Sunday, 20 May 2012
" Harriet Lane" refers to sailors calling canned meat by that name after a famous murder in 1874. Henry Wainwright was a brushmaker who murdered his mistress Harriet Lane in September 1874 and buried her body in a warehouse he owned. When he was declared bankrupt the next year, he disinterred the body in September 1875 and attempted to rebury it with his brother Thomas and another brushmaker, Alfred Stokes. Stokes was suspicious of the contents of the parcels he had been given to carry, and opened one, revealing human body parts, which he immediately reported to police. The crime was given more publicity at the time than those of Jack the Ripper. Henry Wainwright was sentenced to death and hanged on 21 December 1875.
Lowry's used many slang phrases in his novel Ultramarine probably based on the notes he kept of conversations between the sailors on board S.S. Pyrrhus during his 1927 voyage to the Far East. Lowry used the phrase Harriet Lane 3 times in Ultramarine:
"My gawd, but it was a hungry ship. Vegetables mashed up with lot of ship's biscuit for breakfast, a cupful of scouse for dinner, and a slab of Harriet Lane for tea-" (Pg. 177).
"Now I was telling you about this hungry ship. We were carrying a cargo of Crosse and bloody Blackwell's plum puddings and tinned chickens and all sorts out East for the Christmas season. Ruddy murder it was to think of all that food under the hatches and us poor twats forward eating Harriet Lane all the time."( Pg. 177)
"-I remember I was on a boat once, an old Rusian bastard she was, never 'ad a coat of paint on 'er and she was carrying a cargo of potted meats - oh boy - and tins of peas and things, for Jesus sake. And the boat was as hungry as hell. Worse than this packet she was giving us Harriet Lane." (Pg.179)