Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"The Children Sleep in the Cabinet of Curiosities"

Just stumbled upon this lovely image on the always fascinating Ullage Group website. The post, entitled "The Children Sleep in the Cabinet of Curiosities," explains:
...The sketch above is taken from Thackerayana, an 1875 compilation of the graphic work of William Makepeace Thackeray: cartoons, illustrations, travel sketches, marginal sketches. He made this one in the margin of “The Mirror,” a Scottish magazine from 1779. And here’s the passage that inspired it:

A wife is writing to the “Mirror” upon a new affliction which has attacked her husband. He happened to receive a crooked shilling in exchange for some of his goods (the husband was a grocer), and a virtuoso informed him that it was a coin of Alexander III, of great rarity and value, whereupon the good man became seized with a passion for collecting curiosities.

“His taste,” says the wife’s letter, “ranges from heaven above to the earth beneath, and to the waters under the earth. Every production of nature or of art, remarkable either for beauty or deformity, but particularly if either scarce or old, is now the subject of my husband’s avidity. The profits of our business, once considerable, but now daily diminishing, are expended, not only on coins, but on shells, lumps of different colored stones, dried butterflies, old pictures, ragged books, and worm-eaten parchments.

“Our house, which it was once my highest pleasure to keep in order, it would be now equally vain to attempt cleaning as the ark of Noah. The children’s bed is supplied by an Indian canoe; and the poor little creatures sleep three of them in a hammock, slung up to the roof between a stuffed crocodile and the skeleton of a calf with two heads. Even the commodities of our shop have been turned out to make room for trash and vermin. Kites, owls, and bats are perched upon the top of our shelves; and it was but yesterday that, putting my hand into a glass jar that used to contain pickles, I laid hold of a large tarantula in place of a mango.”
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