19th Century Caricatures of Charles Darwin, Mark Twain, H.M. Stanley & Other Famous Victorians (1873)

Stu­dents and lovers of Vic­to­ri­ana, we have a treat for you. The 1873 book above, Car­toon Por­traits and Bio­graph­i­cal Sketch­es of Men of the Day, offers car­i­ca­tures of forty-nine promi­nent men, and one woman, of the 19th cen­tu­ry, some of them less-than-famous now and some still ver­i­ta­ble giants of their respec­tive fields.


Accom­pa­nied by live­ly biogra­phies, the por­traits were all drawn by illus­tra­tor Fred­er­ick Wad­dy, who is per­haps best known for the draw­ing on page six of a white-beard­ed Charles Dar­win (above) enti­tled “Nat­ur­al Selection”—often repro­duced in col­or and found hang­ing on the office walls of biol­o­gy teach­ers. Dar­win appears sec­ond in Car­toon Por­traits, pre­ced­ed only by Sir Edward Bul­w­er-Lyt­ton of “It was a dark and stormy night” fame.


In addi­tion to professor’s offices, you may also encounter some of Waddy’s work at the Nation­al Por­trait Gallery in Lon­don. In his time, Wad­dy was one of the fore­most car­i­ca­tur­ists of the day—an impor­tant posi­tion in peri­od­i­cal pub­lish­ing before the advent of cheap­ly mass-repro­ducible pho­tog­ra­phy. All of the por­traits orig­i­nal­ly appeared in a mag­a­zine called Once a Week, found­ed in a split between Charles Dick­ens and his pub­lish­er Brad­bury and Evans, who start­ed the jour­nal with edi­tor Samuel Lucas in 1859 to com­pete with Dick­ens’ All the Year Round. Once a Week ran until 1880, pub­lish­ing pieces on his­to­ry and cur­rent affairs and occa­sion­al poems by Ten­nyson, Swin­burne, Dante Ros­set­ti and oth­ers. Its pop­u­lar­i­ty was buoyed by Waddy’s draw­ings and the detailed illus­tra­tions of sev­er­al oth­er graph­ic artists. Above, see Mark Twain rid­ing his cel­e­brat­ed jump­ing frog, and just below, poet and crit­ic Matthew Arnold does a high-wire act between two trapezes labelled “Poet­ry” and “Phi­los­o­phy.” Twain’s por­trait is titled “Amer­i­can Humour”— and he is the only Amer­i­can in the series—and Arnold’s is called “Sweet­ness and Light.”


Though the book’s title promis­es only “Men of the Day,” it does include one woman, Dr. Eliz­a­beth Gar­rett Ander­son (below, sim­ply titled “M.D.”), the first Eng­lish­woman to offi­cial­ly work as a physi­cian. Her bio­graph­i­cal sketch begins with a long and some­what tor­tu­ous his­tor­i­cal defense for female doc­tors, stat­ing that “social prej­u­dices are almost as hard to erad­i­cate as those of reli­gion. It was not till quite late­ly that the feel­ing against woman’s rights as regard edu­ca­tion was suc­cess­ful­ly com­bat­ed.” Once a Week was a pro­gres­sive-lean­ing mag­a­zine, its edi­tor a not­ed abo­li­tion­ist, and it reg­u­lar­ly pub­lished the work of women writ­ers like Har­ri­et Mar­tineau, Isabel­la Blag­den, and Mary Eliz­a­beth Brad­don, though one won­ders why they didn’t war­rant car­i­ca­tures as well.


Below, see Wad­dy’s por­trait of cen­tral African explor­er Hen­ry Mor­ton Stan­ley, stand­ing twice the height of the native African next to him. It’s a fit­ting image of colo­nial ego, though the scene may be drawn after a pho­to of Stan­ley with his adopt­ed son Kalu­lu. The title refers to his search for—and famous excla­ma­tion upon discovering—Scottish mis­sion­ary David Liv­ing­stone. All in all, Car­toon Por­traits gives us a fas­ci­nat­ing look at Vic­to­ri­an visu­al media and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of the most pop­u­lar lit­er­ary, sci­en­tif­ic, and polit­i­cal fig­ures in Eng­land dur­ing the mid­dle of the cen­tu­ry. While the names of Wad­dy and his fel­low com­ic artists are hard­ly remem­bered now, the authors of The Smil­ing Muse: Vic­to­ri­ana in the Com­ic Press assert that in their day, “they were the ones who had their fin­gers on the pulse of what we now call the ‘pop­u­lar cul­ture’ of the time.” See The Pub­lic Domain Review for more high­lights from the book.


via The Pub­lic Domain Review

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The British Library Puts Online 1,200 Lit­er­ary Trea­sures From Great Roman­tic & Vic­to­ri­an Writ­ers

Explor­er David Livingstone’s Diary (Writ­ten in Berry Juice) Now Dig­i­tized with New Imag­ing Tech­nol­o­gy

Mark Twain Writes a Rap­tur­ous Let­ter to Walt Whit­man on the Poet’s 70th Birth­day (1889)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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