Gary Stiles has done something really cool. Who’s Gary? Well… Gary is a physician, medical researcher, corporate executive, and student of history. But most relevant to this post, Gary is a lifelong collector of Winston S. Churchill’s memorabilia and writings. And Gary is the author of the soon-to-be published Churchill in Punch. His book is the first ever effort to definitively catalogue, describe, and contextualize all of the many Punch cartoons featuring Churchill.
Why is that a big deal? After all, Churchill was cartooned in myriad publications. What’s so special about Punch? Well, Punch was… Punch. “It is hard to escape the legacy of Punch Magazine. From 1841 to 2002, the magazine cast a satirical eye on life in Britain. It charted the interests, concerns and frustratons of the country and, today, it stands as an invaluable resource for social historians… Punch combined humour, illustration and political debate with a fresh and radical audacity… In the Western world, Punch played a significant role in the development of satire. In the field of illustration, it practically revolutionised it.” (Illustration Chronicles: How Punch Magazine Changed Everything)
Punch or The London Charivari began featuring Churchill cartoons in 1900, when his political career was just beginning. That political career would last two thirds of a century, see Churchill occupy Cabinet office during each of the first six decades of the twentieth century, carry him twice to the premiership and, further still, into the annals of history as a preeminent statesman. And throughout that time, Punch satirized Churchill in cartoons – more than 600 of them, the work of more than 50 different artists. So in both a visually compelling and historical sense, a chronicle of Churchill’s appearances in Punch is a chronicle of Churchill himself – how he waxed and waned, strove and succeeded and failed and strove again, all in the public eye, during an incredible span of decades reaching from the end of Queen Victoria’s reign into the beginning of that of Queen Elizabeth II.
Churchill said “cartoons are the regular food on which the grown-up children of to-day are fed and nourished. On these very often they form their views of public men and public affairs; on these very often they vote… But how… would you like to be cartooned yourself? How would you like to feel that millions of people saw you always in the most ridiculous situations, or portrayed as every kind of wretched animal, or with a nose on your face like a wart, when really your nose is quite a serviceable and presentable member? How would you like to feel that millions of people think of you like that? – that shocking object, that contemptible being, that wretched tatterdemalion, a proper target of public hatred and derision! Fancy having that process going on every week, often every day, over the whole of your life… But it is not so bad as you would expect. Just as eels are supposed to get used to skinning, so politicians get used to being caricatured. In fact, by a strange trait in human nature they even get to like it. If we must confess it, they are quite offended and downcast when the cartoons stop…” (Thoughts and Adventures)
Churchill and Punch was a near-perfect relationship between satirists and subject. That Churchill was distinctive in both persona and physical appearance helped make him easy to caricature. To his persona and appearance he added myriad additional satirical temptations, not just props, like his cigars, siren suits, V-sign, and hats, but also a variety of ancillary avocations and vocations, like polo, painting, brick-laying, and writing. All these were occasionally exalted and most often skewered as well.
Some Punch cartoons were laudatory, some critical, and many humorous, like the man himself. Nearly always, Churchill was distinctly recognizable, a larger-than-life character whose presence caricature served only to magnify.
Now, thanks to Gary, we can see the complete, coherent arc of that character throughout his long public life as portrayed through the myriad cartoons of multiple generations of Punch artists.
Our appreciation and congratulations to Gary for this splendid effort!
Churchill in Punch will be published by Unicorn Publishing Group. We are informed by the publisher that the UK publication date is 9 June, with U.S. publication following on 5 September. Copies may be pre-ordered.
HERE from Amazon.co.uk
HERE on Amazon.com
HERE via Book Depository (They offer free worldwide shipping)