Mr. Caudle has invited a few friends to supper for the 1866 edition of Douglas Jerrold's hugely popular Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures —; Charles Keene. Twenty-seventh illustration. Wood-engraving for "The Thirteenth Lecture. —; Mrs. Caudle has been to see her dear mother. Caudle, on the 'Joyful Occasion,' has given a party, and issued the subjoined card of invitation," 8.7 x 9.5 cm, vignetted, page 63. One assumes that the would-be bachelors have been able to make very merry indeed, without either Mrs. Caudle or the Caudle children at home. When Mrs. Caudle, lecturing her husband upon the state in which she has found the house upon her return from the overnight visit, describes Caudle and his guests as having been "in a nice condition" (62), the verbal irony cannot be lost upon her long-suffering spouse. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated

"And what a condition the carpet's in! They've taken five pounds out of it, if a farthing, with their filthy boots, and I don't know what besides. And then the smoke in the hearthrug, and a large cinder-hole burnt in it! I never saw such a house in my life! If you wanted to have a few friends, why couldn't you invite 'em when your wife's at home, like any other man? not have 'em sneaking in, like a set of housebreakers, directly a woman turns her back. They must be pretty gentlemen, they must; mean fellows, that are afraid to face a woman! Ha! and you all call yourselves the lords of the creation! I should only like to see what would become of the creation, if you were left to yourselves! A pretty pickle creation would be in very soon! ["The Thirteenth Lecture. —; Mrs. Caudle has been to see her dear mother. Caudle, on the 'Joyful Occasion,' has given a party, and issued the subjoined card of invitation," pp. 61-62]

Commentary: "When the cat's away the mice will play"

Instrumental to the effect of the thirteenth "lecture" is Richard Doyle's 19 April 1845 Punch illustration of Job Caudle's invitation-card to that domestic rogue and rebel, Richard Prettyman, the companion of some of Caudle's slight misadventures, such as that to Greenwich Fair. The card on the second page introduces the reader to dinner party (depicted on the fourth page) that the husband throws for a few friends while his wife is absent, visiting her mother. Doyle's featuring a bottle (of gin, one presumes), a glass, a punch-bowl and a long-stemmed tobacco-pipe as the governing motifs of When the cat's away the mice will play prepares the reader for Mrs. Caudle's chastizing her husband at bedtime for the deplorable state in which he and his friends have left the dining-room and the parlour.

As the analogue of the domestic straw broom tied to the pipe in the invitation-card, Margaret Caudle will have to set all to rights —; although her husband will have to foot the bill for new carpeting and drapery. In the Keene illustration, drinking and smoking are indeed in progress, but the gathering does not seem to be nearly as raucous as Margaret Caudle imagines it to have been. Caudle (centre) is enjoying a large glass of punch, but he and his guests look none the worse for drink and tobacco-consumption, and Keene includes neither steam from the punch-bowl, nor the fifty lemons used in the preparation of the beverage, nor yet the smoke from the pipes of these middle-aged, middle-class gentlemen enjoying each other's company without the restrictive presence of women and children. Mrs. Caudle's biases are all to evident when she describes the party as the convergeance of a "pack" of would-be bachelors: "You can sit up half the night with a pack of people who don't care for you" (63). Her opinion of the crowd cannot have been improved by the school-boy prank somebody has played upon her mother's portrait, vandalism which she has received as a direct insult. Certainly Keene's image of Caudle's respectable-looking guests is at variance with the "corking" of the mother-in-law's portrait in the introductory vignette.

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 in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


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 18 November 2017