Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Hogarth-Doyle Punch foundation

Richard Doyle & William Hogarth.
Yesterday’s Papers. Today’s Views.
by Huib van Opstal

[11] On the cover of Punch
Launched in London, in midsummer 1841, the satirical paper Punch is published weekly, in half-yearly ‘volumes,’ counting twenty-six or 27 issues, each issue with an identically repeated front cover design.

(A front page that later becomes the cover of a separate outer quire with advertisements. Early issues still end with a regular page on the back. Actually 3 of the 12 pages of the early Punch issues are repeats: 1) the front page, with 2) its reverse side filled with small ads, and 3) the blank back of a full-page topical drawing near the front of the issue — a drawing called a ‘large cut,’ often on a political subject, occasionally done double-sized as a foldout. With Punch’s bad paper, a blank back makes a cut look better, less other print shines through.)

[a] December 1848 (cover detail, with second colour red added in the 20th century).
The standard cover is composed of a large drawing with an integrated handlettered PUNCH title in large capitals, plus some added lines of small typeset text in metal. As is already common in the 1840s, a full-page Punch cut (large cut) is a tiled woodblock, a composite image of several smaller blocks glued together; doweled or bolted blocks follow later.

One to five. Each half year a new cover artist is commissioned. Five in the starting years: Archie Henning (Archibald S. Henning) for Vol. 1 (1841b), Phiz (Hablôt Knight Browne) for Vol. 2 (1842a), William Harvey for Vol. 3 (1842b), John Gilbert for Vol. 4 (1843a), and Ken Meadows (Joseph Kenny Meadows) for Vol. 5 (1843b).

Six, in two versions. The sixth artist, asked to do the cover for Volume 6, is a young virtuoso of nineteen, Richard Doyle. Inspired by William Hogarth (1697-1764) he designs what becomes the longest running Punch cover — and the sturdy foundation of its lasting success. In two subsequent versions; the second one being an update of the first.

[b] Punch, December 1843.
[cover 1] In his first cover design, for Volume 6 (1844a), number 130, launched 30 December 1843, he draws the PUNCH title in large decorative block letters (with midway in their strokes ten small faces). A title he places in an arched line above a chair with Mr Punch, the paper’s signature figure, together with an artist’s easel and a pile of six Punch Volumes on which Mr Punch’s dog Toby is sitting. Date, number and Volume (in silly roman numerals) are prominently typeset on a rolled-out paper scroll in the center.

A cover so liked, it stays in use for a full five years (ten volumes, 6 to 15), from 1844 to the end of 1848, a period in which the fledgling paper begins to sell better.

[cover 2] In his second cover design, a revised and expanded version of his first, for Volume 16 (1849a), number 391, launched 6 January 1849, Doyle letters the PUNCH title in bent branches of wood. This time without the ‘London Charivari’ subtitle (which in future volumes will return, scaled down to tiny metal type; in his earlier cover it proved to be a dull lettered distractor).

The unbeatable cover that stays in use seemingly forever — for a full hundred-and-twelve years, until 3 October 1956 (nr 6058 of Vol. 231), far into the next century.

The Hogarth-Doyle Punch foundation. Both versions of Richard Doyle’s Punch cover of the 1840s satirize an earlier work of art: Hogarth’s Beauty portrait of the 1740s — a much talked about self-portrait. A work known in two versions as well: a painted one in 1745, and an etched one in 1749. London artist William Hogarth made it for a long spun out publicity game of bluff poker.

HB. In comparable secrecy, his father John Doyle (1797-1868) is a maker of none too complicated, highly successful ‘Political Sketches,’ often with talk balloons. (Somewhat like those of James Gillray, but he laughs away the label ‘caricature.’) Published since 1828, in many lithographs, most via polished stone, under his double identity signature ‘HB,’ a doubled ID — a signature only intimate friends know all about; friends like the painter Wilkie, the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge, and the writers Scott, Macaulay, Thackeray and Dickens.

Richard has two sisters and is the second of five sons. His Irish, catholic parents came from Dublin to London in the early 20s. In Richard’s youth, each Sunday the family attends the French Chapel off Baker Street. When his mother Marianna dies on 11 December 1839 at the age of 44, two of his mother’s sisters from Ireland, Anne and Elizabeth, have already moved in with them to help run the family. Soon his mother’s younger brother Michael Conan (probably b.1800) joins them too. (A qualified barrister, he paints a little himself, and later becomes an art journalist.) In 1840 the expanded Doyle family lives in John Doyle’s newly acquired grand home, a four-storey mansion — at No. 17, Cambridge Terrace (now Sussex Gardens), north of Hyde Park. (Father John Doyle gives his son Richard the task to keep an illustrated diary for the year 1840, which results in a fine work of verbal and visual reportage. But the dead of mother Doyle is not mentioned in it.)

The Doyle children are not in the least hampered by academic art rules. They visit London’s great museums and theatres; a private tutor is hired — Mr Street; father shows them the classics in art and caricature, and how to parody them as exercises in style too. They learn all about his drawings and miniature paintings, how to write letters, how to keep an illustrated diary. Regular Sunday concerts are held at the home and RD learns fencing, dancing and how to play the violin. At twelve, he already parodies the work of famed sculptor-illustrator John Flaxman (1755-1826) in a series of watercolour drawings titled ‘Homer for The Holidays.’ He draws the pictures for the Comic Histories of his brother James, and later his sister Adelaide writes him a version of Beauty and the Beast to illustrate. Some work he signs with ‘Dick Kitcat.’

RD. At home, bright young Richard Doyle (1824-83) already has loving nicknames like Dick Kitcat or Dicky Doyle and RD. He is a lifelong lover of visual stories and a published illustrator since his fifteenth, of lithographic stone prints sold in London print shops around 1840. (Funny envelope designs — done together with James — and a take on an 1839 reenactment of a medieval event his father has just seen in Scotland: the Eglinton tournament.) In 1842 a handful of etchings he makes are included in a published book. Shortly after he turns nineteen in September 1843 — introduced, thanks to his in-house uncle Michael Conan, to editors Henry Mayhew and Mark Lemon — he begins to work for Punch. Freely educated in art by his dad, he has zero page fright. Although fine lines reproduced via wood tend to end up rather deformed and scratchy in print at the time, the paper’s production method of typeset text in metal with inset woodcuts allows him every kind of page design he likes.

After a technical tête-à-tête with wood engraver Joseph Swain — who’s only four years older and has just started working for Punch too — his first assignment is planned in for the Christmas Number of 1843. In November, at the front door of the Doyle residence near Hyde Park, not only the regular lithographic stone is delivered for father John, but also a stack of woodblocks for son Richard to start his Punch work on.

[c] Punch, Vol. 5, No. 127, Christmas Number. Detail of a long procession drawn by Richard Doyle.
First, meant to be spread along the borders of five successive Punch pages, Richard Doyle designs a fascinating satirical multi-page Victorian street procession with numerous odd characters. In the printed issue the five pages are filled with various texts, 16 in all — one of which is ‘The Song of the Shirt,’ a poem about the exploitation of seamstresses, unsigned, but written by Thomas Hood who makes sure Greater London directly knows who wrote it — with young Richard Doyle’s grand entrance five times captioned ‘PUNCH’S TRIUMPHAL PROCESSION!’

[cover 1 in detail] Next comes Doyle’s first PUNCH cover, for Volume 6 (1844a) beginning with number 130 of 30 December 1843. Unanimous delight is shown when he presents his design sketches for it, beginning with his family and father — always his advisor, but never a Punch artist himself — and then to the rest of the family clan. Then to the weekly gathering of Punch staffers, at the time still held at London pubs and attended by editors, writers and artists. The carnivalesque and slightly naughty atmosphere of Richard Doyle’s art — with next to the spoofed Hogarth Beauty portrait some other sources blended in — adds to the picture rhyme fun, while at the same time it feels remarkably new as well. As artwork with a twist. Scrolls produced by two horns of plenty are inscribed with the words FUN, WIT and SATIRE. The dazzling detail of what’s going down in Doyle’s Punch cover is liked by all.

But it’s ancestry remains one of the little secrets in Doyle’s family. ‘The Funny Dogs and Mouses!… Their tails!… Hogarth’s TAIL of Beauty!… Another smashed Egg of Columbus!…’

Working at home, and using a large number of earlier made sketches on thin paper, RD puts the original drawing of it directly on the woodblock towards the end of November 1843. A cover not signed yet. It is then cut and engraved by a woodcutter, whose name is not given in the cut either. And then stereotyped and printed. From the overall scratchy look of the printed end result, it’s impossible to say if Doyle put it on the block by pencil or by pen. Any tiled-block divisions are no longer visible in it. (But original first printings of the earliest Punch covers are still to be inspected.)

One of Richard Doyle’s soft spots — like his father has one for scribbling ballooned talk — is lettering in bent branches of wood. His lettering of the ‘low and rustic life,’ in endless varieties.

[d] Richard Doyle’s signatures.
Both father, working on stone, and son, working on wood, need to draw everything mirrored, including their letterings. Richard’s favorite signature is his ‘RD’ monogram, visualised by a tiny bent branch with the R mirrored and his dicky bird sitting on it. (A signature not yet there in version one of his Punch cover, and later, when there, often with the bird sitting in another spot, or flown.)

[e] Punch, December 1848.

[cover 2 in detail] Five years later, such bent lettering sets the tone for Doyle’s revised and expanded PUNCH cover, for Volume 16 (1849a) beginning with number 391 of 6 January 1849.

In this version a grown RD — contributor to most issues in-between — enlarges just about every cover aspect. He redesigns the paper’s title lettering, in bent branches with the twigs still on them, and places the title in a lightly arched line above the seated Mr Punch. Clearly lord and master of the paper, Mr Punch — his head more prominently lifted above the chair now — is pictured with a more visible hunchback, an enormous beaky nose, goggle eyes and potbelly, all dressed up in his noisy suit and cap, leaning back in a wooden chair on his tiny stage, seated at a small table with an opened inkwell, flanked by an artist’s easel plus canvas, with on the floor an oval wooden palette with twin dippers and brushes, overflowing with paint.

[f] Mr Punch.
Not at all shown as a wood-and-wire Punch puppet, but as a human little man of flesh and blood, short-limbed, eyeing his potential public with a manic grin, posing in person as a ‘man of letters,’ or who knows, painter, looking sideways, making eye contact like a magnet, his right arm hanging down like a pump-handle, a curved quill pen in hand (dipped deep in ink), his left arm lifted up, a finger to the nose, a large rolled-out paper scroll on the table, with under his pen two naughty kids playing with his fresh paint, and right before him his posing pug dog Toby, sitting straight up on top of a grown pile of bound Volumes of Punch (at least ten now, his tail curled over them), dressed up too, in a funny hat, collared in a ruff and looking quite mortified, but on his master’s canvas already transformed into a dapper British Lion-with-a-crown.

Two horns of plenty — or ‘cornucopias’ in the lower corners, before a bottom frieze with a parading band of musicians — send up paper scrolls, a fat book, a tree trunk, a donkey’s head and a mass of cheerfully climbing, jumping, tumbling, flying miniature people — male and female, dwarfs, jesters, acrobats, nymphs, a young woman wooed by a man, a baby Punch, a military in tails, a shootist, a smoker, a little Mr Punch in a bowl of punch carried to cloud nine, truly over the top — some with quill pens, some as pole-climbers lovingly clutching a colossal replica of Mr Punch’s baton.

All clinging round the cover’s borders in vine-like fashion, more lightly drawn towards the top, highlighting the PUNCH title and the central comical duo in an egg-shaped formation.

A cover prominently signed this time with Richard Doyle’s RD monogram plus dicky bird on it, in the lower left corner — where it’ll stay for ages. The Punch cover that becomes a world-renowned trademark and the firm foundation of Punch’s lasting success.

Both of Doyle’s Punch cover versions show Mr Punch with a writing tool in hand, instead of a baton or a spoonful of punch. Radiating enjoyment with a hint of naughtiness.

[g] Mr Punch’s quill pen.
Picture rhyme. Artist Richard Doyle often made picture rhyme fun based on art that inspired him. (Like for instance a short strip he draws as a young boy, inspired by tiny printed reproductions he’d seen of the Tapisserie de Bayeux — the Bayeux ‘tapestry,’ depicting the conquest of England by the Normans, made in Normandy after the Battle of Hastings in 1066 — a long war strip continuing in vine-like fashion for over 70 meters, half a meter high, with all texts and visuals embroidered with woollen thread on linen cloth, and unfinished, broken off in final combat. Doyle takes great delight in its inventiveness and humorous detail and for Punch draws another even more experimental version in 1848, his satire Our Barry-eux Tapestry. To Charles Barry, Esq., R.A., in six strips.) London print shops and booksellers are like a second home to him, his sisters and brothers, and his print-collecting father, including shops that charge a fee for renting prints or to have a look inside. At sixteen he sees his first printed illustrations displayed behind their shop windows.

Picture rhyme is art echoing art, a most powerful weapon.

[h] The Tapisserie de Bayeux line (detail).
Pear rhyme. Earlier, in France in the 1830s, a pear — or rather the French king as a pear — becomes a test case: the fat head of le roi Louis-Philippe in four stages morphing into a poire or pear. Which in France stands for fool. Frenchman Charles Philipon (b.1800), the editor-publisher of satirical papers like La Caricature and Le Charivari and a caricaturist on the side, insists he made its original version live in court, in 1832. (His pièce de résistance, quietly recycling an 1820 idea by George Cruikshank. And quietly leaving out the fact that the poire-likeness was pure projection — Philipon knows he could have done it to any fathead.) In the five roller coaster years of La Caricature’s existence, the years when Philipon has print versions of his pear-shaped king made by Honoré Daumier and other collaborators, and as Agitator in Chief is persistently and repeatedly prosecuted and condemned for obscenity by the State, it only leads to more Philipon theatricals and more poire picture rhyme on pear-shaped heads and bodies. When prohibited from publishing them drawn, he has poires constructed by means of typography, using the letters of the verdict as toy bricks. A nationwide public runs away with it.

(A Daumier-drawn print titled: ‘Gargantua’ that shows a fat French king on the Place de la Concorde on a giant commode — a poop chair — in full function, is seized by la Justice as soon as it is put on display in Paris before a single copy of it is sold, and lands both Philipon and Daumier in jail after they proudly plead guilty.)

In a different climate, in England in the 1840s, early Punch artists with their firsthand knowledge of the failed and frustrated painter, are fond of producing gentle picture rhyme parodies of contemporary paintings. Original ‘oils’ for instance, exhibited in posh art institutions like the Royal Academy in London and made by ‘the other fellows.’ Artists of Le Charivari in Paris do the same with works shown in the yearly ‘Salon’ at the Paris Louvre museum.

Gentle picture rhyme fun, hidden in his composition, is the key to Richard Doyle’s classic Punch cover, the cover he makes in two versions, designed and revised in late 1843 and late 1848.

[some cover sources] First, he reuses elements from the five earlier Punch cover designs. From the one for volume 2 (1842a) — a fine design by older Punch colleague Hablôt Knight Browne or Phiz (b.1815) — he takes the cover’s fringe crowded with miniature people, the arched title lettered in bent branches of wood, and the pole-climbers loving Mr Punch’s giant baton.

Second, he takes elements from a colourful painting titled The Triumph of Bacchus (1638) by Cornelis de Vos from the Netherlands, after a design by painter Pieter Paul Rubens. Doyle fills the bottom frieze of his cover with it, showing a naked Mr Punch riding a donkey — potbellied, with baton in hand, a young nymph clinging to his side (rendering his hunchback invisible) — parading with a small band of musicians, with an angel, nymphs, and fauns of all ages playing the flute and the pan pipe.

Third, he blends in every element of the controversial Beauty portrait by Londoner William Hogarth (1697-1764) — a self-portrait with a dog and a mysterious ‘Line of BEAUTY’ label — a portrait known in several versions from the 1740s, specifically made to market Hogarth’s treatise on art, his art theory book, titled The Analysis of Beauty. Richard Doyle possesses a deep knowledge of Hogarth’s oeuvre and loves his prints. 

Fourth, he refers to the final cut in Punch’s tiny 1841 prospectus: five dogs and one mouse, all with prominent tails and dressed up as humans. Dog tails on the left and a dog and mouse tail on the right.

HOGARTH’S 1745 BEAUTY PAINTING. The earliest version of this Beauty portrait, already conceived by Hogarth in the late-1730s and completed in 1745, is painted in (then) brightly coloured oils on a canvas of 90 cm high (35.4 inch). A portrait in which he doesn’t appear in a wig and fancy coat as he did in earlier works, but one in which he pictures himself — or rather the reflection of his looks — loosely dressed in a more comfortable working outfit, a wide scarlet coat, while warming his bald head with a round black fur hat with coloured top.

[i] Picture rhyme fun with a man and his dog. A close comparison of these two designs shows William Hogarth’s 1745 self-portrait is echoed in Richard Doyle’s Punch cover for 1849.
A self-image reflected in an egg-shaped mirror that Hogarth seems to flow out of, set up before a puddled drapery in green silk and resting on a pile of large bound books (by Shakespeare, Milton and Swift), with his palette and his posing pug dog — art historians think this must be the one called Trump — placed right in front of his master’s self-image, looking ill at ease. A sitting dog with a poker-faced Hogarth, prominently presented as a painter, eyeing himself and his potential public.

Tongue-in-cheek, William Hogarth — a praised maker of acclaimed provocative prints of London life in the 1740s, but still a slighted painter — letters the empty palette on his original canvas with the mysterious, catchy phrase ‘The LINE of BEAUTY and GRACE’ (but in the end paints out the ‘and GRACE’ again; thanks to the working of the paint over time, it is now readable again). A palette lying in the lower left corner of his design — as a quizzical tailpiece. A palette with a bent line over it, connected to its left side, a line that resembles a mouse tail.

[j] Hogarth’s palette. Detail from the 1749 print version, with his bent line no longer connected to the left side.
HOGARTH’S 1749 BEAUTY ETCHING. Four years later he produces a smaller reproduction of it, in 1749 done as an ‘etched and engraved’ print on a thick paper sheet of 37 cm high (14,6 inch), signed ‘Gulielmus Hogarth|Se ipse Pinxit et Sculpsit 1749,’ and known under titles like Self-portrait with dog, or The painter and his pug. Rather overdoing the already rich trompe-l’oeil effects, this print is a reversal of the earlier painting — so, everything is mirrored again, more like ‘a dog with his master’ now, the pug is looking much sharper too — and shows the egg-shaped self-portrait with nails in the side, turning it into a painter’s canvas. Gone is any impression of a mirror. And gone are the titled book spines and the name-dropping. He also disconnects his ‘line of beauty’ mouse tail from the side of his palette; draws seven dabs of paint on the palette, and places his basic etching tool, his burin, in the foreground.

HOGARTH’S 1752 BEAUTY TICKET. Three years later he designs and sends out a personally signed subscription ticket for potential subscribers in the form of an etching on a sheet of 20.5 cm high (8.1 inch). It shows explorer Christopher Columbus who just proved that his egg can stand — by smashing it to the table.

A text in calligraphy on it reads:
Rec’d of [received of — with blank spaces for date and name]

five Shillings being the first Payment for a Short Tract in Quarto call’d the Analysis of Beauty; wherein Forms are consider’d in a new light, to which will be added two explanatory Prints Serious and Comical, Engrav’d on large Copper Plates fit to frame for Furniture.

N.B. The Price will be rais’d after the Subscription is over.
[k] The 1753 title page.

HOGARTH’S 1753 BEAUTY BOOK. The year next, Hogarth’s Beauty project is finally crowned by an equally bent tale disguised as a treatise on art (a ‘Short Tract’ in 175 large-lettered pages). Self-published in 1753 ‘BY WILLIAM HOGARTH’ as an illustrated bound book, the illustrations added as two large plates of visual evidence, each plate folded in eight — ‘Printed by J. REEVES for the AUTHOR, And Sold by him at his House in Leicester-Fields. MDCCLIII.’ — titled THE ANALYSIS OF BEAUTY, and subtitled: ‘Written with a view of fixing the fluctuating Ideas of TASTE.’

A book in which he claims, in words and pictures, that his Line of Beauty is the basis of all fine art, painting and drawing. Today, it is still widely parroted. Hogarth, a schoolmaster’s son, is 55 years of age in 1753.

Roughly a century later, on the front cover of the London satirical paper Punch, young Richard Doyle gives Hogarth’s drollery a fitting reply. Key elements in both his cover versions for the weekly Punch of 1844 and 1849 are the painter’s palette plus the two curved horns of plenty in the bottom corners, curved objects producing about anything silly imaginable. Hogarth’s empty mouse-tailed palette on puddled silk versus Doyle’s overflowing palette plus paint-smearing miniature kids — in egg-smashing fashion — on a tiny stage floor. A teenager’s hearty laugh at Hogarth’s egg of Columbus joke and bent-line campaign about ‘beauty’ and the ‘waving’ or ‘serpentine line’ — Hogarth’s fantasized ‘LINE of BEAUTY and GRACE.’

[l] Mr Punch’s palette (detail).
Deformity. Hogarth’s 175-page long mazelike text is often quoted, mainly its title actually, but fails to enchant. Although it is marketed in several foreign language editions, and soon spoofed by young artist Paul Sandby (b.1731) — foreshadowing pages in future periodicals like Punch or MAD — published in a set of eight etched prints in 1753-54, upon completion titled The Analysis of Deformity.

Whereas, as if by magic, Richard Doyle’s Punch cover enchants everyone and is shipped to all corners of the world for a stunning 112 years on end, from 1844 to 1956. In version one and two, and in many lightly altered layouts, it turns into one of the longer running covers in publishing history. The total number of Doyle’s Punch cover or covers in print is many millions.

[m] Richard Doyle, 1850s photograph.
(Nearly all of the endlessly repeated covers have been thrown away or shredded, of course. Many front covers carried additional small ads of commercial advertisers in their borders. Later issues even had multiple interior pages at the front and the back solely filled with ads. Nobody was interested in old ads at the time and the added bulk of such pages would have increased the paging of the bound Punch Almanacks far too much. Plus, the later repeats of Richard Doyle’s Punch cover were reproduced in low quality anyway.)

Seven years. In less than seven years, Richard Doyle becomes a decisive contributor to Punch, working for it from late 1843 to late 1850. In the Volumes 18 (1850a) and 19 (1850b) he’s even the paper’s most prolific contributor — in inventiveness, quality and quantity. A stylistic high point in Punch 1849-50 are Doyle’s two series of Manners and Customs of ye Englyshe, fifty-one single cartoons with wildly overcrowded scenes, for which Percival Leigh (b.1813) writes separate musings in text.

(In his first Punch year, 1843-44, his brother Francis and sister Adelaide died. His only older brother James William Edmund Doyle (b.1822) paints and illustrates, becomes a writer of English history and in the family is nicknamed ‘The Priest.’ His younger brother Henry Edward Doyle (b.1827) paints portraits and religious subjects, works briefly as a wood engraver and Punch and Fun artist — signing ‘Fusbos’ or ‘Hen’ — and in 1869 becomes the successful director of the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. His youngest brother Charles Altamont Doyle (b.1832) paints and illustrates too, works as a civil servant and fathers ten children — but can’t cope with alcohol and spends his later life in mental institutions. Charles’ second child is a son named Arthur Conan Doyle, who will later create Sherlock Holmes. Their oldest sister Annette will become a nun.)

Loving Henrietta. For Richard Doyle the year 1850 also ends in overwork, stress, fatigue, religious pains and a broken heart. It’s the year he tours the European continent with his friends Tom and Watts (comic writer, Tom Taylor, b.1817, and writer-designer Israel Watts Phillips, b.1825); a trip that proves to be not as pleasurable as expected. And it’s the year he gets stuck in hopeless love for Henrietta, a beautiful woman he cannot marry (Henrietta Blanche Stanley, born in 1830; a baron’s daughter, and already wedded the year after, 1851, to a peer in the House of Lords, an earl, without a doubt a reader of Punch).

He remains a bachelor. She haunts him his life long in his jottings.

Comic strip series. A pleasure is Doyle’s continuing series of full-page strips, the first ten pages of his (then) titled Pleasure Trips of Brown, Jones, and Robinson (Vol. 19, 1850b, Punch 468 to 488). A comic strip made under not too strict weekly deadlines (of which he blows half), with mostly short, dry captions and no dialogues, in funny little drawings that pull the reader in and stimulate reading. A nod to the mild buffoonery of three young lads about town, and a nod to what the real-life trio Doyle – Taylor – Phillips went through on the Continent earlier that year, with as its central character Doyle’s alter ego Mr Brown, the smallest of the three, who, in the role of reporter, sketches all that happens to them.

The unexpected. His comic strip just reaches the first leg of a trip ‘Up The Rhine’ when the news breaks — it won’t appear in Punch anymore. Totally unexpected, shortly after his twenty-sixth birthday, for the sake of his religion, in emotional discussions and exchanges of letters, Richard Doyle cuts all ties with his beloved paper — much against his will — in the chaotic end of November 1850 just before the end of Volume 19. (Within a week another young artist is hired to replace him: the thirty-year old John Tenniel, stylewise the opposite of all Doyle is into.) His sudden departure places the production of this year’s Christmas Number under some extra heavy deadline stress.

No popery sympathies. Although a constant parodist himself in his strip, caricature and cartoon work, Doyle, who like his father is a devout Roman Catholic, simply cannot live with the ‘no popery’ sympathies of his colleagues. (Who picture Roman Catholic Church officials in Punch as bulls and apes for instance.) He comes to see his Punch paper as a Protestant republic of which he wants no further part — and quits.

Gone is the daily grind of Punch life. The daily-nightly-weekly working rhythm for a well-read topical and satirical fun paper. In the seven years he’s part of it a paper issued in his self-made cover. Gone, the noisy get-togethers with other Punch staff members (still in different locations at the time), the banter and the laughter, the ceaseless switches to the next issue, his weekly political full-page cut, the steady income, his public, his experiments in style, his overcrowded border design blends, the eternal kick of seeing his finished artwork in print within days, the smell of fresh printer’s ink on still wet proofs.

The Great Exhibition. Practically next to his father’s house above Hyde Park, the ‘Crystal Palace’ — a name thought up by the Punch staff and published in the month he quits — is still under construction for the major event of 1851, The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. Richard Doyle, who already drew several satirical takes on the upcoming event the past few years, will no longer comment on it on any Punch page.

Early in 1851, W.M. Thackeray — who’s a family friend of the Doyles and sees Richard as his protégé — under his usual anonymous signature ‘a Contributor’ writes a Punch piece about an earlier editorial discussion of the no popery question in which he describes himself as ‘the learned Professor of Gastronomy,’ writer Douglas Jerrold as ‘Professor of Theology,’ writer Percival Leigh as ‘Professor of Belles Lettres,’ and Richard Doyle as ‘Professor of Medieval Design.’
“…the meeting of your Privy Council (…) was very stormy. I see our friend the Professor of Theology battling with clenched fists, and thumping and defying the Pope and all his crew. (…) And our dear friend, the Professor of Mediæval Design, whose faith and whose affections were with the party which we were met to oppose, quitted us to join the banner displayed now for the first time these 300 years, and under which the Cardinal was marching upon our country. For this is amongst the consequences of religious debate: it separates brethren; estranges parent and child; parts dear friends; angers and embitters honest hearts. By Jupiter Ammon, Sir, rather than have lost our friend the Professor of Mediæval Design, I would have foregone a bench of Bishops and a whole conclave of Cardinals — the Pope can make those any day…” — W.M. Thackeray, ‘JOHN BULL BEATEN. In a Letter from a Contributor to Mr. Punch,’ in Punch 506, Vol. 20, pp.115-116

After Punch. Richard Doyle continues solo. Drawing black and white illustrations for more books. Painting brightly coloured fairy subjects, in watercolours and in oils, in larger sizes too. In 1870 his love for fairies is illustrated by his book In Fairyland; A Series of Pictures from the Elf-World, with 16 exceptional full-colour plates printed from lithographic stone, 36 drawings in black and white, and Doyle’s token title-page lettering in bent branches of wood.

He loves music and opera and has a busy circle of society hostesses, friends, artists and writers to attend to, but problems with his motivation, concentration, time management and health persist.

After his funeral in December 1883 — dead at 59 — his nephew Arthur Conan Doyle, aged 24, working as a doctor in Portsmouth but already a budding writer, writes his uncle a poem.
In Memoriam

Upon the Death of Richard Doyle, the Artist. His body was conveyed to his studio – where it lay surrounded by his pictures, most of which represented fairy subjects.

The little elves upon the walls
Cried “What is this before us?
“Why should the master lie so still,
“And why should he ignore us?
“Oh what is this, and why is this?”
They whispered in a chorus.

And one behind a heather ball,
A gentle nymph and slender
Said “What if we have made him cross,”
“And I be the offender!”
“Nay, nay” they cried “he will not chide
“The master’s heart is tender.”

Pirated strip. Another sad story is the loss of his strip. Broken off in mid-story in Punch, Richard Doyle’s ten comic strip pages of his 1850 Pleasure Trips of Brown, Jones, and Robinson are never reprinted. In 1854, in a totally redone form some of it is published in book format by Punch’s publishers, Bradbury & Evans in Whitefriars, London (‘Printers Extraordinary To The Queen’), with the blue front board and spine starring the same trio of young men, decorated in gold, and newly titled The Foreign Tour of Messrs. Brown, Jones and Robinson. Being the History of what they saw, and did, in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland & Italy — with over 40 characters of its title lettered in Doyle’s bent branches. A new design, with new artwork, in a nice binding. But the lively comic strip aspect is gone. A simply disastrous book version, designed in dull picture book style, with overlong text in capital letters, and done in bad typography, effectively killed by too much empty space.

[n] 1856, New York, pirated edition.
‘Comic Engravins.’ Copyrights are still trampled in the mid-1800s. An 1850 Richard Doyle comic strip page from Punch is pirated in the US within a year. An openly pirated American version of his Brown, Jones and Robinson book follows soon after the 1854 English original, in December 1856, done in smaller ‘landscape’ format. On its front cover freely retitled with as much added text as possible — and complete with Doyle’s name — the larger part of it in zigzagging hand lettering:

‘FUN FOR THE MILLION ! PRICE 25 CENTS – The LAUGHABLE ADVENTURES of Messrs. BROWN, JONES, and ROBINSON ! showing WHERE THEY WENT and how THEY WENT what THEY DID ! and how THEY DID IT – with nearly 200 most Thrillingly Comic Engravins BY RICHARD DOYLE – GARRETT, DICK & FITZGERALD, 18 ANN ST., N.Y.’

Huib van Opstal

[ to be continued ]

Title and intro shortened, 16 June 2014.

Click up preceding paragraphs here:

[9] The text, the type, the visual

[10] Cutting labels

[11] The Hogarth-Doyle Punch foundation


  1. A small fragment of the punch cover remains in print to this day, it features on the first editorial page of the satirical magazine Private Eye, it's a copy of the drawing of Mr Punch on a donkey clutching a maiden in one arm and something else in the other, though what this might be I cannot guess.

  2. An incredibly interesting read, thank you for it.