THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

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17 January 2019

Isaac Robert Cruikshank – a life retold?

On display in the exhibition Cats on the Page at the British Library is the pamphlet The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat published in 1817.  The illustrator is probably the caricaturist and portrait painter Isaac Robert Cruikshank, often known professionally as just Robert Cruikshank.

Isaac-Robert-CruikshankIsaac Robert Cruikshank by Frederick William Pailthorpe (1828) NPG D9318 © National Portrait Gallery, London    NPG CC

Isaac Robert Cruikshank was born in London in 1789.  He and his more famous younger brother George followed in the footsteps of their artist father Isaac.  Biographies of the two brothers tell of Isaac Robert venturing to sea as a teenager during the French Wars.  His parents are said to have secured their son a position as midshipman in the East India Company ship Perseverance.  The story goes that Isaac Robert was left behind at St Helena on the return voyage.  He had gone on shore in command of a boat’s crew, a storm arose, and he was stranded and reported to be lost.  After hiding from press gangs and suffering privations, he was befriended by the governor of the island and went home to England in a whaler.  On the way back, they met with a vessel which gave them news of the battle of Trafalgar.  His appearance on the family doorstep in London was greeted with astonishment as they were in mourning for his death.

I decided to dig into the East India Company archives to see if I could discover more about this interesting tale.  What I found was rather different!  Isaac Cruikshank appears in the crew list for the Perseverance as the purser’s servant, with the rank of seaman rather than junior officer.  The wage and receipt books show that he joined the ship in the Downs on 31 March 1804 for the voyage to China and was discharged on 17 September 1805 when the Perseverance reached England.  His wages were 45 shillings per month; after deductions he was paid £39 10s 6d for service of 17 months and 17 days.  Cruikshank collected and signed for his wages in person at East India House in the City of London on 15 January 1806, four months after arriving back in England.  Where had he been in the interim?  Was the St Helena story concocted to cover the young man’s absence immediately after the ship docked?

I did check the St Helena records to see if there were any clues there.  The Perseverance anchored there on 30 June 1805, and a muster of the crew was taken on 11 July 1805 just before the ship departed.  Cruikshank is in that muster list of crew members and I could find nothing to suggest that anything unusual happened to him.

So a cracking good yarn, but seemingly untrue.  Being told about Trafalgar by a passing ship is a nice touch.  The battle took place on 21 October 1805 but, according to the records of the Perseverance, Cruikshank had been discharged in England a month earlier. 

After Cruikshank’s death in 1856, George Daniel wrote a tribute which mentioned the time his friend had spent at sea. Daniel said that Cruikshank ‘was wont to recall those happy days, when he proudly walked the quarter-deck in the uniform of his sovereign; eager, in his exuberant pugnacity, to fight the battles of his country.  But he was born to be an artist’.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/MAR/B/255D Journal of the Perseverance 1804-1805, with a crew list
IOR/L/MAR/B/255K Wage book for the Perseverance 1806-1806
IOR/L/MAR/B/255K2 Receipt book for the Perseverance 1806-1806
IOR/G/32/70 St Helena Consultations 1805
George Daniel, Love’s last labour not lost (London, 1863)
William Bates, George Cruikshank: the artist, the humourist, and the man, with some account of his brother Robert (London, 1878)
William Blanchard Jerrold, The life of George Cruikshank (London, 1882)


Cats on the Page exhibition supported by
 

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15 January 2019

Cats and games of forfeit

Did you play any board or parlour games with friends or family over the festive period?  In our Cats on the Page exhibition we feature a small pamphlet entitled The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat: a new game of questions and commands.

Pretty  playful  tortoise-shell catThe Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat: a new game of questions and commands (London, 1817) © British Library Board

Facing this title-page there is an image of a group of children sitting round the (slightly over-performing) fire with their cat - apparently about to begin playing the game.  The publisher, John Marshall, seized this opportunity to promote two more of his games, namely The Hopping, prating, chatt’ring magpie and The Frisking, barking, lady’s lap-dog which he also published in 1816-17.

 
Pretty playful catThe Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat (London, 1817) © British Library Board

Other titles produced around the same time include The Noble, prancing, cantering horse, also printed by Marshall, and The Pretty, young, playful, innocent lamb, printed for J. and E. Wallis.  (There were also similar games based on the rhyme The House that Jack built and derivatives such as The Barn that Tom built and The Mill that Charles built!).

Several are subtitled ‘a new [entertaining] game of questions and commands’ and essentially they are cumulative memory games with forfeits.  Generally someone is appointed Treasurer and passes a small item such as a thimble to the first player with the command “Take this”.  The first player asks “What’s this?” and the Treasurer replies with the first section of the rhyme (e.g. “The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat…” ).  The first, and subsequent players, then repeat these actions until the thimble returns to the Treasurer.  It is then passed round again with the addition of the second section of the rhyme and so on until the entire, lengthy, rhyme has to be memorised and repeated by each player.  Should a player make a mistake or forget the rhyme a forfeit has to be paid to the Treasurer.  At the end of the game, another player is appointed to devise appropriate tasks for the retrieval of the forfeits – tasks might include solving a riddle, spelling a long, nonsensical word or being tickled.      

There seems to have been a brief flurry of these titles from about 1815 to around 1830.  Though Marshall was not the only publisher of such works he does seem to have made these games a speciality.  Presumably they were profitable since his widow subsequently assigned some of the titles to David Carvalho who continued to print them until around 1830. 

However their origin appears to have been earlier.  As you can see, there was a formula to the titles, which seems to have drawn on The Gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog.  This is believed to have been first recorded in print around 1760 in The Top book of all, for little masters and misses as ‘The play of the wide-mouth waddling frog, to amuse the mind, and exercise the memory’.  It is found again, with instructions, in Mirth without mischief around 1800 and we have a copy of the game based on the rhyme published by A.K. Newman & Co. around 1825.  A version of the verses was also illustrated by Walter Crane in the late 19th century.

Gaping wide-mouthed waddling frogThe Gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog (London, ca. 1825) © British Library Board

Many of the catalogue records relating to the booklets published in the early 19th century by Marshall suggest that the illustrations were by Isaac Robert Cruikshank.  We shall be looking into stories about his early life in our next post.

Alison Bailey
Lead Curator, Printed Heritage Collections 1901-2000

Further reading:
The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat: a new game of questions and commands. Embellished with fourteen coloured engravings. London: Printed and sold by John Marshall, 1817. C.194.a.968.
The Top book of all, for little masters and misses. London: sold only at R. Baldwin's, and S. Crowder's, and at Benj. Collins's, Salisbury, [1760?]. Ch.760/5.(1.). Pages 15-31.
Mirth without mischief. London: printed by J. Davenport, for C. Sheppard, [1800?]. Ch.780/110. Pages [17]-33.
The Gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog: a new and entertaining game of questions and commands. With proper directions for playing the game and crying the forfeits. Embellished with fifteen coloured engravings. London: A.K. Newman & Co., [ca. 1825] C.194.a.842.
The Oxford dictionary of nursery rhymes. Edited by Iona and Peter Opie. New ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.  YK.1997.a.6456.
Brian Alderson and Felix de Marez Oyens, Be merry and wise: origins of children's book publishing in England, 1650-1850. London: British Library, 2006. LC.31.b.2656.

Cats on the Page exhibition supported by

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10 January 2019

The first baby born on the Tube

Today we are marking the anniversary of the opening of the world’s oldest underground railway on 10 January 1863 with a story about the London Tube.

London UndergroundLondon Underground Railways. 1908. Johnson Riddle & Co. Ltd. London. Public Domain

When babies were born on the London Underground in 2008 and 2009, the news spread quickly.  Most of the stories noted that the first baby to be born on the Underground was Marie Cordery on 13 May 1924, but said little else about her.

Contemporary newspaper reports paint a vivid picture of the events, albeit with some variations to the story.  According to the Uxbridge & West Drayton Gazette, Mrs Daisy Britannia Kate Hammond of Wealdstone was on her way to hospital on the Bakerloo line when she suddenly became ill at Marylebone.  The other passengers were cleared from the train, which then sped along the lines to a dead end tunnel at Elephant and Castle.  Staff had phoned ahead, and so a Dr Gulley was waiting with an ambulance.  Safely delivered, mother and baby were then taken to Lambeth Infirmary, their departure watched by a crowd of well-wishers.

The Belfast Telegraph published a slightly different version.  It stated that Mrs Hammond was taken ill as the train approached Elephant and Castle Station.  City typists on their way home formed themselves into a screen on the platform whilst porters ran for a doctor.  A  girl was born shortly after the doctor arrived.

A journalist from the Daily Express suggested to Lord Ashfield, Chairman of the Underground Railways, that he should be the baby’s godfather.  Lord Ashfield agreed, although he had some reservations: ‘I should be delighted, if the baby’s parents are willing.  Of course it would not do to encourage this sort of thing, as I am a busy man, but as this is so far as I know an event which is without precedent in the history of the Bakerloo, I think we ought to mark the occasion’.   The baby’s father George Hammond accepted the offer at once.

Marie HammondBirmingham Daily Gazette 15 May 1924 British Newspaper Archive

Suggested names for the baby included Thelma Ursula Beatrice Eleanor, so that her initials would be T.U.B.E., and Jocelyn because she was born during the rush hour.  Her birth was registered in Marylebone as Marie Ashfield Eleanor Hammond.  Marie married George Henry Cordery in 1947 and died in Hillingdon in 2005.

One source suggests that Marie didn’t like travelling on the tube at all when she grew up!

Huw Rowlands
Project Manager, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further reading:
Emily Kearns, Underground, Overground: A London Transport Miscellany (Chichester, 2015.) British Library YKL.2017.a.4386
London Underground Railways. 1908. Johnson Riddle & Co. Ltd. London. British Library Maps 3485.(180.)
British Newspaper Archive e.g. Belfast Telegraph 14 & 15 May 1924; Birmingham Daily Gazette 15 May 1924; Uxbridge & West Drayton Gazette Friday 16 May 1924