Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Albert! Spare Those Trees

Plans for the construction of the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851 met with resistance from some. In particular, the destruction of trees in Hyde Park was a cause of concern. Two poems on the subject appeared in Punch 19 (1850), the first on p. 10:

Albert! spare those trees,
  Mind where you fix your show;
For mercy's sake, don't, please,
  Go spoiling Rotten Row.

That Ride, that famous Ride,
  We must not have destroyed,
For, ne'er to be supplied,
  Its loss will leave a void.

Oh! certainly there might
  Be for your purpose found
A more congenial site
  Than Hyde Park's hallowed ground.

Where Fashion rides and drives,
  House not Industrial Art;
But, 'mid the busy hives
  Right in the City's heart.

And, is it thy request
  The place that I'd point out?
Then I should say the best
  Were Smithfield, without doubt.

There, by all votes approved,
  The wide world's wares display,
The Market first removed
  For ever and a day.
Albert is of course the Prince Consort, and the poem is a parody of George P. Morris' Woodman, Spare That Tree.

The second poem, entitled "The Talking Elms; or, The Hamadryads of Hyde Park," appeared on p. 32:

"Oh, Elms, whose green from summer's glare
  The Knightsbridge road relieves,
Punch questions you, and answer fair,
  Craves of you, by your leaves.

"Say, Elms, why my LORD SEYMOUR came,
  And with official phlegm,
Marked, in the Woods and Forests' name,
  The white cross on each stem?

"And tell us all that you have seen
  Since great ACHILLES rose,
Who towers so tall above the green,
  And is so short of clothes?

"And if you think the Iron Duke,
  Who's set up over there,
The ugliest thing that we may look
  To see, here or elsewhere?"

"Oh, Punch, you know in ancient days,
  A Hamadryad came
To life with every tree, always,
  And it is still the same.

"And Hamadryads of the Park
  We are that talk to you;
And, as we cannot bite, we bark—
  'Tis all our barks can do.

"For every cross—Oh, sorry hap!—
  A lifeless trunk must roll;
No wonder it congeals the sap
  That mantles in each bole.

"With us young Elms, whate'er they please,
  The Woods and Forests dare;
But we have old and sturdy trees—
  Of whom they'd best beware.

"The Hamadryad of that tough
  And gnarled bush of broom,
Will speak his mind out, plain enough,
  'Ere he submit to doom.

"And there's the Hamadryad keen,
  Of that old kernel tree,
Stripped of his leaves of Lincoln green,
  Will ne'er consent to be.

"You ask me what I've seen, since first
  ACHILLES dared to show—
I've seen a generation pass
  Away through Rotten Row.

"How oft my happy shade has hung
  Round dainty waists and trim,
How oft my saucy light been flung
  Under the beaver's brim,

"To kiss bright eyes that now are dark,
  And light up many a smile
That, in those days, fired every spark
  Wno paced the Lady's Mile.

"How oft I've watched sweet faces, wan
  With midnight rout and ball,
Here gather roses, trotting on,
  And looking love to all.

"And serious statesmen I have seen
  Upon their cobs sedate,
Here take the air, and muse serene,
  Upon the night's debate.

"Workmen with wives and kids have sat
  Beneath my kindly shade,
And drank their beer and had their chat,
  When holiday they made.

"Such sights no more shall greet my eye;
  To make a site. I fall;
To die, is hard; but now to die,
  Is hardest fate of all.

"Now, that the world its treasure brings
  From North, South, East, and West,
And with a friendly greeting flings
  The store in England's breast.

"My sisters live to see the show,
  From mine, and forge, and loom,
But o'er my place the turf will grow,
  Feet will be on my tomb.

"But tell them, Punch—for it is true—
  'Ere on their plan they fix—
They might make glass and iron do,
  Eschewing lime and bricks.

"So o'er my green and happy grave,
  Might sparkle to the sky,
A mausoleum broad and brave,
  A glory to the eye!"

Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who also comments:

It seems quite likely that the wizened gnome-like axeman in the cartoon is the doddery old Iron Duke himself, as it was he who had given his backing to the Hyde Park location. Here's a daguerreotype of him from six years earlier.

The statue of Achilles ("so short of clothes," line 12 of "The Talking Elms") in Hyde Park is indeed startlingly starkers:

"To Arthur Duke of Wellington
and his brave companions in arms
this statue of Achilles
cast from canon taken in the victories
of Salamanca, Vittoria, Toulouse, and Waterloo
by their country women
is inscribed.

Placed on this spot
on the XVIII day of June MDCCCXXII
by command of
His Majesty George IIII."

I don't know whether it was these same countrywomen who stipulated that only the bare minimum of bronze be expended on the fig leaf but George Cruikshank had a field day with this brazen image of the Ladies' Fancy Man.

The resolution isn't good but fortunately the British Museum provides a transcription of the drollery:

Below the title: O' Killus Esq" &c &c—Erected in Hide Park, in Honor of the "Waterloo Man" & his Soger Men. Note—Supposed to be Erected by his Country women for the releif of his Starving Country men. Above the design: This Brazen Image was erected by the Ladies, in honor of Paddy Carey O' Killus, Esq. their Man O'Metal!!! Two designs side by side.

[1] The back view of the Achilles statue burlesqued on its high pedestal raised on a plinth. The figure wears spurred jack-boots, and is supported under the right thigh by a pair of army trousers decorated by a fig-leaf, and with a stripe inscribed Wellingtons. The posterior is exaggerated. On the pedestal: Placed on this Spot by Command of his | Majesty Geoe IIII—. Spectators crowd round it, all women except for one man who turns to a woman with a prurient leer and the Duke himself, in profile to the left, caricatured, who gazes up at it, stooping forward; he wears uniform with sword and jack-boots and holds his plumed cocked hat in both hands. A buxom lady stands beside him, pointing to the statue; she turns to him to say: See my Ball o' Wax [a slang term for shoemaker]! what we Ladies Can raise, when we wish to put a man in mind of what he has done & we hope will do again when call'd for!!! The Duke answers: The Honor is so great, that all I can say by the Powers, is that I'm Speechless. Two ladies stand arm-in-arm in back view, pointing up at the statue; a little boy asks: Is that—The Regents Bomb Mama? A telescope is directed at the statue, and a little girl is held above the crowd to see the sight. From the crowd labels ascend, inscribed: Do you think it will stand the Weather?; Bless you it will stand any thing; My Eyes what a Size!!; I see it!!

[2] A front view of the booted statue, displaying a grotesque face, and the fig-leaf. On the pedestal: To "Authur O'Bradly" and his | "Jolly Companions every one" | This Brazen Image of Patrick | O'Killus Esqr— | Is inscribed by their Country-women. Two women (right), arm-in-arm, gaze up. One exclaims: La! they must be a Brazen set of jades to stick up such a thing as this in public— what is it meant for? The other answers: I understand it is intended to represent His Grace after bathing in the Serpentine & defending himself from the attack of Constables. A little girl (or boy) points up, asking What is that Mama? The spectators on the left are generally better dressed and more sophisticated; among them is a negress. Seven of them say: This will be a place of great attraction in the height of the Season—; You mean the fall of the Leaf I suppose?; I would not give a fig for it; well, for my part I think it a great ugly useless thing; Pray Mem, have you seen the Original one—at Rome; O! yes—the Original is much finer.; I don't think its quite the thing—

On a piece of drapery suspended from the upper margin across both designs:

His Brawny Shoulders 4 ft Square
His Cheeks like thumping Kidney tatees
His legs would make a Chairman Stare
And Pat was loved by all the Ladies


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