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It’s been a while since we’ve had Men Behaving Badly. Time to show (again) the other side of the Regency/Romantic era gentleman. They were not all Mr. Darcy, as Pierce Egan, Charles Molloy Westmacott (aka Bernard Blackmantle), and others were happy to demonstrate.
As wordy as the prose style is, I strongly recommend reading the episode in full (please search for 247, which will bring you near the beginning), to grasp how wild and lawless the world could be, even (or especially) at Oxford. It’s also quite a study in upper class disregard for all lesser beings.
~~~Gown! gown! Town! town! were the only sounds heard in every direction; and the clamour and the tumult of voices were enough to shake the city with dismay. …
Of the strong band of university men who rushed on eager for the coming fray, a number of them were fresh light-hearted Etonians and old Westminsters, who having just arrived to place themselves under the sacred banners of Academus, thought their honour and their courage both concerned in defending the togati: most of these youthful zealots had as usual, at the beginning of a term, been lodged in the different inns and houses of the city, and from having drank somewhat freely of the welcome cup with old schoolfellows and new friends, were just ripe for mischief, unheedful of the consequences or the cause.
On the other hand, the original fomenters of the strife had recruited their forces with herds of the lowest rabble gathered from the purlieus of their patron saints, St. Clement and St. Thomas, and the shores of the Charwell,—the bargees, and butchers, and labourers, and scum of the suburbians: a huge conglomerated mass of thick sculls, and broad backs, and strengthy arms, and sturdy legs, and throats bawling for revenge, and hearts bursting with wrathful ire, rendered still more frantic and desperate by the magic influence of their accustomed war-whoop….
In a moment all was fury and confusion …
—The English Spy by Bernard Blackmantle. Illustrations by Robert Cruikshank (1825)