Tom Thumb to Tonio

Tom Thumb, the name of a very diminutive little man in the court of king Arthur, killed by the poisonous breath of a spider in the reign of king Thunstone, the successor of Arthur. In the Bodleian Library there is a ballad about Tom Thumb, which was printed in 1630. Richard Johnson wrote in prose The History of Tom Thumbe, which was printed in 1621. In 1630 Charles Perrault published his tale called Le Petit Poucet. Tom Thum is introduced by Drayton in his Nymphidia (1563–1631).

(“Tom” in this connection is the Swedish tomt (“a nix or dwarf”), as in Tomptgubbe (“a brownie or kobold”); the final t is silent, and the tale is of Scandinavian origin.)

Tom Thumb, a burlesque opera, altered by Kane O’Hara (author of Midas), in 1778, from a dramatic piece by Fielding the novelist (1730). Tom Thumb, having killed the giants, falls in love with Huncamunca daughter of king Arthur. Lord Grizzle wishes to marry the princess, and when he hears that the “pygmy giant-queller” is preferred before him, his lordship turns traitor, invests the palace “at the head of his rebellious rout,” and is slain by Tom. Then follows the bitter end: A red cow swallows Tom, the queen Dollallolla kills Noodle, Frizaletta kills the queen, Huncamunca kills Frizaletta, Doodle kills Huncamunca, Plumanta kills Doodle, and the king being left alone, stabs himself. Merlin now enters, commands the red cow to return our England’s Hannibal,” after which, the wise wizard restores all the slain ones to life again, and thus “jar ending,” each resolves to go home, “and make a night on’t.”

Soon after Liston had made his popular hit in Fielding’s Tom Thumb, at the Haymarket Theatre, he was invited to dine in the City, and after the dessert the whole party rose, the tables and chairs were set back, and Mr. Liston was requested “to favour the company with lord Grizzle’s dancing song before the children went to bed.” As may be supposed, Liston took his hat and danced out of the house, never more to return.—C. Russell: Representative Actors.

Tom Tiddler’s Ground, a nook in a rustic by-road, where Mr. Mopes the hermit lived, and had succeeded in laying it waste. In the middle of the plot was a ruined hovel, without one patch of glass in the windows, and with no plank or beam that had not rotted or fallen away. There was a slough of water, a leafless tree or two, and plenty of filth. Rumour said that Tom Mopes had murdered his beautiful wife from jealousy, and had abandoned the world. Mr. Traveller tried to reason with him, and bring him back to social life, but the tinker replied, “When iron is thoroughly rotten, you cannot botch it, do what you may.”—Dickens: A Christmas Number (1861).

Tom Tiddler is “Tom T’idler.

Tom Tiler and His Wife, a transition play between a morality and a tragedy (1578).

Tom Tipple, a highwayman in captain Macheath’s gang. Peachum calls him “a guzzling, soaking sot, always too drunk to stand himself or to make others stand. A cart,” he says, “is absolutely necessary for him.”—Gay: The Beggar’s Opera, i. (1727).

Tom Tram, the hero of a novel entitled The Mad Pranks of Tom Tram, Son-in-Law to Mother Winter, whereunto is added his Merry Jests, Old Conceits, and Pleasant Tales (seventeenth century).

All your wits that fleer and sham,
Down from don Quixote to Tom Tram.

Tom-a-Thrum, a sprite which figures in the fairy tales of the Middle Ages; a “queer-looking little auld man,” whose chief exploits were in the vaults and cellars of old castles. (See Thrummy-Cap, p. 1105.) John Skelton, speaking of the clergy, says—

Alas! for very shame, some cannot declyne their name;
Some cannot scarsly rede, And yet will not drede
For to kepe a cure.…As wyse as Tom-a-Thrum.
   —Colyn Clout (time, Henry VIII.)

Tom o’ Bedlam, a ticket-of-leave madman from Bethlehem Hospital; or one discharged as incurable.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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