THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

6 posts from January 2019

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

 

07 January 2019

Blanchard! Where are your trousers? The first crossing of the English Channel in a balloon

On 7 January 1785 Jean-Pierre Blanchard and Dr John Jeffries took their lives in their hands and set off across the Channel in a balloon.  It’s no exaggeration to say this was a life and death moment.  French inventor Jean Francois Pilâtre de Rozier and his co-pilot proved this clearly when they crashed and were killed trying to cross the Channel in the opposite direction in June the same year.

Blanchard balloonColumn erected to mark landing place of Blanchard and Jeffries' balloon from A Narrative of the Two Aerial Voyages of Dr. J. with Mons. Blanchard

After a week of detailed preparations, and with the experience of a flight from London into Kent in the previous November, Blanchard and Jeffries prepared to set off from Dover.  With a keen eye on the winds, they first flew a kite, ‘a paper Montgolfier, and a small gaz balloon’, and then they felt sufficiently confident to launch.

During the crossing, they threw their ballast over the side to keep the balloon airborne.  By the time they were half way across, all of this was gone.  At about half past two, about three quarters of the way across, and as the French coast became clearer before them, the balloon started descending again.  This time they were obliged to throw food, fittings, and some of their equipment into the sea.  This included silk oars, constructed in the expectation that they might be able to ‘row’ through the air.  Still they did not rise.  They stripped off their jackets, and Blanchard even threw away his trousers.  Finally the balloon rose again, and onward they flew until they were over land.

The danger continued as they flew fast over dense woodland, dropping closer and closer to the trees.  Fearful that they would yet crash, they looked around for anything else they could do to lighten the load.  They threw off their life jackets made of cork, since they were no longer over the sea, but still they descended.  Finally, continuing to look for weight, Blanchard reflected: 'it almost instantly occurred to me that we could supply it from within ourselves … from the recollection that we had drunk much at breakfast, and not having had any evacuation, and from the severe cold, little or no perspiration had taken place, that probably an extra quantity had been secreted by the kidneys, that we might now avail ourselves of by discharging … we were able to obtain, I verily believe, between five and six pounds of urine; which circumstance, however trivial or ludicrous it may seem, I have reason to believe, was of real utility to us'.

Thus saved from crashing into the trees, as they slowed they were able to grab branches alongside and gradually lower themselves to the ground, at around 4.30 in the afternoon, when they were well met.  'In a short time, many persons made their way to us in the Forest, from whom we received every form of civility and assistance, particularly, in sparing from themselves clothing for us'.

Huw Rowlands
Project Manager, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further reading:
John Jeffries and Jean-Pierre Blanchard,, A Narrative of the Two Aerial Voyages of Dr. J. with Mons. Blanchard: With Meteorological Observations and Remarks. The First Voyage on the Thirtieth of November, 1784, from London into Kent: The Second, on the Seventh of January, 1785, from England into France (London, 1786) Online version

03 January 2019

The Great War Fund Fete

On 13 January 1941 a War Fund Fete was held at Government House, Madras.  As well as raising money for the Madras War Fund, the fete was also intended as a propaganda event.

Fete programme coverIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur C261/5/2 f 1 Front cover of the War Fund Fete programme 

It was a grand affair with the programme featuring 91 entries for stalls, games, entertainments and food and drink establishments, along with more practical facilities including cloakrooms and parcel stores, lost property and medical stations.  Currency for the fete was in coupons and the public had to purchase books of coupons in order to make purchases or enjoy the entertainments on offer.

One local newspaper on the day of the fete described Government House as having been 'transformed into a pleasureland' for that night's merrymaking.  According to the Madras Mail of 14 January 1941, the fete was opened when 'Tough cowboys burst open the gates at Government House yesterday and their tempestuous entrance made it possible for the public to enter at last'.

Many of the stalls were similar to those featured at fetes nowadays with lucky dips, raffles, coconut shy’s, and bagatelle.  Others however had more unusual titles, including ‘Bunty pulls the strings’ and ‘Breaking up the happy home’ (similar to today’s crockery smash stalls).  There were also elephant rides, several magic gardens and even a Chinese Laundry!  One of the most popular stalls at the Fete was that of Woolworth’s.  One local newspaper the following day observed:
'Equally crowded was the excellent “Woolworth” stall, where the most effective household oddments, artfully and thriftily contrived, were sold for a song'.

Entertainment at the fete included two bandstands and a theatre which featured dance groups and musicians as well as plays.  The performances on show included the Tamil comedy The Sub-Assistant Magistrate of Sultanpet and the Tamil play The Pongal Feast.

Food and drink were also in abundance with American style diners and saloons, coffee and refreshment stalls and a Toc H Bar.  For those looking for a full evening’s entertainment there was a Tocaitchaski bar with its own orchestra, a banqueting hall with dancing from 9pm to 2am (evening dress was optional) and a cabaret dinner, promenade and bar with the cabaret performance at 9pm.

The Mail 14 Jan 1941India Office Private Papers Mss Eur C261/5/2, f 23 Front page of The Mail 14 January 1941 showing the crowds surging into the fete

According to the newspaper reports people attended the fete in their thousands: 'In they surged, school boys and girls, scores of excited men and women, mothers with babies and with chattering kiddies clinging to available fingers, happy young things on the arms of their beaux, while burnished cars and buses squeezed through as well'.

In a letter written on 16 January 1941 Sir Arthur Hope, the Governor of Madras, congratulated Captain Thomas William Barnard, Honorary Secretary to the Fete’s organising committee, on the wonderful success of the fete and also commented that 'Apart from the financial result, it was a great piece of propoganda [sic] which will have its effect'.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur C261/5/2 - The Great Fete at Government House Grounds Madras 13 January 1941
- Includes press cuttings from The Mail (formerly known as The Madras Mail) 14 January 1941

 

01 January 2019

Indian Honours List, New Year 1919

On 1 January 1919 the India Office published its honours list approved by the King.  There is a memorandum in the archives giving the reasons why the awards were made. 

The first name on the list is Sir Dorabji Jamshedji Tata who was elevated to Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India (K.C.S.I.) in recognition of being a pioneer of industrial enterprise in India.  He is followed by European, Indian and Burmese men holding civil, military, medical, scientific and diplomatic posts, as well as by Indian princes.  The Maharaja of Baroda and the Maharaja of Alwar, Rajputana, were made Knights Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (G.C.I.E.), the first for raising cash for the First World War as well as for his life-long efforts to improve the condition of his state; the second for providing soldiers.  Many honours were awarded for services connected with the War.

Star of India investitureFirst investiture of the Star of India November 1861 - Plate 17 of William Simpson's India: Ancient and Modern.  The Nawab Begum of Bhopal appears in the centre of the picture. Online Gallery

Forty-seven women in India were honoured in January 1919, mostly Europeans. Three women were made Commander of the Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.). Lady Eva Cardew had undertaken religious and philanthropic work in Madras and Ootacamund, as well as charitable efforts in connection with the War.  Mrs Gertrude Carmichael had worked with the East Indies Naval Fund; Bombay University; and Lady Willingdon’s scheme for maternity homes. Mrs Miriam Isabel Lyons had served for the past three years as President of the Poona Branch of the War and Relief Fund.

Fourteen women were made Officer of the British Empire (O.B.E.).  A number had been active in the Red Cross during the War.  Mrs Maud Lilian Davys had worked as an assistant to her husband Major Gerard Irvine Davys of the Indian Medical Service in a new laboratory for examining foodstuffs at Kasuali in the Punjab.  According to the 1939 Register, Mrs Davys was still working as a food scientist at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Mrs Alice Todhunter’s O.B.E. recognised her work with the Madras War Fund Ladies’ Depot, especially her success in securing the support of Indian women.  Mrs Todhunter had also been busy with the St John Ambulance Association and with the National Indian Association, striving for the education of Indian women and the encouragement of social intercourse between Indians and Europeans.

The list of Members of the British Empire had 27 women, seven Indian.  Bai Champabahen Manibhai of Bombay was praised for carrying on her mother’s philanthropic activities, including providing equipment for the Kapadwanj Dispensary and bearing the expenses of recruits at the Anand Depot.

Three women were awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind Gold Medal.  Miss Sarah Isabel Hatch of the Canadian Baptist Telegu Mission in Madras had established an asylum for lepers at Ramachandrapuram in the Godavari District in 1899 and now had over 100 inmates from across the Presidency.  Mrs Pandita Ramabai of Bombay had furthered the education of Indian women, with a team of ‘English and American ladies working under her’.  There were now 1,000 women and girls at a mission provided entirely by her.  Miss Gertrude Davis was Principal Matron in the Australian Army Nursing Service based at the Victoria War Hospital in Bombay.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/PS/15/41 File H224/1918 New Year’s Honours 1919
H Taprell-Dorling, Ribbons and Medals (London, 1916)