Friday, April 27, 2012

Caricatures – the tabloids of the Regency by Guest Blogger Barbara Monajem

Caricatures were extremely popular during the Regency era. Thousands were produced, ranging from mild criticism to biting satire, and included political, social, and personal commentary. They were printed from etchings or engravings and sold to whoever would pay for them.

Politicians and aristocrats were frequently lampooned. For example, there were caricatures of the Four-Horse Club’s meetings, of gaming clubs, of young bloods slumming it with low folk. There were caricatures showing similarities between great ladies and prostitutes. The Prince of Wales, both before and after becoming Prince Regent, was mocked so often that he had printers prosecuted for sedition or bribed them to suppress the prints. One of the first caricatures to mock rather than flatter the prince was “A Voluptuary under the Horrors of Digestion” by James Gillray. Its detail attacks his gluttony, drinking, gambling, sexual vices, laziness and indifference.


Frequently, the wealthy had standing orders with print shops for their caricatures. Alternatively, they would send servants to buy the latest prints. Some scandalous prints (such as one about the secret marriage of the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Fitzherbert) were so popular that the printer couldn’t produce them quickly enough. People who couldn’t afford to buy prints were able to view those on display in the print shop window. A crowd would gather, and those who were literate would read aloud whatever wording was on the prints.


Most of the caricaturists were from relatively poor backgrounds; some were educated, some not. They were considered disreputable, for they would generally (usually out of necessity) take whatever work offered. However, they quite rightly criticized the bad behavior of all levels of society.

One of the most famous, Thomas Rowlandson, had a certain amount of access to the rich and powerful, and was even commissioned by the Prince of Wales to produce prints attacking his political enemies. However, many of his prints were quite bawdy—too bawdy for a PG blog! I find his caricature of the bluestockings interesting because he shows the women no more mercy than he does men when portraying their drunken debauchery.  Rowlandson was usually good-humored in his mockery and even caricatured himself.


James Gillray, whose caricature of the Prince of Wales is mentioned above, was known for his bitter and often extremely graphic satire. He was talented and well-educated, but largely unsuccessful until taken under the wing of print seller Hannah Humphrey. His prints ridiculed anyone and everyone until he was bribed with a pension, after which his attacks on the Tories ceased. He was very prolific in his best years, but eventually died insane.

There is plenty of fodder for stories in the world of the caricaturists and the rich and famous people they lampooned. My July novella for Harlequin Undone, To Rescue or Ravish?, touches on this world, for the heroine faces being caricatured in a print shop window for all London to see. Looking at it from her point of view, it’s not much different from being in the tabloids of today!

~~

Barbara Monajem wrote her first story in third grade about apple tree gnomes. After dabbling in neighborhood musicals and teen melodrama, she published a middle-grade fantasy when her children were young. Now her kids are adults, and she's writing historical romance for grownups. She lives in Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.
Visit her at http://www.barbaramonajem.com

Beatrix March chose to be a governess rather than let an overbearing husband rule her. Although she never intends to marry, it doesn't mean she can't enjoy a man's...company — especially when tempted by notorious rake Simon Carling.
Little does she know that this rake is in the mood to wed...and when Simon wants something, he will go to outrageous lengths to get it!

13 comments:

Judy said...

Very interesting, Barbara! It's still fun to look at the cartoons today...

Mary Ricksen said...

Wow! Very interesting! Learn something every day and that was very enlightening. Some of them could take a joke eh?

Nightingale said...

Barbara, what an interesting post. I learned a lot about the Regency. I don't think I'd have wanted my caricature done! Thanks for sharing the photos.

Barbara Monajem said...

Hi, Judy -- I agree, the cartoons are still fun to look at. People haven't changed much! ;~)

Barbara Monajem said...

Hi, Mary -- Some could take a joke and some sure couldn't!! Just like nowadays.

Barbara Monajem said...

Hi, Nightingale -- Yes, it must have been embarrassing, to say the least. Yikes!

Anne Gallagher said...

I've seen some of Rowlandson's caracatures before. Very bawdy!

Great article, Barbara. And your books sounds like a great read.

Thanks Lesley-Anne for another great guest. Hope you're feeling better.

Barbara Monajem said...

Hello, Anne, and thank you. One of these days I'd like to buy a book with all of Rowlandson's caricatures. I like his style very much.

Toni V.S. said...

Love the post, Barbara, and love your novels, too!

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

Thanks, Anne! I am thrilled to have another wonderful guest blogger. Such a great post on the caricatures of the Regency.

I get new glasses next week--so yes, thanks, I am feeling much, much better!

Mary Marvella said...

Entertaining and informative post, Barbara!

Mia Marlowe said...

Brilliant post, Barbara. The Regency tabloids were incredibly outrageous and the ton was right to both adore and fear them.

Darlene Marshall said...

I enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing, Barbara, and for giving us another glimpse into Regency life.