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Darwin Correspondence Project

4.20 Frederick Waddy, caricature

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A series of portrait caricatures drawn by Frederick Waddy appeared in the journal Once a Week through 1872. It clearly emulated the more famous series in Vanity Fair, and indeed, Waddy’s drawing of Darwin has the same title or motto as Tissot’s, ‘Natural Selection’. However, the Once a Week series as a whole gave less attention than Vanity Fair did to aristocrats and politicians. As was appropriate for a quality literary journal, it mainly featured authors, intellectuals, and those famous in the worlds of the arts and sciences. The treatment is respectful and informative rather than satirical, and the element of caricature is extremely mild. Enlarged portrait heads are joined to diminutive bodies, and the figures are deployed in imaginative scenes that express their personalities and claims to fame. It is noticeable that, as so often, the portrayal of Darwin was different from the rest in lacking accessories or symbols of his particular researches. He walks through a tropical forest holding only a long staff or measuring rod, as though returning in imagination to South America. The accompanying text is nervously cautious in its appraisal of Darwin’s theory of human origins in the recently published Descent of Man. It is ‘at first a little shocking . . . whether it be almost of equal weight with a revelation or completely false in its assumptions, time may prove’.  

Once a Week’s caricature series was reprinted in book form, with only minor emendations, as Cartoon Portraits . . . The Drawings by Frederick Waddy (1873). Little is known about Waddy (c. 1848 – 1901), who seems to have been primarily an illustrator rather than a cartoonist. The wood engraver employed on the project was William James Welch, who signed many of the prints ‘W.J. Welch sc.’. 

  • physical location Cambridge University Library (Cartoon Portraits, 2nd ed., 1874). Other copies exist. 

  • accession or collection number Eb.31.49 

  • copyright holder Syndics of Cambridge University Library 

  • originator of image Frederick Waddy (signed with monogram ‘FW’) 

  • date of creation 1872 

  • computer-readable date 1872-01-01 to 1872-06-07 

  • medium and material wood engraving from Waddy’s drawing by William James Welch 

  • references and bibliography ‘C.R. Darwin, F.R.S.’, Once a Week, new series 9:232 (8 June 1872), pp. 520-3. Cartoon Portraits and Biographical Sketches of Men of the Day. The Drawings by Frederick Waddy (London: Tinsley Brothers, 1873), pp. 6-7. 


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