Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton

Wonders of Nature

23-25 December 1700   There is a Child shown near Somerset-house in the Strand, about four Years old, which is reported by those who have seen it, to have these words in Latin upon the Apple of one Eye, Deus meus, My God; and on the other, some Characters in Greek and Hebrew, that are not visible but by Candle-light. Which causes many Speculations among the Beholders. [The English Post]

31 January - 3 February 1701   There is much discourse of a monstrous Giant, said to be brought over from the Indies, and now in the River of Thames. They report he is a Cannibal, or Man-Eater, all over hairy, and 16 Foot in height, and was taken by a Stratagem, For the Ship lying near the Shoar, the Seamen observed his usual Haunts, tho’ being very swift they could not come nigh him: So they set a small Cask of Wine near the place, with the Vent open: when they were gone, he came and tasted it with his Finger, and liking it, held up the Cask to his Mouth, and swilled so freely, that he became Drunk; whereupon the Men coming ashore in their Boat, seized and carried him aboard. We hear he is sold by the Captain for 1000l. and will be publickly shewed in London. [The English Post]

5-7 February 1701   There having been no News of the Monstruous [sic] Cannibal Giant, since the several accounts that have been Published of his Arrival in the River; ’tis now given out, that going into a Boat, in order to come Ashoar, his Weight overset the Boat, and he went to the Bottom, so that we shall never have the Satisfaction to see him; even, tho’ we should give never so much Money to satisfy our Curiosity. But as good Fortune would have it, there was no Body else in the Boat with him. [The London Post]

21-23 October 1702   This Week the Queen had the Curiosity to see an Elk, of an unusual Bigness, being carried to St. James’s Pallace, on a Frame drawn by 3 Horses. [The English Post]

7-9 March 1709   Last Week arriv’d in this City, from Ireland, a long Black Snake, with a White Head, and Red Nose, which is esteem’d a great Wonder, because that Country has been thought Productive of no Poisonous REPTIL[E]S: Publick Notice will be given at what Cofee-house this Rarity may be seen. [The English Post]

1-8 October 1720   We hear that Sir Hans Sloane, that curious inspector into the works of nature, is now dissecting the young elephant that was lately shewn in West-Smithfield. (London Journal)

4 December 1725   They write from Malmesbury in Wilts, that on Wednesday the 17th past, Anne, the Wife of John Baily, of that Borough, was deliver’d of a Male Child, which hath five Fingers and a Thumb on each Hand, and six Toes on each Foot; and Sunday 21st it was baptiz’d by the Name of Humphrey: It is a very fine Child, and likely to live. [Mist’s Weekly Journal]

29 January 1726   We hear that Mr. Price, who presented his Majesty so early last Spring with fine Fruits, hath already in Blossom in his Garden at Vaux Hall both Plumbs, Peaches, Abricots and Nectarines, which several Gentlemen daily report to see, being a very great Rarity at this Time of the Year, and an agreeable Entertainment for those that delight in Gardening. [Weekly Journal, or British Gazetteer]

30 July 1726   On Thursday the 21st Instant, a Sword-Fish, whose Body was near five Foot long, and Sword three Foot, was taken at Purfleet. It first went above Woolwich, and made great Havock among the Fishermen’s Nets, who beat it very much with their Boat-Hooks and Staves; after which it ran ashoar [sic] against the Lower Wharf at Erif, where it was shot with a Bullet that went in at its eye, and yet after that put off into the River, and was pursued by a Boat with Men in it, who took the Sword-Fish up alive at Purfleet, and, tho’ it was shot as above, were put in such Danger by its raising itself, and springing about, that they thought they must have quitted the Boat. This Fish was shewn to several People at Dartford Fair last Friday and Saturday.

We hear there was another of these Fishes lately seen at Chelsea. [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

3 December 1726   They write from Sherborn, That one George Newman, a Gardener in that Town, famous for producing Vegetables uncommon and curious, has had this Year in his Garden a Radish that weighed forty five Pound and a half, and a Musk-Mellon which measured 27 Inches round; the latter was of a fine Flavour, and wrought all over with a delicate Net-Work. [Mist’s Weekly Journal]

29 October 1730   Batins, near Blackstone-Edge in Lancashire, Oct. 18. The brute animal mentionied in the news-papers was yesterday killed upon the High Moors near that place. It has 4 short feet resembling those of a crocodile, it measures in length 16 foot 3 inches, and in thickness proportionable; its head is shap’d like a pike’s, has two rows of prodigious sharp and large teeth; and the body is covered with large bright scales very hard. A great many small shot was fired to no purpose; and it received the death wound by an otter spear between the softest scales on one side of its belly. The shepherds have lost a great many sheep devoured by this monster. These Moors are vastly great, and unpassable in many places. It is carried to Manchester, to be hang’d up in the College, to be view’d by the curious. [Grub-street 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, "Wonders of Nature", 20 December 2001, expanded 3 January 2006 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/wonders.htm>

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