Illuminated Initial Letter "W"
6.7 x 5.1 cm, framed
Eighth illustration for Douglas Jerrold's Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures (first published in February 1845): "The Third Lecture," p. 12.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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Passage Complemented: Getting ready to leave the Club
"And so you've gone and joined a club? The Skylarks, indeed! A pretty skylark you'll make of yourself! But I won't stay and be ruined by you. No: I'm determined on that. I'll go and take the dear children, and you may get who you like to keep your house. That is, as long as you have a house to keep and that won't be long, I know.
"How any decent man can go and spend his nights in a tavern! — oh, yes, Mr. Caudle; I daresay you do go for rational conversation. I should like to know how many of you would care for what you call rational conversation, if you had it without your filthy brandy−and−water; yes, and your more filthy tobacco−smoke. I'm sure the last time you came home, I had the headache for a week. But I know who it is who's taking you to destruction. It's that brute, Prettyman. He has broken his own poor wife's heart, and now he wants to — but don't you think it, Mr. Caudle; I'll not have my peace of mind destroyed by the best man that ever trod. Oh, yes! I know you don't care so long as you can appear well to all the world, — but the world little thinks how you behave to me. It shall know it, though — that I'm determined.
"How any man can leave his own happy fireside to go and sit, and smoke, and drink, and talk with people who wouldn't one of 'em lift a finger to save him from hanging how any man can leave his wife and a good wife, too, though I say it for a parcel of pot−companions oh, it's disgraceful, Mr. Caudle; it's unfeeling. No man who had the least love for his wife could do it.
"And I suppose this is to be the case every Saturday? ["The Third Lecture": "Mr. Caudle Joins a Club, — 'The Skylarks'," pp. 12-13]
Although Keene does not flatly contradict the text — in this case, Mrs. Caudle's implying that the "Skylarks" are a bunch of sots who will be coming home at all hours, he shows Mr. Job Caudle as being politely helped on with his great-coat by a fellow-Skylark, perhaps Harry Prettyman. As yet, although he has joined the club, he has yet to attend his first meeting. Consequently, the illustration is merely a reflection of Mrs. Caudle's anxieties about her husband's coming home after midnight. Although the name of the club may suggest the colloquial expression "skylarking," as in "making merry," or "breaking constraints," it may have had literary associations in the mid-nineteenth century, namely with Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley's ode "To a Skylark" (June 1820). Such aesthetic and metaphysical associations seem at variance with Keene's image of two staid, well-dressed, middle-aged bourgeoisie who are hardly Shelleyan "blithe Spirits." Keene may have also responded to the club's name with a remembrance of Dickens's Great Expectations (1861), in which Joe Gargery's tagline with the protagonist, Pip, is "What larks!"
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 25 November 2017