Tom & Jerry - The Prequel

Saturday, 28 January 2012

I promised some people on Twitter I'd write a little something about this almost forgotten part of cartoon history...

As a British cartoonist, I'm delighted to say that the original 'Tom and Jerry' were a British cartoon creation of the 1820s. The sports writer Pierce Egan (he wrote a history of pugilism called 'Boxiana') penned a hugely popular book entitled Life in London, which featured the adventures of two fictional young 'swells' named Corinthian Tom and Jerry Hawthorne, and it was illustrated with 36 brilliant aquatints by the caricaturist brothers George and Robert Cruikshank. It was issued in 12 parts, and each issue cost a not inconsiderable 2s 6d.

Tom and Jerry seek out 'sprees' in every conceivable setting in Regency London, and make no distinction between the pleasures afforded by the lowest gin shop or slum, and the more highbrow theatrical entertainments in Drury Lane or the classical antiquities displayed in the British Museum. Boxing, cockfights, brothels, Tattersall's, Westminster Abbey...it was all part of the rich tapestry of life, as far as our two heroes and their confedeartes were concerned. As long as the people with whom they associated were 'liberal', convivial men and women of spirit, they attached no importance to their social status. The very antithesis of pernickety, stand-offish Dandies, Tom and Jerry were men who sought out variety, and were at ease crossing social boundaries.

By the Victorian period, their exploits had become an embarrassing reminder of how dissolute were the lives of the previous generation, and the book fell out of favour. To someone researching the Georgian period, however, it could not be a more useful window into the last gasp of Georgian panache, open-mindedness and debauchery. 

Get updates via email

Join 423 other awesome people who subscribe to new posts on this blog.

Comments

Emily Jones
Emily Jones says:

Wowzers, did not know this. This is ace. I will now proceed to annoy my 7 year old brother with these facts next time he's watching Tom and Jerry. The big question is could the original Tom swallow an entire ironing board? Because I know for a fact that the cat version can.

January 28, 2012

Adrian Teal
Adrian Teal says:

I don't know about an ironing board, Emily, but someone I'll be featuring in the book was once challenged to eat a whole, live cat in one sitting.

January 28, 2012

Emily Jones
Emily Jones says:

Haha, brilliant.

January 28, 2012

Peter Falconer
Peter Falconer says:

Did they have horseshoe magnets in the 1820s? And in relation to this, did Corinthian Tom at any point swallow an iron?

February 06, 2012

Adrian Teal
Adrian Teal says:

No. Egan missed a trick, there.

February 07, 2012

Join in the conversation

Sign in to comment
Published
Publication date: November 2014
112% funded
438 backers