Born in Wexford, Harry Furniss (1854-1925) was one of the most prolific satirists of the nineteenth century, publishing work in The Illustrated London News, The Graphic, and most famously, more than two thousand illustrations for Punch, as well as dozens of illustrated books (including extensive editions with Carroll, Dickens, and Thackeray). Furniss’s work was distinguished by his quick, punchy sketches brimming with the energy and volatility of the political and cultural arena, as he specialized in satirizing both parliamentary politics and the antics of the Royal Academy (the exclusion from which was a source of life-long bitterness).
Although Furniss frequently sought to distinguish himself from his Irish origins, they proved a constant source of inspiration for his satirical productions in print, and later onstage as a magic lantern lecturer. This paper explores Furniss’s formative years working for Zozimus (1870-2), a short-lived (and today little known) illustrated periodical known as “The Irish Punch.” This paper will also explore his fractious artistic and political rivalries, especially his antagonisms to Irish Home Rule, culminating in his assault in 1893 in the House of Commons by the MP J.G. Swift MacNeill (an Irish Protestant nationalist) in retribution for his cartoon mockery. Ultimately, Furniss’s love/hate relationship to Ireland exemplifies an artistic personality that capitalized on constant manipulation of his position as both “insider” and “outsider” to political and cultural affairs, leaving an indelible imprint on visual satire of the period.