A poetic end

Today saw an end to the seemingly endless collection of poetry books for seamen. It was with great relief that I grabbed the next book on the pile and it turned out to be The Ships of the Royal Navy by JJ Colledge, a book I know very well having used mine extensively at the Science Museum. And, as one can imagine, the Royal Navy Library has quite a few copies of it.

I should mention the one book of poetry which I was so taken with that I bought my own copy once I reached home. It’s called Army and Navy Drolleries by Major Seccombe and features short verses describing various ranks in the services, each illustrated beautifully with full coloured plates.

I flicked through a few pages, very carefully, and decided to post this one.

G is for Guardsman, who wears a large hat –
We should think he felt rather top heavy in that,
So much fur, we should say.
On a warm summer’s day,
So far from comfort, must be in the way.
But the skin of the bear,
With its long shaggy hair,
Would make the most beardless youth, I declare,
Look fierce enough the stern foeman to scare;
So, perhaps after all, it’s the best thing to wear.

From Army and Navy Drolleries by Major Seccombe

It is accompanied by the following wonderful plate.

The Guardsman

Originally published in 1875, the coloured plates are still glorious and the verses quite jolly. While most books are for reading, this one is for sitting back and admiring.

I also came across some ads in another very old volume. I haven’t had any for a while so it was a pleasant surprise. Particularly this one:

We do underthings

An interesting company, William Churton and Son was not the only Churton selling clothes in Oxford Street. They were so concerned with losing business that they printed ads proclaiming that they were the real Churtons and any other Churton was an impostor. That is why they made sure to include their address on their ads.

The company started in the late 1700’s and managed to trade in Oxford Street for over 100 years before going out of business. It started with William and then two more generations kept the business going.

I reckon the ‘ready money’ issue of the 19th century (or lack thereof) may have made trade a little difficult. The supply of a discount for anyone actually using cash seems an excellent idea and is echoed these days with a discount for people bringing their own mugs into coffee shops to replace take away cups.

Actually, Mirinda and I were discussing the poor aristocracy of the 19th century the other day (because she was reading the Lushington book) and wondering how the so-called upper classes managed to survive on no money. The answer is that they somehow managed to never pay for anything. Of course that just keeps poverty among the poor by killing their ability to trade.

I am reminded of Becky Sharp and Rawden Crawley, making money through gambling, never paying out anything and looking incredibly wealthy to the outside world. In fact, it could be said that the height of cool in the 19th century was to never pay your bills and never be seen to handle money. Perhaps that explains those tiny little draw string bags that the women carried.

Anyway, my day saw the end of naval poetry and the beginning of ships, so that’s an excellent thing.

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1 Response to A poetic end

  1. Mirinda says:

    I love the bear hat plate. Marvellous.Lane mentions ready money in earnest. He actually had some!

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