All nursery rhymes have a basis in fact. This song is inspired by the real story behind the nursery rhyme, Georgie Porgie.
|Engraving from The King’s Household and Court Life Opened, Edward Tanner, 1760, showing George Farquahar with Court ladies. It is entitled, “George expresses surprise at his loose breeches.”|
During the mid 18th century, George Farquahar, favourite of George III, earned a reputation for being a lady’s man and had an almost psychotic weakness for the female sex, whom he liked to chase and kiss around the corridors of the various royal courts and stately homes. Because he favoured showing off his penis in a swaggering manner, he became known as "Georgie the Porgie"1 and the ladies of the Court tended to avoid him at all costs, rather than suffer the indignity and discomfort of a kiss.
It was Farquahar, who tried to corner the newly burgeoning opium trade which the British were developing in the Far East at this time (hence the reference to “He made a fortune from selling the Dragon in a spoon”).
However, there were a number of powerful rivals for this drug trade in the shape of royal family members and city merchants:
the Duke of York, and his lackey, Admiral Rothesholme (known as “Boy Blue” because he commanded the blue squadron of the Royal Naval fleet, but also because rumours stated that he was prepared to answer every whim of the Duke of York);
Cecil Humpty, a London merchant (known as Humpty Dumpty2, because of his favoured weapon); and Mary “Contrary” Cunningham, beautiful widow of another powerful and wealthy London merchant, Sir Anthony Cunningham, who ran a very profitable sideline in India, supplying bhang or marijuana to locals (This Mary wrote a book3 on the subject of her life in India and has a section on Bangue, where she writes, “Another called Bange, like in effect to Opium. This drink call'd ‘Bhangue,’ is a pleasant intoxicating preparation of a poisonous vegetable called Banque. The Turkes call it Bang or Haschisch.”)
|Travels in India. The book written by Mary Cunningham in 1763 about life in India.|
All of these characters had huge interests in supplying the inhabitants of the Middle and Far East with the drugs, opium and marijuana and it led to the first viscious Drug War in history. Through violent underhand means, George Farquahar was able to eliminate all his rivals, and although rumours in the press were rife, no evidence could be found to indict him.
|It was believed that Mary Cunningham was in league with the Devil, as this satirical pamphlet of 1756 shows. The caption says:|
Here's a Lewd Woman drest up trim and nice,
Wants her Counsellor for some Advice:
He's always ready her Desires to meet,
And who he is, you'll know by's cloven feet.
With only Mary “Contrary” Cunningham left, he felt confident that he could easily wipe out her operation, since she was “only of the fair sex”. However, he had not taken into account his own
weakness for women and the fact that Mary was very strong-willed and forceful, and on the day he arrived to murder her, Mary (who in our modern day would be diagnosed with Psychopathic Personality Disorder 4), mindful of Georgie's affliction, simply had to act the coquette and offer him a kiss. As he leant forward, eyes closed in anticipation of receiving the kiss, Mary simply put her hand into his breeches and, taking hold of his penis, she deftly removed it with one quick slash of a carving knife. As George stood there with mouth gaping wide in shock, Mary pushed the phallus into his mouth.
From that day, George Farquahar disappears very much from historical records, although rare references say that he lived the rest of his life in a trance-like state, occupying but one room of his large stately home near Esher in Surrey, with the offending porgie hung around his neck on a string, like some shrivelled penitential necklace.
Many of our contemporary nursery rhymes emerged in the 18th century and were based upon the various events that occurred in this long-running saga.
Georgie Porgie leaves the scene of his imposed poguing, intimidated by the older,
more sexually predatory girls, who have come out to play. Taken from a
Victorian children's book, where many of the nursery rhymes hide the real stories.
- A Porgie is a familiar Middle English term for a penis. For Oxford English Dictionary detail, see etymology.
- Dumpty: a large knife, about 18" overall, with an 12-14" blade, which ended in what we would now call a "gut hook".
- A Voyage to the Indies, by Mary Cunningham. (London, 1763).
- In the London Society, it was rumoured that Mary had made a pact with the Devil and several pamphlets commented on her ambition and ruthless success, attributing this to the Devil. It was believed that her increasing bouts of violence were also a sign of satanic involvement. The engraving is taken from a booklet, "Look e're you leap: or, a history of the lives and intrigues of lewd women: with the arraignment of their several vices: to which is added, The character of a good woman. [London , 1756] There is a short section on the life of Mary Cunningham pp.45-48.and a satirical cartoon of her.
All is not well in Nursery Strife Land.
You know he's Georgie, the Porgie,|
He runs a small time Orgie,
He's creepy, and when he
kisses girls, they cry.
He made a fortune, from selling
the dragon in a spoon.
He's got a crush, on Miss Muffett,
and the cow that jumped The Moon1,
|1. The Moon was an old pub in the dockland area of Stepney. The "cow" refers to any legendary London female criminal. In this case it refers to Susan Coleman, who with her band of ruffians, once took over or "jumped" The Moon by force.|
Which is a pub, at the hub
of a seedy, low-life scene.
And it's run by the one
who sold the cow for a bean2.
|2. "Selling the cow for a bean" refers to the 18th century practice of informing on fellow criminals to Thief-takers, who were usually also ex-criminals themselves. The reward was referred to in criminal slang as a bean, hence the modern expression “I haven’t got a bean”.|
His deadly enemy was a Mr. Humpty,
who had a big knife, a fiddle and a viscious Dumpty.
Now, one day, on the way, to sell to Little Bo Peep3,
he got a shock, on the dock, when he glimpsed a sneaky creep.
|3. Contrary to popular artistic convention, which always portrays Little Bo Peep, as a tall, slim, long-legged shepherdess, the character in question was in fact a male, called William Watchwell. He was of small, stocky build, and was very handsome, earning himself the nickname "Beau". He acted as look-out for a notorious London thief/highwayman, Edward Hinton, hence earning the final name "Peep", derived from cant word for eyes, peepers. |
It was the Duke of York, and his slimey Grand Old crew,
making deals with Mr. Humpty, and his pretty moll, Boy Blue4.
|4. Admiral Rothesholme,|
known as “Boy Blue”. See above.
So pointing, his pistol, Georgie twice caused deadly harm,|
but Humpty's Dumpty, cut a deep gash on his arm.
Now the next day, Georgie found Humpty on a wall.
So Georgie, pushed Humpty, who had a fatal fall.
Wounded, but eager, to corner all the trade,
one rival, remained, so Georgie planned a raid.
Mary, Contrary, ran a ganja prairie,
her plants were pretty maids and she grew them in a row.
You know, Georgie the Porgie, planned to burn her crop,
but a kiss, he couldn't resist, so she cut his Porgie off.
Now Georgie, cannot floorgie, 'cos he's got a twisted Torgie
He can't walk, he can't talk, 'cos he's gone done lost his Porgie.
He can't lust, he can't thrust, 'cos he's gone done lost his Porgie.
He can't sleep, starts to weep, staring at his severed Porgie.
Oh, yes, he must confess, he's a Porgie-lacking Georgie,
But his only consolation, he hangs sadly round his neck.