Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Marriott, John (d.1653)

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William Marriott in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

MARRIOTT, JOHN (d. 1653), 'the great eater,' familiarly known as Ben Marriott, is said to have been a respectable lawyer, who entered Gray's Inn during the reign of James I, and at the time of his death, in 1653, was the patriarch of the society. His burial is dated in Smith's 'Obituary,' (Camden Soc, p. 36), 25 Nov. 1653, but his name is not included in Mr. Foster's 'Register of Admissions to Gray's Inn.' He became notorious in the year previous to his death owing to the circulation of a malicious and licentious pasquinade, entitled 'The Great Eater of Graye's Inn, or the Life of Mr. Marriot, the Cormorant. Wherein is set forth all the exploits and actions by him performed, with many pleasant stories of his Traveils into Kent and other places. By G. F., gent., at the Unicorne in Paul's churchyard, 1652.' The pamphlet relates with much detail how Marriot voided a worm, how he ate an ordinary provided for twenty men, how his enemies served him bitches and monkeys baked in pies, how he stole gentlemen's dogs to eat, and in extremity of hunger devoured the most revolting kinds of offal. The volume concludes with a list of his recipes, particularly 'his pils to appease hunger,' The recipes alone were issued separately in the same year, with the title, 'The English Mountebank: or a Physical Dispensatory,' purporting to be by Marriot himself. An abridgment of the first work appeared in 1750, as a chapbook, with the title, 'The Gray's Inn Greedy Gut, or the Surprising Adventures of Mr. Marriott.' Some additional details are given in Sloane MS. 2425, where Marriot's infantine exploit of 'sucking his mother and ½ a dozen nurses dry' is circumstantially related. G. F.'s scurrilous production was replied to in 'A Letter to Mr. Marriot from a friend of his, wherein his name is redeemed from that Detraction G. F., gent., hath endeavoured to fasten upon him by a scandalous and defamatory libel. London, printed for the friends of Mr. Marriot, 1652,' 7 pp. 4to. The frontispiece represents Marriot and G. F., gent., in postures symbolical, respectively, of righteous indignation and degrading self-humiliation. Marriot's name was for a time proverbial for voracity, like that of Nicholas Wood of Harrisom, whose feats are described by Taylor the Water-poet (1630, p. 142), and that of Darteneuf [see Dartiquenave, Charles], commemorated by Pope (cf. Pepys, Diary, ed. Wheatley, i. 44). In Charles Cotton's 'Poems on Several Occasions' are two copies on Marriot, in one of which the 'cormorant's' appearance is described as spare and thin, 'approaching famine in his physnomy,' while as late as 1705 Dunton, 111 his 'Life and Errors' (p. 90), mentions how the sharp air of New England made him eat 'like a second Marriot.' The accounts of Marriot's exploits, which may have been attributable to disease, possibly had some substratum in fact, but the libellous ingenuity of 'G. F., gent.,' is doubtless responsible for much grotesque embellishment.

[Caulfield's Portraits of Remarkable Persons, iii. 225; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. ii. 6, 31, iii. 455; Evans's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, i. 223 (where his first name is given as Benjamin); Brit. Mus. Cat.]

T. S.