Romance of London: The Lord Mayor’s Fool… and a Dessert?


Romance of London: Strange Stories, Scenes (not Scones) And Remarkable Person(s) of the Great Town in 3 Volumes

by John Timbs

John Timbs (1801-1875), who also wrote as Horace Welby, was an English author and aficionado of antiquities. Born in Clerkenwell, London, he was apprenticed at 16 to a druggist and printer, where he soon showed great literary promise. At 19, he began to write for Monthly Magazine, and a year later he was made secretary to the magazine’s proprietor and there began his career as a writer, editor, and antiquarian.


This particular book is available at googlebooks for free in ebook form. Or you can pay for a print version.

I don’t remember where I heard about John Timbs, but somehow I heard that he wrote some quite intriguing stories about historical London, and purchased this book a year or so ago. After finishing my previous series on Vauxhall, I rummaged among my collection of research books and this one caught my attention. Be aware if you buy it that, like many such books, it was hastily scanned and some of the words didn’t scan correct. For instance, the title “Strange Stories, Scones And Remarkable Person of the Great Town” doesn’t make a lot of sense. Thus far, however, I have found the interior pages quite easy to read.

Among the first stories is one about a jester… and perhaps a dessert?


The Lord Mayor’s Fool

The Lord Mayor’s Fool was a distinguished character of his class; and there was a curious feat which he was bound by his office to perform, in the celebration of Lord Mayor’s Day. He was to leap, clothes and all, into a large bowl of custard, at the Inauguration dinner; and this was a jest so exactly suited to the taste of the lower class of spectators, that it was not easily made stale by repetition. It is alluded to by Shakespeare and Ben Johnson, as follows:—

You have made shift to run into ‘t, boots and spurs, and all, like him that leapt into the custard.” (All’s Well that Ends Well.)

He may, perchance, in tail of a Sheriff’s dinner,

Skip with a rime o’ the table, from new nothing,

And take his Almain leap into a custard,

Shall make my Lady Mayoress and her sisters

Laugh all their hoods over their shoulders—Devil’s an Ass.

Custard was “a food much used in City feasts.” (Johnson’s Dict.)

Now mayors and shrieves all hush’d and satiate lay;

Yet eat, in dreams, the custard of the day.—Pope

Perhaps it is this custard which, in the Staple of News, is called “the custard politick, the Mayor’s.” We have all heard the vulgar comparison—”You are like my Lord Mayor’s Fool, who knows what is good.”

A Fruit Fool?

Somehow, a fool jumping into a vat of custard clicked in my mind. Isn’t fool an English dessert? So I looked it up on Wikipedia, and there staring at me was this lovely creamy, custard-like raspberry fool. Yummy. Where can I find one?


According to Wikipedia, though, nobody really knows where the term came from. Hmm. Maybe Mr. John Timbs knows more than the all of the wise scholars at Wikipedia? Or am I making an incorrect assumption?

First mentioned in 1598 along with the term trifle, its ingredients are fruit, whipped cream, and sugar. According to Wikipedia, gooseberries are the fruit of choice for a fool, but apples, rhubarb, raspberries, and strawberries are also used.

If you’d like to make one, here are some recipes:

BBC Food

The Kitchn

Serious Eats

Jamie Oliver

Have you ever had a gooseberry fool? Or any type of (dessert) fool? What in the heck is a gooseberry anyway?

Romance of London Series

  1. Romance of London: The Lord Mayor’s Fool… and a Dessert
  2. Romance of London: Carlton House and the Regency
  3. Romance of London: The Championship at George IV’s Coronation
  4. Romance of London: Mrs. Cornelys at Carlisle House
  5. Romance of London: The Bottle Conjuror
  6. Romance of London: Bartholomew Fair
  7. Romance of London: The May Fair and the Strong Woman
  8. Romance of London: Nancy Dawson, the Hornpipe Dancer
  9. Romance of London: Milkmaids on May-Day
  10. Romance of London: Lord Stowell’s Love of Sight-seeing
  11. Romance of London: The Mermaid Hoax
  12. Romance of London: The Bluestocking and the Sweeps’ Holiday
  13. Romance of London: Comments on Hogarth’s “Industries and Idle Apprentices”
  14. Romance of London: The Lansdowne Family
  15. Romance of London: St. Margaret’s Painted Window at Westminster
  16. Romance of London: Montague House and the British Museum
  17. Romance of London: The Bursting of the South Sea Bubble
  18. Romance of London: The Thames Tunnel
  19. Romance of London: Sir William Petty and the Lansdowne Family
  20. Romance of London: Marlborough House and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough
  21. Romance of London: The Duke of Newcastle’s Eccentricities
  22. Romance of London: Voltaire in London
  23. Romance of London: The Crossing Sweeper
  24. Romance of London: Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s Fear of Assassination
  25. Romance of London: Samuel Rogers, the Banker Poet
  26. Romance of London: The Eccentricities of Lord Byron
  27. Romance of London: A London Recluse

4 thoughts on “Romance of London: The Lord Mayor’s Fool… and a Dessert?

  1. That’s absolutely delicious looking, the only fool I ever had was the 2 legged kind lol…but I’m going to try this “fool” out.
    Have a wonderful week


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