ACIS Logo Representations of Irish Famine and Rebellion in the British Satirical Press, 1845-49

The coverage of the Irish crisis of 1845-50 in the UK’s principal satirical weekly, Punch, has been addressed by a number of authors (e.g. Gray, 1993; De Nie, 2004; Williams, 1997). However Punch was but one (albeit the most long-lasting) of a group of popular satirical periodicals that appeared in the decade of the 1840s, competing to attract a largely metropolitan and middle-class readership and eager to offer textual and graphic satire on the public questions of the day. This paper considers the treatment of the Irish crisis in a number of these short-lived periodicals, including Joe Miller the Younger (1845), The Man in the Moon (1847-9) and, most importantly, The Puppet Show (1848-9), comparing and contrasting their approaches both to that of Punch, and to the older free-standing caricature tradition still represented in that decade by John Doyle (see Gray, 2017). Whereas Doyle (himself a Catholic Irishman, albeit of conservative political leanings) tended to focus on representing parliamentary proceedings relating to Ireland through carefully-crafted and allusive caricatures, the three popular publications mentioned tended to parallel Punch in preferring a cruder and more robust style, drawing on both popular stereotypes and literary satire of Irish manners and life popularised most especially by W.M. Thackery’s Irish Sketch Book of 1842. Ultimately, the intention of this brand of metropolitan satire was to reassure it readers, to stimulate appropriate charity, and to reinforce dominant class and ethnic perceptions of Ireland as Britain’s problematic “other.”