Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sketches by Seymour

Robert Seymour (1798-1836) apprenticed as a pattern-drawer. He began as a copper-engraver in 1827 and later worked chiefly in lithography. He was a frequent woodcut contributor to the unstamped papers of the radical press. His cartoons appeared in The Looking Glass, McClean’s Monthly Sheet of Caricature, the Odd Fellow, The Museum, Bell’s Life in London, The Comic Magazine, Figaro in London, and The Squib. He illustrated Hervey’s Book of Christmas in 1835 and contributed to Louisa H. Sheridan’s annual Comic Offering.

Sketches by Seymour were published between 1834 and 1836 in detached prints at 3d. each, by Richard Carlile, radical publisher of Paine’s Age of Reason. Seymour was paid 15 shillings per drawing. Carlile sold the copyright and lithographic stones to Henry Wallis, picture dealer and engraver, who retained the copyright and passed on the stones to G. S. Tregear of 96 Cheapside, London, who transferred the drawings to steel and published them in 1838 in 5 bound volumes.

Seymour is best remembered for instigating “The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club.” In 1836 Charles Dickens agreed to write the text to accompany comic prints by Seymour. Sales were slow, and the illustrator shot himself to death after the second number, but by the fourth number things had improved and Dickens was a household name in England.

The cover illustration at top is from Volume 4 of Tregear’s version in steel-engraving. The illustrations below are from volume One. And I wonder if the corpulent cricketer in No. 8 below was the original inspiration for Dickens famous Fat Boy from Pickwick.

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