“BETTER THAN PLUM-CAKE AT CHRISTMAS”: JOHN LEECH’S PICTURES OF LIFE— FROM PUNCH
LEECH, John. Pictures of Life & Character… from the Collection of Mr. Punch. Third Series. London: Bradbury, Agnew, . Slim, oblong folio, original red cloth, gilt-stamped cover illustration. $1250.
First edition of the third in Leech’s five series of caricatures of British life, with over 400 line cuts on 94 pages— taken from the issues of Punch—“the main monument of his genius.”
Twenty-year mainstay artist at Punch and illustrator of Dickens’ Christmas Carol (1843), caricaturist John Leech had studied with George Cruikshank and eventually developed “a convention of social humor that was to last until the 1920s” (Houfe, 207). “He comes, for practical purposes, between Cruikshank and Du Maurier, and in that order plays an indispensable part in the progressive transformation of humorous art from the broad brutalities of the earlier men to the gentler and more subdued satire now in vogue…” His Pictures of Life & Character, published in five series from 1854 to 1869, “constitute the main monument of his genius” (DNB). “This book is better than plum-cake at Christmas. It is an enduring plum-cake, which you may eat and which you may slice and deliver to your friends; and to which, having cut it, you may come again and welcome, from year’s end to year’s end… The truth, the strength, the free vigor, the kind humor, the John Bull pluck and spirit of that hand are approached by no competitor” (William Makepeace Thackeray). Date of imprint based on the caption “A Cavalier, 1860,” page 2. Owner signature.
An about-fine copy, with some loss to top end of spine and rear outer hinge starting.