Invective Through the Ages: The Age of Nelson

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently read Terry Coleman’s biography of Nelson, and was impressed both by the quality of the toadying and the quality of the abuse. There are two kinds of verbal attacks in this book. For starters, you’ve got your elegant Georgian bitchiness. Here’s Nelson himself: 

I beg leave to assure you sir with all respect, that should anyone so far forget himself as not to pay me that attention my situation as senior captain demands, that I shall take proper notice of it. 

Or here’s Lord Hood, telling the future William IV in no uncertain terms to go fuck himself: 

But how was it possible, sir, as you are pleased to suggest, that I should consult your royal highness in the business? 

Other abuse is a little more direct. Here’s Lord St Vincent, in later years, on Nelson: 

Animal courage was the sole merit of Lord Nelson, his private character most disgraceful, in every sense of the word.

He also called out Nelson’s family: 

… the infamous conduct of her late husband’s brother, sisters, and their husbands, all of them vile reptiles … 

But, surprise surprise, the winner of the nastiest is Emma Hamilton again, who called Lady Nelson

a very wicked, bad, artful woman … a wicked, false, malicious wretch

and said of her: 

The apoticarys widow, the Creole with her Heart Black as Her feind like looking face … she loved her poor dirty Escalopes if she had love, and the 2 dirty negatives made that dirty affirmative that is a disgrace to the Human Speciaes

All that stuff about being dirty and black is Emma trying to suggest that because Frances was from the Caribbean she had some black ancestry. And Escalopes is how Emma spells Asclepius, referring to Frances’s former husband, who was a doctor. 

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Invective Through the Ages: The Age of Nelson

Invective Through the Ages: The Monition of Cursing

I think I first came across the Monition of Cursing in George MacDonald Fraser’s The Steel Bonnets. The 16th century was a time of unrest along the Anglo-Scottish border, with bands of “reivers” raiding back and forth across it. The temporal power seemed helpless to do anything about it, so the Archbishop of Glasgow, one Gavin Dunbar, brought the almighty into it. It’s amazing. Amazing

And thairfoir my said Lord Archbischop of Glasgow hes thocht expedient to strike thame with the terribill swerd of halykirk, quhilk thai may nocht lang endur and resist; and has chargeit me, or any uther chapellane, to denounce, declair and proclame thaim oppinly and generalie cursit, at this market-croce, and all utheris public places.

Hairfor throw the auctorite of Almichty God, the Fader of hevin, his Son, our Saviour, Jhesu Crist, and of the Halygaist; throw the auctorite of the Blissit Virgin Sanct Mary, Sanct Michael, Sanct Gabriell, and all the angellis; Sanct John the Baptist, and all the haly patriarkis and prophets; Sanct Peter, Sanct Paull, Sanct Andro, and all haly appostillis; Sanct Stephin, Sanct Laurence, and all haly mertheris; Sanct Gile, Sanct Martyn, and all haly confessouris; Sanct Anne, Sanct Katherin, and all haly virginis and matronis; and of all the sanctis and haly company of hevin; be the auctorite of our Haly Fader the Paip and his cardinalis, aned of my said Lord Archibischop of Glasgw, be the avise and assistance of my lordis, archibischop, bischopis, abbotis, priouris, and utheris prelatis and minesteris of halykirk.

I denounce, proclamis, and declaris all and sindry the committaris of the said saikles murthris, slauchteris, brinying, heirchippes, reiffis, thiftis and spulezeis, oppinly apon day licht and under silence of nicht, alswele within temporale landis as kirklandis; togither with thair partakeris, assitaris, supplearis, wittandlie resettaris of thair personis, the gudes reft and stollen be thaim, art or part thereof, and their counsalouris and defendouris, of thair evil dedis generalie CURSIT, waryit, aggregeite, and reaggregeite, with the GREIT CURSING.

I curse their heid and all the haris of thair heid; I curse thair face, thair ene, thair mouth, thair neise, thair tongue, thair teeth, thair crag, thair shoulderis, thair breist, thair hert, thair stomok, thair bak, thair wame, thair armes, thair leggis, thair handis, thair feit, and everilk part of thair body, frae the top of their heid to the soill of thair feet, befoir and behind, within and without.


I curse thaim gangand, and I curse them rydland; I curse thaim standand, and I curse thaim sittand; I curse thaim etand, I curse thaim drinkand; I curse thaim walkand, I curse thaim sleepand; I curse thaim risand, I curse thaim lyand; I curse thaim at hame, I curse thaim fra hame; I curse thaim within the house, I curse thaim without the house; I curse thair wiffis, thair barnis, and thair servandis participand with thaim in their deides. I way thair cornys, thair catales, thair woll, thair scheip, thjair horse, thair swyne, thair geise, thair hennes, and all thair quyk gude. I wary their hallis, thair chalmeris, thair kechingis, thair stanillis, thair barnys, thair biris, thair bernyardis, thair cailyardis, thair plewis, thair harrowis, and the gudis and housis that is necessair for their sustentatioun and weilfair.

And that’s only part of it. It just goes on and on, larding curses on them. You should read the version which is here, in handy PDF format. 

Just to make the story perfect, a stone carved with about half of the curse is said to have been responsible for Carlisle United being relegated. I am not making that up. 

Invective Through the Ages: The Monition of Cursing