Romance of London: Strange Stories, Scenes (not Scones) And Remarkable Person(s) of the Great Town in 3 Volumes
by John Timbs
John Timbs (1801-1875), who also wrote as Horace Welby, was an English author and aficionado of antiquities. Born in Clerkenwell, London, he was apprenticed at 16 to a druggist and printer, where he soon showed great literary promise. At 19, he began to write for Monthly Magazine, and a year later he was made secretary to the magazine’s proprietor and there began his career as a writer, editor, and antiquarian.
This particular book is available at googlebooks for free in ebook form. Or you can pay for a print version.
I don’t remember where I heard about John Timbs, but somehow I heard that he wrote some quite intriguing stories about historical London, and purchased this book a year or so ago. After finishing my previous series on Vauxhall, I rummaged among my collection of research books and this one caught my attention. Be aware if you buy it that, like many such books, it was hastily scanned and some of the words didn’t scan correct. For instance, the title “Strange Stories, Scones And Remarkable Person of the Great Town” doesn’t make a lot of sense. Thus far, however, I have found the interior pages quite easy to read.
Among the first stories is one about a jester… and perhaps a dessert?
The Lord Mayor’s Fool
The Lord Mayor’s Fool was a distinguished character of his class; and there was a curious feat which he was bound by his office to perform, in the celebration of Lord Mayor’s Day. He was to leap, clothes and all, into a large bowl of custard, at the Inauguration dinner; and this was a jest so exactly suited to the taste of the lower class of spectators, that it was not easily made stale by repetition. It is alluded to by Shakespeare and Ben Johnson, as follows:—
You have made shift to run into ‘t, boots and spurs, and all, like him that leapt into the custard.” (All’s Well that Ends Well.)
He may, perchance, in tail of a Sheriff’s dinner,
Skip with a rime o’ the table, from new nothing,
And take his Almain leap into a custard,
Shall make my Lady Mayoress and her sisters
Laugh all their hoods over their shoulders—Devil’s an Ass.
Custard was “a food much used in City feasts.” (Johnson’s Dict.)
Now mayors and shrieves all hush’d and satiate lay;
Yet eat, in dreams, the custard of the day.—Pope
Perhaps it is this custard which, in the Staple of News, is called “the custard politick, the Mayor’s.” We have all heard the vulgar comparison—”You are like my Lord Mayor’s Fool, who knows what is good.”
A Fruit Fool?
Somehow, a fool jumping into a vat of custard clicked in my mind. Isn’t fool an English dessert? So I looked it up on Wikipedia, and there staring at me was this lovely creamy, custard-like raspberry fool. Yummy. Where can I find one?
According to Wikipedia, though, nobody really knows where the term came from. Hmm. Maybe Mr. John Timbs knows more than the all of the wise scholars at Wikipedia? Or am I making an incorrect assumption?
First mentioned in 1598 along with the term trifle, its ingredients are fruit, whipped cream, and sugar. According to Wikipedia, gooseberries are the fruit of choice for a fool, but apples, rhubarb, raspberries, and strawberries are also used.
If you’d like to make one, here are some recipes:
Have you ever had a gooseberry fool? Or any type of (dessert) fool? What in the heck is a gooseberry anyway?
Romance of London Series
- Romance of London: The Lord Mayor’s Fool… and a Dessert
- Romance of London: Carlton House and the Regency
- Romance of London: The Championship at George IV’s Coronation
- Romance of London: Mrs. Cornelys at Carlisle House
- Romance of London: The Bottle Conjuror
- Romance of London: Bartholomew Fair
- Romance of London: The May Fair and the Strong Woman
- Romance of London: Nancy Dawson, the Hornpipe Dancer
- Romance of London: Milkmaids on May-Day
- Romance of London: Lord Stowell’s Love of Sight-seeing
- Romance of London: The Mermaid Hoax
- Romance of London: The Bluestocking and the Sweeps’ Holiday
- Romance of London: Comments on Hogarth’s “Industries and Idle Apprentices”
- Romance of London: The Lansdowne Family
- Romance of London: St. Margaret’s Painted Window at Westminster
- Romance of London: Montague House and the British Museum
- Romance of London: The Bursting of the South Sea Bubble
- Romance of London: The Thames Tunnel
- Romance of London: Sir William Petty and the Lansdowne Family
- Romance of London: Marlborough House and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough
- Romance of London: The Duke of Newcastle’s Eccentricities
- Romance of London: Voltaire in London
- Romance of London: The Crossing Sweeper
- Romance of London: Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s Fear of Assassination
- Romance of London: Samuel Rogers, the Banker Poet
- Romance of London: The Eccentricities of Lord Byron
- Romance of London: A London Recluse