[George III assassination attempt by James Hadfield in 1800.] Autograph Poem Signed ('James Hadfield'), written in Bedlam by the assailant Hadfield, titled 'Epitaph of my poor Jack Squirrel'.

Author: 
James Hadfield (1772-1841), madman who attempted to assassinate George III in 1800 [Bethlem Hospital (Bedlam)]
Publication details: 
'Bethlem Hospital' (Bedlam). 'Died Sunday Morning | July, 23rd, 1826'. [Paper watermarked 1828.]
£500.00
SKU: 21498

Hadfield's insanity appears to have been the result of eight sabre wounds to the head sustained in 1794 at the Battle of Roubaix. On his return to England Hadfield fell under the sway of Bannister Truelock's millenarian cult, becoming convinced, as his entry in the Oxford DNB states, 'that his death at the hands of the state would effect the second coming' He conspired with Truelock to assassinate the king at Drury Lane Theatre on the evening of 15 May 1800. 'As the king acknowledged the orchestra's playing of the national anthem, and the audience rose to its feet to welcome him, Hadfield climbed on a seat and fired a horse pistol at the royal box. The assailant's actual intention remains a mystery because when the king, unhurt, insisted on speaking to the soi-disant assassin, Hadfield greeted him by saying, “God bless your royal highness; I like you very well; you are a good fellow” […] Following his acquittal ['not guiltuy by reason of insanity'] Hadfield remained locked in a cell for most of the remaining forty-one years of his life, an incarceration interrupted only for a short time when he escaped from Bethlem Hospital to be captured in Dover as he was about to flee to France. Subsequently taken to Newgate prison, Hadfield was finally transferred to the newly opened criminal department at Bethlem, where he averred “the loss of liberty was worse than death”'. The present item is 1p, 4to. On wove paper watermarked 'G & R TURNER | 1828'. In fair condition, aged, with traces of mount, including thin strip of paper along one edge, on the reverse, which is blank except for the endorsement: 'James Hadfield | 23 July 1826'. The title, in large letters of pseudo-gothic, is underlined by two short red lines; Hadfield's signature and the date are each similarly underlined, but in these cases beneath small oval arrangements of loops in a 'cloud' shape. Titled 'Epitaph of my poor Jack Squirrel'. Signed at foot 'James Hadfield.' Dated at bottom left: 'Died Sunday Morning | July, 23rd, 1826'. At bottom right, in faded red ink: 'Bethlem Hospital'. Fourteen-line poem in rhyming couplets: 'Here are the Remains of My poor little Jack, | Who with a little fall all most Brake his Back, | And I my Self was the occasion of that, | By letting him be fright'd, By a Cat, | I then pick'd him up from the floor, | But he alas. Never Danced hornpipe anymore. | And many a time have I laugh'd, to See him So Cunning | To Set and Crack the nuts I Gave him So funny. | Now in Remembrance, of his pretty tricks. | I have had him Stuff'd, that I might not him for Get, | And so he is Gone, and I must Go as well as him, | And Pray God Send I may go But, with Little Sin, | So there's an End to my little Dancing Jack | That will Never more be fright'd By a Cat'. The anonymous 'Sketches in Bedlam' ('By a Constant Observer', 1823) states that in the hospital Hadfield was permitted to make 'Hadfield's insanity appears to have been the result of eight sabre wounds to the head sustained in 1794 at the Battle of Roubaix. On his return to England Hadfield fell under the sway of Bannister Truelock's millenarian cult, becoming convinced, as his entry in the Oxford DNB states, 'that his death at the hands of the state would effect the second coming' He conspired with Truelock to assassinate the king at Drury Lane Theatre on the evening of 15 May 1800. 'As the king acknowledged the orchestra's playing of the national anthem, and the audience rose to its feet to welcome him, Hadfield climbed on a seat and fired a horse pistol at the royal box. The assailant's actual intention remains a mystery because when the king, unhurt, insisted on speaking to the soi-disant assassin, Hadfield greeted him by saying, “God bless your royal highness; I like you very well; you are a good fellow” […] Following his acquittal ['not guiltuy by reason of insanity'] Hadfield remained locked in a cell for most of the remaining forty-one years of his life, an incarceration interrupted only for a short time when he escaped from Bethlem Hospital to be captured in Dover as he was about to flee to France. Subsequently taken to Newgate prison, Hadfield was finally transferred to the newly opened criminal department at Bethlem, where he averred “the loss of liberty was worse than death”'. The present item is 1p, 4to. On laid paper watermarked 'G & R TURNER | 1828'. In fair condition, aged, with traces of mount, including thin strip of paper along one edge, on the reverse, which is blank except for the endorsement: 'James Hadfield | 23 July 1826'. The title, in large letters of pseudo-gothic, is underlined by two short red lines; Hadfield's signature and the date are each similarly underlined, but in these cases beneath small oval arrangements of loops in a 'cloud' shape. Titled 'Epitaph of my poor Jack Squirrel'. Signed at foot 'James Hadfield.' Dated at bottom left: 'Died Sunday Morning | July, 23rd, 1826'. At bottom right, in faded red ink: 'Bethlem Hospital'. Fourteen-line poem in rhyming couplets: 'Here are the Remains of My poor little Jack, | Who with a little fall all most Brake his Back, | And I my Self was the occasion of that, | By letting him be fright'd, By a Cat, | I then pick'd him up from the floor, | But he alas. Never Danced hornpipe anymore. | And many a time have I laugh'd, to See him So Cunning | To Set and Crack the nuts I Gave him So funny. | Now in Remembrance, of his pretty tricks. | I have had him Stuff'd, that I might not him for Get, | And so he is Gone, and I must Go as well as him, | And Pray God Send I may go But, with Little Sin, | So there's an End to my little Dancing Jack | That will Never more be fright'd By a Cat'. The French socialist Flora Tristan (1803-1844) visited Hadfield in Bedlam, and recorded in her 'Promenades dans Londres' (1840) that he had kept in his room a succession of dogs, cats, birds, and last of all a squirrel, and that he was so grieved by their deaths that he displayed the remains, which he had stuffed himself, in his room, with epitaphs of his own composition. Tristan also noted that Hadfield did a brisk trade selling copies of the epitaphs to visitors for a few shillings each. Bethlem Museum has three versions of the present poem in Hadfield's hand, each illustrated. The present version is of interest because of the dialect touches ('Brake' for broke, 'Set' for sit, 'fright'd' for frightened). From the distinguished autograph collection of the psychiatrist Richard Alfred Hunter (1923-1981), whose collection of 7000 works relating to psychiatry is now in Cambridge University Library. Hunter and his mother Ida Macalpine had a particular interest in the illness of King George III, and their book 'George III and the Mad Business' (1969) suggested the diagnosis of porphyria popularised by Alan Bennett in his play 'The Madness of George III'.