Wednesday 28 March 2007

"BOB got a stinker, and poor I received a chancery-suit upon the nob."

While I'm waiting for an advance copy of my new book to arrive (two weeks in the mail from New York already- methinks it is lost), here's a look inside the oldest book I possess, Pierce Egan's Life in London, printed in 1822.
Any attraction for the modern reader is usually considered to lie in the thirty-six aquatints by the Cruickshank brothers, George and Robert, all hand watercolored from a model sheet, as was the custom in the trade, by a shopful of women. But I also have a fondness for Egan's prose, and I'll quote a bunch of it in a minute. The story concerns the characters Jerry Hawthorne and Corinthian Tom, with their pal Bob Logic. I think this is the first pairing of the names 'Tom and Jerry'. I came across them in a later era as the name of a cocktail in a Damon Runyon story (*see below), and in that instance it may have been named for these characters as they were very popular for a spell. The text appears to have been 'wrtten up' to the pictures, which was either standard for the time, or became so afterwards, so that Dickens had to go to some trouble to change the pattern. Egan's prose is full of sporting slang, indeed that seems to be its entire purpose. And at that time 'sporting ' had more to do with 'swells' slumming in a low-life milieu than with feats of athleticism. Egan had previously put out BOXIANA, a valuable history of the sport in those days. There's an excerpt from it here: BOXING MATCH - 1801 (from Pierce Egan's Boxiana, published in 1812)
Here then, one of the Cruikshank prints (with a zoom further down) and the text that accompanied it. I've gone to some effort to keep the peculiarities of Egan's madcap typesetting (a real pain in the arse in HTML). Whether it was peculiar to him, or to sports coverage, or a range of assorted printed texts I do not know.

**(LIFE IN LONDON page 276)
A large kettle, boiling at the spout, was speedily introduced, but instead of water, read boiling Daffy. The assumed gravity of BOB’s mug, upon playing off this trick, was quite a treat; but I am happy to say Crooky booked it. “Come, gents,” said BOB, “please yourselves, here is plenty of water, now mix away.” It had the desired effect. The glass was pushed about so quickly that the “First of the Month” was soon forgotten, and we kept it up till very long after the REGULARS had been tucked up in their dabs, and only the Roosters and the Peep o’ Day Boys” were out on the prowl for a spree. At length a move was made, but not a rattler was to be had. Bob and the party, chaffing, proposed to see the Author safe to his sky-parlour. The boys were primed for any thing. Upon turning the corner of Sydney’s Alley, into Leicester–Fields, we were assailed by some troublesome customers, and a turn up was the result, (as the Plate most accurately represents.) BOB got a stinker, and poor I received a chancery-suit upon the nob.

(note. That's Tom Hawthorne in the zoom, the author, Egan off to the left in the full view-eddie)
How I reached the upper story, I know not; but, on waking, late in the day, I found my pocket book was absent--without leave. I was in great grief at this loss, not on account of the blunt it contained,--much worse-- the notes in it were dearer than gold to me. The account of JERRY'S introduction to the Marchioness of Diamonds, the Duchess of Hearts, Lady Wanton, Dick Trifle, Bill Dash, &c. &c. on his first appearance in Rotten Row with the CORINTHIAN, booked on the spot. I was in a complete funk. I immediately went to sartain persons, and communicated my loss; how, where and when; and I was consoled, that, if it were safe, PIERCE EGAN should have it. Day after day passed, and no account of it:-- I gave it up for lost, and scratched my moppery, again, and again, but could not recollect, accurately, the substance of my notes. I was sorry for myself;-- I was sorry for the public. However, on Friday morning last, taking a turn into Paternoster Row, my friend JONES, smiling, said he had got the BOOK; --as he is fond of a bit of a gig, I thought he was in fun,-- but, on handing it over to me, with the following letter, my peepers twinkled again with delight.

To the care of Mr Jones, for P. EGAN
Sir,-- You see as how I have sent that are Litter Pocket Book, which so much row has been kicked up about amongst us. Vy it ain’t vorth a single tonic. Whose to understand it? Vy its full of pot-hooks and hangers- and not a screen in it. You are determined nobody shall nose your idears. If your name had not been chaunted in it, it would have been dinged into the dunagan. But remember, no conking.
From Yours, &c

In consequence of BOB LOGIC’S Daffy, only one sheet of Letter Press accompanies the Plates of No. 5; but to make up for this unavoidable deficiency, THREE SHEETS of Letter Press will be given with No 6.

(A footnote, not shown, helps us to grasp that Egan's notebook was written in shorthand- 'hooks and hangers')
The last part is interesting from the point of view of figuring out how this stuff was originally serialized. The only notes I've seen on the original running order of the prints are difficult to correlate with the order in the book. The fact that it was left in the collected edition does suggest that the book consists of the parts simply bound to gether, but I've looked at it every which way and I can't get it to work.

(* the cocktail. before publishing this i did a quick google check--amazing what you can get hold of in an instant these days.)
Dancing Dan's Christmas by Damon Runyan (1931?)
"Naturally we start boosting hot Tom and Jerry to Dancing Dan, and he says he will take a crack at it with us, and after one crack, Dancing Dan says he will have another crack, and Merry Christmas to us with it, and the first thing anybody knows it is a couple of hours later and we still are still having cracks at the hot Tom and Jerry with Dancing Dan, and Dan says he never drinks anything so soothing in his life. In fact, Dancing Dan says he will recommend Tom and Jerry to everybody he knows, only he does not know anybody good enough for Tom and Jerry, except maybe Miss Muriel O'Neill, and she does not drink anything with drugstore rye in it."

Wikipedia entry says Egan devised the cocktail as a publicity spin-off.

And obviously, the cartoon cat and mouse are named after the cocktail. Voila! (theirs is the richest Wikipdeia entry I've seen for anything so far).

That leaves one other matter to account for. The linguistic pitting of Tommy (the British soldier) against Gerry (the German) in World War 1 is coincidental and comes by a different route altogether, which is no less curious and interesting.


in other news, Dog-sized toad found in Australia
By Phil Mercer --BBC News, Sydney
"Toadzilla is the biggest cane toad ever found in Australia's Northern Territory and weighs just under two pounds, according to an environmental group. Environmentalists have been trying to stop the spread of the poisonous creatures across the country's tropics..."



Blogger spacedlaw said...

You seem to have the worst of luck with the mail, Eddie.
Are you sure that you haven't a mad fan in the local post office, stealing goodies from you ?

Toadzilla ?
Coult that be a spy for the Mighty Gecko Emperor ?

28 March 2007 at 02:24:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Hayley Campbell said...

Huge picture in the Metro today of the ginormous toad being dangled by his toes.


28 March 2007 at 03:35:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

oi! hayley!

I was at least expecting you to tell the story of boojers the toad.


28 March 2007 at 04:51:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

and Nathalie

yes, something is very wrong. The mail service should be trying a bit harder now that it is losing ground to email etc.
I've got a second copy coming by fedex. should be here by monday latest. then we can have a look at it and weigh it up.


28 March 2007 at 04:53:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Hayley Campbell said...

Funny, I typed 'arf of it then couldnae be bothered so I deleted it.

I not a performing monkey!

28 March 2007 at 05:30:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Richard said...

Wow. This-

"You see as how I have sent that are Litter Pocket Book, which so much row has been kicked up about amongst us. Vy it ain’t vorth a single tonic. Whose to understand it? Vy its full of pot-hooks and hangers- and not a screen in it. You are determined nobody shall nose your idears. If your name had not been chaunted in it, it would have been dinged into the dunagan. But remember, no conking."

You could insert this into the text of Finnegans Wake and I wouldn't blink. Amazing.

28 March 2007 at 08:18:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Richard said...

Interesting aside: looks like the Beeb did a radio show based on Life In London last year.

28 March 2007 at 08:27:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Jack Ruttan said...

These old books can seem pretty Alien. I remember picking up a copy of "Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour" by Robert Surtees (illustrated maybe by "Phiz" or one of those cats), and most of the first chapter was describing what people were wearing, again in an impenetrable local jargon.

Makes you wonder what people will think of LOL-speak and today's popular culture a hundred years hence? I suppose they'll just bury it, the way we're buried these guys.

28 March 2007 at 08:40:00 GMT-5  
Blogger James Robert Smith said...

Haha! Egan's prose sucks!

Here's the cure for invasive species such as the goddamned cane toad:

a bounty.

It doesn't have to be a huge bounty. Just offer a freaking bounty for the pernicious little bastards. Could be music money for the kids. It doesn't matter. Mankind seems to be able to exterminate entire species when even small amounts of profit are involved. Yet, invasive critters such as toads and rabbits and feral pigs seem to be immune to Mankind's best efforts to eliminate them. Offer some money for their dead bodies and I'll bet they'll soon be knocking on Oblivion's obsidian door.

28 March 2007 at 12:55:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

You made me pull Mr Sponge's Sporting Tour off the shelf. It's thirty years later than life and London and so much more Victorian in its outlook. But great reading
"When a good London hat recedes to a certain point, it gets no worse; it is not like a country-made thing that keeps going and going until it declines into a thing with no sort of reemblance to its original self. Barring its weight and hardness, the Sponge hat had no particular character apart from the Sponge head. It was not one of those punty ovals or Cheshire cheese flats, or curly-sided things that enables one to say who is in a house and who is not, by a glance at the hats in the entrance, but it was just a quiet, round hat, without anything remarkable, either in the binding, the lining, or the band, still it was a very becoming hat when Sponge hat it on."

29 March 2007 at 16:43:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Jack Ruttan said...

Yeah, but that was the whole plot! I sort of see why they made us read Dickens. He was the hip, in tune one who could rap with the young.

29 March 2007 at 21:58:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Jack Ruttan said...

Come Hup, I say, you hugly beast! (with illos by John Leech)

Man, am I lost. But I love this stuff.

29 March 2007 at 22:05:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Antique vernacular is fun once you get used to it. Then again, people are always complaining that I'm overly fond of osbcure words. Well pshaw to that!

If you really want to quail, then, go, thou, to, Henry, James, and, shudder....

"The main interest of these hours for us, however, will have been in the way the Prince continued to know, during a particular succession of others, separated from the evening in Eaton Square by a short interval, a certain persistent aftertaste. This was the lingering savour of a cup presented to him by Fanny Assingham's hand after dinner, while the clustered quartette kept their ranged companions, in the music-room, moved if one would, but conveniently motionless. Mrs. Assingham contrived, after a couple of pieces, to convey to her friend that, for her part, she was moved--by the genius of Brahms--beyond what she could bear; so that, without apparent deliberation, she had presently floated away, at the young man's side, to such a distance as permitted them to converse without the effect of disdain. It was the twenty minutes enjoyed with her, during the rest of the concert, in the less associated electric glare of one of the empty rooms--it was their achieved and, as he would have said, successful, most pleasantly successful, talk on one of the sequestered sofas, it was this that was substantially to underlie his consciousness of the later occasion. The later occasion, then mere matter of discussion, had formed her ground for desiring--in a light undertone into which his quick ear read indeed some nervousness-- these independent words with him: she had sounded, covertly but distinctly, by the time they were seated together, the great question of what it might involve. It had come out for him before anything else, and so abruptly that this almost needed an explanation. Then the abruptness itself had appeared to explain-- which had introduced, in turn, a slight awkwardness. "Do you know that they're not, after all, going to Matcham; so that, if they don't--if, at least, Maggie doesn't--you won't, I suppose, go by yourself?" It was, as I say, at Matcham, where the event had placed him, it was at Matcham during the Easter days, that it most befell him, oddly enough, to live over, inwardly, for its wealth of special significance, this passage by which the event had been really a good deal determined. He had paid, first and last, many an English country visit; he had learned, even from of old, to do the English things, and to do them, all sufficiently, in the English way; if he didn't always enjoy them madly he enjoyed them at any rate as much, to an appearance, as the good people who had, in the night of time, unanimously invented them, and who still, in the prolonged afternoon of their good faith, unanimously, even if a trifle automatically, practised them; yet, with it all, he had never so much as during such sojourns the trick of a certain detached, the amusement of a certain inward critical, life; the determined need, which apparently all participant, of returning upon itself, of backing noiselessly in, far in again, and rejoining there, as it were, that part of his mind that was not engaged at the front. His body, very constantly, was engaged at the front--in shooting, in riding, in golfing, in walking, over the fine diagonals of meadow-paths or round the pocketed corners of billiard-tables; it sufficiently, on the whole, in fact, bore the brunt of bridge-playing, of breakfasting, lunching, tea-drinking, dining, and of the nightly climax over the bottigliera, as he called it, of the bristling tray; it met, finally, to the extent of the limited tax on lip, on gesture, on wit, most of the current demands of conversation and expression. Therefore something of him, he often felt at these times, was left out; it was much more when he was alone, or when he was with his own people--or when he was, say, with Mrs. Verver and nobody else--that he moved, that he talked, that he listened, that he felt, as a congruous whole."

29 March 2007 at 23:10:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Jack Ruttan said...

Yeah, that's one of those chambered-nautilus shell sentences that gave me heart problems in university. Boo James!

30 March 2007 at 07:34:00 GMT-5  

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