Carrying out research is hard work, but occasionally I stumble across something that makes me laugh. In my searching through newspapers for stories concerning figurine (“image”) sellers I found this wonderful 1832 story:


At the Mansion-house, on Saturday, M. Pierre De Bois, a French gentleman, who resides in Chambers in Leadenhall-street, was summoned before the Lord Mayor for beating Rafoel Spaglietti, an image-seller, and breaking a very fine bust of Napoleon Buonaparte. It appeared that the Italian went up stairs to the defendant’s room door, at the top of which there was glass; he raised up the head of the image, which was made of pale clay, to the glass, and said softly, “buy my ghost of Napoleon.” M. De Bois, who had known the Emperor, thought he saw his ghost, and exclaiming, “Oh, Christ, save us!” fell on the floor in a fit. The Italian, seeing no chance of a sale that day, went away, and returned the next. M. De Bois, in the meantime, having recovered from his fit, and hearing how his terror had been excited, felt so indignant, the the moment he saw Spaglietti at his door the next day he flew at him, and tumbled him and the Emperor down stairs together. It happened that a confectioner’s man was at that moment coming up stairs with a giblet pie, to a Mr. Wilson, who resided in the Chambers, and the Emperor and Italian, in their descent, alighted on his tray, which broke their fall, and saved the Italian’s head, but could not save Napoleon’s, which was totally destroyed: the giblet pie also suffered so much from the collision, that Mr. Wilson refused to have anything to do with it. After a good deal of explanation amongst the parties, and a good deal of laughter amongst the auditors, M. De Bois agreed to pay for the pie, and Mr. Wilson generously paid for the loss of the Emperor.

[The Morning Chronicle, Monday January 16th 1832]