Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mastery of Design: A Gold, Diamond and Enamel Memorial Slide, 1775-1800

Memorial Slide
French, 1775-1800
The Victoria & Albert Musem
This gold brooch with silver-set rose cut diamonds, adorned with a basket of flowers in seed pearls, mother of pearl and gold--mounted on blue enamel—represents the sort of memorial jewelry which was prevalent in France in the Late Eighteenth Century.

Memorial jewelry was designed to honor a lost loved one. Given the mortality rate, memorial jewelry is one of the largest categories of jewels from this era to survive since it was the most prevalent.

Memorial medallions, brooches or lockets was quite the fashion during this era both in France and Britain. Some of them, like this brooch, could be worn in a variety of ways. For example, this brooch is considered a “slide” since it was, most frequently, worn on a ribbon around the throat. These pieces often incorporated the hair of the deceased either displayed behind glass or Stuart crystal or woven and braided into a design amongst the jewels.

Nei-classical motifs of funerary urns, plinths and obelisks were common themes along with the more traditional cherubs, angels and weeping willows. We should note, however, that not all of these pieces were meant as memorial jewelry. Some of it was meant to express love, friendship and devotion for the living and to act as a keepsake.

Antique Image of the Day: Pompe Funebre (1e Class)

Pompe Funebre (1e Class)
The Victoria & Albert Museum
The celebrated photographer Eugène Atget (1857–1927) began his career in the late 1880s. His life prior to that? Well, those details are decidedly shadowy. Atget is known to have been a sailor and then an amateur actor, but otherwise, he led a secluded, almost hermit-like, life in his Paris apartment. His work in the theatre may account for the ‘stage set’ quality of many of his photographs.

Around 1897, he began a project to record “Old Paris” and, he continued this pursuit well into the 1920s. Atget was an early proponent of historic preservation. He was driven by the disappearance of buildings as plan to modernize Paris swept the city. And, so, he set out to record the character and details of the timeworn streets. Six hundred of these prints were sold directly to the V&A.

Atget is admired also as a forerunner of Surrealism and his modern approaches to the art of photography are praised. His images were often said, as a form of praise, to resemble, “Crime Scenes.”

This image is part of the portfolio sold to the V&A. It shows a hearse of the late Nineteenth Century as it awaits a first class funeral.

Saturday Silliness: Good Little Monkeys, 1935

Copy of “The Inferno” comes to life. Shiny Devil escapes. Monkey sculpture becomes animated. Horrible things happen. Harman-Ising. Enough said. Watch and be afraid.

At the Music Hall: More Work for the Undertaker

Listen to a song I'm gonna sing you,
You may laugh 'til you haven't any breath.
People nowadays seem to think it very funny
When they hear of a violent death.
Poor little Solomon Levi
To heaven has got a pass.
He searched 'round the house the other night
To find a big escape of gas.


More work for the undertaker.
Another little job for the casket maker.
At the local cemetery they've
Been very, very busy on a brand new grave: 

Reuben he was standing on Broadway.
Of cable cars he'd heard an awful lot.
He wanted to see how the old thing worked
So he looked down in the slot.
A car came up behind him.
He didn't hear the bell.
The bump of the car changed his address
From Broadway down to... 


A boy named Jack was playing football.
He was what you call a center rush.
They picked him up in pieces when
It ended in a crush.
His father quickly sent for
What was left of Jack.
When he opened the box he suddenly exclaimed,
"Why, they've only sent a quarter back!"


"More Work for the Undertaker" is this week’s Music Hall song, and a more perfect song I couldn’t find for Halloween. The song is sung in this recording by Daniel W. Quinn who was considered one of the first major stars of the American recording industry.

This rather macabre and grim song predates this recording. It had a long life in the Nineteenth Century as a British music hall favorite. As was often the case, the song found its way to America, where, as always, it was Americanized with different lyrics. The newer lyrics are those printed above and those you’ll hear in Quinn’s recording.

The original version seems to have been by Fred W. Leigh with words by “Burton and Brooks.” The British Music Hall version concerned the dangerous misadventures of a youth named Sambo (yes, Sambo—fill in the blanks). The refrain of “another little job for the casket maker” seems to have originally been “another little job for the tombstone maker.” Like all of these popular songs which pre-date major efforts at recording, their original versions all differ slightly.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 276

Chapter 276 

With her eyes as wide as saucers, Maudie felt certain that they’d pop right out of her head as the staff gathered in the front hall of No. 65 Belgrave Square. She tried to take everything in without looking as if she was staring, but she couldn’t help it. From the sparking marble floors to the majestic staircase to the glass dome high above her head, she felt certain that that hall was how the entrance to heaven must look. Every corner of the hall found something to catch her attention. Porcelain figurines, lush paintings, bronze statues, soft chairs, small glittering figures of animals with sparkling eyes, and twinkling crystal chandeliers all enchanted her. Standing in her new uniform she felt important for the first time in her life as the other staff members, in their finest, gathered in front of Mr. Speaight.

“You all right, honey?” Gamilla whispered.

“Oh…oh, yes.” Maude nodded.

“I felt the way you do when I first came here.” Gamilla smiled.

Maudie studied Gamilla’s face. She’d never seen an African woman before. Maude thought her quite beautiful as if she was one of the bronze statues which stood on the pedestals along the passage.

“We’re all here?” Speaight nodded. “Right. Upstairs then.”

As they climbed the winding staircase, Maude feared she’d trip because she was looking around so much. The upper hall was as splendid as the lower one—all coral and turquoise and gold and cream.

And, then, Mr. Speaight opened the tall doors to the drawing room. Maudie was sure that, if the front hall was the entrance to heaven, the drawing room was heaven itself, and the family inside were the angels and saints of which her mother had once told her.

In the center of the magnificent room sat three people side-by-side. They were the most stunning people Maudie had ever seen. In the center sat a regally handsome man with deep auburn hair. She knew he must be the Duke of Fallbridge. He wore a coat and breeches of plum-colored velvet with a waistcoat of gold silk and, set against his brilliant white shirt, a tie of shocking scarlet. In his lap, the Duke held a beautiful, fair, baby. The baby reached for the Duke’s hands, interested in the man’s rings: one on his left hand of multi-colored stones, and two on his right hand…one large diamond on his index finger and a large violet-blue stone on his ring finger.

To the right of the Duke sat another man who must have been, Maudie thought, Dr. Halifax. He was slightly younger and very athletic looking. His wavy dark hair had been brushed back to reveal his handsome, chiseled face. He wore a suit of deep blue linen and a cravat the color of the sky which made the blue of his eyes stand out. He, too, wore a ring on his left hand—a simple band of gold set with small diamonds. He had one of his hands on the Duke’s arm.

To the Duke’s left was a woman who Maudie figured was the one they called “Miss Lennie” or “Miss Molliner”—the Duke’s sister. She was slightly plainer than the two men with hair that wasn’t blonde and wasn’t brown. Her face was pale, but she had the same dark eyes as the Duke, eyes which weren’t entirely brown, but were almost the color of wine. She was dressed beautifully in a pale pink gown. Her arms were stacked with glimmering bracelets of gold and pearls and around her throat hung a small pendant of corral with a pearl drop.

Seated nearby, but away from the family was an older woman with graying hair. She wore a gown of buff-colored silk and jewels of shimmering green. She looked weary but content. Two children, both looking rather bored, sat next to her.

Finally, a distance away, by herself in a chair, was the girl Maude had seen come into the kitchens of Hamish House from time to time. The girl called Fern. She wore mourning gray and her light brown hair hung limply around her shoulders. She looked at the floor, seeming to count the flowers in the pattern of the carpets.

“Everyone gather around,” The Duke spoke up. His voice was gentle and his eyes sparkled as if he was thinking of a joke that only he knew. Though he spoke like a nobleman, he seemed to wish to say things differently, almost as if he was aware that someone new was in the house and that he should be on his best behavior.

“I’m so glad that you all could join us today,” The Duke continued. “We have all been through trying times of late, yet, we mustn’t forget that we’ve much to celebrate as well.” He looked to the doctor.

“To begin with, we’d like to officially welcome Fern Halifax, my niece, to our household.”

Fern didn’t look up.

“His Grace and I are very thankful to all of you for making her feel at home, and we know that in the coming weeks, as Miss Fern settles into her new surroundings, you’ll all continue to do what you can to see that she’s comfortable.”

The staff smiled. Maudie studied their faces, and, they all looked so sincere.

“Furthermore,” Dr. Halifax continued. “Lady Lensdown has something to say.”

“Thank you, Robert.” The older woman nodded. “I also wanted to thank you for looking after us during the terrible days which have just passed. Though my children and I will soon be departing to the north to our country home, we will always be cheered by thoughts of your kindness.”

Maudie looked around again. Everyone was still smiling, and, they truly seemed to mean it.

“We also want to welcome,” The Duke spoke again, “a new member to our family downstairs. Maude…”

“Step forward.” Gamilla whispered.

Nervously, Maude stepped forward.

“Say, ‘yes, Your Grace.’” Gamilla whispered.

“Yes, Your Grace.” Maude repeated.

“Dr. Halifax and I do hope that you’ll be very happy here.”

“Thank you.” Maude replied, blushing. “I am happy to be here. It’s the nicest place I’ve ever seen. And, everyone is so pretty.”

The Duke chuckled, and, then, did the oddest thing. He whooped. “Coo!”

The others chuckled…except Fern and the Lensdown children.

The Duke cleared his throat. “I’m glad you’re pleased. Well, then, you may return to the others.”

Maude hurried back to Gamilla’s side.

“Finally, it’s no secret,” the Duke continued, “that there’s a wedding coming very soon.” He grinned. “Our Gamilla and Gerard will soon be man and wife.”

Gamilla and Gerard looked to one another.

“As our gift to you…”

“Oh, Sir…” Gamilla interrupted. “You’re already doin’ so much. You done hired them men to make the nursery quarters bigger and…”

“Now, you can’t tell us how to give gifts,” The Duke waved a hand. “Again, his voice seemed different, more casual, and again, he caught himself.

“As I was saying,” he continued. “As our gift to you, we’ve made sure that the church is all arranged for the wedding, and, then…Lennie…”

“May I?” The Duke’s sister smiled. “It was, after all, your idea…”

“No, go on, tell ‘em.” The joke laughed, again, in the casual voice.

“Well, His Grace, Dr. Halifax and I would like to give you a reception here after the service in the church. It’ll just be us, and whomever else you might like to invite. Everyone downstairs, of course, is invited. We’ll have a cake, thanks to Mrs. Pepper who has also planned a wonderful menu for the party.”

“And champagne,” The Duke nodded. “For all ‘cept the young ones and you, Gerry,”

“Right, Sir.” Gerard grinned.

“And flowers, and music and everything.” The Duke continued. “And, Dr. Halifax has a special surprise.”

“One of my patients,” The doctor nodded, “works in the medium of photography. So, the day after the wedding, you shall once again put on your marriage clothes and pose for him so that he may take your photograph. That way, you will have a permanent record of the way you looked on the day you became man and wife.”

“Oh!” Mrs. Pepper clapped her hands. “Fancy that!”

“Your Grace…” Gamilla’s lips trembled. “Dr. Halifax! Miss Lennie…” She shook her head. “I don’t know what to say.”

“You can say that you’ll allow me to walk you down the aisle to your groom.” The Duke nodded. “For it would be my great honor to stand proxy for your father.”

Tears trickled down Gamilla’s cheeks. “It is my honor, Your Grace. Of course!”

“Well, then, that’s settled.” Dr. Halifax nodded.

“Gamilla, I shall help you with your trousseau, if you like.” Miss Molliner volunteered. “Violet and I have been scheming a bit.”

“I’d be so happy, yes.” Gamilla nodded.

“What ‘bout me?’ Gerard joked.

“Oh, not to worry.” Dr. Halifax grinned. “Charles, His Grace and I have some plans for you, too.”

“And, they may just be some more surprises on the day.” Mr. Punch winked.

And, then…in Maudie’s estimation…the oddest thing happened. The staff walked forward and began to chat with the masters. And, no one seemed to think anything of it—all of them, even Mr. Speaight, chattering gaily together.

Maudie looked at Ethel.

“That’s the way it is here,” Ethel said softly.

“But, it’s…”

“The Duke says we’re a family.” Ethel replied.

Maudie was silent, overwhelmed.

“Listen,” Ethel said softly, “maybe you and me…well…Jenny and I talked once that if ever Gerard finally did ask Gamilla to marry him…well, that we’d make her some orange blossoms out of some nice paper I saved and some ribbon. I think…I think Gamilla’d like it. But…” She shook her head.

“I’d like to help.” Maude spoke up. “I was makin’ somethin’ like that for me sister. She was gonna be married when she…died.”

“Oh.” Ethel’s shoulders sagged. “So…so…you know. You know how it is?”

“I do.” Maude nodded.

“Maude! Ethel!” Miss Lennie called to them. “Come talk with us. His Grace would like to get to know you better, Maude.”

“And, you’ve not met our Colin.” The Duke called out.

Maude looked to Ethel who nodded.

Together, they joined the others.

“That’s the way to do it!” The Duke cheered.

Both girls giggled.

Did you miss Chapters 1-275 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 277.

Gifts of Grandeur: Queen Victoria’s Mourning Ring

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Upon the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria went into a period of mourning which lasted the rest of her life. As was the custom of the time, she commissioned a mourning ring to wear so that an image of her husband would always be with her. 

What makes this ring unusual is that the image is actually a micro-photograph of Albert, set behind crystal. Usually, the images were painted. The gold bezel is surrounded by black enamel on the shanks of the ring. The cypher linking the initials 'V' and 'A' is set in white enamel into the shanks on either side of the ring. Victoria wore this memorial ring throughout her many years of mourning.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Bohemian Glass Tiara, 1880-1890

Tiara of Mock Jet Bohemian Glass
The Victoria & Albert Museum
I was delighted to find this unusual tiara lurking in the collections of the V&A. Here we see a mock-jet tiara which was meant to be worn during mourning. Known as “French Jet,” the tiara is actually made of cast glass which is mounted on metal.

Jet is the fossilized remains of driftwood. In Britain, the main source of jet is Whitby, in Yorkshire. In the Nineteenth Century, jet became a highly desirable material because of its deep, black color which was perfect for mourning jewelry. Victorian’s had very strict rules about mourning and what could be worn when. While these mourning customs were already in place, they were definitely encouraged by Queen Victoria's prolonged mourning after the death of her husband Albert in 1861.

Supplies of jet, however, were not sufficient to meet the growing demand for the material. And, so, alternatives were often employed. Dark cast glass known as 'French jet' or 'Vauxhall glass' was one of the main alternatives.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Maltese Cannetille Brooch, 1835-40

Bow Brooch
Malta, 1835-40
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This bow brooch, typical of the jewels of the 1830s,  features a dense surface patterning of spirals (known as cannetille work) and granules (grainti)—both popular techniques of the period.  Jewels of the 1830s were often vibrantly colored, andm therefore, turquoise was a popular choice. The brooch is part of a parure with matching earrings.

The jewel takes the form of a tasseled bow of gold filigree set with turquoises and pearls.  It was most likely made in Malta between 1835 and 1840.  This style was favored by Queen Victoria.  

The Art of Play: The Tiller-Clowes Music Hall Ball Juggler Marionette, 1870-1890

Trick Marionette
Tiller-Clowes Family, 1870-1890
The Victoria & Albert Museum

We've looked at other puppets from the Victorian Tiller-Clowes marionette troupe. The V&A houses thirty-five of the troupe's Nineteenth Century figures, most of which retain their original paint and costumes. In 1945, George Speaight purchased the collection and worked to restore the puppets. Upon his death, the collection was left to the V&A.

This marionette, in his original outfit, represents a ball juggler. This figure would have been inordinately complicated to operate. The balls which the figure can "juggle" can be made to rest on his feet, hands or head. Such trick puppets were often used as entertainment before a show or between acts and also enjoyed independent success when members of the troupe would perform alone as a novelty at a music hall.

Mr. Punch's Puzzles: The Riddle of the Week

Once, again, Mr. Punch, with my help, is offering up a true Victorian riddle.  The first person to answer correctly--by posting in the comments--will receive public congratulations.  Some week, I may offer a nifty prize from our online store.  But, this week, again, I don't feel like it.

So, here's this week's riddle.  We ask that you don't Google the answer.  Mr. Punch would not find that sporting at all.  Give it a shot and see what you can come up with.  Here we go... No cheating...

Ripped from my mother's womb,
Beaten and burned,
I become a blood thirsty killer.
What am I?

And, the answer is...

Iron Ore

Who'd have thought?  I think, though everyone's answers were quite witty, Darcy wins this one with her response of "Maggie or Wallis Simpson."  Thanks to all!  Have a good weekend.  Come back next Friday for another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles.

Mr. Punch wants you to always know “the way to do it,” so why not check out our “That’s the way to do it!” products which are available only at our online store.  

Friday Fun: Punch and the Beadle

The Beadle
as envisioned by Chris van der Craats
Well, as much as I love him, I must admit that Mr. Punch is a rather naughty fellow. For all of his cuteness and charm, he does occasionally do some things that just aren’t “the way to do it.” So, it’s inevitable that his actions should attract the attention of the law. In traditional Punch & Judy shows, Punch is confronted by a variety of representatives of the law. He usually meets a constable or beadle, a judge, and even the hangman. Still, we know that the wooden-headed hero can “beat the Devil,” so something as simple as escaping the law shouldn’t be too difficult for him.

Let’s watch this snippet from a Punch & Judy show as performed by Australian Punch Judy Man, “Professor Whatsit,” also known as Chris van der Craats. I have a particular fondness for van der Craats’ puppets. He makes them himself and they are some of the best out there. These puppets have the look and charm of the figures used in the earliest Punch performances. You can buy Professor Whatsit’s hand-made puppets on his Web site.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 275

Chapter 275 

Come now, dearie.” Mrs. Pepper whispered to Ethel who sat next to her at the servants’ hall table. “Take a few more bites, then. Lamb stew is one of your favorites.”

Ethel looked up from her plate absently. “Jenny liked lamb stew.”

“Yes, she did, Ethel.” Mrs. Pepper said sweetly. She looked around. “In fact, I think we all do.”

“Only your lamb stew, Mrs. P.” Gerard smiled.

“Well, thank you, Mr. Gurney.” Mrs. Pepper grinned. She looked back to Ethel. “So, go on, take a few more spoonfuls. It’ll do ya good.”

Ethel obediently picked up her spoon and pushed the stew around her bowl.

“I say,” Speaight spoke up. “Our newcomer has quite an appetite. She’s had two bowls.”

Maudie blushed. “I hope I’ve not made a hog o’ me-self.”

“I should say not,” Georgie smiled across the table.

Maudie blushed deeper. She’d noticed Georie looking at her since Mrs. Pepper introduced them.

“That’s enough cheek from you, boy.” Mrs. Pepper snapped.

“Yes, ma.” Georgie grinned.

“It’s just,” Maudie began. “Well…we never got food like this at Hamish House. This stew’s finer than anything we even ever served for upstairs.”

“The Countess Hamish,” Mr. Speaight shook his head. “I’m afraid had poor taste in most things.”

“Why, Mr. Speaight.” Mrs. Pepper grinned. “And you with all your talk of not speakin’ of our betters.”

“The Countess was not our better, Mrs. Pepper.” Mr. Speaight replied firmly.

Maudie giggled.

“What are you laughin’ ‘bout?” Ethel mumbled. “What ‘ave you got to laugh ‘bout? Sittin’ their in our Jenny’s chair…”

“Ethel,” Mrs. Pepper put her hand on Ethel’s shoulder.

Ethel began to cry.

“Come on, Ethel, I’ll take you upstairs so you can lie down.” Mrs. Pepper whispered.

“I’ll take her, Mrs. Pepper.” Violet volunteered. “I’ve got to go up to change into my blacks anyway.”

“Well…” Speaight interrupted. “I’m afraid we all need to change into our evening uniforms. You included, Maude. His Grace has invited all of us to join him in the drawing room after we’ve finished our luncheon.”

“Oh?” Charles raised his eyebrows. “Has this anything to do with what you told His Grace earlier?”

“What’s that?” Gerard asked.

“About Hamish House.” Charles leaned over and whispered in Gerry’s ear. “And Miss Rittenhouse.”

“No, I should think not.” Mr. Speaight replied quickly, not wishing to alarm the others. “He seemed quite jolly. I suspect it’s good news.”

“We could use some.” Violet nodded.

“Yes, Violet,” Mr. Speaight frowned. “we could.”

“I wonder if it’s anything to do with what that messenger bloke brought earlier.” Gerard began.

“What was that, Gerry?”

“A man from the Royal Academy came earlier.” Gerard answered. “With a message for His Grace.”

“What’s it all about?” Georgie asked.

“Well,” Gerard began.

“We don’t discuss the Duke’s personal communications.” Speaight warned.

“Oh, Sir, he won’t mind. He told me himself ‘bout it.” Gerard replied.

“Very well,” Speaight nodded.

“It’s terrible excitin’, in fact.” Gerard said brightly.

Ethel wiped her eyes. “Is it?”

“Sure, Ethel.” Gerard nodded encouragingly.

“Do I have to go upstairs, Mrs. Pepper?” Ethel asked.

“Not if you don’t want to.” Mrs. Pepper replied affectionately.

“I’d like to hear about the Duke’s letter.” Ethel replied quietly. “And, I should like to go to the drawing room. If they’ll have me.”

“Well, of course, they’ll have you, my girl.” Speaight answered paternally. “The invitation was for all of us.”

“I would like to go, then.” Ethel said, her voice more as it usually was.

“As long as you feel up to it.” Mrs. Pepper said.

“I do.” Ethel nodded. “And, I can scrub the pots afterwards, too.”

“That’s our girl.”

“I can help you if you like, Ethel.” Maudie said, looking embarrassed after she said it.

Ethel looked cross for a moment, but her face softened. “If Mrs. Pepper doesn’t mind.”

“I don’t.” Mrs. Pepper shook her head gladly.

“Thank you.” Ethel looked at Maudie. “And…I’m sorry that I…”

“No worries, then.” Maude smiled.

Charles exhaled with relief. “Well, then, Gerry, you were telling us about a man from the Royal Academy?”

“Right.” Gerard nodded. “This bloke came from the Royal Academy with a letter sayin’ that Her Majesty the Queen wants a portrait painted of His Grace and Dr. Halifax with Master Colin and Dog Toby and one of His Grace’s puppets.”

“What do you think of that?” Mrs. Pepper said proudly. “The Queen wants a paintin’ of our masters. Ain’t it somethin’?”

“I should say so, Mrs. Pepper.” Speaight nodded. “Who shall paint the portrait, Gerard?”

“Mr. Winterhalter.”

“Well, then.” Charles’ eyes widened.

“Who’s that?” Violet asked.

“He’s a German chap what paints portraits of royalty.” Gerard answered.

“I’m very impressed that you know that, Gerard.” Speaight smiled.

“The Duke teaches me things.” Gerard grinned.

“So, is the Queen gonna hang the picture right there in the palace?” Violet asked.

“I think His Grace said Her Majesty wanted it for her study at Sandringham.”

“Very smart.” Mrs. Pepper replied.

“Speaking of smart, if we’ve all finished, let’s have you all pop upstairs and change uniforms. I shall meet you in the hall in ten minutes.”

“The hall?” Maudie asked.

“The front hall.” Mr. Speaight nodded.

Maudie pointed to the area door.

“Upstairs, girl.” Speaight chuckled.

“Where the Duke comes in?” Maudie’s eyes widened.

“We’ve had an invitation, yes.” Speaight replied.

“Cor!” Maudie exhaled. She blushed, putting her hand over her mouth.

“Go on, then.” Mrs. Pepper laughed.

Maude stood up. “Ethel, I ain’t never had an evenin’ uniform. I ain’t never had any uniform before today. Can you help me? I’m not sure I know how to wear it.”

Ethel looked as if she might cry again, but bit her lip and nodded. “I’ll help ya.”

“May I walk upstairs with ya?” Maude asked.

Ethel nodded and the two girls walked to the service staircase.

“Ain’t that a relief?” Mrs. Pepper muttered.

“She’ll be fine, Mrs. P.” Gerard replied. “Here, I’d best tell Gamilla we’ve been summoned.”

“She knows already, my boy.” Speaight winked.

“How’s that?” Gerard asked. “She’s been in the nursery since this mornin’.”

“I told her earlier.” Speaight answered. “She was instructed to bathe and dress Master Colin and to see that Miss Fern was ready beforehand.”

“What’s this all about?” Gerard asked. “I think you know somethin’ you ain’t tellin’ us, Mr. Speaight.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” Speaight laughed.

“And, you’re sure it ain’t to do with Miss Rittenhouse takin’ the lease on Hamish House?”

“I informed His Grace and Dr. Halifax of what Mrs. Pepper told me.” Speaight shook his head. “The masters are investigating the situation. However, this, as I said, is jolly tidings.”

“But…” Gerard began.

“Let it be for now, Gerry.” Charles put his arm around his friend’s shoulders. “Let’s just go change our livery.”

“You know, too?” Gerard asked.

“Go…smart now.” Speaight warned.

Gerard grunted and followed Charles to the stairs.

Mrs. Pepper and Mr. Speaight exchanged knowing looks.

“Ten minutes, Mrs. Pepper.” Speaight nodded.

“Ten minutes, Mr. Speaight.” Mrs. Pepper winked.

Did you miss Chapters 1-274 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them
here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 276.

Print of the Day: Blowing up the Pic Nic's, or, Harlequin Quixote attacking the Puppets, 1802

Blowing up the Pic Nic's, or, Harlequin Quixote attacking the Puppets
April, 1802
James Gillray
This version is in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

James Gillray (1757-1815), a popular British printmaker and satirist, was, perhaps, one of the most prolific in his field during the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries. Here, we see one of his cartoons from 1802. The image depicts English theater manager Richard Brinsley as Harlequin. He is shown leading a group of professional actors including the famed performer David Garrick (who was, at the time dead), rising from the grave. Also pictured are the actors Mrs. Billington, P. Kemble and, of course the renowned Sarah Siddons. The troupe is protesting members of the Pic Nic Society—an amateur acting group which had been performing at London’s Tottenham Street Concert Rooms. Apparently, they were in the midst of performing the then-popular show, “Tom Thumb.”

Professional actors and theatre managers at the time considered this amateur gang to be a nuisance—taking away revenue from the professionals with their extravagant and decadent displays. Sheridan was among those who launched an aggressive campaign against them. Here, his mask and pen indicate that he has been writing anonymous complaints about the group.

Gillray has cleverly composed this scene to resemble a page from Migel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” wherein the famed title character attacks “Master Peter’s” puppet show because he is convinced that the performance is real. In doing so, he has cast his judgment on the futile actions of Sheridan and his band of protestors. The print was published in April of 1802. The version above is in the collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Another is in the British Museum

Version in the British Museum.