A daily excerpt from a a historical edition of Punch – the greatest satirical magazine in history

Category: Culture

Christmas shopping tips


(By a good Old-fashioned Clown.)

Knock at a shop-door, and then lie down flat in front of it, so that the shopman, coming out, may tumble headlong over you. Then bolt into the shop, and cram into your pockets all the big things you can find, so that in trying to get out, you cannot squeeze them through the doorway. For instance, if it be a watchmaker’s, clap an eight-day kitchen clock and a barometer or two, let us say, in your right pocket, and a brass warming-pan, or some such little article of jewellery (as you will take care to call it) in your left one; taking pains, of course, to let the handle stick well out of it. If it be a butcher’s, pouch a leg of beef and half a sheep or so, and be sure not to forget to bring a yard or two of sausages trailing on the ground behind you. Then, if you can’t squeeze through the doorway, the simplest plan will be to jump clean through the shop-front, and in doing this take care to smash as many panes of glass as you are able, crying out, of course, that you took “great pains” to do so. En passant, you will kick into the street whatever goods are in the window, and then run off as quickly as your heels can carry you.

If the shopman should pursue you, as most probably he will, make him a low bow, and say that it was really quite an accident, and that of course you mean to pay him—indeed, yes, “on your honour!” If he won’t believe you, punch him in the waistcoat, and batter him about with his barometer and warming-pan, or sausages and mutton.

Should a policeman interfere, and want to know what you are up to, catch up your red-hot poker (which you will always have about you), and hold it hidden behind your back, while you beg him to shake hands with you, because you mean to “square the job” with him. Then, when he puts his hand out, slap the poker into it, and run away as fast as your stolen goods will let you.

But after a few steps, of course you must take care to let the handle of your warming-pan get stuck between your legs, and trip you up occasionally; and you will manage that your sausages become entangled so about you that, at every second step, you are obliged to tumble down and roll along the ground, and double up into a heap, till the policeman, who keeps up the chace, comes close enough to catch you. Then you will spring up again, and, jumping on his back, you will be carried off to Bow Street, with the small boys shouting after you; or, else, if you prefer it, you may “bonnet” the policeman, and run away and hide yourself ere he can lift his hat up, to see where you are gone to.

(January 1872)


Better prison than the workhouse

Six young girls, inmates of the Lambeth workhouse, were brought up at Union Hall, charged with breaking several squares of glass. In their defence, they complained that they had been treated worse in the workhouse than they would be in prison, and said that it was to cause their committal to the latter place they committed the mischief. What a beautiful picture of moral England this little anecdote exhibits! What must be the state of society in a country where crime is punished less severely than poverty?

Old England, bless’d and favour’d clime!

Where paupers to thy prisons run;

Where poverty’s the only crime

That angry justice frowns upon.

Today is End Poverty Day.

This is from one of the earliest issues of Punch, when it was considerably more radical than later on in the 19th century.

October 23rd, 1841

Manchester: the unlikely birthplace of vegetarianism

The Vegetarians in the North.

The Vegetarians have been consuming a quantity of green stuff in public at the Town Hall of Salford. We shall expect soon to hear of a variety of Extraordinary Feats performed by geniuses of the Vegetarian class, such as swallowing turnips whole, demolishing spinach by the sieve, onions by the rope, and cabbages by the cartload.

Here’s an interesting fact. There were more vegetarian restaurants in Manchester in 1880 than 1980. Unlikely as it seems, industrial Manchester, and particularly Salford, were host to the birth of the modern vegetarian movement.

It started in 1809, when a charismatic preacher, reading Genesis 9.3 (“And God said, Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you: even as the green herb I have given you all things, but the flesh, with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.”) encouraged his congregation to abstain from meat. “Meat-eating is unnatural. If God had meant us to eat meat, then it would have come to us in edible form, as is the ripened fruit”.

The next year, he published this poem, arguing that God is in all moving things.

Hold, daring man! thy hand restrain –
God is the life in all;
To smite at God, when flesh is slain –
Can crime like this be small?

His influential successors came to found the vegetarian society. All of the founding members came from Salford.

Why Salford? Who can tell. Perhaps it was a reaction against the dark satanic mills; a need for purity amongst the grime. Perhaps it was Manchester’s position as far from the reaches of the established church in London that lead to the flourishing of these fringe beliefs. Or perhaps it was simply a very charismatic individual.

Nonetheless, the movement was popular and successful. In Fountain Street in the heart of Manchester there was a vegetarian establishment which boasted two dining halls, a lecture theatre, and billiard, smoke and reading rooms. It had a full-time staff of 21 and spawned a satellite restaurant nearby. There were also the Smallman’s Restaurants, founded by Frederick Smallman a health food pioneer and vegetarian. He set up business in 1876 and his establishment grew to eight in the city.

For more info, see this great article by Derek Antrobus.



American music? What next?


Somebody writing from Naples, about Music, to a fashionable contemporary, says:—

“I know, too, more than half-a-dozen Americans who have left their gold cupidity behind them, and are now in Italy, living in small dirty back rooms with a piano-forte, practising solfeggios, with the intention of becoming singers of Italian opera.”

The development and cultivation of music in the soul of America may, perhaps, tend to arrest the progress of Filibusterism, and other stratagems and spoils; including the spoliation of black liberty: and to render the airs which Jonathan sometimes gives himself—on the fishery question for instance—tolerable. But it will in all probability produce results yet more extraordinary. A go-ahead people will not be content to stop short at operas and concerts. Music will be utilized; applied to political and social purposes; employed to enhance the charms of eloquence, and adorn the wisdom of statesmanship. Patriots will sing bravuras at caucus or in Congress on behalf of freedom: and Presidents will express themselves in notes arranged to form symphonies; whilst the foreign policy of the States will take the form of overtures. The unseemly contests which sometimes occur in the Legislature will be replaced by grand scenas; and the stump-orator that now is will become a stump-warbler: whilst the mob will respond in chorus. American song will be famous all the world over, and command immense engagements, being paid for—as no doubt it will be delivered—through the nose

(September 1853)

Keep your distance

“Gentle Subscriber! Did you ever see two strange Englishmen breakfasting at a Table d’hote abroad. Well! Isn’t it a cheerful thing?”(September 1853)
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