A comic song about the workhouse

Music/Illustration/Image

Description

English

Charles Dickens’s (1812–1870) novel Oliver Twist, first published fully in 1838, portrayed the misery of workhouse life, partly reflecting his own experiences of childhood destitution. Twist’s famous request for a second helping of food at the canteen ('Please, sir…I want some more.') resulted in his being beaten by the master, ‘a fat, healthy man’, and ejected from the workhouse.

Such scenes were familiar to music-hall audiences – as evidenced by the comic song shown here. The song was published around 1843, costing two shillings (the price of 12 bottles of beer). W H Freeman’s words (‘Tell Ah! Tell us, can aught be worse? Than hungry Maw & empty Purse!!’) were set to music by the popular French opera composer Daniel Auber (1782–1871) and adapted by one T C Lewis.

The song’s title page was illustrated by Robert Cruikshank (1789–1856) – elder brother of the more famous artist George Cruikshank (1792–1878), who provided the drawings for Oliver Twist.

Full title
Just starve us," comic song, words by W. H. Freeman, music by Auber, adapted by T. C. L[ewis]
Published
estimated 1843 , London
Format
Music / Illustration / Image
Creator
D F E Auber , W H Freeman
Held by
British Library
Usage Terms
Free from known copyright restrictions
Shelfmark
h.1260.(1.)

Related articles

Oliver Twist and the workhouse

Article by
Ruth Richardson
Themes: 
The novel 1832 - 1880, Poverty and the working classes

The hardships of the Victorian workhouse led to Oliver Twist uttering the famous phrase ‘Please Sir, I want some more’. Dr Ruth Richardson explores Dickens’s reaction to the New Poor Law, which established the workhouse system, and his own experiences of poverty and hardship.

The working classes and the poor

Article by
Liza Picard
Theme: 
Poverty and the working classes

Liza Picard examines the social and economic lives of the Victorian working classes and the poor.

Related collection items

Related works

Oliver Twist

Created by: Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens’s (1812 – 1870) second novel, originally published in serial parts 1837-9, and as a ...