xxx xxx

"You know I hate a Black-beetle,"​Initial "Y" — initial-letter vignette for "The Thirtieth Lecture" in Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures, first published in Punch; or, The London Charivari in​ September 1845, ​"Mrs. Caudle complains of the 'Turtle-Dovery.' — discovers black beetles. —; thinks it 'nothing but right' that Caudle should set up a chaise." Wood-engraving, 6.4 cm high by 5.1 cm wide, framed, p. 152. Forty-eighth illustration in the third edition.​ Life in the suburbs quickly shifts from bucolic dream to nightmarish insect infestation.

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.]

Passage Illustrated

"Last night they came into the parlour. Of course, in a night or two, they'll walk up into the bedroom. They'll be here —; regiments of 'em —; on the quilt. But what do you care? Nothing of the sort ever touches you: but you know how they come to me; and that's why you're so quiet. A pleasant thing to have black-beetles in one's bed!​ Why don't I poison 'em?​A pretty matter, indeed, to have poison in the house! Much you must think of the dear children. A nice place, too, to be called the Turtle Dovery! Didn't I christen it myself?​I know that,​— but then, I knew nothing of the black-beetles. Besides, names of houses are for the world outside; not that anybody passes to see ours. Didn't Mrs. Digby insist on calling their new house 'Love-in-Idleness,' though everybody knew that that wretch Digby was always beating her? Still, when folks read 'Rose Cottage' on the wall, they seldom think of the lots of thorns that are inside. In this world, Mr. Caudle, names are sometimes quite as good as things. [Lecture XXX, "Mrs. Caudle complains of the 'Turtle-Dovery.' —; discovers black beetles. —; thinks it 'nothing but right' that Caudle should set up a chaise," pp. 154-155]

The Former Londoner becomes a Commuter

Perhaps the insect infestation has occurred in a timely fashion as Margaret Caudle is feeling trapped and isolated in the "Turtle-Dovery." Arguing that Job has missed his omnibus into town on a number of occasions, and has therefore arrived late at the office, she suggests that keeping a chaise would be a cost-effective solution to his transportation problems. It would also enable her to go shopping and visiting in town. The Caudles' commuting problems reflect the expansion of population in the Greater London suburbs from the 1840s onward.

As the periodical Fun implies in the 4 January 1862 cartoon Caution to Omnibus Travellers, suburban bus travel was neither genteel nor trouble free. As early as 1836 Charles Dickens had regarded the London omnibus as a fit subject for satire. In "The First Omnibus Cad," referenced in George Cruikshank's satirical character study The Last Cab Driver, an elderly female passenger complains to the "cad" that she does not wish to be deposited at "The Bank" (that is, the Bank of England). Presumably part of Job Caudle's difficulty is the relative infrequency of omnibus service in the recently expanded system to the London suburbs.

London's expansion southward had always been barred by the Thames, but in the eighteenth century the growing metropolitan population needed somewhere to live. Toll-bridges at Southwark, Waterloo and Vauxhall facilitated the development of housing in Camberwell, Brixton, Clapham, and Dulwich. Over the course of the nineteenth century the population grew rapidly, reaching the 6.5 million mark by the time of Victoria's death in 1901, a seven-fold increase from 1801. Fully twenty per cent of the population of England and Wales lived in Greater London. The transformation of the city as the hub of a commuter nexus depended upon the rapid construction of rail lines to the west and south. Early in Victoria's reign the commuter railway stations of Euston, Waterloo, Paddington, and Victoria increased the efficiency of the railway system. "London Bridge and Fenchurch Street stations began running commuter services in the 1840s, servicing once far-off places like Deptford, Croydon and even Brighton" (Robinson, "London: 'A Modern Babylon'"). Clearly the Caudles are not so far from central London that Job needs to take the railway, but Jerrold does not specify the suburb to which they have moved.

Related Material


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.

Robinson, Bruce. "London: 'A Modern Babylon'." BBC History. 17 February 2011.

Last modified 23 December 2017