Arthur William À Beckett.

The à Becketts of Punch; memories of father and sons online

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my ease at once by saying that he was very
pleased to see me, and knew the works of my
father. The Comic Histories of England and Rome,
intimately. Thus encouraged, I began. I told
the Archbishop that I was the editor of the Glow-
worm — no doubt he had seen it ?

" Well, I confess I have not," said the Arch-

" You will see, my Lord," I said, producing a
bundle, " that it has a dual advantage. Some



of the copies are sold in the streets, and get as
largely circulated as the Evening Standard — a
paper which I venture to suggest, your Grace, is
estimated at an exaggerated value."

I was very bitter about the Evening Standard^
as its " Last Edition " was the rival to the Worm's
" Final Extra Special."

" Yes," assented the Archbishop ; " yes."

" Our coloured edition, my Lord," I continued,
" you see we publish in two colours. Here we
have a special edition intended for sale in the
Alhambra. Of course, your Grace has heard of
the Alhambra ? "

** Oh, certainly," was the response, although
on consideration afterwards I imagined that the
thoughts of the Archbishop were in Spain rather
than in Leicester Square.

" You see it is a very attractive programme.
The features are in red, the remainder of the
matter in black. The Bounding Brothers of
Bohemia — some say they are as good as Leotard
— are in red^ and so on."

" Yes ? " was once more the response of the
Archbishop, in a tone of gentle inquiry.

" Then again " — and here I was carried away
by my enthusiasm — " I have ventured to bring,
for the sake of comparison, the final edition of
the Evening Standard and the Latest Extra
Special of the Glowworm. You will see, my
Lord, the superiority, the distinct superiority, of
the latter over the former. See, 3^our Grace, we
give in this column the names of the jockeys



and the prices at starting. Take the same race
in the pages of the Evening Standard, and both
pieces of information are conspicuous by their

" Yes ? "

" Well, your Grace, it has occurred to me that
under all the circumstances of the case, it would
be a magnificent move to acquire the Glowworm
to represent the interests of what Protestants
call the Church of Rome in England."

The Archbishop smiled, patted me on the
shoulder as I stood before him, and asked me a

'' Don't you think, Mr. a Beckett, there would
be something rather incongruous between 'latest
sporting ' and * latest ecclesiastical ' ? "

Not at all. I was prepared to argue the point.
Then I offered to throw over the music hall
editions, after suggesting to the Archbishop that
the sporting characters who (with others) patronized
these places would be none the worse for a sermon
disguised in the shape of a leader. But it was
not to be. Archbishop Manning was most kind
and sympathetic, but he did not see his way to
giving his patronage to my scheme. Any influ-
ence he had he wanted to bestow upon the West-
minster Gazette, which he considered a very
excellent paper.

" Although," he admitted with a smile, " it
has not yet turned its attention — seriously — to
sporting. But you must make allowances, Mr. a
Beckett, the Westminster Gazette is in its infancy."



I felt that the Archbishop was chaffing me, so
I collected my papers and prepared to go.

" My dear boy," said the Archbishop, " I ad-
mire your enthusiasm, but you must keep it under
control. Seriously, I do not think the Glowworm
— to which I wish every success — is quite the
sort of periodical for what we will call, using the
technical sense, a religious paper. But of course I
may be mistaken."

Then, in bidding me farewell, he told me,
according to his custom, " to persevere." Acting
upon the suggestion in this command, I called
upon Sir George Bowyer, who at that time took
a leading part in the sectarian politics of the hour.
He was enthusiastic. Certainly a very admirable
idea. Had I seen the Archbishop ? I replied in
the affirmative, and gave a brief account of our
interview. His face fell.

" Oh, if the Archbishop said that, we must
abandon the scheme. We cannot act in opposi-
tion to his wishes."

" Surely we have the right of appeal to the
Pope ? "

Then Sir George fairly roared with laughter.
The idea of having a serious quarrel with our
Archbishop because he would not push the Glow-
worm appealed to his sense of the ridiculous, as
it did to mine. So I joined him in his merriment.
But even after this long pause, I still think the
Glowworm, properly handled, would have been a
power in the land. My scheme embraced morn-
ing editions of (to be established) daily local



papers. We were to have the Bath News, the
Plymouth Pioneer, and so on. But there, the
scheme is a memory of the past. I frequently
saw Archbishop Manning afterwards, and he
often referred to our initial interview.

" Well, Mr. a Beckett," he used to say, " have
you come to tempt me with another sporting
paper ? "

And so I had to tell the ex-gunner captain that
my negotiations had come to naught. It was
about this time, or it may be a little earlier, that
I ventured to call upon my father's old friend,
Mark Lemon. The post of dramatic critic of the
Sunday Times was vacant, and I was given to
understand that the then editor of Punch had
considerable influence in the selection of the suc-
cessful candidate for the appointment. I had
not seen Mark Lemon since I was a child, and
only knew him by repute as a gentleman who,
for some unaccountable reason, had taken offence
at a letter my elder brother Gilbert had once
written to him. My brother had sent some small
articles to Punch, which Mr. Lemon had accepted,
and also some charming verses (my brother was
a poet, and carried off the prize for English verse
open to the whole school when he was a junior
at Westminster) about the marriage of the Prince
and Princess of Wales, for Once a Week. En-
couraged by his success in the more serious line,
he sent some verses to Punch of a graver character
than those usually published in a comic paper.
" I am afraid they are not quite what you want,



but I hope you will give them your kind con-
sideration," wrote my brother. They were re-
turned with a note calhng my brother "Young
Sir," and advising him not to sneer at his father's
oldest friends. Why Mark Lemon should have
taken offence neither my brother nor I could
understand. It is still a mystery to me. But I
made up my mind to call, and was duly ushered
into the editorial sanctum at Bouverie Street.
Mark Lemon was courteous to a degree. He
bowed to me as he offered me a chair, and his face
was beaming with smiles. But for all that, I
did not quite like the look of him. I told my
story. I had had rather a hard struggle since
my father's death, and was trying to make my
living out of journalism. Could he help me ?

" No," said he promptly ; " he could not."

I told him of the vacant post on the Sunday
Times. I had heard he had influence in that
direction. Could he exert it in my favour ?

** No," came the reply promptly ; "he could

He said he wanted all his influence — if he had
any — for his own family. Then he looked at the
door. I got up to go, and shook hands with him.
I expected him to call me " Young Sir." But
no, he did not. Still I was greatly irritated.
So when I got to the open door I turned round
and addressed him.

"Mr. Lemon," said I, "I suppose there is not a
chance of my getting work on Punch ? "

" Well, we always consider anything that is sent



to us, but you, with your knowledge of Punch, for I
suppose you are old enough to have heard your
father speak about his connexion with Punch ? "

" Yes, I have heard my father speak about

** Quite so. Then you will know that the staff
of Punch is a very close one, and there is not
much chance for outsiders."

'* Then you don't think I have much chance of
getting work on Punch ? "

" To be frank with you, I don't think you have
any chance." And he bowed me out.

When I was once more on the flags of the pave-
ment of Bouverie Street I thought the matter over.
I have always hated to be beaten — a peculiarity
I share with a very large number of my fellow
countrymen — and I did not like the tone of Mark
Lemon about Punch. Why should Punch be
barred to me ? An idea suddenly occurred to me.

" By jove ! " I exclaimed, " I will have a Punch
of my own ! "

And from this interview grew the Tomahawk,
a paper which I have heard described in these
later days as one of the cleverest of the period.
Last year the Lord Chief Justice of England had
to propose the toast of the Newspaper Press.
This he associated with my name, and he spoke of
reading the Tomahawk with the greatest pleasure,
and wanted to refer to it. But I had edited the
paper when I was literally a mere boy — when I
was no older than my father when my father
edited Figaro in London — and I wished no allusion



to be made to it. So the Lord Chief Justice of
England very kindly referred to me in general
terms as a gentleman they all knew and all re-
spected. Throughout my career I have ignored
my connexion with the Tomahawk^ and I have
ventured to think that I have made my name —
if I have made my name — in works in other fields
of industry. Still, as I have seen references to
the staff and editorship of the Tomahawk made
not in the kindliest fashion, it may be advisable
for me to tell my own story in my own way.

" Yes," I kept thinking, " why should I not
have a Punch of my own ? " I thought of it more
and more when the Glowworm became rather
shaky. Of course, I had the formation of the
staff of Punch at my finger ends. All I had to do
was to get a printer and [a staff. If I secured
the last, it would not be so difficult to get the first.
The idea grew upon me, and when Mark Lemon
snubbed me I determined to defy him. But I
made one condition — the new paper was not to
be like Punch. We wanted something newer!
Uaudace, Vaudace, toujours Vaudacc!

My first object was to secure a good title.
Shortly after the production of the Glowworm
the Pall Mall Gazette had made its appearance.
It was soon a success, owing chiefly to the support
of the Times and a clever series of articles
which attracted much attention at the moment,
by " The Amateur Casual," otherwise Mr. Green-
wood. The contributor to the Pall Mall Gazette
gave his experiences in the casual ward of awork-



house. They were continued from day to day
for several evenings, and caused a sensation.
They even formed the subject of a drama, in
which ** the original Daddy/' an official con-
nected with the ward, took part. Of course, we
of the Worm — a staff that included the present
editor of the Pall Mall Gazette — were envious of the
progress of our rival. The rival in question was
described in its original cover as '*an evening
newspaper and review," and in its earliest days
had an editorial soul far, far above sport. So it
was our pleasure to refer to it whenever there
was occasion as ** our sporting contemporary."
In those days we were particularly independent,
and inclined, I fear, for chaff. An evening paper
called the Firefly was started in opposition to us
(I use the editorial " we " of the Worm), and
greatly annoyed us by challenging our sporting
pre-eminence. However, although we conde-
scended to refer to the Pall Mall Gazette, we hadn't
the smallest intention of advertising the Firefly.
So we treated it with absolute contempt until the
first evening after its non-publication. Then we
published an obituary notice of it, surrounded by
a black border and headed, " Death of an Evening
Paper this Day."

So, having the Pall Mall Gazette very much in
my mind, I went to the works of Thackeray for
another title. I came across the Tomahawky
and that seemed a suitable heading. My father,
in his Figaro in London, had talked of wielding
*'the critical tomahawk," and here was the germ of



the idea. Subsequently I heard the title had
been anticipated — what title has not ? I myself
have edited the Eclio and Black and White long
before the present papers of those titles came
into existence — in a paper called the Liverpool
Tomahawk. So I fixed upon the Tomahawk as
the name of the paper that was to appear as a
rival of Punch, with the policy of being as little
like Punch as possible.

I formed my staff. I went to the earliest of
my friends, Francis Albert Marshall, who then
was a clerk in the Record Ofhce. Next I ap-
proached Thomas Gibson Bowles, who had written
for the Worm and also contributed to the Owl as
an outsider, when it was produced by Sir Algernon
Borthwick, now Lord Glenesk. They both were
most kind and sympathetic. Frank Marshall
was enthusiastic, and subsequently invited us
to the first " Tomahawk dinner," in his own house.
Next I ran across F. C. Clay, the son of the
Member for Hull, whose father was one of the
original shareholders of the Strand Printing and
Publishing Company, the proprietors of the
Glowworm. He was a splendid musician, and
had been musical critic of the Worm. He as-
sented, saying that he wasn't exactly comic, but
he thought '^writing for the Tomahawk would
be greater fun than noticing music halls." Then
I asked Alfred Thompson to join us. He had
been in Cambridge, where he had helped to found
the A.D.C., and then joined the Carabineers just
before the Crimean war. He rather wanted to



be cartoonist, but I explained that I had already
got a very clever artist on the staff, and, "to be
unlike Punch,'' we proposed confining our draw-
ings to one picture. He consented, but on the
understanding that if we produced an almanack
he should share the pictures with the other man.
I consented, and with my brothers and myself,
the literary staff of the paper was complete. I
must not omit, however, Mr. T. H. S. Escott,
who succeeded me in the editorship of the Glow-
worm, and who wrote some very excellent copy,
and Mr. Alfred Austin, who joined our regular
staff after the completion of our first volume. I
have left to the last a member of our body who
certainly even then had made a distinguished
name as a portrait painter, a scenic artist, and a
draughtsman in black and white — Matt Morgan.
I had seen him for the first time in the cortege
of the present editor of Punch in the Exhibition
Buildings of 1862. Then I had met him behind
the scenes of the opera at Covent Garden, where
Mr. Augustus Harris (father of the knight of that
ilk) was the stage manager. Finally, he was
intimate with another friend of mine, the late
Charles Hambro, Member for Weymouth and
Colonel of the Dorsetshire Yeomanry. We had a
meeting, and we determined that the Toma-
hawk should be conducted on these lines. I was
to be the nominal editor, but the cartoons were
to be decided (as it is on Punch) by the staff.
The real matter of importance was how we were
to find the money to start it. All of us were



fairly well off, but none of us saw our way beyond
becoming the host (at our own expense) of one of the
Tomahawk dinners.

" That would be a great saving," we all agreed,
and Frank Marshall immediately commenced to
rough out a suitable menu.

" But how about the printing paper and the
rest of it ? " I asked.

" Oh, that you must see to. If you are to be
editor, behave as such."

So I had to take that department under my
protection. I was fortunate enough to find a
gentleman who had been befriended by my
father when he was a boy at school. He was the
son of an Anglo-Indian, who had been at school
with my brothers. On account of the absence
of his parents in India, he was left at the school
for the holidays, when my father used to invite
him to our house. This gentleman undertook to
furnish the sinews of war for the production —
printer, paper, publishing, ofhce, and engraving
— if I would find the literary staff. We were to
leave matters undecided for a month or two, and
then we were to come to a definite arrangement.
For the moment all the work was being done free,
gratis and for nothing. We were to divide the
profits later on, when we had earned them.

1 60

chapter V


AT our first meeting we discussed the policy of
the Tomahawk. It was to be fearless, im-
partial, and to show in every line it was written
by scholars and gentlemen. It was to have one
cartoon ; that, like the cartoon in Punch, was to
be settled by the staff in consultation. We de-
cided to do without smaller cuts, as it was difficult
to get any one to supply them. Its price was
threepence — a price subsequently changed after
a few numbers to twopence. And above all, it
was not to be a slavish copy of Punch. At the
time the London Charivari was going very strong,
thanks to the excellent work supplied by the
present editor. Very willingly, had it been pos-
sible, we should have secured his assistance in our
work, but of course he belonged to another camp.
However, shortly afterwards, when I started the
Britannia Magazine, with the assistance of Charles
Hamko and the Earl of Kilmorey (then Lord
Newry), the present editor of Punch wrote a most
excellent serial for us, called " The Adventures of
Major Blake," illustrated by our friend in common,
Matt Morgan. But as the Tomahawk, under the
circumstances of its production, could not be

i6i L


exactly described as a supporter of Punch, we
could scarcely expect to be joined by the best man
on the literary staff of the London Charivari. I
should have been very willing to have served under
him — as I had on the Glowworm — as he was several
years my senior. But it was not to be, although
I am glad to remember that during the career of
the Tomahawk our friendship was close, in spite of
our belonging to different camps. After all, when
barristers contend in the Courts, as if they person-
ally were the bitterest enemies, they very fre-
quently return to their homes walking arm in arm
together. I have heard, too, that the pleasantest
dining club in London is one called the " Cabinet,"
consisting of members of Cabinet rank of the Crown
of both sides of the House. At this dining club,
I believe, politics are taboo. So when we chaffed
Punch, as we did rather unmercifully, the present
editor of that worthy periodical took it very
kindly. It was only chaff, and good-natured chaff.
It was in the day's work, and set down without
malice. So the present editor of Pimch and the
editor of the Tomahawk remained excellent friends.
We shared the same rooms in Garrick Street, next
door to the Garrick Club, and when we had a short
holiday ran over to Paris together. Accustomed
to " amateur soldiering " as I was, I looked up to
the present editor of Punch — a decade my senior —
as the sub does to his captain, a recollection that
will remain always a pleasant memory.

A first number is always an important and
anxious event. The precedent was followed in the

J 62


case of the Tomahawk. Of course, the cartoon
had to be thought out a week in advance of the
pubhcation of the paper. The staff had met in
consultation, and it had been decided that Brit-
annia should be shown with a birch in her hand,
ready to punish a Mr. Beales, who at the head of a
riotous crowd had pulled down the raiUngs sur-
rounding the Park. The Government were stand-
ing to their guns, and refusing to be coerced by
mob rule. We all thought the cut a very good
one, and Matt Morgan said that he agreed, so the
cartoon was drawn and delivered. Just as we
were going to press, to our great chagrin, Mr. Wal-
pole, the Home Minister, surrendered. He saw
Mr. Beales and, trembling with emotion, told that
turbulent gentleman that he would not oppose any
further his desire to hold a meeting in the Park —
he could go there with his thousands without any
further opposition so far as he was concerned. So
we were launched with an absolutely inappropriate
cartoon for our first number. Here was Mr. Wal-
pole — ^the representative of Britannia — patting
Mr. Beales on the back, and here (in our cartoon)
was Britannia (the representative of Mr. Walpole)
about to administer chastisement. In our cartoon
Beales was represented in an agony of grief when,
according to report, Mr. Walpole was the gentle-
man who had been moved to tears. There was
but one thing to be done, and I, as editor, did it.
I saved the situation by changing the title that
had been selected by the staff. I put under the
cartoon " But for Walpole." All this punishment



was to have been meted out to Mr. Beales had
not the Home Secretary intervened. Britannia
was ready with the birch, but Mr. Walpole would
not let her use it.

But, as I have said, we could not have altered
the cartoon, for in those days ** process " was
practically undiscovered, and the picture had to
be drawn on the block direct and then distributed
in cubes to the wood engravers. We could come
to the rescue in the letterpress. We took ad-
vantage of the situation, and published a set of
verses, supposed to have been written by the hero
of the hour, addressed to the Home Secretary.
They ran as follows —

\Vhat statesman most my iancy charms ?
Who saved me from my dread alarms
From smarting in Britannia's arms ?
My Walpole !

My foolish bray had almost taught
A lesson I had little thought —
Who shielded me from being caught ?
My Walpole !

Who saved me by his timorous tears
From all my fancy's idle fears ?
We'll greet him with ten thousand cheers —
My Walpole !

Who sported pleasantly with law ?
Who placed the town within the jaw
Of civic discord void of awe ?

My Walpole !

Who kindly said, " Your little game,
If played or not, was all the same
To him " — Heaven bless his good old name —
My Walpole !



Looking through the pages of the initial number
of the Tomahawk, published on May ii, 1867,
more than thirty-six years ago, it seems to me a
very good one. It commenced with some special
official information, evidently suggested by the
same kind of paragraphs that used to appear in
the Owl when " the brilliant private secretaries "
were on the staff of that most excellent paper.
Then there is an article upon "Criticism a la Mode,"
which satirized " log rolling." Then comes a very
pretty little poem headed " Linda," which con-
cludes with these lines —

Linda when I praise her graces

Tells me that there are

Others fairer far,
So I tried strange lands and faces :

Find where'er I roam

Fairer spots than home ;
Yet shall home and Linda be

Ever best beloved by me.

Then comes an ** Extraordinary Meeting at the
Royal Academy," in which the subjects of the
pictures discuss the merits of the artists' produc-
tion. The portraits all insisted upon being " speak-
ing likenesses." The Dean of Westminster, for
instance, objected to art advertisements. To
quote from the article : "A little Miss Millais in-
terrupted her minuet to request that the Bishop
of London would prevent Mr. Walker's little boys
from splashing her bright dress. His lordship
patted the little thing on the head, in spite of her
scarlet vestments, but gave her to understand



that the httle boys were worth a hundred red
petticoats, and could not well be found fault with."
Then an article, " Low Art in High Quarters,"
calls attention to the growing popularity of the
music hall and the decreasing prestige of the opera.
" Definitions for the Ball Room" describe ''evening
costume for men full dress, and for women un-
dress." '' Our own correspondent, with echoes
from the Continent," burlesques the style of the
Paris papers, in which the most commonplace
incidents were reported with absurd exclamations
of admiration, horror and cynicism thrown in to
render them more appetizing. Then came a series
of inquiries about the whereabouts of Mr. John
Bright on the day of the riot in Hyde Park. The
Emperor Napoleon is advised to mind his own
business, and is informed that the assertion of
the Moniteur that " the Member of Parliament for
Hyde Park (Sir Bright) is in Paris ; he has fled
from his native land, Birmingham, disguised as

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Online LibraryArthur William À BeckettThe à Becketts of Punch; memories of father and sons → online text (page 10 of 21)