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Peer Reviewed

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

Brian Maidment, University of Salford

Later book illustration 1834-1836 – mainly Dickens

[23] n.d. [c.1834] Seymour’s Comic Album; or, Museum of Entertainment: A Perennial of Fun. The illustrations, designed by Robert Seymour and engraved on wood by Samuel Slader (William Kidd n.d.). [23 i – v]

Despite being advertised as a ‘perennial’ there appears to have only been one issue of Seymour’s Comic Album. The volume’s lack of success can be easily attributed to its lack-lustre contents and format. The short Preface tries to draw upon similarities to the Odd Volume as a major selling point, but the contents of the Album largely comprise reprinted magazine articles ([23 iii] gives the place of first publication for one borrowed article), anecdotes and stories feebly illustrated by Seymour’s hasty small vignettes, occasionally augmented by a few full page and more fully realised wood engravings. The volume appeared in ‘Kidd’s Entertaining Library’, another short lived venture by a publisher notorious for his ‘borrowings’ and poor relationships with his authors and illustrators – he was designated a ‘thief’ by George Cruikshank.
Kidd clearly used Seymour for a number of his projects, but this one seems never to have taken off. The small volume was published in blind stamped publisher’s cloth with decorative paper titles. [23 i] ‘The Omnibus’, printed between pages 83 and 89, was taken from Dickens’s piece ‘The Bloomsbury Christening’, which had appeared in the Monthly Magazine N.S. 17 (May 1834) 375-386. It has an accompanying Seymour illustration. [23 v] See D.DeVries, Dickens’s Apprentice Years, 150.
See illustrations: [23 i] | [23 ii] | [23 iii] | [23 iv] | [23 v]
[24] 1835 ‘Figaro in London’ [Henry Mayhew] A Short Account of a Short Administration (London: George Cowie 1835). 15 woodcuts by Seymour. A publication linked to Seymour’s work for the periodical Figaro in London. (see [36] below).
[25] 1836 Thomas K.Hervey The Book of Christmas (William Spooner).nEveritt describes this book as very rare but nonetheless containing some of Seymour’s best work.
[26] 1836 Seymour illustrated Dickens’s ‘The Tuggs’s at Ramsgate’ in April 1836 in the Library of Fiction. This piece was not reprinted in Sketches by Boz until the combined edition in parts from 1837-1839.
[27] 1836 (March/April). The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club.

Seymour drew the design for the pictorial wrapper for the first issue of The Pickwick Papers (Chapman and Hall March 31st. 1836). He also drew for seven etchings published in the first two part issues of the novel (4 in the March 31st. issue and three in issue 2, April 30th. 1836). [27 i] and [27 ii], taken from an 1837 Chapman and Hall edition, show the first two Seymour plates. Two further sketches by Seymour, one an alternative to 7 and the other a design for an unexecuted etching 8 are given in facsimile by Grego (1, 87-89), as are alternative designs for etching 5, which was eventually published as Phiz’s copy of Seymour’s design. (Grego 1, 71-77). I make no attempt here to reduplicate, or to arbitrate between, the many accounts of Seymour’s involvement in the genesis and publication of The Pickwick Papers. See Secondary Sources for a number of accounts of Seymour’s contribution to the book. [20], [45] and [47] all contain images that at one time or another have been claimed as pre-figuring the figure of Mr. Pickwick. Seymour’s Pickwick illustrations, including his frontispiece and title page, were also to be found in many American editions of the novel from the 1830s and 1840s. [27 iii] shows Seymour’s first Pickwick plate adapted as the frontispiece for an 1838 American edition.
See illustrations: [27 i] | [27 ii] | [27 iii] 
[28] 1835/6 Squib Annual of Poetry, Politics and Personalities for 1836 (Chapman and Hall). [28 i –vi]

Seymour contributed twelve small full page etchings very much in the Comic Almanack idiom. One illustration (‘The Silent System’ p. 29) forms one of the images that Dickensians have used to argue for the foreshadowing of the Pickwick stereotype in Seymour’s work. [28 iv28 v] While small in scale, miscellaneous in content and issued in printed paper boards, The Squib Annual is a slightly more up-market production than, say, [10] or [23]. Seymour’s etchings are full page and framed in a double rule, and the book was issued by Chapman and Hall, a mainstream publisher rather than a specialist in small-scale illustrated texts aimed to catch a passing fancy or a Christmas gift-book market. Chapman and Hall were also, of course, the first publishers of Pickwick. The printed boards [28 i] provide the most spectacular design, with the front cover illustration constructing the word ‘squib’ out of tiny but extremely cleverly drawn human bodies. The content, too, was more overtly political and serious than most contemporary comic annuals and albums, and Seymour’s images here retain more of a caricature feel, comparable to the wood engravings he was producing at the same time for The Political Almanack.
See illustrations: [28 i] | [28 ii] | [28 iii] | [28 iv] | [28 v] | [28 vi] 
[29] 1836 The Political Almanack for 1836 (Effingham Wilson). [29 i – vi]

Thirteen humorous illustrations by Robert Seymour, unusual in their direct allusion to the single plate caricature tradition of highly coded, extensively verbalised topical political commentary. The Political Almanack worked in complex ways to superimpose the ‘political’ on the informational elements of the almanac. Most of the content of the Political Almanack is at first glance traditionally a-political, especially given that its publisher, Effingham Wilson, was well known for bringing out controversial, liberal, or even radical works. He would also have known Seymour through the early publication of New Readings of Old Authors six years before. The monthly calendar, for instance, was filled out with trite and unexceptional moral exhortations – ‘folly is a fatal enemy’ the 12th. December informs the reader, while ‘glory follows action’ according to March 19th. Also to be found is the range of factual information traditional to the almanac. But, of course, the editors of almanacs were well aware that the choice of what information to offer their readers was a highly political one. Thus, among the detail of stamp duty and the commercial year, a list of the House of Peers included not just names and titles but also numbers of livings held by each lord and the pensions they received. It was through such an accumulation of detailed information rather than any outspoken editorial intervention or political commentary that the Political Almanack managed to construct a model of the British nation built out of taxes, privileges and petty oppressions. But, while such selection of cumulative information provided one way in which almanacs politicised themselves and positioned their readers, the Political Almanack’s more inventive and spectacular appropriation of the political was through the introduction of a new type of almanac page opposite the monthly chart comprising a poem acting as an extended caption to a wood engraved caricature.
[29 ii]
[29 ii] Title Page
The Political Almanack
In effect this was a kind of page borrowed from the circumambient mass of visual culture, more specifically the comic annuals, jeux d’esprit, and miscellanies illustrated by vignette wood engravings by the likes of Robert Cruikshank, and a rapidly increasing popular element in the print market-place. But in commissioning Robert Seymour to draw these explicitly political satires in the busy, detailed, emblematic manner of single plate etched and engraved caricature inherited from the eighteenth century, the Political Almanack broke new ground. Normally the use of the vignette wood engraving for political commentary had led artists, and C.J. Grant and Seymour in particular, to simplify their images into single joke, linear images using the thick black line of the woodcut to make emphatic and easily read-off commentary on events of the day, as Seymour had famously done in his illustrations for Gilbert à Beckett’s periodical Figaro in London. But in the Political Almanack, Seymour attempted something far more difficult – he tried to bring the complexity, allusiveness, verbalness and graphic codes of the eighteenth century etched and engraved caricature tradition into the tiny compass of the vignette wood engraving, and to combine these vignettes with an extended satirical verbal commentary.
[29 iv]
[29 iv] ‘August measures for august personages’
Seymour’s image for August [29 iii – iv] provides a clear example of such complexity and allusiveness. In the foreground, the well fed and well padded wife of the ‘Manor’s Lord’ (representing here both the affluent farmer and the greedy Government) sweeps out of the picture bearing off for her own purposes a rich swathe of ironically labelled ‘gleanings for the people’. The harvesting scene in the background, where an emblematically dressed peer and clergyman pitchfork hay off a wagon, shows through attached labels how the labour and productivity of the mass of population is siphoned off through unjust taxes – thus the sheaf of corn in the middle distance represents the ‘taxes on knowledge’ through which topical printed matter was rendered too expensive ever to reach the hands of those who had most to gain from reading it. More complex still is the layered caption attached to the load of hay – ‘August measures for august personages’. There are two interdependent puns here, the first on ‘measure’ (at once both a bushel of corn and an Act of Parliament) and the second on ‘August’ (the month of plentiful harvesting that delivers profits only to those ‘august’ members of society who can control the ‘measures’ through which wealth is managed). This kind of visual and verbal density is clearly underpinned by the delicacy of the drawing and the tonal variety through which the image is rendered, and by the crowded graphics of the image. Both are underlined by the outspoken poem that re-renders the image through a verbal equivalent.
This image is at once traditional and radically new. It combines the forms and modes of the genteel discourse of eighteenth century visual satire, which was political in focus and outspoken in its critique of the ruling establishment and of ‘the old corruption’, with the new information culture of the 1830s. A political denunciation of a privileged and corrupt social elite is given a startling new form in the wood engraved vignette, a form which had been increasingly prominent in humorous print culture since the early 1820s. While the basis of the graphic satire contained in the vignette acknowledges its formal and methodological origins in etched and engraved single plate caricature, the miniaturisation of the image, its technical accomplishment, its accompanying poem and its startling juxtaposition against the traditional almanac chart of the month all point the almanac in a startling new direction. The incorporation of complex visual elements into the predominantly typographic construction of the distinctive almanac form is a major development. If in this case the address of the image remained essentially genteel, the liberation of the almanac from textuality represented by such experiments suggested that more demotic forms of visuality could be adduced to the traditional almanac form. Later publishers and entrepreneurs of print culture were not slow to understand such developments.
See illustrations: [29 i] | [29 ii] | [29 iii] | [29iv] | [29 v] | [29 vi] 
[30] [n.d. but c. 1836] Kidd’s Golden Key to the Treasures of Knowledge (William Kidd n.d.). ‘A Cabinet of Literary Gems, in the form of a Pocket-Dictionary’. Advertised in Kidd’s list at the back of a copy of [31] as being ‘beautifully illustrated by George and Robert Cruikshank, Seymour, and Bonner’. This claim must be taken with some caution given Kidd’s proclivity for claiming well known illustrators for his publications. [30 i] There is no entry in Cohn for this book as belonging to the George Cruikshank canon, and I haven’t been able to find a copy to check whether there are signed illustrations by Seymour.
[31] [n.d. but pre 1838] ‘Quiz, junior’ Characteristic Sketches of Young Gentlemen (Published for the author by William Kidd n.d.). [31 i – iv] While presenting a range of bibliographical problems, there is an edition of this title that contains a frontispiece ‘The Dandified Young Gentleman – A Wrinkle’ which is signed ‘RS’ and entirely in Seymour’s style. [31 ii] The image had already appeared in The Odd Volume [10] [10 vi] as Seymour’s work. Given Seymour’s close relationship with Kidd, there seems little reason to doubt that this illustration and the unsigned title page vignette are by Seymour. Thus the volume may well have been published early in the 1830s when Seymour was offering Kidd a lot of his work. Confusion here is caused by Dickens’s early anonymous publication Sketches of Young Gentlemen, which was brought out in February 1838 by Chapman and Hall with illustrations by Hablot Browne (‘Phiz’). As with Kidd’s publication, Dickens’s book had been announced as a ‘Companion to Sketches of Young Ladies’, a book in a similar format and with Browne illustrations, written by the Rev. Edward Caswell under the ‘Quiz junior’ pseudonym.
In September 1838 Kidd accused Dickens, very publicly, with having plagiarised the title and some of the content of his earlier publication. The details for this incident can be found in ed. M.House and G.Storey, The Letters of Charles Dickens, Vol 1: 1820-1839 (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1965), 354, 434. In the footnotes in the Dickens Letters on p.434, the editors assert that Kidd’s volume was illustrated by Cruikshank. I have not found a copy where this is the case, nor is the book listed by Cohn as containing work by George Cruikshank. While Kidd’s book is undated, the advertisement leaves in the copy I have seen talk of the ‘late Robert Seymour’ in relation to Seymour’s Comic Album, which would again point to an earlier date of publication than 1838.
See illustrations: [31 i] | [31 ii] | [31 iii] | [31 iv]  
[32] [n.d. c. 1836-38] Kidd’s Comic Scrapbook and Parlour Portfolio consisting of a variety of exquisite illustrations from the pencils of George and Robert Cruikshank, and the late Robert Seymour. Again advertised in [26] and another of Kidd’s publications that may or may not contain genuine work by Seymour. Not listed in Cohn.