Monday, March 26, 2012

Charles Henry Bennett (1829-1867), known as Cheerful Charlie

Nursery Nonsense c. 1865. 
Charles Henry Bennett, cartoonist and children’s book illustrator, began his artistic career contributing to Diogenes, a comic journal started on Jan 1, 1853, edited by Watts Phillips, author of the celebrated serial ‘The Dead Heart,’ and George Cruikshank’s only pupil. Contributors of text were Robert Brough, William Brough, Angus Bethune Reach, Augustus Mayhew, and George Ausgustus Sala. The proprietor was Robert Kemp Philp. W. McConnell and C.H. Bennett contributed cartoons. Diogenes died on August 1, 1855.

Punch’s Almanack for 1866.
Bennett quickly moved to the new Comic Times (No. 1, August 10, 1855). The printer, John Farlow Wilson, recalled that 

“This paper was started by Herbert Ingram, the proprietor of the Illustrated London News. There had been a quarrel between Bradbury & Evans and Ingram, which resulted in the latter determining to run a rival to Punch. Edmund Yates was appointed editor, and he gathered around him a staff of contributors sufficiently strong to have ensured success had the business management been equal to the editorial arrangements. The contributors included William and Robert Brough, Sala, Albert Smith, Edward Draper, Godfred Turner, John Oxenford, and E.L. Blanchard: C.H. Bennett, W. McConnell, and Newman (of the defunct Diogenes), supplying most of the illustrations. Robert Brough commenced in the second number a series of articles entitled ‘The Barlow Papers,’ which he illustrated himself. I have always thought that his Billy Barlow gave the idea upon which the modern Ally Sloper was founded. The paper had a brilliant but brief career. After the sixteenth number it was abandoned by its proprietor.” [The Printing World, Vol. I, No. 1, January 25, 1891].

Billy Barlow, Diogenes, 1855.
Actually the illustration I used to open this post, from Nursery Nonsense, c. 1865,  looks more like Ally Sloper than Brough’s Billy Barlow. Charles Henry Ross’ first drawings of Sloper in Judy would not appear until Aug 14, 1867, in ‘Some of the Mysteries of the Loan and Discount.’

Illustrated Times, Dec 20, 1856.
See full page HERE.
Bennett also drew a clever series on ‘The Origin of Species’ and various comic pages for Henry Vizitelly’s Illustrated Times in the fifties. Other contributors were Phiz, Kenny Meadows, Charles Keene, Matt Morgan, George Cruikshank, T.H. Nicholson, Adelaide and Florence Claxton, and Gustave Doré.

The Nine Lives of a Cat, c. 1866.
C.H. Bennett next contributed to Comic News (Jan 2, 1864, to Mar 14, 1865; 63 numbers) which was directed by H.J. Byron with the assistance of Tom Hood the younger. Bennett joined Punch in 1865 and his first work appeared on February 11, 1865, an initial for the ‘Essence of Parliament’ series. When he died in April of 1867 (replaced by Ernest Griset) he had contributed over 230 cartoons to the periodical. He started to carve his initials on the Punch Table but only got as far as the letter H.

Bennett was known as ‘Cheerful Charlie’ round the Punch Table. M.H. Spielmann described him as “in his way a man of genius not lacking academic training… He was originally a shoemaker; and though a little while before his early and untimely death he acquired some degree of celebrity and was enabled to live in material comfort, yet, for the most part, his life was passed in indigence and effort.” [Magazine of Art, Vol. 14, 1891].

Punch, March 31, 1866.
Bennett died aged 38 with no life insurance, leaving a large family unprovided for. Friends at Punch threw a benefit for his wife and eight children at the Adelphi Theatre. Tom Taylor, Mark Lemon, Horace Mayhew, Francis Burnand, John Tenniel, Shirley Brooks and Kate Terry performed. The American Literary Gazette and Publisher’s Circular called Bennett “one of the best and most original, as well as the most facile comic draughtsmen in England.”

Old Nurse’s Book of Rhymes, 1865.
Old Nurse’s Book of Rhymes, 1865. 
Fables of Aesop.
The History of Punch,
by M.H. Spielmann, 1895.
Notes & Queries, 1891.

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