Newsletter 31

Welcome to the summer (June) issue of our occasional newsletter for 2013.

OUR BOOK IS PUBLISHED

Description

Our new book, Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England, is published on 6th June in the UK. In the USA the same book will be published in mid-August, but with the title Jane Austen’s England. It is a radically new approach to the social history of late Georgian and Regency England, depicting countless aspects of life for the vast majority of people who did not dwell in grand houses, using stories from the actual men, women and children of the era.

Jane Austen CoverJane Austen Cover

Only a minority of people enjoyed the kind of leisurely existence depicted in Jane Austen’s novels. For all the rest, who never went to the dazzling balls and dances, life was often harsh and brutal. This is the first book to set the world of Jane Austen and her novels into the context of the experiences of ordinary people in England. The everyday events and activities that we recount include forced marriages and smock weddings, the sale of wives in town marketplaces, boys and girls toiling down mines or as chimney sweeps, the constant chore of fetching water, the fear of ghosts and witches, ‘Saint Monday’, bull baiting, attacks by highwaymen, smuggling, the horrors of surgery without anaesthetics, and bodysnatching.

Our new book covers the same timespan as our last book, Jack Tar, and like that book, it contains innumerable eyewitness accounts, many never before published. The descriptions of conditions two centuries ago are taken from people of all classes, so that the book is filled with characters such as Robert Blincoe, an orphan in London’s St Pancras workhouse who was bound apprentice for 14 years in a Derbyshire cotton mill when he was 6 or 7 years of age, though he survived the brutal treatment. James Lackington was an illiterate shoemaker who learned to read, fell in love with books and opened the largest bookshop in London, and Nelly Weeton in Lancashire made her way as a governess, while constantly writing about her experiences in letters and diaries.

Another interesting character, with a status similar to Jane Austen’s own father, is William Holland. He was vicar of Over Stowey in Somerset and recorded mundane yet fascinating details of rural life in a stack of diaries that remain largely unpublished. He himself was a Welshman who was frequently exasperated by the laziness of his Somersetshire parishioners. By piecing together information gleaned from countless sources, we have tried to create an entertaining account of the often forgotten men, women and children who were the backbone of England during this eventful period in British history.

Publishing details

For those of you wishing to buy a copy, or who would like to recommend it to a reading group or to a library, these are the publication details:

UK hardcover
UK and all other countries except for the US and Canada: Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England: How Our Ancestors Lived Two Centuries Ago by Roy & Lesley Adkins, published on 6th June 2013 in hardback by Little, Brown, list price £20, 422 pages, plus prelims (making 448 pages in all) and plate sections, ISBN 978-1-4087-0396-0.

UK e-book
It’s also available as an e-book from 6th June. E-books are sold through a number of retailers including Amazon, Kobo and Apple. On Amazon.co.uk, for example, the Kindle version is currently £10.99.

US hardcover
In the US, the identical version of the book will be published in hardback by Viking Penguin on 15th August 2013 as Jane Austen’s England, list price $26.95, ISBN 978-0670785841.

US e-book
Jane Austen’s England will also be available in all e-book formats in the US (Kindle, Nook, Apple, Sony, etc.).

FORTHCOMING TALKS

With the publication of Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England, we are very pleased to have already been booked to speak at various venues throughout England. The first ones are:

Cheltenham Science Festival: 7th June 2013

We will be taking part in an event with the journalist and broadcaster Vivienne Parry and the medical historian Michael Worboys called ‘Pride, Prejudice and the Doctor’ at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival on Friday 7th June at 8.30pm at the Parabola Arts Centre, tickets priced £10. In Jane Austen’s time, Cheltenham in Gloucestershire was fashionable as a spa town, where visitors would take the waters for their health, and Jane Austen herself spent a short while there in 1816 in a vain attempt to recover from ill-health.

The Science Festival runs from 4th to 9th June 2013 and is aimed entirely at the general public. Our particular event is being run in association with the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

Museum of Somerset at Taunton: 19th June 2013

We are delighted that the Museum of Somerset will be hosting the launch of our book on Wednesday 19th June at 7.30pm (entry from 7pm, when the bar will be open). The museum recently underwent a substantial and impressive refurbishment, making it a museum of history set well within the 21st century. We will be giving an illustrated talk of about one hour, with time for questions and discussion afterwards.

Jane Austen never visited Taunton, but Mrs Jane Leigh-Perrot – her aunt – did so, because she was tried at the Assizes in the Great Hall of Taunton Castle in March 1800 for the very serious offence of shoplifting. Our event will be held in that same Great Hall, which is now part of the museum. Tickets are £8 each, including a complimentary drink, available from the Museum of Somerset, Taunton Castle, Castle Green, Taunton, TA1 4AA.

Dartington Festival: 12th July 2013

It is with great pleasure that we will be returning to The Telegraph Ways With Words Festival at Dartington in Devon. We will be giving an illustrated talk called ‘The Women of Jane Austen’s England’ on Friday 12th July at 10am, in the Barn, as part of a day devoted to ‘Remarkable Women, Remarkable Times’.

Tickets are £9 each, though day tickets and rover tickets can also be purchased, as well as accommodation packages (you can actually stay in rooms on the festival site and soak up the atmosphere). The festival runs from 5th to 15th July.

West Meon Festival of Books: 13th July 2013

The next day, Saturday 13th July, we will be giving a talk at 11.30am in the church at West Meon in Hampshire on Saturday 13th July at 11.30am (address: St John the Evangelist Church, Church Lane, West Meon, GU32 1LF). Tickets are £5. You can purchase tickets by clicking on ‘Tickets’ on the festival website (www.westmeonfestival.co.uk). The festival runs from 11th to 14th July.

West Meon is a small village in unspoilt Hampshire countryside, within the new South Downs National Park. It lies between Winchester and Petersfield, in the heart of ‘Jane Austen Country’ and not far from places like Steventon and Chawton where the novelist lived. She would not know the church, as it was completely rebuilt on a nearby site in 1846 to a design by George Gilbert Scott.

History Live! Festival: 21st July 2013

We will be at the huge History Live! festival run by English Heritage at Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire (between Market Harborough and Northampton on the A508). Our talk on ‘Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England’ will be on Sunday 21st July at 12.50pm, in the BBC History Magazine Lecture Tent. This lecture tent will be at the heart of the festival site and has a 200 seating capacity. There is free access to all the lectures for those who have paid to enter the festival site – sign up as you come on to the site so as to ensure you get a seat. Why not come to our talk as a lunchtime break and a rest from all the other activities?

The History Live! event takes place on 20th and 21st July and is Europe’s biggest history event, with over 2,000 re-enactors and performers. For further details, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/history-live-kelmarsh-20-jul/

Jane Austen Festival, Bath: 20th September 2013

It is also with great pleasure that we will be speaking at the Theatre Royal in Bath once again, this time as part of the week-long Jane Austen Festival. Our talk will be at 12 noon on Friday 20th September.

Other talks

Other talks that we have lined up are the Appledore Book Festival in Devon on Sunday 6th October, an evening talk on 23rd October at the Off the Shelf festival at Sheffield, and a free lunchtime talk, open to the public, on Monday 11th November at the Devon and Exeter Institution in Exeter. Details of events can change, so please do check beforehand!

JAMES WOODFORDE
AND THE PARSON WOODFORDE SOCIETY

The diarist

The Reverend James Woodforde (1740–1803) was one of the foremost diarists of the later 18th century, as important for his time as Samuel Pepys was for the 17th century. He came to be known as ‘Parson Woodforde’ after abridged extracts from his previously unknown diaries were published from 1923 under the title of The Diary of a Country Parson. Woodforde’s name appeared only in a subtitle. The term ‘Parson’ is a title normally reserved for those clergy – rectors and vicars – who received the church taxes known as tithes, but in popular usage any parish clergyman might be called a parson.

A Somerset man

Woodforde is best remembered for his account of life in the village of Weston Longville near Norwich in Norfolk during the last twenty years of the 18th century and for the detailed accounts of the food eaten by himself, his family and his friends. The abridged publications of his diaries have a gastronomic flavour, since they focus on entries where food was mentioned. There is no doubt that Woodforde enjoyed his meals and liked convivial company, but he was also forced to take more than usual notice of household matters such as food and drink because he remained a bachelor all his life, after a stalled love affair. There is much more to Woodforde than food. He was also not a Norfolk man. For much of his life he was rector of Weston Longville, but he was born and brought up in Somerset and is particularly associated with the town of Castle Cary and nearby Ansford. He regarded himself as primarily a Somerset man and often made the long journey to visit relatives there.

The Church Of All Saints at Weston Longville
The Church Of All Saints at Weston Longville

The Society

The importance of James Woodforde lies in the publication of full, unabridged transcriptions of all his diaries (with almost daily entries from 1759 to 1802) by the Parson Woodforde Society. These transcriptions are not as widely known as they should be, perhaps because they had to be published in parts over a number of years. This piecemeal publication was necessary due to the sheer volume of material and the time needed to transcribe it – but it is that same mass of material, a detailed account of everyday life in Somerset, Oxford and his Norfolk rectory, that makes this diary so important. It is also a strangely gripping read, since it is effectively a true-life soap opera, where the ups-and-downs of the main characters are meticulously described, while other characters drift in and out of the narrative as the months and years pass. We were very pleased to be given permission by the Society to use these diaries in our new book.

The Parson Woodforde Society was founded in 1968 to study the life and times of James Woodforde and to act as an opportunity for fellow enthusiasts to meet up, usually at events called ‘frolics’, a term frequently used by Woodforde. The Society publishes a quarterly newsletter for members and a quarterly journal with articles about life in the 18th century, often related to Woodforde. For further information, see their website at www.parsonwoodforde.org.uk

ROUGH MUSIC

Shaming the powerful

The satirical magazine Punch was first published in 1841, and on page 102 of the very first issue it carried a scathing attack on the Duke of Wellington, the hero of the Battle of Waterloo – the battle that in June 1815 finally put an end to Napoleon’s power. Since that time, Wellington had been Prime Minister and was now an elder statesman in the House of Lords of the British Parliament. Like many politicians, he was completely out of touch with the lives of the majority of the British population, something that showed in his public statements.

The opinion is still prevalent within governments today that the vast majority of the poor are responsible for their own predicament on account of being drunken and lazy, and it was such a statement by Wellington that was attacked by Punch in its first issue:

‘In the name of famine, what could have induced his Grace [the Duke of Wellington] to insult the misery at this moment eating the hearts of thousands of Englishmen? For, within these few days, the Victor of Waterloo expressed his conviction that England was the only country in which “the poor man, if only sober and industrious, WAS QUITE CERTAIN of acquiring a competency!” And it is this man, imbued with this opinion, who is to be hailed as the presiding wisdom – the great moral strength – the healing humanity of the Tory Cabinet. If rags and starvation put up their prayer to the present Ministry, what must be the answer delivered by the Duke of Wellington? “YE ARE DRUNKEN AND LAZY!”’

This technique of ridiculing and shaming individuals and groups in powerful positions by exposing their inconsistencies and absurdities was a constant theme in Punch – a theme echoed by the name of the magazine itself.

Punch and Judy

The magazine, which was published from 1841 to 1992 (and again from 1996 until its last issue in 2002), took its name from the Punch and Judy shows that are still a popular entertainment for children. This puppet show arrived in Britain from Italy, probably early in the 17th century, when Punch still retained his Italian name of Punchinello. In 1666 it was recorded in the London parish of St Martin’s in the Fields that £2.12s. 6d. was received ‘of Punchinello, the Italian popet player, for his booth at Charing-Cross’. That same year, and on several occasions afterwards, the diarist Samuel Pepys recorded seeing a Punchinello show.

A modern Punch and Judy show
A modern Punch and Judy show

At this early period, the Punch and Judy show was largely a fairground spectacle aimed at adults. It continued as such until the end of the 19th century when it became more of a children’s entertainment associated with seaside holidays. The basic storyline was very simple, based on conflict between the irascible male character Punch and his long-suffering wife Judy (called Joan in early versions). Punch abuses and beats his wife, loses his temper and kills his baby, beats a policeman, cheats the hangman and finally kills the devil (or is carried off by the devil). This storyline could be twisted and embellished to accommodate local tastes and topical opinions, and it could be very subversive in its overall message to the audience.

Riddley Walker

It was this power of the travelling puppet show that the author Russell Hoban exploited in his futuristic novel ‘Riddley Walker’. This is a story that takes place in a part of southern England where the church and government have morphed into a single, rather strange, institution. Various myths are attached to this ruling body, which appears to comprise echoes of a distant past. These myths are shown being spread and perpetuated in the performances of travelling puppet shows that seem directly descended from Punch and Judy. Set about 2,000 years after the world has been devastated by nuclear war, and written in a carefully constructed ‘corrupt’ version of the English language, the book presents a distorted mirror-image of the past, showing how civilisation can degenerate as easily as it can progress. Like anything that has passed into folk tradition, the Punch and Judy show seems indestructible.

Charivari

The founders of Punch were not only aware of the nature of Punch and Judy shows, but by giving the magazine the subtitle of ‘The London Charivari’, they deliberately acknowledged that they were setting out to mock and shame wrongdoers. This subtitle also paid homage to the French magazine Le Charivari, a similarly satirical magazine that had been established four years earlier in 1832 and continued to be published until 1937. The French word ‘charivari’ roughly translates as ‘bad music’ or ‘din’. It was also the name for the ritual of ridiculing and humiliating individuals who offended the community – often by banging tins and cans to raise a racket outside their home.

Punch cartoon
A typical ‘Punch, or, The London Charivari’ cartoon from volume 9 of 1845 (complaining about old streets and the houses of the poor being swept away)

A similar English tradition is often called ‘Rough Music’ and usually consisted of a gang of people beating old kettles, saucepans or shovels – anything to make a discordant noise. Those considered to have caused problems in the community might be targeted, but Rough Music was more often used against people thought guilty of actions not properly covered by the law, including adultery and domestic violence. Sometimes an effigy of the offender was paraded through the streets and then burnt outside their home, or else the actual offender might be paraded through the streets, a version of Rough Music that had other names such as the ‘Skimmington Ride’ or ‘Riding the Stang.’ Very often the offender moved out of the area after being severely intimidated.

Rough Music
One version of Rough Music, with much noise made outside an offender’s home

While Punch was often able to shame the targets of its satire, the magazine seldom, if ever, could claim the credit for a change of attitude among those in power. Punch established the genre of political cartoons, descendants of the 18th-century political prints, but as generations of satirists have found out, people in power are frequently perversely proud of their caricatures, however unflattering. Satirical pictures and text might sometimes have achieved their aim of humiliating wrongdoers in powerful positions, but they have never been as effective as the mob violence of the real Rough Music.

MAIDEN GARLANDS

While carrying out the research for Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England, we came across many fascinating things that we could not cover in detail in the book, or else we would have exceeded our allotted word quota.

Hanging from the rafters

One old custom was the use of maidens’ garlands, sometimes known as virgins’ garlands or virgins’ crowns. When an unmarried woman (or occasionally a young man) died, a garland of flowers, usually called a ‘maiden garland’, would accompany the coffin. After the funeral it was suspended from the church roof above the seat she had used. In June 1790 the traveller John Byng, who was an acute observer of old traditions, noticed such garlands in the church of St John the Baptist at Tideswell in Derbyshire:

‘After dinner, I enter’d the church, which, without, is beautiful; (quite a model); and within, of excellent architecture: it has at one corner, a noble stone pulpit, now disused, and there are two fine old tombs, (one of the Meverils,) and several figures in stone; but the chancel, belonging to the deanery of Litchfield, is in disgraceful waste; and the church wants new benching, most grievously. They here continue to hang up maiden garlands, which, however laudable, as of tendency to virtue, will soon be laugh’d out of practice.’

Known to Jane Austen?

Byng felt that the custom was fast disappearing, echoing the thoughts of the naturalist Gilbert White when he had written about the church at Selborne in Hampshire only a few years earlier:

‘In the middle aisle there is nothing remarkable; but I remember when its beams were hung with garlands in honour of young women of the parish, reputed to have died virgins; and recollect to have seen the clerk’s wife cutting, in white paper, the resemblances of gloves, and ribbons to be twisted in knots and roses, to decorate these memorials of chastity. In the church of Farringdon, which is the next parish, many garlands of this sort remain.’

Selborne is barely 4 miles from Chawton where Jane Austen lived towards the end of her life, and Farringdon was even closer. It is therefore highly likely that, as the daughter of a clergyman, she was familiar with the custom. In 1792 the London newspaper The Morning Chronicle published a poem by Anna Seward, which included the following verses relating to the village of Eyam in Derbyshire, only 4 miles from Tideswell:

‘Now the low Beams with Paper Garlands hung, In memory of some Village Youth or Maid, Draw the soft tear, from thrill’d remembrance sprung, How oft my childhood mark’d that tribute paid.
The Gloves suspended by the Garland’s side, White as its snowy Flow’rs with Ribbands tied. Dear Village! long these Wreaths funereal spread–Simple memorial of the early dead!’

Funeral Garland

Constructing the garlands

Sometimes real flowers were used for the garlands, but generally artificial flowers and other decorations were created from paper. The manufacture was described in a letter to the Gentleman’s Magazine of 1747 by a resident of Bromley in Kent:

‘The lower rim, or circlet, was a broad hoop of wood, whereunto were fix’d, at the sides thereof, part of two other hoops, crossing each other at the top at right angles, which formed the upper part, being about one third longer than the width; these hoops were wholly covered with artificial flowers of paper, dy’d horn, or silk, and more or less beauteous, according to the skill or ingenuity of the performer. In the vacancy of the inside, from the top, hung white paper, cut in the form of gloves, whereon was wrote the deceased’s name, age, etc. together with long slips of various-colour’d paper, or ribbons. These were many times intermix’d with gilded or painted empty shells of blown eggs, as farther ornaments; or, it may be, as emblems of the bubbles or bitterness of this life; whilst other garlands had only a solitary hour-glass hanging therein, as a more significant symbol of mortality.’

A dying custom

Even in 1747, it was thought that the custom was dying out, as the Bromley correspondent to the Gentleman’s Magazine commented:

‘About 40 years ago these garlands grew much out of repute, and were thought, by many, as very unbecoming decorations for so sacred a place as the church; and at the reparation, or new beatifying of several churches, where I have been concern’d, I was oblig’d, by order of the minister and church-wardens, to take the garlands down, and the inhabitants strictly forbid to hang up any more for the future. Yet notwithstanding, several people, unwilling to forsake their ancient and delightful custom, continued still the making of them, and they were carried at the funeral, as before, to the grave, and put therein, upon the coffin, over the face of the dead; this I have seen done in many places. Now I doubt not but such a garland, with an hour-glass, was thus placed in the grave at Clerkenwell, which, at the rotting and falling in of the lid of the coffin, must consequently be found close to the skull.’

‘About 40 years ago these garlands grew much out of repute, and were thought, by many, as very unbecoming decorations for so sacred a place as the church; and at the reparation, or new beatifying of several churches, where I have been concern’d, I was oblig’d, by order of the minister and church-wardens, to take the garlands down, and the inhabitants strictly forbid to hang up any more for the future. Yet notwithstanding, several people, unwilling to forsake their ancient and delightful custom, continued still the making of them, and they were carried at the funeral, as before, to the grave, and put therein, upon the coffin, over the face of the dead; this I have seen done in many places. Now I doubt not but such a garland, with an hour-glass, was thus placed in the grave at Clerkenwell, which, at the rotting and falling in of the lid of the coffin, must consequently be found close to the skull.’

Funeral Garland

These fears about maiden garlands in churches were premature. Until very recently their use continued in the Church of St Mary the Virgin at Abbotts Ann, near Andover, in Hampshire, where garlands were made for unmarried people of both sexes. Maiden garlands can still be seen in this church and elsewhere. At the Church of the Holy Trinity at Ashford in the Water in Derbyshire are the remains of four maiden garlands still hanging in the nave, now protected by perspex casings. The last one was for 16-year-old Elizabeth Blackwell who died in November 1801, apparently when a carriage overturned and she drowned in the River Wye that runs through the village. As for John Byng, his gloomy prediction was correct about Tideswell, just a few miles away from Ashford in the Water – there are no longer any maiden garlands hanging in that church.

Remains of a Maiden Garland, over 200 years old,at Ashford in the Water, Derbyshire
Remains of a Maiden Garland, over 200 years old, at Ashford in the Water, Derbyshire

SAMPLERS

As we said in our last newsletter, the cover (or jacket) designs for the American and UK versions of our new book are different – though not markedly so. We talked about the UK cover design in our last newsletter (www.adkinshistory.com/newsletter30.aspx) The design for the American edition, called simply Jane Austen’s England, is based on the concept of a sampler. Our picture below does not really do it justice, since you have the urge to touch the actual cover in order to make sure it is a picture and not real embroidery.

Jane Austen Cover

The United States publisher is Viking Penguin, and the book jacket was really embroidered. The designer, Brianna Harden, commissioned an embroidery artist to produce a sampler, which was then photographed to produce the cover. The artist chosen was Sarah Cline, and as the publisher said, “We selected her because she has both examples of traditional sampler-style work, but also has a modern and edgy style”.

The result is quite stunning – and quite thrilling for us, because we have never previously had specially commissioned artwork!

Signs of accomplishment

Samplers were often done by girls and young women as a way of learning needlework and embroidery, which were essential female accomplishments in Jane Austen’s era. Over the centuries, samplers changed in style and purpose, but by the Georgian era they were often a means of portraying an embroiderer’s skills. Apart from pictures, many include Biblical verses, formulaic sayings or even family trees. One surviving sampler was embroidered with miscellaneous texts from the Psalms, the name of Jane Austen and the date 1797. The Austen expert Deirdre Le Faye wrote an article for the Jane Austen Society called ‘Which Jane Austen stitched this sampler?’. She showed that the date had been altered from 1787 to 1797, that the stitching was clumsy (whereas Jane Austen the novelist was highly accomplished) and that the Psalm texts contain errors. She therefore thinks that this was the work of a different Jane Austen, possibly from a Kentish branch of the family (based on its provenance). Le Faye’s article can be found in the Jane Austen Society Collected Reports 1996–2000 (published 2005), pp. 233–5.

Unlike Jane Austen

Our book cover has been designed to resemble a sampler that might have been produced by a skilled young girl. And yet when you look closely at the individual pictures, they do not represent the traditional, romantic view of life in Jane Austen’s England. Instead, we are faced with the reality of life. These are all topics in our book, such as a woman with her clothes on fire (very common with open hearths) and a criminal ‘hung in chains’ until his body rotted – a further punishment after death, instead of a decent burial. There is also a young climbing boy, carrying a handbrush and a soot of sack. Such boys and girls were made to climb up narrow chimney flues and sweep them clean. At the very bottom of the sampler is a typical Georgian house – or is it a workhouse for the destitute? They were often similar in style. The hot-air balloon represents the beginnings of air transport, with the more traditional horse transport shown at the bottom, while the ship is a reminder that Britain is an island, dependent on the Royal Navy and merchant ships – and two of Jane Austen’s own brothers were in the navy. And the feather quill of course was the way we would have written our book in Georgian England!

WILLIAM HUNT REVISITED

In a previous newsletter (www.adkinshistory.com/newsletter18.aspx), we mentioned the terrible fire at the theatre at Exeter in Devon in 1887, when Able Seaman William Hunt was the hero, rescuing several people. We asked if anyone knew where Hunt was buried, and we are grateful to Pete Kitching who kindly directed us towards this website page, based on an article by Denise Hunt: www.exetermemories.co.uk/em/_people/hunt.php

She has pieced together much of Hunt’s later life, including his marriage and his recall to the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the First World War. Hunt died in 1936 at the age of 86 and was buried in the Higher Cemetery in Exeter – the same cemetery where the victims of the fire were buried. Unfortunately, there is no gravestone to mark his and his wife’s burial place.

TUTHMOSIS IV

A dream ruler

All the rulers of ancient Egypt (the pharaohs), have fascinating stories – often because they wrote those stories themselves. Many of the hieroglyphic inscriptions that tell us so much about these people, several thousand years after they lived and ruled, have an element of bias, if not blatant propaganda. Tuthmosis IV (sometimes known as Thutmose or Djehutymes) may well have needed such propaganda. He ruled Egypt for ten years (1400–1390 BC) during the 18th dynasty, and probably because of his short reign we know relatively little about him. However, a stele (an inscribed stone slab) found in front of the Great Sphinx at Giza is the record of a dream that Tuthmosis was supposed to have experienced. An account of a prophetic dream was a propaganda device used by other pharaohs as well, and this stone (sometimes called the Dream Stele of Tuthmosis IV) has an inscription describing how he was offered the throne of Egypt by the sun god in return for removing the sand from around the Great Sphinx. Such a public justification implies that Tuthmosis was not the actual heir to the throne, but had gained it by some other means – and probably not by clearing the sand from the Sphinx!

Painted relief of Tuthmosis IV at Karnak, Luxor, Egypt
Painted relief of Tuthmosis IV at Karnak, Luxor, Egypt

Tomb of Tuthmosis

It is not the events of his short reign that have made Tuthmosis familiar to many people who visit Egypt, but the fact that several of the best-known decorated tombs in the Valley of the Kings date to his reign. His own tomb was discovered by Howard Carter, the excavator of Tutankhamun’s tomb, in 1903. The tomb of Tuthmosis had been robbed thousands of years before, but a large amount of funerary furniture and grave goods – albeit damaged or smashed – still remained within the tomb, including a chariot.

A key name

The name ‘Tuthmosis’ was also instrumental in the decipherment of hieroglyphs. When Jean-François Champollion was on the point of his initial breakthrough in understanding how hieroglyphs worked as a writing system, he realised that the ancient Greek version of the name Tuthmosis (“Thothmes”) was represented by three hieroglyphs that could be cross-referenced with other ancient Greek versions of the names of pharaohs. This was part of the pattern of correspondences between hieroglyphic symbols and Greek sounds that he was able to establish to finally break open the mystery of the hieroglyphs (and something we describe in our book The Keys of Egypt).

Pharaohs often had several names, and as well as his birth name (Tuthmosis – ‘born of the god Thoth’), Tuthmosis IV had a throne name, Menkheperura, which translates as ‘eternal are the forms of the god Ra’. The throne name and the birth name of a pharaoh were each written within a ‘name ring’ called a cartouche, which is a French word meaning ‘cartridge’. When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, he took with his invasion army a group of scientists, artists and technologists, known by the French word ‘savants’. Among other things, some of these savants made a detailed study of the ancient Egyptian monuments and hieroglyphic inscriptions. They gave the term ‘cartouche’ to the rings surrounding the names of pharaohs – they chose this word ‘cartouche’ because to them these ovals looked like the outline or profile of the field gun cartridges that the army transported with them.

COMPETITION RESULTS

For the competition in our previous newsletter, we asked you to tell us the origin of the word ‘cartouche’ when used in connection with hieroglyphs, and of course the correct answer was: ‘D. Derived from the French term for a gunpowder cartridge’. The first two correct entries out of the hat were those of Paul Pearson and Bob Craig, who will each receive a copy of our book The Little Book of Egyptian Hieroglyphs.