Tag Archives: Punch

Game Laws & Country Sports in PUNCH

Over at the Risky Regencies, Carolyn has written a post about the Game Laws in the Regency period. When I mentioned that I have cartoons from PUNCH on the Game Laws (of course, I have cartoons from PUNCH on the Game Laws!!! *g*), she asked me to share them. 🙂

In the early Victorian Age PUNCH was extremely critical of the Game Laws, which together with the Poor Laws caused a lot of tension in rural areas. Shooting and hunting game was a special privilege of the landowners, and poaching was met with drastic punishments (even transportation!). The situation of rural workers, on the other hand, had gradually worsened since the Napoleonic Wars until many of them were practically starving in the 1840s. In the early 1840s the tensions erupted in the murders of several gamekeepers (this situation forms the background to FALLING FOR A SCOUNDREL: ALLAN’S MISCELLANY 1844: in the prologue the heroine finds the body of her father’s murdered gamekeeper).

cartoon The Game Laws by John Leech

“The Game Laws; or The Sacrifice of the Peasant to the Hare” by John Leech

In “The Game Laws; or, The Sacrifice of the Peasant to the Hare” the artist John Leech points out the miserable situation of the poor country folk: a poacher is about to be sacrificed to an idol statue of a hare, while in the background his wife and his children are walking towards the workhouse.

Moreover,  blood-sports were often associated with idleness and, in the case of politicians,  incompetence. This can be seen in the following illustrated border by Richard Doyle, which shows politicians on a shooting holiday: in the foreground we have Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington (the guy with the very pronounced, hooked nose!), at the top left is a young Disraeli, at the top right is Brougham on a horse on the way to his villa in Cannes.

Illustrated border by Richard Doyle

Illustrated border by Richard Doyle

Later in the century, financial difficulties in rural areas opened up country sports for middle-class amateur huntsmen, who happily paid for the pleasure of participating in a pastime that had once been reserved to the landed classes. Amateur sportsmen were made the butt of the joke in various PUNCH cartoons: they were generally depicted as extremely incompetent, shooting at each other, at their host, at the gamekeeper, or, indeed at nothing at all.

"A Hit! A Palable Hit!"

cartoon of amateur sportsman from PUNCH
You can read more about country sports in the nineteenth century on my website.

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? 🙂