The Draughtsman’s Contacts: Robert Seymour and the Humorous Periodical Press in the 1830s

  • Brian Maidment Liverpool John Moores University
Keywords: Robert Seymour, lithography, wood engraving, illustration, comic magazines, Looking Glass, Figaro in London, Comic Magazine, satire, Thomas McLean, Gilbert à Beckett, William Strange

Abstract

Robert Seymour was celebrated enough in his day to become one of very few late Regency and early Victorian comic and satirical draughtsmen sufficiently visible to be traced through the magazines of the 1830s. His periodical contributions are, therefore, of considerable significance in trying to establish the patterns of work and maps of interconnected activity that were necessary to sustain the career of a jobbing draughtsman at this time. After contributing to Bell’s Life in London in the late 1820s, Seymour’s presence as a prolific magazine illustrator dates largely from the early 1830s. As well as a mass of jobbing illustrations that were produced for a remarkably diverse range of magazines. Seymour worked extensively for three significant and profusely illustrated magazines at this time — the Looking Glass, Figaro in London, and the Comic Magazine. The Looking Glass was published by Thomas McLean and sought to sustain an established tradition of political caricature through adapting it to a magazine format using the relatively new reprographic medium of lithography. Figaro in London was illustrated by vignette wood engravings, which were both vernacular and sophisticated at the same time. The Comic Magazine, another publication dependent on small wood-engraved images, sought to build on the growing popularity of song books and comic annuals. The diversity and prolixity of Seymour’s output at this time bears testimony to the extraordinary demands made on draughtsmen and engravers in the 1830s, and suggests something of the relentlessly innovative market place for humorous and satirical print at this time.

Author Biography

Brian Maidment, Liverpool John Moores University

Brian Maidment is Professor of the History of Print at Liverpool John Moores University and Vice President of the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals. His most recent books include Comedy Caricature and the Social Order 1820–1850 (2013) and, co-edited with Keith Hanley, Persistent Ruskin (2013). He is currently completing a study of Robert Seymour for Routledge.

Published
2016-07-05
Section
Articles