Capper, Joseph (DNB00)

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CAPPER, JOSEPH (1727–1804), an eccentric character, was born in 1727 in Cheshire of parents in humble circumstances. At an early age he came up to London, and, after serving his apprenticeship to a grocer, set up a shop on his own account in the neighbourhood of Whitechapel. Owing to the recommendations of his old master, Capper soon prospered in his trade, and, having been fortunate in various speculations, eventually retired from business. Having given up work, he spent several days in walking about the vicinity of London, searching for lodgings. Stopping at the Horns, Kennington, one day, he asked for a bed, and, being curtly refused, determined to stop in order to plague the landlord. Though for many years he talked about quitting the place the next day, he lived there until the day of his death, a period of twenty-five years. So methodical were his habits, that he would not drink his tea out of any other than his favourite cup. In the parlour of the Horns he had his favourite chair. He would not suffer any one to poke the fire without his permission. He called himself the champion of government, and nothing angered him more than to hear any one declaiming against the British constitution. His favourite amusement was killing flies with his cane, before doing which he generally told a story about the rascality of all Frenchmen, ‘whom,’ he said, ‘I hate and detest, and would knock down just the same as these flies.’ Capper died at the Horns on 6 Sept. 1804, at the age of seventy-seven, and was buried in the church of St. Botolph, Aldgate. In his will, which was made on the back of a sheet of banker's cheques, and dated five years before his death, he left the bulk of his property, then upwards of 30,000l., among his poor relations, whom he always had refused to see in his lifetime. To his nephews, whom he appointed his executors, he bequeathed 8,000l. three per cents. between them. There appears, however, to have been considerable doubt whether this will had been properly witnessed or not. A curious portrait of Capper will be found in the third volume of Granger.

[St. James's Chronicle, 13 Sept. 1804; Granger's New, Original, and Complete Wonderful Museum and Magazine Extraordinary (1805), iii. 1692–6.]

G. F. R. B.