again on display in this punch bowl. As the guns of this ship do not cross through her wide body, I am inclined to think her a well armed merchantman, and perhaps another of his slavers. There are no air holes cut in the hull, but not all of his slave ships depict this.

Along the exterior of the punch bowl are symbols of martial prowess: helmets, shields, and spears, and the figurehead is an ancient warrior girded for battle. This would strongly indicate that the ship shown here is intended to be a warship and not a slaver.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Forward of the foremast are a pair of tars busy at work. They wear trousers, jackets, and what appear to be cocked hats with short brims.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Further aft are two more mariners in the same dress. These hats may be variously interpreted as cocked or round, but there is too little detail to be certain.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A frigate taking in sail, c.1780

A Frigate Taking in Sail, artist unknown (William Jackson?), c.1780, National Maritime Museum via Art UK.

Neither the National Maritime Museum nor Art UK identifies the artist of this piece. I postulate that it was the artist William Jackson. Jackson is mostly known for painting slave ships, but not exclusively. The sails on this piece are painted in Jackson's distinctive style, and given that it was painted during his active years, I would guess (though not guarantee) that it is him. Compare this piece to that of a Liverpool slave ship in the collection of the International Slavery Museum and you can see for yourself the similarities.

Unlike his slave ship paintings, this does appear to be a commissioned frigate. Sporting top armor guns much closer to the waterline, and no vents cut for the enslaved below decks, this is a ship fitted out for war and not profit.

The crew are clad in blue breeches and a mix of round hats and cocked hats, with both blue and red jackets. You can see the captain gesturing to the crew from just forward of the mizzen mast.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Jenny and Rose: Betrayal

This is part three of the Race, Revolt, and Piracy series on the slave ships Jenny and Rose. You can find part one here, and part two here.

Though separated by twenty years, the Jenny and the Rose encountered remarkably similar events. Both sailed from Liverpool during a time of war to take on hundreds of enslaved people in Africa and then make the Middle Passage for the Caribbean. Both were attacked by fourteen gun French privateers armed with stink pots and only fended them off with a desperate resistance by both the white crew and armed, enslaved men.

Further coinciding these stories is the fate of the enslaved men who saved the lives and fortunes of their captors: those who survived were sold into slavery.

The Port of Entry records for Annapolis show the Jenny arriving in Maryland on July 15, 1760 with "333 Negroes."[1]

The same edition of the Maryland Gazette that announces the arrival of the Jenny posts an advertisement for the sale of "A parcel of choice, healthy slaves, consisting of men, women, boys and Girls."[2] For months the advertisements continued, until on November 29, 1760, the Jenny set sail for England with a new cargo of tobacco, barrel staves and heading, and iron.[3]

Just as the merchants Ringgold and Galloway wanted to assure the public that the enslaved were "healthy" and undamaged by the battle, so too did Captain Stevenson. He assured his reader that the six enslaved men wounded by the crew of the Mould "will recover."[4] Wounded slaves would have earned Stevenson and the owner of the Rose less money. Regardless of their state, all of the enslaved people of the Rose were sold in Kingston, Jamaica.[5]

Planning to sell the very men who had saved them does not draw any circumspection from the writings of Wilkinson nor Stevenson. Wilkinson demonstrated his admiration of the enslaved who fought for him, while also emphasizing their obedience, when he wrote that they "all behaved well, and laid down their Arms as soon as the Engagement was over."[6]

This detail is omitted from the description of events he gave to the South Carolina Gazette a few weeks before.[7] Perhaps he chose to say as much in the Maryland Gazette to assuage the fears of potential buyers that their new property might be capable of fighting back.

It is unclear precisely how the enslaved of both the Rose and Jenny were disarmed, and we have only Wilkinson's word on the end of his engagement. Sadly, without the words of any enslaved person involved in either of these conflicts, we are reduced to pure speculation on why they chose to defend their captors, how they came to be disarmed, and why they did not make a subsequent attempt to seize the ships.

The Jenny and Rose share another thing in common: on their very next voyages, they were both captured.[8]

[1] Maryland State Archives, Port of Entry Records: Annapolis Inbound, July 15, 1760.
[2] Maryland Gazette, July 17, 1760, page 2.
[3] Maryland State Archives, Port of Entry Records: Annapolis Outbound, November 29, 1760.
[4] London Chronicle, July 10-12, 1781, page 2.
[5] Slave Voyages Database,, Voyage Identification Number 83406, Accessed 12/16/2016.
[6] Maryland Gazette, July 17, 1760, page 2.
[7] South Carolina Gazette, June 14, 1760, page 2.
[8] Slave Voyages Database,, Voyage Identification Numbers 90947 and 83407, Accessed 12/16/2016.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Jenny and Rose: Yardarm to Yardarm

This is part two in the Race, Revolt, and Piracy series on the slave ships Jenny and Rose. You can find part one here.

Like the Jenny, the Rose was a Liverpool based slaver sailing into a worldwide conflict. Captained by William Stevenson, Rose was bound out at a time of great strife in the British war effort. Jenny faced danger, but her crew could at least comfort themselves with knowing the Seven Years War was going their way. Victories ashore and afloat seemed to have little effect on the overall course of the American Revolutionary War, which was entering its waning years. Stevenson still had to turn a profit for the ship's owner, Joseph Caton, and so steered her to Cape Coast Castle. Here they embarked 250 enslaved people and set course for Kingston, Jamaica.[1]

The Southwell Frigate Tradeing on ye Coast of Africa, attributed to
Nicholas Pocock, date unknown, Bristol Museums

Stevenson sailed for forty seven days without incident, but on April 15, 1781, off the southeast end of Jamaica, was attacked by a French privateer. She was the Mould, a fourteen gun sloop out of Cape Nichola Mole in Haiti, crewed by eighty five men. Exchanging broadsides and small arms fire, the Mould and Rose went shot for shot, "but her intention was for boarding us ; he at last came up on our starboard quarter, with a stink-pot fast to the end of his gaff." As with the Jenny, Stevenson armed the enslaved men aboard his ship, and it proved to be a decisive move in the battle: "one of the Trantree slaves shot [the stink pot] away with his musket."

The Battle of Ouessan, James Gillray, 1790, Walpole Library.

Even without the noxious cover of the stink pot's fumes and fire, the Mould grappled the Rose and for over an hour the two vessels slugged it out. Three times over the course of the battle the after half of the Rose caught fire when "the Frenchmen hove such a large quantity of powder flasks on board." After losing his shirt to the flames, Captain Stevenson's shoulder was shot clean through by a musket ball. The battle was a desperate one, with the slaves and sailors of the Rose throwing "half-pikes, boathooks, boat-oars, steering-sail yards, fire-wood, and slack-ballast...amongst the Frenchmen."

At last, the Mould swung away back to Haiti, leaving the Rose to sail safely into Kingston the following day.

The fight was a deadly one. Aside from Captain Stevenson's wound, a white man named Peter Cane was killed, an enslaved man mortally wounded, and eleven wounded men, six of whom were enslaved. Stevenson's account implies that they were particularly subject to wounding from the fires that struck the Rose "having no trowsers on them."[2]

Next time: The rewards for defending a slave ship.

[1] Slave Voyages Database,, Voyage Identification Number 83406, Accessed 12/16/2016.
[2] London Chronicle, July 10-12, pages 1-2.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Jenny and Rose: A Sea of Conflict

"Blood streamed plentifully out of the privateer's scuppers."[1]

Danger defined the 1760 voyage of the slave ship Jenny.

Based in Liverpool, the full rigged ten gun Jenny was captained by Captain John Wilkinson. He and his crew of twenty or thirty five were casting off from England and into an ocean divided between warring powers.[2] It was the fourth year of the Seven Years War, and the sixth of the French and Indian War. Britain and her German allies wrestled with the French and Spanish on the European continent, while the French and British colonists fought in North America among a tangled web of alliances between native peoples.

This was perhaps the first truly global conflict. Battles raged on land in Europe, India, North and South America, and with naval engagements from the Pacific to the Mediterranean. Many merchant vessels had been taken by both sides. Roving privateers and letters of marque joined the commissioned naval vessels of major European powers to snatch up whatever prizes they could take.

Through these dangerous waters Wilkinson guided his vessel to Africa. The Portuguese had long had a foothold in Angola and Congo, and sold off enslaved people from major ports like Cabinda. It was from here that the Jenny departed with nearly 400 enslaved people in her hold.[3]

Detail from "Newly Arrived Enslaved Africans, Surinam, 1770s," Image Reference NW0265
 as shown on www.slaveryimages.orgcompiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and 
sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library

After departing on March 4, 1760, Wilkinson led the Jenny across the Atlantic for an uneventful eight weeks. Wilkinson and his crew well knew that each passing day brought them closer to the prowling grounds of privateers. Confronting one of these vessels was to be their fate.

On April 29th, at approximately 12.58° North Latitude and 46.1° West Longitude, the Jenny was attacked by a fourteen gun French privateer sloop.[4] 

Detail from Thomas Luny's painting of a merchant ship signaling off Dover,
1793, Wikimedia Commons.

The determined Frenchman, "full of men," attacked the Jenny and "was received so warmly that she was twice beat off."[5] Finding her a tough nut to crack, the French captain got creative. His crew affixed "Stink-pots at her Jib-boom End."[6]

John Hamilton Moore, in his The Practical Navigator, and Seaman's New Daily Assistant, describes the stink pot as thus:
The Boarder is generally furnished with an earthen Shell, called a Stink-pot, which, on that occasion, is suspended from his Yard-arms or Bowsprit end. The Machine is also charged with Powder mixed with other inflammable and suffocating Materials, with a lighted Fuse at the Aperture. Thus prepared for the Action, and having grappled his Adversary, the Boarder displays his Signal to begin the Assault ; the Fuses of the Stink-pot and Powder-flasks being lighted, they are immediately thrown upon the Deck of the Enemy, where they burst and catch Fire, producing an intolerable Stench and Smoke, and filling the Deck with Tumult and Distraction ; amdist the Confusion occasioned by this infernal Apparatus, the Detachment provided rush aboard Sword in Hand, under Cover of this Smoke, on their Antagonist, who is in the same Predicament with a Citadel stormed by the Besiegers, and generally overpowered, unless he is furnished with extraordinary Means of Defence, or equipped with Close-quarters, to which he can retreat with some probability of Safety.[7]
Stink-pots were certainly unpleasant, and could also be lethal. On September 7, 1759, the ship Britannia was attacked off Cape Maize by a French sloop. Captain George Massum later wrote that "a stink-pot at her jib-boom being run over our stern, dropped on the quarter deck, and killed the first mate."[8]

Wilkinson's options were limited. He was outgunned and outmanned. Moore gives two options: "Close-quarters, to which he can retreat with some probability of Safety," or an "extraordinary Means of Defence."

As a slave ship, the Jenny probably did have a barricado that could serve as a safe barrier between her crew and the boarders. It was, after all, designed to prevent a ship from being taken by her cargo. As the Marlborough revolt proved, a barricado is only useful if your enemy is on the proper side of it. Given subsequent reports, it appears that the privateer sloop may have been coming up on Jenny's stern. This would be the most logical place to drop a stink pot, as it would disable the helmsman and captain. From this angle, a barricado was useless as "Close-quarters."

This reduced Wilkinson to the second option, an "extraordinary Means of Defence." Widely reported after the fact, Wilkinson took the dangerous step of arming fifty of the enslaved men he had taken as cargo. The French sloop tried to sheer away from her final attack, but "her Topping-lift got foul of the Jenny's sprit-Sail Yard ; and had it not been for a Mistake of his Helm's-man, [Wilkinson] believes he should have taken the privateer." After six and a half hours of combat, the sloop bore away, while "Blood streamed plentifully out of the privateer's scuppers."[9]

Next time: A generation after the Jenny, the Rose repeats history.

[1] Boston Evening Post, July 28, 1760, page 2
[2] Slave Voyages Database,, Voyage Identification Number 90767, Accessed 9/16/2016.
[3] Ibid.
[4] South Carolina Gazette, June 14, 1760, page 2; longitude determined by Michael Romero. I want to emphasize again that these measurements are approximations.
[5] Maryland Gazette, July 17, 1760, page 2.
[6] South Carolina Gazette, June 14, 1760, page 2.
[7] John Hamilton Moore, The Practical Navigator, and Seaman's New Daily Assistant,  Eighth Edition, B. Law: London, 1784, via Google Books, page 251.
[8] John Entick, The General History of the Late War, Volume V, Edward Dilly: London, 1764, via Google Books, page 69.
[9] South Carolina Gazette, June 14, 1760, page 2.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Shipping at Spithead, c.1770's

Shipping at Spithead, Francis Holman, date unknown (1770's?), John Bennett Fine Paintings via Online Art Gallery.

Francis Holman paints a pleasant scene of various vessels in a steady breeze off Spithead. A sixty gun ship of the line with her starboard guns broadside to us is lateen rigged on her mizzenmast and blue ensign run up. Just peeking behind the sail of the Thetis sloop is the top armor of a frigate. Otherwise the vessels in the scene are merchantmen.

The Thetis is a swift little sloop with two fellows crowded in the back by the coxswain (I say coxswain and not helmsman because I see no wheel and assume there to be a tiller). One of these men is apparently not a sailor. His frock coat appears rose in color, but matches the hue of the red ensign at Thetis' stern, and so is probably intended to be red. He wears a tightly bound queue and his wig is clubbed. Sitting across from him is a man in a red frock coat and gold or yellowish brown single breasted waistcoat. Both gentlemen have round hats. It is these men who give me my tentative date for this piece, as their fashions are in line with those of the 1770's. I am no expert in the clothing of gentlemen from the period, so I welcome all feedback in settling the general period in which this painting was likely completed.

The coxswain wears a round hat as well with a crown somewhere between cylindrical and rounded. He wears a blue jacket and has a short queue. Sailors wearing queues are remarkably uncommon for my period of study, and so this is notable.

Near the bow of the Thetis is another sailor with a round hat, whose brim is being turned up by the wind. He wears a single breasted blue jacket, red waistcoat, and white neckerchief. His white trousers are striped vertically in thin blue lines.

Further left in the frame is a boat with four sailors aboard. Two of these men sit at their leisure, one smoking a pipe. The smoking man wears a brown jacket, a round hat with rounded crown, and blue breeches. It appears that he might be wearing a white neckerchief, but I wouldn't swear to it.

His mate wears a jockey style barge cap, red jacket with slit waist pockets, and a plain pair of trousers.

Further forward in the small boat are two men working. Each wears a blue jacket and a pair of plain trousers. The fellow working at the small mast and sail wears a round hat, while his mate wears what might be a cap or a round hat with very narrow and upturned brim.