The aspiring men of Punch : patrolling the boundaries of the Victorian gentleman
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In the mid 1830s, the engraver Ebenezer Landells and the journalist Henry Mayhew began discussions about establishing a satirical news magazine together. Landells and Mayhew wanted to create a London version of the contemporary Paris Charivari. Their aspirations were realized with the printing and circulation of the first issue of Punch on July 17, 1841; Punch was published continually for more than a century and a half from that time on. However, by the mid 1850s, the more radical ideas that had initially dominated Punch were stripped away and replaced with a more respectable worldview under the direction of the editor, Mark Lemon. The increased emphasis on respectability in Punch can be explained by the desire of the Punch men to be recognized as gentlemen. The status of gentleman was much sought after in Victorian Britain, with the result that the varying definitions of this status were heavily contested. Although journalists had not frequently been recognized as gentlemen before, the efforts of William Makepeace Thackeray (a Punch man) to change the definitional terms of ‘the gentleman’ made this possible. Based on Thackeray’s understanding of the gentleman, the Punchites used Punch magazine, and their commentary on morality, social class, and fads in Victorian men’s fashion within it, to further both a shift in the popular understanding of the gentleman and their recognition as such.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
SupervisorKent, Christopher A.
Copyright DateApril 2010