Page images

to the great mass of the public by the cartoons of Mr. Tenniel, than they would otherwise have been ; and how many things are delicately suggested in those wonderful Parliamentary sketches by Mr. Sambourne ! Week after week the public look upon the faces and figures of our eminent men, until they become as familiar with the outward aspects of the leading personages of the country as though they were next door neighbours in a provincial town. The half-cynical, half-philosophic indifference of Lord Beaconsfield, the passionate intensity of Mr. Gladstone, the pert self-consequence of Mr. Cross, the fiery impetuosity of the Duke of Argyll, are conveyed to the world at large far more easily and forcibly in the pictures of Punch, than in the most elaborate criticisms of the most powerful of writers.

Of course, it may be objected by prosaic people that the caricaturist exaggerates, and

[ocr errors]

that his portraits are not sufficiently 'like' to be trustworthy. This is the objection which has been urged from time immemorial against the caricaturist. Yet how little foundation is there for it in fact! The real caricaturist tells far more truth about the person whom he is portraying in the sketch in which he exaggerates certain of his features, than would be told by any photograph, however artistic. Look at the smug, sleek, commonplace face of some public man, as it stares at you from the hot canvas of some portrait-painter in the Royal Academy, and then turn over the pages of Vanity Fair till you find his caricature drawn by Ward or Pellegrini, and say whether the 'like' or the 'unlike' representation is really the more faithful. No; we cannot afford to let Punch go, if it be only because of its value as bringing home to us all, in this pleasant pictorial fashion, a great deal of truth about the public men who have been prominent in our time, and in most cases a very accurate and forcible idea of their personal characteristics.

It is evident that a journal which fulfils this function must have exercised great political influence. We turn over the

We turn over the pages of Punch, smile at Mr. Tenniel's cartoon, and enjoy the social satires of Mr. Du Maurier, and then we throw the little newspaper aside, and forget, or think we forget, all about it. But there comes some moment when, by the lightning flash of genius, the pencil of the caricaturist drives deep into one's very

heart the truth upon some great question. Who cannot recall many cases in which the cartoon of Punch has summed up in a single sketch, accompanied it may be by a line or two of letterpress, the conflicting emotions of the whole country at a national crisis ? Not always, of course, is the caricaturist successful

Who that knows anything of

in this way.

the conditions of his work could expect that he should be ? Yet anyone who looks back through the published volumes of Punch will find many pictures of which the words just written are true. He will be reminded of many sharp crises in our history, in which it has been the pencil of the artist, and not the pen of the writer or the voice of the orator, that has summed up the lessons of the time, and pointed the moral most clearly and emphatically. To deny political influence to one who wields such power as this would be ridiculous. Invaluable to the student of history, Punch is at the same time of no little weight in the politics of the day; and remembering his history, and the part he has played in many an exciting controversy during the last thirty years, one cannot deny to the veteran jester a place among the political powers

of our time.


« PreviousContinue »