You know me – I’m a crusader for the truth. I aim in this blog for absolute accuracy 54% of the time – that’s more than half. So when I discover that I have inadvertantly made a mistake it upsets me. Not a huge amount, admittedly, but a bit. Enough to write this entry, put it that way.
See, I was questioned on my sources for the entry ‘Joseph Manton’s Huge Bottom’ (https://londonparticulars.wordpress.com/2009/02/11/joseph-mantons-huge-bottom/) in which I recounted the tale of how the gunsmith Joseph Manton encountered a highwayman while crossing Hounslow Heath. To briefly recount, Manton damned the highwayman for his insolence, as Manton’s own firm of gunsmiths had manufactured the highwayman’s gun. The highwayman, slick as you like, complimented Manton for his craftsmanship but complained that the gun was a rip-off. Therefore, he robbed Manton of precisely the price of the pistol and no more. A couple of days ago, I found this comment on the entry:
Tom, just out of curiosity – where did you get this story from? I haven’t seen it in any of my books where Joe Manton is mentioned.
“No problem,” I thought, “I’ll just have a look in my own library and… well, God be damned.” I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I’d read that tale. I eventually tracked it down to one of those “Did You Know?” kind of books. You know, the ones that don’t have a bibliography. Anyway, they must have got it from somewhere, but damned if I can find it. So, for now, let’s say this one is apocryphal. Unless anyone knows any better.
Actually, I should have been more careful – I’ve dismissed other “facts” with less evidence. For instance, there’s a tale that gets forwarded to me in my capacity as a chap known to be a fan of London and steam-powered things. This tale goes that the people of East London were appalled by the sight of the first steam locomotive of the London and Greenwich Railway. The solution devised by the Board of Directors was to build a new locomotive that was shaped like a ship, because there are lots of those in East London anyway. I have not, however, found any mention of this in books about the London and Greenwich Railway. Even the ones with a full stocklist. It seems rather unlikely, and in any case, this would do nothing to disguise the train’s load, nor would it reduce the greater nuisances of noise and sparks. The closest I’ve been able to find was mention of a ship used by Arctic explorer John Franklin called the Erebus, which was converted to steam power using parts from a locomotive of the London and Greenwich Railway. So you see, I do have some integrity.
EDIT: A previous version of this entry was even worse.