State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 4 October 1969


Melbourne Punch and its Early Artists

In 1850 the town of Melbourne was astonished at its own progress. It looked forward to the day when it would be the London, and Geelong the Liverpool of the Southern Hemisphere, when its already amazing population of 25,000 would be increased by tens of thousands of ‘happy and contented inhabitants from the starving countries beyond the waves’, and its ‘glorious Bay’ would reflect the images of ‘thousands of tall ships riding upon its bosom’. It was satisfied that ‘the day of small things’ was well behind it, and that it was on the way to tranquil and benevolent prosperity.1
Sooner than the citizens expected this happy dream was over-fulfilled. With the gold rush of 1851 an influx, not of ‘happy and contented inhabitants’ but of restless, ambitious adventurers swelled the population, not by tens but by hundreds of thousands,2 and when the excitement of the rushes died down, speculators, investors and entrepreneurs centred their attention on the growing city. By 1855 the original town of tents and weatherboard had turned to bluestone and brick; public buildings and institutions, theatres and taverns, shops and dance halls with the addition of civilised services, amenities and communications catered for the inhabitants,3 but they were still not ‘happy and contented’. Stirred by dreams of democracy and the spacious new world that they would have a hand in making once Lord Russell's procrastination allowed them to lay hands on their new Constitution, public and press discussion ran high. Public speeches resounded in public places. The open forum was the Eastern Market, ‘the favourite resort of Saturday night shoppers, Chinamen and embryo politicians’ where ‘under the hissing gaslights, Melbourne's most colourful characters assembled’4 and where before long were to be heard the shouts of Melbourne democrats acclaiming the radical utterances of C. J. Don, Wilson Gray and other ‘people's tribunes’.
The raw settlement, colonized by Tasmanian pastoralists barely twenty years before, was transformed into a politically sophisticated community which could indeed describe itself as the ‘Metropolis of the Southern Hemisphere’ and its leading paper, the Argus as ‘the Times of the South’.5 But the man in the street, like his London counterpart, did not discuss politics in the terms of the voluminous editorials of the regular newspapers; he wanted something more succinct, simplified and stereotyped, politics in a nutshell that he could hand on in general discussion in his own terms. So an enterprising printer, Edgar Ray who also published the Auction Mart Advertiser, and a shrewd London journalist, Frederick Sinnett, editor of the Melbourne Morning Herald. sized up the local readership and sales possibilities and decided the time was ripe for an Antipodean Punch. On 2 August 1855 Melbourne Punch made its first appearance in a career that was to satirize over seventy-five years of colonial development.
The local Punch, though it copied the format and presentation of its London prototype, did not begin as an ardently radical paper. It represented, rather, Jebb's ‘middle section of public opinion which controls the situation’6 —the independent man on his way up, already with a stake in the country, equally suspicious of the big pastoralist with London connections and of the local working-man. We could draw him in a cartoon with one hand grasping at the new Constitution that was to shape his future, with the other warding off the ‘unthinking mob’ and their radical leaders who clamoured for land reform, manhood suffrage and a larger share in the unearned increment of the country's progress. Nicholas Chevalier embodied him as ‘Mr. Kangaroo Bull’, a pragmatic colonial who would stand no nonsense from either governments or Governors. In a cartoon of 16 July 1857, ten months after the first elections under the new Constitution, he is shown putting the new Premier, Haines, into his place. The Landlord's Mistake depicts Haines as the landlord of an inn, apologetically presenting Mr. Kangaroo Bull with a Land Bill. Kangaroo Bull, side-whiskered, panamahatted, booted and spurred, with a riding crop under his arm, a smart cravat and a rose in his coat, truculently informs Haines that he'll ‘settle the Bill readily enough as soon as you've put the wrong items right’.
It was characteristic of colonial impatience of interference by distant authorities who knew little of local conditions that Punch's first full-page cartoon (by an amateur, Mr. Gill, no relation of S. T. Gill) was an attack on Governor Hotham. The Right Man in the Right Place signed ‘Quiz’7 shows the Governor on the wharf on his way back to England scowling over a cash-box containing his supposed gains from the Colony. His secretary, Captain Kaye accompanies him with a basket of eggs raised at the Government House dairy farm — a farm intended by Hotham to set a good example of husbandry, but which had only earned him the derisive title of His Egg-sellency in the punning style of the day. The colony's exasperation at the mismanagement of the Eureka situation is shown in Let it burn, I'm only a Lodger8 (see p. 67) by Chevalier. A sour and decrepit Hotham with a ravaged face (he was a sick man at the time of this cartoon) leans on his cabin trunk waiting for his homeward ship while behind him Victoria House is going up in flames and the smoke, inscribed ‘Ballarat’, frames the scene of the stand at Eureka. The implication is that Hotham, having made what he can out of the colony, is ready to leave it to its own disaster — a sad libel on the man whose concern over the financial and political state of the colony conduced to his untimely death.9 In the same number an article ‘Punch's Advice to Colonial Officials’, outspokenly imputes to the Governor, in the guise of satirical advice, all kinds of selfish venality and social corruption. This was followed by several other scathing cartoons until Hotham's sudden death at the end of 1855 when Punch semi-apologetically produced A Governor for Victoria or the Model Constitutional Monarch which showed a featureless dummy standing outside Punch's outfitter's

Let it Burn, I'm Only a Lodger.

shop.10 It was an indication of the only sort of ruler the colonists would tolerate — or a prophecy, only too true, that no Governor who showed any kind of initiative or decision would be able to please all the colonists all the time.
The general tone of Punch's humour was self-consciously colonial. It jeered at the local Volunteers, who apparently took themselves very seriously; it was very satirical about the new-chums such as ‘Mr. Newchamp Green’, ‘Mr. Johnnyraw’ and others who had difficulty in adapting themselves to colonial life (including Melbourne's uncertain and spectacular climate). All this emphasis on the mistakes of new chums suggests that Punch had one eye on the folks at home to whom no doubt many copies were sent with the voluminous Victorian home letters.
The political humour, besides lampooning the Governor in a way that would not be tolerated today, concentrated on the local legislators. This was natural. In the new colony any man of ability without hereditary influence or connections had the opportunity to become a parliamentary member; and many of Punch's anonymous contributors were young barristers or professional men with prospects of parliamentary or Government employment. Among them were Archibald Michie and B. C. Aspinall whom James Smith (who followed Frederick Sinnett as editor) considered the wittiest man he ever met. The Chief Justice, Sir William à Beckett11 also contributed occasionally. These were honorary contributors; paid contributors included R. H. Horne, Edward Whitty, James Stiffe12 and others who had already made some literary mark in England.
Punch's first artists were typical of the different classes of migrants who had come out to the goldfields as an adventure, found the drudgery of the fields unrewarding, and turned their talents elsewhere. Nicholas Chevalier, who joined the staff of Punch in its second week, was the son of a Swiss steward on a Russian prince's estate. Well-educated, accomplished in several arts, cosmopolitan, a linguist and social lion, he was the product of the art schools of Munich and London. He was also an expert technician and is credited with having introduced the art of chromolithography to Melbourne.13 His painting of the Buffalo Ranges won the government prize of £200 at the inauguration of the National Gallery; it was the first picture painted in Australia to be included in the Melbourne Gallery collection. From 1855 to 1861 he was cartoonist for Melbourne Punch, when (‘believing the ship was sinking’ said James Smith rather acidly in his reminiscences) he left to join the Illustrated Australian News as landscape artist. His musical talent attracted the attention of the Duke of Edinburgh on his official visit to Australia, and when the Duke left in 1869 he took Chevalier back to London as a member of his amateur orchestra on the Galatea. In London Chevalier went on to greater professional triumphs. He died in 1902.
Chevalier's relations with his engraver, Calvert, were unusually friendly in a day when there was often a great deal of dissatisfaction on both sides. ‘Wait till Saturday’, said London Punch artist, John Leech, to friends who admired his drawing
on the wood block, ‘and see how the engraver will have spoiled it’. It should be explained that wood-engraving, almost universally used in periodicals of this date, imposed great limitations on the artist. He had to draw his design on the prepared wood block in exactly the same size as it was to appear, and reversed from left to right. Then the background, the white areas and spaces between shading and cross-hatching were cut away, leaving the lines to be printed standing in relief.14 An expert engraver might improve a weak drawing (though, judging by some of the early Melbourne Punch joke-blocks, he seldom attempted to) but a clumsy engraver could ruin the best work. And, since the original drawing on wood was destroyed in the process, subsequent arguments were generally inconclusive.
But Sam Calvert, who shared Punch's engraving with Frederick Grosse, appears more than once in Chevalier's cartoons. He has a half-page cartoon to himself in December 1855, Our Engraver, the first panel of which shows him hard at work, engraving by the light of an oil lamp, his block on the round leather cushion before him; the second shows him on Thursday night when the paper has gone to press, relaxing with pipe, bottle and dreams of a svelte ballerina. On 26 June 1856 Chevalier included himself in a small cartoon representing Mr. Punch holding a levé for the new members of Parliament. Tall and handsome, moustached and bearded, he crouches behind the crowd with pad and pencil, sketching while little shaggy Calvert stands on tip-toe peering over his shoulder. Later in the same year he shows himself with his folio under his arm, and Calvert with his block and a handful of gravers, following Punch with his printing machinery and staff to new premises in Collins Street Central.15 His relations with Punch seem to have been equally cordial, for even after he had deserted it, a special Chevalier cartoon representing Australia, under the Southern Cross, giving alms to starving Europe was published on 24 July 1862 with a complimentary note that he had ‘resumed his pencil with more than pristine force and felicity’.
Chevalier's talent for seizing the essential characteristics of a face can be seen by comparing his cartoons with the surviving photographs of his subjects. In a few lines he could develop and repeat a likeness — which makes his pictorial history easy to follow. His draughtsmanship was not beyond reproach, but he had the caricaturist's interest in his subjects — massive, forceful O'Shanassy preparing to act as Cromwell, shaggy alert little Fawkner as Ajax defying the lightnings of the Press, sly-faced Greeves, cockatoo-like Chapman, plump bland Childers, patient stolid Haines and aloof imperious Stawell recur like comic-strip characters in his cartoons.
He understood the irreverent interest of the colonial man in the street in his legislators. The candidates for election are shown as jockeys mounted on asses in The Start of the North Bourke Stakes16 accompanying an article by ‘Grimes’ Boy’ on the respective chances of the starters. The St. Patrick Hall Academy gives opportunities for showing the members of the Legislative Council as schoolboys in undignified situations with Governor Hotham as a grim headmaster, and Grimes, the Auditor-General, as a dunce doing obviously wrong
sums on his slate. In another, Haines and O'Shanassy, rivals for Premiership, play on a see-saw, and in another Captain Pasley, Minister for Public Works, fires off a toy cannon in the playground ‘to the great alarm of several of Dr. Murphy's young gentlemen’.17
Chevalier's cartoons were not all playful. A more serious view of politics is taken in Most Haste Worst Speed, based (with the usual punning flavour) on a familiar outback experience. Victoria as a bearded colonist worried about his ‘wife's constitution’, is riding beside Lord John Russell as a dilatory country doctor on a stumbling old nag; he urges him on but Russell, with his Constitution prescription under his arm and an expression of languid superciliousness, refuses to hurry.18
Another refers to the transition from the old Legislative Council to the new responsible legislature, for the management of which Hotham was sharply criticised.19 An Extraordinary Change, sub-titled ‘An irresponsible Executive is removed and a responsible Ministry is inaugurated’, shows Haines, Childers, Stawell, Sladen, Andrew Clarke and Robert Molesworth going out one door and coming in another completely unchanged, except for the addition of Pasley.
Ingenious but irritating puns haunt the captions. A Scene from a Recent Pantomime shows Nicholson as a hopeful ‘cabinetmaker’ being tripped up by H. S. Chapman as Pantaloon.20 Haines as a ‘rival Jehu’ (a cabman) takes over the ‘Cabinet Omnibus’ from Nicholson. In an Unreserved Sale at St. Patrick's Hall on 27 March 1856, a catalogue description on the facing page offers O'Shanassy as ‘a large old Irish Harp possessing considerable power and a very sonorous tone’, J. T. Smith the publican mayor of Melbourne as ‘a very rich Drinking Vessel, being a remarkable relic of the dark ages recently discovered in the Town Hall’, and aquilinenosed H. S. Chapman as ‘a highly diverting Cockatoo … this curious old bird has been taught to pronounce an amazing number of words with such distinctness that many persons have supposed him to be actually gifted with reason’. Other members, as carved figures, support a ‘Curious Old Cabinet enriched with remarkably carved Blocks of Wood and containing some singular springs and secret drawers’. These curios are for sale because St. Patrick's Hall is on the market. It would be admirably adapted, Punch says, for a Vaudeville Theatre, ‘having already been devoted with eminent success to a series of Comic Dramatic Entertainments’.
Parliament is a curiosity show in Where are the Ninety? To be seen alive within.21 Fawkner is exhibited as the Oldest Inhabitant, O'Shanassy is the Irish Giant, Childers is the Fat Boy and Stawell is the Pelican of the Wilderness; while a half-page of verse on the opposite page, purporting to be spoken by the Argus as the barker of the show, describes them in pseudo-illiterate but witty style. This appeared on 24 April 1856 and in the same issue one of a series of Frescoes for the New Houses of Parliament (recalling the Westminster frescoes which gave John Leech the idea of calling his political caricature ‘cartoons’) shows Fawkner in the guise of Caxton examining ‘the first proof of the first Journal’. Surrounded by

“The Coming Man.”

minions in medieval costume, he is inspecting a copy of the Port Phillip Patriot while a crowd of eager subscribers besieges the door.
Chevalier, in his sketchy, lively style could also embody abstractions such as the colonial reaction to the American influence on the fields, and, on another occasion, the importance of the developing work force of the colony. The first of these sums up satirically the attitudes of the Californian ‘forty-niners’ whose exploits, dress and general self-assertiveness drew comment from many contemporary writers. In Model Institutions on 28 August 1856 Chevalier's swaggering ‘gentleman from California’, bristling with revolvers and bowie-knives, lounges in a rocking-chair with his feet on the mantelpiece while he indulges in dreams of shooting and lynching. ‘Wal!’ he remarks with a satisfied grin, ‘I guess we air a smart people … I reckon it'll be a darned long time before these here Britishers'll get up such tall institutions as ourn.’
An allegory of the growing importance of the labour force, at a time when the Victorian population had tripled and industrial activity was diversifying, is seen in The Coming Man (see p. 71) of 13 May 1858, which shows a simple, rugged but heroic figure rolling up his sleeves as he gazes towards the rising sun that lights the empty landscape. The working man's vote, after manhood suffrage in 1857, and his energy were expected to be happily co-operative in the development of the colony; he had not yet become the ogre ‘King Working Man’ of the late 'eighties. Still another allegorical cartoon is Obeying the Call of Duty of 16 June 1859. The British Admiralty had suggested that the Colonies might build, arm and man their own vessels of war, to operate in time of war under imperial control. In this cartoon Britannia in full panoply, accompanied by a rather stuffed Lion, is handing to a kneeling, bearded colonist the sword of Self Defence to be operated at his own expense.
Buoyant vitality together with a very apt interpretation of the interests of his public characterize all Chevalier's cartoons. Most of them are unsigned; he signed his early ones with a slanting capital C, but those with which he was personally pleased are signed with his monogram, a script N and C interlaced. They grace some of the most graphic records of the early political life of Victoria.
It was during Punch's financial crisis of 1861 that Chevalier left the paper. The Colony itself was in a depression. James Smith, who had taken over the editorship from Sinnett two years after its founding, and had paid Captain Butler Stoney (to whom Ray had sold it) £400 for the copyright, found himself unable to pay his staff. Advertising had fallen off. Subscribers failed to pay. In the plaintive tradition of colonial editors from George Howe onwards,22 Punch appeals to his subscribers to pay what they owe. He has no money. ‘He is in arrears with his artist and engraver, and cannot blame those worthy people for declining to pursue an unremunerative occupation — far from it. He owes them much (in more senses than one) and were his means as large as his heart, he would pay them twice over.’ The issue in which this appeal appeared on 7 February 1861 had no illustrations. But Smith made use of the blank cartoon page, for under it appeared the caption. The Political Prospects of the Colony — a Blank, my Lord … ‘Twelfth Night’.
Finance was forthcoming, the illustrations reappeared, but Montagu Scott replaced Chevalier on the cartoon page, except for a couple of belated cartoons which may have been over-matter; one of them, Making Mincemeat, on 31 July 1862, shows Henry ‘Money’ Miller, banker and M.L.C., as a butcher chopping up the ever-troublesome Land Regulations on a block. Politics and personalities still filled the paper, usually wrapped in oblique allusions — though, no doubt, under the facetious veil they were quite clear to readers. There were regular series of Parliamentary Biographies, Political Summary for Home, Sketches in the House, sardonic reports of parliamentary proceedings and open letters from Melbourne Punch to ‘Kangaroo Bull’. At this period the paper mirrors changes in fashion and taste. With the adoption of full beards and whiskers instead of clean-shaven faces with side tufts, some parliamentarians grow almost unrecognisable. Gavan Duffy, whose subtle, clean-shaven features of the 'fifties almost defied Chevalier's pencil, carries a full beard and moustache; the once clean-shaven Heales now sports a full set of facial hair, and all wear the loose, baggy trousers and short coats of the new mode. Like most colonial (and home) papers of the half-century, Punch devotes a good many humourless jokes to the pretensions, arrogance and aspirations of servant girls and serving men, and the trouble nice mistresses have in dealing with them. Next in favour are the exploits of bushrangers and the accompanying inefficiency of troopers. There are sneers at those who emigrate to New Zealand or volunteer for the Maori war, and the Duke of Newcastle is very unpopular because of his determination to continue to send convicts to Western Australia. The horror and hostility aroused by this idea is a measure of the colonists’ conception of themselves as free Empire builders in independent colonies. On 22 October 1863, a cartoon The Coming Man (antithesis of Chevalier's Man of 1858), sub-titled ‘who will have to go back when he does come’, shows a villainous customer with cosh, terrier, revolver and skeleton keys, lowering out of the page. Another, Tit for Tat,23 shows Ambrose Kyte, a leading Melbourne businessman, and the Duke of Newcastle as neighbouring graziers confronting each other over a fence. Kyte, surrounded by sheep with criminal human faces, tells ‘Mr. Newcastle’ to inform his successor (the next Colonial Secretary) that ‘if he lets his Scabby Sheep come on my Run, I've a nice little lot here which I'll let loose on his’ — presumably a threat to send the time-expired back from Australia. These cartoons are by Montagu Scott (Punch 1861–65) who succeeded Chevalier.
Scott's cartoons, conscientiously drawn, but completely humourless, lack Chevalier's liveliness and satiric wit. A competent and gifted portrait painter, he was for twenty years from 1865 the chief cartoonist on Sydney Punch, but he did his best cartoon work in the 'eighties and 'nineties on the Queensland Worker and Boomerang. He was at his best in the allegorical cartoon; his best known Melbourne Punch cartoon in this respect is A Misfit of 21 August 1861, in which Victoria in John Bull's cast-off clothes, shelters under the umbrella of Protection while her sister colonies bask, lightly attired, in the sunshine of Free Trade.
The question of Protection ushered in fifteen years of the stormiest politics in Victoria's history. On 5 January 1863, when James Smith, appointed Parliamentary Librarian, relinquished the ownership of
Punch to W. Jardine Smith, he warned the colonists against political apathy. Punch, he said, was alleged to have a strong political bias but ‘political neutrality implies political indifference, and political indifference is a crime in the citizens of a constitutionally governed country’. He thought this apathy the great reproach of the propertied classes in America and that it had helped to bring about the American Civil War. A Scott cartoon, The Fiend of Democracy (16 October 1862) shows a demoniac Uncle Sam, representing the Northern States, standing over the prostrate body of America, dragging a group of American statesmen in a chain. The Australian conservative class whom Punch now represented apparently followed their opposite numbers in England in sympathising with the South.
Smith's warning against political apathy was needless. The mid-sixties saw the first of the fierce parliamentary deadlocks between the Assembly and the Upper House — the confrontation between the conservatives with their primarily pastoral and trading interests, and the ‘liberals’ with their industrial and protectionist aims.
During the beginning of this period Oswald Rose Campbell drew the Punch cartoons, but the hand of the same engraver, Calvert, makes the transition less obvious than it might have been. A better draughtsman than either of his predecessors,24 he had little feeling for satire or caricature, though he could draw an effective abstract cartoon, such as Shall I Come In? of 4 October 1866 which shows the grim skeleton of pestilence knocking at Melbourne's back gate — an ever-present menace in colonial seaboard cities. Campbell drew an excellent explanatory cartoon in Testing the New Gun on 26 September 1865 which refers to Premier McCulloch's ingenious solution of the Tariff-Appropriation Bill deadlock by means of a recurrent forty thousand pound loan to the government as a ‘40,000 pounder’ gun shooting through all the legal and constitutional safeguards dear to the Upper House — a gun which eventually was to shatter the career of Sir Charles Darling.
The champion of the Assembly, George Higinbotham, appears almost as often in the Punch cartoons of this time as does Henry Parkes in those of Sydney Punch. He was the bête noire of the conservatives, and was depicted in Punch as a spoilt brat, causing confusion, kicking John Bull's shins or twisting the British Lion's ear. An opponent of imperial interference, of tyrannical wealth, and admittedly an incorruptible idealist, he appears in a Campbell cartoon of 7 December 1865 as St. Geargey, ‘A Scene from the Latest Burlesque’. Armoured and mounted, he battles a dragon composed of the Constitution, the Supreme Court, the Squatting Oligarchy and even ‘the hewers of wood and drawers of water’. On August 10 of the same year he is Higinbotham the First — L'Etat c'est Moi, an absolute monarch, robed and crowned, his throne supported by two rather disconcerted lions. In 1867 his support of the Darling Grant (which the Assembly had voted on behalf of Sir Charles Darling who had been dismissed for his support of the ‘forty thousand pounder gun’ manoeuvre of 1865) ‘tacked’ to the Appropriation Bill is celebrated in a Carrington cartoon, The Irrepressible Higinbotham or ‘The Political Jack-in-the Box’. He pops up the Appropriation Bill from his box with a demoniac expression and a banner supporting the Darling Grant, much to the dismay of Sir J. Palmer, President of the Council. The
spirit and caricature of this cartoon is outstanding.
While Campbell was still the full-page cartoonist on Punch, a few rather crude and roughly engraved sketches signed T.C. had appeared in Punch's text pages — the first attempts at satire of young Francis Thomas Dean Carrington, later known as ‘Tom’ Carrington, the most popular and applauded political cartoonist of Victoria's colonial days. Born in London on 17 November 1843 and educated in the City of London School, young Carrington had his first lesson in drawing from George Cruikshank, the caricaturist of Regency times, and went through the art school at South Kensington. He started his professional career as illustrator with Clarke and Co., publishers in Paternoster Row; his first known appearance in print was the design for a title page for one of Mayne Reid's novels. Caught up by youthful enthusiasm in one of the gold rushes, he came to Australia rather too late to find gold at the diggings at Wood's Point, Jericho, Jordan and Crooked River, and drifted to the more promising field of Melbourne. His reliability in invention apparently impressed Jardine Smith the editor. By the end of 1866 he was Punch's regular cartoonist and illustrator, and for the next twenty-one years he drew innumerable cartoons and illustrations together with special social and satirical supplements. His presentation of the viewpoint of the ‘constitutionalists’ brought him a public testimonial from that party; and in Edmund Finn junior's opinion his cartoons made Punch the leading political paper of the colony.23
Carrington's work has been undervalued, partly because the influence of Tenniel in his earlier work had led to his being dismissed as an imitator26 by those unfamiliar with the general body of his work, and partly because most of his work, other than that engraved by Rudolph Jenny, was hampered by the static style of the wood block. His work covered the transition from the wood-block to modern photo-engraving, and his style changed with the times. It reflects the whole development of the colonial cartoon from the stiff, explanatory cartoons of the 'sixties, devoid of caricature, to the gayer, freer style of the late 'eighties and 'nineties. Certainly he was, unashamedly, a Tenniel admirer; Tenniel's influence is evident in his early cartoons, especially in his allegorical female figures. He paid tribute to the great British cartoonist by modelling his monogram signature, a T imposed on a C, on Tenniel's J imposed on an uncial T, and in some of his early cartoons we can see a few direct ‘swipes’ from Tenniel, for the practice of ‘swiping’ was known, then as now, among artists working against time. But he outgrew this, and the cartoons of his best period from the late 'seventies to 1887 owe nothing to any other artist. Eventually he developed a ‘fat’ flexible line quite unlike his early work. It is perhaps a pity that he retired from Punch at his prime as a cartoonist, after its amalgamation with the Melbourne Bulletin. He became a director of the Australasian Sketcher to which he contributed excellent topical illustration, including ‘on the spot’ accounts of the Kelly Gang capture, and later was art editor of the Australasian and dramatic and art critic of the Argus until his death on 9 October 1918.
His first Punch political cartoon on 11
December 1866 was a casual half-page on the contentious question of land legislation — Grant's Land Act which enabled anyone occupying Crown Land to obtain a licence for a small holding of twenty acres even on the choicest part of a squatter's leased run.27 The Squatter is shown helplessly pinned down under a log, the Land Act, on top of which a drunken selector riots, brandishing the New Regulations. Carrington's last cartoon, The Last of the Session, appeared on 15 December 1887.
Carrington was not only an artist; he was a satirist with a keen literary sense and instinct for the current and topical. He was a jovial and gregarious man with a sharp ear for the preoccupations of the man in the street. His caricature was delicate; his ‘overload’ was light, and though his portrayal of his victims was subtle in comparison with the exaggerations of the ‘nineties, it was all the more deadly in that the viewers of the cartoon, familiar with the notabilities of the small community, knew that the subjects did look like that, and, convinced of the truth of the presentation, they were ready to be convinced of the truth of the propaganda message.
Carrington's most vital political work was done in the Punch campaign against the Graham Berry ministries of the 'seventies, when the ‘liberals’ and radical reformers were gaining ground against the former pastoral ascendancy, and the old conservative interests were battling against what they considered the powers of darkness. Libel laws were sketchy; no holds were barred. The personal gusto of an energetic society was reflected in the cartoons which spare no weakness, either personal or political. Carrington, aware of the value of derogatory association and the persuasiveness of repetition, evolved a set of sticky associations for Berry and his supporters. So apt were they that other journals began to use them, and on 31 March 1881 Punch warned other conservative journals against ‘Stealing our “Props” ’. Ostensibly ‘registered as trademarks by Punch these ‘Props’ included Mirams’ Umbrella, Woods’ Tar Brush, Berry's Sugar-Loaf, Longmore's Smile, The Boss's Eyebrows … the Major's Boots, Henderson Africanus … and so on. James Mirams, a small, solemn man, was always drawn with a top hat and a very large umbrella; Woods, the Commissioner for Railways, was awarded the Tar Brush after a semi-scandal concerning some pipes which he had sold to the government after tarring them to improve their appearance. An engineer himself, he once made a remark about ‘muff engineers’ which stuck to him through the cartoons, and the preoccupation with ‘revenge’ which haunts his political image arose from his supposed remark that he had had his ‘revenge’ when Thomas Higinbotham, his former superior, was dismissed on ‘Black Wednesday’ when Berry, in a deadlock with the obstructive Legislative Council, retrenched civil servants. The umbrella and tar-brush became such stereotypes that their appearance alone indicated the presence of Mirams or Woods in any group. Berry's Sugar Loaf was a combination of visual caricature and political suggestion. Owing to the way Berry combed his hair, the outline of his skull was slightly pointed, like the old-fashioned conical sugar loaf. This was used, in the slang of the day, to associate him with being ‘in the sugar’ of privilege and profit. Francis Longmore, a model of domestic virtue and temperance, had a wide, thin

Berryism! is This Thing to Live on!

mouth and a vitriolic public utterance. Punch christened him ‘Smiler’ and, seizing on a remark by J. G. Francis that ‘the smile of … the Minister of Lands is enough to set a mob of hyaenas by the ears’, showed him disconcerting a couple of hyenas with his ‘evil smile’.28 The Boss's Eyebrows referred to David Syme's bristling eyebrows. Proprietor and editor of The Age, ‘the power behind the throne’ of Victorian politics for many years, his paper was often referred to as ‘The Haunt of the Lyre (Liar) Bird’ and ‘the Palace of Truth’ in Punch satire. The Boots belonged to Major W. Collard Smith (Volunteers), always drawn with large feet, usually in gigantic military boots. In one of those hyperbolical remarks that politicians would do better to avoid, he had said that the Phoenix foundry in Ballarat (in which he had interests) could make better locomotives out of his old boots than could be made anywhere in the world from the best iron and steel. His remark was immortalised in The Major and his Locomotives of 3 August 1882, in which he stands with stockinged feet and drawn sword before two locomotives in the shape of boots. In 1878, an equally complacent remark about his ability to read character led to His Great Feat (in the punning humour of the day) in which, as a professor of phrenology, he reads the bumps of a set of busts of his colleagues, attributing to them just those qualities in which Punch thought them most lacking. Henderson Africanus, an exotic individual who figures largely in the Punch cartoons of 1879, was a negro newsvendor who, in a plot concocted in the Punch office, was ‘nominated’ as a third ‘Ambassador’ to accompany the ‘embassy’ of Berry and Professor Pearson which journeyed in vain to England to seek imperial intervention to end the Legislative Council's power of obstruction. The addition of this ridiculous character to the cartoons and the supposed adventures of the trio turned the unsuccessful embassy into a political comic strip. The interpretation and the significance which a modern historian can read into this campaign is seen in Dr. J. Tregenza's Professor of Democracy (M.U.P., 1968).
Schoolboyish and exuberant as this kind of political propaganda may seem to a more sophisticated and disillusioned generation, it is a measure of the rough vitality and optimism that characterized the colonies’ growing period, and Carring-ton's ability to give visual form to the stereotypes of the man in the street is a valuable indicator of the colour of contemporary thinking. Carrington's cartoons in Punch which covered a period of over twenty years of Victorian political history, link the rather static explanatory cartoons of the 'fifties and 'sixties with the ruthless sadism of the Bulletin cartoons of the 'nineties. By the time he had retired from the Punch cartoon pages his line had achieved that individuality which marks the works of great cartoonists; it was flexible, expressive and lively. His sense of composition was good, as was his distribution of tonal values according to the elaborate style of the day. In the later cartoons, when the engraver's art had also improved, his draughtsmanship was free, vital and completely under control, while his graphic imagination was extraordinary.
This imagination is shown in the creation of entomological monsters to symbolise Berry's radical policies. His prime embodiment of the horror with which the well-to-do regarded Berry's supposedly socialistic intentions is Berryism — Is this Thing to live on? (see p. 77) on 18 December 1879. A slimy, spotted marine monster, its body
Greed, its tentacles Taxation, floats in a murky fluid above a heap of skulls, the victims of its nefarious activities. Its head is an unmistakable caricature of Berry drawn out to a whiskered funnel mouth from which issues a forked tongue of Slander and Agitation. The multiple lining tool, used in this engraving, gives full gradation and a curiously realistic effect. The Berry Blight, theme of several cartoons, was an offshoot of this creature. It combined allusion to the various blights that afflicted Australian agriculture with an ingeniously exaggerated caricature of the Premier. The cartoon of 4 March 1880, The Berry Blight Squelched, which commemorates the defeat of Berry's second ministry, is the best known of these. It shows the disgusting creature being messily squashed against a fence by the thumb of the elector while Carrington's monogram (reversed) given legs for the occasion, dances with joy.
So great was the demand for these cartoons that they were issued in special supplements, The History of the Berry Ministry, 1879, and The Decline and Fall of the Berry Ministry, 12 March 1880. The latter contained the supposed final scenes of the defeated ministry to which Carrington's little-exaggerated likenesses lent a horrid realism. Handcuffed and apprehensive, Berry and his ministers stand in the criminal dock, the sacks of ‘Swag’ and ‘Plunder’ as evidence before them. Chained, shorn, and marked with broad arrows, they enter as felons the prison van bound for ‘The Happy Land’ — an exaggeration of a phrase in Berry's speeches. They are last seen as a row of named coffins lying in an open grave under a sign ‘Rubbish Shot Here’ on waste ground. Their only tribute is a broken thistle on Berry's casket.
Other propaganda monsters of Carrington's invention were the ‘Catholic Vote’ which inspired a series of cartoons in the 'eighties; it was a fat pig branded with papal insignia whose porcine features were combined with those of Sir John O'Shanassy, that great fighter for Irish colonial interests, and ‘King Working Man’, the looming Labour ogre that came with the growth of the affiliated unions in the later years of the decade. The Unholy Bargain of 17 June 1880 shows Berry, draped in ecclesiastical vestments and bearing a smoky torch, ‘Down with the Education Act’, being urged by the Roman Catholic Archbishop to follow the learned pig (the Catholic Vote) which will lead him to glory. King Working Man — The Destined Monarch of the World (see p. 81) on 18 August 1887 shows the worker with tin crown and hob-nailed boots lounging arrogantly on his kitchen-chair throne with Premier Gilles as his footboy while timber, shipping and sugar magnates kneel humbly at his feet. This was one of the first of a series which Luther Bradley was to carry on, and which Punch later issued as a supplement, King Working Man.
From the 'sixties Punch had issued these special supplements, one of the first being the Bindonian Number devoted solely to lampooning Samuel H. Bindon, the Minister of Justice. Always up-to-date in printing methods, Punch in 1867 carried a double-page cartoon printed in blue to celebrate the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh, in which Miss Victoria, upholstered in the height of frilled and bustled fashion, welcomes him amid a bevy of ladies. From this time there is an obvious improvement in the versatility and quality of reproduction. The signature of a new engraver, R. Jenny, appears on the more elaborate ones such as Cutting the Painter on 16 July 1868. A double-page two-colour spread with an orange auxiliary block, it shows a lilliputian McCulloch and Higinbotham tremulously proposing,
with their tiny sword, Separation, to cut the colonial boat loose from the quay on which a huge British Lion lies sleeping with one eye open watching the conspirators. The success of this print encouraged Punch to issue further coloured supplements, mostly non-political, but all illustrated by Carrington. At this time Punch relied heavily on jobbing firms for its colour illustrations. The centre spread on 10 September 1868 (non-political) was done by ‘W. Pearson and Co. at their Steam Lithographic Printing Machine’; and technical indications seem to suggest that many of the colour-woodcut cartoons were done by Clarson, Massina and Co., an old-established Melbourne firm who also employed the engraver Jenny. On 12 August 1869, Punch boasted concerning a two-colour double spread of a group of Melbourne business identities transacting business Under the Veranda (in Collins Street):
‘On various occasions of late Mr. Punch has indulged himself and he hopes, gratified his readers, with presenting a double cartoon printed in colours, as a specimen of the progress which the artists, the engravers and printers of this young city of Melbourne have made in their respective arts as combined in this hebdomadal periodical. On the present occasion he has departed somewhat from the usual range of subjects, considering that an occasional change … from political pasquin to useful chronicle would not be unacceptable.’
Punch prided itself on being up-to-date in printing: it was one of the first colonial journals to use the new process of photo-xylography, the precursor of modern photo-engraving, in which the artist's drawing was photographed on a sensitized wood block, to be hand-engraved as usual. This was at first mysteriously known in Melbourne as ‘Messrs. Tuttle's new process’, but was later admittedly ‘photo'd and transferred to the wood’ by the Elite Engraving Co.
In 1886 Alexander McKinley, who already owned the Melbourne Bulletin (established 1880), a rival to Punch, acquired sole proprietorship of the older paper, and Punch was transferred to the McKinley Brothers’ printing establishment at 59–61 Queen Street — a great advantage in production.
On 4 March 1886 the amalgamated papers appeared as Punch New Series in a new, larger format similar to the Sydney Bulletin. Its circulation increased by thousands. It was full of social news, lavish illustrations, advertisements and portraits of theatrical celebrities — but it was no longer an essentially political paper. It was claimed, rightly, to be the best produced paper in Australia. Its political cartoons and comment were still outstanding. But the salt and individual satire of the crude little eight-page paper of the 'fifties with its two thousand circulation were gone.
In 1889 Punch moved to its own offices and plant at 12 Alfred Place, where older Melbourne citizens remember it. For seventy-five years Punch reflected every change in public opinion and social appearance — the colonial days with their ruthless optimism, the stormy days of Victorian politics with their bitter confrontations, the new and more cosmopolitan Australia of the 'nineties, the patriotism of the Boer War and the First World War — until in 1924 it was acquired by the Herald and Weekly Times, in 1929 merged with Table Talk, and during the Second World War, like many other individual papers, finally disappeared.
Marguerite Mahood

King Working-Man.


The Illustrated Australian Magazine (Ham Brothers, Melbourne). October 1850. pp. 290–91.


The Victorian population in 1855 was 347,305.


J. Grant and G. Serle, The Melbourne Scene 1803–1956 (M.U.P., 1957), pp. 74–7.


Ibid., p. 78.


H. M. Green, History of Australian Literature (Sydney, 1962). p. 331, quoting Westgarth.


R. Jebb. Studies in Colonial Nationalism (London, 1905), p. 193.


Punch, Vol. 1, p. 4. ‘Quiz’ was a common signature of satirical artists.


Ibid., Vol. I, p. 23. ‘I'm only a lodger’ was a current catchword.


G. Serle, The Golden Age (M.U.P., 1963), p. 203.


Punch, Vol. I. p. 207. This would be 24 January 1856.


His younger brother, Gilbert à Beckett was one of the original staff of London Punch.


James Stiffe had also contributed to London Punch, and was the author of the much-quoted ‘Advice to Persons about to Marry — Don't’, for which he received £5.


Lithography in colour printed from several separate stones, as against a lithographic key block which may have colour added by other means.


More details may be found in M. Mahood, ‘The Australian Political Cartoon in Victoria and N.S.W., 1855–1901’. M.A. thesis, Baillieu Library, pp. 29–31 in chapter on ‘Techniques’.


Punch Migrans, 8 May 1856.


Punch, Vol. I, p. 55.


Forbidden Playthings, 5 March 1857. Dr. Murphy was the Speaker.


Vol. I, p. 39 (30 August).


The reasons for criticism are explained in G. Serle, The Golden Age, pp. 201–03, and in Victoria, the First Century (Centenary Council, Melbourne 1934), p. 208. Cartoon appears in Vol. I, p. 151.


Vol. I, p. 191.


Sixty Assembly members and thirty Council members.


George Howe printer and publisher of the Sydney Gazette from 1803 to 1821, pleaded with his subscribers ‘not to bring his whitey-brown locks in sorrow to the grave’ on this account.


Punch, 12 May 1864.


He was director of the drawing school at the National Gallery 1876–86.


Edmund Finn. ‘The Development of “Punch” ’, Punch Jubilee Number, 27 August 1907, p. 10.


Article in Current Affairs Bulletin, Vol. 33, No. 3, 23 December 1963 describes him as a ‘slavish follower’.


The conservative view of this Act will be found in H. G. Turner's History of the Colony of Victoria (London, 1904), Vol. II, pp. 119–20.


The Envious Hyaena, 12 Sept. 1878.