Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Vauxhall Gardens' M.C., the divine Mr. Simpson

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
C.H. Simpson, Esq.
Loretta reports:

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.


Anonymous said...

I've always loved Vauxhall Gardens - the mix of high and low culture, and the traditions and food and art and excitement associated with it. I'd love to spend an evening there . . . .;)

Unknown said...

I think it's wonderful that Mr. Simpson gets to live again, if only briefly.

He must of been a wonderful character in real life. I found references to him from a variety of sources including Charles Dickens. See here...use your browser "find" feature and search for "Simpson".

Mr. Simpson's address to the public...you need a magnifying glass to read it but I'm sure it's worth it.

Thanks for another great post!

LorettaChase said...

You had better luck than I, Jill. Thank you! I used C.H. Simpson, with frustrating results.

Unknown said...

Loretta, I Googled Vauxhall Simpson. I eliminated any reference to his first name since he could be C.H., Christopher or Mr. I didn't try any of the other search engines so I don't know what they would have turned up. Also, I only checked the first few results. You should do the same search to see if anything else interesting pops up. :-)

Filceolaire said...

You should apply for a Readers card for the British Library. Imagine having one of those.

The old British Library Reading room is in the middle of the British Museum (the British Library has moved to another site a mile away) and the Museum have filled the old Reading Room shelves with books written by holders of Readers cards - Karl Marx next to Beatrix Potter!

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