This entertaining story begins: 'An account of Joseph Macwilliam the Miser, who was burnt to death on the 13th June 1826, by accident, in Rose Street'. The woodcut at the top of the sheet, shows a well-fed and well-groomed gentleman to reinforce the story's theme.
Joseph MacWilliam was a gentleman's servant who rented a cellar in Rose Street, Edinburgh to live in. He was regularly the butt of his colleagues' and neighbours' jokes. They claimed to have seen him in the same threadbare clothes for 15 years and that he lived in damp and Spartan conditions. Upon searching his property after the accident over £8,000 was found. Some of this was in the form of property deeds, while more of it was in bank receipts. There was, however, very little else in the room itself. It would be curious to know then how he burnt to death!
Broadsides, cheap and accessible, were often used as moral forums with 'lessons of life' included in the narrative. Broadside authors tended to see themselves as moral guardians and teachers in society. As such, publishers often disseminated 'educational' texts outlining the social and personal consequences of undisciplined or immoral behaviour.
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