Thursday, January 26, 2017

Explanatory Notes of a Pack of Cavalier Playing Cards

Edmund Goldsmid - Explanatory Notes of a Pack of Cavalier Playing Cards (1886) direct link 
Open Library main page

Playing cards would not have occurred to me as a vehicle for political satire but this pamphlet describes one instance.  The reproduced cards are an attack--or at least slightly oh so slightly barbed remarks--on Cromwell and the Commonwealth, each with an illustration and caption.  The pamphlet explains the references, many being quite obscure so far after the events.  The main failing is that it has no background on the cards - when were they created and by whom?  Were there others like this?  Were they widely used?  Though the author identifies the cards as satire but I'd consider them more almost-straightforward political commentary.  There's little if any exaggeration to them and not much attempt at humor.  Or maybe I'm more accustomed to written satire and don't quite get this.

Edmund Goldsmid (1849-1890?) was a writer and bibliographer, probably Scottish.  His numerous works include Quaint Gleanings from Ancient Poetry, Some Political Satires of the Seventeenth Century, The Political Songs of England and others.  He edited an astonishing number of reprints of old texts, so many in fact that different bibliographies list different works.  Some of the more interesting sounding editorial work includes History of the Devils of Loudun, Maistre's Journey Around My Room, The Massacre of GlencoeThe Secret Correspondence of Sir Robert Cecil with James VI. King of Scotland, and a major edition of Hakluyt's Principal Navigations.

And how could I omit the reprinted Lucina sine concubitu: a treatise humbly addressed to the Royal Society, in which it is proved, by most incontestable evidence, drawn from reason and practice, that a woman may conceive and be brought to bed, without any commerce with man?  This was actually a hoax written by a John Hill in the 18th century when rejected by the Royal Society for membership (at least according to a library record).

For such a prolific writer I can find little information about him - this isn't the first time I wish author notes weren't such a recent development.  I'm not even entirely sure about his dates.  1849 comes up in several sources.  1890 appears in only one but it seems to make him quite young for such a long list of works though as far as I can find none are dated after that.  He was a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and an FSA which isn't a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries according to a helpful library assistant there who suggested maybe it means Society of Arts.  (I never heard back from the RHS but that was a long shot.)