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13 August 2018

Andrew Brice, unstamped newspapers and his nephew

Andrew Brice, unstamped newspapers and his pushing nephew, 1755

In his brief account of Andrew Brice's disagreement with his "pushing nephew" in 1755 T. N. Brushfield in "Andew Brice and the early Exeter newspaper press" (1888, page) quotes from an issue of the printer's Old Exeter Journal then in the possession of the Rev. W. Everitt, rector of St. Lawrence, Exeter, which was thought no longer to survive. It may be that Mr Dymond, who provided Brushfield with this information, saw this issue in the bound volume recently discovered in the archives of Force and Son and now in the Devon Record Office (Ref: FOR/Z/1/1). As a result we are able to read again an acrimonious exchange which sheds interesting light on the problems facing newspaper printers in the 18th century, and the rivalries which could develop. Brice's "serio-jocular" style was extremely verbose and overblown and much of the rhetorical tirades has been omitted. What remains lifts the curtain on a very dysfunctional family who fellow Exonians would have to had handled very carefully. Brice got on the wrong side of many people during his long career and his statements in this exchange show that he had a long and unforgiving memory.

Andrew Brice (1692-1773) was the son of Andrew Brice, shoemaker. He married Sarah Leach in 1713 and their daughter Sarah was born in 1721. She was partner with her father from 1743 until at least 1746, her name appearing in imprints in this period and is mentioned, though not by name, in the following extracts. Andrew's brother Thomas was probably older than he. He married Katherine Hayne in 1709 and his son, Thomas junior, was born in 1726. Thomas junior (Andrew's "pushing nephew")  married Elizabeth Fox in 1748 and his son Thomas was born in 1749 (there is mentions of his "encreasing family" in the exchanges). Thomas junior seems to have died soon after these exchanges and his son Thomas worked with his widowed mother and from about 1781 on his own. Ironically he later acquired the Old Exeter Journal from Barnabas Thorn and published it until 1791 when it was acquired by Trewman and Grigg and closed down. 

For these extracts, while the spelling and punctuation have been preserved, capitalisation has been brought more into line with contemporary practice.

1755 September 12. Andrew Brice's Old Exeter Journal ; no 507.

[The accusation was made by Thomas Brice that:]
Andrew Brice, printer, - "in person inform'd or caused information to be made, to the worthy gentleman who collects the stamp duty here" – of Thomas Brice, printer's printing &c. a run of newspapers, not stamp'd according as law requires, - with a diabolical design and unnatural intent," &c. &c. &c. &c.
To this horrible charge, as in the indictment laid, I plead not guilty. […] Yet, who and what are they that argue thus? Persons, surely, who have no special concern in, receive no injury from, or have their interest at all affected by the offence. They are not, I warrant you, printers and publishers of newspapers, - such who, honestly, use not a sheet but what is legally stamp'd, and is besides purchased at a very dear rate. – But, you know, gentlemen, I am such, my editions issuing on Friday mornings only, and at the price two-pence. My pushing nephew – (now again for the third time, after being twice forced to give it over) - publishes a paper also. In heaven's name, let him fairly do so, and righteously make the best of it. Yes, let him conceitedly rhodomontade it as much as he can for the gasconading blood of him. Let his apish affectation gain admirers as it may. I obstruct him not, nor have regard [for] his ridiculous vanity. But, I pray, what if the vigorous pusher forestall a market, and unlawfully prints, and by way of run vends, the choicest piece or pieces of intelligence, on unstamp'd paper, price a half-penny, a day or two preceding the time of my fair publication? What a despicable figure must my honest paper make with such news of greatest consequence grown stale, town and country being so cheaply fill'd therewith before! […]

What! Think you this last the first time of his offending? No; far from it. Alas! To mention an instance, he once, in the same unlawful, and to me injurious, manner, made a run on a Monday morning of important news which came in the London prints the Saturday night preceding, 4 or 5 days before it could appear in my weekly paper. In serious truth, gentlemen, he hath made a perfect trade of trespassing, in a sort, with respect to law, much the like, from the very beginning. […]

This bold pushing man, Mr. Thomas Brice, so notoriously offending as above-mention'd, &c. &c. I could not help exclaiming, and expressing astonishment, at such daring presumptions. And when they began to affect myself, I, after some considerable while, complained thereof to the deputy or agent here for the stamp affairs, desiring him to speak or send to the evil-doer to forebear such unlawful things. He promised me he would do so; - and I must think he did. The same practise, notwithstanding, still, now and then, going on, I again, and several times, complain'd to a like purpose : and that gentleman at last engaged me, when I knew such an offensive transgression, immediately to acquaint him therewith, and bring him one of the papers.

Accordingly, that which is now in question on Thursday in the very assize-week, cry'd about the street, and a borrow'd one being brought in to me whilst at dinner, my just indignation rose, and I aloud before my household expressed resentment, and declar'd that I'd no longer smother it. It being a lawful, just, reasonable act, I made no hugger-mugger matter of it. Going accordingly to the said agent's house, I got (but not bought and paid for) one of the papers of a hawker near his very door, carry'd it in, and shewed it, that fair cause might be taken to prevent more such wrongful facts. Where had you this? Said he. I told him. I desire you'll set your hand to it, said the gentleman. I answered that I would not have it come as evidence; nor could it, I apprehended, be brought as such. He answered that he intended it not – [nor intended was it at all used, that I know, to such purpose]; - but he would himself look into the affair, and I should have nothing to do in it. – What use the gentleman thought of making of the paper, by me left with him I know not. What I designed it for that he has been fairly told. And what I did was all above-board. […]

And being soon cool'd down, according to my known nature, and hearing nothing of the business for some days, I with satisfaction concluded the gentleman had check'd and menaced the offender, and thought that 'twas well and over; - until the same gentleman, coming to me upon other business, shewed me an order he had from the solicitor of the Stamp Office to proceed against Brice. – I was presently thereupon struck into a sort of agony, and fell to deprecation, with a much earnestness begging as a convict at the bar imploring mercy that he would defer executing the order, and that I myself would see to get poor Tom to write to the commissioners begging pardon, and promising to offend, in such respect, no more; adding all a tender friend and relative could to suspend proceeding. He reply'd, that the law must have its course. I thereupon prayed that he would not bring me into the case, for at all events I was resolute to have nothing to do in it. He promised me accordingly. I immediately, on the gentleman's departure, snatch'd up a pen, about to write to my good nephew, to inform him of what was doing, &c. But some of my trustiest friends about me beseech'd me to desist, giving for reason, that I knew the fiery temper of the hothead, and that I should have my kindness repaid but with most ingrateful scurrility and abuse.

I, however, resolved within myself, that if the due penalty should be levied on him, to contribute part out of my own pocket.

It coming, as it appears, to a hearing, he was, upon evidence, convicted, and is or was to pay the prodigious argenti pondus et auri of 4 l. fine and cost. – Oh! The immense sum! […]

P. S. The whole opprobrious, wrathful, vehement outcry comes on next to be critically torn to pieces. And to make readers some amends for so much unpleasant gravity, it shall be vey much of the ridiculum acri kind, - that is to say, it shall be done in the usual serio-jocular style of, gentlemen,
   Your somewhat recover'd servant
      Andrew Brice
          Alias Democritus Vapulans.

1755. September 19, Andrew Brice's Old Exeter Journal, Numb. 508.

[The tirade continues ...]

As you to me and family gave scores of instances throughout your so faithful service, so have you very pat and luckily, given the public another, a recent, proof of your religious and moral most charming disposition. Convicted on a Thursday, you suffer'd so long as the whole time of your absence from home; there you foreswore in writing to resent till you took up pen; nor printed such proof of passivity till that same day in your newspaper, to be published the next morning. And, your newspapers, appearing to not enough eyes to satisfy you, you further forebore, scattering abroad your quarto token of long suffering, I think, till the next day or Monday: a length of time to tire an Archilechus's forebearance. Were a ballad of a new and male Grizel to be written, who but you merits being the Christian hero subject? […]

Was not I, credulously deceived I, by your father, my own brother's, often reiterated, and again solemnly repeated, vows to God (his very expression) that you should never be set up in business for yourself during mine and my then daughter's lives, drawn in to take you apprentice without a farthing? And this by the persuasive very motive of consanguinity, or own flesh and blood? Did he not back such motive with the argument what good and trusty assistant you would be to me in my advanced age, &c.? Yet did he not, by the first opportunity, purchase what bore the name of a printing-house (tho' but a poor piece of one) for you, even during your very apprenticeship? Did not you, in spite of such ties of consanguinity, of indenture, of justice, of gratitude, &c. take time to set the all-confus'd materials in order during the same space, my time? – I'll not ask whether you supply'd any deficiences from my plenty ; - leaving that to conscience. And did you not spring away from me the very day I too generously gave up your indenture, without requiring the least recompense for the times stolen and borrowed and were immediately set up? […]

Did you and friends then trudge from place to place industriously begging for my business and my custom? Did you not scandalously hang out a fallacious sign, with these indiscriminating words,
No Christian name being prefix'd, nor other circumstance honestly added, and this by the very house where I had above twenty years carried on trade, to ensnare mistaken customers? And did you not, further to deceive people, and wrong me, aim at making your paper (as to avoid it I alter'd mine) to look as much like mine as could be; at first with barely BRICE'S EXETER JOURNAL at the top? And lastly, I having in a line set ANDREW BRICE to mine, did you not, as insidiously, put THOMAS BRICE just in the same character and form, to represent mine to the ignorant and unletter'd country people? Was not your father's apprentice sent about to impose your papers upon such as if verily mine? Did not you and yours spread many vile falsities to justify yourselves, and bespatter me? […]

And yet […] when you lay ill of a fever, and in great distress, did I not truly visit you with compassionate favours, nay in person visit you, and with a flood of tears bewail your calamity, comforting you by declaring my reconcilement to you, notwithstanding all that had past, […] And, further, when, afterwards, you had brought yourself to such circumstances, that you must either have in want absconded, gone perhaps to prison, or run away, did I not receive you and family all to my table, &c. and to profitable imployment? […] And when you had again flesh'd yourself, paid off debts, and gain'd new insight into my affairs, custom, depending jobbs, &c. did you not suddenly, and abruptly, without the least falling-out, or cause of disgust given you, break off from me, at a time when help was needed? And thereupon not only run about to undermine and circumvent me, but also – (or your friend Gregory is a most fibbing sycophant) – endeavour to prevent my being supply'd with a workman in your room?

Moreover, have I not entirely thrown up to you the easy and gainful travellers business of all sorts, together with all the home runs of dying speeches, King's speeches, bloody murders, &c.? Have I ever denied you whatever was reasonable for you to ask?[…]
[…] a little note must be made of you personal pronouns plural, with respect to your single tho' grand self, OUR, WE, US, OURSELF, and so on to the chapter's end, as if a majestic sovereign I proclamation, or the Divinity in Let us make man. Indeed you had ever a peculiar swellingness of soul, the fabled frog's ambition to appear a great one. […] I remember one special instance when you were my 'prentice boy – (man or master, I should say). – We Brices not being of the man of Maldon's family, or most corpulent race, and nature having more cruelly cast you in a sort of shotten-herring mould, you, in order suddenly to look big on a Sunday, clapp'd some quires of paper to your long lank sides, within your jacket. – A bulky man of paper! Nor have you ceased to appear a less man, in or upon paper in later times. – You must excuse me, most magnificent consanguinity, for this my merry memory. And so, for this time, I properly in character shut up, with a good-natured laugh,
   Your not a bit more facetious
       than sincerely truth-telling
          obliged Uncle.

1755. October 10, Andrew Brice's Old Exeter Journal, Numb. 511.

[And continues …]

Wherefore, to bring this particular branch of your public slander to the test, I public call upon you to produce such testifiers, viz. that I had a diabolical intent; at least that you properly name them to me, that I myself may have them duly examined as to such your allegation. I don't know that I have the Devil (or even a printer's devil) for a domestick. If the foul fiend hath incog. taken up his dwelling with me, in order to correspond with you, possibly he may be your testifier; for I think none but the Devil should offer to give such testimony. 'Twere indeed his province so to do, having been a liar from the beginning. The domesticks mine, that I wot of, are one man (and a worthy man is he, tho' by you envied), one boy, two so so maids and two encreasing family cats. These are all, - unless you include my wife - (wives being by some look'd on as mere domesticks) in the number. What couple of thee are your such testifiers you must say. Mean while, what a worthy personage you bewray your Ourself to be, tempering with a man's very menial servants for master of mischief to his fame and livelihood! […] And of which the following may give the publick a just idea. [The additions in brackets are Andrew Brice's own]
On the 31st ult. We – [the WE]- were by a gentleman of this city favoured with a very early account of our success against our perfidious enemy at Nova Scotia, which we [WE] were requested by means of our [OUR] press to communicate to the publick. Willing to publish such welcome tidings, we [WE] consented; but, being dubious whether such printed accounts might not be subject to the stamp duties, we applied to Mr…, who furnishes us with stampt paper, for a supply, but could have none of proper size, and were by him persuaded to print it on common paper, as always practised by our [OUR] predecessors and co-temporaries, both here and in every other town that enjoys the benefit of a press. --- We [WE] hinted our [OUR] fear of a snake in the grass, who might hereupon be tempted to put forth his hateful head; but were by the joint desire of many gentlemen prevailed upon to publish the intelligence, ---
What just idea this, and the rest of your florid narration, aim'd to give the publick, persons of good sense and probity among he publick are left to judge. […] As to your being dubious whether papers of printed news be subject to the stamp, such doubtfulness (if such could possibly possess you) must arise from your having been so long and so often let alone in such illegal practises. But that it was no such matter of doubt with you, you as much as confess immediately, by telling how you apply'd for such stampt paper […] and could have none of a proper size. You don't tell us you could have none at all. As to proper size: - What! Was there none of a size large enough? What size could you expect but the news-paper size? This, sir, is a fetch that will not carry; there being no necessity for filling it up; and the matter might be set in large character, or a ballad or two clapp'd in for a fill-up; and your swaggering Gasconade, just as true as 'tis profoundly modest, that such paper was the very best in England; might have grandly even prefix'd. What tho' the whole world laugh'd at it? - face enough, you know, to see 'em all out.

The gentlemen you applied to, you have front to say have persuaded you to print it on common paper. The baneful snake himself becomes the doubter as to this. But did the gentlemen in earnest thus persuade? […] And yet, if I could believe you had his previous leave so to do, I could tell you that the same gentleman himself, inform'd of my printing a Penny Partridge's Prophecy, as serving as a sort of almanack, near 38 years ago; for which I was terribly trounced, - when but just return'd from before the Parliament, where I had the woful honour to appear, in piteous pomp, for an accidental next to nothing: - tho' this Prophecy printing was the only time that I ever did it in all my life, whist such was constantly done by my predecessors and cotemporaries with impunity. And I can inform him also that I have seen several such things of your own printing; which things are at this time doubly unlawful, viz. with respect to the Company of Stationers, vested with the property, and to the penny stamp duty. But the snake never troubled his head about it, having no concern in it. […] As to your such predecessors, what they did is quite out of the question. When they printed half-sheet news there was no law against it, nor any stamp duty required. And when such were by the legislature imposed, I and others availed ourselves of a favourable clause in the Act to avoid the stamp, namely by making our publications a pamphlet of a sheet and half. And a stop being put to such our doings by another act, we still had law for us in publishing one sheet of – any matters – and another of news; till our legislators absolutely cut off all such availments for the future. This being done I immediately sent to London for stampt paper, which came about a fortnight after. But was in form informed against and prosecuted, even by an alderman of the city himself, who cut one of the grandest figures in it, for the two papers printed in the interval, e'er stampt paper could arrive and was forced to pay down upon the nail full twenty-five pounds; tho' my such offence was merely through necessity not choice. And I had more in my favour than even this.

That you and your other grubs, your cotempoaries, have before now been guilty of such unlawful practises, is a proof of my indulgence […]. – 'Tis well known that poor I myself was restrained by menaces, from even giving away but a slip of paper, additional to duely stampt news, and called my Pacolet; tho' the gentleman then solicitor of the Stamp-Office own'd there was not any fraud, or loss to the revenue, but rather an accession of income thereto, by the thing. In truth, I have ever, and all along, been the most put upon of any honest well-meaning printer (possibly) in the kingdom.

1755 October 17. Andrew Brice's Old Exeter Journal, Numb. 512.

[The concluding part …]

Thus it is that you rapidly and torrent-like roll on: -
No sooner did it appear than this cruelly kind affectionate relation (exulting in this opportunity of gratifying his accumulated malice) sallied forth, and from house to house, and street to street, denounced vengeance upon poor Tom and his hawkers, menacing all with fines and thraldom […] and to be a thorn in our flesh while he lived (a vow he had formerly made,) in person inform'd, or caused information to be made, […] to the worthy gentleman who collects the stamp duties here.
Sorry yet am I that the noble printing art should, by reason of miserable grubs and grubberies, be sunk into disgrace, that the paying of but 13 l. (out of which you own 9 were abated) would be of such rueful consequence for an age, viz. to the family in its increase. […] Your uncle, Sir, hath in his time (maugre all this craftiness) suffered to the amount of near 1000 l.; 4 or 500 one way or other, by a single suit, and that but for nobly doing good, what humanity promoted and Christianity enjoin'd. […] And as to hawkers, I had nothing against them even in thought. True, I had several times, in a cool and friendly manner, told them how liable they were to be sent to Bridewell for vending, as well as you to prosecuting for publishing, such illicit things, to the disgrace of news-papers; but never purposed to inform (in law way inform), nor ever menaced to do it. […]

The benevolent breeder of thee insultingly told me above 10 years since I was a'most a gone and kindly promis's with joy to see me cover'd over. And yet, in spight of all your united aims to hurry me off, I am not (thanks where due!) quite gone yet.
This information being forwarded to the commissioner of the Stamp-Office, an order was sent down for poor Peelgarlic for the penalty of the statute, which is 10 l. besides costs. Accordingly we were summoned before two justices of the peace (the right worshipful the Mayor and the worshipful Nicholas Lee Esq.); and as the statute requires papers of this kind to be stampt, we were convicted in the penalty. […] Their worships were pleas'd to mitigate the penalty to 50: and 30s cost. For which we take this opportunity of returning our most humble acknowledgments to their worships.
More humility and less arrogance would befit you, who are not known to have one accomplishment but what is common to journeyman printers. For are you master of any one art or science, or capable of any one curious performance, but as a vulgar printer?

[And with that Andrew Brice wishes his nephew "Adieu".]

This page last updated 13 August 2018