Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton

The Freemasons

28 December 1728   Last Friday night at a certain tavern, not far from the Royal-Exchange, there was a Lodge of Free-Masons for accepting some new members when an unlucky accident happen’d which had like to have discover’d the grand Secret: for one of the Noviciates was so surpriz’d when they pull’d of[f] his hat and perriwig, unbutton’d his collar and sleeves, took out his shoe-buckles, and stripp’d him to his shirt, that he thought they are going to castrate or circumcise him, and fearing to be made either an eunuch or a Jew, he watch’d his opportunity, upon seeing the door of the room half open, and ran out into the street: But was pursued by his Fraternity, who perswaded him with good words to return back to the Lodge, and comply with the rest of the ceremonies of the Installation. (The Flying-Post)

17 August 1730   At Oates’s and Fielding’s great Theatrical Booth, is presented The generous Free-Mason, or the Constant Lady, with the comical humours of Noodle and his man Doodle: both whom we suppose to be Free-Masons. [Grub-street Journal]
[The Generous Freemason; or, the Constant Lady. With the humours of Squire Noodle, and his man Doodle is a tragi-comi-farcical ballad opera in three acts by William Rufus Chetwood. There was also a Masonic Pantomime titled Harlequin Freemason by Charles Dibdin.]


22 August 1730
I have had an infinite deal of pleasure in perusing the dialogue you have twice lately published in your journal, concerning the pretended Mystery of Free-Masonry; a thing I ever had a very indifferent opinion of, and which I am now persuaded, by a concurrence of convincing proofs and circumstances, is a mere Mysterious Nothing. . . . Curiosity is the grand magnet that attracts them to the Lodge, and the fear of being bantered and laughed at, added to the most terrible scarecrow oath, deters them from revealing nothing. This brings to my mind the affair of Capt. Shepperd, (alias the Barbary Ram) which made such a considerable noise in the city and suburbs about 3 or 4 years ago, when the several tradesmen who sent to vend their merchandizes, were baulk’d by the appearance of a bearded quadrupede [sic], instead of a two-legged Captain: However, vex’d as they were at their disappointment, they were glad to keep it secret, that they might have the pleasure of imposing on their neighbours. Much to the same purpose a fellow at Paris bawled about streets Le Grand Cas! Le Grand Cas! by which people imagined he had some great matter to shew, and imediately flocked to his house in shoals to see his Grand Cas; he had them into a room, where he had against the wall, with a piece of chalk, made a large *K. I shredly suspect the publican, at whose house Captain Shepperd resided, and the proprietor of the Grand Cas, were both Free Masons. [Daily Journal]

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "The Freemasons", 24 April 2002; updated 24 September 2002 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/masons.htm>

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