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Reviewed by:
  • William Newman: A Victorian Cartoonist in London and New York
  • Dana M. Garvey (bio)
Jane E. Brown and Richard Samuel West, William Newman: A Victorian Cartoonist in London and New York (Easthampton, MA: Periodyssey Press, 2008), pp. 86, $20 paper.

This short biography offers a first look at the innovative English cartoonist William Newman (1817–1870) and fresh details on the transatlantic development of the Victorian political cartoon. Lively insights into the world of the illustrated weeklies (including a corrected key to the caricatures in Edward Jump's 1869 cartoon "Saturday Afternoon at Frank Leslie's"), [End Page 417] newly mined diaries, and a satisfying selection of Newman's boldest works strengthen an engaging narrative. As in Newman's life, colorful personalities weave in and out, among them the radical writer and engraver William James Linton, the disreputable publisher Henry Markinfield Addey, and a gaggle of journalists active in 1860s New York.

Newman honed his audacious style during stints at London weeklies and as a founding cartoonist for Punch. Emigrating in 1860, he introduced his spirited satire to America in the short-lived Momus, where he created the first published caricature of Abraham Lincoln. Bold but not blindly ideological, the expatriate found in Frank Leslie's Budget of Fun a broader field for his energetic figures and wry Civil War commentary. In "The Final Issue of the War—The Longest Purse Wins" (March 1864), Lincoln and Jefferson Davis comically slug it out with hefty sacks of money.

Steady success ("the best work being published in the United States at the time" [64]) followed years of irregular employment in London, beginning with Figaro in London and The Odd Fellow. Newman was lured to the embryonic Punch in April 1841, only to be sidelined by his common manners and devout Catholicism. His last Punch cartoon appeared in April 1850, nine months before fellow artist Richard Doyle's abrupt resignation over Punch's anti-Catholic stance.

Over the next decade Newman struggled as a bookseller, author, and illustrator of children's books, and as a freelance cartoonist for the feisty Diogenes and Comic Times. Then, with a wife and seven young children, Newman leapt at H. M. Addey's exceedingly thin proposal to found an American version of Punch, to be called Momus. (This new information solves Addey's disappearance from London in 1857.) From the swift, utter failure of Momus, Newman reignited his career and launched a new era of the political cartoon in America.

Dana M. Garvey
University of Washington
Dana M. Garvey

Dana M. Garvey is pursuing a doctorate in Art History at the University of Washington. The focus of her research is the late nineteenth-century Orientalist artist, Edwin Lord Weeks.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-526X
Print ISSN
0709-4698
Pages
pp. 417-418
Launched on MUSE
2010-01-14
Open Access
No
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