Best known today as the illustrator of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, John Tenniel was one of the Victorian era’s chief political cartoonists. This extensively illustrated book is the first to draw almost exclusively on primary sources in family collections, public archives and other depositories. Frankie Morris examines Tenniel’s life and work, producing a book that is not only a definitive resource for scholars and collectors but one that can be easily enjoyed by everyone interested in Victorian life and art, social history, journalism and political cartoon, and illustrated books.
From his sunny childhood and early enthusiasm for sports, theatre and medievalism to his flirtation with high art and fifty-year relationship with the London journal Punch, Tenniel is shown to have been the sociable and urbane humourist revealed in his drawings. There follow three parts on Tenniel’s work, in which Morris examines Tenniel’s methods and his earlier book illustrations, the Alice pictures, and the Punch cartoons. She addresses such little-understood subjects as Tenniel’s drawings on wood, his relationship with Lewis Carroll, and his controversial Irish cartoons, and examines the salient characteristics of his approximately 4,500 drawings for books and journals. The definitive study of both the man and the work, Artist of Wonderland gives an unprecedented view of the cartoonist who mythologised the world for generations of Britons.
List of Illustrations
Part I: Biographical Sketch
1. Toast of the Evening, 1901
2. A Pretty Place, 1776-1840
3. “Jan,” 1840-1850
4. “Jackides,” 1850-1862
5. On Gen’l Punch’s “Staff,” 1862-1874
6. Good Sir John! 1874-1893
7. Exeunt, 1893-1901
8. Out of the “Show” Altogether, 1901-1914
Part II: Methods and Modes
10. Drawing on Wood
11. Before Alice
Part III: Enchanting Alice
12. The Draftsman and the Don
13. Harlequin Alice
14. Alice in the Land of Toys
15. The Grotesque Alice
16. Alice and the Gothic Taste
17. Alice and Social Caricature
Part IV. The Punch Cartoons
18. The Pride of Mr. Punch
19. As for Political Opinions
20. King Demos
21. Paddy and Hibernia
22. The Dis-United States
Appendix: A Guide to Tenniel’s Unidentified Punch Work
Endorsements and Reviews
Morris has almost certainly looked at every bit of art (extant and available) that Tenniel produced. Many of the theses advanced along the way are fresh and in some cases unprecedented. … The book can claim to be the standard work on Tenniel.
Richard Maxwell, Yale University, editor of The Victorian Illustrated Book
Wonderfully, Dr Frankie Morris has written a fine, true and highly readable biography of Sir John Tenniel, the great nineteenth-century cartoonist. Here for the first time, we have a splendidly serviceable analysis, well illustrated, of Tenniel’s cartoons as instruments of political persuasion. Morris also offers many fresh and surprising insights into the Tenniel-Carroll relationship and the Alice illustrations.
Draper Hill, author of Mr Gillray, The Caricaturist
Dr Morris does a great service to Tenniel’s reputation. … Her analysis of Tenniel’s pictures is masterly. No-one hitherto has properly recognised the similarities between the personalities of Lewis Carroll and John Tenniel – a major element in the mutual sympathetic understanding in the subsequent partnership. Morris’ book is a triumph, and bears testimony to a lifetime’s study of her subject.
Children’s Books History Society Newsletter
There is no doubt that Morris’ book offers the best and most reliable biography and account on Tenniel’s working methods yet published.
Lewis Carroll Review
Morris deals comprehesively with the history and politics of the times through which Tenniel lived and worked, and gives a detailed account of his life and the important circles in which he moved. This is a monumental work that will be appreciated by artists and historians alike.
In the new and long-awaited work by Morris, a lifetime study of Tenniel has been distilled into a comprehensive account, intelligently divided into sections dealing with the biography and the two greatest achievements. Her analysis of the Alice illustrations is of immence value and enduring fascination. … This is a scholarly yet readable account of Tenniel by a critic who is steeped in her subject; it is most persuasively argued, a magisterial study that is likely to remain the standard work for many years to come.
Print Quarterly Publications
Morris’s book is a fine biography, beautifully illustrated with over two hundred examples of Tenniel’s art. For the non academic-reader, it is a lovely coffee-table book, inviting the reader to indulge to nostalgic reminiscences of the Alice books. Academic readers find an equally delightful text, rich in primary research, fully referenced with exceptionally detailed endnotes.
Popular Narrative Media
Frankie Miller has done us a great service in this book. If you are interested in John Tenniel you have a thorough biography, likewise, if you are interested in the magazine Punch, not quite from its inception on 17th July 1841, but through to the end of that century. The development of print technology as used by the magazine through the last half of the 19th century is well covered. Romp through British history, at home, in foreign fields and other major international events. But most of all look at Tenniel’s collaboration with Carroll in the Alice books, which you’ll want to read again, with Miller close at hand.
Stewart Rayment in Interlib, Journal of the Liberal Internacional British Group,n.6, pp 21-23, 2023.