An Old-fashioned Winter.

An Old-fashioned Winter. From thr Diary of our own Vestryman. Fun (2 February 1867): 218. William S. Brunton (fl. 1859-71)/ Signed with his monogram. Courtesy of the Suzy Covey Comic Book Collection in the George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida. Click on image to enlarge it.]

The artist and the author of the accompanying text have very different points and priorities. The artist shows all the different effects of snow in Victorian London — effects that range from the heavy woman falling down (middle left), the street sweepers trying be hired to clear the sidewalk in front of one house (lower left), young boys sliding and throwing a snowball at a man advertising the pantomime (lower right) while horses (top) seem to have trouble in the unfamiliar snow. The satirist, on the other hand, concerns himself entirely with attacking an outmoded system of local government and the reactionary do-nothing men who run it. Of course these non-functioning functionaries are nowhere as corrupt as the legendary Boston Mayor Curley, who after selling the city’s snow-removal equipment, supposedly responded to criticism by saying, ”What the Lord giveth the Lord taketh away.” — George P. Landow

Accompanying Text

Monday, Jan —th.—Glad to see the regular style of winter setting in again as it did when I was a boy. Only wish old-fashioned times could come back altogether. Then, we should have no rubbishing cheap papers to disturb us. The dignity of a vestryman is at the mercy of a penny journal nowadays:—it is too bad. Here's a ferocious article in the Morning Earthquake accusing vestries of incompetence! Incompetence, indeod! — wouldn't the writer of that article like to be a vestryman that’s all! It’s only envy. Here I see a letter from an impertinent fellow asking what the vestries are about to allow the streets to become impassable. “There’s no moving about,” he says — he would know, if he were only that gifted being, a vestryman, what virtue there is in not moving. I never move if I can help it, and other people ought to do the same. Streets stopped up, indeed! Can't they wait fur a thaw?

Our vestry-clerk has just called on me to say than an application has been made to a magistrate for a summons against a vestry!

A summons against a vestry!

Where is the palladium ol the British Constitution? What has befallen local self-government, and why — I should I like to know why — did my ancestors fall upon the field of Nasby (or any other important field) if the privileges of the great bulwark of Great Britain, the Vestry, are to be tampered with in this way with impunity.

Fortunately this most dangerius and revolutionary attempt has been signally frustrated, but it is bad enough that it should have been conceived. The British crown is no longer in safety when the position of a British vestry has boon impugned. As a vestryman I am of course prepared to take any strps necessary for the investigation of the question. I have even walked as far as my own window and surveyed the streets.

The snow certainly lies rather drop, and the cabs can hardly get along. Well! let the daily papers and their myrmidons for once learn what it is to have to deal with “obstructives” — ha, ha I (I must take a note of that for our next meeting, and I'll tell Jones of it beforehand, so as to ensure a laugh.)

But really what can be done? Nothing. I have spoken to the beadle, and he confesses that he and the pew-opener have given the matter their gravest consideration, and they come to the conclusion that the snow must eventually melt, and that it is no use to interfere with it. He goes so far as to conjecture that “reform,” “innovation," and “precedent," might arise from any interference with the decrees of nature, and those alarming results must be avoided.

The contractor has called to say that he does not see his way to doing anything until the thaw sets in, and I am inclined to think he is right. Besides, he says it is out of the question, and as that means impossible, why it can’t be done.

On the whole I oomo to the decision that old-fashioned weather ought to be met in the old-fashioned way, and that is easy enough, for it means nothing. If those confoundod penny papers could only be brought to see it in the same way we should all be so jolly comfortable; because you see if nobody did nothing nobody else would have nothing to do, and then there could ho no finding fault because nothing had been done wrong, which is much the same as if something had been done right—and that's a fact as sure as I'm a vestryman.

[We have ventured to endeavour to translate our friend in order that our readers, accustomed to English, may not be ata loss in trying to comprehend that very peculiar language, Vestrymaxese.]

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Last modified 8 June 2018