In mid August I shared this information on my own blog, and it was such a “hit” I thought I would share it here also. I would like to introduce you to Theodore Hook, a man from whom Ashton Kutcher could take a few lessons. “How so?” you ask. Have you ever heard of the Berners Street Hoax? If not, enjoy the scenario and imagine how delightful it would have been if Theodore Hook had had a series of hidden cameras to capture the action to replay on You Tube.
Our “hero” Theodore Hook made an not-so-innocent bet with his friend Samuel Beazley. Hook swore he could transform any house in London into the most talked-about address in a week. The chosen house was 54 Berners Street in the City of Westminster, London. The time was 1810. Hook began by sending out thousands of letters requesting deliveries, visitors, and assistance, all in the name of Mrs Tottenham.
The action began at 5 of the clock when a sweep arrived to clean Mrs Tottenham’s chimney. The maid efficiently sent the poor sweep away, but then another appeared. And another. A total of 12 called and were dispatched from the “lady’s” home. The sweeps were followed by several carts full of coal to be delivered to the home. Then a series of bakers, delivering large wedding cakes.
Next, came those who thought themselves summoned to minister to someone in the house, who was reportedly dying: doctors, surgeons, lawyers, vicars, and priests.
Those efforts in humanity preceded another round of deliveries. Fishmongers. Shoemakers. A dozen pianos. Six stout men bearing an organ.
Dignitaries came also. They included the Governor of the Bank of England, the Duke of York, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Lord Mayor of the City of London.
The narrow street became congested with tradesmen and onlookers. Deliveries and visits, which began with the first sweep at 5 in the morning, continued until early evening. The hoax brought much of London to a standstill.
Hook and Beazley stationed themselves in a house directly opposite 54 Berners Street, where they could watch the chaos unfold. Although the authorities searched high and low for the perpetrator of the chaos, Hook evaded arrest. “It was reported he felt it prudent to be ‘laid up for a week or two’ before embarking on a tour of the country, supposedly to convalesce.” (FYI: The site at 54 Berners Street is now occupied by the Sanderson Hotel.)
I wonder if our dear Jane knew of these events. Would it not have been wonderful if she had added a bit of chaos based on this event into one of her stories. “For what do we live but to laugh at our neighbors and make fun of them in our turn?” –Pride and Prejudice
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