Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Mind how you go

I don't know how things were going for the police force in 1889, but The Illustrated Police News was just getting properly started as a proto-tabloid, after their sensationalist coverage of the Jack the Ripper murders the previous year. But on 21 December 1889, its readers were - for some reason - treated to a homily on chivalry*. Exhibit A was the legend of 'the most noble Lord Geoffrey de Rudel, Prince of Blaye'.

The paper's account of the legend has an infelicity or two: Rudel's sickness is blamed on an 'infectious disease' breaking out on board the ship; and the writer insists 'This is no troubadour's tale; it is a simple excerpt from history'. I think you'd have to call this 'unreliable testimony'.

The article then contrasts this paragon of chivalry with the 17th-century story of Thomas Inkle, a shipwrecked English trader who was rescued by a Barbadian maiden named Yarico but subsequently sold her into slavery in order to recoup his losses (The story became the basis for Inkle and Yarico, a comic opera that was a smash hit in the late 18th century). The story is probably as apocryphal as that of Rudel, but there we are.

Image right: 'By heavens! A woman', illustration from the libretto of Inkle and Yarico.

* A note at the end suggests that the text may first have appeared in the Daily Telegraph.