Stalking Dead People (Again!)

John Leech’s first cartoon of Mr Briggs, a middle-class gentleman residing in the suburbs with his family. Mr Briggs’s adventures are partly modelled on Leech’s own experiences with middle-class life in the suburbs

Today I did some research on the editor (Mark Lemon) and one of the artists (John Leech) of PUNCH, the wonderful, wonderful, wonderful British magazine (of which 70 kilos reside on the shelf in Sandy’s sitting room). In particular I tried to figure out how long the Lemons and the Leech(e?)s lived at No. 10 and 12 Brook Green after finding a reference that by July 1849 the Lemons lived in Notting Hill.

So I started to dig.

The letters of Charles Dickens proved to be particular helpful for, as it turns out, Dickens was a very good of Lemon’s until the former broke up with his (and PUNCH’s) publisher, Bradbury & Evans. Unfortunately, the transcribed letters only seldom give the address of the recipient (grrrr!), and for 1848 (the year I was particularly interested in) only one letter to Mark Lemon includes an address – 11 Bouverie Street, home not to Mr Lemon, but to Mr Punch: this is the address of the PUNCH office. *sigh*

But as if to make up for his shocking lack of foresight, Dickens referred to a most interesting tidbit in one of his letters from 1847. On 3 August 1847, he wrote to a friend: “What a tremendous chance that Leech’s little girl was not born on the Railway!” A footnote was helpful to supply further background information: Mrs Leech, heavily pregnant, had gone into labour during an outing with Dickenses and a group of other people. In another letter to another friend, Dickens described how she was brought to the Victoria Hotel in Euston in a Bath Chair and had her baby girl in a hotel room. “She is a capital little woman!” Dickens concludes (11 Aug. 1847).

Ha! You do know how much I love such anecdotes, don’t you? 🙂