Britain and the World Conference 2018

PUNCS members and other members of the History department and School of Law at the University of Plymouth attended the fantastic international conference hosted by the University of Exeter, 21 – 23 June 2018, on ‘Britain and the World’, offering insights into their research in progress on military empires and the empire of knowledge (Harry Bennett); mercy and empire in the long nineteenth century (James Gregory); the ‘White Mutiny’ of East India Company’s European troops 1857-61 (Ann Lyon); and the Three Towns’ curious history in relation to the Irish diaspora (Judith Rowbotham).

A panel of members of the School of Law and PUNCS: Kim Stevenson, Craig Newbery-Jones, and Rob Giles, presented research on Plymouth as point of departure, with discussion varying from mapping the circles of Plymouth-based innovators in science and exploration; creating virtual reality simulations inside a transportation ship to Australia; to journeys of criminality through a micro-history, or ‘life-course analysis’ of one Plymouth-born lawbreaker who made a new life after transportation in Australia.

With 190 delegates and 55 panels, the conference ranged chronologically from the early modern to the present day, and thematically offered a rich and very varied fare from eighteenth-century theatre, to The Kinks and superheroes, from Restoration-era Jamaica to the British social world in Hong Kong in the era of decolonization. Imperial and international themes in nineteenth-century history were well represented.

It was a great conference! The twitter-sphere records the lively interventions of the seagulls.

Plymouth departures


empire of mercy

New edited collection from PUNCS members !

We’re delighted to announced the publication of the edited collection Libraries, Books, and Collectors of Texts, 1600 —1900 (Routledge Studies in Cultural History), edited by two PUNCS members, Annika Bautz and James Gregory, and featuring a chapter from Susan Leedham, whose AHRC-funded PhD at the University of Plymouth studied the Cottonian Collection at Plymouth. The chapters study collectors’ roles as well as the collections of books and texts which they assembled: studying British, continental and transcontinental European public and private collections from the Renaissance through to the modern eras.

Bautz and Gregory book (2)


For those interested in the nineteenth century, there are chapters on the Cottonian Collection as a gentleman’s library c.1791—1816 (Susan Leedham); John Couch Adams’s academic collecting (Sophie Defrance), catalogues and readers in the Luso-Brazilian world (Luciane Scarato), Plymouth Public Library’s catalogues (Annika Bautz), ‘bibliomania’ and satire (Shayne Husbands), the golden Magna Carta of Whittaker (James Gregory) and an overview of domestic libraries in the age of T.F. Dibdin, by Keith Manley.

‘the beard was both foxy and fiery’: Another glimpse of James Elmslie Duncan, the ‘Divinearian’


Duncan image


James Gregory, 9 July 2018

Having completed my study of the Chartist poet James Elmslie Duncan, The Poetry and the Politics. Radical Reform in Victorian England in 2014, I imagined that there might still be material out there in the newspapers of the 1840s and early 1850s that I had failed to find: and so it has turned out with ongoing digitisation through the British Newspaper Archives which revealed to me this gem of reportage on the London poet and serial disturber of radical and reform meetings.

Here, through the letter of a ‘constant reader’ to the Lincolnshire Chronicle (published 29 August 1851, p.6) there is not only a description of Duncan’s intervention at a metropolitan meeting of the National Charter Association at the London Tavern (14 January 1850) from his own perspective rather than from a hostile press (such as The Times, 15 January 1850), but also one of his otherwise missing poems. In this case it is to one of his British political heroes, the Chartist Thomas Cooper. Not only that, the material is reproduced seemingly accurately, from Duncan’s own reformed spelling text, from a missing issue of The Divinearian, the only copy (for December 1849) which exists now, being in the Seligman Library, Columbia University.

I have transcribed it below, as it appeared in the ‘Letters to the Editor’ section of the Lincolnshire paper. It seems to clarify one important point too, the actual colour of Duncan’s beard.

Sadly for the poet, the reference to Bedlam was already realized through his admission to Colney Hatch lunatic asylum (in July 1851).


* * * * * *


SIR, — Seeing the name of Thomas Cooper in your last week’s paper, reminded me of the scum which floats on the surface of London literature: during a recent visit to London I became possessed of a specimen in the following manner: — Passing up City-road one Sunday after service, I noticed a man selling printed papers at a chapel door, the congregation were leaving: this man had a sandy beard, a dirty face, repulsive countenance, and was dressed in a dirty blouse. I paid a penny, and obtained a number of his paper; it contained four pages of letter-press; the spelling was phonography outdone — a Pitman run mad: the contents your readers shall judge. This dirty fellow, whose appearance in that disgusting garb on the Sabbath, was a proof of his fitness either for the lock-up or Bedlam, was, I found, the author and editor of the pamphlet, which bore the blasphemous title of “The Divinearian;” and the author styled himself as “the man with the red beard.” The god of his idolatry is Thomas Cooper, a person I believe not unknown in Lincoln — he was once a patten-maker there. Amongst the contents is sonnet to this person (which will require but little trouble in correcting the proofs; your compositor cannot make the spelling worse than in the original); here it is—



“O wuod that I had powr to sing ov thee,

To chant in strainz wurthy ov thy briht mind!

How briliant iz thine eloquens — how rich

Thy stream ov glo-ing wurdz, soel tonez combined

In such fair order and rare harmuny.

Thy stately form! — how meet fill a nich

Ov sum quaint Gothic or old Norman fane.

No scofer corse art thou; — the sanctity,

The venerashun deep, the Hevenly goel,

The faith in Gospel, Crist, and Power Divine,

Al thirst sneer at these thou wuodst restrain,

Hwile stil emansipate from the control

Ov superstishun darc for rezunz shrine:

O Bard and Oratur this sacred mishun thine.’’


I find Cooper again alluded to in an article headed, “The Tempel ov Free Thought.” This is to be, it seems, a Chartist and Infidel lecture hall, which is to “exersize a must holesom influens in checing the baneful sway ov preachingz.”

“Thare will be for the oratur a robe ov linen and velvet, grasefully floing around his persun, sihtly and clasic, a contrast bibz and blacnes, or peticoats ov priests. The idea orijinated with Tomas Cuoper, famus for hiz briliant eloquens and ultra democrasy (!!). It been tacen up with enthuziazm by numerus free-thincerz, chiefly Mr. Saul ov the Sity, wine merchant and jeolojitst, hoo imediately that the project woz propounded proferd 500l to help its realizashun. Anuther like practical pursite promist 20l , utherz 10l. several 5l., and scores 1l., the prise of a share.”


But there is still more of “Tomas Cuoper:” another article tells that —

“Tomas Cuoper, at present, is delivering, alternate Sunday cvenings, too corses ov orashuns in the metropolis, wun on the history ov Rome at the Hal ov Siens Sity Road, and the uther on the histury ov Grese. at the Soshal Institushun Jon Street Totenham Cort Road.”


One would have thought that other subjects might have been chosen for Sunday evening lectures, or at least that other evenings might have been selected for these subjects. It appears that Cooper has a new plan of describing the extent of an empire, which beats maps and atlases hollow. The “man with a red beard” states —


“Mr. Cuoper described the extent ov the Roman Teritvry, streching his arm in the diferent direcshuns; he likewise related, most ably, the growth ov the imperial power; and delineated vividly and graficaly, the caracters and conduct of Rome’s divers rulers. The Lecturer now retired; thare wos an interval of music; and he returned to discus, as is invariably his custum, present politics after having discorst ov past events: lisnd to with lively interest and worm sympathy — evident as the admirashun inspired by his previous oratury.”


A fitting finale, truly, to a Sunday evening lecture is a discussion on “present politics.”

The only endurable part of the “Divinearian” is the adventures of the author, and these are amusing for their absurdity. He is describing his visit to Chartist meeting at the London Tavern, and his account is ludicrous enough: —

“I, Editor ov the Divinearian, attended this meeting, rejoist to witness so ecstraordinary an ocurens in the proseedings ov Chartism. I bore with me the Chartist Baner — a desine in water culurs representing a star with six radiashuns, each embelisht with an emblem ov a point ov the Charter, —  a desine so injenius and briliant that Fergus O’Conur himself has acnolejd it as most hapily apropo : hwilst I carid thither too, in a flowerd green bag, democratic balads ov mine, tens ov thousands hwareov hav been distributed by me; and likewise provided with my fonografic reporting aparetus. Accouterd thus, I sat me down at the tabel and likewise provided for the public scribes (i. e. the jents ov the pres), harcend (in English hearkened) to the oraturs, and in an interval ov the proseedings, oferd a brother reporter a set ov my prints. He refused them — wuod give no resun, but bade me hold my tung! This rousd my rath, and resolvd me to denouns the rufian rudenes ov this scoundrel hireling ov sum wun ov the pres-gang — probably the Conservative Post, or Tory Herald; and almost beside my self at the insult, I sprang from beside the base blagard, mounted the tabel, stept on the platform, and roard out a loud shout, and this with a beard, a ful beard be it borne in mind ! ‘I hav been told to hold my tung! Chartists will you permit it? Deth or Liberty ! Here is the Flag ov the Charter, the Day Star ov Freedom ! The Pepel’s Charter, and No Surender!’ Fergus O’Conur president ov the proseedings egsorted me not to disturb thair concord. I proferd him my riht hand, and he graspt it with a harty shace. I next sat myself on the platform — percht as it ware upon a pedestal.”

A rich scene must this have been : we can imagine this friend of Cooper’s pestering reporter with his Chartist prints and in imagination can see the man mounting the table and roaring out (“with a full beard”) “The Charter and no surrender and all for why ? just because a reporter (i. e. a ‘base blagard’ ) had told him to “hold his tung!!”

“ This was just hwot the scribsters wanted — an ocurens calculated to mace the mater luoc ridiculus in respectab’l iis; accordingly the reporter for the Times availd himself ov my beard to give espeshal effect to his account; and not content with the veritab’l hue thareov — brown — he made not a hwite but a red lie ov it, choosing that culur for its raw glare and firy fersenes; thus wos my beard set forth to the public vishunals, sumwhot as is the ree [sic, for red]  rag before those ov the bul hwen his rage is to rousd — myself the apendaje thareto, being ‘a man with a red beard !’ ”

It appears that this friend of Thomas Cooper” and the Times reporter are at issue on the colour of the beard. Truth compels me to state, from what I saw on the Sunday morning, that the beard was both foxy and fiery.

By this time, I suppose you and your readers have had enough of the Divinearian. I will merely add that, on going up the City-road, I saw large placards announcing that Cooper would deliver a lecture on Christian Socialism in some Hall of Science or other that evening.

And these, Mr. Editor, are the lights of the age! These are the men who go lecturing about the country, making dupes and tools of the poorer classes — first exciting them to sedition, and then, coward like, leaving them in the lurch. Oh, yes! lectures on “Greece and Home” — on “Socialism” — and discussions on “Modern Politics,” “Tempels of Free Thought” — delivered by Cooper, are to “exersize a most holesom influens in checing the baneful sway of preaching!!” — So much for one of the miscalled spirits of the age.


Your’s [sic],           A CONSTANT READER.

Devonshire in the Long Nineteenth century: the Shadow of Sherlock Holmes?


Sidney Paget’s illustration, ‘The Shadow of Sherlock Holmes’, illustrating chapter X,
The Strand Magazine, January 1902. PUNCS collection.

PUNCS members Dr Judith Rowbotham and Dr James Gregory spoke on 11 March 2017 at the ‘Moor than meets the Eye’ Heritage Lottery Fund-funded symposium on Dartmoor in the nineteenth century.

Judith Rowbotham’s paper, ‘By the Hand of Nature Marked? The Lure of Dartmoor as a Site for Crime and Criminals in Victorian Fiction,’ looked at the violent and criminal associations of Dartmoor, contrasting the meagre record of actual crimes with that looming large in popular culture in this period, most famously associated with Arthur Conan Doyle’s tale,’The Hound of the Baskervilles’, from which our two blog images are taken (Sidney Paget’s illustrations from the Strand Magazine originals), and which drew upon the area’s indelible association with the prison at Princetown.



Black’s guide to Devonshire: with maps and illustrations (1874; image from copy in University of Plymouth collection)


James Gregory offered an overview, at the start of the symposium, on the representation of Devon in texts such as mid-Victorian gazetteers; guidebooks such as those produced by the publishers Adam and Charles Black, and John Murray; geography textbooks for school; and lavishly illustrated works of topography from earlier in the century; to answer the question: what might people from outside the second (or third) largest county in England know about Devonshire and its inhabitants, in the ‘long nineteenth century’? The notoriously drizzly weather, clotted cream and cider, the terra incognita of Dartmoor, figured heavily in this ‘knowledge’. The revised copy of Dr Gregory’s paper is available to download from his site.

Fascinating papers from local historians and academics from the University of Exeter were presented on the representation of Dartmoor in the fine arts (Peter Mason), capitalism and its related industrial history and archaeology on Dartmoor (Dr Phil Newman); the agricultural history of the county (Dr Paul Brassley);  and the surprisingly early (and occasionally, surprisingly playful) commercial imagery of Dartmoor available to the wealthy, in stereoscopic photographs (Dr Tom Greeves).


For more details on the event, see:







‘for the preservation of our rights and liberties …’ The Judiciary in the Long Nineteenth-Century and Now



Lord Chief Justice Lord Tenterden (Charles Abbott, 1762 – 1832) by William Owen. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

This year PUNCS hosted a conference on Judgment in the nineteenth-century which happened to coincide with the Brexit vote: five months on from that momentous event and we return to one of the conference’s themes on British judges and judgment, with a blog written by Ann Lyon, Lecturer in Law at Plymouth University especially for the PUNCS site.

The political history of the British ‘long nineteenth-century’ is characterised by debates about the constitution in which parliamentary reform – the extension of the parliamentary franchise, the redrawing of constituencies, the power of the House of Lords, prominently figure. The judicial bench were recognised to have a political role too. The judiciary, for instance, had a role in passing judgments that had political consequences – whether in relation to trade unions, or in matters of controversy relating to the established Church in England (where the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council passed various judgments, for instance on high church ritualism).

Critics have waited for a more fulsome defence of the judiciary from Liz Truss, the first female Lord Chancellor. But if we go back over one hundred and eighty years, we have the figure of Lord Chancellor Henry Brougham heralded alongside Lord Grey as defenders of the Reform Bill in popular prints such as the broadside printed by Kiernan of Manchester in 1831, in the British Museum print collection. And two decades later, from the perspective of Scotland – with its different legal system – we have the defence of judges in the Glasgow Gazette, in an editorial comment critical of the Whig-Liberal government’s proposed cuts:

We are for reduction and economy in every department of the State that can afford it but can never seek to prostrate the dignity and independence of our Supreme Judges — far less to rob them of their fixed salaries, on the faith of which they consented to wear the judicial ermine. It is to them: it is, we say, to these Judges, in eminent degree, more than to a base and servile Parliament, that we are indebted for the preservation of our rights and liberties …

Glasgow Gazette, 17 August 1850

Of course, judges had been unpopular in the recent past: viewed as a hostile body and part of ‘Old Corruption’, by late eighteenth-century radicals who contrasted the bench unfavourably with the jury as palladium of English liberty (on which see James Epstein’s essay ‘“Our real constitution”: trial defences and radical memory in the Age of Revolution’, in James Vernon, ed., Re-reading the constitution. New narrative in the political history of England’s long nineteenth century (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Some of the more violent responses to judges can be seen in the print collection of the British Museum, for instance George Cruikshank’s ‘The Portable Purificator of our Courts of Law & Equity being the Way our Great & Glorious Alfred cured the Winkings & Squintings of his Judges’ (1813), which shows a judge being hanged …

And consider the following comment, from Thomas Wooler, at a public meeting after the trial of the radical printer William Hone,

They all knew as a matter of history, that a measure was passed early in his present Majesty’s reign, which, as the name went, had for its object, making the Judges independent of the Crown. But it was a strange independence for these high characters, that the Crown should appoint them in the first instance; and that they should afterwards for life retain the same high salaries. From the Crown then they got everything—from the people nothing—and did not the regular march of judicial, like any other official patronage, shew the independent qualities for which Judges were selected by the Crown? Did the people not see it in the opinions invariably pronounced by Learned Judges in every case of libel which came under their cognizance?

Trial By Jury and Liberty of The Press. The Proceedings at The Public Meeting, December 29, 1817, at the City of London Tavern (London: Hone, 1818), pp.16-17

The role of the jury in defending even foreigners from tyranny is presented in the case of Dr Simon Bernard the republican, tried before a jury of twelve Englishmen in April 1858 in the aftermath of the Orsini plot, and discussed in Margot Finn’s After Chartism: Class and Nation in English Radical Politics 1848-1874 (Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Chartists of the early-Victorian era, faced with trials for rebellion and other acts of sedition, were as critical of the judicial bench as their radical forebears. The Northern Star published a poem, ‘The Judges are Going to Jail’ in February 1840, a response to the trial of Frost and the Newport Chartists. For ‘Publicola,’ in the Glasgow-published Chartist Circular, in  January 1842:

Of all the corrupt servants of the public our Judges have been the worst, except the Bishops; but the Judges lay claim to purity, and the Bishops make no such pretensions. This is a vast difference. Our Judges have created as individuals all that is called Common Law, and much of this relates to the most important subjects, and is entirely subversive of the liberties of the people. In England it is almost impossible to remove a Judge, however tyrannical, stupid, ignorant, or even corrupt. Our slavish and dull Jurymen look upon a Judge as a demi-god, and, instead of checking their impudence, or resenting their want of honesty, or reproving their arbitrary conduct, and interference with the Jury-panel, our Jurymen succumb to the Bench as the veriest of slaves.

‘The Third President of America. Part II’, Chartist Circular, 1 January 1842, p.495.

Victorian judges came from the upper classes, their prejudices as expressd on the bench, in social and economic matters reflecting this background. In the sphere of labour relations, the trade unions were critical of judicial bias at the end of our period, thus one delegate at the Trade Union Congress in 1900 declared, ‘he could not trust the judges of this country to give a fair and impartial verdict on any question as to the conditions of labour which might be remitted to them’ (as quoted in Henry Pelling, Popular Politics & Society in Late Victorian Britain)

There is much to explore about the discourse around nineteenth-century judges in popular culture. Moments of tension around controversial judicial decisions (or reported comments) might stimulate, as now, debates about attacks on the ‘dignity and independence’ of the judiciary; and involve discussion within Parliament. These were not even merely constitutional matters. For instance, there is the case of Baron George Bramwell on the North Wales circuit, impugning the Welsh in general, after the acquittal for embezzlement of David Williams, in Bala in 1859 – which understandably generated hostile comments in the Welsh press (see Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, 16 April 1859 and The Examiner, 16 April 1859 for the report of the exchange in the House of Commons between Enoch Salisbury, the MP for Chester and the Home Secretary, Thomas Sotheron Estcourt).

James Gregory



John Coleridge, 1st Baron Coleridge (1820 – 1894) engraved by Eden Upton Eddis.
Source: Wikemedia Commons
“ Despite claims by some commentators that the judiciary are acting beyond their constitutional role, and seeking to frustrate democracy, in examining and ruling on the extent of executive power, the judges were here fulfilling a long-established role, in which they are frequently called upon to check the power of an executive which very largely controls Parliament. ”

Ann Lyon comments on the judiciary’s constitutional role from the perspective of legal history

The decision of the Queen’s Bench Divisional Court in the case of R (on the application of Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has attracted saturation coverage, and not a little ill-informed comment, since it was published on Thursday 3 November 2016. No doubt it will continue to do so, at any rate until the result of the Government’s appeal to the Supreme Court is known (some time in December). Despite claims by some commentators that the judiciary are acting beyond their constitutional role, and seeking to frustrate democracy, in examining and ruling on the extent of executive power, the judges were here fulfilling a long-established role, in which they are frequently called upon to check the power of an executive which very largely controls Parliament.

The decision in Entick v Carrington in 1765 establishes that the British Government has no special powers merely because it is the Government, and that it must show positive legal authority for any acts which interfere with the existing rights of citizens. Mr Entick, a printer and associate of the radical MP John Wilkes, argued that a search of his house and the seizure of his papers, in the absence of such authority, amounted to trespass to his property, and the court agreed with him. Entick v Carrington may be regarded as the beginning of judicial review, in which the High Court considers whether an executive body has acted within it powers and used those powers in a proper manner. In Miller, the applicants sought a declaration in judicial review as to whether, following the referendum majority in favour of leaving the European Union, the Government could lawfully begin the Article 50 process for withdrawal by exercise of the Royal Prerogative alone or whether authorisation by Parliament is necessary.

That is the legal issue in the case, but the waters are very much muddied by suspicion that hard-line Remainers are seeking to prevent withdrawal by reliance on legal technicalities.

Ann Lyon

Lecturer in Law, School of Law, Criminology and Government, Plymouth University.

Union and Disunion in the Nineteenth Century

‘In him all union and disunion shine’

‘Prologue’, Thomas Holcroft, The Deserted Daughter (1806)

Among the rare phenomena of the day in which we live, are the strange unions that are formed in our country. We have political unions, trades’ unions, Protestant unions, and, last and not least, the voluntary unions.

‘Union of Papists and Dissenters to Achieve the Disunion of Church and State’, Fraser’s Magazine, May 1836

A few years more and we trust human governments will be forced to lay down all their usurped spiritual weapons, and confine themselves to the affairs of this life; affairs which though temporal, they have certainly not managed so well that they deserve the higher and more responsible trust of the things of another life. It is from the division of opinion that union in heart and in purpose will eventually result. Our separate sanctuaries – our ministries educated and hired to proclaim only certain particulars of fractional theology – our confessions of faith – our sectarian war-cries – our endowed opinions – our state altars and priests. These, all these are the mournful evidences of limited intelligence and feeble faith, and most contracted sympathy: enlarged intelligence will at once enlarge the scope of vision and the bond of sympathy, and while it will doubtless lead for some time to come, to yet more numerous divisions and clanships of sentiment, in which some little, trivial, insignificant ism will be exalted to a rallying banner and central point of faith; yet these divisions will doubtless eventually result in amalgamation and union.

Edwin Paxton Hood, The Age and its Architects (1850).

Union pledges peace at home, and its invulnerable front frowns off war from without. L’ Union c’est la force says the motto of Belgium – Union is strength; Union is peace, may America add. It is our very life. It means civilization, progress – all future hope for the continent.

R.C. Pell, Forward or Backward? (1863)

So that out of the union and fusion of psychical states, themselves caused by sensations, all the intellectual powers might have been produced, and, in tracing the growth from stage to stage, the presumption grows very strong that they have been so produced. One law, then, will account for all the intellectual operations; that law is, that if two psychical states unite, there is always a tendency for them to unite again, which tendency is strengthened by each act of union.

W.D. Ground, An examination of the structural principles of Mr. Herbert Spencer’s philosophy (1885)

* * * * *

PUNCS (Plymouth Nineteenth Century Studies) invites proposals for 20-minute papers for the international, interdisciplinary conference taking place 22 – 23 June 2017 on the general theme of union and disunion.

The first international conference hosted by PUNCS (Plymouth Nineteenth Century Studies) began on the day of the Brexit vote, and commentators have seen this event in the context of other signs of anti-globalisation, and in a landscape of violent disintegrations or forcible integrations in the Twenty-first century.

Our new conference takes place on the first anniversary of this momentous decision.
Our Keynote Speakers are:

Professor Lucy Riall (European University Institute, Florence and Birbkeck College and author of works including Under the Volcano: Revolution in a Sicilian Town and Garibaldi. Invention of a Hero) speaking about union and imperialism from continental European perspectives in the late-nineteenth century;

Dr Gordon Pentland (University of Edinburgh, and author / editor of The Spirit of the Union: Popular Politics in Scotland, 1815-1820 and Radicalism, Reform and National Identity in Scotland, 1820-1833) speaking on Union, Scotland and the British Isles;

Dr Laura Schwartz (University of Warwick), speaking on women’s trade unions in late-nineteenth-century and Edwardian Britain, drawing on her recent work on the Domestic Workers’ Union of Great Britain and Ireland.

Themes already represented in the conference schedule include:
American and British responses to the American Civil War; unions of enslaved couples at the end of slavery in the USA; cultural tourism, after the Irish Act of Union, in the early nineteenth century; cartels in the typographic industry; Scottish governance and the Conservative Party in the mid-nineteenth century.
* * * * *
We are interested in papers by scholars working in British, continental European, American and world history in the Nineteenth century, in literary studies, history, legal history, art history, economic history, geography and other disciplines.

We are interested in papers by scholars working in British, continental European, American and world history in the Nineteenth century, in literary studies, history, legal history, art history, economic history, geography and other disciplines.

Possible themes for exploring union in individual papers or panels include:

  • Union as a concept in the natural or human sciences
  • Acts of union (legal incorporation into nation states through treaties and legislation, or forcible unification; or municipal level unification, as in the union of the Three Towns in Plymouth in the early-twentieth century)
  • Economic unions (e.g., Zollverein and imperial unions)
  • Trade unions
  • Political unions (e.g., the political unions of the reform era in Britain in the 1820s), or women’s suffragist organisations
  • Organisations for social policy and welfare such as Poor Law Unions
  • Unions and disunions in religion, e.g., the creation or breakup of denominational unity, the forging of ecumenical bodies.
  • Unions in terms of family, personal and sexual relationships in works of literary fiction or dramatic representation
  • Union as a topic in artistic, architectural and other aesthetic discourses
  • Fear of disunion and acts of civil war

Please send your 300 word abstract and a brief c.v. to one of the organisers listed below. The deadline is 28 November 2016.

We hope to edit a selection of papers for publication after the conference.

Dr Annika Bautz

Dr James Gregory

Dr Daniel Grey

Professor Kim Stevenson

Conference Report: Judgment


Keynote speaker: Professor Leslie Moran
‘The Judicial Image, Photography and celebrity Culture in the Nineteenth Century’

Conference Report:

A Time of Judgment: The Operation and Representation of Judgment in Nineteenth-Century Cultures

Judgment everywhere. Implacable judgment in scarlet up in the Central Criminal Court or delivered in measured tones in the High Court of Chancery. Beside the Embankment in the imperial senate, judgment confidently uttered before the witnesses in committee chambers or mumbled amid the gilded crockets of a stifling House of Lords. Judgment by the bearded and caped men of the hanging committee, sat before the stacked canvasses at Burlington House. Judgment dropping glibly from the pen nib of the nameless gentleman of the press. Judgment in the eyes of the pedestrian, taught to read character in the faces and costume of his fellow foot passengers. Thundering judgment, delivered from a wrathful pulpit. Judgment in the small halls and lecture rooms of gas-lit institutes. Judgment accumulating, sweeping, failing.


So Charles Dickens did not begin Bleak House (1852-1853) in that way …  but the international conference ‘A Time of Judgment’ held at Plymouth 23 – 24 June 2016 examined the ways in which judgment was everywhere in the nineteenth century: with all sorts of judgment operating and being represented in Britain, the British empire, across the Atlantic, and in continental Europe.

Organized by Kim Stevenson (Law); Annika Bautz (English), James Gregory and Daniel Grey (History), the conference brought together literary scholars, legal historians, cultural historians and others. It drew upon poetry, photography, painting, performance, prose and printing technology itself, to examine judgment.

The event began, suitably enough, on that momentous ‘day of judgment’ on Britain’s relationship with the European Union … And while the conference papers presented, did not study the realm of judgment in electoral politics, delegates otherwise studied a very broad range of judgments and judgements.

For the figure of the judge and the acts of judging – whether explicitly worded in discourse to evoke ideas of the ‘men of the law’ or not – have not been studied sufficiently by historians of the nineteenth century, outside the specialisms of legal history or histories of literary and art criticism. This conference brought these aspects together – the legal and the non-legal, and examined the ways in which divine, legal, aesthetic and scholarly judgments were represented or operated from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century. The geographical coverage ranged from the local (South West) to the Antipodean, in papers by established scholars and doctoral researchers.


Parallel session 1: Marissa Bolin (University of York) and Alice Richardson (Australian National University),
chaired by Kate Gleason.

Judgement (with its additional ‘e’) was particularly important, with papers on the portrayal of judges in photography (by Professor Leslie Moran, the second keynote speaker, using the mass- produced small photographs or cartes de visites of judicial celebrities), in the popular British illustrated press, and Australian painting. There were judges in divorce courts, in affiliation trials and in trials for child murder. Public justice was studied through the perspective of the ‘court’ of public opinion in Britain and the United States, and in early nineteenth-century police courts in London. A panel explored Plymouth as a case study in provincial legal judgements, taking in police discipline, provincial press verdicts, and other voices of authority in the Three Towns.

There was judgment on sexuality and mental state. There was judgment in the aftermath of vengeful violence or intemperate behaviour due to alcohol. There was judgment in relation to aesthetics: with work presented on the relationship between taste and judgment in British stage adaptations of Walter Scott, in the field of British art criticism, and in gentlemen’s collecting practices. Judgment in theology was approached through the figures of William Blake’s Urizen in his unpublished Four Zoas and through the place of judgement in the moral universe of Victorian secularists.


Keynote Speaker 1: Professor David Amigoni, ‘In Judgement, he is still a child’: varieties of judgement, scientific authority and sources of inheritance in the Samuel Butler – Charles Darwin dispute.

That all-important sphere for judgment, in scientific cultures, was reflected in the keynote paper by Professor David Amigoni, on the dispute between Charles Darwin and Samuel Butler (remember now as the author of Erewhon and The Way of All Flesh). The international and national institutes for passing judgment in science, the organs and procedures for judging scientific truths, is an important aspect of the nineteenth-century ‘time of judgement’. The ‘pseudo sciences’ might also have been considered – since phrenologists developed their own theories about the faculties of judgment, but delegates also heard one paper exploring that commonplace mode of judging character – handwriting  – through graphology.

The judgment of mass readerships, the exercise of moral judgment by the masses and the inculcation in an exercise of judgment by working-class men and women through the agency of mechanics’ institutes, the judgment exercised via popular prize competitions, were topics presented. But there is also the judgment of ‘the market’, and judgment related to business misconduct and economic failings – also themes highlighted in the conference through the figure of debtors (in novels by Frances Burney of the late eighteenth-century), the social reportage of Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor.

Judgment is a universal practice: we are all expected to exercise our moral judgment and, regretfully, we all make quotidian judgments about people on the basis of such externalities as physical appearance. It’s easy to be critical of the harsh legal or social judgments of the past – to lambast the Victorians, for instance, for their ‘judgmentalism’. Rather than passing judgment on the nineteenth-century, this conference presented and interrogated the varieties of judgment in action and representation.

Sex and the City: Rethinking the Victorians Series

From the first motion pictures onwards, the Victorian city has captured the imagination of filmmakers and audiences alike. From Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper and Hammer Horror to the bustled heroines of period drama, ideas about sex and the city are never far beneath the surface of London’s panorama on screen. Join Dr Jenny Graham, of PUNCS, to look, through film and with guest speakers, at the lives of men and women in the period.

Our first guest speaker is the distinguished historian of gender and sexuality, Dr Lesley Hall, Wellcome Library Research Fellow, who will be talking about

Passions between Women in Victorian Britain

26 April 2016, 19.00 – 20.30

G. Henry Evison, The Windsor Magazine, vol.28 (June to November 1908)p.119. Image courtesy of PUNCS.


Join Dr Hall as she explores the fascinating subject of romantic friendship between women in the Victorian period. Were passions between women deemed appropriate only in adolescence, to be superseded by marriage, or were things rather different in reality?

Dr Hall’s talk will examine the stories of women who loved and were loved by other women in 19th-century Britain, which reveal a more varied account than the stereotypes allow.


Venue: Theatre 2, Roland Levinsky Building

Tickets info: £6.60 / £4.50/ free to Peninsula Arts Friends

Ticket discounts available via Artory App


Claude Shepperson, illustration to Frances Rivers, ‘A Time of Roses’, The Windsor Magazine (1908), p.343. Image courtesy of PUNCS.

‘The second centenary of the death of the Father of the British Stage’: Shakespeare in April 1816

Whatever may be the plan resolved upon, I ardently hope it will be alike calculated to reflect honour upon the bard and upon the country. Let the celebration be worthy of the man, to whom England is more indebted than to any name her annals can boast. I allude not to his poetry alone, wonderful and unrivalled though it be it is clear to me that the manly love of freedom, and vigour of thought peculiar to Englishmen, has arisen in no small degree from the general circulation and perusal of his plays.

Theatrical Inquisitor and Monthly Mirror,  April 1816, p.266.

DSC01262 Shakespeare, by Droeshout, reproduced in The Illustrated Library Shakspeare (London: W. Mackenzie), IX. Image from PUNCS collection.

So commented the correspondent ‘R.T.’, in a letter to The Theatrical Inquisitor, a periodical published in London, in 12 April 1816.

Romanticists, Gothicists, Victorianists and others have written much about the nineteenth-century’s response to Shakespeare: on stage, in literature, music and in the visual arts. We have had – to list just modern works – Adrian Poole’s Shakespeare and the Victorians (2014); Joseph Ortiz’s edited collection Shakespeare and the Culture of Romanticism (2013); Stuart Sillars’ Shakespeare and the Victorians (2013) and Shakespeare, Time and the Victorians: A Pictorial Exploration (2011); Gail Marshall’s edited collection Shakespeare in the Nineteenth Century (2012); Kathryn Prince’s Shakespeare in the Victorian Periodicals (2011); Kimberley Rhodes’s Ophelia and Victorian Visual Culture: Representing Body Politics in the Nineteenth Century (2008); Andrew Murphy’s Shakespeare for the People: Working Class Readers, 1800–1900 (2008); Richard Foulkes’s Performing Shakespeare in the Age of Empire (2006); Richard Schoch’s Not Shakespeare: Bardolatry and Burlesque in the Nineteenth Century (2003); Linda Rozmovits’s Shakespeare and the politics of culture in late Victorian England (1998); Schoch’s Shakespeare’s Victorian Stage: Performing History in the (1998), Valerie Gager’s Shakespeare and Dickens: The Dynamics of Influence (1996) … and essays by many other scholars! The most recent collections include, appropriately for a blog published in April 2016, Christa Jansohn and Dieter Mehl’s edited collection, Shakespeare Jubilees: 1769–2014 (2015).


Shakespeare’s House, from The Illustrated Library Shakspeare, IX

This blog essay looks at the treatment of Shakespeare during the two hundredth anniversary of his death. Adrian Poole has recently (in Clara Calvo and Coppelia Kahn’s edited collection, Celebrating Shakespeare: Commemoration and Cultural Memory, 2015) explained why 1816 saw so little in the way of Shakespeare commemorations in Britain: there being other concerns, after the defeat of Napoleon in the previous year, and the economic consequences of the end of global war. Poole’s essay, ‘Relic, pageant, sunken wrack: Shakespeare in 1816,’ studies the commemorative activities of the antiquarian John Britton (promoting the sculptured likeness in Stratford church as the only authentic image of the bard, via William Ward’s mezzotint … from an oil painting by Thomas Phillips …  after a cast by George Bullock …. from the monumental bust), the essayist William Hazlitt, and the novelist Sir Walter Scott, whose works, Poole notes, have Shakespearian phrases scattered throughout them.

Britton’s print was to be sold for £1 on Indian paper in proof stage, the plain quarto edition for subscribers would be 10s.  Britton published an accompanying Remarks on the Monumental Bust of Shakspeare, at Stratford-upon-Avon: with two Wood-cuts, representing Front and Profile Views of the Bust.— London; published by the Author, April 28, 1816. To accompany a Portrait engraved by William Ward, A.R.A. from a Picture, by Thomas Philips, Esq. R.A. and wrote to the press (e.g., European Magazine, July 1816, pp.32-34).

Various engravings have indeed appeared, purporting to give exact representations of the Bust, but most of those are executed in the vilest manner, and none are perfectly correct copies. The admirers of Shakspeare are therefore deeply indebted to Mr. Britton for the admirable engraving which the Essay before us is intended to illustrate; it was executed under his immediate inspection, and is a most perfect resemblance of the original. The ‘Essay,’ and ‘Portrait’ were delivered to the subscribers on the 23d of April last, the day which completed the second centenary of years from the poet’s death. In a pecuniary point of view Mr. Britton will not probably have much reason to felicitate himself on the task he has performed; but he has deserved and will receive the thanks and gratitude of all those, whose admiration of the poet of nature is as enthusiastic and glowing as his own.

The Theatrical Inquisitor, vol. 9, July 1816, p.50.

‘Shakspeare’s Monument’, The Illustrated Library Shakspeare, IX


What of other commemorative efforts beyond these individuals, and beyond the damp event of the ‘Grand Pageant’ – with its ‘pantomimic representation of the principal scene’ in selected plays and it commemorative medal – that occurred at Stratford-on-Avon on Tuesday 23 April 1816, and which itself initiated the tradition of anniversary celebrations?



at Shakpeare’s Hall, Stratford-upon-Avon, on

Tuesday the 23d of April instant, at Ten o’clock;

at Four o’clock precisely there will be a DINNER;

and in the evening a BALL. Dancing to commence

at Ten. –


Right Hon. the Earl of GUILDFORD.

Right Hon. Lord MIDDLETON.



Tickets for the Dinner will he delivered at the Bar

of the Red Horse Inn, and at Mr. Ward’s, stationer,

Stratford; and, those Gentlemen who purpose ho-

-nouring the company with their attendance, are most

particularly requested to send for Tickets on or before the I9th instant, in order that a suitable provision may be made.

Tickets for the Breakfast and Ball to be had also of Mr. Ward.

Oxford Journal, 13 April 1816

[Mr Ward was the bookseller and stationer James Ward, who published R.B. Wheler’s Historical and Descriptive Account of the Birth Place of Shakespeare, 1824]

The metropolitan theatres had their commemorations. At Drury Lane, after a performance of Romeo and Juliet; and at Covent Garden after a performance of Coriolanus, actors recited David Garrick’s Jubilee Ode of 1769 and performed the Stratford Jubilee. The Evening Mail and London Courier, 24 April, described this work as ‘trifling and nonsensical’: extracting the following gems from Garrick’s verse, ‘The Warwickshire Lad’:

Ye Warwickshire lads and ye lasses,

See what at our jubilee passes;

Come revel away, rejoice, and be glad,

the lad of all lads was Warwickshire lad.

Warwickshire lad,

All be glad,

For the lad of all lads was a Warwickshire lad.


The actor Pope’s recitation at Drury Lane was said to resemble ‘that of a Methodist parson somewhat muddled with porter’ (Theatrical Inquisitor, p.373). At Covent Garden, Charles Kemble’s cast (which included ‘Master Betty’ as Hamlet) ‘gave, in dumb shew, little characteristic touches, which were much admired by the audience, who were thus happily reminded of many of the most striking scenes in their favourite Author’s works’ (Morning Post, 24 April 1816). There was also Banquo’s ghost, the witches’ cauldron, the tomb of the Capulets and other appropriate stage ‘machinery,’ with the image of Shakespeare ‘wearing his immortal wreath.’ Songs, Chorusses, &c., in the Musical Afterpiece, Called Garrick’s Jubilee: As First Performed at the Theatre-Royal, Drury-Lane, in 1769, and Now Revived, (under the Direction of Mr. Farley), at the Theatre-Royal, Covent-Garden, 23d of April, 1816, Being the Second Centenary of Years from the Death of Shakspeare … with a Plan of the Grand Pageant of the Characters of Shakspeare, by the Whole of the Company, to give its full title, was a sixteen-page pamphlet published by John Miller.


Detail from engraving of Coriolanus, after Sir John Gilbert, The Illustrated Library Shakspeare, V.

The metropolitan and Stratford-upon-Avon celebrations were reported in the provincial press across Britain. There were some provincial commemorations too – though these were limited. At Newcastle-upon-Tyne, it was announced that Garrick’s Jubilee would also be performed at the Theatre Royal, then being managed by the actor William Macready. The theatrical entertainment followed a public dinner at the Queen’s Head Inn (Durham County Advertiser, 13 April 1816). The note was signed by the printer and bookseller Edward Humble (1753–1820). Humble was secretary to a committee of the theatre proprietors and also proprietor of the Shakespeare Press (and Durham County Advertiser) in Newcastle. Afterwards, this newspaper – an ‘ultra Tory’ paper – reported that seventy gentlemen had been present: these included the mayor of Newcastle, Colonel Ramsay of the Artillery, and as the chairman, the banker and son of a baronet, William Loraine (1780–1851). Apart from toasting the memory of the immortal bard there were toasts to the royal family, Princess Charlotte and her husband-to-be; the Duke of Wellington; and even Sir Humphry Davy ‘who by a late ingenious invention, had rendered such services to this neighbourhood’). Shakespeare, Loraine declared, had raised ‘the British stage to such a pitch, as not only to become a source of national pride to his country, but the admiration and the envy of surrounding nations’ (Durham County Advertiser, 27 April 1816).

The semi-retired actor and manager Stephen Kemble (1758–1822), who spoke at the dinner, inevitably [mis]quoted Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt: ‘this land, this dear, dear land, this precious stone set in the silver sea’. The Theatre Royal entertainment included Twelfth Night with Garrick’s Jubilee, but also George Colman the younger’s Sylvester Daggerwood (or, New hay at the old market: an interlude, in one act)… The landlord Peter Forster’s decorations at the Queen’s Head hotel included a ‘colossal figure of Shakespeare resting on a pedestal, and holding in his hand a scroll, on which were inscribed the beautiful lines, beginning “the cloud-cap’t towers, &c.” graced the room, and had a pleasing effect.’ Evidently this was a copy of the monument in Westminster Abbey by William Kent (1740), with the same quotation from The Tempest. The commemoration was reported in the pages of The Theatrical Inquisitor (May 1816, pp.333-334).

There was commemoration further afield: the Caledonian Mercury (4 May 1816) reported:

In no part of his native country could the anniversary of this great man have been celebrated with higher devotion and enthusiasm, than at Alloa, in Clackmannanshire. A Shakespeare Club has for many years existed in that place, the members of which have always held a literary festival on the day that gave birth to the greatest poet the world ever beheld … a number of their literary friends and acquaintances were invited to join in the social pleasures of the evening. When dinner was over, and a few general toasts were given, the President rose, and after an appropriate eulogy, concluding with a quotation from one of the poet’s best plays, gave, ‘The memory of Shakespeare,’ which was drunk standing, and in deep silence. Mr James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, who is now an honorary member, and poet laureate of the Club, then produced and read an ode ‘To the genius of Shakespeare;’ upon which the president, after a short address most flattering to the bard, and well calculated to encourage him in his poetical career,  presented him in name of the Society, with a handsome silver cup, having the Shakespeare arms beautifully engraved on one side, and the following inscription on the other, ‘Presented to Mr James Hogg, by his brethren of the Shakespeare Club of Alloa in testimony of their esteem for him as a man, and their admiration of him as a poet.’


Hogg’s poem, probably the same as that published in his collected works, began:


To The Genius of Shakespeare


Spirit all limitless,

    Where is thy dwelling-place?

Spirit of him whose high name we revere,

Come on thy seraph wings,

    Come from thy wanderings,

And smile on thy votaries, who sigh for thee here!

Come, O thou spark divine!

     Rise from thy hallowed shrine!

Here in the windings of Forth thou shalt see

Hearts true to Nature’s call,

      Spirits congenial,

Proud of their country, yet bowing to thee!

The Poetical Works of the Ettrick Shepherd: Including the Queen’s Wake, Pilgrims of the Sun, Mador of the Moor, Mountain Bard, Etc., Etc. With an Autobiography, and Illustrative Engravings, from Original Drawings, vol. 4 (Glasgow: Blackie, 1840).


This event, too, was reported in the pages of the Theatrical Inquisitor, which had sought ‘accounts of the various celebrations of the second centenary of the immortal Shakspeare’.


If Scotsmen such as James Hogg of Ettrick (1770–1835) and his associates (the club being founded by the timber merchant Alexander Bald in 1804, see The Collected Letters of James Hogg: 1800–1819, 2004, p.443) at the town and port of Alloa in the Scottish Lowlands could embrace Shakespeare as a native genius, what of Stratfordians who might be expected to especially cherish the memory? They had been asked (through a letter in Worcester Journal, 18 April 1816), as Englishmen and townsmen, to ‘rejoice in the natal honour of our illustrious poet,’ and to ‘endeavour to fully appreciate his worth, prove that the world, and implant it on the plastic mind of the rising generation … Though our creeds properly forbid us to worship his name or image, yet we may revere the one, admire the other, and continue to peruse his works with infinite gratification and advantage.’ (‘R.B.W.’ – the historian R.B. Wheler).

Not everyone was an admirer and the Theatrical Inquisitor had reprinted the radical William Cobbett’s attack on bardolatry (in the course of a diatribe against ‘the Potato’)  in 1816:

I ask you what it is that can make a nation admire Shakspeare? what is that can make them call him a ‘Divine Bard,’ nine tenths of whose works are made up of such trash as no decent man, now-a-days, would not be ashamed, and even afraid, to put his name to? what can make an audience in London sit and hear, and even applaud, under the name of Shakspeare, what they would hiss off the stage in a moment, if it came forth under any other name? When folly has once given the fashion she is a very persevering dame.

Theatrical Inquisitor, February 1816, p.94.


The patriotic strain is noticeable in newspaper commentary elsewhere: the Chester Chronicle commemorating the 23 April, on 3 May, with a paragraph which describes Shakespeare as ‘This Divine Poet’ and the ‘Pride of Britain, of poetry, and the Drama’. Later came news, as reported in the Gentleman’s Magazine (April 1816, p.349; and reprinted in provincial papers such as Manchester Times), of the honour given by the Académie Française to the poet Jean-François Ducis (1733–1816), who had died in March: ‘England especially may view with pleasure the distinction shown to a man devoted to English literature, and who, his six translation, from Shakespeare, … manifested at least his fond admiration for the great Bard, whom the mass of Frenchmen, not having the capacity to comprehend, presume in their ignorant vanity to despise.’ (But see John Pemble’s Shakespeare Goes to Paris, 2006).

1816 had seen a pantomime-tragique put on by Bonnachon in Paris, based rather distantly on Hamlet, in which the ghost came to life as a talking statue at the end of the play (see Helen Bailey, Hamlet in France: From Voltaire to Laforgue, 1964, p.26). Lady Morgan’s La France en 1816 (vol.2, pp.125-126), has an extensive footnote on the French lack of knowledge of Shakespeare, through Voltaire’s bad translations. Yet the Theatrical Inquisitor suggested that English tastes were being catered for – Paris being ‘full’ of them in early 1816 – with performances of Hamlet and Alexandre Duval’s afterpiece in one act, ‘Shakspeare Amoureux, ou La Pièce a l’Étude’ at the Académie Royale de Musique in the Rue de Richelieu. (Theatrical Inquisitor, January 1816, p.48). Shakespeare in love was played by the actor Francois-Joseph Talma.


‘Sigh no More Ladies’, from Much ado About Nothing, Act II, Scene III. By Sir John Gilbert, Illustrated Library Shakspeare


In Prussia, by contrast, a serious production of Hamlet was staged on 23 April 1816 at the Berlin Royal Theatre (see Christine Roger’s La réception de Shakespeare en Allemagne de 1815 à 1850: propagation et assimilation de la référence étrangère, 2008). A Dane, Jorgen Jorgenson wrote, in Travels through France and Germany, in the Years 1815, 1816, & 1817 (1817) that ‘Shakespeare’s plays are exhibited here with much éclat, and in their true senses’. Shakespeare’s work had been translated, adapted and were starting to be performed in Scandinavia in the early-nineteenth century, a commemorative performance of Shakespeare apparently took place in ‘Hamlet’s castle’ of Kronborg in Denmark, for instance, in 1816 (for the translation of Shakespeare in Europe in this period, see Dirk Delabastita and Lieven D’hulst, eds, European Shakespeares: Translating Shakespeare in the Romantic Age, 1993; see also Jozef de Vos and Paul Franssen, eds, Shakespeare and European Politics, 2008 for essays which explore the impact of versions of Shakespeare elsewhere in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, for example, in Spain).
DSC01258   DSC01277   DSC01273




Images of King Lear by Sir John Gilbert, the Ghost in Hamlet by Robert Dudley, and ‘Come Away Death’, Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene II, by Sir John Gilbert: all from The Illustrated Library Shakspeare 



The Plum Pudding in the Long Nineteenth Century

John Bull Guards His Pudding 1859

Image: Punch, 31 December 1859: image in PUNCS collection


One enduring item in the British culinary self-imagination has been the plum pudding – often closely associated in festivities with the roast beef (of old England). The pudding – so named for the dried fruits which may have included fruit other than prunes – was not just for Christmas time but has come to be associated with this festival: and this short essay traces its visual representation and uses over the ‘long nineteenth century’. The dish can be traced back to the medieval dishes of spiced, meat and fruit flavoured broths and porridges; and, although in our calorie-conscious modern age we might not like to eat it ourselves, it was a prized dish in English history.

Thomas Rowlandson, the famous graphic artist of the late eighteenth century, chose the sight of a pudding glimpsed through a window (held by a puddingey-looking figure), to illustrate the passion of ‘admiration’ – in this case it is really the hunger of a youth for a ‘Plumb Pudding’ – in a series of engravings in 1800.

The graphic artist Isaac Cruikshank, in 1807, depicting one of the Christmas customs of ‘Twelfth Night’ (which had its own cake), has that famous embodiment of national identity, the corpulent John Bull, speak: ‘let things go on as they will – do not let us lose sight of Old English Customs – the Bulwarks of our Constitution’. Plum pudding could be seen in this light – an edible bulwark of the English Constitution.

The next image we might consider shows a depiction of the pudding being steamed, in an engraving designed by an artist, George Cruickshank, closely associated with the novelist Charles Dickens. Here the suetty fruit pudding is wrapped in cloth and being boiled in a ‘copper’. In Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843), Ebenezer Scrooge’s third spectral visitor, the ‘ghost of Christmas present,’ as drawn by John Leech, points to the now established motif of the spherical plum pudding adorned with holly – the ‘speckled cannon ball’.

The pudding is a hearty dish, full of fats (and with butter sauce to add) ideal for an era before central heating. But the dish as a source of indigestion figures in a number of nineteenth-century representations. An 1835 image, a humorous engraving by Alfred Crowquill, shows the devils of indigestion tormenting a man: a slice of Christmas pudding lies on the table beside the agonized fellow.

We can look up references to the plum pudding quite easily using internet-published material, using the digitised texts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries freely available through Google books, and though searches of online sites such as Bridgeman Art Gallery. Image searches also reveal a mass of pudding-related imagery: from comic and sentimental imagery to more serious visual record engraved illustrations in nineteenth-century newspapers (where, as we shall see, the contrast between the ‘homely’ and the exotic and perilous, could be dramatized by the presence of the pudding), to chromolithographic (colour-printed) Christmas cards.

There’s a certain nostalgia for the early nineteenth-century ‘Merrie England’ of the Georgian Regency in some of the late-Victorian images, thus G.A. Storey’s serving maid with wooden ladle who is ready to offer the viewer to ‘Come stir the Christmas pudding’, in Illustrated London News, 9 December 1893; and Charles Green’s ‘Christmas Comes but Once a Year,’ which was a colour lithograph that appeared in Pears’ Christmas Annual in 1896 and which show a servant bringing the steaming pudding into a middle-class dining room. The Graphic’s Christmas number for 1873 went further back in the history of the pudding with its representation of a jester stealing a kiss from an encumbered Tudor serving wench in an image by Durand. Children stirring the Christmas pudding mix in the bowl (and making a wish) played to Victorian sentimental tastes, with prints offered in Christmas numbers of the illustrated press, with mother and maids in The Graphic in 1876, or alone, as in Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in 1885 and, with (presumably) her mother, in the Illustrated London News in 1889.

From this overview of the pudding’s visual history, we can take the pudding’s life history from c.1781 through to the twentieth century interwar period. The first image we might look at in more detail is the representation of England in a series, ‘Seven Prints of the Tutelar saints’, published in London in 1781. Here we see the lion’s paw on which a Englishman is mounted like a horseman (the man is dressed like a sailor/soldier hybrid), rests on a bowl of pudding. The pose is an echo of the lion of St Mark, whose paw rests on a globe. The verse printed below, speaks of ‘noble sirloin, rich pudding and strong Beer’.

The pudding figures in texts examining English character and manners, in the eighteenth-century. The foreign observer Henri Misson commented, in a text published in 1719, on the Englishman’s joys at ‘pudding time’ – a native phrase which meant to arrive opportunely. The English treated it like manna from heaven, Misson wrote, ‘Ah, what an excellent thing is an English pudding.  To come in pudding time, is as much to say, to come in the most lucky Moment in the world.’ An English writer’s riposte to this satire, in The Freeholder, 2 April 1716, was that the dish, ‘it must be confessed is not so elegant a dish as frog and salad’, thus responding in kind by expressing those prejudices about the oddities of Gallic cuisine. As a symbol of all that was stodgy about the unreformed English polity, John Cannon, in his study, Parliamentary Reform 1640-1832 (1973), describes the eighteenth-century as ‘Pudding Time’ (in this case, quoting from verse entitled, ‘The Vicar of Bray’). Plate 6 of George Cruikshank’s Illustrations of Time, of 1827, has the pudding being presented at the dining table to illustrate the idea of ‘Pudding Time’.

Let’s consider next the famous representation, by the leading graphic artist of the late-nineteenth-century, James Gillray, immortalising prime minister, William Pitt the Younger as the partner in a meal-for-two on a global scale: carving up the globe with that arch-enemy of the British empire, Napoleon Bonaparte. The image: reproduced as an etching published on 26 February 1805 (by H. Humphrey of 27 St James’s Street) has the caption:

‘The Plumb-pudding in danger: –or –State Epicures taking un Petit Souper’

‘the great Globe itself, and all which it inherit’, is too small to satisfy such insatiable appetite’

[you can see this in the high resolution image in Wikipedia]

It is quite a sparse cartoon for Gillray – and all the more effective for this. The context, according to the scholarly commentary, is the attempt to broker peace with Britain, on the part of the new Emperor, in January 1805. But we might also contextualise the image in Gillray’s frequent use of food and eating, in such cartoons as ‘John Bull taking a Luncheon – or – British Cooks cramming Old Grumble-Gizaard with Bonne Chere’; and the grisly ‘Un petit Super à la Parisienne: –or – A Family of sans Culotts [sic] refreshing after the fatigues of the day’: which links the French revolutionary terror with cannibalism. You can see the image ‘The Plumb-pudding in danger’ in the online collection of the National Portrait Gallery. If you search Google images, you will find evidence for the continued influence of this striking image in a cartoon by Dave Brown, The Independent, from 2011: carving up Libya and causing an oil fountain to explode. Nineteenth-century homages to this image appear in cartoons by British, American and continental European artists. But before this image had most memorably associated William Pitt with the plum pudding, there was ‘Plum Pudding Billy in all his Glory’. The image, which is a satire on Sir Watkin Lewis, the ‘child’ Pitt, and John Wilkes – on the occasion that the new Prime Minister was dined by the Lord Mayor and City of London figures, is explained by the script underneath:


The Chancellor Billy behold here is seated

To tast a plum-pudding by Sir Watty intreated.

He sticks on a leake more his fancy to please

And in hope of preferment is down on his knees


Squinting Jack as the C —-n comes in behind

Supposing he may want to S – t when he has dined

He holds the utencil & thinks not disgrace –

Lord how Folks are worshipd in Power and place.


The image is discussed in Anja Müller’s, Framing Childhood in Eighteenth-century English Periodicals and Prints, 1689-1789.

To return to the theme of French and British tastes, in a later cartoon, for the Illustrated London News, 21 December 1850, there appeared ‘The Dreadful Turn-out of a French Plum-Pudding!!! Or, the Misfortunes of Monsieur and Madame De La Betise, whose Grand Object in Life was to live in the English Style, trustfully narrated by Horace Mayhew and Alfred Crowquill’. This involves a disaster with the national dish (poudin aux raisins). The same sense of incomprehension plays out in a cartoon by A. Forestier, ‘An English Christmas in Paris. But is this Pudding? … Never Again’, in the same paper, in 22 December 1883.

As Maggie Black has argued, the enduring place of the plum pudding at Christmas time may be linked to the royal family’s support for the Christmas Day pudding ritual. Recipes appear in famous Victorian cookery books such as that book written – or at least assembled – by Mrs Beeton (1861).

As we have already seen, images abound in the Christmas-time issues of the illustrated periodicals and newspapers that emerged in the Victorian era. There was Kenny Meadows’ ‘pudding making’ and ‘pudding taking’ in the Christmas supplement to the Illustrated London News in 1848. On 23 December 1852 in the Illustrated London News we have ‘Plum-Pudding, a Dream of Christmas’, a story from Watts Phillips. In pantomime, such as the figures from a ‘Twelfth Night’ tale appearing in the Illustrated London News, we can also find plenty of images of the Christmas Pudding.

Plum puddings were celebratory and festive fare at Christmas. They figured as a demonstration of festive philanthropy for a society without the welfare state: with images of ‘pudding philanthropy’ in workhouses and other sites for the poor and the unfortunate. Thus members of the United Cooks’ Society are shown ‘preparing a Monster Plum-Pudding at Marylebone Workhouse for the Lancashire Operatives’, in a picture for The Illustrated London News, 3 January 1863. The recipients were the workers enduring hardship as a result of the crisis in the cotton textile industry. And, supposedly heart-warming and amusing, is the imagery for an item, published in The Graphic,  25 December 1886, by Harry Hamilton Johnston, the page depicts scenes from ‘A Christmas Dinner given by Actors to Poor Children in Lambeth’: we can also see the ‘Effects of the Pudding’.

The pudding also appeared in imagery outside Christmas, for example, during royal jubilees. The image entitled ‘The King and Queen at the Windsor Festivities’, published in The Graphic, 23 April 1887, was a late-Victorian visual recreation of a moment during George III’s Jubilee. The plum pudding might also appear outside any festivity: in parliamentary debates on the (protectionist) Corn Laws in April 1825 the fact that ‘the workmen London had roast beef and plum pudding on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday,’ was used in the debates in the Commons about agricultural interests vs. the interests of the rest of the country.

The politico-satirical use of the plum pudding which we have seen in James Gillray’s famous image, continued: see for example the nursery rhyme style vignette, ‘In the Thick of it, or a Regal Christmas Day’, by C.J. Grant, appearing in a newspaper from the 1840s. Here the royal couple (ALBERT: – Her, her, dis is von fine Blom Buddin, her, her; Angland is der Blace for goot tings.’) and the Duke of Wellington are shown helping themselves to a gargantuan  plum pudding whilst handing over a plate of plum stones for an understandably disgruntled John Bull – represented as a cook, to eat. Florence Claxton (painter of the satire on the Pre-Raphaelites, ‘The Choice of Paris’, in 1860), imagined the reverse scene, in her bizarre ‘Utopian Christmas’, in the Christmas supplement to the Illustrated London News, 31 December 1859: the engraving showed Queen and Prince Albert overseeing the offering of pudding and other delights to the beggars and the poor, in Buckingham Palace.

There are foreign examples too, of the pudding used in political or social commentary at Christmas time: the American periodical Puck in December 1882, has a ‘Holiday Plum Pudding’ by J. Keppler, with a cherub, the knife engraved, ‘with malice towards none’ cutting through a pudding composed of the faces of celebrities of the day:

My final set of images to reflect, bring us back to the theme of the imperial pudding. Courtesy of The Graphic in 1878, we are in colonial India. In this coloured engraving: the European hunter offers a glass of alcohol to an obsequious native after a tiger hunt. A hamper is adorned with a small Christmas pudding. From the Illustrated London News, 8 February 1879, we have one scene from ‘Christmas at Jellalabad: The First Slice of the Plum Pudding’: the context is the war in Afghanistan. In The Graphic for 27 December 1879, there are dreams of the pudding and other traditional foods, for soldiers on the Afghan Campaign, ‘Christmas Tide at the Front’.

We can situate this image in a genre of the pudding delivered to grateful stomachs under, or after, peril. This vein of imagery continues in paintings such as W.H. Overend’s, ‘A Christmas Pudding for the Lighthouse,’ for the Illustrated London News in 1891; and ‘Christmas on the veldt: a correspondent’s pudding’, with the setting of the Anglo-Boer war, in The Sphere in December 1900. Linley Sambourne’s full-page cartoon from the Christmas number of the Illustrated London News for 1876 has a boy – asleep on animal skins and toy gun at his feet, dreaming a nightmarish pudding transmogrified into news items of African and Arctic expeditions (the theme of dreams related to plum pudding surface elsewhere, for example in Blanchard Jerrold’s The Story of Madge there is the angry housemaid who falls asleep, ‘scorning the Christmas pudding, despising the mince pies,’ but Fairy Content gives her a lesson in all the labour involved in making the plum pudding, The Athenaeum , 8 April 1871, p.431)

The pudding could and did travel. Captain Cook’s Voyages, as one cartoon image chromolithographed on a late-nineteenth century card recorded, had included the enthusiastic reception of plum-pudding by the friendly Lapps. In the late Victorian period, when commercially available puddings were advertised in the Illustrated London News, as manufactured by Peak, Frean and Co., the pudding could be sent abroad in tins. They could also be made by homesick settlers. W. Dalston’s image for the Illustrated London News, in 24 December 1870 shows white settlers tucking in to pudding in Australia. From the Graphic’s Christmas number in 1881, there appears a coloured sequence of images of two male settlers cooking and suffering the consequences of a pudding in Canada. There’s also an engraving, ‘Making a Christmas Pudding in China’, from 1873, showing Chinese men and youths looking on with interest as they are instructed by two British men, in the art of pudding stirring.

In the twentieth century, the pudding was literally the fruits of the empire, in the form of the Empire Marketing Board effort in 1828, which was endorsed by royalty – a pudding being presented to the King on Empire Day. There are several images of this campaign, ‘Making the Empire Christmas Pudding’, to sell the empire on the basis of all the exotic and not-so-exotic ingredients that were combined to make the English traditional delicacy and which allowed the British family to ingest, digest, incorporate, and assimilate the empire.

The imperial family was brought together through the pudding (John Mackenzie’s study Imperialism and Popular Culture uses this on the front cover), which also figured in an Empire Marketing Board film by Walter Creighton, ‘One Family … illustrating the food products supplied by Empire producers at Home and Overseas’ (there is a link to the film, below ). It could be made with Canadian apples, West Indian demerara sugar, Jamaican rum, English beer, cloves from Zanzibar, beef suet from New Zealand and spice from India. One advertisement for the Empire Xmas Pudding has Britannia in the role of pudding bearer, ‘and you will enjoy it all the more if you remember that, by using Empire fruit to make it, you give a helping hand to the thousands of British settlers Overseas…’ It is not surprising that the pudding has more recently been suggested as a lesson theme, to teach Key Stage pupils in England about the ‘vast range of the Empire’ and the role of women in the empire.


James Gregory, 21 December 2015





Further Reading

Blanchard Jerrold, The story of Madge and the fairy Content (London: J.C. Hotten, 1870)

Via Google books


Maggie Black, ‘The Englishman’s Plum Pudding’, History Today 31:  12 December 1981


Web links

‘The Pudding King’, Ivan Day, in his Food History Jottings blog,


Judith Flanders, ‘Victorian Christmas’, an essay published by the British Library,


What can we learn about the Empire from a Christmas pudding?


‘One Family’