Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hudson, Jeffery

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HUDSON, JEFFERY (1619–1682), dwarf, was born at Oakham, Rutland, in 1619. His father was a butcher, who kept and baited bulls for George Villiers, first duke of Buckingham. Neither of his parents was undersized. When he was nine years old his father presented him at Burleigh-on-the-Hill to the Duchess of Buckingham, who took him into her service. At this time he was scarcely eighteen inches in height, and, according to Fuller, 'without any deformity, wholly proportionable.' Shortly afterwards Charles I and Henrietta Maria passed through Rutland, and at a dinner given by the Duke of Buckingham in their honour Hudson was brought on the table concealed in a pie, from which he was released in sight of the company. The queen was amused by his sprightly ways. He passed into her service, and became a court favourite. In 1630 he was sent into France to fetch a midwife for the queen's approaching confinement, but, as he was returning with the woman and the queen's dancing-master, their ship was captured by a Flemish pirate, and all were taken to Dunkirk. By this misfortune Hudson lost, it is said, 2,500l. Davenant wrote his 'Jeffreidos,' a comic poem printed in 1638 with 'Madagascar, to celebrate Hudson's misadventure.

In 1636 appeared a very small volume, written in honour of Hudson, called 'The Newe Year's Gift,' which had a euphuistic dedication to Hudson, and an engraved portrait of him by J. Droeshout; another edition appeared in 1638. When the Prince of Orange besieged Breda in 1637, Lithgow reports that the dwarf, 'Strenuous Jeffrey,' was in the prince's camp in company with the Earls of Warwick and Northampton, who were volunteers in the Dutch service. During the civil wars he is said to have been a captain of horse; it is certain that he followed the queen, as he was with her in the flight to Pendennis Castle in June 1644, and went with her to Paris. He was, says Fuller, 'though a dwarf, no dastard;' accordingly,when insulted by Crofts at Paris about 1649, he shot him dead with a pistol in a duel. Crofts had rashly armed himself with a squirt only. In consequence Hudson had to leave Paris, though Henrietta Maria seems to have saved him from the imprisonment which he is often stated to have undergone. But at sea he was captured by a Turkish rover, carried to Barbary, and sold as a slave. His miseries, according to his own account, made him grow taller. He managed to get back to England, probably before 1658, when Heath addressed some lines to him in his 'Clarastella.' After the Restoration Hudson lived quietly in the country for some years on a pension subscribed by the Duke of Buckingham and others; but coming up to London to push his fortunes at court he was, as a Roman catholic, suspected of complicity in the popish plot (1679), and confined in the Gatehouse at Westminster. He did not die here, as Scott and others state, but was released. In June 1680 and April 1681, 'Captain' Jeffery Hudson received respectively 50l. and 20l. from Charles II's secret service fund. He died in 1682.

The accounts of his height vary, but according to his own statement, as made to Wright, the historian of Rutland, after reaching the age of seven, when he was eighteen inches high, he did not grow at all until he was thirty, when he shot up to three feet six or nine. Portraits of Hudson and Evans, a tall servant of Charles I, were carved in relief in the wall over Bullhead Court, Newgate Street, London, the stone probably once forming the sign of a shop. In addition to the engraving in the 'Newe Year's Gift,' which has been reproduced in Caulfield's 'Memoirs of Remarkable Persons,' and in the 'Eccentric Magazine,' there is a painting of Hudson by Mytens at Hampton Court, a copy of which is at Holyrood. Another portrait by Mytens was in the possession of Sir Ralph Woodford; this was engraved by G. P. Harding for the 'Biographical Mirror.' He also appears in the portrait of Henrietta Maria by Vandyck at Petworth. Walpole mentions another portrait in his day, in possession of Lord Milton. Hudson's waistcoat, breeches, and stockings are in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

[Fuller's Worthies, ed. Nichols, ii. 245;Gent.Mag. 1732,p. 1120; Fairholt's Remarkable and Eccentric Characters,p. 63; Wright's Rutland, ed.1684, p. 105; The New Yeeres Gift; Lithgow's True … Discourse upon … this last siege of Breda, 1637, p. 45; Akerman's Moneys received and paid for secret services of Charles II and James II (Camd. Soc.). pp. 14, 28; Walpole's Anecd. of Painting, ed. Wornum, vol. ii.; Law's Cat. of Pictures at Hampton Court Palace, 263; Granger's Biogr. Hist.of England, ii. 404; Miss Strickland's Lives of the Queens of England,v. 313, 327; Sir Walter Scott's Peveril of the Peak; Bromley's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, p.160.]

W. A. J. A.