Tag Archives: George Cruickshank

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb (or vice versa?)

march

Cruikshank’s scene of chaos on the London streets in March is a reminder of just how variable March weather can be. Here’s another equally windy scene from my collection. The little watercolour sketch is undated and unsigned, but looks about 1820s to me.

windy-weather

So – keep tight hold of your umbrella – or remember that Beau Brummel considered that no gentleman would be seen with one and take a sedan chair instead.

 

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Pray Remember Guy Fawkes!

 

Pyne Guy Fawkes

 

The 5th November is the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 when a group attempted to blow up the House of Lords, along with King James I, during the State Opening of Parliament. The aim was to install James’s nine year old daughter Elizabeth as a Catholic head of state, but the conspirators were betrayed and Guy Fawkes, who had been guarding the thirty six barrels of gunpowder stacked in the cellars under the Lords’ Chamber, was captured.

Most of the conspirators managed to get out of London but were found and, after a fight, some were killed and the others captured. At their trial in January 1606 the eight survivors, including Guy Fawkes, were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. With the popular feeling so strong against Roman Catholics at the time, celebrations on the  anniversary of the discovery of the plot rapidly became a fixed part of the calendar and persisted nationally. Bishop Robert Sanderson (d.1663) preached, “God grant that we nor ours ever live to see November 5th forgotten, or the solemnity of it silenced.” By 1677 Poor Robin’s Almanac had the verse:

“Now boys with

Squibs and crackers play.

And bonfires blaze

Turns night to day.”

By the early 19th century the visible elements of the celebration – the bonfire, the effigy of the “guy” with small boys parading their own homemade versions and begging for “A penny for the guy” and the setting-off of fire crackers – were still as popular as ever. The idea of a bonfire, fireworks and the opportunity for a party was doubtless as appealing then as it is now and perhaps few people thought about what was being represented and the horrors of either the planned explosion or the hideous end of the conspirators.

I love the detail in the picture at the top of this post. It is from Pyne’s The Costumes of Great Britain, 1805 and shows urchins parading their guy. He is dressed in old clothes with a handful of firecrackers pushed into his coat front. in the background another guy has been hung over the bonfire with his hands full of firecrackers. In the right foreground are a group of tradespeople. A man carries a joint of meat in a wooden hod on his shoulder, too preoccupied to look up, but a girl selling something from her basket, a cooper with barrel hoops over his shoulder and his tools tucked into the front of his apron and a woman blacking boots look on in amusement. The shoe-black is wearing a soldier’s uniform jacket, two scarves over a white cap and a voluminous black skirt. Her pot of blacking is on the stool beside her and she is rubbing it into a boot with a small brush.

My copy of Observations on Popular Antiquities: chiefly illustrating the origin of our Vulgar Customs, Ceremonies and Superstitions by John Brand has the following for November 5th: “It is still customary in London and its vicinity for the boys to dress up an image of the infamous conspirator Guy Fawkes, holding in one hand a dark lanthorn, and in the other a bundle of matches, and to carry it about the streets begging money in these words, “Pray remember Guy Fawkes!” In the evening there are bon-fires , and these frightful figures are burnt in the midst of them.” The original edition was 1795, but the editor of the 1813 edition has added “Mr Brand was mistaken in supposing the celebration of the fifth of November to have been confined to London and its neighbourhood. The celebration of it was general.”

Cruickshank guy

Almost thirty years after the print by Pyne was published Cruickshank’s little image for November in London shows a very similar guy, although this one has a clay pipe in his mouth. Another guy is being carried in the distance on the right and he is wearing a tall white dunce’s cap which may be intended to represent the hats worn by heretics burnt at the stake by the Spanish Inquisition.

It is obviously November – fog is swirling in the street, the figure in the centre has his nose and mouth muffled and the advertisements pasted to the boarded-up window are for cloaks, greatcoats and furs. There is also an advert for fireworks.

 

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October In London

Return homeThe Cruickshank print for October shows the end of the summer for Londoners – the return home from their holidays, probably at the seaside. One party are disembarking from a mail coach on the left while on the other side a family are getting out of a hired post chaise. The new season is indicated by the man selling a pheasant in the centre and the poster for the start of the Theatre Royal’s winter programme.

These travellers are very much of the ‘middling sort’, respectable tradespeople or perhaps lawyers or merchants. A decade or so before and they would not have dreamed of taking a holiday – that was reserved for the upper classes and aristocracy, people with an income they did not have to work for, and ample time on their hands. But times were changing and improvements in transport, as well as changes in society, meant that the middle classes could manage to get away to perhaps Margate or Folkestone or one of the other growing resorts along the South and South East coasts.

The other print is from over twenty years earlier and shows the journey back to Town from the other end – The Departure is the final print in Political Sketches of Scarborough by J Green, illustrated by Thomas Rowlandson. The lady in her fashionable travelling outfit is sheltering from the rain while her luggage is loaded onto a hired chaise – Departureone of the “yellow bounders” famous for both colour and the wild swaying of their springs. She seems to be of a  higher rank than the unsophisticated travellers in the Crucikshank image and the verse indicated that she is following the lead of the most elevated visitor to Scarborough that season:

The chilling winds and rain combine,

That all should Scarbro’s sweets resign;

First one by one – then four by four,

And then they’re off by half a score;

Her GRACE is gone – with her a host

Of charms to captivate, are lost:

When she withdraws her genial ray,

The sun has set of Scarbro’s day.

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It Is August In London – Eat Oysters on Oyster Day or Run Away to the Seaside?

August in London was the time to celebrate “Oyster Day” – the arrival of the first oysters at Billingsgate fish market. The scene on the streets is shown in the first print from Crucikshank’s London Almanac. This was a significant day for the poor for whom oysters was a cheap staple. In London Labour and the Poor Mayhew wrote that “the number of oysters sold by the costermongers amounts to 124,000,000 a year. These, at four a penny, would realise the large sum of £129,650. We may, therefore, safely assume that £125,000 is spent yearly in oysters in the streets of London.”

London August

In the scene working people queue up at two trestle tables to buy oysters. The vendors are opening them and on the left we can see a coal heaver or dustman, distinguished by his hat with a protective neck flap, pouring some kind of relish or ketchup over his.

A small boy is rummaging under the trestle for empty shells and on the right one lad is building them into a construction while other children holding up shells mob a respectably-dressed couple begging for coppers. An article in the Illustrated London News of 1851 explains what must be happening.

“We will not pursue the calculation into how many grottoes might be built from the shells of a year’s supply of oysters…. The coming-in of oysters is observed as a sort of festival in the streets; and in such a nook of the metropolis as the present locality, the grotto is usually built of inverted oyster-shells piled up conically with an opening in the base, through which, as night approaches, a lighted candle is placed within the grotto, when the effect of the light through the chinks of the shelly cairn is very pretty. It is but fair that the young architects should be rewarded for their trouble accordingly, a little band, of what some churl may call urchins, sally forth to collect pence from the passers-by ; and the usual form of collecting the tax [is] by presenting a shell…”

Of course, you might choose to leave the heat and dust of London in August (to say nothing of the smell of discarded oyster shells) and go to the seaside. Brighton, Margate and Ramsgate were closest (if one leaves aside Gravesend, which even in the Georgian period was getting a reputation for being somewhat rough).

Brighton AugustCruikshank has chosen to show bathing machines at Brighton with four burly female “dippers” dunking their quailing customers in the sea. The machines have boards showing the names of the dippers – two for “Mrs Ducks” and one for “Mrs Dipps”. In the foreground a lady is entirely enveloped, head and all, in a flannel “case” while in the middle two dippers are about to plunge a slight figure – a teenage girl perhaps – in backwards. A furious baby is getting a relentless ducking at the far end.

The Margate design of bathing machine, invented by Quaker Benjamin Beale, had a hood which came down to shelter the bather’s modesty, and perhaps divert some of the force of the waves, but these were not used at Brighton.

Although the seaside holiday is often thought of as a Victorian invention they were very much a feature of the Georgian scene for those who had money and leisure. By 1800 every English county with a coastline had at least one seaside resort. Brighton is perhaps the most famous example, but it was by no means the first – Scarborough probably has best claim to the title, although Margate and Brighton were close behind and all three were flourishing in the 1730s, long before the Prince Regent made Brighton notorious.

Brighton did have the benefit of closeness to London that Scarborough did not. In 1821 Dr John Evans remarked on stagecoaches doing the journey in six hours and predicted that balloon travel would reduce it to four hours in the future and in 1823 Cobbett wrote of “stock-jobbers…[who] skip backwards and forward on the coaches, and actually carry on stock-jobbing, in ‘Change Alley, though they reside in Brighton.” In 1834 four hundred and eight passengers arrived by coach in Brighton in one day, and 50,000 were recorded for the year.

Just as beach-wear and cruise-wear figure in the fashion magazines today, outfits for seaside visits were carefully chosen. Here is one from La Belle Assemblée designed by Mrs Bell for “Sea Coast Promenade”. personally I think the wearer has located the gentlemen’s bathing beach and has no intention of promenading any further…

1809 telescope

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July in Vauxhall Gardens

It is July 1st, so time for another of George Cruickshank’s delicious monthly ‘snapshots’ of London life from his London Almanac. This month we have a view of Vauxhall pleasure gardens with the orchestra playing and a female singer at the front of the box, music in hand.

Vauxhall 19
Vauxhall Gardens had been a London institution since at least 1661 when the first mention is in John Evelyn’s Diary for 2nd July of that year. They reached their peak of fashion in the 18th century as a haunt of both the fashionable and of anyone else who could afford the admission. Music, promenading, entertainments, dancing, dining on the famous wafer-thin shaved ham with champagne – and all kinds of naughtiness in the secluded groves – made up the Vauxhall experience, starting with the boat trip across the Thames to the candle-lit gardens.
The undated colour print shows the Gardens in their 18th century elegance and several of the features can be picked out in Cruickshank’s depiction of perhaps fifty or sixty years later. The orchestra stand has changed a little but it is just possible to see the tops of the arcades lining the sides of this part of the grounds.

Vauxhall 18
The company is rather more mixed in this view of the 1830s. In the centre, raising his top hat, is Mr C H Simpson. He became the Master of Ceremonies in 1797 and kept control for thirty eight years. He was a definite “character” and was always dressed in the black knee breeches, stockings and coat and frilled shirt as he is depicted here, carrying his elegant cane. He is greeting the Duke of Wellington, distinguished by his prominent hooked nose and with, predictably a young lady on each arm. A much less fashionably-dressed crowd looks on in wonder at these celebrities, with the prominent figure of, perhaps, a merchant with his wife in the centre. Other sightseers rush to view the scene while a waiter hurries along with a bottle and glasses – perhaps for the victor of Waterloo himself.

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It’s June and the Pictures Are On the Wall

JuneFor the first of June here is another of Cruickshank’s delicious drawings of London life month by month. It shows the Royal Academy’s Summer Show with the gawping crowd of connoisseurs, fashionable types and sightseers, all jammed in to look at the pictures hung floor to ceiling in the fashion of the time. This was one of the major events in the London Season and has been held every year since 1769.

Here is Henry Alken’s view of the same event, drawn in  1821. Summer showThe Royal Academy was initially located in Pall Mall, then moved in 1771 to the first completed wing of New Somerset House, in the Strand. In 1837 it occupied the east wing of the recently completed National Gallery in Trafalgar Square and in 1868 it moved to its present location, Burlington House, Piccadilly. The plate below from Ackermann’s Repository for May 1810 shows the “Hall at the Royal Academy, Somerset House” with an artist sketching one of the plaster casts of Classical statues.

Royal Ac

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