‘get inside and pull the blinds down’: meaning and early occurrences

Addressed to a poor horseman, the British-English phrase get inside and pull the blinds down means get out of the public view and hide in shame.

These are the earliest occurrences of the phrase that I have found—in chronological order:

1-: From Scenes Here, There, and Everywhere. By Esau. No. III. “My First Hunt.”, published in The Sportsman (London: Printed by Joseph Rogerson) of April 1842—bullfinch denotes a kind of hedge; tizzy denotes a six-penny piece:

The fox had broken cover into the lane in which I was posted, and charged the bullfinch on the other side. Heaven only knows where he went after that, for before I had time to look round, hounds, horses—all had taken their departure. The fence which was to be taken before I could join the hounds was one of this description—a deep ditch on the rising side, and a thick bullfinch on the opposite bank. There was a five-barred gate a little way up the lane, with thick brambles on each side of the posts, so as to form a kind of arch. Four times I put my horse at the hedge—four times I pulled up, not daring to take so tremendous a leap—tremendous it was to me. At last, in despair, I squeezed my horse between the gate-post and the fence, and got through with a bruise and two or three thorns sticking into my thighs. When I got over, there was no living object in sight. I managed to get on for two or three fields by following the track made by the horses’ feet, and oh! shame to say, a ditch stopped me. The grey [horse] was going well at it, the ground being very deep, and I, not quite prepared, pulled up. I put the horse at it again; it was no go—the animal was disgusted, and well he might be—he would not do it. On looking round to see if there was any way of getting out of the “fix” I was in, I saw none, except by leaping the ditch or a gate, neither of which I liked doing . What would I not have given at that moment, to have been sitting by the warm comfortable fire in the library at C——?
While debating in my own mind which I should choose of these two alternatives—go back and get most confoundedly laughed at, or stay and stand the chance of a broken neck—I saw a boy coming towards me on the side of the gate farthest from me, so I asked him if he had seen the hounds.
“Do you know, my little man,” I said, tossing him at the same time a tizzy to quicken his faculties, “which way the hounds went?”
“That way,” said he, pointing towards a wood about a mile off.
“Oh! that way,” I replied, trying to look unconcerned. “Perhaps you know if there is a gap anywhere about here?”
“A gap!” the urchin exclaimed, raising his hands. “I knows this—if I came out hunting, and wanted to find a gap, I would get inside and pull the blinds down.”
“The devil you would!” I shouted, aiming a cut at him with my whip, which the boy avoided.
“Yes, I would,” he said.
          “Raising his hand, with his fingers spread wide,
           To the tip of his nose his right thumb he applied.” *
At the same time exclaiming, “Does your mother know you’re out, or shall I go home and tell her, she has let her baby out without his leading-strings?”
“D—n your impudence,” betwixt my teeth I muttered as I trotted off to find a place to get through.

(* cf. meaning and origin of the phrase ‘to cock a snook’)

2-: From The Derby Day, published in The Hereford Times (Hereford, Herefordshire, England) of Saturday 25th May 1867:

The number of carriages and conveyances ordered at the London livery stables were much below the average […]. Up to nine or ten o’clock there were comparatively few Derby turn-outs to be seen about the metropolis, and at no time of the day did the crowd of carriages going Epsom-wards at all equal the multitude which a few weeks ago poured down to the Thames under even more unfavourable conditions of weather. […]
The fun of the road was not so boisterous going down as in former years; the windows of the roadside houses were closed owing to the cold, and therefore there was no opportunity for the free exchange of chaff and compliments in which the wits of the way take most delight. A few young gentlemen, who had either gone to bed too late or got up too early, tried to sing “Champagne Charlie” and other ditties of the period; but the chilliness of the air nipped vocal melody in the bud, and indeed, when everybody’s thoughts were merrily intent on keeping their feet and fingers reasonably warm, and excluding the rain by means of wraps and overcoats, there was no great occasion for the exercise of sarcasm. The old jokes which have been raised up every year since Derbies were lost and won, appeared to serve excellently well; and the stock advice to the gentleman whose horse declined to move, to get inside and pull the blinds down, was received with the same favour as in the remote days when it was first imparted to the world.

3-: From An Artist’s War Diary, published in The Graphic (London, England) of Saturday 29th October 1870—this diary was written at Versailles, France, on Friday 21st October 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War:

I don’t know whether it will interest you much to know that your artist has bought a horse, an animal not expensive (it cost him 60fr.), very old, and decidedly small for its age. […] I call him “Graphy,” in compliment to your journal […]. Well, “Graphy” and I set out next day for St. Cloud. […] On the road certain droll Germans uttered what I divined to be the German equivalent for “get inside and pull the blinds down,” but I regarded them not.

4-: From Hunting Extraordinary, by a person signing themself ‘W. D. W.’, published in The Chester Chronicle (Chester, Cheshire, England) of Saturday 4th February 1871—Reynard is a proper name applied traditionally to a fox:

I once had occasion to reside in that very ancient city, Chester. This quaint old town is decidedly “horsey” in its proclivities. Every man in it, if he can possibly afford the luxury, keeps the “noble quadruped,” with which he either canters into the country, or “rides to hounds.” The last named exercise is the more popular of the two, owing to the circumstance of there being a well organised “meet” in the immediate vicinity. Now, my particular friends were very “horsey” in their tastes, and when I used to behold them in their gay hunting apparel, I would sigh and regret my inability to join them. Often and often have I accompanied them to “cover,” being driven there by some equally timorous friend, and when, after Reynard “broke away,” the whole “field” moved off in pursuit, I would sadly return home, lamenting my want of nerve. At length one day, yielding to the remonstrances and solicitations of some local “Nimrods,” I rashly consented to make my début in the field. Go I must, they said, for I should be sure to enjoy myself. A horse was soon procured for me from a neighbouring livery stable. He was a fine-looking animal, and although at first great difficulty was experienced in equipping him, I was assured by the hostler that he was “as quiet as a lamb, and the cleverest ’unter in all Cheshire.” I would have given at the moment all I was possessed of to retire from my engagement, and not call upon him to exercise his accomplishments. However, there was no escape from the position, and after three or four futile attempts to “mount,” I at last succeeded in gaining the street. Here, to my intense surprise, and no small alarm, the noble brute commenced a series of eccentric motions, causing me considerable difficulty in retaining my seat. An admiring but not sympathising crowd suggested various expedients to induce the animal to forego his waltzing propensities. One gentleman proposed to me to “touch him under the flank;” another to “tickle him up in the left ear-hole,” while a third anxious friend seriously advised me “to get inside and pull the blinds down.” Smiling contemptuously at all such vulgar commentary, I wildly plunged (quite accidentally, by the bye) my spurs into the flanks of the playful creature, which had the extraordinary effect of putting an end to his terpsichorean exercises, and causing him to charge madly in the direction a cab-stand. There his racing career was suddenly stopped by a good Samaritan seizing hold of the bridle.

5-: The English poet, novelist and journalist Joseph Ashby-Sterry (died 1917) used the phrase literally in this extract from A Wet Day at Brighton, published in Tiny Travels (London: Tinsley Brothers, 1874)—flyman designates one who drives a fly, i.e., a one-horse hackney carriage; half-and-half denotes a mixture of two malt liquors, especially of ale and porter:

Flyman opposite to my window is evidently a philosopher. […] What does he mean by standing out in the rain when he could be so comfortable inside his fly? If I were Mr Flyman I would fetch a pot of half-and-half from the nearest public-house, and would get inside and pull the blinds down and smoke myself silly.

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