Snippets 172. The following quote is taken from Memoirs of Joseph Shepherd Munden, a biography of a well-known actor during the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, famed for his comedy performances. His biography was written by his son Thomas.
Munden was ejected from his house in Frith Street in a more summary way than he anticipated. An individual who lodged next door, the other side from Bannister, being a friend to the “Rights of Man,” had indulged in a few extra glasses on the acquittal of the soi-disant patriots, Hardy, Horne Tooke, &c. On returning home, and getting into bed, he took the precaution to put the candle under the bed. He soon became sensible of the inconvenience of such a practice. Starting up with the heavy insensibility of an intoxicated man he stumbled against the window, and making a dash at it, fell into the court behind. Luckily he carried part of the window frame with him, which, meeting with obstructions, broke his fall, so that, although he descended a considerable distance, and was much bruised, no bone was broken. That this gentleman was deeply implicated in the dangerous proceedings of the day there is little doubt. During his confinement from illness, he received innumerable communications by letter, which he would not entrust to others; but, tore them open with his teeth, his hands being much bruised. In later years, he made a large fortune, by editing an evening newspaper, and advocating, with ability, ultra tory principles. No lives were lost by this mishap, though Munden’s house also caught fire. The narrator of the tale, then an infant, was carried through the flames by his affectionate mother.
“Soi-disant” is French for “self-styled” or “so-called”. Rights of Man was a 1791 book by Thomas Paine, which advocated reformation of the English government and political revolution if necessary. Paine was a supporter of the French Revolution. He was convinced of seditious libel and remained in France for the rest of his life to avoid being hanged in England. His work and ideas attracted followers, who were arrested for giving pro Rights of Man speeches and put on trial. Their acquittal was the event that inspired the excessive drinking described in the quote above.
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