University Archive

Archive Item of the Month – October 2013


I feel very lucky to be working as an intern for the Archives Department here at the University of Gloucestershire. As I was recording information from a St Paul’s Chelt from 1883, I came across this very comical piece. This may be a fictional story or it may even be a direct experience of the writer. This piece makes a simple idea such as retrieving a lost hat, quite a far-fetched an complex process. The writer has obviously thought about this piece very carefully, as it has been written with a lot of precision.


Gemma Curtis-Broome  – University Archives Degreeplus Intern


UA34/1/8 MSS Chelt 1883


How I Recovered My Hat


By Pryce Jones



On a certain day last week, in a certain part of “The Malverns” I happened to be walking along the street, with a new hat on my cranium. Now it so happened that Boreas, “blustering railer,” had evidently chosen this identical day as the one on which to try experiments to find out how hard he could blow. At all events on this particular day the wind was blowing as hard as ever it could (if not harder); and just as I was turning a corner (near one of the dirtiest parts of the street, of course), it lifted my new hat clean off my head, and left me bereaved and hatless in the street, greatly to the delight of those heartless, unsympathetic individuals, who had managed to keep their own “tiles” on their respective caputs.


After a moment’s pause of surprise, bewilderment, consternation and the consciousness of being a laughing stock for those persons aforesaid, I started (with the wind, at all events, though not with its speed, perhaps), fraught with the fixed resolve of effecting the capture of my runaway hat, which was careering onwards in a most erratic manner in front of me, bounding and jumping, tumbling and rolling over and over, as if possessed with life and sense to know that its gambolings caused me the most infinite pain. Exerting my utmost endeavours, I, at length, came within a yard of it, and after a few yards’ further running, got so near that I thought I could catch it easily, so I made a most determined effort and caught – not my hat, oh reader, but alas! A handful of dirt. I full of resolution to do or die, once more started in pursuit, and having got within grappling distance, I made several earnest, but, alas! futile attempts to come to a closer acquaintance with that hat. At last, by experience grown wise, I hit upon a plan. It was this, I determined to put on high pressure, and get in front of the runaway article. I did so. And now mark the conclusion. Having got about ten yards in front of the hat, I turned round, fixed my eyes firmly upon it as it came playfully towards me, and having calculated the distance, I bided my time. It came (the time, and ditto the hat). I was prepared to take opportunity by the forelock, and did so, for, with a supreme effort, I caught, yes caught, that provoking hat by the brim. I marched off with my now muddy, disreputable-looking hat, but, oh, mankind! encountered no compassionate, or condoling glances, from the passers by: but their amused looks bore witness to the emptiness of their hearts of pity for the poor individual who had been engaged in pursuing and capturing his runaway hat.

I think, that after the above experience of the vagaries of runaway hats, I may venture, with all modesty, to give to those hapless individuals, who, like myself may chance to be hatless, through the instrumentality of the healthgiving breezes of Malvern, the following brief words of advice: Firstly, if you lose your hat, don’t lose your temper; secondly, when your hat is lost, do not make frantic attempts to hook it with your umbrella or stick, for such attempts will result only in lamentable failure, and furnish food for laughter to the lookers on, who can always appreciate fun at the expense of others; and thirdly, profit by my experience, get in front of your flying hat (ie; if you can, if you can’t, don’t), then cautiously turn around, calculate your distance, and when the hat is near enough, quickly and warily pounce upon it, making it your own once more, and inwardly thanking P.J. for his advice.     Written 1881


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