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PUNCH AS A POLITICIAN.

Punch’s Attitude His Whiggery And Sincerity Catholics and Jews Home Rule European Politics Prince Napoleon Punch’s Mistakes His Campaign against Sir James Graham His Relations with Foreign Powers And Comprehensive Survey of Affairs.

The social and political attitude of Punch to-day is a very different thing from what it was when the paper first claimed public attention and support. “When we are impecunious,” says Mr. du Maurier, “we must needs be democratic.” And democratic Punch was in Jerrold’s era, although from no mercenary or unworthy motive. Later on, the club and the drawing-room frankly recognised the power wielded by the paper, and, by that very acknowledgment, influenced it to an obvious degree. Then came the sentiment of Church and State, and the Palmerston patriotic pose that was most to the taste of the threepenny public; and for a long time the plucky, cheery, careless, “Civis-Romanus-Sum,” “hang-Reform” statesman was the special pet of Punch, and more particularly of Shirley Brooks. When that Editor died, Tom Taylor imparted a decidedly Radical, anti-Beaconsfield, anti-Imperial turn; but since the regime of Mr. Burnand a lighter and more non-committal attitude has been adopted and maintained.

Speaking generally, the prevailing Punch tradition with regard to matters political at least, in the belief of its conductors has been to hold the balance fairly between the parties, to avoid fixed and bitter partisanships, to “hit all round” as occasion seemed to demand, and to award praise where it appeared to be deserved. If there was to be a general “list” or “lean,” it was to be towards a moderate Liberalism towards sympathy with the popular cause of freedom both of act and speech, and enthusiastic championship of the poor and oppressed.

If, especially within recent years, Punch has claimed one merit more than another, it is to as fair a neutrality as is possible to a strong-minded individuality with unmistakable political views. Conservatives have long since protested against what has been called its “hideous Gladstonolatry and bourgeois Liberalism,” and declaimed against the occasional partisan spirit of the “Essence of Parliament.” “There is a popular periodical,” said Mr. Gladstone, in his Edinburgh speech of September 29th, 1893, “which, whenever it can, manifests the Liberal sentiments by which it has been guided from the first. I mean the periodical Punch.” Indeed, to that party has always been given the benefit of the doubt. But one of the chief organs of Radicalism has complained of an attack on a Liberal Cabinet as “merely a pictorial insult;” and the professional Home Ruler has denounced with characteristic emphasis the representation by Punch of the Irish voter, bound hand and foot, terrorised and intimidated by his priest, who exclaims: “Stop there till you vote as I tell you, or it’s neither marry nor bury you I will!” From all of which it may fairly be deduced that Punch, with occasional lapses of an excusable kind, has, on the whole, fairly upheld his character for the neutrality proper to one who is accepted as the National Satirist, even though like the Irish judge “he is most just when he lanes a bit on my soide.”

“The Table” has always shown an amalgam of Conservative and Liberal instincts and leanings, though the former have never been those of the “predominant partner.” The constant effort of the Staff is to be fair and patriotic, and to subordinate their personal views to the general good. This is the first aim. For, whatever the public may think, neither Editor nor Staff is bound by any consideration to any party or any person, but hold themselves free to satirise or to approve “all round.” Disraeli they quizzed and caricatured freely; but they always admitted his fine traits and brilliant talents. Gladstone they more consistently glorified for his eloquence, high-mindedness, and skill; but from time to time they would trounce him roundly for his vacillations or other political shortcomings.

In the earlier days of Punch it was more common to make a dead-set at individuals as at Lord Brougham, “Dizzy,” Lord Aberdeen, and, during his earlier career, John Bright. But many things were done forty years ago which nowadays “the Table” would neither tolerate nor excuse such as certain attacks upon defenceless royalty (more particularly upon Prince Albert) as being both unfair and in bad taste. The courteous high-mindedness of Sir John Tenniel has made greatly for this mellowing and moderation, to the point, indeed, that many complain that Punch no longer hits out straight from the shoulder. This peaceable tendency obviously arises from neither fear nor sycophancy, but from an anxious desire to be entirely just and good-natured, and to avoid coarseness or breach of taste.

Much of the change in Punch has simply been the inevitable accompaniment of change in the times in the tastes, manners, social polish, and sensitive feelings of the courteous and urbane. It is so easy to be strong in the sense in which an onion is strong; but Punch has long since cast away that kind of force. Many and many a time an admirable “subject” for a cartoon has been rejected pointed, picturesque, or droll, as the case may be because some one has raised the question, “But would that be quite fair?” Jerrold was bitterly caustic and sometimes neither just nor merciful in his Quixotic tilting at upper-class windmills; and Leech, in his earlier work, was often fiercely drastic. But there was more democratic outspokenness, more middle-class downrightness, and less of the Constitutional Club and drawing-room element in those ante-du Maurier days. But men and artists alter, and become moulded and modified by their environments, and it may safely be said that there is to-day no effort on Punch’s part to be “smart,” anti-popular, anti-bourgeois, or anti-anything, save anti-virulent and anti-vulgar.

In no department of public affairs has Punch shown greater advance than in that of the public Faith. Punch the Religionist I use the expression in all seriousness while sturdily maintaining his own ground, and as the representative of “the great Protestant middle-class” swiftly denouncing the slightest show of sacerdotalism, has displayed an increasing tolerance and liberal-mindedness that were not his most notable characteristics in his youthful days. High Church and Low, bishops and clergy, Protestant and Catholic, from the Pope to Mr. Spurgeon, have all at times come under his lash.

Mr. Punch has ever kept his eye attentively on the affairs of the Church. In his first volume he supported the agitation against the old-fashioned, high-panelled, curtained pew, at the same time cordially endorsing the Temperance movement of the young Irish priest, Father Mathew. The cause of the curate he has always upheld with a zeal that has betrayed him on more than one occasion into injustice to the bishops; wherein he has erred in company with his fellow-sage, the Sage of Coniston. And the cause of the poor man, up to the point of Sunday opening of museums and picture galleries, has always been an article of his religious creed, although in a pulpit reference the Rev. A. G. Girdlestone declared that Punch’s policy was temporarily reversed during one editorship in consequence of its being found that the men on the mechanical staff of the paper were themselves opposed to the movement.

In Punch’s first decade Pope Pius IX. was popular with Englishmen and with Punch by reason of his liberalism. But towards the end of 1850 the cry of “Papal Aggression” broke out, and the popular excitement, already aroused over Puseyism, was fanned to an extraordinary pitch. The situation at that time is described in subsequent chapters dealing with Richard Doyle and Cartoons; but reference must here be made to the violence with which Punch caught the fever how he published a cartoon (Sir John Tenniel’s first) representing Lord John Russell as David attacking Dr. Wiseman, the Roman Goliath. In due time, however, the excitement passed away. Dr. Wiseman received his Cardinal’s hat, Lord John was satisfied with having asserted the Protestant supremacy, Richard Doyle left the paper, and nobody, except Punch, seemed a penny the worse, save that the popular suspicion, once aroused, was not for several years entirely allayed. The “Papal Aggression” agitation smouldered on for a year or two in the paper; but Punch was not too much engrossed to be prevented from giving his support to Mr. Horsman’s Bill for enquiry into the revenues of the bishops of the Established Church, whom, in one of Leech’s cartoons, he represented as carrying off in their aprons all the valuables on which they could lay their hands.

Thenceforward Punch’s religious war was directed chiefly against Puseyism and its “toys” by which were designated the cross, candlesticks, and flowers. The Pope was still with him an object of ridicule, and in one case at least of inexcusably coarse insult; but he was by this time (1861) shorn of his temporal power, and had become the “Prisoner of the Vatican;” and his “liberalism,” so much applauded in his ante-aggressive days, was all forgotten. Nevertheless, some of Punch’s references were harmless and innocent enough, such as that in which he asks, in 1861: “Why can the Emperor of the French never be Pope?” and himself replies, “Because it is impossible that three crowns can ever make one Napoleon.”

Less fierce, but much more constant, was the ridicule meted out to the Jews. The merry prejudice entertained by John Leech and Gilbert Abbott a Beckett alike against the Jewish community was to some extent shared not only by kindly Thackeray himself, but even by Jerrold, and was expressive no doubt of the general feeling of the day. Mark Lemon certainly did nothing to temper the flood of merciless derision which Punch for a while poured upon the whole house of Israel, and some of Brooks’s verses are to this day quoted with keen relish in anti-Semitic circles. In his campaign against the sweaters in the early ’Forties a picture appeared in the Almanac for 1845 in which such an employer was represented by Leech as a Jew of aldermanic proportions, rich and bloated in appearance and of monstrous ostentation and vulgarity. Yet Punch’s hatred was really only skin-deep, or, at least, was directed against manners rather than against men; and this fact, curiously enough, gave rise to one of those misunderstandings of which the paper has from time to time been the subject. In the spring of 1844 the “Morning Post” was vigorously denounced by Punch for suggesting such a possibility as a “gentleman Jew,” and proposed that the “accursed dogs” had more than their rights in being spoken of as “persons of the Hebrew faith.” Thereupon a Jewish reader, considering that Punch’s expression bordered upon rudeness, and that the sufferance which was his tribal badge need not under the circumstances seal his lips, wrote to protest against the “malice and grossness of language” for he had failed to appreciate Punch’s robust irony and too carefully veiled championship. Then, in one of those generous moods which often directed Jerrold’s pen, Punch explained. (Vol. VI., 1844, .) He pointed out how his article had been directed against the “bygone bigotry and present uncharitableness” of the “Morning Post;” he quoted Defoe’s “Short Way with Dissenters,” in which the author satirically advocated their social rights, as an example of how one may be misunderstood by the men they desire to serve; he reminded his readers how, when “Gulliver’s Travels” was published, a certain bishop publicly proclaimed that he didn’t believe a word of it; and he asked if he Punch should complain, then, when his advocacy of common rights and liberties of the Hebrew is “arraigned of malice, prejudice, and jealousy.” But the Jewish Disabilities Removal Bill had not at that time been introduced.

It was in 1847 that this measure was brought in, and Punch was nearly as much alarmed as he subsequently was at the “Papal Aggression.” Punch for a time was as strong on the subject as the fanatical Sir Robert Inglis himself; and Leech’s cartoon of Baron de Rothschild trying to force his nose the “thin end of the wedge,” he called it between the doors of the House of Commons was regarded as a very felicitous and brilliant hit. But even then Punch was willing to let the other side of the question be heard; and in an ingenious adaptation of Shylock’s soliloquy , Vol. XIII., 1847) dedicated to Sir Robert Inglis beginning “Hath not a Jew brains?” and ending, “If we obey your government, shall we have no hand in it? If we are like you in the rest, we ought to resemble you in that” the whole case of Lord John Russell and the supporters of the measure was clearly put forth. Similarly, when at the very time that Punch was making the most of any fun that could be got out of his Jewish butt, the “Strangers’ Friend Society” appealed for funds on the ground that the urgency of their charitable needs would “dissolve even the hardest, the most magnetic astringent Jewish mind,” Punch vigorously protested against the quaintness of that virtue and charity which would batten upon the faithful by tickling their pet prejudice against the Jews, and declared that “the Society’s healing goodness would be none the worse for not spurting its gall at any portion of the family of men.” And in more recent times Punch has carried his sympathy to its furthermost point by the powerful cartoons published during the great persécutions of the Jews in Russia, by which for representing the Tsar, Alexander III., as the New Pharaoh he attained exclusion from the Holy Empire, and from the mouthpiece of the Jewish community “gratitude in unbounded measure for this great service in the cause of freedom and humanity.”

In like manner, Punch has displayed equal kindliness of feeling for the Irish, though Home Rule never offered strong attraction to his imagination or statesmanship. From the beginning he always showed a genuine sympathy for what he considered genuine Irish sentiment and suffering; but agitation, as material for political speculation, seldom recommended itself to him. In 1844 , Vol. VII.) a cartoon by Leech was published (originally to have been called “Two of a Trade"), in which the Tsar and Queen Victoria are chatting at a table. On the wall behind the autocrat hangs a map of Poland; near the Queen, one of Ireland; and she, holding up her forefinger in gentle self-admission of error, and in friendly remonstrance with her august visitor, says softly, “Brother, brother, we’re both in the wrong!” Soon afterwards Punch became, it was said, “anti-Irish;” or, as he himself declared, he could not confound Irish misdeeds with Irish wrongs; and it was with that view that he was wont to picture the Irish political outrage-mongering peasant as a cross between a garrotter and a gorilla. Of course, in their rivalries Daniel O’Connell and Smith O’Brien were satirised as the “Kilkenny Cats;” but when the “Great Agitator” died in 1847, Punch showed how sincere was his sympathy with a people who, rightly or wrongly, were mourning the death of their leader, and who at the time were dying in thousands from the famine that was then black over the land. Nevertheless, he applauded with delight the thumping majority that negatived in Parliament the motion for Repeal of the Union. Then came a Coercion Bill, and continued seething discontent; but the sad, sweet face of Hibernia then as ever claimed all the beauty that lay in the cartoonist’s pencil. And a year later, when the Queen visited Ireland, and a Special Court of Common Council was held to consider the propriety of purchasing estates there, Punch showed “Gog and Magog helping Paddy out of the Mess,” and “Sir Patrick Raleigh” a handsome Irish peasant of the right sort laying his mantle across a puddle, and smiling as he prays, “May it please your Majesty to tread on the tail of my coat.”

So Punch in his Irish, as in his English, home policy became, and maintained the attitude of, an Old Liberal, an elderly member of the Reform Club, with just enough desire for reform to be written down a Radical by Tories, and enough Conservatism and patriotism to be denounced as a Jingo, or its equivalent, by their opponents. But he went steadily on; and when Mr. Gladstone became converted to Home Rule, Punch declined to be committed to the policy. He maintained his independence and his Whiggery, in spite of the personal feeling and friendship of the chief proprietor of the paper for the aged statesman. Private sentiment was sacrificed to public need, and the position of Punch, and his character for political stability, were thereby further assured.

At the time of Punch’s birth the Queen had sat four years upon the throne, and had recently entered into happy wedded life, Louis Napoleon was living a life in London not at all upon the Imperial plan; Senorita de Montijo, the future Empress, was a young lady of small expectations in Spain the daughter of the Comtesse de Montijo, of the Kirkpatrick family; and the Emperor William, who was destined in the fulness of time to crush them both, was a political star of at most the fourth magnitude. Bismarck, Gladstone, and Disraeli were names already known to the public Mr. Disraeli, indeed, being of those who took part in the debate the result of which was to turn out Lord Melbourne’s Government (August, 1841) and send in Sir Robert Peel’s, in which Mr. Gladstone took his place as Vice-President of the Board of Trade and Master of the Mint. But, like Punch, they were but beginning life; Mr. Gladstone was a Tory and High Churchman; Free Trade and the Corn Law Repeal were as questions hardly yet “acute;” and neither Bright nor Cobden had entered the House of Commons. Punch, therefore, entered the field at an interesting moment, and began by boldly proclaiming his impartiality:

“POLITICS. ’PUNCH’ has no party prejudices he is conservative in
his opposition to Fantoccini and political puppets, but a
progressive Whig in his love of small change.”

When Disraeli, equally with his rival, changed his party, the fact was recorded in a happy parody of Hood’s well-known verses:

“Young Ben he was a nice young man,
An author by his trade,
He fell in love with Poly Tics,
And soon an M.P. made.
He was a Rad-ical one day,
He met a Tory crew,
His Poly Tics he cast away,
And then turned Tory too.”

Soon he was leader of the little “Young England Party,” and was to be seen in Punch’s cartoon as a viper gnawing at the “old file,” Sir Robert Peel. Then came the triumph of Free Trade, duly celebrated by John Leech in one of his most light-hearted cartoons.

The fatal year of 1848 opened with the memorable letter of the Prince de Joinville, at that time a young man of thirty, which set half Europe looking to their national defences, but which pretended to be aimed only at an invasion of England. There was, of course, a scare, not to say a panic, in official circles; but Punch was one of the few who kept their heads, making capital galore out of the situation. He never tired of deriding the fiery young prince, who was only too glad a little later on to “invade” England in the character of refugee. The French army, he declared (by the pen of Percival Leigh), would land, after suffering all the tortures of sea-sickness, carefully watched by the Duke of Wellington from a Martello tower. Arrived in London, the invaders would arrest M. Jullien, lay siege to 85, Fleet Street, but raise it forthwith on the appearance of Mr. Punch and Toby, who would follow the fugitives in hot pursuit. Although Punch ridiculed the matter thus, he yet proposed the formation of a Volunteer Corps, to be called “Punch’s Rifles;” and it is to be observed that he thus forestalled by four years the actual establishment of the Exeter Volunteers. Nevertheless, Punch seriously threatened the movement when it did come with his “Brook Green Volunteer;” yet a few years later, when the idea was revived by the starting of Rifle Clubs, with the subsequent notion of transforming them into regiments, Punch lent his aid. He would chaff them, of course for it was his business so to do but he was proud of them all the same, and loudly applauded the spirit that inspired them. The Volunteers, as he told the French, were “the boys who minded his shop;” and more than one of his Staff enrolled themselves in the patriotic cause.

Chartism, though in its programme and aspirations respected by Punch, was despised for its management and mismanagement, and was made the subject of much excellent fooling. But the stormy European outlook gave him far more concern. In one of his cartoons all the Sovereigns are shown in their cock-boats, storm-tossed in the Sea of Revolution, the Pope still in the full enjoyment of his temporal power being the only one really comfortable and really popular. As the Champion of Liberty the Pontiff is at various times portrayed as pressing “a draught of a Constitution” on the kings of Sardinia and Naples and the Duke of Tuscany, dealing a knock-down blow to the “despotism” of Austria, and spitting her eagle on a bayonet; altogether justifying his reputation (for how short a time to last!) for stability, magnanimity, and love of progress.

In this same year of 1848 Prince Louis Napoleon made his second descent upon France, and Punch, mindful of the fiasco of the first, prepared to give him a warm reception. His treatment from the beginning of the Pretender and Prince-President was that of an unblushing adventurer and charlatan. In course of time, as the Emperor became of importance in his day, he relaxed his severity to some extent, and at times at least showed him the respect due to an ally. On other occasions he would relapse into his original practice of violent and scornful attack to such a point, as is seen elsewhere, as to extort the vigorous protests of Thackeray and Ruskin. “It is a tradition,” it is said, “that when, during the entente cordiale, the Emperor and Empress paid a visit to Her Majesty in London, two cartoons were suggested at the Punch Table to celebrate the event. The first was heroic, representing Britannia welcoming the nephew of the great Napoleon to her shores; the second, a ‘brushed-up,’ refugee-looking individual ringing at the front-door bell of Buckingham Palace, with the legend ‘Who would have thought it?’ The second was selected.”

The Prince-President as “The Brummagem Bonaparte out for a Ride” (the cartoon which helped to lose Thackeray to Punch), galloping a blind horse at a precipice, was certainly in the spirit of English popular feeling; and even the coronation of the prince made for a time but little difference in Punch’s demeanour. But when the Russian difficulty came in sight, and “the Crimean sun rose red,” Napoleon III. was treated with a certain measure of begrudged courtesy; and when the war broke out, the tone was even cordial, and the sovereign of our allies was actually represented as a not altogether undesirable acquaintance. The close of the war, however, left matters much where they were, for the peace, in spite of all rejoicings, was thought to come too soon, in order to suit the convenience of the Emperor. Once more he was distrusted in his Italian campaign. The sincerity of his intimate letter to the Comte de Persigny, the French Ambassador to England, was received with little credence, and John Bull replies to its tenor thus:

“What has been may recur. Should a Brummagem Cæsar
Try a dash at John Bull, after conqu’ring the Gauls,
I intend he shall find the achievement a teaser,
What with Armstrongs, long Enfields, and stout wooden walls.”

The visit of the Empress Eugenie to the Queen at Windsor Castle, and the abolition of passports for Englishmen in France (which Punch accepted as a latch-key, “to come and go as he liked"), disposed the paper a little more kindly towards the Emperor; but it was for the Franco-Prussian War to bring out the full strength and the true perspicuity of Punch’s judgment. There was little fooling here. His warning was serious and solemn; he followed every act of the great drama with breathless interest and with unsurpassed power of apprehension and pictorial demonstration; and his sympathy for the misfortunes of “la grande nation,” and his horror at the terrors of the Commune, did not prevent his pity going forth to the broken leader who had played and lost, and who returned to England in a plight far sadder and more desperate than that in which he had lived his Bohemian life thirty years before.

In considering Punch’s attitude during his long career, it must be borne in mind that he has always aimed at representing the sentiments of the better part of the country seeing with London’s eyes, and judging by London standards. Punch is an Englishman of intense patriotism, but primarily a Citizen of London, and a far truer incarnation of it for all his chaff of aldermen and turtle than the Lord Mayor and Chairman of the County Council put together. “But the aspects under which either British lion, Gallic eagle, or Russian bear have been regarded by our contemplative serial,” says Ruskin, in a passage which to some extent bears out this contention, “are unfortunately dependent on the fact that all his three great designers (Tenniel, Leech, and du Maurier) are, in the most narrow sense, London citizens. I have said that every great man belongs not only to his own city, but to his own village. The artists of Punch have no village to belong to; the street-corner is the face of the whole earth, and the only two quarters of the heavenly horizon are the east and west End.” Especially did Punch represent English feeling during the great reforms of the ’Forties and ’Fifties. Of course he made mistakes, and many of them. “He who never made a mistake never made anything.” He ground the No-Popery organ; he defended the Ecclesiastical Titles Act; he ridiculed the Jewish Disabilities Bill; he fostered the idea of relentless vengeance on the Indian mutineers and rebels, and bitterly opposed Lord Canning’s more humane policy; he issued cartoons during the Secession War to use the words of Mr. Henry James “under an evil star;” he aimed poisoned shafts at Louis Philippe; he scoffed, at first, at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and seriously retarded its progress; he failed to appreciate Lord Aberdeen’s statesmanship, like the rest of his contemporaries, during the Crimean War; he joked at Turner, and sneered at the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood; he attacked Bright and Cobden for their attitude during the Chinese War; he denounced Carlyle’s “Latter-day Pamphlets” as mere “barking and froth;” he ridiculed Joseph Hume with a cruel persistence that called forth a passionate protest from the “Westminster Review” against the scurrilous attack on one who was “too good” for it, for which Punch handsomely apologised on Hume’s death (March 10th, 1855); and generally, in his own words, “at this early date Mr. Punch in his exuberance wrote much that he would now hesitate to commit to paper, and for which, if it did appear, he would certainly be taken severely to task by a hundred correspondents, of whom a majority would be of the strait-laced order, and the minority would be largely recruited from North Britain.”

But the politician who suffered most from Punch and perhaps the most undeservedly was that most unpopular of a long line of unpopular Home Secretaries, Sir James Graham. He had joined Peel’s Cabinet in 1842, on the fall of Lord Melbourne’s Ministry, and nothing that he did could command the approval of his critics, especially those on Punch. His capital offence was directing the opening of certain of Mazzini’s letters in consequence of the statements made to our Government by that of Naples, to the effect that plots were being carried on of which the brilliant and popular Italian refugee was the centre to excite an insurrection in Italy. “The British Government,” reported the House of Commons Committee of Inquiry afterwards appointed, “issued a warrant to open and detain M. Mazzini’s letters. Such information deduced from these letters as appeared to the British Government calculated to frustrate this attempt was communicated to a foreign Power.”

Thereupon Mr. Duncombe, M.P., upon the complaints of Mazzini, W. J. Linton (the well-known Chartist, and more distinguished wood-engraver), and others, that their letters had been secretly opened, charged Sir James Graham with the violation of correspondence (June 14th, 1844), and though not at first eliciting much information, succeeded in obtaining the appointment of a Committee, though a “secret” one; and Lord Radnor effected the same object in the Lords. The result was favourable to the Minister; but the popular feeling roused by it was intense, and Punch, up in arms at once at this supposed violation of the rights of the subject, fanned the excitement he shared. He immediately published, on July 6th, the most offensive attack he could devise. This consisted in the famous “Anti-Graham Envelope” and “Wafers” the latter extra strongly gummed.

The former was drawn by John Leech a sort of burlesque of the Mulready envelope and was afterwards appropriately engraved by Mr. W. J. Linton, whose share in the agitation was a considerable one. The circulation attained by this envelope was very wide, and although I have not ascertained that many were actually passed through the General Post Office, it certainly brought a flood of bitter ridicule on the unfortunate Minister. In addition to this, there was published, on the clever initiation of Henry Mayhew, the sheet of “Anti-Graham Wafers” an instrument of diabolical torture for the unhappy Secretary, who already figured as “Paul Pry” in half a hundred of the more important papers. In this sheet, 10 inches by 7-3/4 inches in size, drawn by H. G. Hine, there were printed sixteen wafers, in green ink, in the midst of a witty design, in brown, that bore the devices of a snake in the grass, a cat-o’-nine-tails, a kettle steaming the fastening of a letter, and other suggestive personalities. These were supposed to be cut up and used as wafers on envelopes, and that they were so used is probable, in view of their extreme rarity at the present day. They were issued at twopence the sheet; and their epigrammatic cuts and accompanying legends were in Punch’s best vein.

Punch’s example was promptly followed by that class of publisher who lives by trading on the ideas of others, and in the windows of many booksellers of the commoner class, envelopes in the shape of padlocks were offered for sale, the motto on them running “Not to be Grahamed.” Punch itself followed up the scent, and gave drawings of “Mercury giving Sir James Graham an insight into Letters” (with the aid of a steam-kettle), of “The Post Office Peep-Show, a Penny a Peep,” in which foreign sovereigns, on paying their money to Showman Graham, are permitted to violate the secrecy of British correspondence; while a notice from St. Martin’s--Grand informs his Continental clients that “on and after the present month the following alterations will take place in the opening of letters:”

Letters

Posted at Opened at

9 A.M.         10 A. A.M.        11 A. A.M.         2 P. P.M.          4 P. P.M.          6 P.M.

Of course, this was all very unfair and savagely amusing, but much was forgiven for the cleverness of the hits, and the liberty-loving notions that inspired them.

The “railway mania,” which had been developing during these years, had from the first been viewed with alarm by Punch, who, with his customary level-headedness, foresaw the crash and the reaction that were soon to follow. And when they came, in 1849, he pointed solemnly to the truth of his teaching, and to the sadness of the moral, with the picture of “King Hudson off the Line.” Nothing could represent the situation more eloquently or more concisely.

A noteworthy incident occurred in connection with the Greek question of 1850, when the English fleet threatened to blockade the Piraeus. Punch was indignant at this high-handed show of strength towards the little kingdom, and taking the mean-looking, grovelling British Lion by the ear (in his cartoon) asks him, “Why don’t you hit someone of your own size?” With the exception of the occasion when he disrespectfully represented the noble beast as stuffed and moth-eaten, this is the only “big cut” wherein the Lion has been unworthily treated, or on which, in foreign politics, Punch has failed to back up his own Government.

When Kossuth visited London in 1851, Punch’s heart, like that of the rest of England, went out to the patriot. “It was not Louis Kossuth whom the thousands gazed upon and cheered,” wrote Punch. “It was Hungary bound and bleeding, but still hopeful, resolute, defying Hungary;” and it may be observed that for many years Punch sided, for one reason or another, with Austria’s successive adversaries.

It was in the same year that Lord Palmerston first appeared on Punch’s scene, and then in his own selected rôle of “Judicious Bottle-holder.” He was represented as officiating thus at the little affair between “Nick the Bear” and “Young Europe.” From that time forward he always appeared as a sporting character, and rather gained than lost in popular favour by the treatment. Another debut the following year, among the repeated appearances of “Dizzy,” Napoleon, Pam, and Lord John, was that of John Bright. He is shown in Quaker costume, examining the new-born baby (the new Reform Bill) through an eye-glass, while Lord John, its parent, stands by and hears the dry verdict that it is “not quite so fine a child as the last.” This eye-glass perplexed John Bright a good deal, because, said he, he had “never worn such a thing in his life.” He did not see that the glass had here, no doubt, not so much reference to him, as to the smallness of the birth examined by its aid.

Protection was still a subject of debate, but not for long. In 1852 appeared the admirable cartoon in which Cobden suddenly come very much to the fore in Punch’s pages is represented as Queen Eleanor, who advances on Disraeli, a grotesque “Fair Rosamond,” with a poison-bowl of “Free Trade” in one hand and the dagger of “Resignation” in the other. Disraeli accepted the former, and Punch and the Free Traders rejoiced. But in their triumph they did not spare the feelings of the convert, whom they had dubbed “The Political Chameleon;” but at least they admitted the importance of the man, who is no longer sneeringly alluded to as “Benjamin Sidonia,” no more represented as an ill-bred schoolboy made up of impudence and malice unprincipled, vicious, and conceited.

In the following year Punch sounded his first note of warning of the approaching “Eastern Question,” when in the cartoon of “The Turkey in Danger,” the Sick Bird is shown in the powerful hug of the Russian Bear; and “The Emperor’s Cup for 1853” illustrates still further the prescience of Punch. Nevertheless, as has been said, he could not appreciate a suaviter policy, and in a cartoon entitled “Not a Nice Business” , Vol. XXVI.) Lord Aberdeen, the Premier, is shown engaged in cleaning the boots of the Tsar.

How the Crimean War was followed by Punch in a magnificent series of pictures, chiefly from the hand of Sir John Tenniel, as well as in that culminating effort of Leech’s, “General Février,” there is no need here to explain. But during the peace negotiations which were delayed through the Russians firing on a truce-party, called “The Massacre of Hango” the representation was unjustly made by Punch that the King of Prussia was a confirmed toper, and the charge was offensively maintained by pen and pencil. This so angered the King that none of the English newspaper correspondents (one of whom he supposed to be the original perpetrator of the libel) was after that allowed within the precincts of the palace, until at last Mr. T. Harrington Wilson, one of Punch’s draughtsmen, was admitted on behalf of the “Illustrated London News.”

No sooner was the Crimean War at an end, than the reprisals which developed into the Chinese War involved this country in an expense of four millions. In spite of the importance and gravity of the undertaking, Punch vigorously supported Lord Palmerston in his campaign, and mockingly showed “The Great Warriors Dah-Bee and Cob-Den” vainly trying to overturn his Government. He made good sport of the Celestials, as a matter of course, but his mortification was extreme on learning that the incidental outlay would delay the hoped-for repeal of the paper duty. He found a small outlet for his feelings in the cartoon representing a Chinese mandarin as “The New Paper-weight” , Vol. XXXIX.), but in the end was entirely conciliated by the terms of the Chinese Convention, and the payment of a handsome indemnity the subject of his first cartoon in 1861 being “A Cheer for Elgin.”

Italy’s successful struggle for independence received great attention and sympathy from Punch the greater, no doubt, since the “Papal Aggression” had taught him to look askance at the Vatican; but he regarded with extreme and well-justified scepticism the genuineness of Louis Napoleon’s alleged disinterestedness in the interests of peace. He is ironically shown (October 13th, 1860) as “The Friend in Need” advising the Pope, “There, cut away quietly and leave me your keys. Keep up your spirits, and I’ll look after your little temporal matters.” Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel were regarded by Punch with the greatest favour (just as the latter was said to be regarded privately by the Pope), and United Italy was enthusiastically hailed by him (March, 1861) as “The Latest Arrival” at the European Evening Party conjointly presided over by John Bull and Britannia.

From first to last Punch has always been an Imperialist Imperial Defence being warmly taken up at periodical intervals, and Imperial Federation during these latter years adopted as one of the planks of his Punch-and-Judy platform. Imperial Defence as a cry and a scare, begun in 1848 on the action of the Prince de Joinville, was continued in 1860 (cartoon, August 4th), when a large sum was spent upon arsenals and dockyards to some extent, no doubt, in view of Napoleon’s double-dealing in the matter of Nice and Savoy. “Ribs of steel are our ships, Engineers are our men,” he sings, under the new order of things in naval construction

“We’re steady, boys, steady,
But always unready;
We’ve just let the French get before us again.”

The American War of Secession; the throne of Greece put up to auction; Poland in chains, defying the Russian Bear; the ghost of Charles I. warning the King of Prussia, by the block to which he points, of the punishment that awaits the would-be despot; Napoleon crushing the prostrate figure of France; the wars between “father-in-law Denmark,” Germany, and Austria, and between the latter two (as Robbers in the Wood); Reform; Irish Church Disestablishment; “Dizzy” as the Premier-Peri entering the gates of Paradise, or, bound to the Ixion’s wheel of “Minority,” hurled forth by Hercules-Bright, with the severe approval of Juno-Britannia and Jupiter-Gladstone; the Franco-Prussian War; the Royal marriages; the occupation of Egypt; and the creation of the “Empress of India;” all the subject-matter, indeed, of home and foreign politics, and of general public interest, have been touched upon by Punch as they occurred, lightly, but often probed a fond. His attitude seldom caused much surprise, for his opinions and views could generally be foretold. It was the manner in which they were put forth that carried weight and influence; they were the nation’s ideas

“... to advantage dressed,
What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed.”

The student of the times, if he would know how public affairs struck the public mind during that period, can assuredly find no truer, no more accurate indication than is offered by the perusal of Punch’s pages.