It is my pleasure to welcome author Grace Elliot to Outtakes as she makes a stop to promote her latest title, The Ringmaster’s Daughter, a romance set in a Georgian pleasure garden in 1770s London. Here, she introduces us to an unusual real-life character, a gingerbread baker named Tiddy Doll. – Kim
By Grace Elliot
My latest release is set in a Georgian pleasure garden, which is the equivalent of a modern day amusement park, and I’ve been researching 18th century entertainers and characters. The Georgian period is especially interesting because it was a time of innovation: from the theatre to the birth of the pantomime, from books to popular magazines. Advances in publishing also meant that some of the outstanding characters were captured forever in print – and one such man had the unusual name of Tiddy Doll.
Tiddy Doll baked and sold gingerbread men and obviously had a flare for self-publicity as he became known as “the king of itinerant tradesmen.” He dressed to stand out in a crowd, wearing clothes more suited to a person of high rank than a pedlar. His usual working clothes were a laced hat topped with an ostrich plume, a laced ruffled shirt, a white gold suit of clothes, white silk stockings and a fine white apron. Indeed, an etching by Hogarth shows him center stage at Southwark market dressed in a braided hat with that extravagant ostrich plume.
If his clothes weren’t sufficient to catch the eye, he had an eloquent range of patter, often singing the words to the tune of a popular ballad.
“Mary, Mary, where do you live now Mary?
I live, when at home, in the second house in Little Ball Street,
Two steps underground, a wiscum, a riscom, and a why-not.
Walk in ladies and gentlemen, my shop is on the second floor backwards
With a knocker on the door
Here is your nice gingerbread, your spice gingerbread
It will melt in your mouth like a red-hot brick-bat
And rumble in your insides like Punch and his wheelbarrow.”
Such was his fame in popular culture of the day that his name became linked to popular sayings relating to a person who dressed above their station e.g., “You look quite the Tiddy Doll” or “You are as tawdry as Tiddy Doll.”
The print shows details such as a basket in the foreground, with the heads of men and women puppets wearing crowns and holding scepters, peeking out. The basket is labelled “True Corsican Kinglings for Home Consumption and Exportation.” Nearby a fool’s cap forms a cornucopia containing “Hot Spiced Gingerbread! All hot – come who dips in my luckey bag” – and spilling from it a coronets, crowns, scepters, and a cardinal’s hat. Tiddy Doll’s popularity went on to lend its name to a chain of popular London chop houses – the last of which closed in Mayfair in the late 1990s.
Although Tiddy doesn’t feature in The Ringmaster’s Daughter, I hope the book conveys some of the colour and vibrancy of the Georgian entertainment scene.
Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace lives near London and is housekeeping staff to five cats, two teenage sons, one husband, and a bearded dragon. Grace believes that everyone needs romance in their lives as an antidote to the modern world. The Ringmaster’s Daughter is Grace’s fifth novel, and the first in a new series of Georgian romances.
About The Ringmaster’s Daughter
1770s London – The ringmaster’s daughter, Henrietta Hart, was born and raised around the stables of Foxhall Gardens. Now her father is gravely ill, and their livelihood in danger. The Harts’ only hope is to convince Foxhall’s new manager, Mr Wolfson, to let Hetty wield the ringmaster’s whip. Hetty finds herself drawn to the arrogant Wolfson but, despite their mutual attraction, he gives her an ultimatum: entertain as never before – or leave Foxhall.
When the winsome Hetty defies society and performs in breeches, Wolfson’s stony heart is in danger. Loath as he is to admit it, Hetty has a way with horses…and men. Her audacity and determination awaken emotions long since suppressed.
But Hetty’s success in the ring threatens her future when she attracts the eye of the lascivious Lord Fordyce. The duke is determined, by fair means or foul, to possess Hetty as his mistress – and as Wolfson’s feelings for Henrietta grow, disaster looms.