Robert Seymour

(1798—1836) illustrator and caricaturist

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The illegitimate son of a Somerset squire, Robert Seymour became in the early 1830s one of the more popular comic illustrators, adapting the unbridled political and social satire of James Gillray and Isaac, Robert, and George Cruikshank to farcical lampoons about contemporary manners and customs, especially among urban dwellers playing at sports in rural Islington where he lived. In the autumn of 1835 Seymour brought to Chapman and Hall, publishers of other of his works, drawings intended to illustrate the perils and mishaps befalling a ‘Nimrod Club’ of cockneys who set themselves up as experts in sports. After asking several writers to churn out letterpress to accompany the plates, and being turned down by all of them, Chapman and Hall approached Dickens, then known for his journalism and sketches. Dickens said ‘yes’, but from the start he intended to take his own way. The publishers had decided that Seymour's project would be issued in paper-covered monthly instalments, 24 pages of letterpress and four illustrations to retail at one shilling. Dickens wrote up to Seymour's designs for the first part, though Edward Chapman may have had a hand in changing the portrait of Mr Pickwick from a thin to a fat man, and consequently changing the conception of his character from splenetic to benevolent.


From Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century).

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