The Quarrel between Will Sommers and Patch in the great kitchen of the Castle, George Cruikshank's eighth steel-engraving for Windsor Castle. An Historical Romance for the eighth instalment in Ainsworth's Magazine. "Book the Fourth: Cardinal Wolsey," Chapter IV, "How Mabel was received by the Party in the Kitchen; And of the Quarrel between the two Jesters," facing p. 195. 10.7 cm high by 13.9 cm wide, framed (originally published in the March 1843 number). Once again the illustrator organizes the scene around two central characters, here, Henry the Eighth's cheerful jester Will Sommers, and Cardinal Wolsey's bitter fool, Patch. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

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Pasaage Illustrated: Mabel Lyndwood and the Two Jesters

While Mabel was admiring this display of sagacity and affection a bustling step was heard behind her, and turning, she beheld a strange figure in a parti-coloured gown and hose, with a fool's cap and bells on his head, whom she immediately recognised as the cardinal's jester, Patch. The new-comer recognised her too, stared in astonishment, and gave a leering look at Will Sommers.

"What brings you here, gossip Patch?" cried Will Sommers. "I thought you were in attendance upon your master, at the court at Blackfriars."

"So I have been," replied Patch, "and I am only just arrived with his grace."

"What! is the decision pronounced?" cried Will Sommers eagerly. "Is the queen divorced? Is the king single again? Let us hear the sentence."

"Ay, the sentence! — the sentence!"​resounded on all hands. Stimulated by curiosity, the whole of the party rose from the table; Simon Quanden got out of his chair; the other cooks left their joints to scorch at the fire; the scullions suspended their work; and Hob and Nob fixed their large inquiring black eyes upon the jester. "I never talk thirsting," said Patch, marching to the table, and filling himself a flagon of mead. "Here's to you, fair maiden," he added, kissing the cup to Mabel, and swallowing its contents at a draught. "And now be seated, my masters, and you shall hear all I have to relate, and it will be told in a few words. The court is adjourned for three days, Queen Catherine having demanded that time to prepare her allegations, and the delay has been granted her."

"Pest on it​— he delay is some trick of your crafty and double-dealing master," cried Will​Sommers. "Were I the king, I know how I would deal with him."

"What wouldst thou do, thou scurril knave?" cried Patch angrily. "I would strip him of his ill-gotten wealth, and leave him only thee​— fitting attendant​ ​ — of all his thousand servitors," replied Will.

"This shall to his grace's ears," screamed Patch, amid the laughter of the company —​"and see whether your back does not smart for it."

"I fear him not," replied Will Sommers. "I have not yet told the king my​ ​ master of the rare wine we found in his cellar."

"What wine was that, Will?" cried Jack of the Bottles.

"You shall hear," replied Will Sommers, enjoying the disconcerted​look of the other jester. "I was at the palace at Hampton, when this​scant-witted knave invited me to taste some of his master's wine, and​accordingly to the cellar we went. 'This wine will surprise you,' quoth he, as we broached the first hogshead. And truly it did surprise me, for​no wine followed the gimlet. So we went on to another, and another,​and another, till we tried half a score of them, and all with the same​result. Upon this I seized a hammer which was lying by and sounded the casks, but none of them seeming empty, I at last broke the lid of​one​— and what do you think it contained?"

which Patch sought to impose silence upon his opponent. But Will Sommers​was not to be checked.

"It contained neither vinegar, nor oil, nor lead," he said, "but gold;​ay, solid bars of gold-ingots. Every hogshead was worth ten thousand​pounds, and more."

"Credit him not, my masters," cried Patch, amid the roars of the​company; "the whole is a mere fable​— an invention. His grace has no such​treasure. The truth is, Will Sommers got drunk upon some choice Malmsey,​and then dreamed he had been broaching casks of gold."

"It is no fable, as you and your master will find when the king comes​to sift the matter," replied Will. "This will be a richer result to​him than was ever produced by your alchemical experiments, good Signor​Domingo Lamelyn."

"It is false!​— I say false!" screamed Patch, "let the cellars be searched, and I will stake my head nothing is found."

"Stake thy cap, and there may be some meaning in it," said Will,​plucking Patch's cap from his head and elevating it on his truncheon. "Here is an emblem of the Cardinal of York," he cried, pointing to it.

A roar of laughter from the company followed this sally, and Hob and Nob looked up in placid wonderment.

"I shall die with laughing," cried Simon Quanden, holding his fat sides, and addressing his spouse, who was leaning upon his shoulder.

In the meantime Patch sprang to his feet, and, gesticulating with rage and fury, cried, "Thou hast done well to steal my cap and bells, for​they belong of right to thee. Add my folly to thy own, and thou wilt​be a fitting servant to thy master; or e'en give him the cap, and then​there will be a pair of ye."

"Who is the fool now, I should like to know?" rejoined Will Sommers gravely. "I call you all to witness that he has spoken treason."

While this was passing Shoreditch had advanced with a flagon of Malmsey to​ ​ Mabel, but she was so interested in the quarrel between the two​jesters that she heeded him not; neither did she attend to Nicholas​Clamp, who was trying to explain to her what was going forward. But just​as Patch's indiscreet speech was uttered an usher entered the kitchen​and announced the approach of the king. [Book the Fourth, "Cardinal Wolsey," Chapter IV, "How Mabel was received by the Party in the Kitchen; And of the Quarrel between the two Jesters,"​pp. 193-195]

Commentary: Showdown in the Royal Kitchen

Cruikshank has effectively synthesized several pages of text, incorporating the array of characters that Ainsworth has described interacting in the background as the King's and the Cardinal's jesters square off against one another in the centre of the composition. The spit-turning dogs, Hob and Nob, are in the foreground, immediately in front of Will Sommers and the jolly head-cook, Simon Quanden, and his equally rotund spouse (right). In the left-hand register, the so-called "Duke of Shoreditch," the archer with whom viewers are already acquainted, attempts to fill Mabel Lyndwood's cup with Malmsey. The four arches of the great fireplaces in background correspond approximately to the unobscured arches in Delamotte's sketch of the kitchen as it appeared in the summer of 1842, Ancient Kitchen, in the Castle, the headpiece for this fourth chapter. An intrusive element, probably a detail which Cruikshank noted in 1843 when he visited the Great Kitchen in order to prepare this steel-engraving, is the small clock, upper right, well above the revellers. It reads 3:00 P. M. in the centre of the Delamotte sketch, and 11:00 P. M. in the Cruikshank illustration, even though in Tudor times (were there ever any clock in that elevated and out-of-the-way position) it would have had only an hour hand. Minute hands (which indicate the small or minute divisions of the hour beyond the quarter and half) came into regular use around 1690, after the invention of the pendulum.

It's About Time — and Juxtaposition: The Clock in the Great Kitchen

The clock, sans pendulum and looking very much like a nineteenth-century interpolation, complements the high, arched ceiling of the Great Kitchen. Several questions about this obvious anachronism include, "Was Cruikshank aware that it was historically inaccurate?" and "What was the illustrator's likely intention in including it in so prominent a position?" Seven Dillon in "Illustrations of Time: Watches, Dials, and Clocks in Victorian Pictures" (2002) answers both of these questions, shedding light on why this reminder of the passing of time occurs in a picture whose text does not mention clocks at all. Dillon believes that Cruikshank, who loved illustrating Shakespeare, was aware of this clock being an anachronism, and that he intended it to serve an aesthetic purpose, filling a void and complementing the busy scene: "The picture has much more depth with the dark, empty upper half than it would if cropped just above the people's heads" (84). Dillon seems unaware of the fact that such a clock, according to Delamotte's illustration of the same setting, was present in the summer of 1842, and appear in the centre of his complementary headpiece for this chapter:

One historical detail of which Cruikshank was certainly aware is that clocks do not have minute hands until 1660, well after the time period of Ainsworth's book (which ranges from Anne Boleyn to Jane Seymour). The clock on the kitchen wall is sheer anachronism, as are three other clocks in this book's pictures. However, is aesthetically a very useful clock. It does not distract our attention in any way, as it might were it bereft of one of its hands. For the most part, then, even if they are hung on walls in contemporary tragic houses, illustrated clocks are similarly amiable, useful, nonthreatening.

. . . . Nearly all of these pictures are sold in books to be read in times of leisure; therefore it makes sense that clocks in Victorian pictures would function often as hourglasses — that is, they are formal, symbolic, iconographic, archaic, idyllic. [pp. 84-85]

In terms of the composition, Dillon asserts that the small clock, alone in the upper register, balances the "extremely crowded lower half of the frame" (84) and accentuates the height of the ceiling. In other words, Cruikshank is using the timepiece to emphasize the immensity of the space, not just a mere food-preparation area, but an epic room in which the community gathers to offer opinions on its leaders (Catherine of Arragon, Henry VIII, and Cardinal Wolsey, in this instance), to hear the news (the royal divorce and the discovery of Wolsey's cache of ingots), and build relationships: the beautiful Mab is welcomed and even courted, Patch made the butt of Sommers' joke. The clock is well to the right, balancing what is happening in the left-hand register (Shoreditch's offering Mabel a beverage, and seemingly pointing to the main action, centre). Cruikshank has deliberately shifted the clock from the centre to the right to balance the scene of amicable action in the lower left, which he highlights by providing a roaring fire behind the figures of Shoreditch, and the recent arrivals, Mabel Lyndwood and her guide, the falconer, Nicholas Clamp. The eye, having been directed to this trio, then moves to the centre, occupied by the ornately dressed jesters — the standing Patch's aggressive posture complementing Sommers's self-confidently remaining seated as he holds aloft Patch's cap-and-bells as a sort of trophy. Both are professional entertainers, playing to the room, enacting roles in an entertaining verbal sparring match that is the focus of all the supporting characters. In this "pretty lively picture" (Dillon, p. 84) Cruikshank is in fact revisiting the notion of the kitchen as the centre of the community which he exploited in the earlier Ainsworth novel, The Tower of London, which contrasts the aristocratic action in the great halls, drawing rooms, and battles with the humble, cheerful, communal, and comic action of the gigantic warders and their friends in such scenes as The Stone Kitchen (January 1840). However, there Cruikshank's intention seems to have been to provide comic relief in an intimate, plebeian space which integrates all comers, including the religious fanatic, Edward Underhill; the gloomy turnkey, Lawrence Nightgall; and the morose headsman, Mauger. The figures of the chief cooks, Simon Quanden, in the 1843​ illustration are a less dynamic and more incidental version of the presiding geniuses of the Tower's kitchen, Peter and Dame Trusbut, whose characters both Ainsworth and Cruikshank develop.​Here, epic sweep and confrontation of mighty comedic opposites has replaced unalloyed cameraderie.

Delamotte's realisation of the backdrop for this scene in the Great Kitchen

Above: W. Alfred Delamotte's architectural study of the scene of the verbal sparring match between the jesters, Ancient Kitchen, in the Castle, as the headpiece for Chapter 4; this nineteenth-century scene corresponds to that in which Cruikshank has depicted the historical characters. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Cruikshank's earlier scene of the cheerful community of a royal kitchen (1840)

Above: The first of Cruikshank's realisations of the society of the essentially comic characters in The Tower of London, The Stone Kitchen (January 1840). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


Ainsworth, William Harrison. The Tower of London. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. London: Richard Bentley, 1840.

Ainsworth, William Harrison. Windsor Castle. An Historical Romance. Illustrated by George Cruikshank and Tony Johannot. With designs on wood by W. Alfred Delamotte. London: Routledge, 1880. Based on the Henry Colburn edition of 1844.

Chesson, Wilfred Hugh. George Cruikshank. The Popular Library of Art. London: Duckworth, 1908.

Dillon, Steven. "Illustrations of Time: Watches, Dials, and Clocks in Victorian Pictures." The Victorian Illustrated Book, ed. Richard Maxwell. Charlottesvillle and London, U. Virginia Press, 2002. Pp. 52-90.

Jerrold, Blanchard. The Life of George Cruikshank. In Two Epochs. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. 2 vols. London: Chatto and Windus, 1882.

Johnson, E. D. H. "The George Cruikshank Collection at Princeton." George Cruikshank: A Revaluation. Ed. Robert L. Patten. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U. P., 1974, rpt. 1992. Pp. 1-34.

Patten, Robert L. Chapter 30, "The 'Hoc' Goes Down." George Cruikshank's Life, Times, and Art, vol. 2: 1835-1878. Rutgers, NJ: Rutgers U. P., 1991; London: The Lutterworth Press, 1996. Pp. 153-186.

Vann, J. Don. "Windsor Castle in Ainsworth's Magazine, June 1842-June 1843." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: MLA, 1985. P. 23.

Worth, George J. William Harrison Ainsworth. New York: Twayne, 1972.

Last modified 29 January 2018