Stars of Political Cartooning - John "HB" Doyle

Each day this month I will be profiling a notable political cartoonist. Since the choices are vast, I've decided to slim the numbers down a bit and eliminate living cartoonists. Perhaps I will do a current political cartoon stars in the future.

Here's an archive of the artists mentioned already.

Today we look at a famous cartoonist who was (intentionally) anonymous during his life as a cartoonist.


John Doyle is very different from most of the other cartoonists featured this month.

For one, he's a popular British cartoonist of the 19th Century who was actually (GASP!) Catholic.

And for another, unlike most of the cartoonists this month, Doyle was actually pretty nice with his political cartoons.

In one area, though, he is extremely similar to many of the cartoonists this month, and that is the fact that when the young Doyle came to London in 1821 (he was born in 1797 in Dublin), he was trying to make it as a "high" artist. He actually had a few shows at the Royal Academy, but within a few years, he was making his living as a cartoonist.

In 1829, he began his association with the renowned British newspaper, The Times, where he worked until his retirement in 1851. In his entire tenure at the Times, Doyle always signed his work HB, and was quite adept at keeping his actual name hidden.

HB was known for his great skill as a cartoonist, but also for the fact that while he would, in fact, use his cartoons to satirize people, the satire would usually be so mild that the people he was ostensibly mocking would be pleased by the cartoons! One politician was known to collect every H.B. cartoon in which he appeared and put them all in an album!!

For example, here is an 1832 piece by Doyle about the new Canadian legislature in Newfoundland, and he draws them as Newfoundland dogs!

It's so precious who can be offended?

Similarly, this cartoon of King George IV, titled "A Great Economist," teasing George on his thrift, is not exactly a harsh cartoon.

Doyle's cartoons were noted by three major events during his two decades at The Times, and I'll show a sampling of his cartoons for each of these major political events.

First, the Reform Bill of 1832, which revolutionized the way the British Legislature was decided...

Politicians had been striving for Reform for many years, but kept getting shut down, particularly by the popular Duke of Wellington, the great British war hero of the Napoleonic Wars, who felt that the current system was absolutely perfect and did not need to be changed at all, despite the fact that in a country of 14 million people, only about 250,000 were eligible to actually vote.

This cartoon notes the struggles to keep the Reform Act alive...

In this particularly inventive cartoon, the King is attempting to keep the two sides on the issue even (which essentially means nothing was going to happen) until John Bull, representing public opinion in Britain, pushes the issue by choosing the side of reform...

This cartoon just shows the various players at the time, I just wished to show how kind Doyle is with his caricatures, everyone looks pretty good, don't they?

The next major event was the situation with Catholics in Britain during the 1840s, with Daniel O'Connell working as the spokesperson for Irish Rights. O'Connell had already (surprisingly) achieved Catholic Emancipation in the late 1820s, but was now looking for even more, and Doyle, as a Catholic, was quite supportive of O'Connell.

Here are a few pro-O'Connell cartoons (pro-Catholic cartoons, what is the world coming to?!!?)...

O'Connell and Wellington, each waiting for the other to make the first move...

Here's a cute one...

'Daniel in the Lions' Den'

Here's one where O'Connell is the fish they're trying to control, but he's a big one, so we shall see what happens...

The next major event was the repealing of the Corn Laws. Corn, in this instance, really just refers to grain. There were heavy restrictions on the importation of foreign grain, as that was seen as injurious to British land owners. Well, free trade enthusiasts for years felt this was a poor idea, but when the Potato Famine came about, the heavy tariff on foreign grains REALLY caused some problems, and Doyle was in support of the repealing (which ultimately took place in 1846).

Here, he shows two notable politicans of the time, Lord John Russell and Sir Robert Peel (the Prime Minister) "confessing" to the lead supporter of repealing the Corn Law, Robert Cobden.

Upon the repealing of the Corn Laws, Peel resigned as Prime Minister.

Doyle had one of his harsher cartoons here, depicting Peel as Medea...

Medea Having destroyed her children vanishes through the air upon a chariot drawn by winged dragons

Here's a great archive of Doyle cartoons.

Doyle passed away in 1868.

His children were also involved in the arts, and in fact, Doyle lived long enough to know his grandson, Arthur Conan, who you maybe, just MAYBE have heard of before.

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