Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

An illustrated appreciation, of the most interesting districts in Sussex.

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17o                                          PHEBE HESSEL                                      chap.
When Charles ye great was nothing but a breath This valiant soul stept betweene him and death ....
Which glorious act of his for church and state Eight princes in one day did gratulate.
The episode of the captain's cautious bargaining with the King, of which Colonel Gunter tells in the narrative from which I have quoted in an earlier chapter, is carefully suppressed on the memorial tablet.
Another famous Brighton character and friend of George IV. was Phebe Hessel, who died at the age of 106, and whose tombstone may be seen in the old churchyard. Phebe had a varied career, for having fallen in love when only fifteen with Samuel Golding, a private in Kirk's Lambs, she dressed herself as a man, enlisted in the 5th Regiment of Foot, and followed him to the West Indies. She served there for five years, and afterwards at Gibraltar, never disclosing her sex until her lover was wounded and sent to Plymouth, when she told the General's wife, and was allowed to follow and nurse him. On leaving hospital Golding married her, and they lived, I hope happily, together for twenty years. When Golding died Phebe married Hessel.
In her old age she became an important Brighton character, and attracting the notice of the Prince was provided by him with a pension of eighteen pounds a year, and the epithet "a jolly good fellow." It was also the Prince's money which paid the stone cutter. When visited by a curious student of human nature as she lay on her death-bed, Phebe talked much of the past, he records, and seemed proud of having kept her secret when in the army. " But I told it to the ground," she added; "I dug a hole that would hold a gallon and whispered it there." Phebe kept her faculties to the last, and to the last sold her apples to the Quality by the sea, returned repartees with extraordinary verve and con­tempt for false delicacy, and knew as much of the quality of Brighton liquor as if she were a soldier in earnest.
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