Heidegger, John James

, a very singular adventurer, was the son of a clergyman, and a native of Zurich, in Switzerland, where he married, but left his country in consequence of an intrigue. Having had an opportunity of visiting the principal cities of Europe, he acquired a taste for elegant and refined pleasures, which by degrees qualified him for the management of public amusements. In 1708, when he was near fifty years old, he came to England on a negotiation from the Swiss at Zurich; but failing in his embassy, he entered as a private soldier in the guards for protection. By his sprightly engaging conversation, and insinuating address, he soon became a favourite with our young people of fashion, from whom he obtained the appellation of “the Swiss count,” by which name he is noticed in the “Tatler.” He had the address to procure a subscription, with which in 1709 he was enabled to furnish out the opera of “Thomyris,” which was | written in English, and performed at the queen’s theatre in the Haymarket, with such success, that he g ined by this performance alone 500 guineas. The judicious remarks he made on several detects in the conduct of our operas in general, and the hints he threw out for improving those entertainments, soon established his character as a theatrical critic. Appeals were made to his judgment; and some very magnificent and elegant decorations, introduced upon the stage in consequence of his advice, gave such satisfaction to George II. who was fond of operas, that his majesty was pleased from that time to countenance him, and he soon obtained the chief management of the opera-house in the Haymarket. He then undertook to improve another species’of diversion, not less agreeable to the king, the masquerades, and over these he always presided at the king’s theatre. He was likewise appointed master of the revels. The nobility now caressed htm so much, and had such an opinion of his taste, that all splendid and elegant entertainments given by them upon particular occasions, and all private assemblies by subscription, were submitted to his direction, for which he was liberally rewarded.

From the emoluments of these several employments, he gained a regular and considerable income; amounting, it is said, in some years to 5000l. which he spent with much liberality, particularly in the maintenance of perhaps somewhat too luxurious a table; so that it may be said he raised an income, but never a fortune. His charity was so great, that after a successful masquerade he has been known to give away several hundred pounds at a time. u You know poor objects of distress better than I do,“he would frequently say to the father of the gentleman who furnished this anecdote,” Be so kind as to give away this money for me." This well-known liberality, perhaps, contributed much to his carrying on that diversion with so little opposition as he met with.

That he was a good judge of music, appears from his opera; but this is all that is known pf his mental abilities*;

* Pope (Dunciad, I. 289), calls the strange bird from Switzerland, and not

bird which attended on the goddess, (as some have supposed) the nme of

"a monster of a fowl, an eminent person, who wss a man of

Something betwixt a Heidegger and parts, and, as was said of Petrouiu*,

owl.“Arbiter Elegaotiarum.” And explains Heidegger to mean " a | unless it may be added in honour to his memory, that hfc walked from Charirrg-cross to Temple-bar and back again, and, when he Came home, wrote down every sign on each side the Strand.

As to his person, though he was tall and well-made, it was not very pleasing, from an unusual hardness of features*. But he was the first to joke upon his own ugliness and he once laid a. wager with the earl of Chesterfield,that within a certain given time his lordship woukl not be able to produce so hideous a face in all Londort. After strict search, a woman was found, whose features were at first sight thought stronger than Heidegger’s; but, upon clapping her head-dress upon himself, he was universally allowed to have won the wager. Jolly, a well-known taylor, carrying his bill to a noble duke; his grace, for evasion, said, “1 never will pay you till you bring me an uglier fellow than yourself!” Jolly bowed and retired, wrote a letter, and sent it by a servant to Heidegger, saying, “his grace wished to see him the next morning on particular business.” Heidegger attended, and Jolly was tjiere to meet him; and in consequence, as soon as Heidegger’s visit was over, Jolly received the cash.

The late facetious duke of Montagu (the memorable contriver of the bottle-conjuror at the theatre in the Haymarket) gave an entertainment at the Devfl tavern, Templebar, to several of the nobility and gentry, to whom he imparted his plot. Heidegger was invited, and a few hours after dinner was made drunk, and laid insensible upon a bed. A profound sleep ensued; when the late Mrs. Salmon’s daughter was introduced, who took a mould from his face in plaster of Paris. From this a. mask was made, and a few days before the next masquerade (at which the king promised to be present, with the countess of Yarmouth) the duke made application to Heidegger’s valet de chambre, to know what suit of clothes he was likely to wear; and then procuring a similar dress, and a person of the same staturehe gave him his instructions. On the evening of the masquerade, as soon as his majesty was seated (who was always known by the conductor of the entertainment and the officers of the court, though concealed by his dress from the company), Heidegger, as usual, ordered the music to play

*

There is a metzotinto of Heideg-loo, a striking likeness. His face is nr by J. Fabcr, 1742, (other copies also introduced in more than one of ?? 1749) from a painting by Van-Hogarth’s prints.

| God save the King;” but his back was no sooner turned, than the false Heidegger ordered them to strike up “Charly over the Water.” The whole company were instantly thunderstruck, and all the courtiers not in the plot were thrown into a stupid consternation. Heidegger flew to the music-gallery, stamped and raved, and accused the mumusicians of drunkenness, or of being set on by some secret enemy to ruin him. The king and the countess laughed so immoderately, that they hazarded a discovery. While Heidegger stayed in the gallery, “God save the King” was the tune; but when, after setting matters to rights, he retired to one of the dancing-rooms, to observe if decorum was kept by the company, the counterfeit stepping forward, and placing himself upon the floor of the theatre, just in front of the music gallery, called out in a most audible voice, imitating Heidegger, and asked them if he had not just told them to play “Charly over the Water?” A pause ensued; the musicians, who knew his character, in their turn thought him either drunk or mad; but, as he continued his vociferation, “Charly” was played again. At this repetition of the supposed affront, some of the officers of the guards, who always attended upon these occasions, were for ascending the gallery, and kicking the musicians out; but the late duke of Cumberland, who could hardly contain himself, interposed. The company were thrown into great confusion. “Shame! Shame!” resounded from all parts, and Heidegger once more flew in a violent rage to that part of the theatre facing the gallery. Here the duke of Montagu, artfully addressing himself to him, told him “the king was in a violent passion; that his best way was to go instantly and make an apology, for certainly the musicians were mad, and afterwards to discharge them.” Almost at the same instant hq ordered the false Heidegger to do the same. The scene now became truly comic in the circle before the king. Heidegger had no sooner made a genteel apology for the insolence of his musicians, but the false Heidegger advanced, and in a plaintive tone cried out, “Indeed, Sire, it was not my fault, but that devil’s in my likeness.” Poor Heidegger turned round, stared, staggered, grew pale, and could not utter a word. The duke then humanely whispered in his ear the sum of his plot, and the counterfeit was ordered to take off his mask. Here ended the frolic; but Heidegger swore he would never attend any public amusement, if | that witch the wax-work woman did not break the mould, and melt down the mask before his face.

Being once at supper with a large company, when a question was debated, which nation of Europe had the greatest ingenuity; to the surprise of all present, he claimed that character for the Swiss, and appealed to himself for the truth of it. “I was born a Swiss,” said he, “and came to England without a farthing, where I have found means to gain 5000l. a year, and to spend it. Now I defy the most able Englishman to go to Switzerland, and, either to gain that income, or to spend it there.” He died Sept. 4, 1749, at the advanced age of ninety years, at his house a: Richmond, in Surrey, where he was buried. He left behind him one natural daughter, miss Pappet, who was married Sept. 2, 1750, to captain (afterwards admiral sir Peter) Denis. Part of this lady’s fortune was a house at the north-west corner of Queen -square, Ormond -street, which sir Peter afterwards sold to the late Dr. Campbell, and purchased a seat in Kent, pleasantly situated near Westram, then called Valence, but now (by its present proprietor, the earl of Hillsborough) Hill Park. 1

1

Nichols’s anecdotes of Hogarth. Hawkins’s Hist, of Music.