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Humpty Dumpty

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53339.  Mon Feb 20, 2006 5:58 am Reply with quote

What was Humpty Dumpty originally?

Forfeit: An Egg, A Chicken

According to an insert taken from the East Anglia Tourist Board in England, Humpty Dumpty was a powerful cannon during the English Civil War. It was mounted on top of the St Mary's at the Wall Church in Colchester defending the city against siege in the summer of 1648. Although Colchester was a Parliamentarian stronghold, it had been captured by the Royalists; they held it for 11 weeks. The church tower was hit by the enemy and the top of the tower was blown off, sending "Humpty" tumbling to the ground. Naturally the King's men (the "men" would have been infantry, and "horses" the cavalry troops) tried to mend "him" but in vain. Visitors to Colchester can see the reconstructed Church tower as they reach the top of Balkerne Hill on the left hand side of the road. An extended version of the rhyme gives additional verses, including the following:
In Sixteen Hundred and Forty-Eight
When England suffered the pains of state
The Roundheads lay siege to Colchester town
Where the King's men still fought for the crown
There One-Eyed Thompson stood on the wall
A gunner of deadliest aim
From St. Mary's Tower his cannon he fired
Humpty-Dumpty was its name...

(Source: Wikipedia).

189679.  Mon Jul 09, 2007 4:59 pm Reply with quote

This is an odd one...local history has it that, during the Civil War when Gloucester was under the control of the
Parliamentarians, Charles I tried unsuccessfully to breach the City Wall at the East Gate using a siege engine named 'Humpty Dumpty'. It was rolled down to the river to provide a way across but in the night, defending soldiers undermined the riverbank and the machine fell into the water, from which it was never recovered.

189685.  Mon Jul 09, 2007 5:07 pm Reply with quote

is an example of a site which carries a number of assertions about the origin of the rhyme, all of which have one thing in common: they assert, but they offer no evidence at all. Which is why we found them essentially uninteresting back when we were looking at this question.

189717.  Tue Jul 10, 2007 2:25 am Reply with quote

Probably best to remove topics then, if they are not meant to be commented on.

Quaintly Ignorant
189736.  Tue Jul 10, 2007 3:48 am Reply with quote

Assertions can still be interesting enough to discuss. There is, after all, no mention of eggs in the text of the nursery rhyme but an egg is something, if broken, almost impossible to reassemble and so serves as a symbolic device. Why would the king care about reconstructing a broken egg anyway, unless it was faberge? Now a massive cannon or a siege engine may be worth attempting to fix during a time of war. Come to think about it, why would you put a gun atop a wall anyway? What lunatic would put a valuable egg there? That Mary, Mary quite contrary was bat**** crazy too.

189754.  Tue Jul 10, 2007 4:12 am Reply with quote

Beep wrote:
Probably best to remove topics then, if they are not meant to be commented on.

They are all meant to be commented on, and also available for reference - we are in a perpetual state of hope here, living on Gauloises, strong black coffee and nervous energy as we anticipate the next interesting contribution to some tired old topic or other.

190104.  Wed Jul 11, 2007 6:29 am Reply with quote

Was Humpty Dumpty pictured as an egg before Tenniel illustrated him that way for Alice in Wonderland?

190202.  Wed Jul 11, 2007 10:04 am Reply with quote

It seems that Humpty Dumpty as an anthropomorphic personification began life as a riddle - one had to figure out what was being described, which was of course an egg. The first known print version went thus:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
Threescore men and threescore more
Cannot place Humpty Dumpty as he was before

and dates from 1810. Whether anyone had actually drawn Humpty before Tenniel did so, I know not.

It seems that the phrase "humpty dumpty" would have been familiar before this riddle was devised, meaning "a short, dumpy, hump-shouldered person". The OED's first citation for this usage is from 1785, while it has a citation from 1698 for a drink named Humtie Dumtie, which seems to have been beer boiled up with brandy. The OED believes the two meanings not to be connected.

The Wiki article expounds upon several theories as to why "humpty dumpty" might have referred to that short person - referring to such as Richard III, Cardinal Wolsey and indeed Bunter's cannon in Colchester.

Quaintly Ignorant
190216.  Wed Jul 11, 2007 10:39 am Reply with quote

Cardinal Wolsey has strong ties with my hometown of Ipswich, a short distance from Colchester. Born in Silent Street (so named because according to legend the entire street was killed by plague) the school which he began to build intended to rival Eton, but never finished is still visible as a gate only, sadly in major disrepair. I can't find a picture on the net but I'm sure the next time I pass it I can remedy that. Cardinal Wolsey did indeed have a great fall when he refused Henry VIII an annulment by order of Pope Clement VII but I couldn't imagine the King wishing to put him together again.

190299.  Wed Jul 11, 2007 2:20 pm Reply with quote

Beep wrote:
Probably best to remove topics then, if they are not meant to be commented on.

and then
Flash wrote:
They are all meant to be commented on ... we are in a perpetual state of hope here ... as we anticipate the next interesting contribution to some tired old topic or other.

See, this is what I'm on about.

192925.  Thu Jul 19, 2007 7:02 pm Reply with quote

I did see an ITV Schools programme many years ago, that was about Humpty Dumpty in the English Civil War, but it stated that it was an attempt to take the city of York by the Cavaliers from the Roundheads and that Humpty Dumpty was the code name for a portable bridge to get into the city of York. The Roundheads found out about it and worked through the night to widen the river banks of the river Ouse around the city, as the Roundheads had destroyed all the bridges over the river, hence the need for Humpty Dumpty. So when Humpty Dumpty was put in place, it was too short to cross the river and tipped into it.

192937.  Thu Jul 19, 2007 8:35 pm Reply with quote

As Ricky Gervais says, would have been a great time for the French to invade if all the Kings Horse and the Kings Men were trying to put an egg back together.


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