Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Abraham Lincoln and the London Punch

William Shepard Walsh - Abraham Lincoln and the London Punch: Cartoons, Comments and Poems, Published in the London Charivari, during the American Civil War (1861-1865) (1909)

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This fascinating work of social history examines exactly what the title says - Punch's changing views on wartime Lincoln through essays, poetry and cartoons.  It's not just a look at British attitudes (the author, an American, claims Punch was "the mouthpiece of the mob") but also how a comic publication negotiated the changes in the war from both moral and nationalist perspectives (British neutrality and debt were apparently key concerns).  Viewed purely as political satire/commentary it's interesting how much is still the same (editorial cartoons, broad humor) and how much has changed (there may be more poetry here than in a current issue of Poetry).  I do wonder how accurately this book represents Punch - the book's author is clearly critical of it and this blog's author, like most modern Americans, has never seen a full issue.  Still, as far as I can tell this is the only book that covers this topic even in part.

By the way, most cartoons (which were originally full-page sized) are by John Tenniel of Alice in Wonderland fame.  He didn't sign the earlier works but that little squiggle that looks somewhat like the Artist-Formerly-Known-As-Prince's icon is his signature.