Sunday, March 25, 2012

Victorian Speech Bubbles

Speech Bubbles pop up occasionally in Victorian cartoons, but seldom do you find a whole comic page with balloons. Charles Samuel Keene drew this eye-popper “Our American Cousin in Europe” for Punch, Vol. 68, included in Punch’s Almanack for 1875. Keene is obviously trying to ape an American accent – badly. 
Below is a transcription of the text, as near as I can make it out. Makes you wonder if Victorians, who prided themselves on good handwriting, had much of a conception of printing by hand.

1 Some of our Gals’ Luggages!

2 Drop me for the Alps and back!

3 Your tailors are pretty good Britisher, but we beat all creation in Shirts! & our Bosoms are Soo-perb!

4 Guess you must v’ ped a powerful heap for that Soo-perior Back Switch Nip!

5 There’s a general look o’ disrepair about these olde countries Stranger, that we ain’t used to in New York!

6 Knew where you came from directly Britisher! You speak ‘American’ with such a strong English twang!

7 Garçon! Comment pensey vous q’un gentilhomme peut manger da petits pois avec tel couteau comme ça?!

8a  My dear Cassandra hadn’t you better go to bed?
8b  What, atop o’ that tea Ma?! Wouldn’t sleep a wink!

9 Saw the Father o’ my Country in Wax at Mad. Tussaud’s!

10 And I’ve got a Carpetbag full o’ curiosities! a nose of a statue from Pompeii and some Mosaics out o’ the Pavement of St. Marks — 
I whipped out my knife to get a slice o’ your Coronation chair — 
but I had to leave! — I shall try again if I go home your way, 
Good bye John!

George Cruikshank strip above, from The Comic Almanack For 1849, Second Series, 1844-1853. Folding plate from a reprint by Chatto & Windus, 1912. Whereas the Keene bubble comic was a wood-engraving, Cruikshank’s The Preparatory School was steel engraved.

My Sketch Book, 1834 
My Sketch Book, 1834


  1. Any thoughts on Victorian thought balloons?

  2. A good question - I can't recall seeing any but I'll see what I can find :)