Richard Hall, my ancestor, died on 2nd July 1801 after a short illness. He had been fine when he started off from Bourton on the Water on 17th June, heading for London by coach, but was taken ill at Witney and was forced to return home. Doctors were called; his children by his first marriage to whom he had hardly spoken for over twenty years (because of a feud over their inheritance) were sent for and duly arrived. He lingered for a fortnight before croaking his last at six in the morning. He was 72, and apparently his last words were uttered when he sat up in bed and asked “Am I in Heaven yet?” On being informed that his request was somewhat premature he sank back and breathed his last. I suspect his final thought must have been one of great disappointment!
He had always been something of a hypochondriac, and I still have many of his prescriptions for indigestion, bad nerves, and so on. To mark his passing I thought I would share this fine print drawn, I believe, by Richard Newton but engraved by Rowlandson and published in 1813, just a dozen years after Richard passed on:
Entitled ’ A Going! A Going!!!’ it shows a rather well-fed doctor greeting his patient, who clearly is on the point of death. The patient is surrounded by medicine bottles of every hue and description, and the medic booms out ” My Dear Sir, you look this morning the Picture of Health. I have no doubt at my next visit I shall find you entirely cured of all your earthly infirmitys”
And so it was for poor Richard. All that remained was for his widow to parcel up his papers, his diaries, his jottings and his recipes, and place them in the bottom of the trunk where they have remained ever since…
And finally, another couple of caricatures by my old favourite Richard Newton: “Giving up the ghost, or one too many”. I like the way that the corpse is shown with its toes all curled, while the undertaker arrives with his coffin strapped across his forehead, and the Doctor, exhausted from his labours, takes a kip in the armchair…
And another Newton one from 1794 called “Undertakers in at the Death” showing the three undertakers rushing in to the room just as Death is about to launch its fatal arrow. It appears courtesy of the British Museum.
O.K. I said ‘finally’, but then I decided to have another final one: I have always been a sucker for the simple pen and ink drawings of Thomas Rowlandson. This one is entitled “A Death-Bed Scene” and is shown courtesy of the Yale Centre for British Art.