Resource/art: Collingwood as a boy – “The Plum Cake Incident” – illustration!

15 March, 2009 at 11:18 pm Leave a comment

I have to thank the wonderful SecretHandshake for this gem – and I just have to share it with you!

THE PLUM CAKE INCIDENT

Most of us were touched by this little anecdote about Collingwood’s first days at sea:

“(…) His first biographer, and son-in-law, G. L. Newnham-Collingwood, told an old family story of Collingwood’s first days after he joined Shannon. One of the lieutenants found him crying from homesickness. Although lieutenants were duty-bound to toughen up their recruits, this man comforted Collingwood, and in return was taken to his sea chest and given a large piece of plum cake. It is possible that this lieutenant was William Smith, who until 1758 had been gunner in the Alcide before being promoted into Shannon. (…)”Max Adams: Admiral Collingwood, Nelson’s Own Hero

However, in the latest Collingwood-biography, “In the Shadow of Nelson: The Life of Admiral Lord Collingwood” by Denis Orde, the author emphasises that

“(…) Significantly, in Collingwood’s account there is no mention of sobbing for home and family in those first days on board ship or of sharing a plum cake which his mother had packed in his sea chest with a kindly lieutenant who had taken pity on him, as his son-in-law, the barrister Newnham who adopted the name Collingwood, afterwards claimed had been the case. (…)”

This quote and its slightly dismissive tone is significant for that biography. Orde writes for his peers (which is noble, but they have already heard of Collingwood, I suppose), and while there are some interesting bits and pieces, a more appropriately title might have been “People who had something to do with Collingwood”. Adams managed to get people interested in Collingwood, the human being – Orde honours the officer. Adams makes us feel with Collingwood, his style is helpful for those who are new to the subject: educational, yet also entertaining. Orde unfortunately lacks that talent.

Now, before those of my readers who are involved with the navy man the cannons: Denis Orde’s book isn’t bad. If you have spare money, buy it, but the writing is stiff, at times pompous and will very likely not get more people interested in Collingwood’s life, personality and achievements. And I feel it’s more important to carry the memory of Collingwood the man through the next generations than to keep him as some precious artifact within a elitist circle.

Actually, I wish there was a children book about Collingwood, as they come for Cook or Nelson.
Actually, somebody better write it soon, or I’ll do it.

Anyway, SH found an absolutely precious 19th century illustration of the plum cake incident – and here it is!

NOW EVERYBODY PLEASE GO AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW…

plumcake

The illustration can be found in the book “Footprints of famous men; designed as incitements to intellectual industry (1854)” by John George Edgar, available online here (legal download, it’s out of copyright).

As for my personal opinion, the plum cake incident is historical fact, and even if it isn’t, it still is. I’m stubborn like that.

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Entry filed under: 18th century, art, books, cuthbert collingwood, resource, royal navy, ships. Tags: , , , , , .

Real “kick-ass” women: II. Mary Lacy (1740 – 1795), female shipwright Amazon’s on an anti-GLBT crusade again. The evil text books!

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