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Chap-books of the Eighteenth Century online

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[Illustration: A CHAPMAN.

_From "The Cries and Habits of the City of London," by M. Lauron,











_All rights reserved_



Although these Chap-books are very curious, and on many accounts
interesting, no attempt has yet been made to place them before
the public in a collected form, accompanied by the characteristic
engravings, without which they would lose much of their value. They
are the relics of a happily past age, one which can never return,
and we, in this our day of cheap, plentiful, and good literature, can
hardly conceive a time when in the major part of this country, and
to the larger portion of its population, these little Chap-books
were nearly the only mental pabulum offered. Away from the towns,
newspapers were rare indeed, and not worth much when obtainable - poor
little flimsy sheets such as nowadays we should not dream of either
reading or publishing, with very little news in them, and that
consisting principally of war items, and foreign news, whilst these
latter books were carried in the packs of the pedlars, or Chapmen, to
every village, and to every home.

Previous to the eighteenth century, these men generally carried
ballads, as is so well exemplified in the "Winter's Tale," in
Shakespeare's inimitable conception, Autolycus. The servant (Act iv.
sc. 3) well describes his stock: "He hath songs, for man, or woman,
of all sizes; no milliner can so fit his customers with gloves. He
has the prettiest love songs for maids; so without bawdry, which is
strange; with such delicate burdens of 'dildos' and 'fadings:' 'jump
her' and 'thump her;' and where some stretch-mouthed rascal would, as
it were, mean mischief, and break a foul gap into the matter, he makes
the maid to answer, 'Whoop, do me no harm, good man;' puts him off,
slights him, with 'Whoop, do me no harm, good man.'" And Autolycus,
himself, hardly exaggerates the style of his wares, judging by those
which have come down to us, when he praises the ballads: "How a
usurer's wife was brought to bed of twenty money-bags at a burden; and
how she longed to eat adders' heads, and toads carbonadoed;" and "of
a fish, that appeared upon the coast, on Wednesday the fourscore of
April, forty thousand fathom above water, and sung this ballad against
the hard hearts of maids;" for the wonders of both ballads, and early
Chap-books, are manifold, and bear strange testimony to the ignorance,
and credulity, of their purchasers. These ballads and Chap-books have,
luckily for us, been preserved by collectors, and although they are
scarce, are accessible to readers in that national blessing, the
British Museum. There the Roxburghe, Luttrell, Bagford, and other
collections of black-letter ballads are easily obtainable for purposes
of study, and, although the Chap-books, to the uninitiated (owing to
the difficulties of the Catalogue), are not quite so easy of access,
yet there they exist, and are a splendid series - it is impossible to
say a complete one, because some are unique, and are in private hands,
but so large, especially from the middle to the close of the last
century, as to be virtually so.

I have confined myself entirely to the books of the last century, as,
previous to it, there were few, and almost all black-letter tracts
have been published or noted; and, after it, the books in circulation
were chiefly very inferior reprints of those already published. As
they are mostly undated, I have found some difficulty in attributing
dates to them, as the guides, such as type, wood engravings, etc., are
here fallacious, many - with the exception of Dicey's series - having
been printed with old type, and any wood block being used, if at
all resembling the subject. I have not taken any dated in the Museum
Catalogue as being of this present century, even though internal
evidence showed they were earlier. The Museum dates are admittedly
fallacious and merely approximate, and nearly all are queried. For
instance, nearly the whole of the beautiful Aldermary Churchyard
(first) editions are put down as 1750? - a manifest impossibility, for
there could not have been such an eruption of one class of publication
from one firm in one year - and another is dated 1700?, although the
book from which it is taken was not published until 1703. Still, as
a line must be drawn somewhere, I have accepted these quasi dates,
although such acceptation has somewhat narrowed my scheme, and
deprived the reader of some entertainment, and I have published
nothing which is not described in the Museum Catalogue as being
between the years 1700 and 1800.

In fact, the Chap-book proper did not exist before the former date,
unless the Civil War and political tracts can be so termed. Doubtless
these were hawked by the pedlars, but they were not these pennyworths,
suitable to everybody's taste, and within the reach of anybody's
purse, owing to their extremely low price, which must, or ought
to have, extracted every available copper in the village, when the
Chapman opened his budget of brand-new books.

In the seventeenth, and during the first quarter of the eighteenth
century, the popular books were generally in 8vo form, _i.e._ they
consisted of a sheet of paper folded in eight, and making a book
of sixteen pages; but during the other seventy-five years they were
almost invariably 12mo, _i.e._ a sheet folded into twelve, and making
twenty-four pages. After 1800 they rapidly declined. The type and wood
blocks were getting worn out, and never seem to have been renewed;
publishers got less scrupulous, and used any wood blocks without
reference to the letter-press, until, after Grub Street authors
had worked their wicked will upon them, Catnach buried them in a
dishonoured grave.

But while they were in their prime, they mark an epoch in the literary
history of our nation, quite as much as the higher types of literature
do, and they help us to gauge the intellectual capacity of the lower
and lower middle classes of the last century.

The Chapman _proper_, too, is a thing of the past, although we still
have hawkers, and the travelling "credit drapers," or "tallymen," yet
penetrate every village; but the Chapman, as described by Cotsgrave in
his "Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues" (London, 1611),
no longer exists. He is there faithfully portrayed under the heading
"BISSOÜART, m. A paultrie Pedlar, who in a long packe or maund (which
he carries for the most part open, and (hanging from his necke) before
him) hath Almanacks, Bookes of News, or other trifling ware to sell."

Shakespeare uses the word in a somewhat different sense, making him
more of a general dealer, as in "Love's Labour's Lost," Act ii. SC. I:

"_Princess of France._ Beauty is bought by judgment of the eye,
Not uttered by base sale of Chapmen's tongues."

And in "Troilus and Cressida," Act iv. SC. I:

"_Paris._ Fair Diomed, you do as Chapmen do,
Dispraise the thing that you desire to buy."

Unlike his modern congener, the colporteur, the Chapman's life seems
to have been an exceptionally hard one, especially if we can trust a
description, professedly by one of the fraternity, in "The History of
John Cheap the Chapman," a Chap-book published early in the present
century. He appears, on his own confession, to have been as much of
a rogue as he well could be with impunity and without absolutely
transgressing the law, and, as his character was well known, very few
roofs would shelter him, and he had to sleep in barns, or even
with the pigs. He had to take out a licence, and was classed in
old bye-laws and proclamations as "Hawkers, Vendors, Pedlars, petty
Chapmen, _and unruly people_." In more modern times the literary
Mercury dropped the somewhat besmirched title of Chapmen, and was
euphoniously designated the "Travelling," "Flying," or "Running

Little could he have dreamed that his little penny books would ever
have become scarce, and prized by book collectors, and fetch high
prices whenever the rare occasion happened that they were exposed
for sale. I have taken out the prices paid in 1845 and 1847 for nine
volumes of them, bought at as many different sales. These nine volumes
contain ninety-nine Chap-books, and the price paid for them all was
£24 13_s._ 6_d._, or an average of five shillings each - surely not a
bad increment in a hundred years on the outlay of a penny; but then,
these volumes were bought very cheaply, as some of their delighted
purchasers record.

The principal factory for them, and from which certainly nine-tenths
of them emanated, was No. 4, Aldermary Churchyard, afterwards removed
to Bow Churchyard, close by. The names of the proprietors were William
and Cluer Dicey - afterwards C. Dicey only - and they seem to have come
from Northampton, as, in "Hippolito and Dorinda," 1720, the firm is
described as "Raikes and Dicey, Northampton;" and this connection was
not allowed to lapse, for we see, nearly half a century later, that
"The Conquest of France" was "printed and sold by C. Dicey in Bow
Church Yard: sold also at his Warehouse in Northampton."

From Dicey's house came nearly all the original Chap-books, and I have
appended as perfect a list as I can make, amounting to over 120,
of their publications. Unscrupulous booksellers, however, generally
pirated them very soon after issue, especially at Newcastle, where
certainly the next largest trade was done in this class of books. The
Newcastle editions are rougher in every way, in engravings, type, and
paper, than the very well got up little books of Dicey's, but I
have frequently taken them in preference, because of the superior
quaintness of the engravings.

After the commencement of the present century reading became more
popular, and the following, which are only the names of _a few_ places
where Chap-books were published, show the great and widely spread
interest taken in their production: - Edinburgh, Glasgow, Paisley,
Kilmarnock, Penrith, Stirling, Falkirk, Dublin, York, Stokesley,
Warrington, Liverpool, Banbury, Aylesbury, Durham, Dumfries,
Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Whitehaven, Carlisle, Worcester,
Cirencester, etc., etc. And they flourished, for they formed nearly
the sole literature of the poor, until the _Penny Magazine_ and
Chambers's penny Tracts and Miscellanies gave them their deathblow,
and relegated them to the book-shelves of collectors.

That these histories were known and prized in Queen Anne's time, is
evidenced by the following quotation from the _Weekly Comedy_, January
22, 1708: - "I'll give him Ten of the largest Folio Books in my Study,
Letter'd on the Back, and bound in _Calves Skin_. He shall have some
of those that are the most scarce and rare among the Learned, and
therefore may be of greater use to so _Voluminous_ an _Author_;
there is '_Tom Thumb_' with _Annotations_ and _Critical Remarks_, two
volumes in folio. The '_Comical Life and Tragical Death of the Old
Woman that was Hang'd for Drowning herself in_ Ratcliffe High-Way:'
One large Volume, it being the 20th Edition, with many new Additions
and Observations. '_Jack and the Gyants_;' formerly Printed in a small
Octavo, but now Improv'd to three Folio Volumes by that Elaborate
Editor, _Forestus, Ignotus Nicholaus Ignoramus Sampsonius_; then there
is '_The King and the Cobler_,' a Noble piece of Antiquity, and fill'd
with many Pleasant Modern Intrigues fit to divert the most Curious."

And Steele, writing in the _Tatler_, No. 95, as Isaac Bickerstaff, and
speaking of his godson, a little boy of eight years of age, says, "I
found he had very much turned his studies, for about twelve months
past, into the lives and adventures of Don Bellianis of Greece, Guy of
Warwick, The Seven Champions, and other historians of that age....
He would tell you the mismanagements of John Hickerthrift, find fault
with the passionate temper in Bevis of Southampton and loved St.
George for being Champion of England."

As before said, their great variety adapted them for every purchaser,
and they may be roughly classed under the following heads: - Religious,
Diabolical, Supernatural, Superstitious, Romantic, Humorous,
Legendary, Historical, Biographical, and Criminal, besides those which
cannot fairly be put in any of the above categories; and under this
classification and in this sequence I have taken them. The Religious,
strictly so called, are the fewest, the subjects, such as "Dr.
Faustus," etc., connected with his Satanic Majesty being more
exciting, and probably paying better; whilst the Supernatural, such
as "The Duke of Buckingham's Father's Ghost," "The Guildford Ghost,"
etc., trading upon man's credulity and his love of the marvellous,
afford a far larger assortment. About the same amount of popularity
may be given to the Superstitious Chap-books - those relating to
fortune telling and the interpretation of Dreams and Moles, etc. But
they were nothing like the favourites those of the Romantic School
were. These dear old romances, handed down from the days when printing
was not - some, like "Jack the Giant Killer," of Norse extraction;
others, like "Tom Hickathrift," "Guy of Warwick," "Bevis of Hampton,"
etc., records of the doughty deeds of local champions; and others,
again, "Reynard the Fox," "Valentine and Orson," and "Fortunatus," of
foreign birth - hit the popular taste, and many were the editions
of them. Naturally, however, the Humorous stories were the prime
favourites. The Jest-books, pure and simple, are, from their extremely
coarse witticisms, utterly incapable of being reproduced for general
reading nowadays, and the whole of them are more or less highly
spiced; but even here were shades of humour to suit all classes, from
the solemn foolery of the "Wise Men of Gotham," or the "World turned
upside down," to the rollicking fun of "Tom Tram," "The Fryer and the
Boy," or "Jack Horner." In reading these books we must not, however,
look upon them from our present point of view. Whether men and women
are better now than they used to be, is a moot point, but things used
to be spoken of openly, which are now never whispered, and no harm was
done, nor offence taken; so the broad humour of the jest-books was,
after all, only exuberant fun, and many of the _bonnes histoires_ are
extremely laughable, though to our own thinking equally indelicate.
The old legends still held sway, and I have given four - "Adam Bell,"
"Robin Hood," "The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green," and "The Children
in the Wood" - all of them remarkable for their illustrations. History
has a wide range from "Fair Rosamond," to "The Royal Martyr," Charles
I., whilst, naturally, such books as "Robinson Crusoe," "George
Barnwell," and a host of criminal literature found ready purchasers.

I have not included Calendars, and I have purposely avoided Garlands,
or Collections of ballads, which equally come under the category of
Chap-books. I should have liked to have noticed more of them, but the
exigencies of publishing have prevented it; still, those I have taken
seem to me to be the best fitted for the purpose I had in view, which
was to give a fairly representative list: and I hope I have succeeded
in producing a book at once both amusing and instructive, besides
having rescued these almost forgotten booklets from the limbo into
which they were fast descending.



The History of Joseph and his Brethren 1

The Holy Disciple 25

The Wandering Jew 28

The Gospel of Nicodemus 30

The Unhappy Birth, Wicked Life, and Miserable Death of that
Vile Traytor and Apostle Judas Iscariot 32

A Terrible and Seasonable Warning to Young Men 33

The Kentish Miracle 34

The Witch of the Woodlands 35

The History of Dr. John Faustus 38

The History of the Learned Friar Bacon 53

A Timely Warning to Rash and Disobedient Children 56

Bateman's Tragedy 57

The Miracle of Miracles 60

A Wonderful and Strange Relation of a Sailor 61

The Children's Example 62

A New Prophesy 64

God's Just Judgment on Blasphemers 65

A Dreadful Warning to all Wicked and Forsworn Sinners 66

A Full and True Relation of one Mr. Rich Langly, a Glazier 67

A Full, True and Particular Account of the Ghost or Apparition
of the Late Duke of Buckingham's Father 68

The Portsmouth Ghost 70

The Guilford Ghost 72

The Wonder of Wonders 74

Dreams and Moles 78

The Old Egyptian Fortune-Teller's Last Legacy 79

A New Fortune Book 83

The History of Mother Bunch of the West 84

The History of Mother Shipton 88

Nixon's Cheshire Prophecy 92

Reynard the Fox 95

Valentine and Orson 109

Fortunatus 124

Guy, Earl of Warwick 138

The History of the Life and Death of that Noble Knight
Sir Bevis of Southampton 156

The Life and Death of St. George 163

Patient Grissel 171

The Pleasant and Delightful History of Jack and the Giants 184

A Pleasant and Delightful History of Thomas Hickathrift 192

Tom Thumb 206

The Shoemaker's Glory 222

The Famous History of the Valiant London Prentice 227

The Lover's Quarrel 230

The History of the King and the Cobler 233

The Friar and Boy 237

The Pleasant History of Jack Horner 245

The Mad Pranks of Tom Tram 248

The Birth, Life, and Death of John Franks 253

Simple Simon's Misfortunes 258

The History of Tom Long the Carrier 263

The World turned Upside Down 265

A Strange and Wonderful Relation of the Old Woman who was
Drowned at Ratcliffe Highway 273

The Wise Men of Gotham 275

Joe Miller's Jests 288

A Whetstone for Dull Wits 295

The True Trial of Understanding 304

The Whole Trial and Indictment of Sir John Barleycorn, Knt. 314

Long Meg of Westminster 323

Merry Frolicks 337

The Life and Death of Sheffery Morgan 341

The Welch Traveller 344

Joaks upon Joaks 349

The History of Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of
Cloudeslie 353

A True Tale of Robin Hood 356

The History of the Blind Begger of Bednal Green 360

The History of the Two Children in the Wood 369

The History of Sir Richard Whittington 376

The History of Wat Tyler and Jack Straw 382

The History of Jack of Newbury 384

The Life and Death of Fair Rosamond 387

The Story of King Edward III. and the Countess of Salisbury 390

The Conquest of France 392

The History of Jane Shore 393

The History of the Most Renowned Queen Elizabeth and her Great
Favourite the Earl of Essex 396

The History of the Royal Martyr 398

England's Black Tribunal 403

The Foreign Travels of Sir John Mandeville 405

The Surprizing Life and Most Strange Adventures of Robinson
Crusoe 417

A Brief Relation of the Adventures of M. Bamfyeld Moore Carew 423

The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders 427

Youth's Warning-piece 429

The Merry Life and Mad Exploits of Capt. James Hind 433

The History of John Gregg 437

The Bloody Tragedy 439

The Unfortunate Family 440

The Horrors of Jealousie 441

The Constant, but Unhappy Lovers 442

A Looking Glass for Swearers, etc. 443

Farther, and More Terrible Warnings from God 444

The Constant Couple 446

The Distressed Child in the Wood 447

The Lawyer's Doom 448

The Whole Life and Adventures of Miss Davis 449

The Life and Death of Christian Bowman 453

The Drunkard's Legacy 455

Good News for England 458

A Dialogue between a Blind Man and Death 459

The Devil upon Two Sticks 461

Æsop's Fables 463

A Choice Collection of Cookery Receipts 472

The Pleasant History of Taffy's Progress to London 475

The Whole Life, Character, and Conversation of that Foolish
Creature called Granny 478

A York Dialogue between Ned and Harry 479

The French King's Wedding 481

Appendix 483



The first printed metrical history of this Biblical episode is the
book printed by Wynkyn de Worde, a book of fourteen leaves, and
entitled "Thystorie of Jacob and his twelue Sones. Emp[=ry]ted at
L[=o]don in Fletestrete at the sygne of the Sonne by Wynkyn de Worde"
(no date). It is chiefly remarkable in connection with this book, as
mentioning Chapmen.

"Now leaue we of them & speak we of the Chapman
That passed ouer the sea into Egipt land.
But truely ere that he thether came
The wind stiffly against them did stand;
And yet at the last an hauen they fand.
The Chapman led Joseph with a rope in the streat
Him for to bye came many a Lord great."

A metrical edition is still used in the performance of a sort of
miracle play, entitled "Joseph and his Brothers. A Biblical Drama or
Mystery Play." 1864. London and Derby.

The action of this piece is reported to be somewhat ludicrous, the

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Online LibraryJohn AshtonChap-books of the Eighteenth Century → online text (page 1 of 22)