Lots of things come in threes.
Little pigs. French hens. Little kittens. Feet in a yard. BLT ingredients. Brontë sisters.
Sometimes frightening things come in threes: witches in Macbeth, Cerebrus’s heads, Hanson brothers. And this week’s slang.
Gentleman of Three Ins
In debt, in gaol, and in danger of remaining there for life; or, in gaol, indicted, and in danger of being hanged in chains.
I wrote several posts last year concerning the perilous nature of gaols and imprisonment in Regency England, which can be found here, here, here, and here. I won’t rehash the past, but instead rely on my dear Mr. Gillray to provide some period figurative illustrations rather than literal interpretations of this week’s slang.
From the British Museum:
John Bull’s head and shoulders emerge from a gigantic coffee-mill. He is being ground by Pitt into guineas which pour from the spout of the machine into the inverted coronet of the Prince of Wales, held out by the Prince (left). The Prince points out his harvest of coins to a row of creditors. John Bull, his hands clasped, shrieks “Murder! Murder!” Pitt (right), both hands on the handle, is working hard, stripped to his shirt. His coat lies across an enormous heap of guineas on which he rests his left knee. He says: “God save great George our Ki . . .” Behind him, and in the upper right corner of the design, is the crown, the centre of a sun whose rays extend behind Pitt’s head, with the words: “Grind away! grind away grind away Billy! never mind his bawling! Grind away.” Other words from the crown are directed towards the victim: “What! – What! – what! Murder hay? why, you poor Stupe, is it not for the good of your Country? hay? hay”. Between Pitt and the post of the mill Dundas and Burke are grovelling for guineas: Burke, frowning, uses both hands; Dundas, who wears a plaid, fills his Scots cap.
From the British Museum:
Lady Buckinghamshire (left) and Lady Archer (right) stand side by side in the pillory, heads and hands closely confined, their heads in profile to the right, weeping angrily. Both wear tall feathers in their hair and large pendent ear-rings. Lady Buckinghamshire is forced to stand painfully on tip-toe, a short petticoat exposes her fat legs. On the front of the platform is a placard: ‘Cure for Gambling Publish’d by Lord Kenyon in the Court of Kings Bench on May 9th 1796’. This is raised above the heads of the crowd, with grinning upturned faces in the foreground. Eggs, a cat, &c. fly through the air; the pillory and the dresses of the victims are bespattered. On the right is a house with spectators in the windows.
Fox. Pitt. Dundas. Another allusion to the love of the two Ministers for the bottle. It represents the different feelings with which the different parties in this country were supposed to have looked upon the decline of Republican principles in France at this time.
And lest we forget, three is a magic number.
Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.