Cuthbert Bede / Edward Bradley /by Susan Watkin

CUTHBERT BEDE / by Susan Watkin

I first came across "Cuthbert Bede" as the author of articles in Victorian magazines. I was intrigued by the unusual name, which I found out was the pseudonym of Edward Bradley. It was only later that I discovered that this prolific article writer was also the author and illustrator of one of the minor classics of the nineteenth century, "The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green." First published in three parts in 1853, 1854 and 1857, this work has been republished many times, most recently by the Oxford University Press in 1982, with an introduction by Anthony Powell.

John Betjeman used illustrations from both "Verdant Green" and the sequel, "Little Mr. Bouncer and his friend, Verdant Green," in "An Old University Chest" (1938), first issued as an Oxford University Press paperback in 1979, and republished by Oxford University Press in 1990 as "John Betjeman's Oxford." Frank Muir quotes an extract from "An Oxford Freshman" (a very drunken Verdant Green at a party) in "The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose" (Oxford University Press, 1990).

One feature of Cuthbert Bede's works is his use of contemporary slang. Verdant Green wore spectacles and was known by the nickname "Gig-lamps" - this is given as the earliest known use of the term in the OED. The OED also gives "Verdant Green" as the first use of the word "bags" for "trousers," and "shandygaff", the old word for shandy.

Edward Bradley was born in Kidderminster on March 25th 1827, the second son of Thomas Bradley, a surgeon. Even as a child he delighted in sketching and showed a keen sense of observation. If he had seen anything of interest he would ask for a slate on returning home and sketch the scene with great skill. His brother, Thomas Waldron Bradley, was also a writer whose two novels, "Grantley Grange" and "Nelly Hamilton", were published in 1874 and 1875. Pseudonyms were popular in the Bradley family. Edward Bradley almost always used the pseudonym of "Cuthbert Bede", and his bother that of "Shelsley Beauchamp". I recently bought a volume of reprints from "The London Magazine, Illustrated" with the title "London Tales Sketches Poetry and Travels" which contains pieces by both Cuthbert Bede and Shelsley Beauchamp. Their uncle, William Bradley (to whom Edward Bradley dedicated one of his novels, "Nearer and Dearer)," was the author of "Sketches of the Poor by a retired Guardian."

Edward Bradley was educated at Kidderminster Grammar School, and University College, Durham where he graduated with a B.A. in 1848. The two patron saints of Durham are St. Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede. It must have been during his stay in Durham that Edward Bradley adopted the pseudonym "Cuthbert Bede" which he used for the rest of his life. Too young to take orders, in 1849-50 Edward Bradley spent a year in Oxford, where he met J.G. Wood (the writer on natural history) who became his life long friend (the two men were exact contemporaries). Mr Bouncer, one of the characters in "Verdant Green", is thought to be based on J.G. Wood.

In 1850 Edward Bradley started his career in the Church of England as curate of Glatton-with-Holme, Huntingdonshire. He stayed there 4 years during which time he wrote for the "Illustrated London News" about the draining of Whittlesea Mere. Later he was curate at Leigh, Worcestershire (1854), vicar of Bobbington, Staffordshire (1857), and rector of Denton-with-Caldecote, Huntingdonshire (1859-71). Whilst rector of Stretton, Rutland (1871-1883) Edward Bradley raised over £2000 to restore the church by giving lectures in Midland towns on "Wit and Humour", "Modern Humorists", and "Light Literature". Finally, from 1883 until his death in 1889, Edward Bradley was the vicar of Lenton, Lincolnshire where he established a free library, a school bank, winter entertainments and improvement societies.

In December 1858 Edward Bradley married Harriet Amelia, the youngest daughter of Samuel Hancocks of Wolverley, Worcester. They had two sons, Cuthbert Bradley (an artist of horses and hounds who also did caricatures for "Vanity Fair") and the Rev. Henry Waldron Bradley.

Cuthbert Bede appears to have known many of literary figures of his day and two of them, Albert Smith and George Cruikshank, had an influence on his work. Albert Smith (1816-1860) wrote a number of novels (of which "Christopher Tadpole" is perhaps the best known today), but in his day was famous for his interest in Mont Blanc about which he wrote and gave public performances (described in the DNB as the "most popular exhibition of the kind ever known"). In Edward Bradley's obituary in "Northamptonshire Notes and Queries" there is a reference to "The Mont Blanc Twelfth Night Characters", a series of 24 humorous etchings by Albert Smith and Cuthbert Bede (1848). This is the only reference I have been able to find to this work (it is not in the British Library catalogue).

This evidence of collaboration between Albert Smith and Cuthbert Bede is interesting because another of Albert Smith's novels has the title "The Adventures of Mr. Ledbury and his Friend Jack Johnson" (first published in book form in 1844, but the serialisation started in "Bentley's Miscellany" in 1842.) Was this perhaps the inspiration for Cuthbert Bede's best known book, "The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green"? I was unlikely (so I thought) to find such an obscure book on sale, so I spent an afternoon reading the copy in the British Library. The very next day I found a copy of "Mr. Ledbury" on sale on Cambridge market (the fruit and veg. market, not the Book Fair!) for £2.50! Like Verdant Green, Titus Ledbury is a naive young man, easily susceptible to teasing by his more worldly friend. The copy I bought is unillustrated - the version in the British Library had illustrations by John Leech - showing the physical similarity between Verdant Green and Titus Ledbury.

Albert Smith's brother, Arthur Smith (1825-1861), was responsible for arranging Charles Dickens' readings in 1858 and 1861 - I have not been able to find out what, if any, influence he may have had on Cuthbert Bede's lectures on wit and humour.

The other main influence on Edward Bradley's work was George Cruikshank. They first met in the autumn of 1853. Edward Bradley learnt his wood engraving techniques from Cruikshank, watching Cruikshank work on his etching "Tail of a Comet." There are a number of comments by Edward Bradley on Cruikshank quoted in "The Life of George Cruikshank" by Blanchard Jerrold. Of their first meeting Edward Bradley said:

"He wished me to write a humorous story of modern life, to be illustrated by himself, with a series of designs, something after the style of his "Adventures of Mr. Lambkin; or the Bachelor's own Book," and he jotted down some rough memoranda and sketches (in pencil) on the subject….I gave my best consideration to Mr. Cruikshank's suggestions and ideas, but submitted to him that I could not see my way to carry them out to our mutual satisfaction; and I also raised objections to the somewhat hackneyed nature of the themes that he suggested, and stated my preference for writing a story that should be wholly and entirely my own original composition."

Cuthbert Bede's first published works appeared in "Bentley's Miscellany" in 1846. A selection of his prose and verse was published in "The Curate of Cranston" (1862) which includes the following early poems first published in "Bentley's Miscellany":-
"The Heart's Misgivings" (1846)
"Somebody's Eyes" (1846)
"The Praises of Colonos" (1847)
"The Torch-Speech" (1847)
"The Wanton Sunbeam" (1847)

From 1847 to 1855 Cuthbert Bede wrote and drew for "Punch." Other early pieces were published by his friend Albert Smith in his magazines "The Month", "The Man in the Moon", and "The Town and Country Miscellany."

"Photographic Pleasures" is probably the most sought after of Cuthbert Bede's works today, because of the illustrations). The work contains some of the earliest cartoons about photography. "Photographic Pleasures" first appeared in book form in 1854 (published by Day & Son), and was re-published the following year by Thomas McLean. Parts of the work first appeared in "Punch". Cuthbert Bede's manuscript reminiscences about the work are quoted in M.H. Spielmann's "History of "Punch" (1895):
"Photography being a novelty in 1853, Mark Lemon readily accepted my proposal to introduce it into "Punch," and accordingly, the first four caricature illustrations of photography that appeared were in "Punch" between May and August 1853. One of these represented "The Portrait of an Eminent Photographer who has just succeeded in focusing a view to his Complete Satisfaction." He was depicted with his head under the hood, while a bull was charging him in the rear - a sketch that was pleasantly referred to by Charles Kingsley in his novel, "Two Years Ago.""

Today we place more value on original work than on photographs - not so in the early days of photography. Cuthbert Bede refers to Mr. W.J. Thoms, F.S.A. copying old documents by camera.

"I greatly value a beautiful copy (collodion) made by Mr. Thoms, of two of the designs [in "Photographic Pleasures"] when they originally appeared as woodcuts in the pages of "Punch". The clearness of these miniatures is such, that all the writing and printing upon them is visible and clear."

And so to Cuthbert Bede's best known work,"Verdant Green"- the story of a naive freshman at Oxford. Cuthbert Bede had great difficulty in finding a publisher for "The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green," and as a result the three parts were first published separately: "The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green, an Oxford Freshman," (1853); "The Further Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green, an Oxford undergraduate," (1854); and "Mr. Verdant Green married and Done for," (1857). The three parts were subsequently issued in one volume. 100,000 copies were sold by 1870. The total payment Cuthbert Bede received for the work was just £350.

Some editions of "Verdant Green" contain only parts 1 and 2, omitting Part 3, "Married and Done for". In other editions the work is not broken down into its separate parts.

"Verdant Green" is well illustrated with Cuthbert Bede's own drawings. The illustration of Verdant Green kissing the maid was left out of some editions! I have an undated copy (T. Nelson & Sons, probably published in the 1920s) of the first two parts of "Verdant Green" (that is, without "Married and Done For") which omits the offending illustration.

"Notes and Queries" type features have appeared in a number of publications recently (for example the "Guardian"). The original "Notes and Queries" magazine was published from 1849 until as recently as 1981. I have picked up a few odd copies of the earlier editions, and they make fascinating reading. Cuthbert Bede was a regular contributor. In the Seventh Series - Volume eight, July-December 1889 "F.W.D." had asked, "Would CUTHBERT BEDE kindly inform me how many copies of the first edition of the first part of this work [Verdant Green] left the press?"

Cuthbert Bede's reply was as follows:
"I am sorry that I cannot answer F. W. D.'s query with any sort of exactness, as, unfortunately for myself, I had no pecuniary interest in the sale of the book, and therefore had no check on the number of copies sold. Part i. was issued "London: Nathaniel Cooke (late Ingram, Cooke & Co.), Milford House, Strand, 1853." At that time the "Illustrated London News" had a book-publishing establishment at Milford House, and Mr. Cooke issued 'Verdant Green' as one of his "Books for the Rail." It was first advertised on October 8, 1853, and I understood that the first edition consisted of five thousand copies, Mr. Cooke having very little faith that it would meet with a large sale. I have a cutting from the "Illustrated London News," November 5, 1853, of the publication of the " second edition"; and I have another cutting, March 25, 1854, from the same paper, stating that "twenty-five thousand were sold in six weeks." The second part was issued by Mr. Cooke in 1854. In the following year Messrs. Herbert Ingram & Co. relinquished their book-publishing business, and sold their copyrights, &c., at Messrs. Southgate & Barrett's, December 15, 1855, when the first two parts of 'Verdant Green' were bought for £75 by Mr. James Blackwood, Paternoster Row, who is now the sole owner of the book, and for whom I wrote the third and concluding part. I have a cutting (August 16, 1856) of the issue of the fifty-ninth thousand of part i., and of the thirty-ninth thousand of part ii.; and I have a copy of Mr. Blackwood's circular to the trade that the first edition of the third part would consist of twenty thousand copies, as guaranteed by Messrs. Seccombe & Jack. The three parts were then bound in one volume, of which the sixty-second thousand was issued in August 1858. I have cuttings that advertised the ninety-fourth thousand, June, 1868; and the 104th thousand, August, 1871.

When the 'Ingoldsby Legends,' 'Happy Thoughts,' 'Christmas Stories by Dickens,' &c., were issued, with illustrations, at sixpence or a shilling, printed in quarto, double columns, Mr. Blackwood published a sixpenny edition (n.d.) of 'Verdant Green,' with many of the illustrations. My copy is marked "173rd thousand"; but I am not able to say if this applies to the sixpenny edition only, or also includes the three-and-sixpenny edition. In Mr. W.T. Spencer's book catalogue, October, 1889, original copies of parts ii. and iii. are offered for 6s. each, and first editions of all three parts for 22s.6d. In January, 1886, Mr. Meehan, of Bath, offered a first edition of part ii. for 8s.6d. I conclude that the separate issue of the three parts would cease on the publication of the volume; but Mr. Blackwood could answer these questions better than I am able to do.

"Verdant Green" was used by Hippolyte Taine in his description of English university life in "Notes sur l'Angleterre".

Spielmann describes Cuthbert Bede's introduction to Douglas Jerrold at Oxford in November 1854. The introducer added, by way of explanation, "Mr. Verdant Green." "At that time, said Cuthbert Bede, "I was closely shaven, and had a very pale face. Douglas Jerrold looked sharply up at me, with a glitter in his blue eyes, and at once said, "Mr. Verdant Green? I should have thought it was Mr. Blanco White!"" [Blanco White (1775-1841) was a theological writer and poet].

"Little Mr. Bouncer and his friend, Verdant Green," a sequel to "Verdant Green", was published in 1873 - Verdant Green is again a freshman. Another "college" works by Cuthbert Bede "Tales of College Life" (originally published in magazines between 1850 and 1856, first published in book form in 1856, and republished in the same volume as "Little Mr. Bouncer" in 1893 by Little, Brown, and Company, Boston in 1893.

Cuthbert Bede also wrote the following works of fiction. "Love's Provocations" (1855), the well illustrated confessions (innocent) of a male chasing (in a decorous manner!) young lady. "Nearer and Dearer," (1857), a well illustrated and readable tale of school life. "Mattins and Mutton's" (1866), a love story set in Brighton (Mutton's was a confectioners shop). As always, Cuthbert Bede's observations are interesting, such as the hiring out of newspapers - left for readers at 9 a.m., and called for at 11a.m.., charge 2d. (at a time when the "Times" (new) cost 3d). Each paper was read by 3-4 readers at a reducing price. Also the "sea-view" of landlady Mrs. Harpeyden rings true today,

"There is certainly a fragmentary glimpse of ocean, thou mighty monster, shining among the chimney-pots; and, by standing quite close to the front of the bow-window, and looking down the long perspective of Cliff Place and across the Kings road, we can actually get a slice of a view of salt water, and occasionally see a boat or fishing-vessel gliding across the aperture."

"Funny Figures" (1858) is a collection of verses aimed at children, with a verse and illustration on each page, originally available at 1 shilling plain, 2 shillings coloured.

Cuthbert Bede wrote numerous articles, many of which were republished in book form. The tales of "The Curate of Cranston," and "Marelli", were first published in "The Curate of Cranston" (1862) but the remaining prose and verse were first published in a variety of magazines over the previous fifteen years.

"The Rook's Garden" (1865) is another collection of articles. One of these, "Quack Quack" rings true today. Cuthbert Bede mentions a rector friend who received two circulars to each item of personal mail. He goes on to categorise what we would today call junk mail: wine circulars; tailors (clerical of course); hatters; assurance and insurance companies; hymn books; foreign loan and lottery societies; wholesale tea dealers; hotel companies (the companies are always "limited" but their professions and the hotel accommodation are quite the reverse); other limited liability companies; various effusions and rhymes; petitions for marriage with a deceased wife's grandmother; petitions against marriage with a deceased wife's grandmother; begging letters.

"Figaro at Hastings" (1877) reprints seven letters to the editor of the "London Figaro" - Cuthbert Bede had contributed to every issue since its establishment on May 17th 1870.

"Humour, Wit, and Satire" (1885) brings together in one volume the miscellaneous humorous writing of "Book of Beauty" (1856); "Motley" (1855); and "Medley" (1856).

According to Spielmann, one of Edward Bradley's proudest memories was the re-introduction of the double acrostic. He amused his friends with them for a few months before showing them to Mark Lemon, who asked him to write about them for the "Illustrated London News" in which they first appeared on August 30th 1856. They appear to have been hugely popular and Edward Bradley received thousands of letters about them from all over the world. In case you are wondering what a double acrostic was, here is an example:

The first was "Charles Dickens - Pickwick Papers"; then followed "London - Thames", "Waterloo - Napoleon", "Scutari Hospital - Miss Nightingale", and then "Lemon - Punch."

Here is how the latter was treated:-


I brighten even the brightest scene -(L am P)
I very nearly an ostrich had been -
--(E m U)
I with a hood once pass'd all my days -
--(M aria N)
I am a fop in a play of all plays -
--(O sri C)
To its greatness the city of Bath I did raise -
(N as H)


I'm a Mark of judgment, of taste, and wit,
O'er a crowd of pages I rule the roast;
I mix with choice spirits, while choicer ones sit
Around, while I give them full many a toast.
Of my two words, my first is squeezed into my second,
Although at its head it is commonly reckoned.

Edward Bradley was very interested in antiquities and folklore, and was a regular contributor not only to the national "Notes and Queries" but also to the local issues for the counties he was interested in - I have spotted his contributions in the Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire volumes.

"Glencreggan" (1861) is about the history and antiquities of Southern Argyll, and like all Cuthbert Bede's books is well illustrated. The return journey took three to 4 days and many people were reluctant to spend the time it needed to get there. Cuthbert Bede's description of the British tourist rings true today -

"the British tourist is a gregarious and sheep-like animal, and Brown's instinct leads him along the beaten track, where he is sure to meet with Smith, Jones and Robinson, and where railways, steamers, coaches, and well-appointed inns fit into each other with ease and comfort."

Edward Bradley had a special interest in Mary Queen of Scots and was one of the prime movers of an exhibition at Peterborough in 1887 marking the tercentenary of her death. "Fotheringhay and Mary Queen of Scots" was first published in book form in 1886 but was based on a series of articles first published in "The Leisure Hour" in 1865. The frontispiece to "Fotheringhay" is a stuck in photograph of Mary, Queen of Scots, from an original contemporary portrait which was in Cuthbert Bede's possession.

There is reference in the Foreword to Murray's Hand-Book to Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire [1897] that the editor had access to numerous notes and materials collected by the late "Cuthbert Bede," who had gathered them with a view to writing a history of Hunts.

Edward Bradley died at the vicarage, Lenton, Lincolnshire on 12th December 1889. He was buried at Stretton, Rutland, next to his second son.

A few issues after the publication of the detailed comments by Cuthbert Bede on "Verdant Green," the death of Edward Bradley was reported in "Notes and Queries":

"One of the most familiar of signatures must now, we regret to think, disappear from the pages of 'N. & Q.' In the Rev. Edward Bradley, generally known as "Cuthbert Bede," we lose one of the staunchest of supporters and most frequent contributors. The particulars of his career and the list of his works have been given in most, if not all, English newspapers. With his works of fiction we are little concerned. We knew him as an ardent student of antiquities, a diligent collector of folk-lore, and a bright narrator of shrewd observations and varied experiences. There is scarcely a volume of 'N. & Q.' that he has not enriched with pleasant, entertaining and often valuable matter, and his departure is a matter of keen regret. His occasional private communications told of illness and unrest, but raised no fears as to a fatal termination to his illness."

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