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  • 1897

Ally at the Boat Race

Cartoon by W.F. Thomas from Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday (3 April 1897): 1.

The Oxford versus Cambridge Boat Race is an annual rowing race on the River Thames in London that usually takes place at the end of March or in early April. In this cartoon the Cockney character, Ally Sloper, plans to film the famous race, but as the caption says, things went wrong, and Ally’s boat slipped her mooring and drifted into the middle of the course, narrowly avoiding collision with other boats. Ally’s “improved Cinematograph of his own invention” seems to consist of several still cameras with bellows and long lenses, a typically bizarre conceit by William Fletcher Thomas who was the regular artist of the Ally Sloper cartoons. The comic magazine Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday began publication in 1884, the first comic named after and starring a regular character. Ally himself was depicted as rambunctious and hedonistic, ever plotting some sly scheme or dubious business venture. (See also the boat race cartoon in the 1901 section of this issue).

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[End Page 376]

The Victimograph

Short story by Tom W. Kitchner from The Music Hall and Theatre Review (13 August 1897): 7.

This story, like many other fictions about cinema in the early days, takes as its main theme the idea of film as evidence. The first story along these lines, we believe, was George Sims’ “Our Detective Story” of earlier that year.3 Later in 1897, a play entitled “The Lady of Ostend” (see below) also used this plot device. But this story by Tom W. Kitchner has its own, original line on the theme, and is written in a jocular style appropriate to the music-hall aficionados who might have read this paper. It was the fifth in a series of stories headed “Vignettes of Everyday Life”, and others followed in later issues of this paper (e.g., on 3 September another by Kitchner appeared). I can discover little biographical information about Kitchner except that he was described in this same publication as an actor, author and critic.4 Some years earlier he had written a comic entertainment, “The Hotel in an Uproar”, and then a “stage guide and dramatic reciter”.5 A number of names mentioned below call for clarification: Jesse Collings (1831–1920) was Mayor of Birmingham and a Liberal member of Parliament; Salmon and Gluckstein was a large tobacconist chain, so their “penny ravisher” presumably means a cigar, cigarette or pipe; the “Shambles” refers to a market area.

Science has, in many cases, undoubtedly achieved remarkable triumphs, and benefited man to a great extent. On the other hand, it has reduced him to a mere infant, wholly dependent upon its whim or caprice upon occasions least expected, transforming the master into a servant, and a servant into a master. Such is science.

Science has brought to our notice many remarkable inventions, thereby displaying the wonderful gifts of Faraday, Edison, Lord Kelvin, Maxim, and others.

I question, however, whether these profound and learned gentlemen dreamt of the possibilities which would eventually arise from their great experiments and inventions.

Did they dream that science, instead of becoming our friend, would turn out to be an enemy to mankind – a bitter, cruel, remorseless, hard, unrelenting enemy? The disturber of human happiness, the wrecker of our happy homes, the base betrayer of secrets, which we believed locked fast in the deep recesses of our bosoms. I say could they have foreseen all this? If so, why in the name of all that’s beautiful, chaste and virtuous, did they invent the Victimograph? Again, I repeat, Why did they invent this infernal arrangement – this torture machine? What were they doing when they thought the matter out? They must have been mad. The whole affair reeks with infamy – it’s a conspiracy, that’s what it is – a vile plot to destroy the sum total of human happiness, and to plant misery in our midst. It is a dreadful thing to contemplate, if you take it in a calm, considerate way, and weigh up the possible eventualities accruing from the...


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