Jan 122016

Skaiting-dandies, shewing ofOK, so I have done Gillray and I have done Rowlandson: how about the lesser mortals who caricatured those intrepid skaters (or even, skaiters)? Again courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library, here is “Skaiting Dandies Shewing Off” drawn by Charles William and believed to have been published by Thomas Tegg in 1818. [As a complete aside, some time when I have nothing better to do I must look up when “shew” became “show”. I can just about remember a sign on the top of a double-decker bus (in the 1950’s) with a sign saying “Tickets must be shewn” but it was already archaic and seemed very strange – which is why I remember it to this day].

While The Ladies are wrapped up warm, a number of dandified males end up making complete asses of themselves, colliding into each others arms. A man in a topper is lacing on his skates while his friend is already executing something vaguely resembling a plie – no doubt to impress the watching females. The colliding males are saying “On Lord, how they are laughing at us!” Another man with splendid side burns remarks “What are you at there! You will put my wig out of Buckle” which garners the response “Pon my honor Sir, I beg pardon! You must thank the ladies” as they sink into a firm if unintended embrace.

Pleasing pastimeThe second caricature is entitled “Pleasing Pastime, or a Christmas Quadrille”. The man about to crash head-first through a hole in the ice grabs desperately at the skate of one of the men, causing him to lose balance. The other hand grabs the tail of the jacket of another man, who in turn flings out a hand and grabs the nose of a fourth intrepid skater. All four are destined for an icy bath…

It was published in 1826 by Thomas McLean and is described as being drawn by ‘A Frost’ (presumably Jack’s brother!). It gives a good idea of how the skate was tied onto the shoe, with three straps.

skateAnd finally, an altogether more elegant gentleman, drawn by M Egerton for print-maker Henry Pyall in 1825, and published by J Brooker. It is entitled  simply “Skate”. Mind you, if I saw the supercilious  blighter coming towards me I would try and knock his hat off. Rather like smug cyclists who ride their bikes with their hands in their pockets, as if to say “How clever I am – look, no hands!” Definitely deserve to be taken down a peg or two…

winterOK so it wasn’t ‘finally’. I end with an earlier style of engraving, actually dating from 1794 from publishers Robert Laurie and James Whittle. In a way it is much closer to the mezzotints produced by Carington Bowles  in the previous decade and shows a naval gentleman accompanying his girlfriend to a spot where they can observe the skaters. She may well be wrapped up warm with her cape and muff and ever-so-elegant hat, but her expression suggests that she would rather have stayed indoors. I like the costume worn by the little girl, playing with her dog.

Ah well, enough of ice and snow. Back to the warmth of a coal fire…

  One Response to “A third post in my skating trilogy….”


    I have to say I am inclined, on the first, to assume the anguished expression of the chummer in yellow Inexpressibles is due to the position of the skate of the chummer in blue Inexpressibles, who appears to be about to, or has already, caught his friend in a rather tender spot with his skate. I am afraid my wicked sense of humour wishes to change the speech to “have a care, or you will cut off poor William in his prime” which should elicit the response “I beg you, do not cut my throat for it!”
    I note on that one that a selection of figures have already been cut on the ice, presumably by more competent skaters…
    Oh, my copy of an illustrated introduction to the Georgians is in the post!

 Leave a Reply