Mr. Caudle is called to a Sponging-house
9.3 x 8.7 cm, vignetted
Thirtieth illustration for Douglas Jerrold's Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures (first published 10 May 1845): "The Fifteenth Lecture," p. 75.
[Click on image to enlarge it and mouse over text for links.]
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
[You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
"I wish that Prettyman had been at the bottom of the sea before — what? It isn’t Prettyman? Ha! it's very well for you to say so; but I know it is; it's just like him. He looks like a man that’s always in debt — that’s always in a sponging-house. Anybody might swear it. I knew it from the very first time you brought him here — from the very night he put his nasty dirty wet boots on my bright steel fender. Any woman could see what the fellow was in a minute. Prettyman! a pretty gentleman, truly, to be robbing your wife and family!
"Why couldn't you let him stop in the sponging — Now don't call upon heaven in that way, and ask me to be quiet, for I won't. Why couldn't you let him stop there? He got himself in; he might have got himself out again. And you must keep me awake, ruin my sleep, my health, and for what you care, my peace of mind. Ha! everybody but you can see how I'm breaking. You can do all this while you’re talking with a set of low bailiffs! A great deal you must think of your children to go into a lawyer's office.
"And then you must be bail — you must be bound — for Mr. Prettyman! You may say, bound! Yes — you’ve your hands nicely tied, now. How he laughs at you — and serve you right! Why, in another week he’ll be in the East Indies; of course he will! And you'll have to pay his debts; yes, your children may go in rags, so that Mr. Prettyman — what do you say? It isn't Prettyman? I know better. Well, if it isn’t Prettyman that’s kept you out, — if it isn't Prettyman you’re bail for — who is it, then? I ask, who is it, then? What? My brother? Brother Tom? Oh, Caudle! dear Caudle — "
"It was too much for the poor soul," says Caudle; "she sobbed as if her heart would break, and I —" and here the MS. is blotted, as though Caudle himself had dropped tears as he wrote. ["The Fifteenth Lecture. — Mr. Caudle has again stayed out late. Mrs. Caudle, at first injured and violent, melts," pp. 76-77]
Although this lecture's initial letter vignette leads readers to expect that the diatribe occurs shortly after Caudle has entered the house surreptitiously, in fact it occurs once the Caudles have gone to bed. Mrs. Caudle's attitude towards her husband's tardiness changes abruptly when she learns that her husband has not been out late carousing with his "pot-companion," Mr. Prettyman. Rather, he has returned at an unusually late hour because he has had to furnish bail for her own brother, Tom. Had she permitted her husband to explain himself earlier, Margaret Caudle's shock at learning her husband has had to bail out her brother from a "sponging house" (private containment facility for those apprehended for debt) would perhaps not have been so great. Indeed, Margaret Caudle must have been mortified when her husband revealed to her that her brother had been consigned to a "sponging house" for non-payment of debt, likely a tradesman's account.
Perhaps the most famous illustration of a sponging house occurs in Charles Dickens's Sketches by Boz, for which illustrator George Cruikshank provided a sketch of such a lockup in The Lockup House for Chapter 2 in "A Passage in the Life of Mr. Watkins Tottle," Chapter 10 in "Tales," originally published in the February 1835 number of The Monthly Magazine. The gentleman whom Job Caudle is regarding with apprehension as he clutches his bankbook instinctively is not his brother-in-law, Tom, but a representative of the proprietor of the lockup house, a figure whom Cruikshank also depicted for Sketches by Boz as The Broker's Man in the fifth chapter in "Our Parish," from the First Series (8 February 1836). Although Keene has less character comedy and offers far less context than Cruikshank, the meeting between the broker's man and Caudle in Jerrold's "Fifteenth Lecture" Keene imagines as having occurred on the street, as Caudle is on his way home, perhaps from a meeting of the Skylarks at the local tavern. Keene implies an outdoor setting as he depicts both the broker's man (left) and Caudle (right) in their topcoats, and Caudle is carrying a folded umbrella. Since Tom will have given his sister's address where the agent can find the brother-in-law and secure a payment for the debt, it is likely that the scene occurs in front of the Caudles' London home. Although various nineteenth-century illustrators have treated the subject lightheartedly, being arrested for debt was no laughing matter, as John Dickens, the novelist's father, realized on 2 February 1824, when he was apprehended and subsequently consigned, on 20 February, to the Marshalsea Prison, Southwark, just after Charles Dickens's twelfth birthday.
Other illustrations involving being arrested for debt
Left: Cruikshank's illustration for the sketch of the comical broker's agent, attempting to apprehend a "swell" for debt: The Broker's Man (1836). Centre: Cruikshank's description of the sordid company of debtors in The Lock-up House in "Chapter the Second." Right: Harry Furniss's realisation of the agent of the lock-up house, The Sheriff-Officer's Mercury (1910). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]
Above: Fred Barnard's wood-engraving of the scene in which Solomon Jacobs' minion reveals that Tottle has been apprehended for debt, "I've brought this here note," replied the individual in the painted tops in a hoarse whisper; "I've brought this here note from a gen'l'm'n as come to our house this mornin'."
Dickens, Charles. ""A Passage in the Life of Mr. Watkins Tottle," Chapter 10 in "Tales," Sketches by Boz. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. London: Chapman and Hall, 1839; rpt., 1890. Pp. 326-55.
Dickens, Charles. "A Passage in the Life of Mr. Watkins Tottle," Chapter 10 in "Tales," Christmas Books and Sketches by Boz, Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: James R. Osgood, 1875 [rpt. of 1867 Ticknor and Fields edition]. Pp. 465-85.
Dickens, Charles. "A Passage in the Life of Mr. Watkins Tottle," Chapter 10 in "Tales," Sketches by Boz. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1876. Pp. 115-117.
Dickens, Charles. "A Passage in the Life of Mr. Watkins Tottle," Chapter 10 in "Tales," Sketches by Boz. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. 1. Pp. 419-55.
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: PunchOffice; 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 1 December 2017