House of Cards? Or, the Case of the Queen of Hearts and Her Tarts…

‘You’re nothing but a pack of cards!’  –Alice

Queen of Hearts

“the Queen turned crimson with fury… Off with her head!”
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. MacMillan & Co., 1866. 1st ed. CTSN 27693)

Alice’s assertion, at the end of the climactic confrontation with the Queen of Hearts in the trial scene in Alice in Wonderland, dramatically brings the proceedings to an close…  But it also highlights one of the many sources of humor in the book: Alice’s nemesis in the court—the Queen of Hearts – is indeed nothing but a playing card animated by Lewis Carroll’s imagination into a comically malevolent personality, whose favorite utterance seems to be “Off with her/his head”!  Tenniel’s classic illustrations seems to perfectly complement Carroll’s presentation of the Queen.
And remember, Alice is not even the accused in the trial!  She’s merely called as witness in the trial of the Knave of Heart for stealing the tarts, as per the nursery rhyme, which Carroll incorporates into his story, as an indictment read by the White Rabbit:

The Queen of Hearts
She made some tarts,
All on a summer’s day;
The Knave of Hearts
He stole the tarts,
And took them clean away.

The Queen is depicted as a comical stereotype, a despotic harridan brought to life, a “blind and aimless Fury,” as Carroll himself once described her.1 The King and Knave (the latter more familiar to us now perhaps as the “Jack”) are similarly depicted as individualized “three dimensional” comic personalities, and it seems as though the other royal members of the court—the “face cards”—are too.

Gardeners

“Why, they’re only a pack of cards, after all.  I needn’t be afraid of them!”

But  Carroll’s text describes the number cards as animated playing cards—“oblong and flat” who fall face down at the approach of the Queen—and Tenniel correspondingly pictures the gardeners like the cards they’re comprised of, essentially animated walking-and-talking sandwich-boards with heads, legs, and arms attached.

As such, I think they serve to foreground the more important characters: the Queen, King, Jack, Alice, etc.  They really are the sort of “cardboard-cutout” characters that literary critics tend to mock! They also serve to remind readers of something we’re always implicitly aware of—that all these “characters” are playing cards brought to life—and this is another reason why their antics seem so comical.  The inanimate, animated—objects and animals brought to life and imbued with human qualities, even if satiric ones. This provided a tried and true literary device in children’s literature long before Carroll.

lLice & the cards

“the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her…”

Yet when Alice blurts out: “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”, the whole house of cards comes tumbling down.  The court deconstructs back into a pack of cards, raining down on Alice’ head, a moment of humor which is, however, not without some anxiety, as Tenniel brilliantly depicts.  Amid the confusion, the non-playing card Wonderland characters in court—animals comprising the erstwhile jury—are pictured as fully reverted back into unfrocked frogs, mice, and birds.  And a storm of cards swirls toward Alice, whose face shows clearly that she is not amused, all set against a darkly cross-hatched backdrop calling to mind an ominous storm (a Kansas tornado perhaps?).

Again, this depiction seems to perfectly match Carroll’s language, and perhaps extends it, thereby deepening the presentation of a funny, yet scary scene, one final vision before the sometimes-nightmarish midsummer-night’s dream finally yields back to bucolic daytime reality:

At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her: she gave a little scream, half of fright and half of anger, and tried to beat them off, and found herself lying on the bank, with her head in the lap of her sister, who was gently brushing away some dead leaves that had fluttered down from the trees upon her face.

A “scream, half of fright,” flying objects around Alice’s head and face which she “tries to beat off”… This could be right out of Poe—or Hitchcock.  (The Birds, anyone?).  The sudden deconstruction of the Queen and her court back into a pack of cards that briefly assails Alice before falling onto the floor like dead leaves fluttering down is a terrifically dramatic moment.  But in a flash, it’s all over and she’s back on the calm riverbank—all’s well.

Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts, as conceptualized by the Salzburg Marionette Theatre
(reproduced with permission)

The visual aspect of the this reverse-metamorphosis was dramatically realized in a production of Alice in Wonderland that I saw not long ago by the Salzburg Marionette Theatre (where the Queen was presented as an overt caricature of Queen Victoria, something Carroll wouldn’t have done but which was a funny adaptation for a modern audience).  All the cards, as all the characters were “brought to life” on-stage by marionettes, adding a nicely surreal effect to the comical, ever-so-slightly-nightmarish fantasy.

When puppet Alice uttered the line, “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”, the whole pack exploded, and Alice was deluged by a literal rain of playing cards falling on her and all over the stage—a perfect dramatization of Tenniel’s drawing, yet I think one more dramatic than a still illustration could possibly provide, no matter how striking.  It’s one thing to read a description, even a vivid one, or to see an image, even one as evocative as Tenniel’s, but it’s quite another to see actual kinetic movement and tumbling items cascading down before your eyes. The effect isn’t “better”—it’s just more inescapable and dramatic to a modern viewer—at least this one.

Queen and the Knave

The Queen & the Knave (The Queen of Hearts and her Damson Tarts. Dean & Son, between 1857 & 1865. CTSN item #6040014)

I was recently reminded of that staging—and of course Carroll’s story—while cataloging a “toybook” version of the story about the Queen of Hearts and her tarts: The Queen of Hearts and the Damson Tarts, published sometime between 1857 and 1865 in London by Dean & Son.  (Coincidentally—or maybe not—Carroll’s Alice was first published in 1865.  Hmmm…)  This illustrated eight-page paperback (somewhat like a comic book in format) begins with the first stanza of the “Queen of Hearts” nursery rhyme and then elaborates the story through the combination of text and illustration that characterizes the toybook format.  (Damson by the way, is a type of sweet plum, popular for jam-making in the 19th century—I didn’t know that either and had to look it up.)  Note the toybook depiction of the Queen. Here, she appears quite benevolent, and even slightly dishy, in contrast to either of the other versions we’ve looked at so far.

The Queen "sent out her cards about to every King and Queen, / Who were in the pack, in red or black, and always to be seen."

The Queen “sent out her cards about to every King and Queen, / Who were in the pack, in red or black, and always to be seen.”

The Queen makes her tarts “to feast a chosen few” and sends “her cards” out to invite all the other kings and queens to a noble feast—a play on words reinforced by the accompanying illustration.  (Remember, in those days people sent out invitation cards and left calling cards when visiting.)  As in Tenniel’s later rendition, we see the combination of “three-dimensional” royalty and “sandwich-board” card-like courtiers.  But for the most part, the characters are pictured as being “3D,” even though they retain the trappings and symbolic accoutrements of playing cards—the Knave’s poleaxe, for instance.  Otherwise,  what’s he otherwise doing with that in the court, especially as a suspected thief and a defendant?

I wonder if perhaps Carroll or Tenniel saw this depiction—or one like it—or if this playing card/realized character distinction was part of the received idea for this basic story that was then taken and reconceptualized.  The nursery rhyme characters are, after all, based on playing cards: the King and Queen of Hearts, etc.

Dean & Son - Knave and cat

“Your Majesty… Your cat it must sure be.”

Note the thievish Knave lurking in the background behind the oblivious Queen in the first illustration.  He’s depicted as a pretty disreputable—dare I say, knavish-looking—character in this version.  He’s the thief—as readers, we know that from the rhyme—but when called upon to produce the tarts (which he has already eaten in this version, as we later read/see), what does he do? He blames the King’s cat!

“Your majesty,” said he, [the Knave]
I think I know who is the foe,
Your cat it sure must be:
He looked at me quite guiltily
And ran away full speed…”

And the accompanying illustration shows the cat of course high-tailing it away—imagine a cat doing that when in trouble!  The King doesn’t buy the Knave’s lame excuse—“Oh Knave for shame!… Do cats eat damson tarts?”—and he rages before the court.

"To hide his sin, his mouth and chin / To wipe, he did forget"

“To hide his sin, his mouth and chin / To wipe, he did forget”

The Knave is eventually indicted by his own jam-stained chin, and the King commands that he confess on “bended knee.”  (Unlike the nursery rhyme version, there are no tarts for the knave to bring back in this telling.)  But remember that friendly-looking Queen?  She has other, distantly non-merciful, ideas: “Oh sire…He surely ought to die.”

In this version, the King rules, not the Queen who railroads the proceedings in Alice, and he opts for “mercy”—the Knave is to be beaten, as per the nursery rhyme. The text states this, but there’s no corresponding illustration of the actual beating, only one of the cowering Knave.  The effect is to lighten the cautionary tone considerably, I think–illustration predominates over the text in terms of imparting overall meaning to us.  Then, with justice dispensed, the king decides that a party is in order:

The King's Ball

“The company felt such delight, they danced til it was morning quite.”

The King did then for music call,–said he, “We now will have a Ball.”
The company felt such delight, the danced till it was morning quite.

The story thus concludes with an all-nighter celebration, rather than pandemonium, as  “Queen of Hearts episode” in Alice.  The accompanying illustration, labeled “the King’s Grand Ball,” perfectly captures this festive-comic resolution–excluding the Knave though, if you look closely.

Having let the knave eat the stolen tarts, this version also does away with his repentance—and, of course, with his restitution of the stolen goods; the lines above take the place of the last three lines of the nursery rhyme, which have mysteriously disappeared:

The Knave of Hearts
Brought back the tarts,
And vowed he’d steal no more.

So with the same basic story line, we’ve seen essentially three different resolutions, if we factor in the combined effect of text and illustration: 1) restitution and repentance; 2) beating of the malefactor; 3) dancing and celebration.

First page of New Story of the Queen of Hearts -- leaf laid down to front wrapper (New Story of Queen of Hearts. Dean  & Co., between 1847-1854. CTSN 1738)

First page of the New Story of the Queen of Hearts — leaf laid down to front wrapper (Dean & Co., between 1847-1854. CTSN 1738)

An apparently earlier toybook version of the Queen of Hearts story, published between 1847-1854 by Dean & Co., features most of the same illustrations (omitting the smaller insets), and essentially the same text (the Queen is “troubled” instead of “ireful,” etc.).  Titled New Story of the Queen of Hearts, it provides a variation of the ending with the Knave being beaten.  The last illustration in this version shows the cowering Knave before his beating, and the last lines of text are here:

…mercy shall guide my will,
So let the thief be beaten.”

The lines ending the Damson Tarts have been deleted altogether and the illustration showing the festive dancing scene has been moved—somewhat incoherently, in terms of the accompanying text, or even the plot itself—to the front pastedown, above the beginning of the text: “The Queen of Hearts once made some tarts…”  But when is this dancing celebration supposed to take place?  And what’s its cause in this retelling?  Things don’t really add up logically, but illogical or inconsistent plotting doesn’t really destroy delightful aspects of a children’s story as long as it’s indeed entertaining–and perhaps also instructive in a cautionary way.

As first, I was tempted to think that the New Story might be a one-time publication variation, or even a book whose leaves were rebound, a not-infrequent occurrence in old toy books—cheaply-bound, inexpensive items, often “read to death” by child readers.  But book in hand, I can see that this toybook is still intact, as issued—the first, unnumbered leaf and leaf number eight are laid down to the original wrappers, which are still attached to each other along the spine edge.

Queen of Hearts, French version

La Reine de Coeur, et Les Tartes Volees ([Dean & Son?, ca 1850?] CTSN 150467)

And another toybook variation—an undated French-language version probably dating from about 1850, possibly published by Dean too—essentially duplicates not only the New Story’s version of the story but also the page layout and design, the decorative bordered boxes into which caption title text is set, and also provides a text that’s a pretty close French translation—almost word-for-word.  Again, the text ends with the Knave being beaten:

Le Roi…dit…
Main la merci encore guidera ma volunte,
Ansi, que le voleur soit battu.

It’s hard to know why both books end this way—with the Knave being punished with a beating—instead of with the restitution and repentance from the nursery rhyme version.  Perhaps the toy book maker simply didn’t plan well and ran out of space in the preset eight-page format?  (This sometimes happens.)  Or, more likely, perhaps, the message for children was intended to be one frightening them away from theft by playing up the consequences, both in language and illustration?  There may well be other explanations too.  Beatings, or similar punishments, were quite common features in stories about bad children, as shocking as this seems to us now in a story aimed at children readers.

Caldecott, The Queen of Hearts

Randolph Caldecott, The Queen of Hearts (Warne & Co., ca. 1890?. CTSN 13172)

The story of the Queen of Hearts and her tarts was popular fodder for other illustrated children’s versions too.  One of the best known is Caldecott’s The Queen of Hearts, first published by Routledge in 1881, and later reissued by Warne (which is the copy the Cotsen Library has).  This book offers an interesting interplay of the text and interpretative illustrations, as well as an example of how book design can affect meaning in an illustrated book.  Caldecott reproduces the classic nursery rhyme text verbatim, but his own illustrations and overall page design both shape—and indeed, modify—a reader’s reception of this text.  Caldecott provides his characteristically gently satiric take on a “story,” via visual elements.

Caldecott's Queen (The Queen of Hearts. Warne & Co., ca. 1890. CTSN 13172)

Caldecott’s Queen of Hearts

His cover design sets the tone: against a background of playing card on the ground, a comically wild archer of Diamonds (perhaps a youth?) apparently shoots at Hearts balloons, while a foppish attendant of the Queen of Hearts protests.  The Queen is depicted partly within a bordered a frame making her look like a two-dimensional playing card—she’s both within the scene and outside it, an interesting narrative ploy.  Is she a person? A playing card?  Or both at once?

Caldecott presents a fairly glamouous Queen, like Dean’s earlier toybook version—and very much unlike Tenniel’s. Apparently, she’s quite a reader too—reading cook books, if you look closely—Caldecott’s creative invention, and perhaps his wry “educational” message to young readers?

Caught in the act...by the cat!

The Knave caught in the act…by the cat!

The Knave’s thievery is also depicted with Caldecott’s gently satiric humor—the Knave is another real court dandy, shown caught “in the act” in Caldecott’s depiction.  But how is he discovered this time?  Take a look!  The cat is witness, and Caldecott’s illustrations show the loyal cat ratting out the Knave…no doubt strictly in the interests of justice!

While adding no new text, Caldecott thus creates a much-enhanced role for the King’s cat via illustration, a role he expands even further with the line drawings accompanying the color wood-engravings in this book.  The cat—which is not mentioned at all in the nursery rhyme and which is merely the Knave’s absurd object of blame in Damson Hearts—is turned into the eyes and ears of the King and an active agent of justice, as you can see in the composite view below of Caldecott’s line-drawings on four separate pagesno text is really needed!

Caldecott's cat

Caldecott’s cat: Adding to the “story” with graphic elements.

"And [the King of Hearts] beat the Knave full sore..."

“And  beat the Knave full sore…”
Here, for illustrative purposes, the punishment of the Knave, barely noticeable in the background of the scene as Caldecott presents it, has been magnified and added below the dancing scene.

Following the nursery rhyme text, Caldecott shows the Knave being beaten by the King of Hearts—but here the act takes place in the background, with color illustration shifting the focus to the rest of the royals happily dancing the night away.  (Note: the Queen of Hearts is dancing with the King of Clubs, while her consort administers punishment.) Illustration reinterprets the text, lightens the tone considerably, and adds a festive slant.  Celebration is foregrounded, while punishment and severity are pushed into the background.

The Knave brings back the tarts, but Caldecott shows him giving them to celebrating little royal children of all four suits, not feasting adults as in Damson Tarts.  So restitution is made—and crowned children get a treat, an ending with obvious appeal to child readers! (“Plumb-cake for ever, Huzza!,” as John Newbery put it.)

Interestingly, Caldecott also depicts liveried court-servants and heralds as playing-card, sandwich-board wearers—but unlike Tenniel, he provides them with bodies underneath.  This certainly seems like some sort of visual allusion to Carroll’s work and Tenniel’s illustrations to me, which wouldn’t be a too surprising, since Alice in Wonderland was still hugely popular in the 1880s and 1890s, as it remains to this day.

Knave of Hearts & Children

The Knave of Hearts,
Brought back those tarts.

cards...

Caldecott’s take on the playing card heralds…now granted bodies.

1.Quotation from an article by Carroll, “Alice on Stage,” quoted by Martin Gardner in The Annotated Alice (Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1960, p. 109)

Un Crime Effroyable: Juvenilia from the close of the 19th Century

One of our newest acquisitions here at Cotsen is a really unique item.  It’s one of our favorite types of materials to have in the collection: juvenilia, an instance of literary, musical, or visual art created by a child artist.  This particular piece is a cleverly illustrated French language poster presumably created and inscribed by J. M. Legeay (Jean-Marc?) in September of 1896 (see final panel). The poster tells a story in pictures about a reprehensible killing and the events that ensue after the despicable act, complete with a sobering moral.

Although this murder story is resolved and justice is meted out, there remain, for us, many mysteries surrounding the piece itself.  Where was it made?  Who made it? Why was it made?  I will explore these questions about this intriguing historical object while we simultaneously explore the scandalous pictorial story it presents us with.

Without further ado: Un Crime Effroyable (a terrible crime)

Un Crime Effroyable

This handmade poster is illustrated in crayon, ink, watercolor, and pencil.  The piece features 10 pictorial paper panels and a foldable cardboard border.  All the individual segments are backed on black linen cloth in order to join the work as a whole. The poster is designed to be easily hung on the wall, or neatly folded up along the panels’ divisions.

The top 2 panels serve as our decorative title:

(Notice the string for hanging and the torn hanging hole on the left.)

(Notice the string for hanging and the torn hanging hole on the left.)

From these purely physical facts we might infer that this item was diligently worked on.  It also demonstrates a good degree of artistic skill (for a young and presumably amateur artist) and craft ability that would have taken young Legeay many hours to illustrate, cut, arrange, and paste together.  But we don’t get a clear indication of why he spent so much time creating it.  What was this young man’s motivation? Legeay probably didn’t create a moral tale about wrongdoing and lawful retribution just for his own amusement. Rather, it seems reasonable to conclude that the impetus for this kind of project was probably a school assignment, an exercise in moral education.  Let’s see what the young man learned…

Un Crime Effroyable, first panel

In this first scene we are introduced to two characters: a middle class fop in his bright yellow pants, and a small green blob (who we soon learn is our murderer). The dandy seems quite dandy, and why not? It seems he, and at least the character behind him, has just left the wine and liquor store in the background.

Un Crime Effroyable, second panelHere, with seemingly no explanation and for no reason, our good-natured friend with the cherubic face is stabbed by a mustachioed assailant.  But notice the juxtaposition of clothing style and appearance between victim and killer.  Stylized against our top hatted and parasol wielding picture of happiness and innocence that is our middle class man, we have our murderer.  He appears working class, with his plain green coat and matching kepi; no frills in his dress.

At this point we might venture to say that this depiction of a terrible crime is an illustration of class conflict; an instance of a working class man preying on a defenseless (and seemingly blameless) middle class man.  I don’t think it would be unfair to assert that Legeay is probably middle class himself.  Not only does he seemingly have access to schooling and a variety of coloring materials, he is also evincing a common middle class fear about the brutal and violent lower class wanting to harm the bourgeoisie.  Of course, one has to keep in mind that Legeay is just a child; I don’t mean to foist upon him some propagandist motivation.  I believe, rather, that he is just a young man reflecting the world views around him as he completes a school assignment.

In this next scene two officers happen upon the hapless body of our victim. Notice their spurs . . . but lack of horses to use them on.

In this next scene two officers happen upon the hapless body of our victim. Notice their spurs . . . but lack of horses to use them on.

The killer smokes his victim's pipe, the scoundrel!

The killer smokes his victim’s pipe, the scoundrel!

Our murderer contently relaxes in a local café after his grisly deed, as the be-spurred officer enters. From the clues in this panel we get our first guess at the possible region of origin for this poster. On the door we find inscribed “Café” and “Cidre”. Cidre is French for cider, specifically the kind popularly produced in the regions of Normandy and Brittany. This familiarity with cidre might be an indication that Legeay is from one of these regions (or just a budding young drunk).  But as we will see, there is other evidence that points in a very different direction.

The murderer, sandwiched between spurs, is apprehended and clearly startled.

The murderer, sandwiched between spurs, is apprehended and clearly startled.

Here our guilty man seems repentant and regretful at the Assize Court. Notice the second sign in the background: Etres Sans Frapper (enter without knocking).

Here our guilty man seems repentant and regretful at the Assize Court. Notice the second sign in the background: Etres Sans Frapper (enter without knocking).

Un Crime Effroyable, guillotine sceneIn this scene the action of the story comes to a close.  Our killer is being escorted to a smiling executioner manning the infamous guillotine.The perpetrator’s escorts are none other than our officers-in-spurs and a crucifix bearing priest. This panel, however, shows us more than just the moments leading up to our murderer’s last.Look closely at the left side of the illustration and you might just be able to make out the most puzzling feature of this item, what appears to be debossed text reading: Hollonge.

Provided here are two closer images of the text (one vertical, one horizontal):

closer image of the text, vertical

closer image of the text, horizontal

It is unclear whether this text is a hand written inscription or whether it is a trade mark on the paper itself. It seems unlikely that it is the debossed trade mark ofa paper manufacturer, “Hollonge”, because the mark does not appear on any other panel of the poster and no such company has turned up in my research. So it might be an inscription. But who would write it?  Why was it written? What does it mean?

Hollonge might be a corruptionthat is supposed to denote Hollogne. Hollogne being short hand for the town of Grâce-Hollogne, known to English speakers as The Ardennes.  Grâce-Hollogne, it turns out, is located not in France, but in Belgium. Butif the poster is from Belgium one might wonder why the text is written in French. Significantly, perhaps, The Ardennes is located in the province of Liège, placing it in the region known as Wallonia. This might place Legeay as a Walloon, a French speaking Belgian.

Another aspect of Hollonge is that it seems to have been etched by a tool. Hollange is composed of recessed markings, and some of the strokes appear too thick to have been written by pencil or pen. However it was made, it appears to have been a mistake.  If the word is supposed to be Hollogne, it is spelled wrong. Furthermore the final character “e” also resembles an “l”.

Maybe Legeay wrote Hollonge. It’s possible, considering that, as we will see, Legeay makes spelling errors elsewhere as well. But why would Legeay write the place of origin on his own work? Certainly he knows (and doesn’t need to share) where he lives and where he’s made his work. Though the erroneous word is an inscription, it probably isn’t Legeay’s.

It’s more reasonable to assume that the inscription was written by a more recent owner of the work, perhaps a collector of juvenilia or an antiquarian bookseller. This owner was probably French, considering that Hollogne is written with two l’s as opposed to one (Hologne), which is the Wallonian spelling of the place-name. The word might have been erased because of the spelling error or because the attempt to place the origin of the work in Hollogne was unfounded.

With the limited evidence we currently have, all I can do is offer a few guesses about this work’s place of origin. Does the mention of “cidré” point towards Normandy or Brittany as the origin of the work, or does Hollonge point us to Belgium? We might just never really know, with any real certainty, where exactly this work was created.

But what we can be more certain of is that Legeay is probably middle class, that he is a decent illustrator, and that he is not a good speller. This brings us to the final panel:

The tricolour banner, using the three colors of the French flag, directs the possible origin of the work back towards France; or at least informs us that Legeay is a Francophile.

The tricolour banner, using the three colors of the French flag, directs the possible origin of the work back towards France; or at least informs us that Legeay is a Francophile.

In the bottom right hand corner of the work we get our autograph: J M Legeay. Considering that the "m" is so diminutive, it might denote the second half of a hyphened name. A common name of this form, was (and still is) Jean-Marc. "Sep R/96" I take, for obvious reasons, to represent the month of Septembre (September) and the year 1896.

In the bottom right hand corner of the work we get our autograph: J M Legeay. Considering that the “m” is so diminutive, it might denote the second half of a hyphened name. A common name of this form, was (and still is) Jean-Marc. “Sep R/96″ I take, for obvious reasons, to represent the month of Septembre (September) and the year 1896.

This final panel delivers the true coup de grâce of the piece, a moral message from our insightful author that caps off the story: “N’assasinez point et vous n’serez point gigotiné” (Don’t murder and you won’t get the guillotine). Pointedly, young Legeay has spelled two words wrong; Assasinez is missing an “s” (assassinez) and the spelling of that last word, gigotiné (as opposed to the already Francophone guillotine), is very wrong. Legeay seems much more careless with his spelling and word choice than his illustrations. I don’t think the boy was very much motivated to really draw out his moral lesson but, in true boyish fashion, was much more interested in illustrating violence instead (probably to the chagrin of his teacher).

But let’s return to that very odd word gigotiné. It might mean more than just a child’s bad spelling. Using gigotiné might prove that Legeay is cleverer than he appears. Gigotiné, if spelled this way purposefully, has a double meaning. Not only does it obviously denote the guillotine, it also means to associate another word with that infernal machine: gigotin (a prepared leg of lamb). Coupled with this association, gigotiné reminds us of the outcome of the guillotine’s use. It’s tongue and cheek of course, and not meant to be taken too seriously. It was probably a common euphemism; not something Legeay came up with himself.

I can't help but wonder if this piece was ever hung, and where it might have been displayed. Would Legeay's parents have let that proud child hang this in their living room?

I can’t help but wonder if this piece was ever hung, and where it might have been displayed. Would Legeay’s parents have let that proud child hang this in their living room?

This poster is an article of juvenilia that, although humorous and interesting, is still shrouded in mystery.  I’ve tried my best to explain who might have made this work and why they might have made it.  But given my limited knowledge and the limited information that the work itself offers, my interpretation of this child’s work should be taken with a grain of salt.  The origins of this clever little poster remain enigmatic.  But what we do end up with is a glimpse into the life of a child during the close of the 19th Century. Though this poster begs more questions than it provides answers, it is nevertheless a charming look into how a child at the time saw and felt about the world around him (particularly, how he felt about murders and guillotines).