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John Gilpin

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The Diverting History of John Gilpin

Poem by William Cowper; illustrations by Randolph Caldecott.

Click here for larger Front Cover (133kB) Click here for larger Frontispiece (100kB)
Front Cover. Frontispiece.
Look carefully at the cat on the floor, 
and then click here.
The Gilpin family embark in a coach outside their home and shop in Cheapside, London "The morning came, the chaise was brought,
  But yet was not allowed
To drive up to the door, lest all
  Should say that she was proud.

So three doors off the chaise was stayed,
  Where they did all get in;
Six precious souls, and all agog
  To dash through thick and thin.

Smack went the whip, round went the wheels,
  Were never folks so glad!
The stones did rattle underneath
  As if Cheapside were mad.

John Gilpin at his horse's side
  Seized fast the flowing mane.
And up he got, in haste to ride,
  But soon came down again.

For saddletree scarce reached had he,
  His journey to begin,
When, turning round his head, he saw
  Three customers come in.

So down he came; for loss of time,
  Although it grieved him sore,
Yet loss of pence, full well he knew,
  Would trouble him much more."

(p 6) The family embarks.
St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, 
is clearly visible behind them.
Cheapside, London and St Mary-le-Bow today (photographed March 2005).
St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, London,
in March 2005.
 Three (lady) customers arriving just as the chaise is leaving.
(p 7): The 3 customers.
Gilpin's Ride.  Note the wine-bottles clanking on his belt... ... and here's what happens to the bottles.
Gilpin's Ride.
See the wine bottles clanking on his belt...
... and here's what happens to them.

This is the only one of the 16 Picture Books which contains double-page colour pictures: it seems likely that the technical difficulties of reproducing such large pictures accurately and cheaply proved too great.  The first is "Gilpin's Ride" above; to see the other, "Gilpin Chased", click here.

More about this story, and more sample pictures, can be found on

A decorative tile, based on the "Gilpin Chased" picture, is on our "Tiles" page: click here.

All our pictures from this book, above and elsewhere on this website, are from a first (Routledge) edition.  These are the colours which Randolph personally approved.  For more on the different Editions of this and the other Picture Books, see our "Editions" page.

Up Gilpin's Cat

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2000, 2004 Randolph Caldecott Society UK.  
Unless otherwise stated, material from this site may be freely copied and reproduced, but please acknowledge where you got it from!           Last modified:  26 May 2005