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"Little Number Six began to cry"; Initial letter "C" — vignette for "The Sixteenth Lecture" in Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures, first published in the Punch; or, The London Charivari number for 24 May 1845; instalment, "Baby is to be christened; Mrs. Caudle canvasses the merits of probable godfathers," p. 78. Wood-engraving 6.3 x 5 cm, framed; thirty-second illustration in the third edition.

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL.]

Passage Illustrated

"I suppose, if the truth was known, you'd like your tobacco-pipe friend, your pot-companion, Prettyman, to stand for the child? You'd have no objection? I thought not! Yes; I knew what it was coming to. He's a beggar, he is; and a person who stays out half the night; yes, he does; and it’s no use your denying it — a beggar and a tippler, and that's the man you’d make godfather to your own flesh and blood! Upon my word, Caudle, it's enough to make a woman get up and dress herself to hear you talk.

"Well, I can hardly tell you, if you won’t have Wagstaff, or Pugsby, or Sniggins, or Goldman, or somebody that's respectable, to do what's proper, the child sha'n't be christened at all. As for Prettyman, or any such raff — no, never! I'm sure there's a certain set of people that poverty's catching from, and that Prettyman's one of 'em. Now, Caudle, I won't have my dear child lost by any of your spittoon acquaintance, I can tell you.

"No; unless I can have my way, the child sha'n't be christened at all. What do you say? It must have a name? There’s no 'must' at all in the case — none. No, it shall have no name; and then see what the world will say. I'll call it Number Six — yes, that will do as well as anything else, unless I've the godfather I like. Number Six Caudle! ha! ha! I think that must make you ashamed of yourself if anything can. Number Six Caudle — a much better name than Mr. Prettyman could give; yes, Number Six. What do you say? Anything but Number Seven? Oh, Caudle, if ever ——"

"At this moment," writes Caudle, "little Number Six began to cry; and taking advantage of the happy accident I somehow got to sleep." ["The Sixteenth Lecture. — Baby is to be christened; Mrs. Caudle canvasses the merits of probable godfathers," pp. 81-82]

Commentary

The taint of criminality — the apprehension that her husband's evening outings will lead to his being arrested for real crime rather than a misdemeanour — seems to grip Margaret Caudle's imagination. What the reader is not aware of until the fifteenth lecture is that her own brother, Tom, is leading a somewhat profligate existence and has just been arrested for debt. Moreover, her apprehensions about the family's welfare and the necessity of keeping the wage-earner safe may stem in part from her being pregnant, although Jerrold never makes the reader aware of her condition: suddenly, in "The Sixteenth Lecture," the Caudles have a newborn infant to name. An interesting feature of the illustration is that Job Caudle rather than his wife, Margaret, is attempting to calm the baby during the night, a suggestion that, by the 1860s, the Victorian father was playing an increased role in raising the children. The original text implies, however, that Caudle is in bed, and that therefore it is his wife who gets up to calm the newborn. Since the caption conventionally given this thumbnail occurs as the very last line of the lecture, the artist seems intent upon creating a sense of anticipation as the reader wonders how the child has come to receive a numeral as a Christian name.

Bibliography

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 1 December 2017