Creative Commons License
Victorians Institute Journal Annex content in NINES is protected by a Creative Commons License.
Peer Reviewed

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

Brian Maidment, University of Salford

Caricature series

The following list is merely the beginnings of a proper account of Seymour’s more extended series of comic engravings, and is not as yet linked to illustrations of these works. It is hoped to develop this section of the site more fully over the next few months.
[47] 1829 Search After the ‘Comfortable’, Being the Adventures of a Little Gentleman of Fortune (T. McClean July 1st. 1829) BMC 15983-15988.

 6 etched oblong folio plates containing fifty captioned vignettes issued in paper wrappers, price 12s. coloured. i. Frolic and Fashion ii. Rural Retirement iii. Arts and Sciences iv. Travelling v. Travelling vi. Courtship. Cf. George Cruikshank Scraps and Sketches part 3. The idea of the ‘comfortable’ may well derive from the comedian Mathews and his stage depiction ‘At Home’, a sketch that characterised and to some extent satirised smug domesticity. The central character is Peter Pickle, and BMC suggests this may be a proto-Pickwick figure, who undergoes a series of picaresque adventures which culminate in him marrying someone he thinks of as a rich widow, but who turns out to have five unattractive children and not to be rich. This is certainly shifting a long way towards a narrative sequence.
[48] 1829 The March of Intellect (Thomas McClean) Six etched coloured plates, oblong folio, 12s.

Overall these plates contain 36 vignette illustrations under the six plate titles of ‘Fashionable’, ‘Mechanical’, ‘Philosophical’, ‘Philanthropical’, Professional’ and ‘Political’. This set of images furthers Seymour’s sustained interest in the ‘March of Intellect’ as a topic. A number of his single plate etchings focussed on the cultural and social aspirations of working people, and he drew the topic with enormous emblematic complexity and a deep awareness of the tropes through which the movement towards popular literacy and cultural engagement were being represented in the late 1820s. Examples of Seymour’s versions of this topic can be easily found on line at the Lewis Walpole Library Digital Archive, finding numbers 829.0.15 and 829.0.16. 
[49] c.1830 Trip to Margate (Thomas McClean) 6 coloured plates, 15s. Not seen - advertised in an 1830 copy of The Heiress.
[50] 1830 The Heiress – A Farce in Six Plates (T. McClean 1830).

Six oblong folio etchings issued in printed paper covers. The six plates inThe Heiressform an exemplary narrative – a poor girl being brought up by her uncle and aunt unexpectedly inherits wealth, undergoes transformation into a society belle, willingly enough, is wooed by a feckless and impecunious major and runs off to Gretna Green to marry him, pursued as he is by debt collectors. Each plate has a large central image that carries the dominant narrative, and offers the occasion for lightly satirical depictions of society events, manners and fashions. These central images are surrounded by smaller vignettes satirising the hangers-on, opportunists and pseudo-helpful people who swarm round the heiress to usher her into society, and, of course, to take her money. The overall effect is remarkably novelistic, with the smaller images acting as sub-plots or picturesque ‘character studies’ to the central narrative. There is also a sense in which this a lighter hearted version of the Hogarthian moral narrative translated into the medium of the multi-image oblong folio plates characteristic of caricature publishing in the 1820s. There is something of a dialogue between narrative and the miscellany going on here.
[51] 1830 The Omnibus (Thomas McClean May 1st. 1830).

Six oblong folio coloured etchings issued in printed paper covers. All plates dated May 1st. 1830 except for plate 6 ‘The Turnip Field’ which is dated March 6th. 1830, suggesting a previous issue as a single publication. The subtitle printed on the paper covers runs – ‘What sort of company go in the omnibus?’ ‘O! All sorts’. Thus the title is used to suggest both the miscellaneous gathering up of disparate elements in one common place but also the ‘democracy’ or Clapham omnibus ordinariness of the images. The etchings differ markedly in form. Four of the plates are multi-image mixtures of jokes and comments, but two offer spectacular large single plate images. The multi-image plates are characteristically miscellaneous. One plate (plate 5) has a series of gently comic images of seaside holidays, each image ascribed to a different south coast resort. Other images are built out of visual/verbal puns and slapstick jokes: an over-polite and fastidious man lifts his hat to the ladies on the promenade and the basin containing his lunch falls and is smashed; a foppish man knocks on a door on behalf of a washerwoman returning washing in an enormous basket on her head that means she can’t herself get near enough to the door to knock; a charitable but misguided woman offers pair of stockings to an itinerant beggar with thin wooden legs; a customer at a bar jokes on the ‘sour as a lemon’ aspect of the barmaid by asking to ‘give her a squeeze’; ‘Looking out for squalls’ shows a mother trying to control three babies given to individual protest. The two single image plates are both spectacular. The first is an anti-gambling image. The central, highly finished part of the image shows a ruined gambler turning away from the tables and being pressed by those he owes money too. This theatrical central image is set in a plush club full of appropriately dissipated, dissolute and greedy gamblers. Round the central part of the image is set an enveloping spider’s web pattern, suggesting how the gambler has been caught up by predators. Thinly drawn skeletal figures, draped on gossamer threads round their necks suggesting both suicide and hanging, inhabit the web in both a ghostly and ghastly presence. This is a really powerful image, and would make a fantastic illustration to a book on Seymour. The second single plate is called ‘The Turnip Field’, with a big broadside like image above an elaborate narrative description of the event depicted. A ‘semi-intoxicated man’ in Northampton announced that the parson had given ‘a field of fine turnips’ to the poor. The next morning the poor, grotesquely depicted, were helping themselves when the vicar and his man rode into them and started whipping them away. It had been an elaborate joke and roused the vicar to fury, as he had by the time he intervened, lost most of his crop. As well as a description of the rural grotesque and carnivalesque, the plate acts as a critique of clerical greed and possessiveness – little charity is visible here. Thus theOmnibusbrings together curiously disparate images – outspoken social outrage, anti-clerical protest mounted in traditional caricature form, and more genial jokes and puns organised into multi-image gatherings on single plates. The conflicting caricature modes of the time are accurately represented in this cross-genre gathering.
[52] 1830 Living Made Easy – dedicated to the Utilitarian Society (Thomas McClean 1830).

An American version of this twelve plate oblong folio series of lithographs was published in New York by E. S. Mesier in 1832. A series of satires that combine an amused scepticism over the ‘March of Intellect’ with a much more acerbic commentary on social inequality, and the ways in which mechanical invention might be driven by the needs of genteel hedonism and laziness. One image shows labourers who have been driven out of work but who are of good industrious character being allowed to sniff the laden dinner tables of the rich. This print is ‘Particularly recommended to the Philanthropy of those who have made large fortunes by Machinery’. Other imagined contrivances to make the lives of the rich more indolent include an undressing mechanism to aid the sleepy on their way to bed.
[53] 1834  The Schoolmaster Abroad [9 plates oblong folio]