The Humours of Parliament

Harry Furniss’s View of Late-Victorian Political Culture

Edited and with an Introduction by Gareth Cordery and Joseph S. Meisel

Studies in Comics and Cartoons


Comics & Graphic Novels/History & Criticism; History/Europe/Great Britain; Art/Art & Politics
326 pp. 6x9

$35.95 paper 978-0-8142-5277-2
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“In their introduction, Gareth Cordery and Joseph S. Meisel rightly describe Furniss as arguably the most significant and prolific British political cartoonist of the late Victorian and Edwardian era. Widely popular at the time, Furniss has been subsequently neglected. The editors show how Furniss embraced the technology of the period by taking advantage of the newly popular magic lantern, adapting his drawing style to suit techniques such as photo-processing and exploiting the potential of the lecture circuit overseas.” —Colin Seymour-Ure, Emeritus Professor, University of Kent

The Humours of Parliament: Harry Furniss’s View of Late-Victorian Political Culture constitutes a valuable addition to scholarship and to our knowledge of Victorian politics and culture. The text and images of Furniss’s lectures offer a fascinating, entertaining, and often humorous view of how parliament and politics worked in late nineteenth-century Britain. This volume sheds light on the sometimes mystifying matter of what late Victorians found funny but also has important things to say about political communications and the history of parliament.” —James Thompson, Bristol University

Harry Furniss (1854–1925), a leading contributor to Punch and other important illustrated magazines, was arguably the most significant political caricaturist and illustrator of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. He was widely celebrated in his time, and his cartoons helped to define the political world in the public mind. The Humours of Parliament was Furniss’s hugely successful illustrated lecture that he staged throughout the U.K., North America, and Australia during the 1890s. Entertaining his audiences with anecdotes, mimicry, and jokes—along with the spectacle of more than 100 magic lantern slides—Furniss gave his audiences an insider’s view of the mysterious workings of Parliament and the leading political personalities of the day, such as Gladstone, Balfour, and Chamberlain.

Reproducing some 150 images drawn from Furniss’s extensive graphic work, The Humours of Parliament: Harry Furniss’s View of Late-Victorian Political Culture, edited and with an introduction by Gareth Cordery and Joseph S. Meisel, presents Furniss’s unpublished lecture text for the first time. The extensive introduction places the show in its biographical, political, and performative contexts. Cordery and Meisel’s volume therefore both documents a pivotal moment in British political and social history and provides a rare case study of an important yet little studied nineteenth-century performance genre: the illustrated platform lecture.

Gareth Cordery is a former senior adjunct fellow in the School of Humanities, University of Canterbury (New Zealand). Joseph S. Meisel is Deputy Provost, Brown University.