Arthur William À Beckett.

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

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a special constable, and pursued by the English
aristocracy under the direction of Milor Maire,"
is absolutely without foundation. Then " Our
Preliminary War Hoop " announces the paper's
policy, which is summed up in the words, " H
any one wants to know our opinions, we may say
generally that we are bitter enemies to the whole
tribe of shams." Then comes an article, " At
the Council before Mr. Tom a Hawk, the pre-
siding Magistrate," dealing with " a cruel case of
torturing an audience." Mr. Dion Boucicault
" (name and emblems registered, sole patentee

i66



A SATURDAY JOURNAL OF SATIRE

of the personal pronoun I)" is charged with ill-
treating a British public in the neighbourhood of
the Haymarket by means of an instrument of
torture technically known as " A Wild Goose."
The prisoner is found guilty. The magistrate
delivers the sentence : " Prisoner at the bar, I
sentence you to be present at the second act of
' A Wild Goose ' on three distinct occasions." " The
prisoner burst into tears, and was removed from
the court weeping bitterly." I have seen some
articles not unlike the one from which I have
quoted quite recently. Comic history repeats
itself. Then came the " Money Market," a parody
of City reports. The remainder of the number
was made up of '' Tomahawk' sVreieience Shares,"
'' Couplets for Likes and Dislikes," a charade in
common form, a most admirable criticism of the
production of Gounod's *' Romeo and Juliet " in
Paris, evidently written by F. C. Clay, and " Les
Mysteries d'lsis," in which I trace my brother
Gilbert's hand. He gives the rules of the " Paris
International Regatta — French Ofhcial Pro-
gramme, authorized by Government." Here is
the last regulation —

Classes F to Z (Various);
Grand Prix International Five Thousand Francs. — Open to
all nations. Fourteen heats. French boats to carry their
own winning posts and to have half a mile start (see Rule 54
as passed by the Imperial Committee of Management).
Breakfast (with meat or eggs), eighteen pence. This race
will be rowed with topgallants, royals set and steam tugs in
tow. An ironclad with the committee on board will lead
each boat. No smoking or life buoys allowed. Uniform staff
officer in the Marines, or from chorus in " Masaniello."

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THE a BECKETTS OF " PUNCH "

N.B. — (i) L stands for left ; R for royal ; L.C. for left centre ;
R.C. for right ditto. But this is quite at the
discretion of the umpires.

(2) Fouling is allowed when the umpire is not looking.

(3) The 5,000 francs prize must be taken out in refresh-

ment.

By Order of the Committee.
May II, 1867;

From cover to cover there is no reference to
Punch, and the number seems to me excellent.
I can speak, I think, dispassionately after reading
it after a pause of thirty-six years. It was full
of good-natured fun, with a dash of cynicism that
I think came from Alfred Thompson (who prided
himself upon his continental experience) and
Frank Marshall, who liked to be eccentric. But
even now I feel it was an honour to have been
appointed editor to writers who in every case were
many years my senior.

In the series of articles that appeared in the Pall
Mall Magazine of the present year upon " Mr.
Punch, liis Predecessors and Contemporaries," the
author (a member of the staff — in fact the present
editor of the London Charivari) says that the
novelty of the Tomahawk intended, of course, to
be of considerable attraction, consisted in the use
of tints for the cartoon. "They were sometimes
green, sometimes black, sometimes black and
yellow, sometimes more black than yellow, or more
yellow than black — an ultra-bilious effect to the
jaundiced eye — but all of them as drawings more
or less clever." So far as the colour, this was
scarcely the case. The Tomahawk commenced

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A SATURDAY JOURNAL OF SATIRE

in plain black and white, and scored an instan-
taneous success. The tint was added some time
afterwards, and the precedent was followed in
certain numbers of his own by Mr. Punch himself.
The author goes further astray when he says :
" No doubt the pictorial suggestions were given
him (the artist) by Gilbert a Beckett and also
Gilbert a Beckett's younger brother Arthur,
the editor." The cartoons of the Tomahawk,
like the cartoons of Punch, were selected by the
staff. No doubt when every one was away the
editor and artist had to decide the cartoon m
mutual conversation. Such has been the case
before now in Bouverie Street. When I had the
honour of filling the post of assistant-editor of
Punch, Sir John Tenniel and I on more than one
occasion were the solitary guests at Mr. Punch's
table. It was left to me when the editor was out
of reach to use my discretion. But certainly
during the first volume of the Tomahawk the staff
was very much in evidence. I, as editor, ruled
like a constitutional monarch, " by and with the
advice of my Government." And certainly on
two occasions my better judgment (if one can have
a better judgment at one and twenty) was over-
ruled. Then the writer to whom I have referred
acknowledges the existence of the Government
to which I have alluded by saying that the " staff
of the Tomahawk, in a leading article, addressed
Queen Victoria, and ventured upon making Her
Majesty a lecture on her conduct towards the
nation." Subsequently the writer asserts : " It

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THE a BECKETTS OF " PUNCH "

seems to have occurred to the editor and staff of
the Tomahawk that something more emphatic
than two laudatory cartoons in the way of making
amends was demanded of them, and so when it
was expected that Her Majesty would reappear in
public, the Tomahawk, in a cartoon called * God
save the Queen ; or, the past, the present and the
future,' welcomed in anticipation the return of
Her Majesty to public life after her long and sad
retirement, and tried its very best to atone for
the attitude previously adopted. In this cartoon
Morgan drew a figure of Punch (after Tenniel),
placing him beside the representative of the
Tomahawk, of course in an inferior position, and
showing both as making obeisance to the Queen.
The idea of coupling Mr. Punch with the repre-
sentative figure of the Tomahawk was decidedly art-
ful." I do not see where the artfulness comes in.
As a matter of fact the retirement of her late
Majesty from public life, to which the writer refers,
had been commented upon in the Times in severer
terms than those adopted by the Tomahawk, and
Punch had backed up the leading London paper
with a cartoon founded upon an incident in the
''Winter's Tale." Britannia was bidding Her
Majesty, represented as a statue, to be no longer
stone. And as to placing Pz^;zc/i and the Tomahawk
side by side, I am sure the artist had no intention
of putting the former in an "inferior position."
Were not the editor of the Tomahawk and the
future editor of Punch then on the best possible
terms, and was there any real ill-feeling (only a

170



A SATURDAY JOURNAL OF SATIRE

little professional jealousy, nothing more) between
the staff of the Tomahawk and the staff of Punch ?
I venture to answer, although I have to go back
thirty-six years, in the negative. Dear me !
What ancient history ! Thirty-six years ago,
when I had not enjoyed for many months the
honour of having reached my twenty-first birth-
day ! But I reply to my critic.

For the first three months of the life of the
Tomahawk I was editing the Glowworm. During
those three months the editor, cartoonist and staff
were working gratuitously, as an equivalent to
the paper and printing and other incidental ex-
penses incurred by the Anglo-Indian, to whom I
have referred. At the end of that period the
paper was an established success. Then there was
a terrible row — the Anglo-Indian wished to take
the paper as his own. For some time relations
were very strained. There was a prospect of two
Tomahawks or none. The staff held together,
and ultimately a compromise was arranged. We
gave up our proprietorial rights — save in the
Almanac, which was to remain our exclusive
property — on the condition that the Anglo-Indian,
to whom we made over the copyright, paid us each
a fixed salary. Tliis agreement was to last for
a period of years, which period was never reached,
because the Anglo-Indian disappeared long before
the time arrived for its completion. The quarrel,
however, had one good effect. The staff became
their own masters. Until the strained relation-
ship period the Anglo-Indian had had a voice in

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THE a BECKETTS OF '' PUNCH "

our council, which was Kfted up very often in
direct opposition to four-fifths of his colleagues.
When he became sole, instead of part, proprietor
we assumed the entire management, and to empha-
size the fact my name appeared as editor on the
frontispiece. I may add that the staff in accept-
ing the situation were kind enough to say that
I had looked after their interests with greater zeal
than that with which I had watched my own.

On the completion of the various arrangements
which constituted me a salary-receiving member
of the staff of the Tomahawk, I resigned my
position as editor of the Glowworm. I found in
those days that the work was too much for me,
although some twenty years later I was able to
assist to edit Punch, and at the same time to
wholly edit the Sunday Times. In this connexion
I may tell an amusing story. On Saturdays my
work commenced without exaggeration at 4 a.m.,
and without a break — for I was reading proofs
during my meals — continued until 4 a.m. the next
morning. At that time the final revisions of the
Punch proofs were prepared for press at 8 a.m.
on Sunday morning. When the editor was away
that duty devolved upon me. Upon one occasion
it was fortunate. It was during the General Elec-
tion, and Gladstone, as the warder, was repre-
sented as looking on at the fight. When I left
the Sunday Times — I had obtained the printing of
the paper for Messrs. Bradbury and Agnew — I heard
that Sir William Vernon Harcourt had lost his
election. Armed with this knowledge I was able

172



A SATURDAY JOURNAL OF SATIRE

to put into the mouth of Gladstone, looking
anxiously towards the struggle, " What has be-
come of Harcourt ? " which amused the world
very much on the following Wednesday. But to
return, after filling up odd corners — two lines here,
three there, and so on — with jokes made on the
spur of the moment, I completed the pages of
Punch and sent them back to Bouverie Street by
the waiting messenger. When there were no
suitable jokes in the overset I supplied them, and
this further exercise of my brain fairly exhausted
me. The pages generally took until lo a.m., and
then it was time to go to church. I was bound
by my creed to go to church, unless there was
some valid reason for abstaining from that duty.
So I managed to go, until it occurred to me that
sleeping through the sermon, and possibly snoring,
was creating a scandal.

To return to the Tomahawk, the staff were a gay
company. Nearly all of us at the time were
members of the Civil Service, as had been the
bulk of the staff of our predecessor, the Owl. We
were pretty free and open in our opinions, but
really not unkindly. Alfred Thompson was well
up in the literature of the Continent, and was
detective-in-chief of adaptations pretending to
be original productions. For instance, we brought
to book Charles Reade, who had claimed novelty
for a piece produced at the Queen's under the title
of " White Lies, or the Double Marriage."
''Original," said Alfred Thompson, "stop a bit.
We remember — and there are few plays that have

173



THE a BECKETTS OF " PUNCH "

appeared during the last twenty years in Paris
which we have not seen — we remember a certain
drama in five acts which appeared in the Gaiety
early in the year 1852. The drama was written
by M. Auguste Macquet, and was called * Le
Chateau de Trantier.' " And then Mr. Thompson,
or rather Captain Thompson, as he used to be
called on account of his severed connexion with
the Army, pointed out the resemblance between
the two productions. In the number in which
this article appeared there were two notices which
interest me. The first was an announcement
" that in consequence of the immense success
achieved by the Tomahawk, and its rapidly in-
creasing circulation (already reaching 50,000
copies weekly), it has been resolved to enlarge
it from twelve pages, its present size, to sixteen
pages. We shall then be able to secure adver-
tisers from those disappointments which a limited
space has hitherto sometimes unavoidably oc-
casioned. So soon therefore as the machinery
necessary for printing this journal sufficiently
rapidly to meet the enormous demand shall be
fixed and in operation the enlargement will be
made. With the still larger circulation expected
from this important alteration in size the scale of
charges for advertisements will be increased to
£25 per page and is. 6d. per line." The second
notice in this number was one of the London
Charivari — *' It is said that Mr. Punch has called
the censor of the Evening Star ' a silly and vulgar
person,* and it is known that the Tomahawk has

174



A SATURDAY JOURNAL OF SATIRE

corroborated the words of his friend Mr. Punch
in every particular." " Friend Mr. Punch " does
not sound like any ill-feeling towards the Bouverie
Street contemporary. This reference to Mr.
Punch's estimation of the censor got the paper
into trouble. A week later, under an appropriate
heading, the following appeared —

" The staff of the Tomahawk insist that they can-
not fight the censor on his own ground. He wants
us evidently to advertise his own writings, and
believes (we suppose) that he has paid us in
advance for our puff by thanking Providence that
we are about to enlarge ourselves ! Eh hien ! not
to be outdone in generosity we take up our pen
once more to answer him (in spite of what he may
hereafter be writing about) for the last time. We
will try our hand at Billingsgate.

He called us We call him

A liar. A naughty story-teller.

A literary toadstool. An illiterate Truffle.

A rat. A sad dog.

A skunk. A perfumed poet.

Weak and scurrilous. Elegant and powerful.

Poison. Milk and water.

An emetic. A soothing syrup.

There ! we thought so — our friend has got the
better of it."

The year ends with a good wish to every one.
The musical critic (Freddy Clay) praised " La Con-
trabandista," written by our friends, Arthur Sulli-
van and the present editor of Punch — "The words

175



THE a BECKETTS OF '' PUNCH "

of the book are rhythmical and fluent, and the fun
is buoyant from beginning to end." This is the
Christmas greeting. " The best wishes of the
season," says Tomahawk. " The noblest pre-
cedence of all is precedence in good works, while
there is no republic so honourable as the republic
of brotherly friendship and charity. Let our list
then be alphabetical while we run over the names
of a dozen of the many charities appealing to us
for help and succour." And then we gave a list of
charities, inclusive of the Rescue Society, of which
association more anon.

And up to this date there had been not one word
of disparagement in the Tomahaivk of Punch or
The London Charivari, 2ind the policy of the two
papers (e.g. the desire to procure the presence of
the Court in London) had been usually the same.

I have called attention to the Rescue Society,
as this recalls to me the fact that I was in touch
with the philanthropical Earl of Shaftesbury to
see if something could not be done to remove a
crying scandal which has now for many years been
a memory of the past. We were terribly in earnest
in the Tomahawk, and we tried hard to stamp out
vice. There was one crying scandal, the site of
which is now occupied by the London Pavilion
Music Hall, which the editors of the Lancet, the
Guardian and I tried to write down. I suggested
to my two editorial friends that we should try to
organize a body of editors and proprietors in
London to consult and decide upon concerted
action in certain press matters of importance.

176



A SATURDAY JOURNAL OF SATIRE

The late Mr. Wakley of the Lancet approved of
the idea, but assured me that it was utterly im-
possible to do anything in the desired direction.
Strange to say that many years afterwards, when
I was called to a meeting of the Provincial News-
paper Society, and other proprietors, editors and
managers were admitted to the gathering, my
very proposal was adopted. But the Newspaper
Society was founded (absorbing in its body the
Provincial Newspaper Society) to protect the
Press from the pernicious law of libel. Before Sir
Algernon Borthwick, the present Lord Glenesk,
took the matter in hand the case of the journalists
was a hard one. However, thanks to his tact and
energy — backed up with all the force of the
Newspaper Society — a Bill was passed which has
made matters better. But still there is plenty of
room for improvement in the law of libel.

Looking at the Tomahawk Almanac for 1868,
I find that Alfred Thompson was rather hard upon
Tom Taylor, suggesting in one of his illustrations
that the author of " A Ticket of Leave Man " and
Charles Reade went to French sources for their
inspiration. This may possibly have caused ill-
feeling between the staffs of the two papers, as I
find in the volumes of the Saturday journal of
Satire a direct attack upon Punch on April 11,
1868, some eight months after the establishment
of the new paper. Says the Tomahawk : " The
London Charivari is decidedly improving. Its
last number had one page full of the most perfect
fun. We never so saw many good things together.

177 M



THE a BECKETTS OF " PUNCH "

We allude to the full-page advertisement of Du
Barry's Delicious RevaJenta Arabian Food. If
the food is as rich as the testimonials, no wonder
the consumers of it get fat." I am afraid that
now and again the recollection of Mark Lemon's
treatment of the younger generation of a Becketts
came to the surface, as I find in the Tomahawk of
June 20 of the same year : " Our innocuous old
friend Punchy whose garrulous egotism sometimes
does succeed in making one smile, talks with that
dry affectation of waggish juvenility which so well
becomes him of ' the baton of Field Marshal Costa.'
The joke is rather above the usual Mark, and
suggests another pleasing little jest (which our
old friend is free to repeat as his own) about the
last commander-in-chief being Field Marshal
Costa. ' Ah, I see it ! ' says the intelligent tax-
payer, * and feel it too.' " Then there is a pause
until July 25, when again reference is made to the
famous sage of Fleet Street. Says the Tomahawk :
" Our good friend Punch evidently reads his Toma-
hawk devoutly, for he continually produces jokes
in his current numbers which have appeared in
our pages the week before. Mr. Punch is quite
welcome. It would be hard if we could not afford
to lend now and then to an acquaintance who had
lost all his capital." Not very savage, and rather
suggestive of annoyance at not having drawn
Mr. Punch. And I find this spirit running through
the whole six volumes of the Tomahawk. An
occasional little chaff about the imprint being the
brightest thing in the number, and the illustra-

178



A SATURDAY JOURNAL OF SATIRE

tions of the advertisements being superior to any-
thing artistic in the body of the paper and so on,
but nothing really vicious. In the meantime the
Tomahawk (irrespective of its occasional chaff of
Punch) was doing really good work. Comparing
volume with volume, the two papers seemed to
be on the same lines. About one matter it was
very decided. It did its utmost to suppress
Fenianism, calling upon Rome — from a Catholic
point of view — to put down that pernicious
secret society. What the Tomahawk advocated
was carried out in later years when Monsignor
Persico, by order of the late Pope, visited Ireland
and reported to him the condition of that country.
Within a very short time of the visit Fenianism
practically disappeared. One of the traditions of
the paper was to oppose the Emperor Napoleon III.
I am afraid that, although the policy was sound
au fond, there was a tendency to select His Majesty
Louis, because Matt Morgan, our cartoonist, was
first-rate at a likeness of " the nephew of his
uncle." Personally I was always pleased when
the subject was chosen, because I knew w^e were
safe for a thoroughly effective picture. And it
was really wonderful how prophetic we were.
We foretold that the commencement of the war
1870-71 would end in the fall of the Empire.
Napoleon III was represented as the modern
Curtius leaping into the gulf labelled " War,"
which was destined to destroy him. In this the
Tomahawk was on all fours with Punch, which pro-
duced about this timeTenniel's admirable drawing

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THE a BECKETTS OF " PUNCH "

of " The Warning on the Way," in which the great
Napoleon was shown waving back to his nephew
and the heir of the dynasty. Again, there was a
picture in the Tomahawk long before the event
showing the destruction of Paris by the fire of the
Revolution. In its Almanac of 1869 the Toma-
hawk published the following —

CURIOUS DOCUMENT

posted up in every town in England.

To a paper

which has for years

supported a pohcy of perfect fairness

to all things and everybody

which has become the hope of the Weak

the terror of the wicked

the particular horror of

H. I. M.

Napoleon III

Emperor of the French

and all who support his policy

which has put down quacks

of all kinds and every denomination

in fact

TO TOMAHAWK

the wonder of the age

the gift of

an enormous circulation

is presented

by a

Grateful People.

This was scarcely exaggerated praise, although
self. I have been led into this disquisition about
the Tomahawk by reading the article to which
I have referred in the Pall Mall Magazine. The
paper was published when I was in my early



A SATURDAY JOURNAL OF SATIRE

twenties, and during a busy life I have not had
too much leisure for reading documents of the
distant past. But I thought it well to see if there
was a joint in my armour exposed to a sabre
thrust. Well, no, I can see nothing in the Toma-
hawk from my pen that I would not have written
to-day. The chaff of Punch was good natured
but regrettable, for my father had been known
as " a Beckett of Punch " and was proud of the
title. My confreres Frank Marshall and Alfred
Thompson were a little too enthusiastic, perhaps,
in pressing their views, but my brother Gilbert,
Alfred Austin and myself were calm and dis-
passionate. I have never been too fond of
politics, as a man who is by nature a Tory finds
it a little difficult to row in the same boat with
Radicals. That I belonged to the Radical boat
gratitude demanded, as the Radicals for many
years were the champions of Catholic Emancipa-
tion. But when my old chief — I was for some
years his private secretary — the Duke of Norfolk
joined Lord Salisbury's Ministry I felt that I
was at last at liberty to become an official of the
Primrose League. So during my connexion with
the Tomahawk my work was in the direction of
domestic reform with one great political object
in view — the maintenance of the inviolability
of the British Empire.

My friend Mr. M. H. Spielmann, in his excellent
History of Punch, to which I have frequently
referred, speaks of the Tomahawk as follows : —
" Mr. Arthur a Beckett started a satirico-humorous

iSi



THE a BECKETTS OF '' PUNCH "

paper of great ability and promise, the staff
including himself and his brother, Matt Morgan,
Frederick Clay and Frank Marshall, with Messrs.
Alfred Thompson, Austin, T. G. Bowles and T. H.
Escott — most of them civil servants. But in
the first tide of its success its commercial founda-
tions were weakened by one in the managerial
department and the whole thing came to the
ground." This very concisely tells the story.
The Anglo-Indian proprietor disappeared, and
after a gallant fight the paper followed his example.
Fortunately all the staff — like the present staff
of Punch — were not absolutely dependent upon
their pens for their livelihood. So we bade one
another good-bye, to meet again soon afterwards.
As for myself, I thought I would see what they
were doing in France and Germany, and started
as special correspondent to the Standard and the
Globe, and after spending the autumn and winter
round and about Amiens and then at Cologne
and the Rhine during the war of 1870-71, came
back to England, first to be Secretary of the
National Chamber of Trade and next to exchange


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Online LibraryArthur William À BeckettThe à Becketts of Punch; memories of father and sons → online text (page 11 of 21)