|Samuel HOUSE (son of Samuel HOUSE and Elizabeth)|
|Born about 1725|
|Married Sarah NORMAN in 1754|
|Died on 24 April 1785 at Wardour Street, Westminster, Middlesex|
|Buried on 29 April 1785 at the Church of St Paul, Covent Garden, Middlesex|
|Occupation: publican of the "Intrepid Fox" public house in Wardour Street|
|A widow at the time she married Samuel HOUSE|
Died unmarried on 24 March 1788 at Swallow Street, Westminster, Middlesex
A daughter born to Samuel HOUSE by his housekeeper Elizabeth MEADOWS
The following is taken from “Wonderful Characters” by G H Wilson, 3 volumes, 1830.
The life of this “Liberty Boy” presents one of the brightest examples of political integrity perhaps on record. His zeal in the cause of Mr Fox was purely disinterested and unconquerable: it was
“Attachment never to be weaned, or changed
By any change of fortune
Fidelity, that neither bribe, nor threat
Could move, or warp—“
and although only a publican, so great was his interest, and so persevering his exertions, that he was considered the principal cause of returning his friend to Parliament for Westminster, in the ever memorable contest between Fox, Hood, and Sir Cecil Wray.
Assisted only by a slender education, at the usual age, he was put apprentice to the late Mr Peavy, house cooper, Bainbridge-street, St Giles’s; but his master being cruel in his disposition, he soon left his service; and at the age of eighteen, the world was all before him to choose a place to rest, and Providence his guide. It was the ill usage he received while with his master, that probably made him that implacable enemy tyranny and oppression, which he continued to exemplify through the future period of his life.
His active industrious habits soon procured him a situation; for we find him house-cooper at the Peacock brewhouse, White-cross Street; then at Mr Green’s brewhouse at Pimlico; afterwards a broad cooper at Mason’s brewhouse, St Giles’s, and at Camberton’s at Hampstead: by his industry at these places, he acquired money enough to take a public house, at the corner of Peter-street, Wardour-street, Soho, called the Gravel Pits, which he soon afterwards change to the “Intrepid Fox, or the Cap of Liberty”, he was then twenty-five years of age.
About this period he rendered himself the subject of general conversation for some time, by undertaking, for a considerable wager, to leap off Westminster-bridge into the river Thames. This he engaged to do against any Newfoundland dog that should be brought.
At the time appointed, Sam with his friends made their appearance; having reached the top of the bridge, a circle was formed for the adventurer to undress, which being done, he got upon the balustrades of the centre arch, and with the most apparent indifference, threw himself into the river and swam on shore, without receiving the least injury.
This singular feat of activity, by every one thought impossible, without occasioning immediate death, rendered him a popular character, and filled his house with customers. Sam, not insensible to public approbation, now considered himself of some consequence, though in the humble station of a publican.
In the year 1763, he commenced politician, and took a very active part in support of Mr Wilkes.
During this violent struggle, Sam sold his beer at three-pence a pot, in honour of Wilkes, the then champion of freedom; and at his own expense gave entertainments to his neighbours, and others, who he thought were friends to the same cause. It is said his exertions in the election for Middlesex, on the side of the popular candidate, did not cost him less than 500l.
He rendered himself no less conspicuous for his attachment to what he called liberty, than his personal oddities, particularly in his dress, which was not only singular, but laughably ridiculous.
His person was not tall, but of the middling size, he was well made, stout and active. He head was quite bald, without the appearance of hair, never having much in his youth; without hat or wig, if he wore a hat, which was seldom, it had a very broad brim. It may literally be said, he had not a coat to his back, for he was not seen wearing a coat near thirty years – a black waistcoat, with sleeves, was its substitute; he was always clean in his linen, which was of the best kind, but never buttoned his shirt at the collar; his breeches were of the same sort and colour of the waistcoat, and open at the knees; silk stockings of the best sort, either white or mottled, decorated his legs, which were deemed handsome by the ladies; but he frequently went without stockings, and either with or without, wore a neat pair of black slippers.
Sam’s great foible was swearing; indeed, he had so habituated himself to that disgraceful practice, that he could not express himself otherwise: it was the only language he said he understood: had he been blessed with a better education it would probably have been otherwise. At one of the monthly meetings of the Electors of Westminster, at the Shakspeare, the Duke of Duke of Rutland intimated a desire to speak to House, he was accordingly called towards the table where he Grace sat, who addressed him with asking, if he could not converse without swearing. His reply was, “Damn your eyes, would you have a man speak in any other language but what he is master of?” This answer was final, and prevented a conference between two great men, his Grace and Sam House.
Sam (in imitation, it is supposed, of his old bottle companion and intimate acquaintance, Mr Thomas, who lived at Hopwood’s, near the King’s-bench; who for a long time, made use of his coffin as a corner cupboard, which he kept well stored with rum and brandy, to be drank at his death), ordered a coffin to be made of wicker; the men who were employed on this occasion, wishing to make the job last till they got another, living at Sam’s expense, were very backward in constructing the lid. Sam discovering this, and his patience being quite exhausted, one day, when they were drinking as usual, he exclaimed, “Get out of my house, you resurrection rascals; I’ll be damned if you have me yet;” and, dragging the coffin from under the bed, cut it in pieces, and threw it on the fire.
With regard to the political sentiments of Sam House, he was uniform in support of the rights of the people, in opposition to the influence of the crown. At the election for Westminster in the year 1780, when the contest was violent between Lord Lincoln, supported by the court; and Mr Fox, supported by the people, he exerted every nerve in favour of the latter, and erected the standard of liberty at his own expense, for the sons of freedom to regale themselves with beef, beer, etc. During the poll he headed a considerable number of electors every day to the hustings, who gave their suffrages for Mr Fox.
His exertions in the cause of his friend, were again conspicuous during the memorable contest for Westminster, between Fox, Hood, and Wray.
When tendering his vote for Fox, at the Hustings, he was asked his trade – “I am”, said he, “a publican, and a republican.”
At a dinner of the friends of Mr Fox, at the Shakspeare Tavern, Covent Garden, amongst other toasts, a gentleman proposed to give Sam House. On which Mr Byng said, he was exceeding happy in the opportunity of expressing his hearty concurrence, in paying respect to a man, who had, on many occasions, distinguished himself a warm friend to liberty. He begged leave, he said, to mention an instance of genuine and disinterested patriotism, which he could relate from his own knowledge, a circumstance that would have done honour to the first character in this country. Sam observing, that the influence of the Court, would, if possible, prevent the electors of Westminster from having the man of their choice, without any solicitation opened his house. The friends of Mr Fox, seeing the profusion of Sam, were afraid, that through his uncommon zeal in the cause of freedom, he would injure himself, and determined to make him a recompence; but knowing his greatness of soul and independent spirit, the difficulty was, to do it in such a way as not to hurt his feelings. It was therefore agreed, that a quantity of beer and spirits should be sent to him, to supply what he had given away. Mr Byng and some other friends waited upon Sam, and acquainted him with this resolution; when, said Mr Byng, what do you think was his answer? (with the calmness of a philosopher, and an expressive look of disdain, considering it an insult to offer him a recompence) “You may be damned.”
Sam’s favourite candidate having obtained a great majority at the final close of the poll, he considered this as a complete victory over power, influence, and oppression, which gave him great satisfaction. All his anxiety, labour, and fatigue, during this contest, in the congratulations of his friends on the happy issue of the business, melted away like snow before the sun, and his cares were absorbed in the flowing bowl.
Though of a strong constitution, yet as neither strength, wisdom, nor courage, can guard against accidents which may prove fatal, Sam got cold at the time of the election, which was followed by an inflammation in his bowels, attended with the most dangerous symptoms; till nature, unable to resist the force of a complication of disorders, gave way to the all-conquering power of death, on the 25th of April , 1785.
A few hours before his death, Sir John Elliot, informed Mr Fox of his dangerous situation. Mr Fox immediately went to see him, and sat by his bed-side a considerable time. When he was gone, Sam expressed great pleasure, in having seen his friend, the champion of freedom, and said, that Mr Fox took him by the hand, treated him with great tenderness, and hoped he should see him better when he called again. In half an hour, poor Sam changed, and entirely lost his speech: and about six hours after breathed his last, in the 60th year of his age.
The death of Sam House was soon spread abroad, and from his known eccentricity, people of all descriptions, and considerable numbers, went to see his corpse; it was intended at first to limit this privilege to his particular friends; the crowds, however, were so great on the following Monday, that they found it necessary to throw open the doors for the admission of all that came without distinction; and it is said, that upwards of five hundred persons viewed the dead body. The interest excited, however, by his death was not to be allayed even by the sight of his mortal remains, for all were anxious to be present at his funeral; the day and hour being appointed, was almost as quickly known; and when that time arrived, which was to consign those remains to the silent tomb, the streets and lanes near Wardour-street were lined with a motley assemblage of men, women, and children.
Sam’s funeral took place on Friday evening, April 29, 1785. The procession moved slowly down Prince’s-street, the Haymarket, round Charing-cross, along the Strand, and up Bedford-street, when it arrived at Covent-garden; to give additional solemnity to the scene, the procession went round the church to the north gate; after the funeral ceremonies were performed the body was deposited in the church-yard of St Paul, by the side of his wife, who had died about two years before him.
The scene of this occasion was of a burlesque description little suited to the solemnity of the occasion, so that the last act of his surviving friends, was as extraordinary as his character and conduct through life had been remarkable. A drunken watchman of St Ann’s, Soho, was engaged to personate the deceased in a dress similar to Sam’s usual habit. In this garb he joined the procession, which caused no little controversy among the populace, some contending that it was Sam himself, and other maintaining the opposite opinion; this man’s folly, however, was speedily punished, for being guilty of some irregularities during divine service, after the body was deposited in the ground, the mob handled him very roughly; and forcing him into the hearse which conveyed the remains of the person he represented, ordered the coachman to drive him to the undertakers.
The character of Sam was that of an eccentric, but at the same time a well-intentioned, and good-hearted man; his political integrity could never be shaken, and most of the animosities he entertained, were grounded upon political feelings. He was firm and sincere in friendship, honest and upright in his dealings, but blunt and sometimes uncouth in his manners; open and free in his communications, but careless and slovenly in his dress. The most reprehensible part of his conduct, was a habit which he had contracted of swearing, which he did upon all occasions, without respect to the parties, however exalted, whom he addressed. His house was greatly frequented by hackney-coachman, and it is believed he once kept a hackney-coach of his own. After his death his likeness appeared on many coaches.
In addition to his political eccentricities, Sam had some other peculiarities to mark his character; it is related that he once laid a wager with a young man to run a race with him in Oxford-road, and in all probability would have won, had it not been for an arch trick played upon him by a friend of his antagonist, who knowing Sam’s attachment to his favourite, cried out as he passed him, loud enough to be heard by him, “Damn Fox, and all his friends, say I”. This was a fatal speech to the race, for Sam, regardless of winning or losing, immediately attacked this blasphemer, and have him so severe a drubbing, which he did in such a plentiful manner, that the criminal roared out lustily that he was only joking; - “Damn your jokes”, said Samuel, “I am only joking; take that, and take that, and learn to time your jokes better; I don’t like such jokes”. This amused the surrounding spectators perhaps equally as well as the race would have done; and Sam contented himself by gaining a victory although he had lost his wager, which he afterwards paid with great pleasure in consequence of having lost it in so noble a cause.
Sam also manifested his attachment to Keys, whom he always called “his true and tried friend”. About a month before he died he for Major Labalier, and also desired Keys to attend. At this meeting he told Keys he should be miserable if he thought he would ever live to be in want, and begged of him to accept 20l. a year out of his estate; Keys, however, thanked him for his good intentions towards him, but with a spirit of independence, equal to that of his friend Sam House, declined accepting this offer, declaring his friendship was disinterested, and that nothing should induce him to take that from Sam’s family, to which they undoubtedly had a superior claim.