Monday, March 4, 2013

The Shadow Of Your Smile Is A Monkey: The Caricatures Of Charles H. Bennett

by Stephen J. Gertz

In 1857, Shadows, an octavo album of thirty-six plates in wrappers, was published. Quite popular, in the next year the album, reduced to thirty plates but now with accompanying text, was serialized  by Kent & Co. in ten parts in nine issues 1858-1860 as Shadows and Substance.  It, too, was a best-seller. Finally, as the last issue was published, Shadows and Substance was released in book form.

The artist was Charles H. Bennett. The primary author of the biographical pasquinades accompanying each plate was Robert B. Brough.

A delightful and quite unusual fictional satire, Shadows and Substance was based on the premise that  a unique magic lantern in Bennett's  possession produced shadow-portraits that reflected the substance of the sitter, i.e. Hickory B. Nutt, Esq.'s vupine shadow is that, indeed, of a very foxy fellow. Each of the fictional characters' shadow is that of the spirit within, to comic effect. The result was novel, clever, quite amusing, and as a result "Bennett achieved wide popularity with his Shadows..." (Houfe).

"The work originated with the artist -- the writer's share of it being ... accessorial and supplementary" (Original preface, p. [5] of Part One, not reprinted here). Robert B. Brough (1828-1860) wrote twenty-eight of the thirty sketches, including L'Envoi, the verse addressed to Bennett that concludes the book and is signed "R.B.B." Journalist H. Sutherland Edwards (1828-1906) a friend of Bennett, wrote two sketches, one signed with full name, the other with initials.

The book is comprised of sheets from the original serial. The plates in the original (w/o text) and the serial issue (with text) were not hand-colored; it was not economically feasible to do so. Book-format copies that are hand-colored are scarce: the thirty-three copies in institutional holdings appear to be in black and white; OCLC typically notes whether illustrations are in color and makes no reference to hand-colored plates. Of the handful that have come to auction within the last thirty-six years only half were hand-colored.

Charles Henry Bennett (1828-1867), illustrator and caricaturist, was apparently untrained yet was already contributing to the British illustrated press by 1855, ultimately working for The Comic Times, Comic News, Illustrated Times, and Punch. He rose to fame for his illustrations to The Fables of Aesop (1857), and illustrated childrens books, including The Sad History of Greedy Jim and All His Brothers (1858), The Book of Blockheads (1863), and The Sorrowful Ending of Noodledoo (1864).  In 1859, Charles Kingsley sponsored him to provide illustrations to an edition of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, the results commanding the respect of a broad literary circle.

Robert Barnabas Brough was a journalist, poet, novelist, essayist, satirist, and playwright. The December 1853 issue of Graham's Magazine published a Brough parody of Poe's The Raven entitled, The Vulture: An Ornithological Study, later reprinted in William Evens' Cyclopedia of Wit and Humor (1858). He was a contributor to Dickens' magazine, Household Words.

Brough was a part of London's bohemian circle of writers and a founding member of the Savage Club, an unpretentious literary society/gentleman's club established in 1857, according to Percy Bradshaw's Brother Savages and Guests: A History of the Savage Club (1958), in "the spirit of pure wantonness" and named after Richard Savage (b. 1697), a shady, satirical poet of the eighteenth century, crony of Samuel Johnson, brawler, libeler, man of irregular habits and penurious who died in debtor's prison in 1743.

"Every man casts a shadow; not his body only, but his imperfectly mingled spirit" (Thoreau).


BENNETT, Charles H. and Robert B. Brough. Shadow and Substance. London: W. Kent & Co. (Late D. Bogue), 1860.

First edition in book form. Octavo (8 3/8 x 5 1/4 in; 213 x 133 mm). [8], 232 pp. Thirty hand-colored plates, including frontispiece. 

Cf. Allibone, Supplement I, p. 219, (serial issue).

Images courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, with our thanks.

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