Illuminated Initial "Y"
6.9 x 5.3 cm, framed
Fourth illustration for Douglas Jerrold's Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures (first published in 1845): "The First Lecture," p. 1.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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Next Tuesday the fire−insurance is due. I should like to know how it's to be paid? Why, it can't be paid at all! That five pounds would have more than done it — and now, insurance is out of the question. And there never were so many fires as there are now. I shall never close my eyes all night, — but what's that to you, so people can call you liberal, Mr. Caudle? Your wife and children may all be burnt alive in their beds — as all of us to a certainty shall be, for the insurance must drop. And after we've insured for so many years! But how, I should like to know, are people to insure who make ducks and drakes of their five pounds? I did think we might go to Margate this summer. There's poor little Caroline, I'm sure she wants the sea. But no, dear creature! she must stop at home — all of us must stop at home she'll go into a consumption, there's no doubt of that; yes — sweet little angel! — I've made up my mind to lose her, now. The child might have been saved; but people can't save their children and throw away their five pounds too. ["The First Lecture," p. 2-4]
In the "First Lecture," subtitled "Mr. Caudle Has Lent Five Punds to a Friend," which completes the title-page vignette, Mrs. Caudle obsesses about her husband's recently having loaned a friend five pounds, which today seems like no great sum, but which was considerable in 1845. Jerrold describes what Mrs. Caudle regards as the dire and inevitable consequences of the loan. According to the critical wife, the money that her husband has thoughtlessly loaned a friend might have covered the annual fire insurance premium, bonnets for the children, a chimney-cleaning, a shutter repair, the annual water-rate, a new satin gown for Mrs. Caudle herself, a window repair, the daughter's visit to the dentist, and a family vacation to Margate, at the mouth of the Thames. Mrs. Caudle's attempting to make her spouse feel guilty about the loan will only be effective if five pounds in the year 1845 could do so much. Although she may be exaggerating, the five pounds might well have covered most of the expenditures she has itemized since in present-day terms it would be worth £458.90.
In place of the shrewish whining and attempts to make her husband feel guilty, Mrs. Caudle in the Keene thumbnail for Caudle lending a friend five pounds: "The First Lecture" shows the good lady in the voluminous skirts of the period attending to Caroline, fashionably dressed for a Victorian child and carrying one of the toys common in the period, a hoop. Beside her in a cap typical of the kind worn by boys in the 1840s is the son, Jack; to the left stands a nursemaid holding the Caudles' infant daughter. In other words, the illustration supports rather than denigrates Mrs. Caudle's concerns about her family, so that the illustration subtly works against Jerrold's misogynistic satire of a blathering, hyper-sensitive spouse meddling in her husband's financial affairs. Over the course of the narrative, Margaret Caudle's concerns about the proper clothing and diet of her children are secondary to her anxieties about her husband's being out of their London home past midnight.
Jerrold, Douglas. Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures, as Suffered by the late Job Caudle.Edited from the Original MSS. by Douglas Jerrold. With a frontispiece by Leech, and as motto on the title-page, "Then, Pistol, lay thy head in Fury's lap. — Shakespeare." London: Punch Office; Bradbury and Evans, 1846.
Jerrold, Douglas. Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures . Illustrated by John Leach and Richard Doyle. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1856.
Jerrold, Douglas. Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures. Illustrated by Charles Keene. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1866.
Last modified 22 November 2017