A Girl’s Silence Is Golden; or An Old Take on “Lock Her Up!”

Children’s books can contain surprising survivals and one of the strangest I’ve seen recently  is the woman’s mouth closed with a padlock, a symbol of female self-control that is at least as old as the Middle Ages.  Rather than succumb to the temptation of idle talk, the wise wife takes the precaution of locking her lips and entrusting the key to  her husband.

It turns up in an innocent looking illustrated pamphlet published in 1770 by Francis Newbery, the nephew of John.  The story is not what we would consider a proper fairy tale, being short of marvels, but the narrator Jacky Goodchild visits Fairy Land and is taught the secrets of their power as a token of the king and queen’s esteem.   Robin Goodfellow transports him to Francis Newbery’s bookshop, so Jacky can observe how useful fairies can be to humans.

Miss Betsy Pert and her maid call at the shop, where she talks so much that she does not hear any of Mr. Alphabet’s improving conversation.  Robin Goodfellow takes matters into his own hands and if you look carefully at the illustration on the right, you will see a padlock fastened to her mouth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The anecdote is over, but not the curious history of the circulation of the alarming and cruel image of the girl who cannot keep quiet.  Such locks were real and could be purchased from vendors who specialized in the construction of devices in wood and metal. .

The earliest example of such lock I traced back to this 1703 work, which included the section Wit’s Activity Display’d, which consisted of instructions for performing all kinds of magic tricks.  You’ll notice that the lock on Miss Pert is a simple padlock, where this one is much more elaborate and formidable looking.Ornatissimus Joculator appeared twenty years before Henry Dean’s Whole Art of Legerdemain, or Hocus Pocus (1722), where he inserted an advertisement that any of the devices  illustrated in the text could be commissioned from his shop on Little Tower Hill near Postern Row.  Dean’s handbook went through many editions, some authorized, others not, usually under variant titles.  Here is an unauthorized one from the 1740s with a particularly good title page.

Editions of the Whole Art published as late as 1783 still carried Dean’s  address on Little Tower Hill, which must have been completely out of date.

I shudder to think of parents purchasing these instruments of torture to teach their daughters a lesson.  I’d prefer to believe that they destined for the theater or the stage itinerant.   Surely eighteenth-century drama, comic operas, and pantomimes had more characters than Papageno in Mozart’s Magic Flute who were punished for having their loose lips securely closed…  A salutary reminder that servants, as well as wives, were supposed to keep their masters’ secrets…

 

Absolutely Fabulous Felines

Why is the lion roaring?

He’s announcing to the world that his good friend Puss in Boots is the subject of a fabulous new Cotsen gallery publication.

The front cover incorporating an illustration by the famous Victorian animal painter, Harrison Weir.

It features twelve black-and-white illustrations of the most famous cat in children’s literature from Cotsen’s nineteenth-century books.  The pictures are accompanied by the complete Perrault fairy tale in Andrew Lang’s translation.   As it’s a rags-to-riches story, gold bands run along the upper and lower edges of every page.  The elegant design is by Mark Argetsinger and the beautiful printing by Puritan-Capital.   Stop by the Cotsen gallery for a free copy, especially if you like cats, shoes, and happy endings.

The rear cover featuring Puss as a courtier in Louis XIV’s court by Edmond Morin.

Another word about the head of the lion at the head of the post…  It’s a detail from a wonderfully dynamic drawing by American artist James Daugherty, which the Friends of James Daugherty Foundation just presented to Cotsen.   The notation in the bottom right hand corner indicates that it was intended as the illustration for page in 39 in Andy and the Lion (1938), Daugherty’s retelling of Androcles and the Lion that was named the Caldecott Honor Book for 1939.  At some point in the book’s production,it was cut.  It’s hard to see why, but presumably there were good artistic reasons at the time.

Cotsen is thrilled to have this wildly happy lion join the marvelous preparatory drawing for the book’s endpapers in the Daugherty archive.  We’re very grateful to the Foundation for its continued generosity!