London: Published for the Author, 1823. Item #02609
Written While the Insane Author Was Living in a Gravel Pit
[WILLIAMS, Charles, illustrator]. MITFORD, John. The Adventures of Johnny Newcome in the Navy. A Poem, In Four Cantos, With Notes. The Third Edition. London: Published for the Author and sold by Sherwood, Neely and Jones [et al], 1823.
Third edition in book form, originally issued 1819 in eight monthly parts. Quarto (10 3/16 x 6 3/16 in; 259 x 158 mm). vii, [1, To the Binder], 284 pp. Twenty hand-colored aquatint engravings with tissue guards.
Handsomely bound (ca. 1895) by Samuel Tout of London (stamp-signed) in full deep crimson morocco with gilt-tooled corner-pieces and rolls. Gilt-rolled board edges. Gilt-ruled raised bands, gilt decorated and ornamented compartments. Broad turn-ins with gilt-tooled corner-pieces. Top edge gilt, others uncut. Original paper backstrip with printed label preserved at rear. With the nautical bookplate of James Stewart Geikie, M.D. A fine and very tall copy.
Not to be confused with an earlier book - also a poem in four cantos - with the same title by Alfred Burton with illustrations by Thomas Rowlandson published in 1818. It is a common mistake to presume that Alfred Burton was a pseudonym for John Mitford and that the two books are one and the same; many library records are littered with this misinformation, as is Wikipedia. Hardie declares that this Mitford was an "open imitation" of the Burton.
This edition with the Williams plates appears far less frequently than the Rowlandson illustrated edition of 1818.
"Johnny Newcome" was British slang for a raw recruit, Army or Navy.
John Mitford (1782-1831) “was a member of the elder branch of the family of Mitford of Mitford Castle in Northumberland…In April 1795…he entered the navy as midshipman of the Victory, in which he went out to the Mediterranean, and was present in the battle off Toulon on 13 July 1795. In the following year he was moved into the Zealous with Captain (afterwards Sir Samuel) Hood, and in her was present in the disastrous attack on Santa Cruz in July 1797, and at the battle of the Nile 1-2 Aug. 1798…According to his own account, after drinking freely on Christmas day 1800, he insulted his captain and left the service, that is to say, deserted; but as he was with Hood in 1801 in the Venerable the desertion may have been only imagined...
"In 1814 Mitford was discharged from the navy as insane, and he took to journalism and strong drink…He is said to have edited the ‘Scourge, or Monthly Expositor of Imposture and Folly,’ which, after running for five years, died in December 1815; but though he contributed to the last four volumes, it does not appear that he was the editor. After this he wrote ‘The Adventures of Johnny Newcome in the Navy, a Poem in four Cantos’...The publisher who employed him found that the only way to make him work was to keep him without money. He therefore limited him to a shilling a day, which Mitford expended on two pennyworth of bread and cheese and an onion, and the balance on gin. With this, and his day's supply of paper and ink, he repaired to an old gravel-pit in Battersea Fields, and there wrote and slept till it was time to take in his work and get his next shilling. For forty-three days he is said to have lived in this manner…The poem is in octosyllabic verse, reeled off with the most careless ease, but the lines scan, the rhymes are good, and the ‘yarns’ such as might have been heard any day in the midshipman's berth...His other literary work was anonymous. He is said to have written ‘a libelous life of Sir John Sylvester,’ recorder of the city of London; to have edited ‘The Bon Ton Magazine,’ and to have been kept the while by his publisher in a cellar, with a candle, a bottle of gin, and a rag of old carpet for a coverlet. In 1827 he contributed a memoir of William Mitford the historian to the ‘Literary Gazette’…But Mitford had lost the power of distinguishing truth from falsehood. Ragged and filthy in his person, he was no doubt the John Mitford described by Captain Brenton as ‘lodging over a coal-shed in some obscure street near Leicester Square’…All attempts made by his friends to reclaim him failed. He was editing a paper called the ‘Quizzical Gazette’ at the time of his death, which took place in St. Giles's workhouse on 24 Dec. 1831” (D.N.B.).
Illustrator Charles Williams (b.? - 1830) was a British caricaturist, etcher and illustrator. Between 1799 and 1815 he was chief caricaturist for S.W. Fores, a prominent British publisher of prints. He worked in a style similar to James Gillray. In his earlier works, Williams used the pseudonyms Ansell or Argus; with George Cruikshank and others he illustrated The Every-Day Book by William Hone, edited 1825–26. In addition to the work under notice he illustrated Dr Syntax in Paris (1820); My Cousin In the Army (1822); and The Tour of Doctor Prosody (1822).
Victorian binder Samuel Tout worked out of Nassau Street in Soho, London 1868-79. He then partnered with William Coward in a bindery in Whitechapel but from 1880-1898 continued on his own in the same location.
Abbey, Life 340. Tooley 332. Prideaux, p. 304. Hardie, p. 173.