Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Tragic Life of Thomas Mayhew


by Robert J. Kirkpatrick 

The name of Mayhew will be very familiar to students of 19th century literature. Henry Mayhew was one of the founders of Punch, but perhaps better-known for his monumental work London Labour and the London Poor. His brother Horace was a journalist (he wrote for, amongst others, The Illustrated London News and Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper) and comic novelist; and another brother, Augustus, was a journalist (on The Illustrated Times), novelist and comic dramatist. A fourth brother, Thomas, also had a very brief and ultimately tragic career as an author, and consequently has been all but airbrushed from history.

The Mayhew brothers were born into a wealthy family headed by Joshua Dorset Joseph Mayhew, a solicitor, and his wife Mary Ann. Their first son, Thomas Charles Wilson Mayhew, was born on 19 May 1807 and baptised at St. James’s Church, Westminster, on 1 March 1811. He entered Westminster School on 31 May 1820, and after leaving he was articled to his father for five years in November 1825, and wrote his first book, A Complete History of an Action at Law, published by J. & W. Clarke, whilst still a student at Lincoln’s Inn (to which he been admitted in January 1827) in 1828. Two years later, his translation of the French drama Ambition, or Marie Mignot, was performed at the Haymarket Theatre, with the script published by Thomas Richardson in the same year. Also in 1830 he was enrolled as Attorney of the Court of the King’s Bench, and was subsequently admitted as Attorney of the Court of Common Pleas.

His journalistic activities also began in 1830, when he became editor of Henry Hetherington’s Penny Papers for the People, an unstamped series of one penny weekly pamphlets, and the following year he edited the first issues of Hetherington’s The Poor Man’s Guardian. A syndicated newspaper article after his death claimed that he was “the proprietor of Barnett’s Library of Music, The Parterre, and a number of other literary productions…. [and] part proprietor of the Fitzroy Theatre,”[1] although his assocaition with The Parterre was subsequently denied by its editors.[2] A subsequent article claimed that he was also “the proprietor and projector of several cheap popular works,” and was “connected at one time with Figaro, The Studio, compiler of The Diamond Shakespeare, superintended and almost wholly edited The Popular Dictionary of Universal Information…..”[3]

In the meantime, he had married Catharine Lawrance (born in Somerset in around 1806) at St. James’s Church, Westminster, on 1 January 1831. They had a still-born son on 20 November 1831, but went on to have a daughter, Catharine Mary Anne, born on 15 October 1833.

As a solicitor, he was briefly in partnership in 1831 with Thomas Edlyne Tomlins, as Tomlins and Mayhew, at 3 Staple Inn, and he was also in partnership with his father and James Johnson at 26 Carey Street, Lincoln’s Inn, but he left in March 1833.[4] According to an affidavit which was an adjunct to his will he had homes in Amwell Street and Myddleton Square, Clerkenwell, although a syndicated newspaper article reporting that he was living in Camden Town  at the time of his death.

In August 1832 he launched The Penny National Library, an ambitious project (published by Frederic Lawrance at 113 Strand – by December 1832 it had moved to 369 Strand). This initially consisted of six weekly serial educational publications – a grammar and dictionary, a universal biography, an ancient history, a history of England, a law library and a geography and gazetteer, with other similar serial works being added a few weeks later. Other publications soon followed, including The Comic Magazine, edited by “The Editor of Figaro in London” i.e. Gilbert Abbott à Beckett, and, in March 1833, The Critic, a literary and satirical journal.  

However, Thomas soon found himself in financial difficulties, and on 30 October 1833 he was arrested on a unpaid bill of exchange for £159, and was committed to the Fleet Prison. He disputed his arrest, claiming privilege as an attorney, although the person to whom Mayhew owed the money had him arrested on the basis he was trading as a printer and publisher.[5] The following month he entered into partnership with George Frederick Isaacs and Irenaeus Mayhew (his uncle), as printers and publishers, from 369 Strand and 14 Henrietta Street, although steps were already being taken towards his liquidation[6] – the partnership was formally dissolved in March 1834.[7] It was later suggested that Mayhew had lost £10,000.[8]

Thomas Mayhew committed suicide on Thursday 23 October 1834 at his chambers at 2 Barnard’s Inn, Holborn. This fact, and the subsequent inquest, was widely reported in London newspapers. It was initially reported that his body was discovered by his wife and her brother, who were concerned that he hadn’t come home and that he was in straitened financial circumstances, and that they forced open the door to his rooms.[9] This version of events was contradicted during the inquest, which was held on the evening of Saturday 25 October at the Swan and Sugar-Loaf public house, Fetter Lane. This heard that a solicitor, Philip Lawrence, had been approached by Thomas’s wife, concerned about his absence – he went to the chambers, where the porter gave him a package which contained the keys to the chambers, and these were used to gain access.[10]

It was clear from the evidence given that Thomas had swallowed a large quantity of prussic acid, and had also deliberately inhaled the fumes from a piece of burning charcoal. The inquest was told that that as well as his financial problems, Thomas was overwhelmed by work. At the time of his death he was apparently working on a history of England, an encyclopaedia, and a translation of French plays. He was subsequently buried in the churchyard of St. James’s Church, Westminster, on 29 October.

It is hard to believe that in the short period of time between 1832 and 1834 Thomas Mayhew was both working as a solicitor and had his fingers in so many literary projects. Yet there is no doubt that this was the case, as confirmed in the Law Report referred to earlier. It was rare for writer in Bohemian Fleet Street to commit suicide, although several killed themselves in other ways, so this was a measure of just how overwhelming the pressure on Thomas Mayhew was. 

His wife Catharine subsequently moved back to her parents in Somerset, and went on to marry James Thomas, a solicitor, in Lyncombe, on 29 February 1848. She died later that year, and was buried in the cemetery at Bath Abbey on 29 September 1848. His daughter Catharine married Charles Arthur Raynsford in 1864, and they went on to have one daughter born in 1866. They divorced in 1890. She went on to spend a year in Otto House, a private asylum in Hammersmith, between August 1894 and 1895, and she was re-admitted in February 1900 – she died there on 14 March 1900, and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, Kensington.

[1] See, for example, Morning Post, 25 October 1834, p 4.

[2] See, for example, Morning Post, 31 October 1834, p 3.

[3] See, for example, Morning Advertiser, 27 October 1834, p 1.

[4] London Gazette, 30 August 1833, p 1614.

[5] The Law Journal for the Year 1834, Vol. 3, p 47.

[6] Morning Herald, 4 December 1834, p 7.

[7] London Gazette, 25 April 1834, p 755.

[8] Men of the Time, Kent & Co., 1857, p 522.

[9] See, for example, Morning Post, 25 October 1834, p 4.

[10] See, for example, Morning Post, 31 October 1834, p 3.


Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Davenport in Denver —

Two caricatures of Homer Davenport by AW Steele and Warren Gilbert, Denver Post cartoonists, May 11, 1904.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Weirdom’s “Tales From The Plague” by Richard Corben —

[1] Richard Corben, color by William Skaar, April 2023


Bill Leach, contributor of much Ally Sloper material to YESTERDAY”S PAPERS, has published a limited edition reprint of Dennis Cunningham’s THE PLAGUE, drawn by Richard Corben, under the imprint of his own EC HorrorZine, HORROR FROM THE CRYPT OF FEAR  Available through BUD PLANT ART BOOKS (HERE).  Bill used the original first cover and included 12 pages of engravings that had not been used in subsequent editions. William Skaar, artist of DEANNA OF THE DEAD, provided the cover color. This welcome reissue of THE PLAGUE brought back warm memories. I was a contributor to WEIRDOM No. 12 (a very small and amateurish pen & ink contribution in the interior) in 1968. The next issue, No. 13, introduced the brilliant cartoonist Richard Corben with his startling and unique Special Plague Issue. Dennis Cunningham was kind enough to send me a copy of Nos. 12 and 13, thus introducing me to one of the greatest fantasy artists of all time. Corben’s story was gothic horror drawn in the painstaking style of medieval engravings. Bill Leach provides a brief printing history of THE PLAGUE which I reproduce below. — John Adcock

[2] Weirdom Illustrated No 13, 1969. Dennis Cunningham, 
Publisher, editor and writer, illustrator Richard Corben 

You hold in your hands the fifth version of Weirdom’s “THE PLAGUE”. Dennis Cunningham and Bill Leach are thrilled to present this very special edition of HORROR FROM THE CRYPT OF FEAR to the countless Corben fans throughout the world.  We lost Richard Corben in 2020, but his creative expertise lives on through his amazing body of work and the many reprints that are currently being published.

[3] Richard Corben page

This was Richard Corben’s first attempt at illustrating a graphic novel.  Corben was 28 years old and still working at Calvin Productions when he began working on “THE PLAGUE” in 1968.  Dennis Cunningham was one of the first publishers to use Corben’s art in the comic book industry.  During the late sixties and early seventies Cunningham published a series of underground comics titled “Weirdom Illustrated.”  It was here in number 13, the “Special Plague Issue” that Corben’s first graphic novel saw print.  It didn’t take long before Richard Corben was recognized as one of the top artists in the country.

[4]Tales From The Plague, comic book, second edition, November, 1971.

“THE PLAGUE” has been published on four previous occasions.  First in April 1969, falling under the title “Weirdom Illustrated, Number 13, Special Plague Issue,” this small digest size edition was printed by Dennis himself, while on leave from the Army.  There were only 1,000 copies printed, which makes them extremely rare today.  The second printing came two years later in November 1971.  Now titled “TALES FROM THE PLAGUE” and featuring a new cover comprised of panels from the story.  This comic book size edition had a print run of 10,000, which makes it a very scarce comic book.  

[5] Preliminary watercolor for the third edition by Richard Corben.

Jumping forward fifteen years, Dennis’ friend and business partner, Bill Leach, printed the third edition still using the title “TALES FROM THE PLAGUE.”  This magazine size graphic novel would feature a new cover painting by Corben.  Bill routinely boasts at having his likeness used in the new Corben cover painting, featuring “Braggart Bill” as the torch wielding maniac.  The print run of 15,000 sold out quickly as the public’s appetite for Richard Corben’s art had grown to international heights since the first two editions. 

[6] Third edition cover painting and publisher Bill Leach.

In 1989, a European publisher, Toutain-Editor, created the fourth iteration using the newer cover painting and translating it into Spanish. The title is quite long and was just one volume in the series: “Richard Corben, Obras Completas No. 9, MANUSCRITOS DE LA PLAGA.”

This fifth edition takes us back to the beginning.  Printed digest size and including the twelve pages of vintage engravings that had been discarded in the second, third and fourth editions.  Cunningham and Leach are proud to publish this “Artifact Edition” and hope you will enjoy making it part of your “Richard Corben Collection.”

HORROR FROM THE CRYPT OF FEAR, Number 16, April 2023

First printing 500 copies.  Contact Bill Leach at ComicArt4u @comcast.net for more information.  All contents written and copyright 2023 Dennis A. Cunningham.   All artwork created by artistic genius Richard V. Corben (1940-2020).  Cover colorist:  William Skaar.

[7] “Braggart Bill” Leach

Bill Leach is headed to the San Diego Comicon this week. He will be part of an EC FanAddicts panel Saturday night and showing off the new issues of HORROR FROM THE CRYPT OF FEAR. Issue #17 is a 104 page Complete EC Checklist-1942-1956. See details HERE.


Saturday, July 1, 2023


“I will get a laugh, I will get it moreover, from the simplest thing, which would, perhaps, never appeal to one person out of twenty as comic, but it’s there all the same. This line drawing — for that is all I do — comes perfectly easy and natural to me. I can go into court, study a person for five minutes, and draw his or her features pretty faithfully days afterward. It is really very easy when you know how to do it! I have never been told so, but I firmly believe that when I was a baby, I drew lines on my feeding bottle.” — T.E. Powers, ‘American Caricature and Comic Art, Part I.,’ The Bookman, La Touche Hancock, Oct 1902

[1] Chicago Examiner, August 14, 1910


T. E. Powers, 69, Noted Cartoonist

Long Beach Resident

Had Been with Hearst

For Nearly 40 Years

Special to the Brooklyn Eagle

Long Beach, Aug. 14, 1939

[2] Chicago Examiner, May 8, 1912

T.E. Powers, 69, noted cartoonist and a member of the Hearst organization for nearly 40 years, died early today after a long Illness at his home, 352 W. Pine St. here. He had been ailing for more than two years.

Mr. Powers, whose political cartoons attracted wide attention throughout America, was a native of Milwaukee. He began drawing at a very early age. His first newspaper work was in Chicago on Victor Lawson's Dally News.

After leaving the News he worked on the Chicago Herald. He came to New York about 1892 and after a brief period on the New York World became a member of the art department of the Journal.

[3] Chicago Examiner, December 22, 1911


Almost dally Mr. Powers' simple line pen and ink drawings on the fads and foibles of the day enlivened the editorial pages of the Evening Journal and other Hearst newspapers from coast to coast. His cartoons were reputed to be very effective in combating political corruption and profligacy and in correcting corporate abuse. Mr. Powers had a keen wit and a sage philosophy, qualities that he readily transferred into picture editorials.

He was the favorite cartoonist of the late President Theodore Roosevelt. His own favorite cartoon was one of President Calvin Coolidge sawing wood.

[4] Chicago Examiner, November 26, 1912


One of Mr. Powers' most cherished mementoes was President Coolidge's request for the original drawing of the cartoon.

The famous “Joy” and “Gloom” figures that embellished many of his drawings became a sort of trademark for Mr. Powers. The appearance of “Joys” chasing “Glooms” or vice versa were highly expressive of the spirit of the cartoon. The fame of the little imps in their field almost equaled that of Mickey Mouse in another medium of a later day. Early In his career, when Mr. Powers worked on Chicago newspapers, he became associated with such men as Eugene Field, George Ade, and John T McCutcheon.

[5] Motion Picture News, January 15, 1916

T. E. Powers, Famed

Cartoonist, Is Dead


Pioneer Political Satirist Member of Hearst

Organization Nearly 40 Years; 'Joy and

Gloom' Figures Known Throughout U. S.

(Special to The Tlmes-Unlon, Albany NY)

NEW YORK, Aug. 14, 1939 — T. E. Powers, famous cartoonist of the Hearst newspapers, died today at his home, 352 Pine Street, Long Beach, Long Island. The body tonight was removed to the Stephen Merritt Funeral parlors, 334 Eighth avenue, New York. Funeral services will be held 2 p.m. Wednesday in the chapel of the funeral parlors and will be followed by cremation at the New York and New Jersey crematory in Union City, N. J.

[6] Motion Picture News, January 1, 1916

Mr. Powers, ailing for more than two years, celebrated his 69th birthday anniversary July 4.

He was one of the first and most successful of the political satirists, and his work was known and enjoyed from one end of the continent to the other.

Although his political cartoons and his caricaturing of public men probably had been his most effective work, he was most famous for the little “Joy” and “Gloom” figures with which he enlivened many of his drawings.

[7] Advertisement, 1912


Born in Milwaukee, he had been a member of the Hearst organization for almost forty years.

Illness forced Mr. Powers to retire several years ago. He had been treated several times at Harkness pavilion of Columbia University Presbyterian Medical Centre in New York, and for the last two years had been confined to his home.

His illness became critical Saturday, and he died in his sleep early today.

Surviving are his wife, two brothers and a sister.

Mr. Powers was the first political cartoonist to inject a quality of humor into his drawings and was credited with inaugurating the still effective practice of attacking and exposing grifters and malefactors in public office by making them appear ridiculous.

His sly shafts of humor and his biting sarcasm often wielded more power than columns of editorial copy.

[8] Chicago Examiner, August 21, 1913


His simple line drawings were so effective in combatting political corruption and profligacy, and in correcting physical abuse, that more than one public plunderer trembled when he saw the famous “T.E. Powers” signature on a cartoon directed at him.

Almost daily for forty years, his pungent comment, in pen and ink drawings, on the fads and foibles of the day enlivened the editorial pages of the Hearst newspapers from coast to coast.

Possessor of a keen wit and a sage philosophy, he had the ability to transfer these qualities into a biting picture editorial with a few sure, quick strokes of his pen.

He was the favorite cartoonist of the late former President Theodore Roosevelt, and his own favorite cartoon was one he drew of the late former president Calvin Coolidge sawing wood.

[9] Chicago Examiner, 1910


President Coolidge saw and liked the picture and his request for the original drawing, on White House stationary, was one of Mr. Powers’ most cherished mementoes of his long newspaper career.

The famous “Joy” and “Gloom” figures with which he embellished many of his drawings became a sort of trademark for Mr. Powers, and the appearance of “Joys” chasing “Glooms” or vice versa, indicated at a glance the tenor of the event he was picturing.

The appeal of the Powers’ cartoons combine drollery with a penetrating social criticism and often were as full of indignation as any editorial, using the irony and satire of caricature, rather than the ringing phrases of the written word.

He was born in Milwaukee July 4, 1870. At an early age his parents moved to Kansas City, where young Tom Powers attended school.

[10] Chicago Examiner, May 8, 1910


Even as a boy he displayed marked artistic ability, and his efforts to find a job where this talent would be useful soon landed him in a lithographer’s plant at $2 a week.

Later a better opportunity called him to Chicago, and it was here while studying art at night, that he began the newspaper work that was to make him famous.

He had canvassed the editorial offices of all Chicago newspapers without success until one fortunate day, when the sample cartoons with which he had bearded every editor in town caught the eye of Victor Lawson, who made a place for him in the art department of the Chicago Daily News.

[11] Chicago Examiner, May 22, 1913

He worked on various Chicago newspapers for several years, where he became associated with such men as Eugene Field, George Ade, and John T. McCutcheon.

One day the late Arthur Brisbane, famous Hearst editor and columnist, then working on the old New York World, saw and liked one of Powers’ cartoons, and immediately wired the young artist an offer to work for him.

That was in 1894. Mr. Powers accepted the Brisbane offer, and for two years his cartoons appeared in the World. In 1896 Brisbane transferred his editorial genius, and many of his best men, to the Hearst organization. Tom Powers was one of the men who went with him, starting an association with the Hearst newspapers that lasted until his retirement.

[12] Chicago Examiner, January 19, 1913

In an interview soon after the death of Mr. Brisbane in 1938, Mr. Powers remarked:

“Under Brisbane I was busy. Today I am still busy. People wonder how I get ideas for the cartoons every day. My answer is by keeping fit and reading the news.

I finish my daily cartoons by noon. The rest of the time I devote to getting up ideas for the day following. If time permits, I paint or design bungalows.”

[13] Chicago Examiner, June 15, 1910


So important was his work in the New York newspaper field that the World instituted suit to prevent its star cartoonist from working for any other paper.

Once the legal difficulties had been ironed out, Mr. Powers’ drawings became a regular feature in the Hearst newspapers.

H was quick to find humor in any phase of the days activities and to find material for his cartoons in many of the popular songs, sayings, and utterances by public figures.

One of the songs popular soon after the turn of the century concerned “The Saucy Little Bird on Nellie’s Hat,” whose refrain, “You Don’t Know Nellie Like I Do,” scared away many of her suitors.

Powers adopted the idea for one of his cartoon figures.

Among his other cartoon series were “Jersey Gloom,” “Mrs. Trubble, “Never Again,” “Down and Out Club,” “Sam the Drummer,” “Married Life From the Inside,” and “Charlie and George.”

These were laugh provokers, and added to his fame, but his greatest forte was the caricaturing of public men.

[14]'Tom Powers,' by Walter Hoban, Motion Picture News, May 21, 1928