Painted Babies

punchPick of Punch 10. This area of the blog offers a selection of entertaining quotes from Punch magazine. The following is from 3rd March 1866.

In Paris the fine ladies not merely smear themselves with rouge, but make their babies even wear it! And the law provides no punishment for such disgusting outrages. Will this French fashion, we wonder, become popular in England? Girls with pimply faces and bad complexions wear rouge and pearl-powder unblushingly enough — at least nobody can see their blushes, if they have any. Will such artists, when they marry, take to colouring their children? Painting on velvet is a very pretty art; but to paint upon the velvet of a baby’s dimpled cheek is a worse outrage upon nature than painting on a lily. English ladies mostly take their fashions from the French, but we hope they will not introduce this infant school of painting. If Mr. Kingsley’s Water Babies be translated into French, perhaps, to make them popular, the babies will be painted, and put forward with the title of the Water-colour Babies.

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20,000 Sheep

"Shepherdess Tending Sheep" by Winslow Homer.

“Shepherdess Tending Sheep” by Winslow Homer.

Snippets 112. During the 19th and early 20th Centuries a sheep fair was held annually at Westbury, near Salisbury. At the tail end of the 19th Century it had become a huge affair, with nearly 100,000 sheep. In fact it resulted in some cause for concern when school attendance suffered greatly, with all the children wanting to be off school seeing the sheep! By the time Richard Le Gallienne visited Salisbury and wrote his travel journal (Travels in England), in 1900, the fair was starting to decline, but was still quite an impressive sight.

On the morning I was to leave Salisbury, I was awakened by a running murmur of plaintive sound. The street was sad with the cry of driven sheep. The downs were thus rolling by every avenue into the city, and twenty thousand sheep were to fill the market place that day. I learnt the number from a serious-browed, broad-clothed farmer at breakfast. He was sternly full of the occasion.

“It’s a great day in Salisbury today,” he said, as soon as I sat down, evidently longing, like every other human being, to share the ruling passion with another.

I guessed that he referred to the sheep, so I did my best to be sympathetic, though sheep — out of Theocritus or Spenser — is not a subject on which I talk easily. However, I succeeded better than I expected, by a simple plan which I have often found useful: that of asking those rudimentary questions, which, though they betray an entire ignorance of the cherished subject, seem no less acceptable to the enthusiast than the exchange of valuable experience. I didn’t quite begin by asking: “What is a sheep?” But whatever the next simplest question may be, I certainly asked it. Had you met me half an hour afterwards you would have found me a surprising authority on sheep-farming, though at the time of writing my mind has resumed its pristine disinterestedness on the subject.

Remembering Cobbett, I asked the current price of South Down ewes, and, if I remember aright, it was about forty-two shillings; but before acting on the information, the reader would do well to verify it. I looked in at the market place to see if the sheep had been allowed to bring their starlings with them, but found that they had not. What a noisy ocean! Twenty thousand woolly waves all baa-baaing together. And, I suppose, not a thought in one single farmer’s head that a sheep may possibly have its own business in the universe quite apart from the feeding of man — though as you look a sheep in the face, it is difficult to imagine what that business may be. Perhaps, indeed, its one aim in life is to grow up good mutton, and its highest ambition a handsome funeral in the form of caper sauce. If so, it is wiser than it looks — for who can doubt that the farmers are right and that sheep were made to be fleeced and eaten, and for no other more transcendental purpose at all? As a topic of conversation I found them as monotonous as mutton, and, as the reader may by this time be too ready to agree with me, I will here say no more on the subject of sheep.

By 1940 the fair had declined to less than 10,000 sheep, and by the end of the war it was no longer in existence.


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Rat Attack!

punchPick of Punch 9.  This area of the blog offers a selection of entertaining quotes from Punch magazine.  The following quote is from 24th Februay 1866.

We find this in the Salisbury Journal —

“Early on Monday morning a young man named Charles Dyer, who was lodging at the New Inn, Stapleford, was attacked by a rat, which caught him by the right nostril, and held him most tenaciously. It was not until the landlord had been called and entered the room with a light, that the animal could be driven away, and even then the sufferer had to drive it away himself. The landlord burst into such a fit of immoderate laughter as to be unable to render any assistance.”

The ability to be easily amused is a delightful one. We see it rather largely developed in the audiences who listen to certain performances, and to “comic” songs. But the landlord of the New Inn at Stapleford, must be the very jolliest fellow in the world. Perhaps he is Mark Tapley, removed from a certain well-beloved Dragon. Immoderate laughter because a rat has hold of one’s guest’s nose is a feat worthy of commemoration. Let us hope that so pleasing a talent may have scope for development, and that the next rat may lay hold of mine host’s own nose. If he laughs then, the respected landlord must certainly change his name to Democritus Bung.

Mark Tapley is a character from Martin Chuzzlewit, by Charles Dickens. He works at the Blue Dragon Inn, and is always cheerful. Democritus was a Greek philosopher, sometimes known as the “laughing philosopher”, for his mockery of human failings.

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The Swallow Mystery

An illustration of a swallow from "Nederlandsche Vogelen", 1770.

An illustration of a swallow from “Nederlandsche Vogelen”, 1770.

Snippets 111. William Hone is a name that should be remembered, and part of my remit for this blog is to bring the works of writers such as Hone to a wider audience by selecting some interesting quotes from their work. But the reason I think Hone should be remembered is that he achieved something in 1817 that affects our lives today: he helped to establish the freedom of the press. His writing had attacked the political classes and highlighted corruption, which resulted in a prosecution against him. Despite facing an uphill battle with judges who were biased against him, he battled through illness to speak for hours in front of them and was so persuasive that the charges against him were dropped. He had set an important precedent, that the press had a right to challenge the elite. The quote I have selected is of a much lighter nature, and is from his Year Book of Daily Recreation and Information, published in 1832. It is an extract of a letter written to Hone by the magnficently named Norrisson Scatcherd, entered into this fascinating almanac under the date of 3rd April, exactly 185 years to the day before this blog post.

The time is nearly come when we may expect a visit from that most wonderful bird, the swallow. His advent in Yorkshire, as I have noticed for many years, is between the 16th and 25th of April; but, with you, in the south, it will be sooner. After perusing, for many years, with much interest, all the accounts and controversies which have been printed respecting this interesting traveller, I must say there is one thing with which I have been exceedingly dissatisfied. Not one person, that I know of, has ever accounted satisfactorily for these birds being invisible in their migrations to Europe or Africa. We hear or see a few solitary accounts, such as those of Adamson and sir Charles Wager, about their settling on the masts of ships; but these prove little, and, by their infrequency, are rather calculated to excite suspicion; and have, certainly, produced little conviction upon those who contend that some species (at least) of swallows abide in England all the year. The objection, you see, which perpetually recurs, is this, – “If these birds do really leave us, how comes it that their transits should not have been clearly ascertained by the ocular testimony of observant and distinguished men, ages ago? How happens it that we should only have the fortuitous accounts of obscure and common individuals?”

There are other exceptions to migration, taken by the objectors to whom I allude, such as the testimony of people who assert that swallows have been fished up out of water, or found in caves, hollow trees, etc, and restored, by warmth, to animation: but, really, Mr. Editor, it appears to me that all this nonsense may be ended at a single blow, by reference to the works of Pennant, and the writings of those eminent anatomists, Messrs. John Hunter and Bell.

This confusion over the migration of swallows hails from a time when much of the continent of Africa was yet to be explored, Africa being of course the actual destination for our swallows in winter.


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The Lazy Cow-Milking Gardener

Ppunchick of Punch 8. This area of the blog offers a selection of entertaining quotes from Punch magazine. The following is from 17th February 1866. The writer is poking fun at some advertisements for servants:

What are the requirements that generate advertisements? Manifestly, the contrary of the thing required. I haven’t a servant: I advertise for one. My butler is fat: I advertise for a lean one. My housemaid is careless: I advertise for one who is careful. What sad domestic pictures arise out of this consideration! Thus:

SEVERAL SERVANTS WANTED
First, a thorough In-door Servant:

Let us pause for a minute. The advertiser wants several servants. Evidently, there has been a regular turn-out of the entire establishment: the domestics have all been turned out of doors; hence the want of a thorough in-door servant. No gad-about, no desire to walk out and get half a yard of ribbon in the evening, or a pining for a Sunday out, as the other servant, who has left, was accustomed to do. Let us continue:

Wife as Professed Cook: no assistance given, as there are but two in family;

One of the two in family was obliged to assist in the kitchen occasionally in former times, “But,” says he to himself, or she to herself, “I don’t do that again,” and hence the terms of the advertisement.

Secondly, a thoroughly good active Gardener, he must milk one cow well, he must be married, with no encumbrance.

What a state of things must have existed before! Let us suppose what the former gardener was like; of course the opposite of the above description. He must have been “a thoroughly bad slothful gardener, he milked two cows badly, and one not at all; he wasn’t married, but he had seven children.” I pity the master, and am not surprised at the advertisement.

Here’s another that makes one grieve for the suffering family:

FOOTMAN WANTED, not under 20, in a small quiet family, to wear livery, and make himself useful. He must be Church of England, have a year’s character, and not smoke.

Their last footman was, you may gather from this, nineteen years of age, was dirty and slovenly in his dress, and regarded himself as simply ornamental. He was of no fixed principles, inclining secretly to Mormonism, had a vague six months’ character, and appreciated his master’s cigars and tobacco to a pretty considerable extent.

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The Mischievous Girl

The River Avon at Salisbury, as painted by John Constable.

The River Avon at Salisbury, as painted by John Constable.

Snippets 110. Today’s snippet is another quote from Richard Le Gallienne’s Travels in England, from 1900, an interesting travel book that we have looked at in a couple of previous snippets. Some travel journals can fall into the trap of being dull descriptions of landmarks, but I try to find ones where the writer’s voice comes through clearly, creating a work with character. These kinds of journals offer us some social history and a window into a different life. That life is often more innocent and simple, as illustrated by the following quotation, where the writer sees some children playing in the River Avon at Salisbury:

Boys bathing, with, I hesitate to add, two or three sprightly little girls to guard, and, presently it transpires, devilishly to steal, their clothes. Indeed, as I come upon them, a quaint little drama begins. One of the lads, just as he was born — only rather bigger — is pursuing a wicked little girl who has stolen his shirt. She has evidently been wading too, for her petticoats are tucked up, and her legs are bare. Her hair streams behind her, and her petticoats escape from their tucking, and flow about her as she runs. The boy is rapidly gaining, breathing slaughter, and there are wild screams of excitement. In a moment, however, she has placed a broad ditch between them, which, for some reason I cannot make out, the boy is unable to cross. He runs along his side of it, evidently seeking a crossing, but, finding none, calls a parley. She only answers with laughter and holds his shirt derisively from the other side almost within his reach. Then once more despair seizes him, and, with the energy of it, he is suddenly on the other side — but not before the girl has found another point of vantage. And so the chase goes on. Once he is for returning to the rest of his clothes, and she, disappointed, calls out an “O, well then, here it is,” just to allure him back again, and start the game afresh. The lure succeeds, and once more begins the savage chase, the wild girl screams, the young limbs flashing, the petticoats flying. When the bank hid them from me the end was not yet, nor the terrible vengeance that would no doubt fall upon that wicked, but, it struck me, charming little girl. Or would she succeed in making terms? I fear not. For she was yet some way from the age when her sex will get her out of any possible scrape, not to speak of the scrapes it will get her into.


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The Failure of a “Genuine Hit”

punchPick of Punch 7. This area of the blog offers a selection of entertaining quotes from Punch magazine. The following is from 20th January 1866, and shows how theatrical advertising could sometimes bend the truth a little!

In theatrical matters now-a-days there is no such thing as failure. The public has lost its powers of discrimination and appreciation, and newspaper criticism is reduced to a mere quarter of a column of printed words, valuable only on account of the heading to the paragraph which serves the theatre in lieu of an advertisement. “On such and such a day,” for instance, we read, under the title of the Royal Dash Theatre, “was produced a new drama, entitled The Son of the Forest. What could have induced the management to bring such a piece before the public, we are quite at a loss to imagine. Its situations are hackneyed, and the interest, such as it is, is sustained only up to the third act, to be dropped entirely in the fourth and fifth.”

Another Newspaper. — “The name of the piece produced at this house last night, is The Son of the Forest. It requires condensation. But even then we fear that it will not prove an attraction. The dialogue is dull, and the dramatis persona are on so dead a level as to awaken no sort of interest in their actions, on the part of the audience. We are bound to say that the piece was well received by a house densely crowded in every part.”

Another Newspaper.— “It is not often that we have to record a failure at this admirably-managed theatre. The Son of the Forest, however, we must candidly own, is not a success. It is certainly the least happy of Mr. Reshoffay’s productions. We must enter our emphatic protest against the immoral character of the play. We are not squeamish, but when an author so far goes out of his way as to notice with laudatory remarks the elopement of his heroine’s grandmother with the hero of his story, we feel that silence is no longer consistent with our duty.”

Another Newspaper. — “The Son of the Forest, Mr. Reshoffay’s new (?) drama, was produced here last night. To what a depth of degradation has our stage fallen! The actors and actresses did their best with the most thankless parts, and saved the piece from the condemnation it richly merited.”

After all this out come the advertisements :—

ROYAL DASH THEATRE.— Another Genuine Hit! A Brilliant Success!! The new Drama, The Son of the Forest, pronounced by the unanimous voice of the Public Press to be the Greatest Dramatic Triumph ever witnessed on these or any other boards. Three more Bows of Stalls added. Seats can be booked two months in advance.

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