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Peer Reviewed

A Draft List of Published book and periodical contributions by Robert Seymour

Brian Maidment, University of Salford

Serial works 2 - Sketches by Seymour

[22] Seymour’s Sketches proved to be one of the most popular books of the nineteenth century, and was reprinted time and time again after its original publication in the mid 1830s. Indeed, it still remains an immediately accessible text, with illustrated internet versions freely available at Google Books, Project Gutenberg and the Open Library, and the illustrations separately available at the Dore website. Given the widespread availability of the images from the Sketches on the web, I have concentrated here on images that suggest the range of differing editions that were published across over fifty years of the nineteenth century. It is important to add, however, that all of the web based editions cited above derive from late editions of the book, as does the recent ‘print on demand’ version offered by many booksellers on Abe Books. Additionally all of these recent editions, both electronic and print, are, unsurprisingly, rather vague about the date of original publication and the relationship of their published versions to the book’s printing history, which is indeed exceptionally complex. The following list, while it certainly falls short of completeness and fails to state exactly quite how Seymour’s plates wandered through the nineteenth century so extensively, does make a substantial point clear. While originally conceived as a predominantly visual experience, the Sketches became inextricably tied to extended texts quite early in their publishing history. Only a lazily produced late edition [22g] sought to present Seymour’s images on their own as originally published. Yet, equally important, there were enough single plates from the editions of the Sketches published in the 1830s and 1840s floating about nineteenth century print culture to constitute an important popular presence for Seymour’s images without any additional textual explication.
The Sketches form a difficult publication for bibliographical listing. Some of the printed editions cited below, despite evidence of high production values, carry no information about publishers, printers, or dates of publication. The plate shown in [22 i], for example, appears in an edition where there is evidence that the publishers’ details have been scratched out in the plate. This edition [22 ii] was published in gold stamped boards, but carries no information about its publication. The following list of editions is drawn from a variety of sources, and is almost certainly incomplete. Nor is the relationship between the various editions clear, with the ownership of the copyright of the images seemingly shared between a number of publishers and in complex relationship to the various texts associated with them.
[22a] 1834-1836 Humorous Sketches [180 plus lithographed prints published individually or in small groups with no accompanying text] (Richard Carlile). [22a 1]  

After Seymour’s death in 1836, the publisher William Spooner, who specialised in cheap lithographic prints, re-issued many of the Sketches plates as a means of raising money for Mrs. Seymour. They appear under their joint imprint, and retain the coloured paper used in the original Carlile publication.
[22a i] Have you read?
[22a i] "Have you read the Leader...?"
Seymour's Sketches
Seymour’s Sketches was the most spectacular Victorian survival of the urban picaresque derived from the eighteenth century caricature tradition. Originally issued between 1834 and 1836 by Richard Carlile in single plates costing threepence each or as short series of plates, Seymour’s lithographed stones were sold on to the entrepreneur Henry Wallis. In a canny move characteristic of a burgeoning awareness of how to work the market for visual culture, Wallis sold on the stones to G.S.Tregear, who re-issued all 180 of Seymour’s images in five volumes along with new title pages, probably in 1837, forming, along with the same artist’s New Readings of Old Authors, one of the defining visual accounts of just Victorian London. But Wallis was aware of the new potential of the visual/verbal inter-relationship, and, having kept the copyrights to Seymour’s images, re-drew 86 of the images on steel, brought in ‘Crowquill’ (Albert Forrester) to write a connecting narrative for the sequence of plates, and re-issued the resulting volume as Seymour’s Humorous Sketches in 1841. The volume may perhaps have been an attempt to help Seymour’s family after the artist’s suicide, though there seems little precise evidence to support this possibility, although a range of plates under the joint imprint of William Spooner and Mrs. Seymour were issued at this time. It was this version of Seymour’s plates, with an emphasis on the narrative potential of the adventures of a gauche urbanite at large in the countryside playing at pursuits such as fishing and shooting, that continued to please later Victorian readers. Henry Bohn re-issued a second edition of this book in 1841 adding in a descriptive list of the plates and a brief biography of Seymour, thus adding further layers of mediating textuality to an originally entirely visual project. 
The Bohn version of the book – 86 plates, the Crowquill text, the Bohn descriptive list and biography, and the single title page and frontispiece rather than the five found in the Tregear volumes – was then reprinted successively in (at least) 1866, 1872, 1878, 1880 and 1888. Even right at the end of the century some of the plates were to be found in the stock book of a Bristol printer. Another, completely different text by ‘R.B. Peake’ built round 92 of Seymour’s original plates was issued by in 1846 (by Routledge, although my copy gives no publisher), its intended audience made clear in its title – An Evening’s Amusement; or the Adventures of a Cockney Sportsman. In this version the transformation of Seymour’s original series of plates into something far more Pickwickian than Seymour had initially imagined was complete.
One late edition of the Sketches, published by Frederick Bentley (n.d. c.1880?), offers ninety-seven caricature etchings ‘for the first time offered to the public free from the incumbrances of letter press’. This assertion was of course not true – Bentley here returns Seymour’s project to its original form, although using only a selection of the images available in the series. The publisher further notes in his Preface that ‘the conceptions of this famous Artist so speak for themselves, that they produce a hearty and spontaneous laugh. . . .any laboured description is a stumbling block rather than an advantage to them’. Issued in highly decorated blind stamped boards the images are reproduced on large pages so that the (poorly reproduced) images are surrounded by a considerable expanse of white paper. The images have also been organised into two sequences, with sporting images forming the first half of the book followed by images of urban incident for the remainder. Thus this edition acknowledges the two strands of Seymour’s interests in drawing the original Sketches, something that the additional texts by Crowquill and Peake had largely subordinated in their added narratives.
There are a number of reasons to dwell on the complex history of this particular book. The first is the sense of the opening up of the market for visual culture it suggests. The second is the way in which Seymour’s urban vision, an essentially visual apprehension of the world expressed through traditional caricature tropes of transgression and reversal – the would-be urban sophisticate unmanned and unmannered by the alien threats of a misunderstood countryside – was mediated into later Victorian consciousness through incremental levels of textuality. The addition of a text just beginning to emerge from the picaresque into the realist mode provided a first step, but it was really Bohn’s explanatory notes to the plates (suggesting that their immediate visual meaning was likely to be obscure to later readers) and biography of Seymour that turned the text into an interesting antique survival of a lost era rather than a living and immediate response to the Victorian city. The Bohn text, reprinted again and again despite the deteriorating condition of the steel plates, represents a moment of Victorian yearning for a lost innocence, a world of transgressive pleasure and comic outings into the unfamiliar, in which accident, nuisance and misadventure, rather than urban crisis, were the dominant ideas. In order to construct this particular text, Wallis (and then Bohn) reduced Seymour’s stock of 180 available images to 86, largely eliminating images of urban meetings and street culture in favour of the comic sportsmen through which Seymour had built his reputation. Indeed, reading the original Tregear edition, or even the 1846 R.B. Peake version, a very different London emerges – a teeming world of street collisions and urban presences – scavengers, dustmen, sweeps, draymen and the like – largely rendered through grotesque caricature modes, and, increasingly, depicting a domestic as well as a street culture. It is this world of sometimes claustrophobic urban-ness that Seymour counterposes against the country adventures of his less than sophisticated urban escapees and seekers of rural delight.
In the complex history of this illustrated text, then, we can see a struggle between competing meanings in Seymour’s images, with an early Victorian sense of the market-place insisting that the urban grotesque should give way to a more gentle comedy of reversal, out-of-placeness, and mutual incomprehension between the city and the country. Yet even in the Bohn edition some lingering sense of a caricature version of the city emerges, built out of accidents, collisions, inconveniences and nuisances, mainly experienced on the streets but with an increasing interest in the domestic and cultural lives of the relatively poor. Yet this version of the city is also theatrical, visually stimulating, characterised by grotesque yet engaging physicality, and essentially benign. This picturesque and picaresque city imagined by the caricaturists of the 1820s and 1830s, despite the level of mediation that often accompanied its presence in later nineteenth century visual culture, was startlingly available to later Victorian consumers. Another important and widely known book with its origins in visual culture but with an added interpretative text that ordered a sequence of graphic images into something with more narrative drive and social explication, Douglas Jerrold’s and Kenny Meadows’s Heads of the People was first published with its full text in 1838, but repeatedly reprinted with at least one edition dating from the late 1870s (Bryce 1841, Routledge 1878). Interestingly in this case the original plates, intended as Dickensian illustrations, were given tremendous added gravitas by being turned into urban ‘types’ by the addition of commissioned essays, another example of the way in which later Victorian literary culture stressed the importance of the verbal in annotating and explaining the visual response to urban culture. Several of George Cruikshank’s oblong folios of miscellaneous caricatures from the 1820s and 1830s, including Scraps and Sketches and Illustrations of Time, were reprinted in the 1870s and 1880s, and the highly topical (and still under-rated) Comic Almanack (1835-1853) was re-issued in collected two volume format by John Camden Hotten late in the century. Another key antiquarian/scholar, Charles Hindley, assembled a reprint Gallery of Comicalities for Reeves and Turner which drew together images by the Cruikshanks and Seymour originally published in Bell’s Life in London and Mornings at Bow Street. In the 1880s, Simpkin Marshall distributed bulging compilations of admittedly poor quality images drawn from Cruikshank and Leech’s copious work. Edward Moxon did a similar job in 1870 for Thomas Hood with Whimsicalities, A Periodical Gathering, although Hood himself and his son had already proved adept at reprinting and re-issuing much of the author’s graphic work – and, indeed, the Whimsicalities itself had been re-issued by Colburn as early as 1846 under the somewhat deceptive title of The Comic Annual for 1846. The enthusiasm of Victorian bookbuyers for the lost world of Regency urban graphic comedy needs further study.
The 1846 versions of 92 of the Sketches with a text by R.B. Peake offer a number of bibliographical difficulties. There seem to have been at least three versions of this text. The ‘authorised’ version seems to have been Seymour’s Humorous Sketches comprising ninety two caricature etchings illustrated in prose by R.B. Peake, published by George Routledge in 1846. But the same year also saw the appearance of An Evening’s Amusement of the Adventures of a Cockney Sportsman, by R.B. Peake, Esq., illustrated with ninety two plates by Seymour which was published without a publisher’s imprint, thus suggesting a possible piracy or an edition with the text and plates sold on by Routledge. I have also seen a bookseller’s advertisement for Snobson’s Seasons, Being Annuals of Cockney Sports, again with 92 plates and published by M.A. Nattali without a date. These disparate titles offer differing emphases, the first stressing Seymour’s plates as the main attraction, the other two marketing the book largely through the appeal of hapless cockney encounters with the unfamiliar world of country sports and pastimes, suggesting not just a town/country clash of values but also, to some extent, a class one with the urban ilk seeking the pleasures of the rural gentry and yeomen. In both the dated copies, the text remains the same, and the two books seem to have been printed off the same type although on different paper. But the plates are different, and many of the same plates are printed at slightly different moments within the text, an interesting variation given the close relationship between images and text suggested by the Routledge edition where the plates are ‘illustrated in prose’ by the text – thus suggesting a simple verbalisation of the images strung into some sort of sequence.
[22f i]
[22f i] Title Page
The Routledge text is prefaced by a single one of the five volume title page plates used in the Tregear edition, while the other 1846 text uses two. The various R.B. Peake editions all use more plates than the Crowquill texts, although, of course, all the text based versions of the Sketches use only half of the images available in the original issues. Peake was an interesting choice of author to be commissioned to re-work Seymour’s graphic images as an extended narrative. He was a prolific playwright best known nowadays for writing the first stage version of Frankenstein called Presumption in 1823, and for serving as one of the models for the character of a writer who adapted works for the stage in Nicholas Nickleby. His book The Bottle Imp (1828) may well have influenced Robert Louis Stevenson. By the 1840s he was something of a veteran professional writer, and still contributing articles and stories to the likes of Ainsworth’s Magazine and Bentley’s Miscellany. He may well have come across Seymour while contributing to the Comic Magazine in 1832. His interest in adapting texts from one medium to another – as well as Frankenstein he had dramatised Samuel Warren’s novel Ten Thousand a Year – may well have been seen as a useful qualification for undertaking the Sketches.
[22b] Humorous Sketches [180 lithographed plates] (G.S.Tregear 5 volumes n.d. but perhaps 1837 or 1838). Printed on coloured paper, and presumably sold as single plates as well as in volume form. 10/6d. per volume.
[22b i]
[22b i]
[22b ii]
[22b ii]
[22b iii]
[22b iii]
[22b iv]
[22b iv]
[22b v]
[22b v]
When G.S.Tregear re-published the Sketches in volume form [22b] he gave each volume a separate title page. The five title pages above offer some fine images that sum up Seymour's interests and identity as a caricaturist. Volume 1 shows a group of panic stricken sportsmen both running away and hiding themselves from the comic artist who wants 'to take off our heads' - a characteristically complex verbal and visual pun on the satrical artist's role. Volumes 3 and 5 offer further commentary on Seymour's engagement with rural sports. Volume 3 caricatures the three classic sportsmen - fisherman, jockey and shot - gathered round an oversized volume of the Sketches and about to enjoy the images. The oversized heads on each of the sportsmen's bodies is both grotesque and joyous, with the fisherman's tangled line and the amused dog in the background adding to the air of carnivalesque abandon. The title page for volume 5 alludes to the several emblematic title pages that Seymour had previously drawn for books on cricket, sports and angling. Volumes 2 and 4 are prefaced by self-referential images that show the artist as spectator at a fair sideshow and as a kind of magic lantern observer of contemporary manners. All five title pages show an energy, visual richness and self-consciousness that represents Seymour at his best.
[22c] 1841 Seymour’s Humorous Sketches [86 etched plates] (Henry Wallis. With ‘Crowquill’s’ text added).
[22d] 1841 Seymour’s Humorous Sketches [86 plates] (Henry G. Bohn) Second edition of c). ‘Illustrated in Prose and Verse by Alfred Crowquill’. Some of the plates in this edition still bear the legend ‘etched by H.Wallis from a sketch by Seymour’. Reprinted in (at least) 1866, 1872, 1878, and 1888 either under the imprint of Bohn or T.Miles). The 1866 Bohn edition adds in Bohn’s biography of Seymour and an extensive ‘Descriptive List of the Plates’ ascribing them to various groupings.
See illustrations: [22d i] | [22d ii] | [22d iii]  
[22e] 1846 Seymour’s Humorous Sketches comprising ninety two caricature etchings illustrated in prose by R.B.Peake [92 plates] (George Routledge). A different selection of plates than the Wallis/Bohn editions). My copy has Snobson’s Seasons on the half-title. I have also seen a bookseller’s listing of an undated Snobson’s Seasons, Being Annuals of Cockney Sport [92 plates] (M.A.Nattali n.d.). ‘Snobson’s Seasons’ is the title of one of the sections of the book. [22e i] 
[22f]  [1846] An Evening’s Amusement or the Adventures of a Cockney Sportsman, by R.B.Peake, Esq., illustrated with ninety two plates by Seymour [92 plates] (No publisher given) Possibly a piracy of e) or the result of Routledge selling e) on. The 1880 Frederick Bentley edition of the Sketches appears to be based on this edition. [22f i]
[22g]  N.d. [1880] Seymour’s Humorous Sketches – Ninety-Seven Caricature Etchings (Frederick Bentley).
See illustrations: [22g i] | [22g ii] | [22g iii]