Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Different Side of Thomas Hood
Illustration to the Vauxhall Sonnet, engraving  by Thos. Rowlandson
Sonnet to Vauxhall

“The English Garden” - Mason
The cold transparent ham is on my fork—
   It hardly rains—and hark the bell!—ding-dingle—
Away! Three thousand feet at gravel work,
   Mocking a Vauxhall shower!—Married and Single

Crush—rush;—Soak’d Silks with wet white Satin mingle.
   Hengler! Madame! round whom all bright sparks lurk
Calls audibly on Mr. and Mrs. Pringle
   To study the Sublime, &c.—(vide Burke)

All Noses are upturn’d!—Whish-ish!—On high
   The rocket rushes—trails—just steals in sight—
Then droops and melts in bubbles of blue light—
   And Darkness reigns—Then balls flare up and die—
Wheels whiz—smack crackers—serpents twist—and then
   Back to the cold transparent ham again!

~ Thomas Hood (1799-1745)

Hood’s output was created at great cost to his health. In his early days he was a talented engraver working alongside artists such as Thomas Rowlandson (a man with whom he later often collaborated), but was compelled to abandon this profession and seek an outdoor life to recover his strength. It was a tough existence, for Hood became an invalid in 1841 and was saved from financial ruin thanks only to the intervention of Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, who was a great fan of his works. 
When Hood eventually died, his family were granted a state pension –– and the public continued to adore him. A memorial was later built by public subscription in Kensal Green cemetery. 
As the century progressed Hood’s poetry and witticisms remained so familiar as to be often quoted in ordinary conversation. As late as 1903 William Rossetti (of Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood fame), perhaps somewhat extravagantly, described Hood as ‘the finest English poet between the generations of Shelley and Tennyson.’ However, fashions change, and so from these heady heights of appreciation Hood has quietly slipped into obscurity, and has long-since vanished from the standard English literature curriculum.


  1. Reminds me a bit of The Party's Over, one of the ballads from Bells Are Ringing.

  2. On the setting. A site very similar to Le Désert de Retz, the French Enlightenment "folly garden" that exalted Voltaire's "Candide" and admonished all to "tend one's own garden".

    An Ode to Madame Hengler.

    1. ________ Ode to Madame Hengler ________

      Oh, Mrs. Hengler!—Madame,—I beg pardon;
      Starry Enchantress of the Surrey Garden!
      Accept an Ode not meant as any scoff—
      The Bard were bold indeed at thee to quiz,
      Whose squibs are far more popular than his;
      Whose works are much more certain to go off.
      . . . be bright and busy
      While hoaxed astronomers look up and stare
      From tall observatories, dumb and dizzy
      To see a squib in Cassiopeia’s Chair!
      A Serpent wiggling in Charles’ Wain!
      A Roman Candle lighting the Big Bear!
      A Rocket tangled in Diana’s train!
      And Crackers stuck in Berenice’s hair!

      - See more at:

    2. __________ FIREWORKS __________


The fountains in the sky in brilliance burst

      Over throngs who thrill as patterns spread
In radiant arms of glowing hues disbursed
Natant in the blackness overhead.
Deafening as any cannonade
Explosions follow soon the hiss and squeal --

      Preliminaries to the star brigade
Erupting floridly, yet quite unreal.
Naumachia was naught compare to this
Delirium. Decorum’s cast aside.
Enraptured like Narcissus we know bliss,
Non sequitur to what’s seen nationwide.
Could joy we take in heaven’s fireworks
Earthbound hold us, while the Devil smirks?

      ~ FreeThinke - The Sandpiper - Summer 1995

  3. Light years and half a world away
    from Vauxhall Gardens, Hood's closure rings true:
    after the pyrotechnics, back
    to cold comfort. But somewhere in lost time
    the patterned illuminations
    hang in their perfect suspension, blue for
    memory, red for desire.

    More colours: more colours shone in
    those delicate globes of coruscation set
    against the dark to mimic
    the wheeling unseen order of the stars,
    too bright, too evanescent for
    mimesis, too clear to be forgotten.
    They had a God-be-with-you look.

    Back to the cold transparent ham
    again. Comedy is with us always,
    common-sense re-asserts itself:
    they mount, they shine, evaporate, and fall.
    Mundanity, quotidian
    ways of the world obtrude; but somewhere else
    the traceries of light burn on.

    -Evan Jones, "Back to the cold transparent ham again"

    1. Brilliant imagery! Almost as good asThomas Rowlandson's engravings, themselves.

  4. There oft returning from the green retreats
    Where fair Vauxhallia decks her sylvan seats;
    Where each spruce nymph from city Counters free,
    Sips the frothed syllabub, or fragrant tea;
    While with sliced ham, scraped beef, and burnt champagne,
    Her 'prentice lover soothes his amorous pain.

    - CANNING'S Loves of the Triangles, 1798


    WELL, Vauxhall is a wondrous scene!
    Where Cits in silks admirers glean
    Under innumerous lamps-
    Not safety lamps, by Humphry made:
    By these full many a soul's betrayed
    To ruin by the damps!

    Here nut-brown trees, instead of green,
    With oily trunks, and branches lean,
    Cling to nine yellow leaves,
    Like aged misers, that all day
    Hang o'er their gold and their decay,
    Till Death of both bereaves!

    The sanded walk beneath the roof
    Is dry for every dainty hoof,
    And here the wise man stops;
    But beaux beneath the sallow clumps
    Stand in the water with their pumps,
    And catch the oiled drops.

    Tinkles the bell !-away the herd
    Of revellers rush, like buck or bird
    Each doth his way unravel
    To where the dingy Drama holds
    Her sombre reign, 'mid rain and colds,
    And tip-toes, and wet gravel.

    The boxes show a weary set,
    Who like to get serenely wet,
    Within, and not without;
    There Goldsmith's widow you may see
    Rocking a fat and frantic knee
    At all the passing rout

    Yes ! there she is !-there,
    to the life And Mr. Tibbs, and Tibbs's wife,
    And the good man in black.
    Belles run, for, oh ! the bell is ringing;
    But Mrs. Tibbs is calmly singing,
    And sings till all come back!

    By that high dome, that trembling glows
    With lamps, cocked hats, and shivering bows,
    How many hearts are shook!
    A feathered chorister is there,
    Warbling some tender grove-like air,
    Compos'd by Mr. Hook.

    And Dignum, too! yet where is he?
    Shakes he no more his locks at me?
    Charms he no more night's ear?
    He who bless'd breakfast, dinner, rout,
    With "linked sweetness long drawn out;"
    Why is not Dignum here?

    Oh, Mr. Bish !-oh, Mr. Bish!
    It is enough, by Heaven! to dish
    Thy garden dinners at ten!
    What hast thou done with Mr. D.?
    What's thy "Wine Company," thy "Tea,"
    Without that man of men?

    Yet, blessed are thy suppers given
    (For money) something past eleven;
    Lilliput chickens boiled;
    Bucellas, warm from Vauxhall ice,
    And hams, that flit in airy slice,
    And salads scarcely soiled.

    See! the large, silent, pale-blue light
    Flares, to lead all to where the bright
    Loud rockets rush on high,
    Like a long comet, roaring through
    The night, then melting into blue,
    And starring the dark sky!

    And Catherine-wheels, and crowns, and names
    Of great men whizzing in blue flames;
    Lights, like the smiles of hope;
    And radiant fiery palaces,
    Showing the tops of all the trees,
    And Blackmore on the rope!

    Then late the hours, and sad the stay!
    The passing cup, the wits astray,
    The row, and riot call!
    The tussle, and the collar torn,
    The dying lamps, the breaking morn!
    And hey for-Union Hall!

    -NED WARD, Junr., London Magazine, Sept. 1824

    1. A far better, more evocative description than the poor entry from Wikipedia given below for those poor souls who have no taste –– or patience –– for verse.

      However did you find it?

    2. A lovely girl, Serendipity! My God! I haven't seen her since high school.


    GENTLES high and low, O, O!
    Come, see my raree-show,
    Full of sights the most amazing,
    Scenes and wonders past all praising;
    And the Time, you understand, is
    (Gentle Dandyzettes and Dandies!)
    One hundred years ago, O, O! A hundred years ago.

    First of all I'll show, O, O!
    A military beau,
    Unlike our exquisites in trousers,
    To his periwig all bow, sirs!
    Hat so small, and smalls so large are,
    Mounted on a thundering charger;
    And his coat, by tailor's needle,
    Gilt, just like a parish beadle,
    A hundred years ago, &c.

    Ladies, now I show, O, O!
    A damsel all the go;
    Hoop enclosing half her figure,
    Like a city barge or bigger:
    Head so high, with fruits and flowers,
    Took in dressing but four hours;
    In a sack at court presented,
    Gigot sleeves not then invented,
    A hundred years ago, &c.

    Next a ship at sea, E, E!
    Proud of victoree,
    Colours fly, while Britain's thunder
    Strikes, as now, the world with wonder:
    Though esteem'd, no steam impelling,
    Winds alone her canvas swelling,
    A hundred years ago, &c.

    Next a street I show, O, O!
    With lamps a pretty row,
    So genteel and dim - if brighter,
    Thieves might starve as now, when lighter;
    And the Charleys set to watch 'em,
    Couldn't see the way to catch 'em,
    A hundred years ago, &c.

    Gayest sight of all, all, all,
    Now behold VAUXHALL!
    In the dark-walk lovers dying,
    Ham and beef around 'em flying,
    Cut so thin, that ev'ry breeze
    Would blow them up among the trees!

    A hundred years ago, &c.

    Now all we have to show, O, O!
    In present days you know,
    Is humbly meant to give you pleasure,
    Your applause our richest treasure:
    If we successfully compete
    With what was here esteem'd a treat,
    A hundred years ago, &c.

    MONDAY 26th of August
    WEDNESDAY 28th of August
    FRIDAY 30th of August
    When they close for the season.



    "WAITER, waiter! a plate of ham!"
    Cried a Cit, in a tone of grimace;
    When the wind, which gave the door a slam,
    Blew the slice in the Briton's face

    The wafery bit stuck to him like glue,
    When he bawled, with a terrible "d--n!"
    "I do not swear I can see through you,
    But I can-through your slice of ham!

    - Vauxhall Papers, 1841.


    THE purse, and not the throat, to cram,
    Was why the measure first was taken;
    For by that way you save your ham,
    And that's the way to "save your bacon."

    -Vauxhall Papers, 1841.

  9. Vauxhall Gardens was a pleasure garden in Kennington on the south bank of the River Thames and accessed by boat from London until the erection of Vauxhall Bridge in the 1810s. The wider area was absorbed into the metropolis as the city expanded in the early to mid-19th century.

    It was one of the leading venues for public entertainment in London, from the mid-17th century to the mid-19th century. Originally known as 'New Spring Gardens', the site is believed to have opened before the Restoration of 1660, the first known mention being made by Samuel Pepys in 1662.

    The Gardens consisted of several acres of trees and shrubs with attractive walks. Initially entrance was free, with food and drink being sold to support the venture.
    The site became Vauxhall Gardens in 1785 and admission was charged for its many attractions. The Gardens drew all manner of people and supported enormous crowds, with its paths being noted for romantic assignations. Tightrope walkers, hot-air balloon ascents, concerts and fireworks provided entertainment.

    The rococo "Turkish tent" became one of the Gardens' structures, the interior of the Rotunda became one of Vauxhall's most viewed attractions, and the chinoiserie style was a feature of several buildings.

    A statue depicting George Frederic Handel, erected in the Gardens, later found its way to Westminster Abbey. In 1817 the Battle of Waterloo was re-enacted, with 1,000 soldiers participating.

    It closed in 1840 after its owners suffered bankruptcy, but re-opened in 1841. It changed hands in 1842, and was permanently closed in 1859. The land was redeveloped in the following decades, but slum clearance in the late 20th century saw part of the original site opened up as a public park.

    This was initially called Spring Gardens and renamed in 2012 as Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. It is managed as a public park by the London Borough of Lambeth. Vauxhall Gardens is depicted in a tile motif at Vauxhall tube station, done in about 1971 by George Smith. ... WIKI



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