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Tom & Jerry’s Life In London

June 25, 2021
by the gentle author

This frontispiece was intended to illustrate the varieties of “Life in London,” from the king on his throne at the top of the column to the lowest members of society at the base. At the centre are the protagonists of the tale, Tom, Jerry & Logic, three men about town. Authored by Pierce Egan, their adventures proved best sellers in serial form and were collected into a book in 1820, remaining in print for the rest of the century, spawning no less than five stage versions, and delineating a social landscape that was to prove the territory for both the fictions of Charles Dickens and the commentaries of Henry Mayhew.

Accounts of the urban poor and of life in the East of London are scarce before the nineteenth century, and what makes “Life in London” unique is that it portrays and contrasts the society of the rich and the poor in the metropolis at this time. And, although fictional in form, there is enough detail throughout to encourage the belief that this is an authentic social picture.

The characters of Tom, Jerry & Logic were loosely based upon the brothers who collaborated upon the illustrations, Isaac Richard & George Cruickshank, and the writer Pierce Egan, all relishing this opportunity to dramatise their own escapades for popular effect. Isaac Richard  & George’s father had enjoyed a successful career as a political cartoonist in the seventeen-nineties and it was his sons’ work upon “Life in London” that brought the family name back into prominence in the nineteenth century, leading to George Cruikshank’s long term collaboration with Charles Dickens.

Jerry Hawthorn comes up from the country to enjoy a career of pleasure and fashion with Corinthian Tom, yet as well as savouring the conventional masquerades, exhibitions and society events, they visit boxing matches, cockpits, prisons and bars where the poor entertain themselves, with the intention to “see a ‘bit of life.” It is when they grow weary of fashionable society, that the idea arises to see a “bit of Life” at the East End of the Town.” And at “All Max,” an East End boozer, they discover a diverse crowd, or as Egan describes it, “every cove that put in an appearance was quite welcome, colour or country considered no obstacle… The group was motley indeed – Lascars, blacks, jack-tars, coal-heavers, dustmen, women of colour, old and young, and a sprinkling of the remnants of once fine girls, and all jigging together.” In the Cruikshanks’ picture, Logic has Black Sall on one knee and Flashy Nance upon the other while Jerry pours gin into the fiddler and Tom carouses with Mrs Mace, the hostess, all revealing an unexpectedly casual multiracial society in which those of different social classes can apparently mix with ease.

Situated somewhere between the romps of Fielding, Smollet and Sterne and prefiguring Dickens’ catalogue of comic grotesques in “Pickwick Papers,” the humour of “Life in London,” spoke vividly to its time, yet appears merely curious two centuries later. By the end of the nineteenth century, the comedy had gone out of date, as Thackeray admitted even as he confessed a lingering affection for the work. “As to the literary contents of the book, they have passed clean away…” he wrote, reserving his enthusiasm for the illustrations by the Cruikshank brothers – which you see below – declaring,“But the pictures! Oh! The pictures are noble still!”

Lowest life in London – Tom, Jerry & Logic amongst the unsophisticated sons & daughters of nature in the East.

The Royal Exchange – Tom pointing out to Jerry a few of the primest features of life in London.

A Whistling Shop – Tom & Jerry visiting Logic “on board the fleet.”

Tom, Jerry & Logic “tasting” wine in the wood at the London Dock.

White Horse Cellar, Picadilly – Tom & Logic bidding Jerry “Good bye.”

Jerry “beat to a standstill” Dr Please’ems’ prescription.

Tom & Jerry “masquerading it” among the cadgers in the back slums.

“A shilling well laid out” – Tom & Jerry at the exhibition of pictures at the Royal Academy.

Tom, Jerry & Logic backing Tommy, the ‘sweep at the Royal Cockpit.

Tom, Jerry & Logic in characters at the Grand Carnival.

Symptoms of the finish of “some sorts of life” – Tom, Jerry & Logic in the Press Yard at Newgate.

Life in London – Peep ‘o day boys, a street row. the author losing his “reader.” Tom & Jerry showing fight and Logic floored.

The “ne plus ultra” of Life in London – Kate, Sue, Tom, Jerry & Logic viewing the throne room at Carlton Palace.

Tom & Jerry catching Kate & Sue on the sly, having their fortunes told.

Jerry’s admiration of Tom in an “assault” with Mr O’Shannessy at the rooms in St James’ St.

Tom introducing Jerry & Logic to the champion of England.

The art of self-defence – Tom & Jerry receiving instruction from Mr Jackson.

Tom & Jerry larking at a masquerade supper at the Opera House.

Tom & Jerry in trouble after a spree.

Jerry in training for a “swell.”

Tom & Jerry taking blue ruin after the spell is broke up.

Life in the East. At the Half Moon Tap – Tom, Jerry & Logic called to the bar by the Benchers. The John Bull Fighter exhibiting his cups and ‘the uncommonly big Gentleman’ highly amused by the originality of the surrounding group.

The Mistakes of  a Night.  The Hotel in an Uproar. Tom, sword in hand backed by a Petticoat – “False Alarm!” but no Ghost.

Logic’s slippery state of Affairs. A Random Hit! and the Upper Works of Old Thatchpate not insured. And the fat Knight enjoying the Scene laughing, like Fun, at Logic’s disaster.

Hawthorn Hall. Jerry at Home: the Enjoyments of a comfortable fireside. Logic all Happiness. Corinthian Tom at his Ease. The Old Folks in their Glory, and the uncommonly big Gentleman’ taking forty winks.

The Hounds at a Standstill. Jerry enticed by the pretty Gipsy Girl to have his fortune told.

Logic’s Upper Storey but no Premises. Jerry’s Return to the Metropolis.

Strong Symptoms of Water on the Brain in the Floating Capital.

The Duchess of Do-Good’s Screen, an attractive subject to Tom & Jerry

How to Finish a Night, to be Up and dressed in the Morning. Tom awake, Jerry caught napping and Logic on the go.

Splendid Jem, once a dashing Hero in the Metropolis, recognised by Tom amongst the Convicts in the Dockyard at Chatham.

Logic visiting his old Acquaintances on board the Fleet, accompanied by Tom & Jerry to play a Match at Rackets with Sir John Blubber.

Jerry up, but not dressed! A miserable Brothel, his Pal bolted with the Togs. One of those unfortunate Dilemmas connected with Life in London, arising from the Effects of Inebriety.

The Burning Shame! Tom & Jerry laughing at the Turn-up between the ‘uncommonly big Gentleman’ and the Hero of the Roundyken under suspicious Circumstances.

The Money Lender. The ‘High-Bred One’ trying it on, to get the best of the Old Screw, to raise the Needful towards Life in London, accompanied by Tom, Jerry & Logic.

Popular Gardens. Tom, Jerry & Logic laughing at the Bustle and Alarm occasioned amongst the Visitors by the Escape of a Kangaroo.

Life on the Water. Symptoms of a Drop too much for the ‘uncommonly big Gentleman.’

Melancholy End of Corinthian Kate! One of those lamentable Examples of a dissipated Life in London.

The Death of Corinthian Tom

Images courtesy Bishopsgate Insitute

You may like to look at these other sets of pictures by George Cruikshank

Joseph Grimaldi, Clown

Jack Sheppard, Thief, Highwayman & Escapologist

The Bloody Romance of the Tower

Henry Mayhew’s Punch & Judy Man

3 Responses leave one →
  1. John C. Miles permalink
    June 25, 2021

    What a splendid collection! I have not seen many of these illustrations before – some don’t appear in the edition of ‘Tom and Jerry’ on my bookshelf. Interesting that ‘Strong Symptoms of Water on the Brain in the Floating Capital’ appears to depict the Thames flooding Sir Marc Brunel’s incomplete Thames Tunnel between Rotherhithe and Wapping in May 1827. The tunnel workings flooded again the next year and for this Marc’s son, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was awarded the Royal Humane Society’s silver medal for the rescue of five workers.

  2. Mark permalink
    June 25, 2021

    Topping stuff!
    Fantastic illustrations and listened to a wonderful adaption on Radio 4 Xtra recently. Available on the i player folks, or B.B.C. Sounds.
    Take the illustrations with you when listening…..

  3. Robin permalink
    June 25, 2021

    Fascinating to look at these witty pictorial satires close up. Lots of humour mixed in with sharp political commentary on class relations. It is easy to see why he was such a perfect collaborator for Dickens. Love it!

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