Hall, Jacob (DNB00)

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HALL, JACOB (fl. 1668), rope-dancer, distinguished himself as a performer on the tight-rope. In 1668 he attained his greatest popularity. The court encouraged him, and he described himself as 'sworn servant to his Majestie.' Lady Castlemain, afterwards Duchess of Cleveland, to avenge herself on Charles for neglecting her, fell, according to Pepys and Grammont, 'mightily in love' with him. In April 1668 he was a regular visitor at her house, and received a salary from her. He appears to have given his earliest entertainment in a booth at Smithfield, in connection with Bartholomew Fair. Pepys witnessed his performance there on 28 Aug. 1668, and described his 'dancing of the ropes' as 'a thing worth seeing, and mightily followed.' On 21 Sept. 1668 Pepys attended again, and afterwards met Hall at a tavern. Hall told Pepys that he had often fallen, but had never broken a limb. 'He seems,' Pepys adds, 'a mighty strong man.' A placard was issued describing the performances of 'himself and those of Mr. Richard Lancashire, with several others of their companies.' Hall and his friends promised' excellent dancing and vaulting on the ropes, with variety of rare feats of activity and agility of body upon the stage, as doing of somersets and flipflaps, flying over thirty rapiers, and over several men's heads, and also flying through several hoops.' Hall finally challenged 'all others whatsoever, whether Englishmen or strangers, to do the like with them for twenty pounds, or what more they please' (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vii. 62). Subsequently Hall began to build a booth in Charing Cross, and was committed to prison for continuing its erection after the local authorities had ordered its demolition. But his influence with the king's mistress enabled him to complete the booth. He also erected a stage in Lincoln's Inn Fields, but the inhabitants intervened again, with the result that his performances there were inhibited. On 4 Sept. 1679 William Blaythwaite, in a letter to Sir Robert Southwell, mentioned that he had just witnessed Hall's exhibitions of agility. Robert Wild, in his 'Rome Rhymed to Death,' 1683; Dryden, in his epilogue to Nat. Lee's 'Mithridates;' Dr. John King, in his 'Collection of Riddles,' refer to his skill, and in the second edition of the collection entitled 'Wit and Drollery' (1682) he is described as still delighting London with his jumping.

A picture of Hall, heavily dressed on a tight-rope, with a balancing rod in his hands, forms the frontispiece to 'News from Bartholomew Fair, or the World's Mad.' A fine portrait by Van Oost of a man richly dressed was adopted, without much authority, as a representation of Hall in early editions of Hamilton's 'Memoirs of Grammont.'

[Jesse's Court under the Stuarts, iii. 190, 193; Henry Morley's Memoirs of Bartholomew Fair, 1859, pp. 238-9, 245-8, 288; Hamilton's Memoirs of Grammont (Bohn's extra ser.), pp. 118-19; Pepys's Diary, ed. Lord Braybrooke, iii. 420, iv. 13, 25.]

S. L. L.