A Most Infamous Seducer of Women

The following seems to turn national stereotypes on their heads, with an Englishman dying in France after an incredible life of ruining the lives of thousands of young women. This was reported in Dublin’s Saunders’s Newsletter in 1781.:

An account of John Phillipson, Esq; who lately died in the Bastille. [Taken from Adams’s Weekly Courant, printed at Chester.]

“About 40 years ago he inherited an estate of near £3,000 in Norfolk and part in other counties.He was endowed by nature with perhaps the greatest talents of any man of his age; his wit was unbounded, and his memory so retentive, that in the course of a long life he never read the same book twice, yet never forgot any thing; and from once reading a poem of a thousand lines, would, 3 moths afterwards, repeat it without an error. He was so familiar with the dead languages, that he wrote them off hand with great elegance. He spoke all the modern ones with the same fluency as his native tongue. He had a very elegant taste for poetry; and every acquired accomplishment served to set off one of the happiest persons that has been seen. All these advantages of nature and fortune he applied with the most unremitted diligence to the ruin of the female sex. With them he struck at nothing to effect his ends; he would never marry, but ruined more young women of family and fortune than any other man that ever existed; the writer of this account has heard of more than twenty, on good authority. In these pursuits he spent about £20,000, fought 11 duels, and travelled, merely for such purposes, more than thrice the circumference of the globe. In this aim he was so indefatigable, that, to attain his end, he would undergo fatigue, hunger, thirst, and the loss of property, health and fame. At the age of 47 he was not worth a shilling; but in order to still carry on his attack on virtuous women (for he never would have commerce with any other) he put in practice a series of contrivances, tricks, plans, schemes and counterfeits that brought in in, during 7 or 8 years, an income almost as ample as that he had lost; but being at length forced to leave London, he went to Paris, and for a few years succeeded as  well there, till at last aspiring at game too high for his reach, he was apprehended under pretence of crimes against the state, and thrown into the Bastille: He there debauched a virtuous girl, his keeper’s daughter, and as if his death was designed to take a tincture from his life, actually died in her arms.

This is an incredible account and shows what men of wealth could get away with. It also shows the desperation of women to find a suitable match, and how much they took on trust in an age before mass media and the modern mass shaming of such appalling behaviour. It is also a story of a tragically wasted life. He was clearly a talented man. How much good could he have done?

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