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REVIEWS Carman Cumming. Sketches from a Young Country: The Images of Grip Magazine. Toronto: University of Toronto P, 1997. xv + 275. Grip was aprominent Toronto magazine ofsatire, humour, criticism and commentary which was published weekly from 1873 to 1894. It took its name from Grip, the raven in Dickens' Barnaby Rudge. In this, as in so many other ways, the Cumming's volume illustrates how thoroughly English Canada was imbued with British values and culture in the Victorian era. Indeed, the book makes quite clear that Victorian studies ought to go well beyond the bounds of the British Isles. The words in Grip were of some importance but far more riveting at the time and to posterity were the cartoons and other sketches drawn by the paper's usual editor J.W. Bengough. His images of John A. Macdonald and other politicians of the time still shape our consciousness, as we see in this Disraeli-like caricature. Whither are we drifting? Reviews195 The author's thesis is that a newspaper such as Grip provides a valuable insight into the mentalité of a society and that under Bengough's direction Grip reflected the tendencies of reformist liberalism in die last quarter of die nineteentii century. The argument is amply justified in botii aspects. Sketches from a Young Country begins witii a review of the "texture of die times" and although rather little is presented on the international context of the history of cartooning, the initial chapter provides a good and sensitive historical understanding of Bengough and die importance of Grip. Following a chapter on die fortunes of die magazine and on who controlled it - die uncompromising radical T. Phillips Thompson was the otiier leading light ~ die volume presents a mixture of chronological and thematic chapters. Chapter Four, for example, discusses Grip's highly partisan, pro-Liberal party politics of the 1880s. Chapter Six explores Grip's position in the "race and creed" furore of the era and finds that although Bengough caught a touch of anti-French and anti-Catholic fever that afflicted Ontario AngloProtestants , his was a mild case and he recovered quickly. Chapter Ten, concerning Grip's "social conscience" is an interesting and nuanced analysis of late nineteenth-century perceptions and values, many of which were politically incorrect by today's standards, especially concerning racial, ethnic and religious minorities and women. Camming suggests tiiat Grip reflected those attitudes but on occasion moved beyond them, just as one might expect from a moderately advanced liberal editor. Many readers of Victorian Review will find die chapter entitled "Imperialism and Independence" die most intriguing. On die one hand there is overwhelming evidence in the volume of the close Canadian connection to Britain — from Bengough's frequent depiction of Canada's second prime minister Alexander Mackenzie witii a Scottish tam-o'-shanter on his head to Bengough's comic opera Bardwell vs. Pickwick produced by the Dickens Fellowship of Toronto. On die otiier hand the doyen of the English-born intellectuals sequestered in Toronto, Goldwin Smitii, actually penned die classic argument in favour of annexation to the United States in his 1891 publication Canada and the Canadian Question. Thus Grip's vacillation between the grandeur of empire and the democratic, autonomous New World vision was probably an accurate reflection of Anglo-Canadian sentiments as a whole. Cumming's volume is a welcome and useful addition to the literature, for Grip certainly was a key component of the Victorian era in Canada. The thoughtful and balanced analysis provided by the author provides appropriate respect for the past, neither accepting its values or perceptions nor dismissing its denizens as poor, benighted, ignorant 196Victorian Review fools. Indeed, the author further demonstrates his good judgment by including more than one hundred of Bengough's cartoons, for they remain the most absorbing historical evidence left by Grip. It is still hard to resist the urge to pause a few moments and examine the cartoons in some detail (indeed, how many of you have already figured out from the illustration reprinted above that Macdonald supposedly imbibed his political principles and "taktix" from his bottle of booze?). For Bengough and Grip with its motto of "Never say die!" the longevity...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 194-196
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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