Dr Trelawney's Cabinet of Historical Curiosities: This Month's Subject: Babies

By Pollard, Justin | History Today, August 2010 | Go to article overview

Dr Trelawney's Cabinet of Historical Curiosities: This Month's Subject: Babies


Pollard, Justin, History Today


Youthful Conservative MP Lord George Hamilton (1845-1927) successfully contested the parliamentary seat of Middlesex when only 22 years old. His party leader, Benjamin Disraeli, sent Hamilton off with the encouraging words: 'All right, little David, go in and kill Goliath.' The electorate in Middlesex were much less complimentary, shouting: 'Milk for the baby!'

In his plays J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, often characterised women as being more intelligent than men, something that caused consternation among his largely male Edwardian audiences. When his character Leonora, in The Adored One, hurls a man to his death from a railway carriage because her baby is annoyed by his smoking and then fools a judge and jury into acquitting her, the audiences booed. Barrie was forced to rewrite the offending scenes to make them 'all a dream'.

British blues vocalist 'Long' John Baldry (1941-2005), received his nickname at birth, being an unusually tall baby. By the time he was 15 he was 6ft 7ins tall.

When Queen Elizabeth II was presented with a silver box containing a live baby crocodile as a gift on a state visit to Gambia, the animal was given quarters in courtier Martin Charteris's bath aboard the Royal Yacht, Britannia.

American Revolutionary soldier and adventurer Gilbert Imlay (1754-1828) asked his lover, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97), the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, to travel to Norway to sort out his business affairs there, having previously abandoned her in Paris with their new-born baby. Astonishingly, Mary and baby undertook the trip. Meanwhile Imlay took another lover.

Highwayman Claude Duval (1645-70), was famed for his courtesy but is said to have once snatched a silver bottle from the mouth of a baby, only returning it when his accomplice insisted.

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Dr Trelawney's Cabinet of Historical Curiosities: This Month's Subject: Babies
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