|C.H. Simpson, Esq.|
Those who’ve read my latest Dressmaker book, Vixen in Velvet, will have encountered Mr. C.H. Simpson, Master of Ceremonies for the Royal Gardens, Vauxhall . He held the post from May 1797 to his death on Christmas Day 1835.
My discovery of Mr. Simpson I owe to David E Coke’s and Alan Borg’s marvelous Vauxhall Gardens: A History.*
Apparently, he worked in obscurity until 1826, when he became a character and a celebrity. According to Coke & Borg, “Thackeray described him as ‘the gentle Simpson, that kind smiling idiot.’ Always referred to simply by his initials C.H....he was renowned for his excessive politeness, servile manner and elaborate bows. With his top hat and silver-mounted cane, trademarks from the beginning of his time at Vauxhall, he could easily be seen as a figure of fun. In his later years he came to be regarded as one of the great attractions of the place, greeting all visitors with his special brand of obsequious courtesy. He also seems to have had a role in promoting Vauxhall, developing the extravagant caricature of his personality to very good effect.”
Of course I became intrigued, even though I needed him for only a few lines of my story. It grieves me to report that I couldn’t find his autobiography, short though it is, anywhere online, and the nearest library holding it is the British Library. That would be in London.
Here, under The Sublime and Beautiful in Language, you can find a sample of Mr. Simpson’s style of expression. And you can scroll down to a poem about him here: The Simpson Jubilee.
Image at upper left, C. H. Simpson, Esq. M.C.R.G.V. by Robert Isaac Cruikshank 1833, courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Color version of the print here. Another image of Mr. Simpson is here at the British Museum.
* My post about the Vauxhall book is here. You can find out more about it here.