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  • The Train, the Turnip, the Knife and the Girl March 18, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    A busy day today so here is a little 19C story:

    A practical joke of a strange kind was played recently on a young lady travelling in first class railway carriage in the West Riding of Yorkshire…. She had the carriage to herself until, at the station from which the train had a long run before reaching the next, a young man got in. Shortly after they had started, he seated himself opposite to her, and opening a basket, produced from it a large turnip, which he proceeded to peel with a clasp-knife. At the same time he remarked coolly ‘I hope you like raw turnip, because you are going eat this one.’ So saying, he cut off a slice and presented it to her. Expostulations were in vain, and believing him to be mad. and quite alive to the formidable size of the knife, the unfortunate girl was compelled to swallow the uninviting vegetable. [i.e. she ate all of it?] He then threw the basket and knife out of the window, and molested her no further [implication the turnip was eaten]. When the train stopped at the station, to her indignation the supposed lunatic jumped out, and gaily greeted a friend and met him with ‘All right I’ve won the bet’ . The train moved on, and she considered it best to let the matter pass over quietly.

    Wonder if this is a genuine tale or Victorian urban legend? There was much concern about young women travelling alone on trains and one of the most famous legal cases of the Victorian period, involved a man’s unforgivable behaviour to an unescorted woman on a train: Colonel Valentine Baker, in 1875. Are there also hints of class war here? The young woman is clearly middle class.  A middle class man would probably not be carrying a turnip and a clasp knife around. Not sure. Can anyone dig up any parallels for forced eating: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    PS raw turnip is just about edible, though most of us would gag on it in large quantities.

    Sheff Week Tele, 7 Jul 1894.

    Gary V writes, 30 March 2017, Totally co-incidentally, I was reading old comments at languagehat and came across another turnip-and-sex story. Dunno if this was a meme in days gone by

    “Awhile back, under the impression that it would be grim social realism like Dreiser or Zola, I read some of Erskine Caldwell’s writing about Appalachia. It turned out to be somewhere between caricature and burlesque. The part that stuck in my mind was the scene when a man offered a turnip to a 13 year old girl in exchange for sex, which ended with a detailed description of the girl happily munching down the raw turnip.”

    Brian writes 30 March 2017: Hi. On the subject of the forced eating of a turnip, see also “The Case of Ill-Treatment to a Servant Girl,” North Devon Journal, 26 December 1850, p. 3, for a servant made to eat a turnip filled with her own shit.