The Stone Kitchen — George Cruikshank. January 1840. The third steel-engraving and eighth illustration in William Harrison Ainsworth's The Tower of London complements the architectural study of the vacant room as it existed in 1840, The Stone Kitchen. framed. Among the crowd enjoying the warm, food, drink, and comraderie are the three jovial warders Og, Gog, Magog ("the Three Giants of the Tower") and their friend, Xit the dwarf. 9.6 cm high by 14.6 cm wide, facing p. 28. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

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Extended Passage Illustrated

At a table running across the room, and furnished with flagons and pots of wine, several boon companions were seated. The chief of these was a jovial-looking warder who appeared to be the life and soul of the party, and who had a laugh, a joke, or the snatch of a song, for every occasion. Opposite to him sat Peter Trusbut, the pantler, who roared at every fresh witticism uttered by his guest till the tears ran down his cheeks. Nor did the warder appear to be less of a favourite with Dame Potentia, a stout buxom personage, a little on the wrong side of fifty, but not without some remains of comeliness. She kept his glass constantly filled with the best wine, and his plate as constantly supplied with the choicest viands, so that, what with eating, drinking, singing, and a little sly love-making to Dame Trusbut, Pibald, for so was the warder named, was pretty well employed. At the lower end of the table was placed a savage-looking person, with red bloodshot eyes and a cadaverous countenance. This was Mauger, the headsman. He was engaged in earnest conversation with Master Hairun, the bearward, assistant-keeper of the lions, — an office, at that time, of some consequence and emolument. In the ingle nook was ensconced a venerable old man with a snowy beard descending to his knees, who remained with his eyes fixed vacantly upon the blazing embers. Seated on a stool near the hearth, was a little boy playing with a dog, whom Cholmondeley perceived at once was Cicely's companion; while the adjoining chair was occupied by the fair creature of whom the enamoured esquire was in search. Pausing at the doorway, he lingered for a moment to contemplate her charms. A slight shade of sadness clouded her brow — her eyes were fixed upon the ground, and she now and then uttered a half-repressed sigh. At this juncture, the jolly-looking warder struck up a Bacchanalian stave, the words of which ran as follows: —

With my back to the fire and my paunch to the table,
Let me eat, — let me drink as long as I am able:
Let me eat, — let me drink whate'er I set my whims on,
Until my nose is blue, and my jolly visage crimson.

The doctor preaches abstinence, and threatens me with dropsy,
But such advice, I needn't say, from drinking never stops ye: —
The man who likes good liquor is of nature brisk and brave, boys,
So drink away!drink while you may! —
There's no drinking in the grave, boys!

. . . . As soon as Dame Trusbut had provided for the wants of her numerous guests, she turned her attention to the prisoner, who had excited her compassion, and who sat with his arms folded upon his breast, preserving the same resolute demeanour he had maintained throughout. Proffering her services to the sufferer, she bade her attendant, Agatha, bring a bowl of water to bathe his wounds, and a fold of linen to bind round his head. At this moment, Xit, the dwarf, who was by no means pleased with the unimportant part he was compelled to play, bethought him of an expedient to attract attention. Borrowing from the herald the scroll of the proclamation, he mounted upon Og's shoulders, and begged him to convey him to the centre of the room, that he might read it aloud to the assemblage, and approve their loyalty. The good-humoured giant complied. Supporting the mannikin with his left hand, and placing his large two-handed sword over his right shoulder, he walked forward, while the dwarf screamed forth the following preamble to the proclamation: — "Jane, by the grace of God Queen of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and of the Church of England, and also of Ireland, under Christ on earth the supreme head. To all our loving, faithful, and obedients, and to every of them, greeting." Here he paused to shout and wave his cap, while the herald, who had followed them, to humour the joke raised his embroidered trumpet to his lips, and blew a blast so loud and shrill, that the very rafters shook with it. To this clamour Og added his stunning laughter, while his brethren, who were leaning over a screen behind, and highly diverted with the incident, joined in lusty chorus. [Book One, Chapter III. — "Of the Three Giants of the Tower of London, Og, Gog, and Magog; of Xit, the Dwarf; of the Fair Cicely; of Peter Trusbut, the Pantler, and Potentia his Wife; of Hairun the Bear-ward, Ribald the Warder, Mauger the Headsman, and Nightgall the Jailer; and of the Pleasant Pastime Held in the Stone Kitchen," pp. 28-30]


George Cruikshank has given concrete life to the Tower's past, creating figures that convincingly take command of the stage offered by its charged spaces and, like the acting of Henry Irving, appear as if momentarily illuminated by flashes of lightning. Cruikshank’s pictures stand alone, like glimpses of a strange dream, drawing the viewer into a compelling emotional universe with its own logic, peopled with its own inhabitants and where it is too readily apparent what is going on. [Gentle Author, "The Bloody Romance of the Tower."]

All the loveable, quirky characters from the lower orders of early Renaissance society of the kind drawn so ably in the Waverley Novels by Sir Walter Scott rejoice in the good cheer provided by the garrison's cook, Dame Trusbut, and her husband, Peter, the pantler. The comic relief is a key part of what Charles Dickens termed the "streaky-bacon" technique of narrative construction, alternating philosophical, descriptive, suspenseful, and comic material. The light-hearted banter and roistering in the kitchen is followed immediately by an eerie Gothic scene in Saint John's Chapel in the White Tower, in which Queen Jane, in true Gothic fashion, is dogged by an apparition.


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Last modified 23 September 2017