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Stories Before 1850. 0115: Anon., Fun Upon Fun

Author: Anon.
Title: Fun upon fun; or the humours of a fair. Giving a description of the curious amusements in early life: also an account of a mountebank doctor and his Merry Andrew
Cat. Number: 0115
Date: No date
1st Edition:
Pub. Place: Glasgow
Publisher: J. Lumsden & Son
Price: 2d
Pages: 1 vol., 47pp.
Size: 10 x 6 cm
Illustrations: Frontispiece and seven full-page wood engravings printed in red ink; also three small cuts in the text, printed in black ink

Images of all pages of this book

Page 002 of item 0115

Introductory essay

Fun Upon Fun adopts a very informal tone to describe the goings-on at a fair. In its colloquial and friendly approach to the reader, as in its integration of text and pictures, it seems similar to the productions of John Newbery and his successors, whose books had appeared as much as seventy years before. The most obvious comparison, indeed, is with Robin Goodfellow (0040), first published by Elizabeth Newbery in 1775, which also takes place at a fair, and which also uses the stalls, rides and characters there to teach simple moral lessons.

The contents of Fun Upon Fun are various. First comes an introduction in the form of a description of the fair, narrated by some kind observer who warns children not to get trampled underfoot amid the 'mob' (pp.5-7). This is followed by Sam Gooseberry's account of various sights at the fair, notably Gaffer Gingerbread's stall and the 'Wheel of Fortune' stall, where children may gamble their money away (pp.8-23). Sam Gooseberry takes a dim view of this. The 'Doctor's Speech' follows, a mountebank's attempt to drum up trade (pp.23-24). And then we hear the quack doctor conversing with his unhelpful assistant, Andrew, presumably the 'Merry Andrew' of the title, a sort of licensed fool (pp.24-31). Then comes Sam Sensible's account of the fair, concentrating on the various rides that children can take a turn on (p.31). The 'Up-and-Down', a sort of big wheel (pictured p.34), attracts Sam's attention both because of its danger to life and limb, and because it so well illustrates the twists of fate to which men must succumb. A discussion of Cardinal Wolsey's meditations on fate make the point plain. Next comes a series of miscellaneous lectures - on the vanity of human endeavour (p.41), the importance of learning and of honesty in business, and on the evils of idleness (pp.42-43). The volume is rounded off with some rather trite 'Select Sentences for the Conduct of Life' (p.44) and short verses, 'To a Good Girl' and 'To a Naughty Girl' (p.47). There has been a gradual increase in didacticism throughout the book, but even by the end, it is balanced by the jovial tone of the text and the abundance of the illustrations. Indeed, perhaps the most notable feature of Fun Upon Fun is its plethora wood engravings, all printed in red ink. The aim of these cuts is surely to catch the eye, and it seems not unlikely that the book was itself designed to be part of the fair-going experience. It cost only two-pence, its morality was not overbearing, and the whole seems to have the character of the sort of souvenir, to be purchased from a stall as a memento of a day at the fair.

'Fun Upon Fun' and 'The Humours of the Fair', simply judging from the number of eighteenth century productions which bear these names, were both traditional subjects for children's books and chapbooks, both in prose and verse. As early as 1707, for example, a 'Musical Interlude' called 'The Mountebank: or, The Humours of the Fair' was inserted into Mr. Motteux's Farewel [sic] Folly: or, The Younger the Wiser. A Comedy ... Acted at the Theatre Royal. As well as its title, it shared several of Fun Upon Fun's main components - a song about the pleasures of the fair, 'The Mountebank's Zany's Speech', the Mountebank's own song, and so on. This was probably a distant ancestor of this edition of Fun Upon Fun, but its immediate parentage can probably be discovered among the chapbooks of the late eighteenth century. P. Norbury of Brentford, for example, published an almost identical text, but with much plainer and smaller woodcuts, and costing only a penny, in about 1790 (Philip Norbury was active as a bookseller from 1799-1842 according to Ian Maxted [Maxted 1977: 163], but his imprint can be found in books published as early as 1778 according to the catalogue of the British Library). In fact, the title Fun Upon Fun was in use for a number of completely different chapbooks. Many were subtitled 'the Comical Merry Tricks of Leper the Taylor', and recounted the tricks played by the eponymous practical joker. Indeed, even J. Lumsden and Son, the publishers of Fun Upon Fun; or the Humours of a Fair, used the same title for an edition of Leper the Taylor's adventures.

A number of books in the Hockliffe Collection were published by J. Lumsden and Son in Glasgow: 0008, 0049, 0139, 0187. Little is known about the company, but it seems to have produced books from the 1790s through to the 1840s, while continuing to be primarily an engraving, stationery and printing firm. According to Roscoe and Brimmell's James Lumsden and Son of Glasgow, watermarks in different copies of Fun Upon Fun bear the dates 1816 and 182[?] (possibly 1820). A date of c.1820 seems consistent with the general appearance of the book.

Maxted, Ian, The London Book Trades 1775-1800. A Preliminary Checklist of Members, Old Woking, Surrey, 1977

Roscoe, S., and Brimmell, R. A., James Lumsden and Son of Glasgow. Their Juvenile Books and Chapbooks, Pinner, Middx.: Private Libraries Association, 1981