Mr. Pennecuik on the First Day of the New Year, Going to Pay a Visit to the Lady ---, His Aunt, She Made Him a Present of a Piece of Gold, Commonly Called a Jacobus, in Return of Which, Mr. Pennecuik Made the Following Poem. (1750)

Gold Jacobus

A gold Jacobus, struck between 1604 and 1619.

With permission from

Ex-Gemini III auction, January 2007.

   This is a poem (c. 1725) of the it-narrative genre, and seems to be inspired by what is now widely recognized as the foundational work of the eighteenth-century genre, Charles Gildon's novel The Golden Spy (1709). In The Golden Spy, a few well-travelled coins narrate their observations of moral and political corruption among their various owners. However, Jingyue Wu has contested the frequent claim that "The Golden Spy inaugurated a storytelling fad" (Flint 2010, 162). According to Wu, while The Golden Spy was widely read, it was primarily valued for its social commentary, rather than the innovative medium of delivery: the "specie narrative." When the it-narrative genre did take off in the 1750s, The Golden Spy was not acknowledged as an inspiration (Wu 2017, 237-38, 248). Pennecuik's poem, then, represents an early eighteenth-century it-narrative that almost undeniably owes its central conceit to The Golden Spy. It also carries the specie narrative from prose to verse. 

   The flickers of Jacobite loyalty in this poem carry Pennecuik's somewhat cynical, or at least ambivalent, stamp. As Jacobites were bid to do with images of the Stuarts (Monod 1989, 71), Pennecuik "look[s] . . . lov[es]" (6), and follows James VI and I in his travels, but in following finds the royal image tarnished. The coin passes through sordid scenes and from owner to owner with widely varying loyalties, and in the end is only a coin, fit to be spent on wine. This poem mixes Pennecuik's feelings towards Jacobitism with another of his favourite themes: his fraught relationships with money and alcohol.

   It is not yet possible to identify any aunt who may have given the Jacobus to Pennecuik.


Mr. Pennecuik on the first Day of the New Year, going to pay a Visit to the Lady ---, his Aunt, she made him a Present of a Piece of Gold, commonly called a Jacobus, in Return of which, Mr. Pennecuik made the following Poem.

My jolly aged Aunt, as frank as Old, 
Tipt me for New Year's Gift, a Piece of Gold, 
It was a Jacobus, I with Pleasure took it, 
A welcome Stranger to a Poet's Pockets, 
Printing a Kiss upon its Golden Cheek,                                                                      5
The more I look'd, I lov'd, and thus did speak, 
O Royal James, a Century and more, 
You've tane[1] your Tour, around the British Shore
Yet scarcely I e'r I [sic] saw your Face before. 
Misers and sordid Souls you often see,                                                                    10
But turn your Back on generous Men like me, 
My Heart's not glu'd unto your shining Brow, 
Yet have a vast sincere Respect for you. 

Strange Fancies rose, me Thought the Man of Gold, 
Open'd his Mouth and strange Adventures told;                                                       15
When minted unto, being I in Haste, 
The King upon my Back, his Arms on my Breast, 
Was from the Tower[2] to the Exchequer sent,
There with five hundred more to spend-thrift Courtier lent, 
Who had a Wife, but gave me to his Miss;                                                               20
So I was lumbar'd[3] for a stollen Kiss, 
With me she bought, finding her Flesh grow frail, 
Washes to mend her Face, and Pills to cure her Tail,[4]
The Surgeon Popish,[5] gave me to a Priest, 
For Liberty on Ember Weeks[6] to Feast,                                                                 25
Who hated this heroick Face of mine,
And chang'd me for good Christian Cath'lick Wine; 
One Night the Vintner's Daughter stole the Key, 
Which lock'd up fifty Jacobites like me.[7]
Dissenting Priests got five on Sermon Days,                                                            30
And all the rest did Purchase P---s and Plays.[8] 
Scots recruiting Officer got me, 
Who brought me down to Edinburgh by Sea. 
Mortally drunk dropt me beneath his Bed: 
There I the Space of twenty Years lay hid;                                                              35
At last was driven round the Room by Rats; 
Whilst all the House were hunting them like Cats, 
The Mistress gript me from my Vermine Foes, 
And thirteen Years lodg'd me in her Pose, 
Her Heir could not two Days, his Vices smother,                                                       40
But buried me a Night before his Mother; 
My Funeral Place was in Pandora's Box,[9]
Where Fools do purchase Pleasure with a Pox. 

Next I'm imploy'd to fight against the Crown, 
Pay'd round Heads[10] for to pull the Sovereign down,                                            45
Did covenanted[11] Hypocrites become, 
I bore the Monarch's Arms, yet beat the Rebels Drum; 
John Braidshaw[12] gave me to the Ruffian Rogue, 
Cut off the Royal Charles Head Incog.[13]

Thereafter I continued Rebel Coin,                                                                          50
Prest Soldiers 'gainst my Master at the Boyne:[14]
Twice given in Bribes for Parliamentary Votes, 
And twice as oft to circumveen the Scots
Since to a Midewife who her Trust betray'd, 
To pass a pregnant Woman for a Maid;                                                                   55
Jew who dealt in Fish got me for Ling, 
To mock the Christian Law he circumcis'd my ring,[15] 
Ten Times to Robin Forbes[16] the Kirk Tool, 
To save gross Sinners from repenting-Stool.[17]

A Lady dropt me once in Quakers Yards,[18]                                                           60
With some few Shillings and a pack of Cards, 
Will Millar[19] finding me, said with sour Looks, 
Friend, James, you ly beside ungracious Books; 
The Spirit bids me own thee for a Brother, 
But the prophane and Satan takes the other,                                                           65
A Poet had me for a Bridal Song, 
But drunk so fast, he did not keep me long, 
He left me with Ale-drapper[20] in few Days; 
And then he liv'd on Ryme and Roundelays.[21]
The frugal Woman gave me to your Aunt,                                                               70
To clear the remnant of a half Years Rent; 
You have got me with her Blessing this new Year; 
But will not keep me to it's [sic] last I fear, 
I need not ask, when that you part with me, 
To write, for you will weep my Elegie.                                                                     75

You Rogue, quoth I, shall be no longer mine, 
I'll melt your Golden Cheeks in purple Wine; 
Yet when you're gone, what will become of me; 
For wicked, as thou art, all Men are fond of thee. 


1 Scots and archaic English: taken.
2 The Tower of London housed the Royal Mint. 
3 Scots: traded. Not normally used as a verb, but as a noun for a trader or financier - from the region in Italy. 
4 The mistress is suffering from veneral disease.  
5 Catholic.
6 Four annual groups of three days of prayer and fasting (Cross and Livingston 1974, 455).
7 Possibly an allusion to famous Jacobite escapes facilitated by women - especially Lady Nithsdale and her husband in 1716. In the case of Thomas Forster, rescued from Newgate by his sister in 1716, a stolen key was used (Gooch 1995, 94). 
8 Possibly poems. It is not clear to me why a vintner's daughter should be associated with Dissenting habits, but the rest of her money she spends on frivolities.
9 The box, from Greek mythology, containing all of the world's evil - here, it seems to denote a prostitute's store of money.
10 The English Parliamentarian forces of the War of the Three Kingdoms. 
11 Describing those who had signed the National Covenant of 1638, rejecting the religious impositions of Charles I, or the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, which sought to secure Scottish Presbyterianism in exchange for the support of English Parliamentarians. 
12 John Bradshaw (c. 1602-1659), one of the judges who sentenced Charles I to death (Kelsey 2004).
13 The disguised executioner of Charles I, whose identity was rumoured but unknown - the likeliest candidate is thought to be the common hangman, Richard Brandon (Morgan 2004).
14 The battle of 1690 in Ireland - a resounding victory for William II and III against James VII and II. 
15 Unclear what action is implied here, but some kind of modification of the coin. 
16 Robert Forbes (d. 1724), a Kirk treasurer upon whose death Pennecuik wrote a satirical elegy (1787, 42-46). 
17 A stool reserved for the public shaming of sinners.
18 Not identified. 
19 William Miller of Craigentinny (1653-1743) - gardener at Holyroodhouse, known as "the Patriarch" of Edinburgh Quakers (Burnet 2007, 137).
20 Publican.
21 Songs.



Burnet, George B. 2007. The Story of Quakerism in Scotland: 1650-1950. Cambridge: Lutterworth Press.

Dictionary of the Scottish Language. Accessed April 6, 2018.

Cross, F. L., and E. A. Livingston, eds. 1974. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press.

Flint, Christopher. 2010. "Speaking Objects: The Circulation of Stories in Eighteenth-Century Prose Fiction. The Secret Life of Things: Animals, Objects, and It-Narratives in Eighteenth-Century England. Edited by Mark Blackwell, 162-186. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.

Gooch, Leo. The Desperate Faction? The Jacobites of North-East England. Hull: University of Hull Press, 1995. 

Monod, Paul Kléber. 1989. Jacobitism and the English People: 1688-1788. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Morgan, Basil. 2004. "Richard Brandon." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Oxford English Dictionary. Accessed April 10, 2018.

Pennecuik, Alexander. 1750. "Mr. Pennecuik on the First Day of the New Year, Going to Pay a Visit to the Lady ---, His Aunt, She Made Him a Present of a Piece of Gold, Commonly Called a Jacobus, in Return of which, Mr. Pennecuik made the following Poem." A Compleat Collection Of All The Poems Wrote by That Famous and Learned Poet Alexander Pennecuik. To Which is Annexed Some Curious Poems by Other Worthy Hands. 56-59. English Poetry, Second Edition.

---. 1787. A Collection of Scots Poems on Several Occasions, by the Late Alexander Pennecuik, Gent. and Others. Glasgow: Alexander Buchanan. Eighteenth Century Collections Online.

Wu, Jingyue. 2017. "'Nobilitas sola est atq; unica Virtus': Spying and the Politics of Virtue in The Golden Spy; or, a Political Journal of the British Nights Entertainments (1709). Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 40, no. 2: 237-53.

A Piece of Gold