Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/309

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223
"FIGARO IN LONDON."

house, and laid Queen Square in ashes, whilst the military and its very strangely incompetent officer looked on while the city was burning.[1] Every one in those days was either a rabid Tory or an ultra Radical. It was just the period for an enthusiastic youth to plunge into the excitement of political life; but the crude, unformed opinions of a young man scarcely of age are of little value, and the political creed of the proprietor and originator of this literary (?) venture does not appear to have been clearly defined even to himself. In his valedictory addresses written three years afterwards, when things were not altogether so rosy with him as when he started his periodical, he confesses that he belongs to no party, for "we have had," he says, "such a thorough sickener of the Whigs, that we do expect something better from the new government, although it be a Tory one."

The price of "Figaro in London," one of the immediate predecessors of the comic publications of our day, was a penny, quite an experiment in times when the price of paper was dear, and periodical literature was heavily handicapped with an absurdly heavy duty. "Figaro" consisted of four weekly pages of letterpress illustrated by Robert Seymour. The projector, proprietor, and editor, was Mr. Gilbert à Beckett, whose name—with those of men of vastly superior literary attainments—was associated in after years with the early fortunes of Punch. The literary part of the performance was indeed sorry stuff,—the main stay and prop of the paper from its very commencement was Seymour, whose drawings however suffered severely at the hands of the engraver and paper maker. An eccentricity of the publication perhaps deserves notice. It professed to look with sovereign contempt upon advertisements, as occupying a quantity of unnecessary space—considering, however, that exception was made in favour of one particularly persevering hatter of the period, we are driven to the conclusion that the projector's contempt for a source of revenue which modern newspaper proprietors can by no means afford to despise, was nearly akin to that expressed by the fox after

  1. Colonel Brereton. His conduct afterwards formed the subject of a courtmartial, but the unhappy man forestalled the "finding" by committing suicide.