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Gentleman John Jackson and Daniel Mendoza: Heavy Hitters of Regency Boxing

John Jackson

“Gentleman” John Jackson (28 September 1769 – 7 October 1845) was a celebrated pugilist of the late 18th century.

He won the title Champion of England in a fight on 15 April 1795 in which he beat Daniel Mendoza. It was one of the shortest main battles ever fought, lasting in all but ten minutes and a half; and for its time quite the hardest ever fought at all. Mendoza was badly cut up; the new champion was hardly hurt.

Seven years after the encounter recorded above a letter appeared in the Daily Oracle and Advertiser which purported to be a challenge from Mendoza to Jackson for a return match. As a fact, the letter was a practical joke; but a part of Jackson’s reply is worth quoting, as it is so characteristic of all we hear of the man.

“. . . for some years,” he wrote, “I have entirely withdrawn from a public life, and am more and more convinced of the propriety of my conduct by the happiness which I enjoy in private among many friends of great respectability, with whom it is my pride to be received on terms of familiarity and friendship. . . .”

Jackson never fought again, and one of the greatest reputations in the annals of the championship that have come to us is based upon a pugilist who only entered the ring thrice! One other champion was in precisely the same case, and that was John Gulley, whom we shall come to in due course.

No doubt Jackson attracted to himself a good deal of attention apart from the eccentricity of his good behaviour. He was a man of prodigious strength and is said to have written his name whilst an 84 lb. weight was suspended from his little finger.

After his retirement he took rooms at 13 Old Bond Street, creating Jackson’s Saloon, a boxing academy which became a regular and fashionable house of call for the young bloods of the day.

It became the correct thing to take a course of boxing lessons from John Jackson. Byron, who was a keen boxer despite his infirmity, used to go there to keep down the fat of which he ever lived in terror. In his diary for March l7th, 1814, he swrote: “I have been sparring with Jackson for exercise this morning, and mean to continue and renew my acquaintance with my mufflers. My chest, and arms, and wind are in very good plight, and I am not in flesh. I used to be a hard hitter and my arms are very long for my height.”—which was 5 ft 8J inches—” At rate, exercise is good, and this the severest of all ; fencing and broadsword never fatigued me half so much.”

Byron regarded John Jackson as a friend whom he greatly admired. He wrote letters to him on several occasions.

Jackson had innumerable pupils and was about the first real instructor of boxing for amateurs. He went to his grave in Brompton Cemetery old and honoured in 1845.

Jackson died in 1847 and is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.

Daniel Mendoza

Daniel Mendoza (5 July 1764 , Whitechapel, London; 3 September 1836) (often known as Dan Mendoza) was an English prizefighter, who was boxing champion of England 1792-95. He was a Sephardic Jew, and is sometimes called the father of scientific boxing.

Before Mendoza, boxers generally stood still and merely swapped punches. Mendoza’s style consisted of more than simply battering opponents into submission, his “scientific style” included much defensive movement. He developed an entirely new style of boxing, incorporating defensive strategies, such as what he called “side-stepping”, moving around, and ducking, blocking, and, all in all, avoiding punches. Sounds simplistic now , but it was revolutionary back then. His ability to overcome much heavier adversaries was a consequence of this. Though he stood only 5’7″ and weighed only 160 pounds, Mendoza was England’s sixteenth Heavyweight Champion from 1792 to 1795. Thus he holds probably the greatest record in Boxing History, as he is the only middleweight to ever win the Heavyweight Championship of the World. In 1789 he opened his own boxing academy and published The Art of Boxing the book on modern “scientific” style boxing which every subsequent boxer learned from.

Mendoza was so popular that the London press reported news of one of his bouts ahead of the storming of the Bastille which marked the start of the French Revolution. He transformed the English stereotype of a Jew from a weak, defenseless person into someone deserving of respect. He is said to have been the first Jew to talk to the King, George III.

His early boxing career was defined by three bouts with his former mentor Richard Humphries between 1788 and 1790. The first of these was lost due to Humphries’s second (the former Champion, Tom Johnson) blocking a blow. The second two bouts were won by Mendoza. The third bout set history in another way . It was the first time spectators were charged an entry payment to a sporting event. The fights were hyped by a series of combative letters in the press between Humphries and Mendoza.

Mendoza’s “memoirs” report that he got involved in three fights whilst on his way to watch a boxing match. The reasons were: (a) someone’s cart cut in; (b) he felt a shopkeeper was trying to cheat him; (c) he didn’t like how a man was looking at him.

In 1795 Mendoza fought “Gentleman” John Jackson for the Championship at Hornchurch in Essex. Jackson was five years younger, 4 inches taller, and 42 lbs. heavier. The bigger man won in nine rounds, paving the way to victory by seizing Mendoza by his long hair and holding him with one hand while he pounded his head with the other. Mendoza was pummelled into submission in around ten minutes. Since this date boxers have worn their hair short.

After 1795 Mendoza began to seek other sources of income, becoming the landlord of the “Admiral Nelson” pub in Whitechapel. He turned down a number of offers for re-matches and in 1807 wrote a letter to The Times in which he said he was devoting himself chiefly to teaching the art. In 1809 he and some associates were hired by the theatre manager Kemble in an attempt to suppress the OP Riots; the resulting poor publicity probably cost Mendoza much of his popular support, as he was seen to be fighting on the side of the privileged.

Mendoza made and spent a fortune. His Memoirs (written in 1808 but not published until 1816) report that he tried a number of ventures, including touring the British Isles giving boxing demonstrations; appeared in a pantomime entitled Robinson Crusoe or Friday Turned Boxer; opening a boxing academy at the Lyceum in the Strand; working as a recruiting sergeant for the army; printing his own paper money; and being a pub landlord.

Mendoza made his last public appearance as a boxer in 1820 at Banstead Downs in a grudge match against Tom Owen; Mendoza was, at the time, 57– Owen, a sprightly 52. Youth, as the saying goes, will be served, and Mendoza was defeated after 12 rounds.

Intelligent, charismatic but chaotic, he died  in 1836, leaving his family in poverty. He was 72.


From Wikipedia and Knuckles and Gloves, By Bohun Lynch.

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Eliza de Feuillide: Jane Austen’s ‘Outlandish Cousin’

Eliza Hancock was born 22nd December 1761 in Calcutta, India, to her mother Philadelphia Austen and her father Tysoe Saul Hancock, a physician with the East India Company. Philadelphia was George Austen’s sister, making Eliza Jane’s first cousin.

Philadelphia Austen had traveled to India in January 1752 without a dowry and in search of a husband. She met and married Tysoe six months after her arrival. By 1759, they were still childless and it was assumed that this indicated that they had a bad marriage. It was around this time that they moved house, met and befriended Warren Hastings; it was rumored that Philadelphia had been Hasting’s mistress. Eliza, or as she was known in childhood, Betsy, was born two years later and the true identity of her father is still questioned. Regardless of his possible paternity, Hasting’s became Eliza’s godfather, giving her £10,000 in trust, and later took the position of Governor General of India.

In 1768, Eliza and her mother traveled to England whilst her father remained in India. He chose to stay in India in order to finance their lifestyle at the expense of being with his wife and daughter. He died in 1775 and in 1777, Philadelphia took Eliza to live in Paris, France where it was cheaper. They enjoyed a fortunate lifestyle here, often attending royal events and at age 20, Eliza married a French Army captain called Jean-François Capot de Feuillide who became a French count. In 1786, a very pregnant Eliza set out for England to visit the Austen’s but did not make it past Calais before giving birth to a boy, Hastings de Feuillide, who was thought to have learning difficulties. Eliza and Philadelphia continued with the baby and arrived in Steventon just before Christmas 1786. At this time it is thought that Eliza made quite an impression on the young Jane who had just turned 11 years old; she aided Jane to feel comfortable and more confident around strangers. During this visit, Eliza and Jane’s beloved brother Henry became very close and flirted constantly despite Henry being 10 years her junior. Eliza’s husband was guillotined in 1794 during the reign of terror and Eliza, Hastings and Philadelphia returned to live in England at this time.

After settling in London, Eliza married Henry Austen in 1797. During this time Eliza and Jane communicated a lot through letters; they were both well-educated, intelligent and witty and took great delight in observing others and describing how they perceived the world. Eliza had traveled the world and this allowed a maturity in knowledge that no doubt intrigued Jane. From reading Eliza’s existing letters (mainly written to her cousin, Phylly Walter whom she was extremely close to), many historians have been unsure on how to judge the character of Eliza; at times she seems incredibly self- centred and confident but there is certainly also a very caring nature. She once described herself as an ‘outlandish cousin’ which serves to give us an impression of the character of Eliza. She suffered many disappointments and heartaches in life and yet remained very optimistic. Humour was very characteristic of her letters; she once wrote to her cousin Phylly: ‘where the Princess of Wales & myself took an Airing—We were however so unsociable as to go in different Carriages.’

It has also been assumed that she persuaded Henry to go into banking, although she did not live to see this venture become a complete failure. Hastings died in 1801 from what is speculated to have been epilepsy. Twelve years later, 25 April 1813, Eliza died after suffering a long illness. It is known that Jane visited Sloane Street (Eliza and Henry’s home) regularly and helped to nurse her during her final years. Eliza is buried with her mother and son in a cemetery in Hampstead, North London.

Deirdre Le Faye has done a fantastic job in editing Jane Austen’s Letters. Her book is called the 3rd or New Edition as R.W Chapman edited Jane’s letters to provide us with the 1st and 2nd Editions. Through Le Faye’s analysis of Jane Austen and her letters, it has been considered that perhaps Jane may have based the character Mary Crawford from Mansfield Park on Eliza. This notion is based on many facts; including that both Eliza and Mary enjoyed amateur acting throughout life, played the harp and enjoyed life in London in comparison to the country. Jon Spence agreed with this position and developed it further through stating that ‘at last Jane was able to convey her ambiguous feelings about Eliza de Feuillide and the unsettling experience of knowing her.’

We actually have a cross stitch pattern remembering Eliza de Feuillide, have a look here.


This Biography of Eliza de Feuillide was written by Rachel Kingston for the Becoming Jane Fansite. It is adapted here with the author’s permission.

Pic 1: Eliza de Feuillide (and Henry Austen), taken from Jon Spence’s Becoming Jane Austen (2003)

Pic 2: Mrs. Austen (Julie Walters), Eliza (Lucy Cohu), Jane (Anne Hathaway) and Cassandra (Anna Maxwell Martin)in Becoming Jane.

Pic 3: Eliza (Lucy Cohu) and Henry (Joe Anderson) in Becoming Jane, taken from Jane Austen’s Regency World, issue 26.

Pic 4: There are many books which deal with Jane Austen’s relationship to Eliza, including Dearest Cousin Jane (Jill Pitkeathley), Jane and the Barque of Frailty (Stephanie Barron) and Jane Austen’s ‘Outlandish Cousin’: The Life and Letters of Eliza de Feuillide (Deirdre Le Faye)