The story about Dick Whittington is a classic in England but not so well-known in the rest of Europe. It starts with a boy who lost his parents and being without anything he wanders around the country before he decides to go to London. Why London? He heard it's the best place in the world with plenty of food and streets paved with pure gold.
But the reality is different. Dirty streets of London are not hospitable to Dicky who is so hungry he falls down in front of the door of a merchant Fitzwarren. Luckily for him, the master of the house saw him and after a short conversation, he hired a boy for helping in the kitchen.
After a while, the boy befriended Mr. Fitzwarren's daughter and things were looking good if he wouldn't have problems with rats and mice in the room. When a gentleman who visited the house of Fitzwarren gave him a penny, Dick bought a cat what solved the problem.
Soon after Mr. Fitzwarren invested a lot of money in the trading ship. It was a custom to send a small gift with a ship for good luck. Everybody in the household participated but Dick Whittington. Finally, he gave the only treasure he had - his cat. The ship sails away and after a while landing on an island where inhabitants had plenty of goods, including gold, but also too many rats.
Dick's cat prooved a great hunter and the captain of the ship sold it for the amazing sum of money which made Dick a rich man. He didn't only get rich, he also married his master's daughter and later became a Mayor of London.
The story about Dicky Whittington and his cat is very similar to more known fairy tale Puss in Boots, written by Charles Perrault. But there is an important difference - Richard Whittington really lived (circa 1354-1423). He was successful merchant and počlitician, four times a Lord Mayor of London and a member of parliament. With his fortune Charity of Sir Richard Whittington was formed and this institution still exists, helping people in need!
A few words about real Richard Whittington
While the legends put the boy in poverty real Dick Whittington started his life in a wealthy family. Because being the youngest son he couldn't count on the inheritance, so he started with trading as a very young man. Very soon he managed to start supplying nobility from the circles of the King Richard II and later King Henry IV with different luxury goods. After a few years of trading, he turned more to other aspects of finance. It's documented he made several loans to the British crown what eventually gave him the position of the Mayor of London. Some of the loans were repaid in licenses enabling him to export wool free of duty so he intensified trading with wool.
Many influential people in Gret Britain were indebted to Richard Whittington what made him even more powerful. He became a rich man and when he died without children his will instructed to establish a foundation which was already mentioned above and is still active.
How about the book?
The history of Dick Whittington, Lord Mayor of London (with the adventures of his cat) was first published by Branbury and printed by John Golby Rusher, London in 1820. The woodcuts were engraved by George Cruikshank (1792-1878) and Allen Robert Branston (1778-1827) after vignettes and illustrations of unknown authors. The illustrators may be Cruikshank and Branston themselves, but one plate is also signed by Fry what remains a mystery.
Pictures, printed in black and white were painted in color by hand by an also uncredited person(s).