Jackson, John (1769-1845) (DNB00)

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JACKSON, JOHN (1769–1845), pugilist, known as Gentleman Jackson, was the son of a London builder. He was born in London on 28 Sept. 1769, and appeared only three times in the prize-ring. His first public fight took place on 9 June 1788 at Smitham Bottom, near Croydon, when he defeated Fewterel of Birmingham in a contest lasting one hour and seven minutes, in the presence of the Prince of Wales. He was defeated by George (Ingleston) the Brewer at Ingatestone, Essex, on 12 March 1789, owing to a heavy fall on the stage, which dislocated his ankle and broke the small bone of his leg. He offered to finish the battle tied to a chair, but this his opponent declined. His third and last fight was with Mendoza, whom he beat at Hornchurch, Essex, on 15 April 1795, in ten minutes and a half. Jackson was champion of England from 1795 to 1803, when he retired and was succeeded by Jem Belcher. After leaving the prize-ring, Jackson established a school at No. 13 Bond Street, where he gave instructions in the art of self-defence, and was largely patronised by the nobility of the day. At the coronation of George IV Jackson was employed, with eighteen other prizefighters dressed as pages, to guard the entrance to Westminster Abbey and Hall. He seems, according to the inscription on a mezzotint engraving by C. Turner, to have subsequently been landlord of the Sun and Punchbowl, Holborn, and of the Cock at Sutton. He died on 7 Oct. 1845 at No. 4 Lower Grosvenor Street West, London, in his seventy-seventh year, and was buried in Brompton cemetery, where a colossal monument was erected by subscription to his memory.

Jackson was a magnificently proportioned man. His height was 5 feet 11 inches and his weight 14 stone. He was also a fine short-distance runner and jumper, and is said to have lifted, in the presence of Harvey Combe, 101/4 cwt., and with an 84 lb. weight on his little finger to have written his own name (Gent. Mag. 1845, new ser. xxiv. 649). Jackson was said to make ‘more than a thousand a year by teaching sparring’ (Moore, Memoirs, ii. 230). Byron, who was one of his pupils, had a great regard for him, and often walked and drove with him in public. It is related that while Byron was at Cambridge his tutor remonstrated with him on being seen in company so much beneath his rank, and that he replied that Jackson's manners were ‘infinitely superior to those of the fellows of the college whom I meet at the high table’ (J. W. Clark, Cambridge, 1890, p. 140). Byron twice alludes to his ‘old friend and corporeal pastor and master’ in his notes to his poems (Byron, Poetical Works, 1885–6, ii. 144, vi. 427), as well as in his ‘Hints from Horace’ (ib. i. 503):

And men unpractised in exchanging knocks
Must go to Jackson ere they dare to box.

Moore, who accompanied Jackson to a prize-fight in December 1818, notes in his diary that Jackson's house was ‘a very neat establishment for a boxer,’ and that the respect paid to him everywhere was ‘highly comical’ (Memoirs, ii. 233). A portrait of Jackson, from an original painting then in the possession of Sir Henry Smythe, bart., will be found in the first volume of Miles's ‘Pugilistica’ (opp. p. 89). There are two mezzotint engravings by C. Turner.

[Miles's Pugilistica, 1880, i. 89–102; Fights for the Championship, by the Editor of Bell's Life, 1855, pp. 15–17; Fistiana, 1868, pp. 40, 46, 64–5, 82, 134; Bell's Life in London, 12 Oct. 1845; Moore's Life of Byron, 1847, pp. 70, 71, 206, 271, 342; Lord John Russell's Memoirs of Moore, 1853, ii. 229, 230, 233, iv. 53, 58, v. 269, vi. 72; Annual Register, 1845, App. to Chron. p. 300; Gent. Mag. 1845, new ser. xxiv. 649.]

G. F. R. B.