Friends of the Dickens Forum,
Valerie Lester <[log in to unmask]
> has published
her account of Surtees-Seymour, and
graciously send us the relevant section here:
[log in to unmask]"
Sometimes it is quite irresistible to quote oneself, and I’ve fallen into the trap. Here’s what I wrote on the topic of Surtees and Seymour in *Phiz, the Man Who Drew Dickens,* pp. 42-43:
“First, to set the scene: the name Nimrod, that of the ‘mighty hunter’ in Genesis 10:9, was popularised in the early 1830s by the writer Robert Surtees (1803-1864) and the illustrator Robert Seymour (1798-1836). They both enjoyed the comic contrast provided by the Bible’s hunter and their own incompetent sportsmen. Between 1831 and 1834, Surtees contributed a series of papers by ‘Nimrod’ to the New Sporting Magazine, a periodical he edited. These papers described the sporting adventures of Jorrocks, a cockney grocer. Then, in 1835, Seymour presented the publishers Chapman and Hall with a collection of drawings illustrating the adventures of the ‘Nimrod Club,’ a group of cockney would-be sportsmen.
“Robert Seymour needed an author to ‘write up’ each picture, that is, to provide text to support the narrative contained within the image. This was a common practice and one in which author was subordinate to artist. The publishers cast about for such a writer with little success until the name of Dickens was put forward. Dickens was fourteen years younger than Seymour and had already gained a reputation for his journalism and his written sketches. He accepted the commission to write twenty-four pages of text for each four illustrations to be published in monthly parts. From the start he was unable to contain his ambition.
“Seymour, although illegitimate in the real sense, was a rightful heir to the tradition of Hogarth and Gillray. He was small, overworked, married with three children, and highly popular with the public. Before he invented the Nimrod Cub, he had illustrated Maxims and Hints for an Angler (1833), which purported to be the minutes of the Houghton Fishing club, with text by Richard Penn. This little volume contains a character who looks uncommonly like Mr Pickwick. Seymour next produced the highly successful Cockney Sporting Sketches, which includes a cockney Sam, ‘wery’ like Sam Weller. Feeling strongly that more business could be mined from this sporting vein, he put together a portfolio of drawings that illustrated the adventures of his Nimrod Club. His professional reputation was golden, and when Charles Dickens was hired to work with him, Seymour naturally assumed the young man would feel truly privileged . . . "
And so on into the topic to which Patrick has recently called a halt. Incidentally, Surtees’s Jaunts and Jollities, a compilation of the stories he had earlier printed in the New Sporting Magazine, was published in 1838, with illustrations by Phiz.
All good wishes, Valerie Browne Lester