Open main menu

Page:Notes and Queries - Series 12 - Volume 10.djvu/460

This page needs to be proofread.

378 NOTES AND QUERIES. 1 12 s. X.MAY 13, 1022. SWEENEY TODD (12 S.x. 330). MB. FRANK JAY may be quite certain that the " Sweeney Todd " traditions of the wine-cellar in Johnson's Court are bogus, for the very good reason that there never was such a person as " Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street." Mr. H. C. Porter completely exploded this popular and wide- spread myth in the columns of ' N. & Q.' in 1902 (9 S. ix. 345). Briefly, there was a gruesome crime of this sort of which a barber and a piemaker were convicted in Paris in 1800. It is described in detail in Fouche's 'Archives of the Police.' Twenty- four years afterwards an account of it appeared in a monthly magazine, The Tell Tale, published in London. In 1840 there appeared in London in parts a sensational story entitled ' Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and the String of Pearls.' It was issued by the late Mr. Edward Lloyd, the founder of The Daily Chronicle, and its author was Thomas Prest, referred to by MB. JAY in his reply on Early Victorian Literature (ante, p. 332). Prest took the Paris narrative, changed the locality to London, placed the barber's shop at No. 186, Fleet Street, next door to St. Dunstan's Church (pulled down in May, 1913), and the pie-shop in Bell Yard. The story had an enormous circulation and has been re-issued time after time. Several melodramas have been written on the theme, one being produced at the Britannia in Hoxton in 1842, and another at the Old Vic. The result has been a very wide- spread belief in the popular mind that Sweeney Todd was a real person, and this was revived 30 years ago by the discovery of a quantity of old bones in the basement of No. 186, Fleet Street. The explanation of that phenomenon was simpleĀ ; the old vaults of St. Dunstan's Church stretched up to the house and had been broken into by the excavators, but it certainly revived the old myth. There never was any Fleet Street " demon barber " named Sweeney Todd, and even in fiction his name was never associated with the wine-shop in Johnson's Court, which, to the best of my belief, was not opened as a wine-shop until three or four years ago. The chair and all the rest of it are merely " picturesque details." As for the steps said to have led to the old Fleet River, I believe they are equally bogus. It would have necessitated the construction of a tunnel under a district pretty thickly built upon, and there is nothing about the house in Johnson's Court to suggest a reason for its being undertaken. R. S. PENGELLY. SPBUSEN'S ISLAND (12 S. x. 288, 336). In Maitland's 1739 edition, Sprusen's Island or Sprucer's Island had become corrupted to Pruson's Island, and the same spelling appears in Dodsley's list of streets published in 1762. In Eline's ' Topographical Dic- tionary ' (1831) it is given thus, "Prussian (a corruption of Pruson's) Island, Wappiiig Street." In the ' List of Streets and Places in the Administrative County of London,' issued by the L.C.C. in 1912, it is stated that Prusom's Island was renamed, in July, 1898, Hilliard's Court, and this thoroughfare still exists. It is reached by Clegg Street, a turning out of Prusom Street, which thus preserves the remains of the old name. Prusom Street runs from the lower end of Old Gravel Lane to the end of New Gravel Lane, in the district between the London Docks and High Street, Wapping. On one side of it a considerable area is occupied by the St. George's Workhouse. In maps of London, dated 1822, 1835, 1837 and 1847 I have found the present Prusom Street called King Street. R. S. PENGELLY. 12, Poynder's Road, Clapham Park. " A ROBIN HOOD WIND " (7 S. xi. 248). Thirty- one years ago MB. HEBBEBT HABDY of Dewsbury sought information as to the origin of the above expression in connexion with a wind that caused the thawing of snow and ice. In the Notes and Queries column of The Manchester City News the subject has been lately referred to. Several corre- spondents vouch for the use of the phrase during the last seventy years, and even down to the present day, always coupled with the explanation that Robin Hood could face any wind but a " thaw wind." One correspondent of The Manchester City News suggests that the expression belongs originally to the neighbourhood of Rochdale, and refers to the bitter north and east winds that come from the direction of Blackstone Edge, a predominant feature of which hill is Robin Hood's Bed. The thawing winds from the south and west are not referred to as " Robin Hood winds." I am inclined to think that the expression is based on a widely spread tradition. In the ' Life and Ballads of Robin Hood,' one of the volumes of the ' Cottager's Library,'