The Victorians seemed to have an avaricious relationship with history. They simultaneously were involved in the creation of it and when taking a respite from this burden of civilizing humanity they were reading it; endlessly and for the authors quite profitably. When the thunderous prose and majestic perspectives faltered, readers without reluctance would pick up “The Comic History of England”. It was removed from the bawdy, completely un-repressed caricature that marked the Georgian period from Rowlandson and Gillray in particular, but “Comic History” was pretty acceptable fare though toned down and sanitized from the previous era.
Comic History was written by Thomas a Beckett and illustrated by John Leech, both of whom were members of the original staff of Punch. Beckett’s text is pretty hammy to swallow but Leech’s hand-colored etchings are enduringly charming and humorous.
“When he was only three, he was discovered by Flaxman, who had called on his parents, seated on his mother’s knee, drawing with much gravity. The sculptor pronounced his sketch to be wonderful, adding, “Do not let him be cramped with lessons in drawing; let his genius follow its own bent; he will astonish the world”–an advice which was strictly followed. A mail-coach, done when he was six years old, is already full of surprising vigour and variety in its galloping horses. Leech was educated at Charterhouse, where Thackeray, his lifelong friend, was his schoolfellow, and at sixteen he began to study for the medical profession at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, where he won praise for the accuracy and beauty of his anatomical drawings. He was then placed under a Mr Whittle, an eccentric practitioner, the original of “Rawkins” in Albert Smith’s Adventures of Mr Ledbury, and afterwards under Dr John Cockle; but gradually the true bent of the youth’s mind asserted itself, and he drifted into the artistic profession.” Read More: http://www.fact-index.com/j/jo/john_leech.html
Thackeray: … there was not an artist in England whose work was so well known or who was as popular as John Leech.He ridiculed the foibles of the day, instituting such a campaign against spirit-rappings and bloomerism, that his caricatures are said to have actually had an effect on the public’s reception of these fads and innovations. In comparing his work to that of his contemporaries, the outstanding qualities are not far to seek. Truth, simplicity, homeliness in its broadest meaning, handled with a brilliant sense of proportion and line. The somewhat sinister power of Cruikshank and the clever satire of Tenniel may be lacking but what Leech has to offer us is a rare gift, a friendliness of spirit that laughs with, and not at, the world it is caricaturing, and it was in this that his great power undoubtedly lay. He seems to have depended less on his imagination than upon his quiet and unusual power of observation and sense of the ridiculous combined. He turned every amusing situation to account. Many a humorous situation would have passed unnoticed but for him, and the result is to give us a most entertaining and accurate picture of the times. Read More: http://www.davidbrassrarebooks.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-shopping-cart/single_book.php?sbook=997 a