Title-page vignette without caption for the 1866 edition of Douglas Jerrold's hugely popular Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures — Charles Keene. Wood-engraving for "The Second Lecture" — "Mr. Caudle has been at a tavern with a friend, and 'is enough to poison a woman' with tobacco-smoke." 7.4 cm high x 8.8 cm wide, vignetted, title-page. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

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"Hark! I'm sure there's a noise downstairs. It wouldn't at all surprise me if there were thieves in the house. Well, it may be the cat; but thieves are pretty sure to come in some night. There's a wretched fastening to the back-door; but these are not times to afford bolts and bars, when people won't take care of their five pounds.

"Mary Anne ought to have gone to the dentist's to-morrow. She wants three teeth taken out. Now, it can't be done. Three teeth that quite disfigure the child's mouth. But there they must stop, and spoil the sweetest face that was ever made. Otherwise, she'd have been a wife for a lord. Now, when she grows up, who'll have her? Nobody. We shall die, and leave her alone and unprotected in the world. But what do you care for that? Nothing; so you can squander away five pounds." ["The First Lecture. — "Mr. Caudle has lent five pounds to a friend," p. 5]


Jerrold's misogynistic portrait of Mrs. Caudle suggests that she is a progenitor of James Joyce's prolix Molly Bloom in Ulysses in that she addresses a variety of anxieties in a stream-of-consciousness monologue punctuated not by periods, but by mere dashes as she catches her breath in a continuous flow of prose. Keene's vignette of her, although not especially flattering, nevertheless does not suggest that she is a termagant. Rather, Keene sees her as a normal, middle-class wife craving an audience, and one whose restlessness suggests a nervousness about the state of her children and the household. Having heard a strange noise, she points and turns to her husband, mildly surprised that he is already sound asleep. The passage realised reveals the kinds of concerns that occupied middle-class Londoners in the mid-Victorian period: burglars, the marriageability of daughters, fire-insurance, the servants, and the all-important summer seaside vacation. Despite her apprehensions about the payment of the fire-insurance, the embroidered curtains of the four poster imply a certain affluence, and serve as the theatrical curtain going up on Jerrold's domestic comedy in prose.


Jerrold, Douglas. Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures, as Suffered by the late Job Caudle.​Edited from the Original MSS. by Douglas Jerrold. With a frontispiece by Leech, and as motto on the title-page, "Then, Pistol, lay thy head in Fury's lap. — Shakespeare."​ London: Punch​ Office; Bradbury​and Evans,​ 1846.

Jerrold, Douglas. Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures . Illustrated by John Leach and Richard Doyle. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1856.

Jerrold, Douglas. Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures. Illustrated by Charles Keene. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1866.

Last modified 7 November 2017