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OLD MATTHEWS the DULWICH HERMIT
Or Man of the Wood;
Who lived in a Care 23 Years & was Murderd,
HISTORY OF OLD MATTHEWS.
and various pamphlets were publifhed pro and con.; particularly one in 4to., and fuppofed to have been written by Mr. David Lloyd, reader, of the Charter-house, under the title of Wonders no Miracles, or Mr. Valentine Greatrakes's Gift of Healing examined, upon Occafion of a fad Effect of his Stroking, March the 7th 1665, at one Mr. Creffell's houfe, in Charter-house-yard, in a Letter to a Rev. Divine, living near that place." This attack obliged Mr. Greatrakes to vindicate himself; and accordingly he published a lift of his "Strange Cures." It is a truth that this man's reputation rofe to a prodigious height, but latterly declined almost as faft, for the expectations of the multitude that reforted to him were not always answered.
Authentic Particulars of OLD MATTHEWS, the DULWICH HERMIT, OF MAN of the WOOD.
THIS wonderful old man, named Samuel Matthews, was a native of South-Wales, and has been for a great many years the fubject of much curiofity to those who have visited Norwood and its vicinities. His eccentricities procured him the title of the "Man of the Wood." About the year 1772, he fixed his refidence at Dulwich, and was employed as a gardener by the gentlemen in that hamlet. At this time his wife, of whom he was particularly fond, was living, and his daughter (fince married to a tradefman of refpe&tability in the city of London) being with him, he enjoyed, though in an humble fphere, true domeftic happiness. On the death of his wife (about the year 1775,) "his doors became hateful to his fight," and he formed the defperate refolution of quitting a habitation now dreary and melancholy in his opinion, and fecluding himself from all fociety. Thus determined, he folicited and obtained permission of the Mafter and Wardens of Dulwich College, (who are
lords of the manor and wafte) to dig a cave, and erect over
it a hut, on that part of the manor abutting in the rear on College Wood, and in front of Sydenham Common. This dwelling, which was the child of his own fancy, was far distant from any other, and which he made himself and covered with fern, underwood, furze, &e. the produce of the Common. In this Cave, or Hermitage, he lived about 23 years, his daily employment being to work in the gar dens of the gentry, as jobbing gardener, by whom, from his fimplicity of manners, he was much liked. He al ways returned to his cave to fleep, and on Sundays would entertain those numerous vifitors whom curiosity had led to fee him. During the fine weather in fummer time, many parties have been made to fee this Wild Man of the Wood, which was his familiar appellation: but so far from being wild, he always behaved with fo much gentlenefs and civility, as to excite their astonishment, always inviting his company to partake of his small beer and porter, which he always had ready in bottles; and those who choofed partook of meat, bread and cheefe, &c. for which he never made any regular charge, always leaving it to the generofity of his kind visitors; obferving, they must be very dry and hungry coming fo far to fee the Old Man, for which courtesy he was generally well rewarded. He was very often annoyed by mischievous fellows and boys, who would frequently take from him his provifions, &c. afterwards throw ftones at him, and delight in injuring his ha bitation; but this ill treatment did not cause him to aban don his favourite fpot. About five or fix years ago, having been at Dulwich, where he had changed half a guinea, he was followed to his cave by fome ruffian gypfies, who beat him fo feverely that they broke his arm, and leaving him for dead, took all the money he had about him, which was no more than 12s. It was doubtlefs fuppofed by this vaga
THE DULWICH HERMIT.
bondizing fet, that, from the prefents which he received from his vifitors, &c. he was very rich. While he was under cure, he became disgusted with his old habitation, which he deferted for about a year and a half, and went to his native place, in Wales, to his fon's house, where he remained until he was recovered, when he foon contrived to make his escape, unknown to his fon, who lived in repute there, and was drawn back again by fome ftrange impulfe to his former mode of life, at Dulwich: being foon weary of common and focial intercourfe, he again obtained permiffion to construct a new hut and cave, the former having been dilapidated by the gipfeys. At this period, however, these enemies to his peace were more difperfed, or, at least, the fear of punishment kept them more within the bounds of decorum. In rebuilding his cave, he made confiderable alterations; by digging it with a mouth resembling an oven, into which he had juft room to crawl; and when laid down, he contrived generally in bad weather to hang an old rug or blanket before the entrance which ferved for a door. Here, in this habit of life, he remained till the day of his death, except when he followed his avocations, or went into the villages adjacent for provifions. We cannot país unnoticed a circumstance much to the praise of Lord Thurlow, who, in a late severe froft, exprefsly fent a fervant to know the welfare of the old man, with orders, if he found him, to bring him home: he was found in a diftreffed fituation, and brought to his Lordship's house, and was hospitably treated, and permitted to stay as long as he pleafed; and, on his departure, was defired to call as often as he liked. He would occafionally go to a public-house, and take a pint of porter; but he never called for lefs, or drank more, at one time. Such was now his reclufe life, that he was univerfally stiled the Dulwich Hermit. But unfortunately for the poor old man, the belief that he was in poffeffion of money, still VOL. I. No. 8. 3 A prevailed,
prevailed, and on December 28, 1802, he was found murdered near his cave or hermitage. There were feveral contufions in his head, his jaw-bone was broken in two places, part of which had penetrated through the flesh of his cheek, and his head very much fwelled; but no other marks of violence appeared about his body. He was weltering in his blood, and bore every indication of having been robbed of the little he had, as well as murdered; no money or any thing of value being found upon his perfon. The body was found by fome boys who at Christmas-time had always made a practice of paying this old man a visit: it was covered with fern, &c. and under the arm was an oaken stick about fix or feven feet long, with which, it appeared, the horrid deed was perpetrated; this had been cut immediately in the neighbourhood, as the branches which had been cut off it, were found fcattered about the ground, and preserved to be shown to the Coroner's inqueft who fat upon the body at the French Horn, Dulwich; at which house the deceased had been on the preceding evening, and had as usual purchased a supply of food, and was known to have had feven or eight fhillings change when he had left Dulwich, none of which were to be found, his pockets having been turned out, as was a fecret pocket, which was only discovered after his death, and was not known to any of the perfons who had been acquainted with him; but which did not efcape the prying eyes of his robbers and murderers. This extraordinary man was near 70 years of age, and was not only vifited for his fimplicity, and admired for his civility; but respected for his punctuality in all his little dealings in the neighbouring villages.
On the morning of the 31, Charles Jemmet, Efq. coroner of the county of Surry held the inquifition.-Nathaniel Field, the firft witnefs, was one of the boys who had, on the above morning, gone, as was their cuftom, to visit the