Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton

Virtue in Danger

Virtue in Danger; or, a lamentable story how a virtuous Lady had like to have been ravished by her sister’s footman.

To the tune of The Children in the Wood.

Written by a Lady.

Now ponder well, ye ladies fair,
     These words that I shall write:
I’ll tell a tale shall make you stare,
     Of a poor lady’s fright.

She laid her down all in her bed,
     And soon began to snore,
It never came into her head
     To lock her chamber-door.

A footman of her sister dear,
     A sturdy Scot was he,
Without a sense of godly fear,
     Bethought him wickedly.

Thought he, this lady lies alone,
     I like her comely face;
It would most gallantly be done,
     Her body to embrace.

In order to this bold attempt,
     He ran up stairs apace;
While she, poor lady, nothing dreamt,
     Or, dreamt it was his Grace.

The candle flaming in her eyes,
     Made her full soon awake:
He scorn’d to do it by surprize,
     Or her a-sleeping take.

A sword he had, and hard by it,
     A thing appear’d withal,
Which we, for very modesty,
     A pistol chuse to call.

This pistol in one hand he took,
     And thus began to woo her:
Oh! how this tender creature shook,
     When he presented to her.

"Lady, quoth he, I must obtain,
     For I have lov’d thee long!
Wou’d you know how my heart you gain’d,
     You had it for a song.

"Resolve to quench my present flame,
     Or you shall murder’d be;
It was those pretty eyes, fair dame,
     That first have murder’d me."

The lady look’d with fear, around,
     As in her bed she lay;
And tho’ half dying in a swoon,
     Thus to herself did say:

"Who rashly judge, (it is a rule)
     Do often judge amiss:
I thought this fellow was a fool;
     But there’s some sense in this."

She then recover’d heart of grace,
     And did to him reply,
"Sure Arthur, you’ve forgot your place,
     Or know not that ’tis I,

"Do you consider who it is,
     That you thus rudely treat?
’Tis not for scoundrel scrubs to wish
     To taste their master’s meat."

"Tut, tut, quoth he, I do not care;"
     And so pull’d down the cloaths:
Uncover’d lay this lady fair,
     Quite from the head to toes.

"Oh! Arthur cover me, she said,
     Or sure I shall get cold:"
Which presently the rogue obey’d;
     He could not hear her scold,

He laid his sword close by her side;
     Her heart went pit-a-pat:
"You’ve but one weapon left, (she cry’d)
     Sure I can deal with that."

She saw the looby frighted stand,
     Out of the bed jump’d she,
Catch’d hold of his so furious hand;
     A sight it was to see!

His pistol-hand she held fast clos’d,
     As she remembers well;
But how the other was dispos’d
     There’s none alive can tell.

The sword full to his heart she laid,
     But yet did not him slay;
For when he saw the shining blade,
     God wot, he ran away.

When she was sure the knave was gone,
     Out of her father’s hall,
This virtuous lady straight began
     Most grievously to bawl.

In came pawpaw, and mawmaw dear,
     Who wonder’d to behold:
"Oot Grifee, what a noise is here,
     Why stond you in the cold?"

"Mawmaw, she said, (and then she wept)
     I have a battle won;
But if that I had soundly slept,
     My honour had been gone.

"A footman of my sister, he –"
     "A footman! cry’d mawmaw,
Dear daughter this must never be,
     And we not go to law."

This lady’s fame shall ever last,
     And live in British song;
For she was, like Lucretia, caste,
     And eke was much more strong.

NOTE: This ballad was written following the trial of Arthur Gray for burglary in December 1721, when he compounded the crime by attempting to ravish a married woman. He was reprieved. SOURCE: The Annals of Newgate; or, Malefactors Register, 4 vols, London, 1776; vol. ii, pp. 56-9.

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "Virtue in Danger", 17 April 2003 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/virtue.htm>

Return to list of Newspaper Reports