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Mug – Christening, ‘Robinson Crusoe’, Wakely & Wheeler

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Wakely & Wheeler (London, 1884-c.1940)
‘Robinson Crusoe’ Christening Mug, c. 1902
chased, gilt, sterling silver
3 7/8” high x 2 7/8” diameter (4” wide at handle); 213 grams

Description: A sterling silver child’s christening mug, of cylindrical form with a softly rounded base supported by a collar foot and held by a c-scroll handle, made by Wakely & Wheeler, London, England, c. 1902. Finely chased and decorated with ‘Robinson Crusoe Rescues Friday,’ from Chapter XIV, ‘A Dream Realized,’ of ‘The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With an Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates. Written by Himself,’ written by Daniel Defoe and first published April 25, 1719.

The elaborate vignette does more than illustrate the pivotal Friday moment in the text. While the chased scene draws from the illustrations that accompany this turning point, the depicted scene incorporates further associated thematic elements from the novel that are not typically included, offering a fully considered presentation complimentary to the christening function of the object.

The central image shows Robinson, wearing his castaway fashions, with sword and holding his gun, beckoning Friday forward while Friday, half naked, is shown supplicating at his feet grateful for the aid in his flight from the cannibals. Missing from the scene are details of the event from the text usually included in illustrations from various editions such as the murdered cannibals and Friday’s bow and arrow. Friday, who Robinson comes to see as a son, is shown, not with Crusoe’s foot on his head which is typically the case, but rather apart, worshiping the earth, and with an open mouth indicating that he is speaking. To the left is a vacant cartouche, that was fortunately never personalized by the original owner, along with a parrot on the right sitting on a subtle perch constructed from a quilted and scrolling capital letter ‘I’. “I” being the first word of the novel “written” by Crusoe, the first word of Crusoe’s journal composed during the ordeal, and the first word in the editors preface, the “editor” being Defoe the actual author. It is also the first letter of the word Island, the primary location where the story unfolds. The parrot, not mentioned in the text for the event, likely represents Poll, Robinson’s pet parrot, and up-until encountering Friday his sole verbal companion. Robinson did tame two other birds during his 25 years of solitude so it may represent the parrots in trinity, though as Crusoe himself lamented ‘none like my first.’ The chased Victorian c-scrolls that contain the vignette have been elaborated with quilting, flowers, wild foliage and exotic plants finishing the mug in congruence with the verdant jungle theme that provides the backdrop to the novel.

Condition: Antique, Excellent
For Accuracy: an Antique it may show expected light signs of age. It has been left as found for the buyers personal polishing preferences and to retain the original gilt wash of the interior.The chasing is fine with a crisp presentation, complexity of design and depth and quality of construction.

Primary Passages Illustrated:

On the prominence of the attire: “Particularly said I aloud, (tho’ to my self), what should I ha’ done without a Gun, without Ammunition, without any Tools to make any thing, or to work with, without Clothes, Bedding, a Tent, or any manner of Covering…” [pp. 51]

On the quilted letter ‘I’ from Crusoe’s Journal: “I poor miserable Robinson Crusoe…” [pp. ] “I drew up the State of my Affairs in Writing, not so much to leave them to any that were to come after me, for I was like to have but few Heirs, as to deliver my Thoughts from daily poring upon them, and afflicting my Mind …” [pp.53]

On the cyclical nature of the dreams deliverance: “[Crusoe prays] to God to fulfil the Promise to me, that if I call’d upon him in the Day of Trouble, he would deliver me…” (pp.75) . “I threw down the Book, and with my Heart as well as my Hands lifted up to Heaven, in a Kind of Extasy of Joy, I cry’d out aloud, Jesus, thou Son of David, Jesus, thou exalted Prince and Saviour, give me Repetance! [pp.77]

On the parrot: “I diverted my self with talking to my Parrot, and teaching him to Speak, and I quickly learn’d him to know his own Name, and at last to speak it out pretty loud P O L L, which was the first Word I ever heard spoken in the Island by any Mouth but my own.” [pp. 94] “[Awakened] by a Voice calling me by my Name several times, Robin, Robin, Robin Crusoe, poor Robin Crusoe, where are you Robin Crusoe? … Even though I knew it was the Parrot, and that indeed it could be no Body else … it was a good while before I could compose my self …” [pp. 112] “it speaks only as if” [pp. 113]

On rescuing Friday: “I hallooed again to him, and made signs to come forward, which he easily understood, and came a little way; then stopped again, and then a little farther, and stopped again; and I could then perceive that he stood trembling, as if he had been taken prisoner, and had just been to be killed, as his two enemies were. I beckoned to him again to come to me, and gave him all the signs of encouragement that I could think of; and he came nearer and nearer, kneeling down every ten or twelve steps, in token of acknowledgment for saving his life. I smiled at him, and looked pleasantly, and beckoned to him to come still nearer; at length he came close to me; and then he kneeled down again, kissed the ground, and laid his head upon the ground, and taking me by the foot, set my foot upon his head; this, it seems, was in token of swearing to be my slave for ever. I took him up and made much of him, and encouraged him all I could. But there was more work to do yet; for I perceived the savage whom I had knocked down was not killed, but stunned with the blow, and began to come to himself: so I pointed to him, and showed him the savage, that he was not dead; upon this he spoke some words to me, and though I could not understand them, yet I thought they were pleasant to hear; for they were the first sound of a man’s voice that I had heard, my own excepted, for above twenty-five years. But there was no time for such reflections now; the savage who was knocked down recovered himself so far as to sit up upon the ground, and I perceived that my savage began to be afraid; but when I saw that, I presented my other piece at the man, as if I would shoot him: upon this my savage, for so I call him now, made a motion to me to lend him my sword, which hung naked in a belt by my side, which I did.” [Chapter XIV, “A Dream Realised,” pp. 134-136]

On Crusoe, Friday and the Parrot: “in laying Things open to [Friday], I really inform’d and instructed myself in many Things, that either I did not know, or had not fully consider’d before; but which occurr’d naturally to my Mind, upon my searching into them, for the Information of this poor Savage; and I had more Affection in my Enquiry after Things upon this Occasion, than ever I felt before; so that whether this poor wild Wretch was the better for me, or no, I had great Reason to be thankful that ever he came to me; My Grief set lighter upon me, my Habitation grew comfortable to me beyond Measure…” [pp.171-72]


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wakely wheeler robinson crusoe mug
Mug – Christening, ‘Robinson Crusoe’, Wakely & Wheeler