An Ugly Face, the Finest Recommendation

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Fairburn’s Gallimaufry Songster and Comical Budget for 1812; Containing Lots of Fun, Gig and Humor, to be Found in All the New, Fashionable and Popular Songs, Now Singing, and Lately Sung at the Theatre Royal Second edition. (London: J. Fairburn, [1812]). Etchings by George Cruikshank. Graphic Arts GA 1812.6

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In William Jaggard’s Liverpool literature: a descriptive bibliography of old deeds, codices, maps … we find a description of The Ugly Club, which was “founded Jan. 21st, 1743, and [probably] disbanded Nov., 1757.” Jaggard continues, “in its day it included many of the chief merchants and residents within its fold, possessed Chaplain, Barber, and Bell-Ringers, met regularly at the Exchange and Tom’s Coffee House for at least fourteen years, and provided amusement in days when theatres and newspapers were less familiar.”

The Club’s motto was: “An Ugly Face the finest recommendation.” A large mouth, thin jaws, blubber lips, little goggling or squinting eyes were esteemed considerable qualifications. The most favored and honorable peculiarity was a large “carbuncle potato nose.”

The qualifications for the President were described as: “Little eyes, one bigger than ye other; long nose; thin lanthorn jaws; large upper lip; mouth from ear to ear, resembling a shark’s; rotten set of irregular teeth; visage long and narrow; in short, ye Phoenix of ye Society, as the like won’t appear again this thousand years.”

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Princeton University owns over four dozen books published by John Fairburn, including Fairburn Senr.’s Dashing Song Book; Fairburn Senr.’s Laughable Song Book; Fairburn’s New Comic Song Book; Fairburn Senr.’s Tickling Song Book; Fairburn’s Dashing Songster; Fairburn’s Everlasting Songster; Fairburn’s Gallimaufry Songster; Fairburn’s Jovial Songster; Fairburn’s Laughable Songster; and Fairburn’s London Brilliant Songster.