MUDFOG AND OTHER SKETCHES
MUDFOG AND OTHER SKETCHES
I. PUBLIC LIFE OF MR. TULRUMBLE--ONCE MAYOR OF MUDFOG
II. FULL REPORT OF THE FIRST MEETING OF THE MUDFOG ASSOCIATION
FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF EVERYTHING
III. FULL REPORT OF THE SECOND MEETING OF THE MUDFOG ASSOCIATION
FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF EVERYTHING
IV. THE PANTOMIME OF LIFE
V. SOME PARTICULARS CONCERNING A LION
VI. MR. ROBERT BOLTON: THE 'GENTLEMAN CONNECTED WITH THE PRESS'
VII. FAMILIAR EPISTLE FROM A PARENT TO A CHILD AGED TWO YEARS AND
PUBLIC LIFE OF MR. TULRUMBLE--ONCE MAYOR OF MUDFOG
Mudfog is a pleasant town--a remarkably pleasant town--situated in
a charming hollow by the side of a river from which river Mudfog
derives an agreeable scent of pitch tar coals and rope-yarn a
roving population in oilskin hats a pretty steady influx of
drunken bargemen and a great many other maritime advantages.
There is a good deal of water about Mudfog and yet it is not
exactly the sort of town for a watering-place either. Water is a
perverse sort of element at the best of times and in Mudfog it is
particularly so. In winter it comes oozing down the streets and
tumbling over the fields--nay rushes into the very cellars and
kitchens of the houses with a lavish prodigality that might well
be dispensed with; but in the hot summer weather it WILL dry up
and turn green: and although green is a very good colour in its
way especially in grass still it certainly is not becoming to
water; and it cannot be denied that the beauty of Mudfog is rather
impaired even by this trifling circumstance. Mudfog is a healthy
place--very healthy;--damp perhaps but none the worse for that.
It's quite a mistake to suppose that damp is unwholesome: plants
thrive best in damp situations and why shouldn't men? The
inhabitants of Mudfog are unanimous in asserting that there exists
not a finer race of people on the face of the earth; here we have
an indisputable and veracious contradiction of the vulgar error at
once. So admitting Mudfog to be damp we distinctly state that it
The town of Mudfog is extremely picturesque. Limehouse and
Ratcliff Highway are both something like it but they give you a
very faint idea of Mudfog. There are a great many more public-
houses in Mudfog--more than in Ratcliff Highway and Limehouse put
together. The public buildings too are very imposing. We
consider the town-hall one of the finest specimens of shed
architecture extant: it is a combination of the pig-sty and tea-
garden-box orders; and the simplicity of its design is of
surpassing beauty. The idea of placing a large window on one side
of the door and a small one on the other is particularly happy.
There is a fine old Doric beauty too about the padlock and
scraper which is strictly in keeping with the general effect.
In this room do the mayor and corporation of Mudfog assemble
together in solemn council for the public weal. Seated on the
massive wooden benches which with the table in the centre form
the only furniture of the whitewashed apartment the sage men of
Mudfog spend hour after hour in grave deliberation. Here they
settle at what hour of the night the public-houses shall be closed
at what hour of the morning they shall be permitted to open how
soon it shall be lawful for people to eat their dinner on church-
days and other great political questions; and sometimes long
after silence has fallen on the town and the distant lights from
the shops and houses have ceased to twinkle like far-off stars to
the sight of the boatmen on the river the illumination in the two
unequal-sized windows of the town-hall warns the inhabitants of
Mudfog that its little body of legislators like a larger and
better-known body of the same genus a great deal more noisy and
not a whit more profound are patriotically dozing away in company
far into the night for their country's good.
Among this knot of sage and learned men no one was so eminently
distinguished during many years for the quiet modesty of his
appearance and demeanour as Nicholas Tulrumble the well-known
coal-dealer. However exciting the subject of discussion however
animated the tone of the debate or however warm the personalities
exchanged (and even in Mudfog we get personal sometimes) Nicholas
Tulrumble was always the same. To say truth Nicholas being an
industrious man and always up betimes was apt to fall asleep when
a debate began and to remain asleep till it was over when he
would wake up very much refreshed and give his vote with the
greatest complacency. The fact was that Nicholas Tulrumble
knowing that everybody there had made up his mind beforehand
considered the talking as just a long botheration about nothing at
all; and to the present hour it remains a question whether on
this point at all events Nicholas Tulrumble was not pretty near
Time which strews a man's head with silver sometimes fills his
pockets with gold. As he gradually performed one good office for
Nicholas Tulrumble he was obliging enough not to omit the other.
Nicholas began life in a wooden tenement of four feet square with
a capital of two and ninepence and a stock in trade of three
bushels and a-half of coals exclusive of the large lump which
hung by way of sign-board outside. Then he enlarged the shed
and kept a truck; then he left the shed and the truck too and
started a donkey and a Mrs. Tulrumble; then he moved again and set
up a cart; the cart was soon afterwards exchanged for a waggon; and
so he went on like his great predecessor Whittington--only without
a cat for a partner--increasing in wealth and fame until at last
he gave up business altogether and retired with Mrs. Tulrumble and
family to Mudfog Hall which he had himself erected on something
which he attempted to delude himself into the belief was a hill
about a quarter of a mile distant from the town of Mudfog.
About this time it began to be murmured in Mudfog that Nicholas
Tulrumble was growing vain and haughty; that prosperity and success
had corrupted the simplicity of his manners and tainted the
natural goodness of his heart; in short that he was setting up for
a public character and a great gentleman and affected to look
down upon his old companions with compassion and contempt. Whether
these reports were at the time well-founded or not certain it is
that Mrs. Tulrumble very shortly afterwards started a four-wheel
chaise driven by a tall postilion in a yellow cap--that Mr.
Tulrumble junior took to smoking cigars and calling the footman a
'feller'--and that Mr. Tulrumble from that time forth was no more
seen in his old seat in the chimney-corner of the Lighterman's Arms
at night. This looked bad; but more than this it began to be
observed that Mr. Nicholas Tulrumble attended the corporation
meetings more frequently than heretofore; and he no longer went to
sleep as he had done for so many years but propped his eyelids
open with his two forefingers; that he read the newspapers by
himself at home; and that he was in the habit of indulging abroad
in distant and mysterious allusions to 'masses of people' and 'the
property of the country' and 'productive power' and 'the monied
interest:' all of which denoted and proved that Nicholas Tulrumble
was either mad or worse; and it puzzled the good people of Mudfog
At length about the middle of the month of October Mr. Tulrumble
and family went up to London; the middle of October being as Mrs.
Tulrumble informed her acquaintance in Mudfog the very height of
the fashionable season.
Somehow or other just about this time despite the health-
preserving air of Mudfog the Mayor died. It was a most
extraordinary circumstance; he had lived in Mudfog for eighty-five
years. The corporation didn't understand it at all; indeed it was
with great difficulty that one old gentleman who was a great
stickler for forms was dissuaded from proposing a vote of censure
on such unaccountable conduct. Strange as it was however die he
did without taking the slightest notice of the corporation; and
the corporation were imperatively called upon to elect his
successor. So they met for the purpose; and being very full of
Nicholas Tulrumble just then and Nicholas Tulrumble being a very
important man they elected him and wrote off to London by the
very next post to acquaint Nicholas Tulrumble with his new
Now it being November time and Mr. Nicholas Tulrumble being in
the capital it fell out that he was present at the Lord Mayor's
show and dinner at sight of the glory and splendour whereof he
Mr. Tulrumble was greatly mortified inasmuch as the reflection
would force itself on his mind that had he been born in London
instead of in Mudfog he might have been a Lord Mayor too and have
patronized the judges and been affable to the Lord Chancellor and
friendly with the Premier and coldly condescending to the
Secretary to the Treasury and have dined with a flag behind his
back and done a great many other acts and deeds which unto Lord
Mayors of London peculiarly appertain. The more he thought of the
Lord Mayor the more enviable a personage he seemed. To be a King
was all very well; but what was the King to the Lord Mayor! When
the King made a speech everybody knew it was somebody else's
writing; whereas here was the Lord Mayor talking away for half an
hour-all out of his own head--amidst the enthusiastic applause of
the whole company while it was notorious that the King might talk
to his parliament till he was black in the face without getting so
much as a single cheer. As all these reflections passed through
the mind of Mr. Nicholas Tulrumble the Lord Mayor of London
appeared to him the greatest sovereign on the face of the earth
beating the Emperor of Russia all to nothing and leaving the Great
Mogul immeasurably behind.
Mr. Nicholas Tulrumble was pondering over these things and
inwardly cursing the fate which had pitched his coal-shed in
Mudfog when the letter of the corporation was put into his hand.
A crimson flush mantled over his face as he read it for visions of
brightness were already dancing before his imagination.
'My dear' said Mr. Tulrumble to his wife 'they have elected me
Mayor of Mudfog.'
'Lor-a-mussy!' said Mrs. Tulrumble: 'why what's become of old
'The late Mr. Sniggs Mrs. Tulrumble' said Mr. Tulrumble sharply
for he by no means approved of the notion of unceremoniously
designating a gentleman who filled the high office of Mayor as
'Old Sniggs'--'The late Mr. Sniggs Mrs. Tulrumble is dead.'
The communication was very unexpected; but Mrs. Tulrumble only
ejaculated 'Lor-a-mussy!' once again as if a Mayor were a mere
ordinary Christian at which Mr. Tulrumble frowned gloomily.
'What a pity 'tan't in London ain't it?' said Mrs. Tulrumble
after a short pause; 'what a pity 'tan't in London where you might
have had a show.'
'I MIGHT have a show in Mudfog if I thought proper I apprehend'
said Mr. Tulrumble mysteriously.
'Lor! so you might I declare' replied Mrs. Tulrumble.
'And a good one too' said Mr. Tulrumble.
'Delightful!' exclaimed Mrs. Tulrumble.
'One which would rather astonish the ignorant people down there'
said Mr. Tulrumble.
'It would kill them with envy' said Mrs. Tulrumble.
So it was agreed that his Majesty's lieges in Mudfog should be
astonished with splendour and slaughtered with envy and that such
a show should take place as had never been seen in that town or in
any other town before--no not even in London itself.
On the very next day after the receipt of the letter down came the
tall postilion in a post-chaise--not upon one of the horses but
inside--actually inside the chaise--and driving up to the very
door of the town-hall where the corporation were assembled
delivered a letter written by the Lord knows who and signed by
Nicholas Tulrumble in which Nicholas said all through four sides
of closely-written gilt-edged hot-pressed Bath post letter
paper that he responded to the call of his fellow-townsmen with
feelings of heartfelt delight; that he accepted the arduous office
which their confidence had imposed upon him; that they would never
find him shrinking from the discharge of his duty; that he would
endeavour to execute his functions with all that dignity which
their magnitude and importance demanded; and a great deal more to
the same effect. But even this was not all. The tall postilion
produced from his right-hand top-boot a damp copy of that
afternoon's number of the county paper; and there in large type
running the whole length of the very first column was a long
address from Nicholas Tulrumble to the inhabitants of Mudfog in
which he said that he cheerfully complied with their requisition
and in short as if to prevent any mistake about the matter told
them over again what a grand fellow he meant to be in very much
the same terms as those in which he had already told them all about
the matter in his letter.
The corporation stared at one another very hard at all this and
then looked as if for explanation to the tall postilion but as the
tall postilion was intently contemplating the gold tassel on the
top of his yellow cap and could have afforded no explanation
whatever even if his thoughts had been entirely disengaged they
contented themselves with coughing very dubiously and looking very
grave. The tall postilion then delivered another letter in which
Nicholas Tulrumble informed the corporation that he intended
repairing to the town-hall in grand state and gorgeous procession
on the Monday afternoon next ensuing. At this the corporation
looked still more solemn; but as the epistle wound up with a
formal invitation to the whole body to dine with the Mayor on that
day at Mudfog Hall Mudfog Hill Mudfog they began to see the fun
of the thing directly and sent back their compliments and they'd
be sure to come.
Now there happened to be in Mudfog as somehow or other there does
happen to be in almost every town in the British dominions and
perhaps in foreign dominions too--we think it very likely but
being no great traveller cannot distinctly say--there happened to
be in Mudfog a merry-tempered pleasant-faced good-for-nothing
sort of vagabond with an invincible dislike to manual labour and
an unconquerable attachment to strong beer and spirits whom
everybody knew and nobody except his wife took the trouble to
quarrel with who inherited from his ancestors the appellation of
Edward Twigger and rejoiced in the sobriquet of Bottle-nosed Ned.
He was drunk upon the average once a day and penitent upon an
equally fair calculation once a month; and when he was penitent he
was invariably in the very last stage of maudlin intoxication. He
was a ragged roving roaring kind of fellow with a burly form a
sharp wit and a ready head and could turn his hand to anything
when he chose to do it. He was by no means opposed to hard labour
on principle for he would work away at a cricket-match by the day
together--running and catching and batting and bowling and
revelling in toil which would exhaust a galley-slave. He would
have been invaluable to a fire-office; never was a man with such a
natural taste for pumping engines running up ladders and throwing
furniture out of two-pair-of-stairs' windows: nor was this the
only element in which he was at home; he was a humane society in
himself a portable drag an animated life-preserver and had saved
more people in his time from drowning than the Plymouth life-
boat or Captain Manby's apparatus. With all these qualifications
notwithstanding his dissipation Bottle-nosed Ned was a general
favourite; and the authorities of Mudfog remembering his numerous
services to the population allowed him in return to get drunk in
his own way without the fear of stocks fine or imprisonment. He
had a general licence and he showed his sense of the compliment by
making the most of it.
We have been thus particular in describing the character and
avocations of Bottle-nosed Ned because it enables us to introduce
a fact politely without hauling it into the reader's presence with
indecent haste by the head and shoulders and brings us very
naturally to relate that on the very same evening on which Mr.
Nicholas Tulrumble and family returned to Mudfog Mr. Tulrumble's
new secretary just imported from London with a pale face and
light whiskers thrust his head down to the very bottom of his
neckcloth-tie in at the tap-room door of the Lighterman's Arms
and inquiring whether one Ned Twigger was luxuriating within
announced himself as the bearer of a message from Nicholas
Tulrumble Esquire requiring Mr. Twigger's immediate attendance at
the hall on private and particular business. It being by no means
Mr. Twigger's interest to affront the Mayor he rose from the
fireplace with a slight sigh and followed the light-whiskered
secretary through the dirt and wet of Mudfog streets up to Mudfog
Hall without further ado.
Mr. Nicholas Tulrumble was seated in a small cavern with a
skylight which he called his library sketching out a plan of the
procession on a large sheet of paper; and into the cavern the
secretary ushered Ned Twigger.
'Well Twigger!' said Nicholas Tulrumble condescendingly.
There was a time when Twigger would have replied 'Well Nick!' but
that was in the days of the truck and a couple of years before the
donkey; so he only bowed.
'I want you to go into training Twigger' said Mr. Tulrumble.
'What for sir?' inquired Ned with a stare.
'Hush hush Twigger!' said the Mayor. 'Shut the door Mr.
Jennings. Look here Twigger.'
As the Mayor said this he unlocked a high closet and disclosed a
complete suit of brass armour of gigantic dimensions.
'I want you to wear this next Monday Twigger' said the Mayor.
'Bless your heart and soul sir!' replied Ned 'you might as well
ask me to wear a seventy-four pounder or a cast-iron boiler.'
'Nonsense Twigger nonsense!' said the Mayor.
'I couldn't stand under it sir' said Twigger; 'it would make
mashed potatoes of me if I attempted it.'
'Pooh pooh Twigger!' returned the Mayor. 'I tell you I have seen
it done with my own eyes in London and the man wasn't half such a
man as you are either.'
'I should as soon have thought of a man's wearing the case of an
eight-day clock to save his linen' said Twigger casting a look of
apprehension at the brass suit.
'It's the easiest thing in the world' rejoined the Mayor.
'It's nothing' said Mr. Jennings.
'When you're used to it' added Ned.
'You do it by degrees' said the Mayor. 'You would begin with one
piece to-morrow and two the next day and so on till you had got
it all on. Mr. Jennings give Twigger a glass of rum. Just try
the breast-plate Twigger. Stay; take another glass of rum first.
Help me to lift it Mr. Jennings. Stand firm Twigger! There!--it
isn't half as heavy as it looks is it?'
Twigger was a good strong stout fellow; so after a great deal of
staggering he managed to keep himself up under the breastplate
and even contrived with the aid of another glass of rum to walk
about in it and the gauntlets into the bargain. He made a trial
of the helmet but was not equally successful inasmuch as he
tipped over instantly--an accident which Mr. Tulrumble clearly
demonstrated to be occasioned by his not having a counteracting
weight of brass on his legs.
'Now wear that with grace and propriety on Monday next' said
Tulrumble 'and I'll make your fortune.'
'I'll try what I can do sir' said Twigger.
'It must be kept a profound secret' said Tulrumble.
'Of course sir' replied Twigger.
'And you must be sober' said Tulrumble; 'perfectly sober.' Mr.
Twigger at once solemnly pledged himself to be as sober as a judge
and Nicholas Tulrumble was satisfied although had we been
Nicholas we should certainly have exacted some promise of a more
specific nature; inasmuch as having attended the Mudfog assizes in
the evening more than once we can solemnly testify to having seen
judges with very strong symptoms of dinner under their wigs.
However that's neither here nor there.
The next day and the day following and the day after that Ned
Twigger was securely locked up in the small cavern with the sky-
light hard at work at the armour. With every additional piece he
could manage to stand upright in he had an additional glass of
rum; and at last after many partial suffocations he contrived to
get on the whole suit and to stagger up and down the room in it
like an intoxicated effigy from Westminster Abbey.
Never was man so delighted as Nicholas Tulrumble; never was woman
so charmed as Nicholas Tulrumble's wife. Here was a sight for the
common people of Mudfog! A live man in brass armour! Why they
would go wild with wonder!
The day--THE Monday--arrived.
If the morning had been made to order it couldn't have been better
adapted to the purpose. They never showed a better fog in London
on Lord Mayor's day than enwrapped the town of Mudfog on that
eventful occasion. It had risen slowly and surely from the green
and stagnant water with the first light of morning until it
reached a little above the lamp-post tops; and there it had
stopped with a sleepy sluggish obstinacy which bade defiance to
the sun who had got up very blood-shot about the eyes as if he
had been at a drinking-party over-night and was doing his day's
work with the worst possible grace. The thick damp mist hung over
the town like a huge gauze curtain. All was dim and dismal. The
church steeples had bidden a temporary adieu to the world below;
and every object of lesser importance--houses barns hedges
trees and barges--had all taken the veil.
The church-clock struck one. A cracked trumpet from the front
garden of Mudfog Hall produced a feeble flourish as if some
asthmatic person had coughed into it accidentally; the gate flew
open and out came a gentleman on a moist-sugar coloured charger
intended to represent a herald but bearing a much stronger
resemblance to a court-card on horseback. This was one of the
Circus people who always came down to Mudfog at that time of the
year and who had been engaged by Nicholas Tulrumble expressly for
the occasion. There was the horse whisking his tail about
balancing himself on his hind-legs and flourishing away with his
fore-feet in a manner which would have gone to the hearts and
souls of any reasonable crowd. But a Mudfog crowd never was a
reasonable one and in all probability never will be. Instead of
scattering the very fog with their shouts as they ought most
indubitably to have done and were fully intended to do by
Nicholas Tulrumble they no sooner recognized the herald than they
began to growl forth the most unqualified disapprobation at the
bare notion of his riding like any other man. If he had come out
on his head indeed or jumping through a hoop or flying through a
red-hot drum or even standing on one leg with his other foot in
his mouth they might have had something to say to him; but for a
professional gentleman to sit astride in the saddle with his feet