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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

VI. Caricature and the Literature of Sport

§ 4. Ackermann; Bunbury; Rowlandson

The movement was greatly advanced by Rudolph Ackermann, a German by origin, who, in 1795, opened a print-shop in the Strand. Among Ackermann’s achievements was the establishment in England of lithography as a fine art. He used the process largely in his monthly publication, The Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions, Manufactures, which ran from 1809 to 1828. More important to the present subject is the fact that he turned to caricaturists for the provision of illustrated books; and among the earliest that he published was Bunbury’s work, Academy for Grown Horsemen … by Geoffry Gambado. Esq. William Henry Bunbury, sportsman, caricaturist and writer, was already known for his admirable chalkdrawings of scenes in real life, most of which were engraved for him by other artists—Ryland, Gillray, Rowlandson, Watson, Bartolozzi, Bretherton the print-seller and Dickinson. Never treating political matters, he had done good work in social subjects, such as the seven plates entitled The propagation of a lie, burlesque designs for Tristram Shandy, the plate named A Chop House, which contains one of the many caricature portraits of Samuel Johnson, and A Long Minuet (as danced at Bath). Boydell had employed him to make designs for Shakespeare’s comedies. To Ackermann, he brought a series of comic plates of horsemanship (a subject that he well understood), accompanied by a descriptive letterpress that is still of a fresh and ingenious humour. Geoffry Gambado, the supposed author, is described as “Master of the Horse, Riding Master, and Grand Equerry to the Doge of Venice,” and he is presented as having been drowned at sea while on his way to teach horsemanship to the English. The frontispiece shows him as exceedingly corpulent. The advice given by this worthy Venetian, and the letters supposed to be addressed to him by horsemen anxious for his advice, make up a small and constantly entertaining volume, which is important from several points of view. It is an early example of the literature of sport, in which the succeeding half century was to be rich; it was read and enjoyed by Apperley, Surtees, Smedley and other authors of novels of sport; and it was the first of the illustrated humorous books for which Ackermann’s publishing house became famous. Bunbury was far more draughtsman than writer; and, though both letterpress and illustrations were his work, this book must be regarded as an early instance of pictorial art calling literature into being. A few years later, caricature was to prove, through Ackermann again, more markedly the patron of literature in the domain of comedy. Among the artists working in London was a young man, Thomas Rowlandson, who, after studying, to the great advantage of his art, in Paris, had given up portrait-painting for caricature, or genre-painting, in oils, and for brilliant comic sketches, which he tossed off in great quantity. Dissipated and improvident, he was incapable of managing his own affairs, and was all the better for attaching himself to a taskmaster of Ackermann’s good sense and acumen. His caricature was occasionally brutal; but he lived in a “hard-hitting, hard-riding, hard-drinking age,” and he portrayed it faithfully. His friend, John Bannister, the actor, is said to have suggested to him a series of plates representing a country curate travelling about England. Travels were popular at the time. Much of Ackermann’s success was won from his series of picturesque tours, to which further reference will be made later; and, whether the idea were Bannister’s, or Rowlandson’s, or another’s, there can be little doubt that it was inspired by the very popular books of travel in England written and illustrated between 1782 and 1809 by William Gilpin. On approving of the idea, Ackermann entrusted the writing of the letterpress to William Combe.