'The Nonpareil' - Jack Randall

Jack Randall (1794-1828), by George Sharples.

Boxiana II (1818). Copyright British Library Board. All Rights Reserved, L64/2363.


A favourite of Egan’s, Randall was almost invariably referred to as ‘the Nonpareil’, but occasionally, because of his Irish parents, dubbed ‘The Prime Irish Lad’:

‘RANDALL was born […] in the neighbourhood of St. Giles’s, near the brewhouse; and among the “gay boys” of that lively part of the Metropolis, his skirmishes have been numerous indeed’ (Boxiana II).


Egan's high opinion of the man is endorsed when Randall fought Martin (September 1821):


Jon Bee’s account confirms the anticipation from an insider’s vantage point: ‘Long before day-light […] the roads leading into Sussex were covered […] so great was the interest excited throughout the sporting world to witness the Nonpareil once more display his superior stratagems’ (Boxiana IV).

Intriguingly, an ‘Amateur’ commentary is couched in a tone closely resembling the Boxiana-style:

'Martin’s nob was completely in a vice; and while in that hopeless condition Randall fibbed away […and] then with a violent swing, threw Martin to the ground, falling on him as he went with all his weight. The Ring resounded with applause, and Jack coolly took his seat on the knee of his second. All eyes were now turned to Martin, who being lifted on Spring’s knee, in a second discovered that he was done. His head fell back lifeless […] water was thrown on him in abundance, but without effect […] Poor Martin lay like a lump of unleavened dough'. (Real Life in London, 1821)


Bee devoted attention to the physical and mental state of the combatants:

'[Both] watching the minutest motion of each other’s iris – the eyes of Randall, which are uncommonly small, being almost ready to start from their sockets. Martin was mildly anxious […] and, at each new position, we thought he stepped less firm than usual [...The Nonpareil] planted a severe right-handed hit just above the mark, which made the Master of the rolls bite his lips. Another pause succeeded; but the attitudes of the men were uncommonly fine. The combatants closed on Randall’s decoying Martin to follow him to his favourite corner of the ring; and in this situation, often as the Nonpareil had astonished the amateurs with his forte for fibbing, he now put forth such a “bit of good truth” as positively to electrify the spectators with the terrible execution he was capable of administering'. (Boxiana IV)


Pierce Egan heaped further praise on ‘the Nonpareil’ in a more playful piece:

'In a twenty-four feet ring, a better GENERAL, or a more consummate tactician is not to be seen. Judgement and decision are to be witnessed in all his movements. His NOB is screwed on properly – his OGLES are like two experienced aides-de-camp ready to scour the enemy’s lines on the slightest hint from the commanding officer – his HEART is in the right place – his PINS are after the manner of a well-disciplined charger, cool and collected, to take advantage in the most prompt style of the disorder of the scene before him'. (Boxiana III)